When Love Is The Only Way

IMG-20160430-WA0011My mother’s ailing health is proving to be one of the most powerful learning experiences of my life. Yesterday was a difficult day for her; she seemed better this morning and even found the strength to wash the breakfast dishes, only to regress moments later. I sat down by her side on her walker to keep her company; I could see her distress and did not want to leave her on her own.

She drifted off and closed her eyes momentarily, quickly opening them saying…”I’ve been a smart woman, haven’t I? In my life…I’ve done well?”

“Yes you were very smart! You accomplished everything you wanted to do! Everything you set your mind on doing you did. Yes, you are a very smart woman!”  She went on to tell stories of her accomplishments as a child and later in Canada.

How do you tell a woman who knows perfectly well that she is living the last of her days on this earth that she has accomplished enough? How do you reassure her that she has been courageous enough, kind enough, loving enough, and generous enough? How do you tell her that she is ENOUGH?

I think it is simply….”Thank You. I Love You!”

 

 

WHEN LOVE IS THE ONLY WAY

I know how much you loved school and learning

how quick you were with math and writing.

You excelled in your studies and flourished.

In the third grade you gladly gave it up

knowing it was time to help on the farm.

You did it for the love of your family; it was your only way.

 

You learned to spin flax into thread

that you wove into cloth on the loom.

Embroidery, knitting and tatting

were done by the light of the petroleum flame.

You were tired, working all day in the fields but persisted.

You did it for the love of your family, it was your only way.

 

When love came to call you married and left

the bosom of your family.

You began a new life in your husband’s household

and gave it all you had.

When your husband was called to war

you remained to help on the farm.

You did it for the love of your family; it was your only way.

 

Opportunity knocked with a chance at a better life.

Again you left the bosom of your family.

Across the Atlantic you sailed, two children in tow

and a trunk with your only possessions.

You did it for the love of your family; it was your only way.

 

Slowly you built a new life

with hope and determination.

No stranger to hard work you excelled,

your dream house in Canada, a reality.

You did it for the love of your family; it was your only way.

 

You lost your life’s partner to illness.

The last third of your life you spent in our home;

our attempt to keep a promise to our father.

However, it could not be done…

for you took care of us instead.

 

You asked if you were smart enough…

in your life, if you did well enough…

You did it for the love of your family; it is your only way.

Who could deny that you were enough

when love is the only way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Heals All!

When I logged on to Facebook this morning this image greeted me. Today marks one year that I joined.  It also marks the first anniversary of Audacious Attitudes!  The photograph was taken two and a halStill 2f months after the loss of my much loved stores, A Passion For Living. I have to mention here and now that I am not associated with the store still in operation in Ancaster.

This photograph stunned me because I see sadness in my eyes, frown lines and a stressed aura; I refused to acknowledge these feelings at the time, but the camera does not lie. I thought that masking them with my smile was my forte’; I was wrong… the eyes tell all!

They say that things happen for a reason. Of course at the time this was no consolation. It didn’t help that one week later I turned 65! Now I believe it to be true.  Shortly after, my mother who lives in my home became increasingly unwell; we are now able to spend precious time together. When I dove into the basement of rock bottom, my mother and aunt threw me a lifeline….it sparked my new endeavor Audacious Attitudes, which has become a labour of love.   My heart has steadily re-opened to the point that I am finding joy in the ordinary everyday things; it seems as if my life has been handed back to me.

Of course I am not naïve enough to believe that there will not be other challenges in my life; I know that there will certainly be more curve balls! The greatest lesson I’ve learned this past year is that I am a strong woman with a great support system. Our joy and peace comes from within and despite what happens in our outer world we can always draw from these gifts and flourish!

Undying Love For Books And Reading!

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I came to Canada just in time to start grade school. I was fascinated by the pictures and words in our first readers. In my mind I can still see the colorful images of the children, their family and pets. The teachers would march us to Bennetto Public School to use their library; the old floor boards creaked announcing our arrival and the familiar smell of the books on their shelves welcomed us.

I find it amusing and often laugh at my reading choices because they are so telling of the times of my life. They tell my story.

Nature books about flowers and birds inspired the artist in me. We were an immigrant family trying to acclimatize to our new environment and I would compare our life to the families I read about in the novels. Books were a magical fix for all that ailed me and ignited my imagination. Romance and mystery intrigued my teenage years. In the mid sixties Twiggy came into vogue and losing weight on the latest diet fads consumed me. In 1971 I married and became engrossed in the culinary arts.

With the birth of my first child in 1973 my mothering instincts butted head to head with Dr. Spock and others. When Oprah began her public spiritual journey I dedicated my efforts to self-improvement, followed by deep thought provoking enlightenment.   Impending menopause introduced me to the joys of women’s body wisdom, natural healing and nutrition. Needless to say, books have played a vital role in my development as a person.

