Thoughts on Grief

Thoughts on Grief

This article was made possible by the wonderful people at Heart in Diamond. Heart in Diamond is a company that turns tragedy into beauty. They can be found here.

Grief seems like such a simple concept, but the truth is, it isn’t. It isn’t simple at all. Many of us think of grief as something that happens only when a loved one dies. While it is true that grief occurs when a loved one passes away, grief can also occur for other events.

Grief can occur at the end of a relationship or friendship. It is similar to death, though not as final; it is the loss of the presence of someone deeply loved. It is the loss of the way things were when that person was around. Suddenly, one cannot turn to that person anymore, in good times or in bad. They have exited one’s life, sometimes never to return.

Grief can occur at any major life change. This can include a move, graduation, a job change, etc. The reality about grief is, it can occur when anything monumental happens in one’s life. This could be a happy event, like moving to a new city for a dream job, or it could be a much sadder event, such as the death of a loved one.

I believe there are two key ideas to keep in mind when speaking about grief, or when grieving. The first is this: the ending of one thing is also the beginning of another. The end of an era in one’s life is the beginning of a new one. The ending of a relationship or friendship is the beginning of freedom and openness to new people and experiences. In some religious traditions, the end of a life on earth is the beginning of eternal life in another state.

The second idea I have about grief is that you don’t have to forget. You don’t have to forget the good things. In fact, I encourage you to remember them. It is important to respect the memory of a person, a friendship, an era, by remembering them. The key is to let go enough that you can move on, but to hold onto the good. Our pasts make us who we are. We never lose who we once were – who we were when that person was alive, or was our best friend, or when we attended that school. We respect who we were by remembering. We carry those memories with us as we continue through life.

I’d like to recommend Heart in Diamond to anyone grieving the passing of a loved one. Heart in Diamond is a company that specializes in cremation jewelry. They use the ashes or hair of your loved one to create gorgeous diamond jewelry for you to wear, so you can carry with you the person you love. Heart in Diamond’s cremation jewelry makes it possible to keep some of the closeness of your loved one with you at all times. It commemorates their memory in the most beautiful way possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, please feel free to explore the links below.

Mental Health America

Mayo Clinic

National Institutes of Health

For those of you who are grieving anything at all, I love you and I am thinking of you.

Advertisements

The Italian Dream

The Italian Dream

I want to live in Italy. I don’t really care where, as long as it’s near an airport and not too far from the coast. It would be easy to do soon, given the boyfriend’s job, if I found a job myself. I am, by virtue of my mother’s lineage, eligible for an Italian passport and dual citizenship, which would make the whole thing so much easier.

I don’t think I’d like to stay there indefinitely, but then again, maybe I would. It’s a discussion I don’t need to have yet. I would love to live there, in “sunny Italy.” I would be alone much of the time, but I could make friends, whether citizens or expats or both. My Italian language skills have increased by leaps and bounds, and I know if I lived there I could even speak passably. My reading, writing, and aural comprehension are decent, I think.

I can only think of three jobs as a native English speaker with elementary-intermediate Italian skills that could help sustain us: tutoring, nannying, and/or freelance writing. Of course, if we wanted to stay longer, I would inevitably learn more of the language, and could perhaps get a regular job, but I think we’d eventually end up returning to the States.

Have any of you lived abroad? What did you do for a job? What did you like about it? What didn’t you? Let me know in the comments!

Why You Should Adopt, Not Shop

Why You Should Adopt, Not Shop

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have a lovely little emotional support dog named Brie. Brie is the light of my life, and I didn’t know that I could love a non-human being as much as I love her.

Brie is a rescue. I’ve told her story many times, so I won’t get into too much detail here. Brie lived the first year or so of her life on the streets of Puerto Rico. When we adopted her, she was nine pounds underweight, had hookworm and mange, and had almost no fur. The day we adopted her, she kept coming up to me, and I loved her immediately. Now, she’s the prettiest, cutest dog in the world.

Brie’s Petfinder listing picture.

Brie has proven to me that rescuing a dog is the only way to obtain one. With help from my parents, I nursed her back to health. I trained her. I spent the majority of each day alone with her for the first two months we had her. I was most likely the first person to consistently love her.

Today, this dog sulks when I travel without her, plays with me, and naps with me. She is the sweetest little thing in the world. When she goes to the vet, regularly the vet asks if they can “steal” my dog. Absolutely everyone falls in love with her.

