Stormy Seas

Well.  In case you don’t have news of any kind for some strange reason, the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean are currently being ravaged by hurricanes.  Right now my home and family are pretty much in the direct path of one of the most devastating storms in history – and I’m thousands of miles away, unable to do anything.

This is not the first time I’ve had to watch and wait and pray they are okay from afar. Thirteen years ago (lucky number!) I watched helplessly from my dorm room in Georgia as Ivan skirted across Florida, as Frances crept up on it, and as Jeanne gave it a double whammy.  In fact, riding out Hurricane Frances with my family was one of the reasons I moved back to Florida.
I even made this whole story about it for my final class project before leaving the school.

 

This is, however, the first time I’ve had to watch it from afar while owning a house there. The idea of losing everything while you can’t do anything about it, is simultaneously terrifying and rallying.

I’ve always found that extreme situations kick me more into gear than anything else.  I secretly enjoy less devastating hurricanes (I stood by through Katrina in Florida, Rita, and Wilma), and I get a little excited every time I have a medivac at work.  It’s not that I enjoy seeing people get hurt.  I think it’s just that at that point I finally feel useful, like I have a purpose, something worthwhile that I can do.  Not many of my skills are directly useful in typical humanitarian ways, but organizing and logistics has always been a strong suit of mine.

In the past year, I lost my job, my dog, and my love.  Now, I sit here on the verge of possibly losing my house, and pretty much everything I own, and in the very same week get a new job offer.  But somehow, part of me is still not satisfied.

How can I even claim to be suffering when so many places have just been completely destroyed?  Many of the islands I’ve spent so many days on are practically gone.  My work has somehow always felt selfish in a way.  Cruise ships will change itineraries, go to less damaged islands, but how does that help those people who depended on their business for so long and now need it most?  I had the idea today that it would be wonderful if someone would charter a cruise ship to bring volunteers and supplies to some of the islands they are so used to visiting but that are now destroyed.  It would certainly be good PR!

At the end of the day, we have to remember that what is important is people.  Not money, not homes, not fast cars and smart phones and Apple Watches, but people (okay, and puppies).  I can’t claim that I’ve done much with my life thus far, but if I could do something good that even just one person will remember forever, I will feel better.  At this cross roads in my life, I might have that chance.  But for now, we must wait and see.

 

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Pot O’ Gold at the End of the Rainbow

In honor of today being the first of March (a day late this year thanks to Mr. Leap Frog), I thought I would share a little story.  ***Spoiler Alert:  Do not let children (or adults, I suppose) who still believe in holiday characters read this!!!***

When my siblings and I were younger, my mother used to go all out for holidays.  One of them being St. Patrick’s Day.  She didn’t go all out in the way that most of us do now (i.e. drink our faces off and hate life the next day).  Being part Irish, she made sure the Leprechauns would visit us every year, starting from March 1, until they were banished on March 17, St. Patty’s Day.  She would write messages on the mirror in green marker, dye our breakfast milk green with food coloring, and even connect the spots on our dalmatian in green.  Then, we would build traps out of sticks and things in the back yard to try and catch the Leprechauns and get their pot of gold.

One year, when I was in the third grade, it was already March 3rd and the “Leprechauns” had not yet come to wreak havoc on our house.  I guess my brother and sister didn’t notice, but I certainly had.  I asked my mom where the Leprechauns were that year, and she just looked at me and said “Do you really want to know?” in that ‘curiosity killed the cat’ kind of tone.  I pondered it for a bit, and finally I said, “They aren’t real are they?”  My mom silently nodded.  I sat for a while, half pouting, half lost in thought at this new revelation, until finally I asked, “So there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny either?”  To which she also nodded.  Unlike most children though, I was not so devastated at discovering there was no Santa Claus, I knew I would still get presents, but I was very sad over my discovery about the Leprechauns, and no longer having a reason to built traps to catch them in.  I helped my mom keep the myth alive for my brother and sister for a few more years, which helped ease the loss a little.  And while I still enjoy wearing all green and drinking green beer, I hope that one day I will be able to cause a little mischief for my kids, in the name of the Leprechauns.

Christmas Eve Eve

As a kid, I always remember going to my grandma’s house or my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve for a big Italian dinner and opening presents form the family (we still waited til Christmas morning to open presents from Santa, of course!)  Then we’d go to “midnight mass” (which I put in quotes because it actually started at 11!)  and sing Christmas hymns by candlelight.  These were always the things that made Christmas Christmasy for me.  The things that defined that day from any other day.  Then Christmas day we’d have 40-60 of our closest friends and family come to our house to eat and drink all day and night.  I loved these Christmas Eves and Christmases.  As I got older, and my family moved away, our Christmases began to feel less Christmasy.  We’d go out to dinner on Christmas Eve, and we could never even stay up for mass.  My siblings and I had to set an alarm to wake up at five for “santa” as we were no longer excited enough to get up on our own.  We’d open presents and eat breakfast and by 10 or 11 am, Christmas was over.  Sometimes we’d go see a movie.  But it felt like it wasn’t even worth it anymore.

