Tag Archives: mom

Willing #FMF


I am really enjoying these Five Minute Friday posts.  They are great for days when I am wondering what I should write about, or when I find my time is limited.  Today’s word is WILLING.  A tough one I thought at first, but I have five minutes.  I can do this…


This quote says it perfectly.  I don’t want to be known as ordinary.  It took me a long time to be willing to take risks.  I liked things to go as usual.  I was a creature of habit and routine.  Then, I started this “little blog.”  A blog I never expected many to read.  A blog that was my outlet when my mom got sick.  A blog that had the original intention of spreading kindness and inspiring others to be kind.

Fourteen months later, it is so much more.  I was not sure if I was willing or able to keep it up for the year.   I did….and last weekend had an extraordinary day of having 11,000 people read it! That took me completely out of my comfort zone.  Instead of just relishing in the thought that people might want to read it, I instead thought something was wrong with the counter and it could not have been accurate!  I still need to work on that, my confidence.

I have taken more risks since I started writing.  Could it be the blog that has given me confidence?  Maybe it is the coaching group I attend weekly.  That has built up my self esteem tremendously and has given me the courage to write about it often.  The difficult year our family endured last year with the loss of mom and Francine was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Perhaps it is a combination of all these things – but I have noticed that I have been willing to do so much more and step out of my comfort zone and I think I am becoming a better person because of that.

My Movie


I am a sucker for sappy, sentimental stuff.  That is probably why I spent a good part of my last two days watching so many of my friends’ minute long Facebook movies that have been posted in celebration of Ten Years of Facebook.  The movies are all similar.  You don’t choose the photos, they do.  They also use the same music, choose your most liked posts and have the same beginning and end for everyone, yet I still get weepy watching them, especially the ones of family and close friends.

I really liked mine.  It wasn’t perfect and probably did not even include all of the photos that I would have chosen, (in fact my oldest son wasn’t even in the video.)   My brother’s made me cry because it had my mom and Francine in it a lot.  My best friend Kelly and I had a similar photo of the two of us that has always been one of my favorites and having that in both of ours made me smile.

I joined the Facebook craze a lot later than most of my family and friends.  I use it a lot.  I share lots of photos and get to stay in touch with friends and family that I’d otherwise probably not see or hear from  if it weren’t for Facebook.

Considering how much I don’t like seeing photos of myself, I have to admit I felt like a bit of a bit narcissist watching myself over and over again in a movie clip all about me!  It was fun.  Thanks Facebook.  Happy Birthday and thanks for helping me stay connected!


Thank you to my class

being loved

Today was the last day of school before the holiday break.  It was also Pajama Day.  On this day, we all wear our pajamas to school and we ask that everyone who is able, to donate a new pair of pajamas for a child in need.  This is the fourth Pajama Drive that I have organized and in the four years, we have collected over 1000 pairs of pajamas.  This year, we were able to give away nearly 350 pairs.

At the end of the day, we had a holiday party in my class.  The class was so generous and gave me some very lovely things.  There were several parents at the party helping out, and they gave me a gift from the entire class.  It was such a touching gift, that I cried in front of the class and had to explain to them why people cry even when they are happy!

One of my class parents told me that several of them read my blog.  I knew that a few of them did, but hadn’t realized there were so many! She told me that they knew that this Christmas was going to be a difficult one after the year that our family has been through.  One of the gifts that they presented me with was a charm of an angel’s wing in memory of mom and Francine.  That alone made me emotional, but then, she told me that one of the mom’s made a Plum Pudding for my dad, after hearing that it was going to be the first Christmas without one since my mom made him one every year.  I had written about how I’d need to find a way to make one, and this mom, found a recipe and with the help of her own mom, she made it for my dad.  That’s when I started to cry.  Happy tears, grateful tears, appreciative tears.  My dad was nearly speechless when I told him about it.

