Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Italian Traditions

Italian Traditions
Traditions are very unique to each family and individual, especially at Christmas. One of my favorite traditions we have in our family is a trip to DeVitis Italian Store. From as far back as I can remember, all the female aunts and cousins would get together on a morning before Christmas and my Nonna Antonucci would take us to DeVitis. The store is always crowded with many loud, Italians who are standing around talking with their hands. Most of the people in there knew each other, or at the very least, knew someone's uncle. There would always be that time we'd be standing around, constantly moving our cart to let people through, while Nonna talked to someone she's known forever. After the chatting, we'd make our way to the meat counter, where you would take a number. Of course, that number always seemed so far away from the current number they were shouting. 

Once we got to the counter, Nonna always ordered the same thing. Pounds and pounds of Prosciutto, Hard Salami, Provolone Cheese, Antipasto Salad, Olive Salad (with extra juice), Bocconcino Salad (fresh mozzarella balls and tomatoes), and always for me, my favorite, the Cheese Salad. Once we ordered from the counter, we made our way to the bread aisle, where yes, we had to stand there till they brought out the freshest bread and it could not have seeds. As the man is trying to stock the shelves, we are grabbing loaf after loaf from his hands. With our cart full, we would make our way to the checkout. The checkout is very small, always with brown paper bags and Nonna would always grab some sweet goodie on the way out. 

Once we had all the goodies, we'd go to someone's house and eat. It was usually my Aunt Cristine’s house and everyone just seemed to all show up at the same time, as if they could smell DeVitis wherever they were and knew we were back. Once we were all there, we'd unpack the fresh Prosciutto which is always wrapped in a white butcher’s paper. The bread would be cut, the salads put out on the counter and conversation in full bloom about who they saw, what they were doing now, how they grew up to look like so and so. For hours we'd sit around, eat and talk.

My other favorite tradition is the annual New Year’s Day Wedding Soup. Again, very similar to the DeVitis trip, we would all gather at my Aunt Cristine's to make soup. Over the years, so many people have been involved in the soup making. I can remember many different friends from school coming over and helping out with cooking. Our particular Antonucci wedding soup is completely homemade. Of course, first, we eat the leftover DeVitis and then we start working. We roll every single little meatball with our hands, all 8-10 lbs of meat. The meat balls cannot be any bigger than pencil eraser, and yes, my mother or aunts do come around and check. If they are too big, they will throw them back in your bowl to do again. We all have our plate, sit in a big circle talking as we roll meatballs. After the meatballs are finished about 4 to 5 hours later, depending on how many people are involved, we move on to croutons. Every crouton is individually rolled out on a cookie sheet, baked, and then sliced. After a few hours of slicing, your fingers feel like they cannot move from cutting so much. On a different day, the eggs and gizzards chopped and broth made.  
On New Year’s Day we all gather together and start the New Year off with a big bowl of Wedding Soup, made with love. 

These have been our two traditions for as long as I can remember. My Nonna who started each tradition is no longer alive physically, but her memory lives on each year as we continue honoring her through our trip to DeVitis and each meatball we roll. I cherish those two events. I look forward to the hustle and bustle of DeVitis at Christmas. I can sit here now and taste the familiar smells and feel the love from my Grandma. Traditions should be cherished, they make your particular family unique. What are some of your favorite traditions?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stop and start enjoying

Stop and Start Enjoying
The holidays seem to be so stressful.  Everyone is rushing around to make sure they get certain gifts, get their house decorated a certain way, send Christmas cards, attend parties, bake cookies and the list could go on. All that hustle and bustle is great if you are really enjoying all the activities, however, I think for most people, they dread more of it than they enjoy. 

What if we all did what we wanted to do over this holiday season? Let's make a list of the activities that bring us joy and take those that we find non enjoyable off the list. Maybe we could make a commitment to ourselves and our well-being, instead of to people and things we really don't care that much about. We all have activities like, cookie exchanges, different holiday parties, Secret Santa exchanges, dinners, etc, that we sometimes do not want to do, but feel guilty if we don't do them. We need to release the guilt and find the joy. If going to that party feels like more of a hassle, then don't go. Replace the party with a different activity that brings your soul love. 

