Category Archives: Personal

A summer of obstacles, a moment of courage

“I have been through a lot and have suffered a great deal. But I have had lots of happy moments, as well. Every moment one lives is different from the other. The good, the bad, hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love, and happiness are all interwoven into one single, indescribable whole that is called life. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And perhaps there is no need to do so, either.” 

~ Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

I am probably one of the few people on this green Earth that is overjoyed that summer is over. Figuratively speaking, I have never been more ready to turn over a new leaf.  Summer 2013 will go down as THE worst summer of my life, particularly because the season began with the sudden loss of my mother. For those of you who don’t know, she suffered a massive stroke. She was only 68.

I still can’t believe it has two months. It seems like yesterday we were eating together at the family table, and she wasn’t complaining of any pain or disturbances. Since June, I have dug myself into this grief buffet of shock, guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, worry, and more. I have cried, laughed, cried, smiled, cried, cracked jokes, cried … well you get the picture. Yet, this rollercoaster of emotions I’m riding on is completely normal, so I’ve been told countless times by my family, friends, and acquaintances. How do I get rid of this pain?

I lost more than just my mother. I lost my very best friend. I lost my confidante. I lost my sister. I lost a soulmate. We would finish each other’s sentences. We would know what pushed each other’s buttons. We would cry from each other’s insults. We would laugh at each other’s jokes. We would give each other strength and love through the acts of cuddling and deep conversations. One of the things my mother taught me was that love was precious, and our love was just that and still is.

My mother has said many times that I’m one of the most courageous person she ever knew and always wondered where I got it from. “You didn’t get it from me,” she said in her Sicilian dialect. Let’s examine the act of courage, shall we? Courage is one of the noblest elements of the human soul. Courage can mean taking a stand that sets you apart from your family and friends. Courage is doing what you say you will no matter how great the cost. Courage can be living up to your vows or principle even those around you are not. Courage is the ability to withstand the most painful moments without crumbling.

I am no stranger to obstacles. I have faced them for the past 30 years. I shit my pants every time I overcome one. OK, that’s gross and I actually don’t do that. But I do surprise myself every time I achieve something. As a person born with achondroplasia, overcoming an obstacle is an act of growing within myself.  But now, moving on with my life and accepting my mother’s death are the biggest obstacles I’m facing right now. I know it will take time for me to do the latter. But moving on is something that I’m forced to do, that I need to do, but part of me doesn’t want to do.

Since my mother’s passing, there have been certain things that I’ve set out to do. I’m learning a lot about myself along the way. I’m more resilient. I’m more expressive. I’m more  productive. I used to watch my mom do things around the house. I used to want to copy everything she did because I thought her way was the right way. I am beginning to realize that it’s not the case at all. Everybody’s different. I’m learning to adapt to certain things around the house. It’s not easy, but I’m trying my best.

I went to a former professor/good friend’s memorial service this past weekend. It was a wonderful service filled with poignant and loving speeches by friends, family, and former students. One former student said something that immediately caught my attention. He said that this beloved professor/good friend has not left us. His wisdom, advice, and guidance would always remain with this former student until his final day on Earth.

I started thinking about Mom and the life lessons she taught me and the things I’ve done so far. Because my mom was such an active person, I know she wouldn’t  want me to sit and sulk. Even though, I don’t hear her voice or feel her touch every day, little by little I’m beginning to realize that she is with me.  From now on, the best thing I can do is to be the most courageous person I can be and know that somewhere in Heaven, there is a Sicilian angel smiling down and guiding me every step of the way.

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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Personal



Below is the eulogy I gave at my mother’s funeral yesterday. My mother passed away a week ago today. She was gone too soon. She was greatly lovedImageresizer.asp and will be dearly missed.

“Before I begin, I want to thank everyone for coming today to celebrate my mother’s life. Mommy was a devout and wonderful woman. Standing up on the lector right now, I can already imagine her sitting at one of the pews on the far left side. Just like she did every Saturday night when we attended Mass together.

For the past 30 years, I’ve lived in two different worlds. There’s my American world, which includes my friends, my job, my dreams, and my education.  Then there’s my Italian world, which basically consists of the following: my household, Dish Network, Mommy’s hearty home-cooked meals, our spoken Sicilian dialect, and last but certainly not least, the unconditional love and support from my family, particularly my parents.