The school I teach in is an amazing place, filled with wonderful, compassionate families.  After mom and Francine died, the support and generosity they showed was over and beyond what I could have ever expected.  This year has been no different and I am truly blessed to be a part of the school community.  I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

Christmas Shopping

missing someone

This afternoon, Dave and I took Drew Christmas shopping.  He had a list of everyone that he needed to buy for and his wallet filled with his own money to spend.  Dave and I did a little shopping ourselves while we were out.  In the past, I always found my mom one of the hardest to buy for.  She had everything she needed.  We never knew what to get her.  Last year, there was a fundraiser for our local high school.  They are refurbishing the auditorium.  My parents met there and all of us went there.  Dave and I met there too and now, our son DJ is a student there.  It seemed fitting that we would buy mom and dad a seat in the auditorium.  The inscription will read,

“Charles and Eleanor Gianni – It all began at CHS”  

It was such a fitting gift for them.  My parents have always been extremely charitable and doing something in their honor, at the school “where it all began” was perfect.  They loved it.  We even joked that we could only afford one of the “cheap seats” so it would have to be in the back, but in her usual chipper way, mom just replied that she’d never have been able to walk all the way to the front of the auditorium anyway so it was the perfect place for it.

This year, even though it had always seemed so hard before, it seemed that everywhere I looked I found something that would have been perfect for her.  I have been very melancholy the last few days.  I have been missing her a lot.  We all have.  The kids have been talking a lot about her and how much she loved this time of year.  Dad hung her Christmas stocking where it has always hung on the stairs at his house.  I asked Drew if he wanted to go to the cemetery this week and visit her and Francine.  They are buried in a mausoleum and my father told me that there is a Christmas tree right near where they are buried.  We were thinking of bringing an ornament for each of them and hanging them on the tree.

We have a busy week this week.  We will decorate dad’s tree on Tuesday and my grandma’s tree on Thursday, (which is also Drew’s birthday.) Mom loved these weeks leading up to Christmas so much and while I am sure that they know we are thinking about them, bringing an ornament to the cemetery might be a good way for us to let them know that they are still a part of it.


i can't believe i did that

When I first began my blog, I had a few “hits” a day.  Never very many, but sometimes if I tagged it correctly I’d jump up a few!!  I was excited after realizing that there were some people out there who were checking it out.  I wrote about kindness and things that I found inspiring that I thought others would enjoy reading about.  I started a facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AProjectForKindness in the hopes of getting even more readers.  Still, it moved slowly, but I had vowed to write everyday and I wanted to stick to it!!

After joining the journaling /life coaching class that began in February, I started to expand my horizons and branch out a little more in my writing.  I tried to become more personal and that was very hard for me.  I am a very private person and I very rarely share intimate parts of my life – especially with complete strangers.  In January and February I averaged about 1000 hits per month.

But then, in March, my mom died.  The week before she died, I began blogging about her and how our family was coping with it.  Hundreds of people began to read my blog.  My post on March 14th about Grandmas,  https://aprojectforkindness.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/grandmas/ was one of my biggest posts up until that date.  The following day, the day we took her off life support, I got even more.  I have had people write to me, stop me on the street, send messages just telling me how much my blog helped them get through this time.  They did not even realize how much it helped me to write it.  The hits on my blog remained pretty steady for another week or so and then, slowly dropped off, but I was still averaging close to 100 a day which amazed me.

Then, Francine died.  In the days that followed her death, I had record numbers of people reading.  One day there were 990 hits!  Again, so many people just needed to understand what was going on.  they needed to feel like they could make sense of a situation that was incomprehensible.  I am just grateful that my blog was once again able to help them.

Since that day, (although I have not had anywhere close to that many hits), people are still coming to read what I have to say.  I have become much more vulnerable and opening up – writing a lot more than I ever expected to share, and in doing so, I have found people who are interested in reading what I have to say.   I still get people, (some complete strangers), commenting and talking to me about it, or telling me when a particular blog reaches out to them in a way that I never expected.

This week, I reached 20,000 hits on my blog!  I don’t know if that is a lot or not when compared to other bloggers.  Truthfully, I am not sure I even care about comparisons.  All that I know, is that this is far beyond anything I had ever imagined.  There was no way that I could have known when I began in January that I would actually have “followers”!  So, thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who reads and comes to visit to see what I have to say.