Leave your holiday season open to spontaneous adventures with your kids, relatives, significant others and yourself. Allow that time for ice skating, driving around to look at lights, sitting by a warm fire all snuggled watching a Christmas movie, an exciting lunch with an old friend and all the various other fun events this holiday season. If we have our days and weekends so packed with things we don't even want to do because we feel obligated, then it zaps all the fun out of the holidays. 

Maybe some of the non-enjoyable things on your list is having to cook something to take to a party. Instead of cooking, it's perfectly okay to run to the store and buy something to share. Some people dread having everyone over to their house, because we feel like the house needs to be perfectly clean, every dish matching, and food done all at once. Drop your ego. It does not matter if you have Christmas dishes and if they are all a matching set or if every corner is dusted. No one will notice. If they do, then that's their issue. Find enjoyment in having everyone over to your house. Stop stressing over things that are really not important. People come over to eat, drink and be merry. They don't care what they eat on, when it comes out of the oven or how its presented. They only notice when you make a fuss over it. So, stop, and start enjoying. 

Do all the things you enjoy this holiday season, but if you have to do something that you normally dread, find something positive out of the experience. Go into it with love in your heart. Look at a person that maybe is the reason you dread going, and ask yourself how you can you bring love into their life. Stay in the moment. Try not to think about the event at all prior to going, just show up in love and find the positive. If you have to bake cookies, then invite someone over to help, get kids involved or put on your favorite music and just enjoy the baking. I think if we eliminate some of the stuff we don't have to do, replace it with what brings our soul joy, and then we'd find it’s easier to enjoy the obligations that are non-negotiable. 

This holiday season, let it be peaceful and enjoyable. Do things that make you happy. Release the guilt of not doing things you don't want to do. Show up to every event you chose with love. Keep in mind the real meaning of the holidays. I hope that this year is the best holiday season yet, because you chose what is important for you. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013



Right about this time every year, I start to think about kindness. The news and media is filled with crazy Black Friday shoppers and their stories of greed.   The stories are endless of who ran over who, to get the most popular toy this year. Every year it seems that the stores are opening up earlier and earlier. In return, people are leaving their families and Thanksgiving dinners early to make sure they are standing in the line of their favorite stores. I shake my head in confusion. What is out there to buy that important that you are willing to sacrifice time with the people you love? Time is the only thing you can't get back. You can't go back to last Thanksgiving and instead of leaving early to shop, spend it with your grandpa, who died this year. For many people, it's one of the only days of the year that everyone even gets together. Yet, as a society we find it more important to save a buck on an item we probably don't need anyway. 

Not only do we leave our gatherings early to stand in line, but then we get there amongst shoppers just like we and we are not kind. We run over each other, take things from people's carts, yell, push, shove and raise hell because we want an item for our kid. 
Here are a few examples:
 1.  Two people were shot on Black Friday in the parking lot of a Florida Walmart after an argument over a parking space in 2012.

2. A man in a San Antonio Sears pulled out a concealed gun on a line-cutter.

3. On Black Friday in 2008, a temporary Walmart employee was trampled to death after a large crowd poured through the store's doors. And Walmart, a company with sales of $466 billion last year, is still fighting the $7,000 fine that resulted from the 2008 trampling.

4. A 61-year-old man collapsed in 2011, fellow Target shoppers stepped over his body and continued searching for deals. The man later died at the hospital.

Here is an idea. Instead of those angry behaviors, let’s replace it with kindness for each other.  As consumers, if we went to the stores on Thanksgiving night with love and kindness, I can guarantee it would be a much better experience for everyone. Traffic will run smoother and we won't become frustrated if we drive knowing we are going to be moving slow and that we are going to have to walk a mile to a parking spot. Standing in lines might be more enjoyable if we start up a conversation about how grateful we are for being able to buy everything in our cart. Smile and be kind to the holiday workers who are just trying to make a living. More than likely, they rather be at home with their families, instead of working, so being kind to those people working very hard on Thanksgiving night. 

Kindness is the key to this holiday season. When we decide to go out shopping, expect all the people, traffic, and delays, no matter when you venture out. Don't be shocked when it takes you an hour longer to run your errands. Embrace the holiday shopping with kindness and love. Stop being rude. If you can't go out shopping in love, then don't go. Stay home and enjoy your family and friends. Wait till you are going for the right reasons. We are going shopping to buy gifts for people, gifts for the important people in your lives. Shouldn't they be bought with love, not through frustration and anger? 

