A night on Ellis Island. Photo blog.

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The ride to the island:
This view made me smile as we were boarding the boat. Rocking back and forth, I thought the rough ride may scare me but I never noticed once I saw my surroundings.

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Look around:
The view of the new tower from the water makes us proud to be American!
The Statue of Liberty is breathtaking as she towers over the boat as we pass.

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Dinner in the Great Room:
I was able to find out, from my family in Italy, that my great grandfather came through here! I also found him in the online directory. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a book you could page through like in the movie Hitch! I really though that if Will Smith does it, it has to be real! I was wrong, it is an online directory, but it was still amazing!

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Do some exploring:
I asked for permission and went upstairs and walked through any open door. I was in awe seeing the old objects, the writing on the wall and the view of the great room from above. Thinking about how many people came here to start a life in America amazed me! I don’t think I thought about it enough until I was there.

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Taking it all in:
The view of NYC from Ellis Island.
The entrance on the island.

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A new view:
She looks different, and amazingly beautiful with the contrast of the black night sky behind her!

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Ending the night:
In awe of the Freedom Tower. It is larger than life and a strong and sentimental reminder of the buildings that stood before it.

I recommend Ellis Island, whether you have family history with it or not. To stand in the place and know that you are standing in a place with that kind of history is amazing.

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9/11 and NYC – a photo blog

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The pursuit of happiness continued in NYC this week. This is a photo blog because there are no words….

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We were consumed with the museum. The audio, video, pictures and exhibits were breathtaking. The emotion in the museum was incredible but they made it educational and honestly, it felt more like a tribute to the lives of the lost rather than an incredibly sad experience. I was not sure how I would handle it from an emotional standpoint but I have been wanting to go for a long time. Every room gave me goosebumps and we completely lost track of time. We spent hours in there, and I would do it again….

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Generations

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I am going to save most of the beautiful pictures, scenery and experiences from today for another blog. I want to focus on the incredible family time we had this evening.

Tonight, I was introduced to Elvira Di Renzo. She is our cousin’s mother and is 76 years old, living in Palmoli, Italy. Palmoli is 727 meters (ps. I don’t know how to convert the meters to feet but it is 2,385 feet says the internet) above sea level. It is up in the Appenine Mountains, but also only 15 miles from the Adriatic Sea, and is an incredibly beautiful town with views that I cannot describe with words. The drive up the hills was absolutely beautiful. It is about 20 degrees colder up there but when we saw a Shepard with his flock, we had to stop. I got some great pictures but we got ambitious and starting running toward them and they went running. The only thought going through that man’s mind was “who are these dumb Americans running after my sheep?” We just said Ciao and walked away with our heads down.

Elvira called me little Margie immediately (Margie is my mother and my grandmother’s name) and told me that she was already familiar from my Aunt Betty, who she was very close to also) talking about me. Although I hardly understood her, it was so special to me. Aunt Betty has been gone for over 10 years but she was definitely not forgettable for any of us.

She came with us to tour some Palmoli sites. We first visited the Castello di Palmoli and the garden was so simple but had the most amazing flowers. I took several pictures of them, of course. The funny part about this is that the castle was closed and locked but with one phone call and 10 minutes, the Mayor was there to open it for us. We got a tour of the castle (built in 1095) which was absolutely amazing. For some reason, I love old doors and windows and architectural detail and my pictures will show that. The castle provided so many opportunities to photograph but, of course, my phone died as soon as we climbed to the top of the tower. Yes, sadly that means no more pictures. The view from the top was unbelievable (I feel like I am running out of original descriptive words to use that mean amazing).

Next we walked to the church, surprisingly, we walked in right in time for mass. So, we stayed. I prayed for growing faith for myself and those special to me. Why did I feel like I was closer to heaven in this place? Italy has so much religious history, especially in the Catholic Church, it was nice to attend a mass.

After, I noticed that I could make a donation and light a candle in this beautiful, Italian church. My mother would have loved this place and I know she would so appreciate a special prayer from her daughter in the city where her Grandfather, Dominico, was born. So, I made a donation and started my special prayer and asked Elvira to join me to light the candle for my mother. The picture you see is of that happy moment for my mom, Margie (don’t cry Mom).

We walked through the cobblestone streets of Palmoli in the rain to return to the car to head to Elvira’s for dinner. Of course, she cooked for us. We sat around the table and talked about our family and ate cutlets and potatoes and peas! Everything was delicioso! She brought out Italian doughnuts after the meal.

She sat next to me, squeezed my arm and told me about working with my Aunt Emma, sewing clothes for my Grandmother and living with my Aunt Betty for three years (1966-1969) in Norristown. She talked about my mom being the energetic one (likely where I get it from) and my Aunt Donna being calmer. We saw a fantastic picture of them when they were younger and she told me to be sure to talk to them for her, including my mom, my aunt and my uncle. She had such a great memory and did well with English for having only lived in America for three years. She even remembered my mom’s little dog Pedro. There is something so amazing about sitting around the table with this family, understanding without speaking and feeling connected without ever knowing each other.