At this point in my life I know that I am an audacious, confident woman loving the person I am today.   I am content with no desire to improve a single thing! There is a wellspring of joy inside me that helps me cope with the rigors of daily life. I now refuse to spend any more of my time on self-improvement or heavy thought provoking volumes.  In my heart I know that I have come full circle, back to my childhood years and read for the love and sheer enjoyment of it.  It took  years for me to learn that there is no perfection, and that life always throws its curve balls. True joy and peace, even in the face of crises, comes from within… and that brings me to my next reading adventure…

The Book of JOY… by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Can’t Wait!

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What Are You Doing Now?

about-usWhen I’m out and about chances are I run into people I know. The question is always the same…What are you doing now? It always makes me smile. There are two possible scenarios behind this one single question.

What are you doing now?… You no longer own the stores. You worked six or seven days a week, sometimes twelve hours per day, went on buying trips, and merchandised three stores. How do you fill your hours? You must be feeling awful!

What are you doing now?… I know you. You are always doing something new. You are so creative. What are you up to?

Thank God the human spirit is so resilient! It was not easy, but I’m back to doing what I truly enjoy.

My hours are filled searching out fashion accessories that I feel will thrill my ladies. When my orders arrive I revel in the excitement of knowing I selected the right pieces; I have accumulated one of the finest collections of fashion jewellery. Even the tedious work of inspecting and pricing is enjoyable. I then proceed with photographs and posting online to my website; this is painstakingly slow with only two-thirds of my accessories posted to date. My studio displays the in-stock items, giving me a visual of my inventory; my merchandising skills have not gone to waste. It is a true labour of love!

This new venture prompted me to promote Audacious Attitudes on Facebook. It has been an adventure of its own. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy sharing fun posts with almost fifteen hundred friends. Not only is it a great tool to get the word out about my new business but it is an enjoyable way to stay connected with like-minded women of all ages. One of my favorite things about having the stores was sharing ideas with my customers and the social interaction. Nothing has changed!

As you probably know by now being home has allowed me to spend whatever precious time remains with my mother. It is often said that there is a time for all things and I believe it to be so.

“What are you doing now?”…

I am doing what makes my heart sing!

 

 

 

 

Today I Wake With Purpose…

 

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Today I wake with purpose…

The dark night is still looming.

And though morn has broken,

I spy two stars still twinkling in the sky.

 

I start the coffee brewing, bran flakes piled high

Prepare the omelette, toast and biscuits.

 

I walk towards her suite.

My pace slows down, assuming.

Relief…

She turns her head, good morning!

I thank the Lord for giving

Us one more day in union.

 

I ask her how she passed the night

Knowing she’d say that all was right.

Put on her brace, her shoes and robe

A little stiff, but there is hope

Today will bring a better day.

 

A limp, a shuffle, the role of wheels

I hear her following at my heels.

To the kitchen brightly lit

On her walker she will sit.

 

I bring her toast, the flakes and coffee.

I serve her first…

 

With shaking head her thank yous break

The silence of the morning.

I love this blessed time together

When all is new and fresh and hopeful.

 

Today I wake with purpose…

To savour every moment left.

I know the value of my treasure

And hold it dearly to my breast.

One Happy Woman!

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Funny how a photograph can be so revealing…just look at me – I am definitely one happy woman! I see no stress lines. I see a smile that stretches across my entire face. I see joy in my eyes. I see contentment beyond measure. I am glowing. I have a secret!

Ever since I can remember Sunday has been my favorite day of the week.  Its very name is joyous…Sun-day! What is more glorious than a day associated with the sun? Even when the sun is hidden by clouds that eventually burst into rain Sunday will always be Sun-day!

As a child I loved getting dressed in my Sunday best –all reserved for that special day. On this day I usually walked almost twenty-five minutes with my dad to Sunday Mass at eleven. We did not own a car. On our return we enjoyed a special family lunch.   When I married I still loved going home for the family lunch on Sundays and this continued when I had my children.   Going to nonno and nonna’s was special.

Two of my children were married within months of each other. A standing invitation went out to both inviting them to Sunday lunch. They were not obligated to attend; all that was required was a confirmation.   To this day, all three of my children, my five grandchildren, along with my youngest son’s fiancée attend Sunday lunch at our house on a regular basis. We now number fourteen in total.

The menu has not changed at all over the years. I confess that I did try to alter it once but was quickly admonished by my toddler grandchildren; they are now seventeen. They refused to eat because it was not their usual – meatballs. It goes without saying that nonna aims to please.