This holiday season:
Think about if shopping is more important than spending the time with family.

Be happy, no matter what you decide.

Show respect for the people around you in the stores.

Go shopping with love.

Enjoy the moments. 


Happy Thanksgiving. I will be spending my holiday with many people I love. I will eat, laugh, play games and just enjoy the company. What will you be doing? 

Monday, November 18, 2013



There is a trend developing quickly in our computer, cell phone, lack of human to human communication driven world and it’s very annoying. When did we get so caught up in our technology that we forgot that there are real human beings on the other end? Yes, human beings with feelings, exciting events, sad times, and birthdays, to name a few. 

I have always been one that thinks birthdays are important. You were born into this world on a certain date, given a special name, and every year, that day should be celebrated. You are unique and bring so many wonderful attributes to this world and the people in your life. We should celebrate life every day, but if you choose not to, at least go all out on your birthday! In saying that, the people that love you the most, should also make an effort to celebrate your birthday. I am not saying, you should spends lots of money to buy a big gift, or maybe you can't even see the person on their day because of distance or circumstances, (unless you want to) but PLEASE at least acknowledge the person you love. 

Now here is the part where I get extremely ANNOYED!  I say acknowledge them and I mean it, but a text message or facebook message to say Happy Birthday is very lazy, selfish and in my eyes inappropriate. To me, a facebook message is simply saying, "Oh yes, facebook reminded me of your birthday and because I spend WAY too much time on facebook, I'll send you a quick message just like 50 other people." Or, facebook reminds you that it’s your sibling’s birthday and you send a text message that simply states "Happy Birthday." What that really says is, "Yes, it’s your birthday and you are my sister, I love you, but I don't have the time to pick up the phone and tell you in person, because my life is so important."

SERIOUSLY?  We are really going to send a text or a facebook message to say Happy Birthday to someone we love instead of calling them? Our lives are that important that we can't take five minutes from our day to wish someone we love a happy birthday? I feel like it would terrify people to ask them, take one more step and send a card in the mail to someone that you love. It seems to me, that the simple act of signing your name to a card would just put people over the edge of their self-indulged life. I mean, they would have to go to the store, buy a card, sign it, get a stamp and mail it. That would take them away from the countless hours they spend surfing the net or playing on their phone. We couldn't have that, now can we?

As much as it is scary, it's also so sad to me that this is the world we are now living in every day. This is what we are teaching our children. We think OUR lives are just SO important, that we can't stop and take the time to spend it with someone we love on the day they were born, or simply picking up the phone to wish them a good day. 

 I know for me, I will make an effort to speak to someone that I love when it’s their birthday. If they do not answer the telephone, that's ok, I will leave an obnoxious singing message. But, no matter what, they will hear my voice on their birthday, because their life is just as important as mine. What will you do? 

Monday, November 11, 2013



I am living my day to day in more stress than I have in my 12 years of teaching. When I am at school, I feel like every ounce of happiness and energy is sucked out of me in this long tube, which then is being spewed it out in somewhere in the universe. To refill the happiness tank, I look to drink a Pepsi. The taste of Pepsi has always been on my tongue since I was born. I know this because, according to my mom, Pepsi was my second word after ball. Pepsi is my stress reliever. I can totally understand now how someone becomes addicted to substances. People feel bad about their lives, so they find something to make them feel better. I do that, but fortunately, on a less harmful scale. 

I could see from a distance that I needed to figure out a way to break the connection from stress and Pepsi. I was beginning to gain weight. I would get wicked headaches if I didn't drink a Pepsi early enough in the day, plus its expensive. More importantly than all of those was the fact that Pepsi no longer even tasted good. I wasn't drinking it because I loved the taste. I was drinking it because in my mind, it took the stress away. Let's be real, the Pepsi didn't take my stress away. What it did was create a story I told myself every time I became stressed. 

That story became one I got tired of telling. I got tired of focusing my day on stress and having that drink. It was as if the Pepsi controlled me. I decided that I was going to go on a 24 day cleanse. I chose the 24 day cleanse because its long enough to form good habits. They say that 21 days forms a habit, and now I had 3 more days to just make sure. I know there are people reading this thinking, I can't drink my meals, I can't give up coffee or carbs. The thing is, you can, but the even better thing is, you don't have to on this cleanse.