I have learned a lot about myself and laughed, cried, got angry and empathetic but I have enjoyed it so much more than I ever imagined I would.  Something inside me has changed, and I think it is for the better.  I am still looking to find things to write about.  Hopefully more people will become interested, and want to come and visit and read what I have to say.  I can only hope that I can continue to inspire…not just others, but myself.

Rainbows and Dreams


I was hoping that I’d be able to post, “Day 2 with no headaches”, but no such luck.  I did get two of them today.  Fortunately, neither were too bad, I just wish it had lasted.  It frustrated me though.  Unrelated to the headaches, I had to make a call to my endocrinologist regarding a medication that I needed to refill and an appointment that I needed to reschedule.  After an exasperating call to the receptionist, where we just could not find a convenient time for me to get there with our conflicting schedules, led to them being unable to refill my prescription without a visit, I nearly burst into tears on the phone.  I think the receptionist realized this, as she became much kinder as she agreed to speak to the doctor so that she could make this work for me.  As I hung up, all I wanted to do was to call my mom.  She always had the answer, or solution…I even wanted her to call back for me to take care of it all, like I was still her little girl.  Fortunately, a few hours later, the receptionist called back and we were able to figure out a time that worked as well as a way to get the prescription refilled in the meantime.  Maybe mom heard me wishing for her help!!

I had sent a text message to my dad today asking him if he wanted to join us for dinner.  We were going to take advantage of a special offer at “Famous Dave’s”, a restaurant Dave and the boys really enjoy.  Most nights, Dave or I will make dinner and if there are no sports schedules interfering, we try to invite my dad or brothers along to join us.  The last few weeks have been so busy, we haven’t been able to do it as often.  So it was nice to hear that he’d be able to join us.

We had a nice meal together and as we left we all noticed the beautiful sky.  The sun shining through the clouds was spectacular!  I told the kids that I wondered if that is what Heaven looked like.  The rays of the sun were shining through gaps in the clouds and just made me gasp at the beauty of it.  Even the kids smiled at the thought that maybe it was grandma looking down at us.  Just a few minutes later, as we got closer to home, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky.  Dave drove slowly so that I could try to get some photos, but I only had my cell phone, so they just could not do the beauty of it any justice.  The closer we got to home, the brighter the rainbow became and it was a complete arc.  We pulled over at the park down the street from our home and I tried to get another photo.  There were people out on the streets trying to photograph it.  It was just so spectacular.  We pulled into our driveway and suddenly, there were two!  A double rainbow!  It was like a painting right out of nature.  It was completely mesmerizing.

I have been told that rainbows are a symbol of good luck…I can only hope that this is true.  I don’t know if I have written about it before, but Dave has been out of work for quite some time now.  He is a great stay-at-home dad, and has tried finding work in several fields but nothing has really panned out for him.  Recently he has been talking with a mortgage company and is now in the process of taking a few courses that will get him the proper licenses that he will need in order to hopefully get some work!!  Today was only the second day – and that double rainbow has me crossing my fingers that maybe this is his good luck sign just like the yellow butterflies are mine!  https://aprojectforkindness.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/yellow-butterflies/

My mom had a favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, and now I cannot help wondering if she heard me asking her for her help today and is up there watching over us, sending us a sign that everything is going to be okay…

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.


When double rainbows appear it means that whatever is coming to you has great meaning in your life and that one good thing will lead to another good thing. I really rejoice in your happiness and good fortune. The rainbows are a sign from the cosmic universe that you are about to have something great fall into your lap!
Lillian Too of Feng Shui Malaysia – See more at: http://www.lunamusika.com/blog/?p=3616#sthash.lHdyA3qd.dpuf
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true – See more at: http://www.lunamusika.com/blog/?p=3616#sthash.lHdyA3qd.dpuf

Rubber Duck Race

rubber ducky

I have said in several blogs that my mom loved holidays.  Memorial Day was another one of her favorites.  She was always respectful to the true meaning behind the day, but about fifteen years ago, she and her Kiwanis Club began the Annual Memorial Day Rubber Duck Races.  The races have become a HUGE part of our community and the organization raises over $20,000 each year that is distributed to local programs that benefit children.