In writing this eulogy, I could not help but think back to about two months ago, when I celebrated my 30th birthday with some of my friends from work. Mom had asked me if she could come along. I said, “Of course.” My milestone birthday was much a celebration for her as it was for me. It was also the anniversary that we, along with my dad, became a family. She was an instant hit with my friends, partly b/c she brought an Oreo Blizzard cake from Dairy Queen, but also because, as always, she showed immense pride for me. I will always be thankful that she got to share in that moment of joy with me that night. I was her “gioia,” which means joy in Italian. Words cannot express what a joy it was to be her daughter.

When I think about my beloved mother, I see an adventurer who left her small village in Sicily with her father to join her brother and sister in America and later began a new chapter with my father that was filled with unexpected blessings. I see a trailblazer whose world was shattered after finding out that her eight-month-old daughter had a major physical condition, but still found the hope and courage to give her baby girl the love and normal life she deserved. I see a warrior who overcame obstacles of her own, managed to get up every morning to do her daily activities without complaint, and cherished her quality of life until the end. I see a confidante who dropped whatever she was doing to help or to give a listening ear to any family member or a friend. Finally, I see a teacher who taught me to be strong, to deeply appreciate my sense of self and gave me a love of telling stories. She always reminded me to have a strong faith in God, to take things one step at a time, that anything is possible as long as I set my mind to it, and that what God gave me was never a physical condition or a disease but a gift.

There are many more nouns that I could describe my mother, but the most heartfelt things that I can say are that she will always be the bestest of my best friends and the love of my dad’s life. She was extraordinary. She is my inspiration. I am who I am today because of her (and dad, of course), and the life lessons that she has taught me. My mother’s gifts of authenticity, originality and possibility will forever hold dear in my heart. Her loving spirit will forever be nestled in my heart as well. To my dad and I, our guardian angel will forever be our amazing Grace.”


Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Personal


A Mother’s Day Post: The Gifts My Mother Gave Me

For the past 30 years, I always believed I live in two separate worlds. There’s my American world, which includes my friends, my job, my errands, and my graduate education. Then there’s my Italian world, which basically consists of my family and my household.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents for giving me this Italian world, which includes of all of us speaking the Sicilian dialect to one another, my father watching Italian soccer games and variety shows at high volume, and my mother cooking up multiple delicious meals that could feed a football team. Mmmm, Sundays are the best because the aroma of her signature tomato sauce always permeates the entire house.  Out of the way, Giada! haha!

This Sunday is special, of course, because it’s Mother’s Day. Today is one of the few times in the year that my mother will not indulge in one of her favorite pastimes. Yep, you guessed it: Dad and I are taking her out. 🙂

In writing this entry, I could not help but think back to three weeks ago when I celebrated my 30th birthday. It was a wonderful occasion, and once a year, my mother writes words of encouragement and love to me in her native tongue.  This year’s milestone was much a celebration for her as it was for me. I was blessed that she got to share in the moments of joy with me and my family and friends.

When I think about my mother, I see an adventurer who left her small village in Sicily with her father to come to America and begin a new chapter of unexpected blessings. I see a trailblazer whose world was shattered after finding out that her eight-month-old daughter had a major physical condition, but still found the hope and courage to give her baby the love and normal life she deserved. I see a warrior who has overcome obstacles of her own and manages to get up every morning to do her daily activities without complaint. I see a confidante who will drop whatever she is doing to give a listening ear to a family member or a friend. Finally, I see a teacher who has taught me to deeply appreciate my sense of self and gave me a love of telling stories. To this day, she always reminds me to take things one step at a time, that anything is possible as long as I put my mind to it, and that what God gave me was not a physical condition but a gift.

There are many more adjectives that I could describe my Sicilian mother, but the most heartfelt thing that I can say is that she is the bestest of my best friends. She is extraordinary. I am who I am today because of her (and dad, of course), and the life lessons that she has taught me. Life hasn’t always been roses (I did inherit her stubbornness … haha!), but words cannot express how proud I am to be her daughter. Her gifts of originality and possibility are life lessons that I will forever hold dear in my heart. I hope I can be as good of a mother to my child someday as my mother is to me.

So to all the biological mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, godmothers, and mothers-to-be, I wish you a very special and happy Mother’s Day!!! I hope you all have a wonderful day. You all deserve it! We are who we are because of your unconditional love, guidance, and support. We are forever grateful for everything you do and have done for us. Thank you so much for being the adventurers, the trailblazers, the confidantes, and the teachers in our lives.

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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Personal


Picture perfect love on the dance floor

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails …”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I was humbled and grateful to witness a extraordinary amount of love this Memorial Day weekend, and it happened on the dance floor of all places.