I eat every meal, with snacks in between. Each meal consists of proteins, veggies, grains and fruits. Yes, the first couple days were rough, but I am on my 12th day now and I feel great! It has been 12 days since I have had a Pepsi by the way :) Not only am I feeling better but I am learning a great deal about myself.

My stress hasn't gone away. It still shows up in various places in my life, but instead of listening to my mind and medicating that stress with Pepsi, I am now listening to my body and stopping to breathe more. I am acknowledging that if I don't like a situation, I ask if there is a solution. If there is no solution, then I accept what is, and move on. I have been doing more yoga, which is also helping me reduce stress and helping fill the happiness tank. I am taking care of me physically and emotionally every day by being in the moments and realizing when my mind is trying to take control. 

This cleanse has shown me how to have a tremendous amount of discipline. We are social beings and when we go out, it is usually centered around food. It is very easy in our culture to eat the fried foods. I am learning on this cleanse, that with some effort, you can eat very healthy. I have realized that we don't listen to our bodies enough. Realistically, there aren't many times when we ask ourselves if we are really hungry, but instead we let our mind control our eating. I have been more aware of what my mind says, especially in times of high stress. When my mind says I am craving something that I really don't want, I stop and ask the reason for wanting that food or drink. Is it because I am hungry or thirsty? Most of the time its because its habit, or Friday, or whatever excuse I am telling myself.  I am learning to listen to my mind's chatter and realize I have control. 

Through this process I am becoming aware of when I am hungry, the connections I make with food, and my mind's self talk. I have broken the link between my stress and Pepsi. I am working very hard on listening to my body and intuition, instead of my mind. I also remember that this is a process and I am not perfect, but I really like the changes I am making and the new story I am telling. What is your story? What small changes can you do every day to make your life more healthy? 

If you are interested in the cleanse check out Advocare 24 day challenge. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rachel's Challenge

Rachel's Challenge

An emotional morning for a Wednesday. Started school like any other day, but today we were headed to an assembly for the whole school. I know that no one had any idea the impact this particular assembly was going to leave on the teachers or students. The impact was so great, that all you could hear were tears amongst 900 middle school students. 

Rachel was a 16 year old student at Columbine, who was killed in the shootings. Prior to her death, she was a student who believed in kindness, acceptance and dreams. Rachel lived what she believed. Rachel did the little things in life that mean the most. She stood up for those who couldn't stand up for themselves, she inspired everyone to live their dreams and really live their dance, no matter how unpopular you feel. 

Rachel knew that she was going to impact the world. Her journals and life proved that. Not once, did Rachel doubt who she was as a young girl. She knew that she was perfect and so was everyone else in this world; all Rachel wanted was for people to believe that as well. Unfortunately, it took her death to get people to really wake from their trance. Rachel's Challenge is just that, a challenge. It was created to challenge people to start living in kindness while you are ALIVE. Start accepting everyone, start believing we are all equal, start LIVING with compassion. 

Kindness starts spreading with just the smallest act. Something simply as smiling. When you are in a store, on a trail, walking down a street, talking to a clerk, look at these people you pass and SMILE. Opening doors for people. Moving so someone else can sit down when there is a crowded room. Writing a note to someone. Giving hugs. Have conversations with people, even if it’s the first time you met them. Very simple things that could create an impact much farther than you could ever imagine. People always remember how you made them feel, not what you did or didn't do for them. 

Listen to people and find out what is important in their life. Look people in the eyes. Find the light within everyone and help that light grow bigger. Give. Thank those people you encounter every day. Realize that people are what make this world a better place, not money. Be compassionate. LOVE. 

Live Your Dance!  Everyone has a different move, different beat, different tune, but yet, we are all connected in one big dance. Be kind to one another and just dance without judgment. There are many times where living your dance can be unpopular, scary and many instances, very challenging. I promise you though, after the fog clears, your dance moves will be full of love. It’s far worse to dance someone else’s' dance, because then, your true essence, your true dance, is never revealed. Be brave. Be you. Dance TOGETHER.