Brie this summer.

I’m not saying that a dog bought from a breeder cannot be beautiful, or sweet, or good, or loving, or all of the above. But, I also know that the fact that my dog came from a horrible situation and had my devotion when it came to her health, behavior, and love, has made her immensely grateful. Given her circumstances, it is amazing that she has turned out as happy, healthy, loving, and sweet as she is. But, she has, and she is worth almost twenty years of waiting and months of nursing and training.

If you’re debating whether to buy from a breeder or adopt a dog, I would strongly encourage you to adopt. Besides the ethical issues, a rescue will likely be the best dog you’ve ever had, and grateful and loving to you. All you have to do is put in the love, time, and work.

What Love Does

What Love Does

Love, love, love. The things we do for love. We drive almost three hundred miles in a twenty-four hour or so period for a night in our love’s arms. We change our life plans.

My parents have always frequently reminded me, “Man plans; God laughs.” In the last few years I have discovered that has a decent amount of truth to it. I thought I’d fall in love forever later than I did. I thought I’d graduate college and move out sooner. I thought I’d always want to live below the Mason-Dixon, or near it. I never thought I’d have as many friends as I do, and certainly didn’t allow myself to dream of being as well-loved as I am.

That’s the thing about love; it’s transformative. It disrupts the best-laid plans. It takes the life you’d planned, the one that felt comfortable, achievable, and inevitable, and rips it to shreds. Love says, “There is another way. Take the risk. Jump. You may fall, or you may fly.” Love has you considering living in a new part of the country, a new part of the world. It makes you disregard statistics and naysayers that predict your failure.

And what happens if you do fall? What happens when, for example, college takes longer than you had decided it should? Well, then love becomes the cushion for your fall. Love says, “I am here. I haven’t left just because you’ve fallen. I am here. I am here.” Love becomes an anchor for us, while at the same time setting us free, because even though you may fail, love will still be there. The reason most people don’t dream bigger is this: they’re afraid of losing love. “If I fail, will I still have friends and family who love me?” If love is true, you will, whether you fail or succeed.

I have, in the past, been someone who has often said, and believed, that “Love isn’t always enough.” That is an oversimplification. Love is always enough. It just depends on what we love more; ourselves, our friends, our significant other, our family. One could love one of those groups more or just differently than the other, and that is not wrong. There is no right or wrong way to love, if one loves truly. True love wants and works for the best for us, but also accepts us as we are with no expectation of the same.

Love allows us to dream bigger, to dream differently. It sets us free, because we know it is always there for us, whether we fail or succeed in our dreams. Love accepts us as we are, and hopes and works for the best for us. Love is always enough, and you are love. You are enough.

Family Stories: Ellis Island

Family Stories: Ellis Island

My great-grandparents were born and raised in a small town inland of Naples, Italy. Mariglianella was a small community of farmers at the time. My great-grandparents, Pasquale and Carmela, likely didn’t have anything past an eighth-grade education. In the 1920s, Pasquale came to America, and Carmela joined soon after. They sailed from Naples into New York City – Ellis Island, to be exact. My grandfather, Pasquale Mariano Dimaio, is their youngest child.

My senior year of high school, the honors choir of which I was a member was invited to sing in a larger choir at Carnegie Hall. We took the train up from Washington on a sunny spring day and stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel. We spent half our days sightseeing, and the other half learning and rehearsing the music for the performance. We saw Pippin at the Music Box Theater, wandered around Times Square, and, my favorite activity, took the ferry to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

I’d wanted to go to Ellis Island ever since I had done a project in the eighth grade on my great-grandparents and learned their story. It had always held an attraction for me, even before then. I’ve always loved history, and abandoned places, and much of Ellis Island is decrepit. I’ve always loved the stories of hopeful immigrants coming to America to make a better life – I still do.

Going through the museum was a great experience. I loved seeing the history of immigration in the United States. But my excitement mounted when I moved outdoors to the wall. All over the island, winding here and there and everywhere, was a silver wall, full of names. I searched and searched, and couldn’t find my family’s names. I knew they were there, though. Imagine my delight when I saw their names! I touched the letters tenderly and almost cried. Because of these two people, I am able to live the life I do. They had a dream, and I am a result of it. I am eternally grateful to them for their courage and tenacity.