My cousin married his soulmate in a beautiful, intimate ceremony surrounded by close family and friends. The bride looked absolutely stunning in her long-trained wedding dress, and the groom looked dashingly handsome in his suit topped with a pink rose on his lapel. The ceremony was immediately followed by cocktail hour and reception. However, the evening got underway when the guests got on the dance floor and shook their hips from old Italian tunes to the 80s greatest hits. Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson definitely rocked the house!

The dance floor wasn’t necessarily as big as the smiles on the faces of guests who danced on it, but it didn’t matter. To me, it was a picture perfect dance floor because everyone was having a wonderful time smiling, screaming, and sweating. The love that the newlyweds had for one another throughout the night clearly infected the entire room as generations of couples celebrated with them on the dance floor.

But love can continue to be expressive even when one’s soulmate has entered eternal life. My uncle/godfather honored his love for his late wife by giving his new daughter-in-law a symbolic wedding present: a bracelet that was once belonged to her. It was a deeply touching sentiment that brought everyone to tears. It was at that very moment that I had an epiphany.

We live in a world where certain people are still trying to tell us what to do and what love and marriage should represent. There are all these hypocrisies and arguments that can make your head spin. Or in my case, topple over!  No matter how diversified love can be, love is beautifully universal no matter who you are: gay or straight, short or tall, black or white, etc. We can’t be the judge and jury. Society is constantly changing, and just like the new technologies and gadgets that has people stirring for possession, we should all embrace love in all forms.

If you still don’t understand me, I’d suggest the next time you’re at a wedding or a restaurant or club, take a look at the people on the dance floor. Step inside. It is a limited space, but it can fill you up unlimited expectations, happiness, and peace! Enjoy the moment.

And if you can feel it, then I raise my glass to you and say “Salute!”


Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Personal


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A battle between good vs. evil

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 20 of my soda withdrawal.

I took my first test yesterday. It was a difficult one.

I had the perfect opportunity to fall off the wagon. Yesterday, I attended my co-chair’s team’s bowling fundraiser, which raised money for our American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event. While the weather outside was dreary, cold and downright wet, the atmosphere inside the bowling alley was warm, fun, exciting, and packed with people bowling strikes, spares, and gutter balls.

My co-chair’s Relay team provided door prizes and food, while the bowling alley served soft drinks and beer. I was kind of worried of how I would make it throughout the day without drinking soda. I could have drank beer, but I am not a beer drinking girl. Personally, I think beer tastes like disgusting armpit sweat, but that’s a story for another time.

It’s no question that everybody has a good conscience and a bad conscience to themselves. I know I do. Yesterday, both sides were fighting like cats and dogs.

I had just bowled a spare, and I sat down when Bad Rosie told me she wanted to have an off day. Good Rosie was badly trying to fight the urge. Everywhere I looked there were people, even kids, gulping down 20 oz or larger cups of soda. What was worse was when I looked up at the TV screen and saw a Coca-Cola commercial that clearly emphasized people enjoying their soft drink.

Suddenly, the unthinkable happened. My mouth watered. I was thirsty.

What’s a girl to do?

My mind was playing see-saw with me. I could hear Bad Rosie saying, “Come on, dear. You know you want it. You deserve to have a free day.” Good Rosie said, “You’ve come this far. Don’t let this get to you.”

Bad Rosie: “If you’re going to eat something, you gotta have something tasty to wash it down with!”

Good Rosie: “Don’t you want to lose weight and be more healthy?”

Bad Rosie: “Who’s going to know about this?”

Good Rosie: “EVERYONE! Look around you!”

AHHH!! Ok, at this point, I got up from my seat and went up to the front counter. I still wasn’t sure what I was going to get, but luckily there was a small line so at least I had a little bit more time to decide. Good Rosie had a point, people would know, especially those who know about my withdrawal. Earlier, my friend Julie asked me how my soda fasting was going. I told her things were going well. I didn’t want to ruin that.

Good Rosie 1 -Bad Rosie 0

As I was waiting in line, I could see the soda fountain and the Pepsi logo in clear view. If I was a less determined person, I could have that in an instant. I could order a small cup. The smallest cup they have. One drink couldn’t hurt. I needed a jolt anyway. Not that I am a great bowler, but I wasn’t doing very well in the game. I kept getting gutter balls. My ball even got stuck in the gutter four times!! With a little bit of caffeine in my body, I could wake up and possibly have a better game!

Good Rosie 1 -Bad Rosie 1  (Tie game)

Suddenly, I was next in line. The clerk asked me what I wanted. I looked at the soda fountain, and then something else caught my eye.