 Rachel's Challenge is moving from state to state, school to school to spread the message. It’s a wonderful message that everyone needs to hear, but when the assembly is over and two days later you are left with just yourself, how are YOU going to live? That is Rachel's Challenge. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What do you value?

What do you value? 

Ironically, the word value has two meanings. Value can mean the worth of a thing in money or purchasing power. Value can also mean your belief or standard, having intrinsic worth.  In our current world of texting, computers, running from one place to another, making more money, buying more things, getting ahead of the next person, basically fast paced everything and everyone, what is your definition of value? When you stop and suddenly look at your life, what do you believe? 

I believe in a good dance party, with songs you can belt at the top of your lungs. I believe in cowboy boots. I believe in farmers. I believe in growing food in a garden.  I believe in free time. I believe in doing what you love, even if that means taking a huge risk. 

I believe in people. I believe we are all in this together. I believe there are many different paths to the end result. I believe the best in people. I believe everyone has something to say, we just need to take the time to listen.  I believe in giving. I believe in greeting people on the street. I believe that children are important, but that we don't listen to the elderly often enough. 

I believe in family, but also that there are many leaves to your family tree.  I believe in traditions. I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in birthday parties. I believe in counting your blessings everyday. I believe in having fun. I believe in laughter. I believe in not taking your life or this world so seriously. I believe in exercising and eating ice cream for breakfast. 

I believe that less is more. I believe that cell phones should be turned off during dinner. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that change is good.  I believe people should relax and not worry so much. I believe in supporting your troops, but not the war. I believe in loving yourself, including your body, but I have to be reminded of that frequently. 

I believe in love. I believe in kisses and hugs. I believe love will always win and should be our foundation. I believe love and passion should be our highest priority when guiding our decisions. I believe in expressing your love. I believe in living our truth, even if its not popular.

My list could go on and on, as I'm sure anyone could write a similar list of beliefs. The question is, what do you believe or value? Everyday we unconsciously consult our list of values. If you value a good night sleep, then you will be in bed early. If you value helping people, you will volunteer your time. If you value the Earth, then you will recycle. All these values guide our daily lives.

 Which definition of value do you choose daily? To me, the way we live every moment, should add intrinsic value to our lives and the lives of everyone around us. How do you conduct your day? Do your actions reflect your values? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013



Since the beginning of September, I have only been wearing one left shoe. Its become a joke around our house, because everywhere you look, there is a left shoe of all kinds, while the right shoe patiently sits in my closet awaiting its return. I have asked myself so many times for the answer to how my right foot got put in this big, non attractive black boot. Nothing specifically happened, I can't remember one moment where I thought, "Shit, I just hurt my foot." Nonetheless, pain came into my life and so did the dreaded foot doctor. A stress fracture later, I have been wearing one left shoe and hobbling around my days very slowly. 

I am a firm believer in the phrase, "Everything happens for a reason." Well, the reason immediately smacked me hard in the face. As much as I hate to admit it, my stress fracture was my divine intervention yelling SLOW DOWN SHANNON. Over the last few months, I have had to quit working out and stop hiking (two of my favorite activities). I cannot go dancing, I had to sit on the couch with my foot up, no working in the yard....I could go on and on. If you know me at all, you know that slowing down is not something I ever do or find to be enjoyable. Surprisingly, after I finally came to grips with a much needed slowing down process, I am enjoying my unexpected fracture, which has taught me the seasons of life.

Each and every one of us are walking colors of the brightest shades. We are so beautiful, with so much to offer the world and people in our lives. Just as during the season of Fall, some of our colors are on display when we allow our inner love to shine brightly. That love is seen and felt in utter amazement when you gaze at its vividness. Unfortunately, many of us hide our color with curled up, hardened textures filled with fear. Even for the brightest colors, there does come a time, where the leaves dry up and fall to the Earth. This is the time to slow down and assess what colors in our life need to be changed, brightened or released. Which colors have fulfilled their time in our lives and which ones need letting go? Which colors do we hold to tightly and polish as we await the next season to shine? 

The first snowfall brings a feeling of relief. A welcomed chance for rest and hibernation. The time where we allow ourselves to curl up and stay warm with the white blanket of Winter. January is the start of a new year, a start of new you. A chance to redo all things with love, a chance to begin again. As we sit on the couch, next to the fireplace, we let all the new beginnings get a chance to relax and refuel for the next season of change. 