IMG_0231

15 Facts about Me!

15 Facts about Me!
  1. I am a synesthete. (See earlier post on synesthesia.) My favorite color is cerulean blue. To me, the color represents joy and excitement, and the warmth and relaxation of the beach.
  2. Starting from a very young age, I was obsessed with the Titanic. I even met Bob Ballard and got his signed book (thanks mom!). To this day, I am still captivated by it, and Titanic the Musical is one of my favorites.
  3. My maternal great-grandparents came from Mariglianella, Italy, in the 1920s. My dad’s family has been in the U.S. for a long time, and they are mostly German-American. My dad’s surname is an Americanization of a German surname. Last Christmas my dad gave my sister and me a gift that proves we are Daughters of the American Revolution!
  4. I am a natural blonde. Until I was fifteen my hair turned almost white every summer. Also, my mother refused to do anything past trimming my hair for the first seven years of my life. I guess she couldn’t bear to cut the long, white-blonde curls.
  5. I am a lyric coloratura soprano. I studied vocal performance at Elon University for almost two years under Beth Carter’s instruction. I have sung in the Kennedy Center twice, and Carnegie Hall once, both times in choirs.
  6. I have broken my fifth metatarsal in each foot – on separate occasions, first in 2013 and the other in 2017.
  7. I love flowers. My favorite are pale pink peonies, though I also love roses, daisies, tulips, magnolia, cosmos, anemone, and hydrangea. (Thanks dad, for always bringing in your flowers from the yard.)
  8. My favorite book is the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, though I haven’t read every page since the first read-through, because I learned which chapters I can skip. Les Miserables is also my favorite musical.
  9. I love to cook and bake, especially with unconventional combinations. One of my favorites is blackberry, ginger, and dijon on chicken, or chili powder on butternut squash.
  10. I love big band swing. I used to love the WAMU radio show, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” and looked forward to it every week, before it was cancelled.
  11. I’m currently in love with the TV show The Bold Type, which airs on Freeform. I love that it depicts strong female characters who support each other and lift each other up and make each other better people.
  12. On October 3rd, I will have been in a relationship with the love of my life for three and a half years. He is handsome, charming, funny, hard-working, supportive, loving, adorable, and crazy intelligent. He makes me a better me.
  13. My best friend and I have been best friends our entire lives. I cannot say enough good things about her, ever. She is beautiful, smart, strong, utterly hilarious, and quirky.
  14. I want to learn to crochet. I know how to knit (badly), but I’m told crochet is easier. It certainly looks more interesting.
  15. When I was a kid, I collected foreign coins. Friends and family heard about this, and assisted me in my collecting whenever they came back from overseas. Some of the coins are from countries that no longer exist, and I have no idea how many countries all these coins are from.

Grace of Gray Gables

Grace of Gray Gables

My dream house would most likely be a light gray gabled one, perhaps with a dormer or two. I also like Tudors, Victorians, and Colonials. It would have white trim and a bright yellow door, and windows that let in natural light at almost every hour of the day. There would be a porch, either on the front of the house or the side of it, and it would have a bench swing.

The house would be on a big lot, one surrounded by trees, young and old. Maybe there would even be a small orchard, most likely of apple trees. I’d grow roses and tulips and peonies and hydrangea and anemone and daisies and cosmos and lilac, though in order to do that I’ll have to take a few lessons from my green-thumbed father.

The backyard would have a treehouse and a swing and a deck and plenty of green, flat space to play. Ideally there would be a creek at the back of the lot that bubbled cheerfully. Perhaps there’d even be a pool, for the heat of the summer.

Inside, on the first floor, a big white kitchen, a library/office, the master suite, a living room, and a formal dining room, and maybe even a family room with high ceilings. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom would take up the space. The living room, library, and den would each have a fireplace.

And there would be books, books everywhere, and flowers from the garden. There’d be art by lesser-known artists and prints by the greats. Toys would be kept in the finished basement with the laundry room. The walls would comprise a rainbow. The dining room would be pale orange, the living room light steely blue, the kitchen a light sage green, the den snowy white. The master would be sky blue, the girls’ room peach, the boys’ room green, and the guest room a bright, cheerful yellow. (The only thing missing is red.)

And, to complete the picture, a loving husband, three pairs of small feet, and a dog. And happiness, contentment, peace, fun, laughter, tears, and even sadness. Friends of ours and the kids’ in and out. A home. That’s my dream.