A sign that said “Water – 25 cents.”

“Miss?”  the clerk asked. “What would you like?”

I am all for cheap, but now is the moment of truth.

I gave up. “Water, please.”

The clerk gave me a 20 oz cup of water. I slurped that thing so fast. It actually tasted good. Cool and refreshing just like soda, but without the fizz and the other artificial tasty ingredients. Not only did I take good care of my body, but I also saved money.

I felt quite proud of myself at the end of the day. I didn’t achieve a high bowling score. However, when it came to my health, I passed the test.

In my book, I earned a strike.

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Personal


A balancing act

Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Day 18 of my soda detoxification.

I had a dream the other night that I was walking on a tightrope. It was a very long tightrope, and I was carrying one of those long poles that circus performers carry in their acts. I was doing very well keeping my balance when all of a sudden I heard a fizzzz. A distractor opened a soda can from behind. All of a sudden, I wobble and lose my balance and ultimately fall off the rope.

Thankfully, it was just a dream. Is it?

Ever since I decided to banish soda from my everyday routine, I feel like I’ve been walking on this damn tightrope. Each baby step I take (or each day that passes) brings me closer to my goal. I hope and pray that I don’t fall off, but it’s so tempting to do so. So far, so good. Right?

Actually not drinking soda is easier than thinking about soda. That’s what I’ve been doing lately. It’s sad, I know. Pathetic at best. It’s so sad that one night this past week, I had a craving so bad at work that I e-mailed my friend and said, “I can’t take this anymore!” Her response was “Keep strong! You can do it! Mind over matter!”

Mind over matter?

You have to understand soda and I go a long way. Our relationship has been enjoyable, refreshing, and sometimes discomforting. I was introduced to soda when my father had his own pizza shop. For a cute 3-year-old who loved to run around, that place was a playground. My father had one of those soda fountains where you stuck a cup underneath your selection and pressed a button. I loved the buzzing sound that it made when the drink was poured into the cup, and the soda fizzing away.

I, of course, couldn’t reach the darn thing so somebody had to get it for me. I would not have just one selection. Oh no, no, no. That wasn’t good enough for me. I would have about four selections each night. For example, I would always start with a Cherry Coke. Then after I finished drinking the Cherry Coke, I would ask someone to give me a regular Coke. Chugged that down, went back and got a Sprite. I would normally finish the night off with a Sunkist. From an early age, I was a binge drinker. To my defense, you gotta drink soda when you’re eating pizza, even if you did it every night.

Then Pepsi came around and it was love at first sight. I had my first Pepsi at my cousin’s school recitals. I remember there was an intermission, and my dad and I went to get a snack, and there was a vending machine nearby. As soon as I got the drink, I could feel the fizz reaching up to my nose, and the rest is history. I have to say though fasting or not, Pepsi tastes so much better than Coke!!! I don’t care who you are!

There are a few people who doubt that I can fast for one year. I had one person tell me that I “always try to quit soda for a time and that you (meaning me) always go back.” To that critic, I have one thing to say:

Watch me. I will keep my balance.

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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Personal


Soda fasting begins

Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

As the old saying goes, “March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Can’t believe it’s March already. Can’t believe Spring is almost here. Can’t believe the flowers will be blooming soon, the temperature will be mild again, and St. Patty’s Day will be here before you know it. Let us all bleed green!!! Not me though. I only do that when my favorite football team — Philadelphia Eagles — play. 🙂

On a personal note, today brings a new achievement for me. It’s been 14 days that I haven’t drank soda. Not a single drop. You may ask yourselves, “Who cares, Rosie?” I care. You see, I am a soda whore. I have religiously drank the popular caffeinated beverage since I was about 3 years old. I have abused my body with it. I have substituted soda for coffee. I’ve tried to quit many times, but failed miserably.

No more.

You may ask yourself, “Why? How?” In a nutshell, this vow started two weeks ago, when I got sick. I had a really sore throat and couldn’t talk a sound. Whenever I get like that, I stay away from sodas b/c that taste in your mouth when you’re drinking while sick is gross and disgusting. I was sick for at least a week and drank mostly water and cranberry and orange juices. I thought to myself, if I could stay away from soda this long, let’s how I do for the next week. Lo and behold, I was successful. I am going to keep at it week to week and document my progress on this blog. My goal is to not drink soda for one year. One year.

Will it be difficult? Of course!! Will I fall off the wagon, as they say? Maybe, but I hope not. I have overcome many obstacles, and I am determined to accomplish this one.

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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Personal