My mom worked so hard to make this day better and better every year.  She sat outside of their store in town and sold tickets every weekend.  She walked the streets, (when she was physically able), and solicited prizes from other merchants.  Every year the races have gotten bigger and better.  With prizes ranging from televisions and iPods, to pizzas and gift certificates, there is a huge array of things to win.

This was mom’s event.  She was known around town as “The Duck Lady”.  She didn’t care how silly she looked wearing her feathery duck hat and necklaces as she sat outside and sold tickets.  People looked forward to the day when tickets would go on sale because it meant the beginning of summer was coming!  They would stop by her table and mom would talk it up!  Especially to the kids!  A person could not help but get caught up in her excitement and want to be a part of the thrill of the races.

My mom, this totally “average” woman, (as she’d describe herself), was so not “average” when it came to this day.  She was the queen of the race!  Over the last few weeks, so many people have walked down the street and passed “her” table and have all thought the same thing, “it just won’t be the same”.  I have gotten more hugs and gentle smiles from people who are all thinking the same thing and just missing her.

Obviously today was her day and it was bittersweet.  All of the tickets had a tribute to her and the races were dedicated to her and Francine, (who also did a lot to help with it each year). A roar and applause went out from the crowd when it was announced.  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Happiness, sadness, a little bit of each perhaps but it touched my heart to know how much she meant to this community.

Next year, there will be a bench in her memory at the site of the races.  My Kindergarten Class, and The South Orange/Maplewood Kiwanis Club are purchasing it in her memory.  I know that it will be a place where others can go to feel her presence, in one of her happiest places.  They can read the plaque that will be dedicated to her, and feel the love and kindness she shared with her community.

I know that she was there today – watching over all of us.  The weather has been terrible for the last few days and today, the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze and a yellow butterfly flew over us.  I hope that was her sign to me, letting us know that she was pleased with the way everything went today and how proud she was that the races will continue to go on!!

 Ellie 2011

Nonsense, or another coincidence?

dr seuss nonsense

Today, I HAVE to continue my blog on coincidences.  In February, I wrote one of my blogs about finding pennies, https://aprojectforkindness.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/find-a-penny-pick-it-up/

In that blog, I had written that I had been told, that because it reads, “In God we trust,”  that when we find one, we should count our blessings from God, and that we should trust that God has placed it in our way for a reason, therefore thanking him for our blessings at that moment! I have been finding lots of pennies since my mom died, (but I always find them – I think I am just noticing them more).  Several people have told me that finding pennies are signs from our loved ones.  All superstitions, I know, but today my strange coincidences continued.

Many of you know that I have been suffering from headaches for about five months now.  After several doctors, an MRI, different medications and visits to a chiropractor, I finally saw a neurologist today.  To get to her office, I had to pass the cemetery  where my mom and Francine are buried.  As I drove by, I decided that I would stop there on my way home to “visit” with them, so I said out loud as I passed by, “See you later mom”.  I got to the doctor’s office and sat down in a chair to wait to be called on.  The receptionist called my name and I went up to do the usual paperwork for a first time patient.  I went back to my seat, and lying there right in the middle of the chair, was a penny.  I smiled, thought of mom, gave it a little rub and put it into my pocket.

I went in to the doctors office, and as she entered the room, I knew that I had met her somewhere before – I just could not place where.  I even said to her, “I think I know you from somewhere”, but neither of us could place where, and I don’t think she recognized me…yet.  My check up was going on routinely and we began talking about family history.  I had already told her about my mom and Francine passing away, (not the details), but just because I wanted her to know that these were not stress headaches due to them dying.  They started months before that.  I mentioned my mother’s heart history and suddenly she asked me what my  mom’s name was.  I told her and she asked if she had been a patient at St. Barnabas a few years ago on “2300”, (that was a floor on the hospital she had been on that time).  I said yes, and we realized that must of been why I recognized her.  We continued going over family history when all of a sudden, it hit me!!  This doctor was the woman who was dealing with Francine’s brain injury just a few weeks ago.  She and I had been talking several times during that day about the severity of her brain injury.  We both realized now that we did indeed “know” each other.  She realized who I was and she asked about our family and how we were all doing.  She was concerned for my brother, and expressed her sympathy.  I told her about our close knit family and how we were all there for each other and she said she could tell that from the way we all were at the hospital.