As I was on my way to work today, Christmas Eve Eve, it occurred to me that this is the day that has become the most festive and eventful for me in the past few years.  Five years ago, it was a bunch of coworkers and myself driving an hour north to help another restaurant that was so busy and whose employees were so over worked they hadn’t even had time to finish Christmas shopping yet!  Three or four years ago, it was making the most epic Christmas cookies with one of my best friends who I only get to see on holidays when we both go “back home”.  Last year, I was at Candy Cane Karaoke, singing and dancing and dressing goofy with all my friends (and doing delicious candy cane shots!)

While today was mostly uneventful (although I did brave the grocery store to get the ingredients to do some last-minute holiday baking) it still marks the first real touch of Christmas spirit in my otherwise downtrodden heart.   This will be the first Christmas ever that my family has been separated.  My mom will be here soon to spend the holiday with my brother and I, while my dad and sister and brother-in-law will all be back home and working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I guess this is what growing up does, but I still always hoped that Christmas would be the one day we’d all get to enjoy together.  Hopefully, I manage to find the spirit soon.  If not though, I will be sure to find my birthday spirit in a few days!  And, this will be the first New Year’s I’ve had off in 6 or 7 years!

Santa Gets Gypped

Most of the people old enough to read this blog know  that Santa Claus does not exist, even though my parents still wait for us to go to Wbed to put out “santa presents” (we’re alll over 21, btw.)  I was listening to “The Night Santa Went Crazy” by weird Al in the car, and something occured to me.  There’s a line that says “break his back for some milk and cookies, sounds to me like he was tired of getting gypped”.  How true is this nowadays though? Our parents (“Santa”) do so much for us and most of the time we are so ungrateful.  Sometimes I think our population as a whole has come to expect so much from other people that we forget to show appreciation for the people that are actually out doimg things for us!

Life is All About Building Relationships

If you had to pick one thing to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?

For me, it would depend.  If I had to pick something completely independent of everyone and everything else, I would pick dancing.  If that were one of Dante’s rings of Hell, I would want to be stuck dancing for all of eternity.

But if I had to pick something else, something with maybe more parts to it, I would pick theme park adventures with my wonderful family and friends.  There are numerous theme parks to explore, and lots of people to explore them with.  And I do not know anyone that can not have at east a little fun in a theme park – there’s something for everyone!  If someone would pay me to go to theme parks all the time, I’d do it in a heart beat.  And I don’t even ride roller coasters!!!!

But at the end of the day, they say it’s not what you do that defines you, but your relationships that define you.  I like to think I have a lot of good friends.  They’re like my extended family (which is already quite big simply due to my DNA!) And there is never a shortage of things to do with them.   Honestly, even the most mundane things like grocery shopping or washing the car are way better when you do them with your friends!  I love my friends.  Van Wilder said it best, “Life is about building relationships.”

What’s in A Name? (Not Israel!)

I went to Torah Study last night and like many times before, the Twelve Tribes of Israel came up.  People were mentioning which tribe they were descended from and I was wondering how one would determine this? So I started to do some research….

It seems that the simplest was to claim a tribe is based on where you are from. The United States/North American is mostly descendants of Manasseh. Which works fine for the part of me that is Native American, but the rest only came to the United States in the past century or so.

So I tried to see who came from Italy. But there really is no tribe associated to Italy or any of southern Europe really. Perhaps this is because it was the home of the biggest Pagan empires: The Greeks and Romans.  The closest I could find was Reuben, whose descendants are from Northern France.  So they suggested that by looking into the heraldry of your name and coat of arms (this is much easier to do if you are from England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, by the way) that you could associate the symbols of your family heraldry to that of one of the tribes. So I started researching my name, which I’ve never really done. I’ve tried to research my direct ancestors, but never my name in general.

One article I came across said how much of the the area my family comes from (Reggio di Calabria) was actually destroyed by Mt. Etna on my birthday in 1908! Which is funny because this is shortly before my great grandparents were born and would have moved to the states!  I also learned that before that our descendants came from nearby Krotonas, Greece and settled Crotone and Cotronei, Italy (notice the similarity in the spelling!).  Cotronei would be the plural of Cotroneo, meaning everyone in that city is a Cotroneo!