I awake around six, bathe and dress my mother; we enjoy our leisurely breakfast and go our separate ways. I put on the chef’s apron she passed on to me; I now understand the feeling of empowerment my mother talked about that comes with this gesture. I begin by seasoning and prepping the roast.   Then I start making the largest stock pot of homemade sauce, keeping in mind that there must be leftover sauce for take home. My famous meatballs are next on the agenda; like every nonna, I have a secret recipe for the meatballs. Recipes are usually a combination of ingredients and technique…but there is always more to it; it’s a secret.

I then move on to the salad. All the usual ingredients go into it…lettuce, red peppers, cucumbers, carrots, cashews, pumpkin seeds, avocado, feta and dried cranberries. My grandchildren love my special dressing and ask for the recipe. I laugh because I know the secret; I quickly tell them that it’s good olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.

Since my grandchildren were toddlers, I knew that they would fill themselves up with pasta and leave no room for protein. My solution was to serve the meatballs first. I usually watch them load their plates with the meatballs, a little sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. These are followed by pasta, the roast, salad and dessert…all very simple.

I watch them eat as they catch up on the week’s events. My heart swells. My husband usually takes over and serves them the roast. He is overjoyed. My mother always perks up during lunch and quietly takes everything in; she sits among her great grandchildren. Make no mistake – we are a loud Italian family.

What better way is there to de-stress after a hard week’s work than to come home and enjoy a meal with your family. It’s the perfect time to get together and share what’s been happening. You are never judged; you are fed, revitalized and prepared to tackle the week ahead.

Have you figured out the secret? I believe every mother knows. Love! Love is the secret. It is contagious.

 

“I Am An Audacious Woman…Audaciously Made”

I’m frequently asked how the name Audacious Attitudes came about…such an awesome name for a business. It must have taken considerable thought and deliberation. Fact is it evolved easily and neatly.

Over the past seventeen years in the retail industry I’ve had the privilege of assisting women make countless selections complementing outfits for almost every occasion.   My approach was always the same.   I offered several solutions, and all worked beautifully.

“How do you feel? “…my first question. It was important to me that the customer owned the piece, that she was comfortable wearing it and that she loved it. She had to be confident. If she wasn’t, it was not for her.

I hated hearing… “I love it on other women but I don’t think I can pull it off!”

Why Not!! You are not less than. Wear it with joy.

By definition audacious means showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks:  bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, and heroic. Attitude is individuality and self-confidence as manifested by behavior or appearance; style.

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Combined these words describe very desirable traits possessed by beautiful, confident, intelligent women of all ages. That’s how I’ve always seen my customers, and when they failed to acknowledge their innate strength I always tried to coax it to the surface.

The colors I used in the company logo are yellow and black with a dash of red. The color black represents strength, seriousness, power and authority; it creates an air of mystery. Yellow is uplifting and illuminating, offering hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. Red is the color of blood and fire. It is associated with sensitivity, joy, radiance and determination. Can you identify? I am sure you do.

When it came to the face I have to admit that my original image sported a stylized black, edgy full banged blunt cut. Two young women at the printer’s office refused, stating that the image should reflect the person behind the company. They won!

I would like to put this forward. “I am a phenomenal woman, phenomenally made”…Maya Angelou. I totally agree.  Would it be plagiarizing to declare “I am an audacious woman…audaciously made” – Oh well, I just did!

A Moment In Time

Graceful stance, shoulders back, head held high. Her warm, brown eyes looking fearlessly into the camera….I can see a smile about to break through.

Her dress and full length coat belongs to her sister who wore it on her wedding day; the fox stole and clutch to the photographer. She is hopeful and proud, gentle and determined. She is in love.

The photograph celebrates a new beginning…her seven year engagement to Olinto, my father. Pia is seventeen.

When I look at this picture I wonder if she could even imagine that she would have the strength and courage to leave all that was dear to her and embark on the adventure of her life. Her present mode of transportation was on foot or on a bicycle. There was only one car in her home town and she had only seen it from afar. Could she even dream that one day she would sail across the Atlantic Ocean?

There are many phenomenal women in our lives just going along living everyday lives, powerhouses of strength and undying commitment to nurturing and keeping their family units strong.   They find strength from deep inside their being. Their language is kindness.  They own an ever-expanding capacity to love. Their attitude is of gratitude.

The young woman in this photograph is calm and aspiring. She has stepped outside her comfort zone, venturing into a photographer’s studio, facing a camera for the first time in her life. She finds solace in the warm familiarity of her sister’s wedding outfit, dons the fox stole as other young women she knows have done and confronts the unknown with confidence.

 

 

A Woman With An Audacious Attitude!