I did not leave  with any new answers for my headaches, but I will have another MRI, this time of my cervical spine, and a new medication to try.  I am hopeful, and I feeling quite positive after this visit.  Was it the penny?  Did it just give me that feeling that I needed to walk out of there with a positive attitude?  I don’t know, but I do know that the penny wasn’t from my  mom this time, but from Francine.  As I walked out of the office building, I actually burst into tears.  So many emotions were filling me.

Oh!!!  And did I did not even mention, that as I walked into the building, there was a lot of construction going on.  A new cement sidewalk had just been laid and in the base of it someone had carved into it, “DREW”.  The name of my son, who has had numerous visits to different neurologists over the last year due to his concussions – another coincidence?!?!?!  Perhaps, but for me I am taking it as another positive sign, knowing that we are going to get to the bottom of this and have an answer and some relief soon!

drew sidewalk1

Blogging as Therapy

do for others

The last five weeks have made me fall off track a bit on the original intention of this blog; yet, the amount of readers has grown immensely.  Perhaps it is the personal twist I have put into my writing.  I have written about my mom and Francine over and over again, and used my writing as my own “therapy” to get through this sad time.   It has been my way of dealing with it and through my writing; I have been able to let others know how we all are doing.   It has amazed me to see how my blog has been shared.  People are telling me over and over how grateful they were for it because it helped them understand what we were going through and it gave them some peace of their own.

So today, as I sat down to write, I really felt stumped.  Not that my grieving is over, just that I am not sure what else I can write about it.  I am sure there will be difficult days…Mother’s Day is going to be rough this year for all of us.  On those difficult days I will write about them.  When I find myself missing them immensely, I will write about them.  I don’t want to wallow in grief. I want to get back to the original idea of my blog and continue to look for the goodness around us.  I have said numerous times that my mother embodied goodness and kindness. There was nothing that she would not do for someone else.  In Francine’s obituary, we asked that instead of flowers, that donations be made to two animal foundations.  She had a special way with animals and did so much to help them.   The two of them did kind things all of the time.

During this time, of grieving, it is important for all of us who have been touched by these two women, to try to live our lives as they did.  Do as they did.  Find what is important to you and then find a way to help or contribute.  As you go about your daily routines, be grateful for what you have and inspire others to do the same.  There are so many ways to do good and at a time where we are seeing so much tragedy, it seems that it is even more reason to do so.

Supporting the Living


Before the death of my mom and Francine, I had been to wakes and sat Shiva for family and friends. In most cases at these events, I was the “visitor” and not the griever. I was going to pay my respects for the person I cared about or for their family.

At both a wake and sitting Shiva, you would find a gathering of people coming together to try to cop with the death of a friend, acquaintance or relative. I realized that wakes and Shiva seem very similar in so many ways with most obvious difference being that the wake is held before the burial and Shiva is after.

I always thought about them both as a way to say goodbye. Now that I have experienced it so closely, I have come to the realization that perhaps they are not held necessarily for the deceased but for the living.

At a point that has been the most sorrowful time of my life, it has enabled us the opportunity to be with friends and family recalling good times and wonderful memories. During mom and Francine’s wakes, there was a sense of solidarity – coming together in a celebration of love for them. As each guest arrived to pay his or her respects, I found myself not only sad but also invigorated and inspired. Old friends who I had not seen in years, and new friends all came to give support to our family. There was not a lot of time to share with each of them individually, but a hug and a smile and even shared tears were enough to let us know that they were here for us and that WE are loved as much as my mom and Francine. We were able to take comfort in the company of each other as we mourned. Seeing the lines of people waiting to greet us and pay their final respects to mom and Francine, made us feel loved and supported during this incredibly sad time.

I have come to the realization, that attending a wake or sitting Shiva, is not just a time to feel sorrow and grief, but a way to acknowledge the living.