When our new beginnings have had enough rest, they patiently start to grow. They start from a tiny thought or action and as in Spring, they start to bud with the most incredible green color. Spring is a season for growth, a chance to grow into a flower, tree or plant of your choosing. As we start to grow, be aware of the tiny weeds that might be growing inside of you. Weeds that we might not have pulled, for various reasons, but are now getting thicker and starting to hide our true selves. As we know in Spring, weeds can grow fast and there are many days when we have to go back into our garden and get rid of more that just don't belong. That's what Spring is about...maintenance. Not letting the weeds take over who we are, who we want to be, and how we love. 

Just as we have pulled our last weed, the heat starts to make everything bloom.  Summer is where all the work we have done over the past three seasons gets a chance to bloom and swell with beauty. Just like a flower opening up, our soul is gradually unfolding from the inside. It's the time of the year, that our soul dances in the sun, soaking up all life's possibilities. Summer is when we show the world who we are, with pride, acceptance, and love. We all bloom in a different way, but together we weave an amazing tapestry on this Earth. 

During this season of Fall, my left shoe and I are enjoying all the colors within the people we love. We are assessing the rainbow inside our soul, we are looking forward to our chance to rest this Winter, excited about the new growth in the Spring and ready to dance in the Summer.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blue Eyelashes

Blue Eyelashes
My first blog. My first attempt at writing. There is a lot of pressure to figure out what to write. I have been putting off my first blog writing because I couldn't figure out what to write about first. I realized this morning as I was sitting at a Sunday church service, which for me was the third time in about 18 years,  that I just need to pick a topic and get my first blog written. That thought, whether divinely sent to my brain or whether inspired from the woman with the blue eye lashes, is still unknown, but regardless, here I go. 

Melissa, my loving partner, has a need and want to attend church on Sundays. Both of us grew up in the Catholic church and since my youth, I have not practiced any type of religion. We have gone to a few Unity churches lately to see if any of them move us to possibly want to give up our lazy Sunday mornings for more a spiritual awakening. I have not been moved and to be honest I still feel that a long hike, my own meditations and yoga is all the spiritual practice I need. 

However, this morning we attended one of the new churches on our list and as the service starts, there is a joyful song playing about how we are blessed and loved. As I sit on the aisle, watching people pass me and listening to everyone sing, I try very lovingly to figure out why again I am here this beautiful, crisp, sunny October morning. Almost immediately the answer comes into view. 

A woman probably in her 70's, dressed in a purple blanket dress.  She was wearing a glittery, bejeweled hat. It wasn't your ordinary hat, it was more like a royal crown, without the crown part sticking up on top. There was no brim, it was rounded and it stuck up probably 5 inches above her head. It had such an amazing glittery design on the top and big colorful jewels all around. The bottom of hat that covered most of her hair was purple to match her dress. Beneath the hat, grey hair, peppered with white poked out from the bottom and sides. 

As the woman started to pass me, the energy from her presence pulled me towards her and I couldn't help but keep staring. Everyone was singing and the song was very uplifting and all of the sudden the woman broke out into a dance. She moved her body so gracefully, but with a peppy step. Her legs did  a shuffle and then moved into a long step sideways and then again she repeated her dance until she sat down a few rows ahead of us. 

The smile on my face was automatic and kept growing by the second. I couldn't help but watch this woman and want to just follow her and dance. As the music stopped and she turned her head I noticed she had the brightest, longest, blue eyelashes glued to her clear rimmed eye glasses. I immediately chuckled and thought to myself, this woman has an energy about her that's inspiring. I instantly wanted to talk to her. How can you not want to be friends with a woman who has a great hat, a great dance and now blue fake eyelashes?

As the service continued, I couldn't help but wonder what her life has been like and as I sat there I made up stories in my mind. Maybe she was a dancer. A teacher. An artist. Royalty. Homeless. An acrobat. I never did find out that answer, but what I do know is this...Today, that blue eyelash lady reminded me a few things.

We all can inspire with just our presence. 

We all create our own happiness.

We are all filled with infinite love. 

We are all perfect. 

Never be afraid to live your dance.