15085498_1058485220944750_4774017373451916074_n[1]Being home with my mother Pia this past year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  Who would think that taking care of a  93 year old woman would swell my heart with gratitude, overwhelm me with tenderness and love, and teach me life’s most precious lessons.

Pia has embraced her challenging physical issues with grace, thankful for all the wonderful things she is still able to accomplish on a daily basis. Her mind is keen, evidenced by the stories she tells her great grandchildren, never forgetting anyone’s birthday, and never having to look up phone numbers for her morning calls. Pia is amazed to have lived longer than her six siblings, her only living brother being ninety years of age.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time with her, our breakfasts and our special lunches.  I can’t help but laugh thinking back to when she first came to our home.  It was my routine to quickly prepare lunch for my kids and eat something at the kitchen sink as I cleaned up. She admonished me, saying, “Tonia, what are you doing?  Stop eating at the kitchen sink!”  Meals are to be enjoyed and shared.  Sunday is her favorite day of the week and especially Sunday Lunch with my family.  This was her jurisdiction, but she has passed on her white chef’s apron to me.

My family bursts through the door on Sunday and echoes of “Hello Nonna!” fill the basement.  I do not answer because I know that they are not meant for me…yet.   The first hugs and kisses are always for Nonna Pia!  As I prepare the food for the table I look over and see five young adults crowded around her on the couches. They ask her questions of her time on the farm when she was young; they show her their phones and explain all the things they can do with them, and they tell her about their week.  They love Nonna Pia’s stories and she enjoys their attention.

As we gather at the table the grandchildren encircle Nonna Pia at one end.   No matter how poorly she feels Pia always perks up during Sunday lunch.  She sits there quietly eating, taking it all in.  I watch her and see that her eyes are full of admiration and love, and I feel the tug on my heart strings.   They leave and I finally sit down with her.

“Tonia, you have a beautiful family!  You have the largest family now.  You are fourteen!”  She reminds me every Sunday.

In the evening she insists on waiting for my husband to return for dinner, refusing to eat without him because she feels it is disrespectful.  I clear the table and help her up the stairs to her room.  At the bottom of the stairs she stops.

“Good night Gianfranco.  Sleep well!”  She looks towards the budgie…”Goodbye Chee Chee!”

Pia can hardly make it up the stairs lately pulling herself up with her arms and hands on the railing, one step at a time. I guard her from behind.  She loves being in our basement; it was her domain, where she used to bake and make homemade pasta.

Pia has a bedroom and sitting room over the garages.  I help her into her nightgown and robe and put her legs up onto the couch so that she can watch her television programmes for a while.   Around nine I tuck her into bed, covering her snuggly and kiss her.

“Good night ma, I love you.”

“Thank you, Tonia.  Thank you for everything you do!”

Sometimes I tell her that no thanks are required, knowing it to be futile.  Her fear is that she will become a burden. She does not realize that having her in my home over the last thirty years has been a blessed gift to my family.

Beautiful, gracious, giving, kind and wise, Pia is most definitely what I call a woman with an indisputable audacious attitude!

 

With Gratitude…

 

 

 

Life holds many twists and turns for all, and I have certainly not been exempt! Last February I lost my stores. I felt as if the ground had slipped away from under my feet. I floated through my days, incredulous, empty, and distraught. To add insult to injury, I became a senior citizen…I felt all of my 65 years and more.

We have been blessed with the gift of living with my mother PiathI4ZI1RZQ over the last thirty years in our home. Pia means pious and spiritual. She is a woman of 93 years… a woman true to her name. Beautiful, elegant and wise, she has a will of iron and a heart of gold.

Every now and then my aunt would call to be picked up for “the sleep-over”. The three day event was like an episode of the Iron Chef, resulting in an avalanche of homemade pasta, gnocchi, ravioli, biscotti and more… days that are cherished but now lost to us because of my mother’s ailing health and my aunt’s passing.

During one of their final sleep-over days, following a tete-a-tete with my aunt, my mother looked up at me and declared…”Why don’t you do something from the house!”

It felt like an order rather than a suggestion. They had obviously been deliberating on my state of the union for some time. Like a slap came the realization that I had become one of those empty shelled people at the crossroads of not returning. In my mind I had fallen into the abyss of despair.

They say rock bottom has a basement. I believe that to be true. Fortunately for me there were two incredibly smart women in that basement, sitting on the couch enjoying what was to be the end of their precious days together.

Audacious Attitudes is a labor of love dedicated to the women who sparked the fire inside me and to all of you who graciously continue to inspire me daily. Life is not just to be lived but to be enjoyed! Live a life of gratitude and joy. Celebrate the woman you are at this very moment…beautiful, confident, and yes – audacious!