But I digress.  I failed to find a picture of the Cotroneo or any similar name coat of arms anywhere online for free. So I decided to look up the Calabrese flag.  It’s a knight on horseback  killing a dragon next to a person praying.  Not very useful in relating to the tribes.  Another flag shows a crown over a sheild with four poles and two equilateral crosses all surrounded by an olive wreath.  Olive wreath shows promise.  Still another flag shows a tree, two equilateral crosses and a stone pillar- perhaps slightly more useful.  What about Napoli?  A black mustang on a yellow background- useful still.  Finally there’s the Sicilian flag featuring the trinacria (which funnily enough looks like a three legged swastika) and the head of medusa.  Fairly certain none of the tribes of Israel used a swastika.  One thing these flags all had in common is that they were on red and yellow backgrounds.

Still none of this helps. I’m pretty sure my family was straight up pagan.  Further research shows that while their are some Levite descendants in Northern Italy, most Italians are not of Israelite descent and are in fact descendants of Greeks, Canaanite and Edomites (the arch-enemy of Israel).  It is possible that through migrations and mixes of Greeks, French and Arabs that all occupied Sicily at one point I could be descended from any one of these lost tribes or none.  I could go through my mother’s genealogy, but it is such a mix (Irish, German, Native American and Bohemian) that I could still belong to any one of the tribes.  Alas, this brings us to the second option- associating oneself with whichever tribe whose characteristics you share.  This is the Israeli personality test!

So, upon some semi-extensive research and the creation of a rough little chart of positive and negative qualities, I can most relate to Reuben (emotional, empathetic, independent perfectionists), Nephtali (faithful, modest, reliable, musical, and needing a partner), or Issachar (intellectual, hard-working, lacking common sense, down to earth, pleasure seeking, know-it-alls with dominant women-folk).

So at the end of the day I really didn’t find the answer to the question I originally sought.  But I did learn that you can’t define yourself just by your name.  And I did learn some interesting things about the dispersions of ancient peoples, the migrations of peoples and the development of cultures and languages. And I also found interesting links between things like the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 signs of the zodiac or the 12 birthstones and the 12 stones of the breastplate.  I suppose anything throughout history can be tied to anything else in history or in religion or culture.  It’s all about symbolism and at the end of the day a picture is worth a thousand words.  If I knew what to do with it, I would go back to school and study symbolism, just because it is so deep and fascinating.

Quarter-Life Crisis

I feel like, after the accumulation of everything that has (and has not) happened this year, I have reached a quarter-life crisis.  This is different from a mid-life crisis in that I don’t have a need to buy a motorcycle or date a man half my age or get my year’s salary in plastic surgery.  But it is very similar in that I feel the strong need for change, big change, and soon.

Unfortunately, like everything about me, my desire is at opposite ends of the spectrum in this too.  On the one hand, I hear the quintessential “clock ticking” giving me the strong urge to mate and have a family.  Which I would absolutely love and is my ultimate goal in life.  But like everything I consider doing in life, I’m gravely afraid of screwing it up.  The other part of me wants to pick up and move across the country or get a job on a cruise ship and travel around the world.  The only problem with either of those plans is the house I bought in hopes of moving towards the first goal.

With conflicting goals I basically have to decide now which goal I would like to pursue for my life. That’s a tough decision to make at my age! And, unlike Miley Cyrus, I fear I cannot have the best of both worlds.  It can be so hard to figure out what I want- and it never seems to be the thing I want a few weeks later! All I can know for sure is what I don’t want. And what I don’t want is to be stuck in my crappy, dead-end job, making not even enough money to pay for the house I’m depressed to sit alone in and therefore try to avoid.

In school they give you guidance counselors to help tell you what classes you should take. Why can’t there be life counselors to help you make grown up choices? Why can’t there be someone telling you what job to get. Or where to live. Or, most helpful, who to date? Heck I’d take guidance on just one of those and be doing a heck of a lot better than where I’m at right now!

I don’t know where I’ll end up next year, but I feel like it will not be where I am now. I hope it is not. I’m not sure I could stand it if it were. All it takes is one big change, and I buy at least a few months before I get sick of that.  I’m trying. I’m exploring my options and weighing out their merits.  But like always, I’m too scared to jump. Too scared to make that change myself. I’m to the point where I need something that will force me to choose. Something that will leave me no other choice than the right one.  Some cataclysmic event to finally change my stagnant life and get it moving again.

So I sit and wait. And pray for a clear sign. At the end of the day, life is all about choices. And I’m terrified of making the wrong ones.

All In The Family

So I have to say- I love my family.  I never realized just how awesome my family is until my sister’s wedding.  Not only did my mom’s side and my dad’s side come together, but I realized just how much everyone has to offer.  Whether it was doing hair or nails or makeup, or cooking or mixing drinks, or babysitting, or decorating, or taking pictures, or opening champagne, or giving advice on life, finances, and religion- everyone helped in some way or another.  Seriously, my family could start their own town! Okay, maybe not a town, but definitely a comprehensive wedding services package!  Or, a quick and cheap remodel service- got $3500 and 3 days?- you’ve got a new kitchen! O, I love my family!

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