I practiced saying “I loved seeing you” in Italian over and over before it was my turn to hug her goodbye. Everyone left but me and my cousin and as she embraced me again, she said something I could not understand. She told her granddaughter to translate but she was obviously reluctant. Finally, she said “You should get married!”

Dio Mio, sempre in famiglia Italiana (my mother, sitting at home reading this, just said THANK YOU ELVIRA!).

On the way home, my cousin Lucia told me about my great grandparents. Dominico moved from Palmoli to America in 1902 and stayed for about four years. He returned to Italy to find a wife around 1912. He met Giovina and was married in Italy but he returned to America to find them a home. However, before Giovina could join him, the First World War broke out and no one could travel. For 10 years, she remained in Italy without her husband because of the war and the chaos that ensued. She lived miserably but was finally able to return to America and join her husband. By that time, she was late-30’s, but had three children (including my Grandfather, my great Uncle Anthony and my great Aunt Betty).

She is described as being very independent. Although she was illiterate, she worked and supported the family. For most of their children’s lives, their father was disabled so Giovina worked in an asbestos factory. She was driven and free spirited and had no fear. I feel so completely connected to my great Grandmother Giovina from these stories because it sounds like I take after her.

Conoscere la mia famiglia è incredibile. Grazie a Lucia per aiutare!

Pictures included: Domenico, Aunt Betty and Elvira when they were young, a picture of my mom’s generation when they were younger (mom- top left) and of course Elvira and I lighting the candle.

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Friendship

Over the past decade I found that some of my greatest friends would be people who I do not see often. That sometimes provides a challenge because you want the people you love to be close to you and that is very true for me. However, it is amazing when you do see these people how exciting and happy it can really be.

My friend and colleague, Jennifer, you will see in this picture pointed out that even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time together or talk all the time because we lead such different lives, we are always there for each other. We started working for the same company around the same time over a decade ago and both made a decision that we wanted to grow. Over the years, we have grown professionally together and work together in different ways, but she is right… we’ve always been there for each other. That relationship is no less important than my relationship with friends that I see every day.

She is only one example. This week I spent time in the city I used to live in and visiting people who became my family will never get old. I have prioritized not taking time with these people for granted.  When you find people who add to your life, inspire you, support you and give you someone to rely on, always make it a priority to enjoy the time you get with them.

-L

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Perspective

To get started, I’m including posts from the recent past to give you perspective on the Finding Laura journey.

– L

April 13, 2014
One month from today… I will be boarding a flight to Italy!!!
The pages have been turning so fast and although some of them are ripped and stained, they are all part of an incredible journey. Next month starts a new decade and a new chapter and I am so ready for it.
If my 20’s couldn’t break me, nothing will…

 

April 10, 2014
It really is only impossible if you decide it is…
A lot of times, the people who don’t know any better make things happen that others “know” can’t be done!
Trying some new things lately!

 

April 6, 2014
Today, my opinion is that rejection is God’s way of stepping in and eliminating the people from your life that don’t appreciate you or deserve you enough to be there. It may not be easy because if it was you would eliminate them yourself, but it does make more room for people who are supportive and loving and motivating and important.
I’m glad that I know who to look up to…. And who to walk away from…. Even when it’s hurtful and hard.
That’s all…

 

April 4, 2014
John Maxwell says that to lead an awesome life means to be impressive, inspiring and to induce a sense of awe in others. He also says that people who are awesome perform on a level that is way beyond expectation.
I agree with him and I think he says it well. We should all aim for impressive while also focusing on inspiring. I don’t just want to be great at what I do… I want to inspire others to want to be great too… and then do what I can to teach them how.
I love mentoring and had a goal of enlisting others to do the same! A big thank you to AJ who became the first to commit to being a Mentor in my project.. There really is nothing like having a vision and actually seeing it come to fruition and I’m happy that you share my passion for it! Very exciting!

 

March 14, 2014
Favorite text I’ve ever gotten-
“Your occasional dorkiness is actually a rather adoring quality. So you really should embrace it.”
I’m gonna let this override every time someone called me weird, criticized me for being different or told me my randomness is unreasonable!

 

March 3, 2014
Being a good friend is important…
Don’t keep positive thoughts to yourself… instead, use your words.
Don’t criticize… instead, use your filter.
Tell people they matter if they do. Don’t ever take for granted someone who cares about you. Try really hard not to hurt them. Encourage people to have a good heart.
Encourage people who can make a difference.
Don’t take a day for granted.
Listen to the words you heard as a child: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Find ways to improve yourself.
Make someone’s day.

 

January 21, 2014
Good reminder this morning…
“I have some of the most amazing people in my life.
If you find that you are surrounded by people who bring you down, look past them and find people who will lift you up… Then, make them your inner circle!
You have to choose who should impact your life… And as importantly, choose who shouldn’t.
Lecture over.”

January 12, 2014
Sometimes I get lost going somewhere I aways go, or hurt myself because I don’t pay attention…
Sometimes I get lost in my own head…
Other times I get lost in my determination and forget to use my head…
I over-complicate things that should be simple and I over-simplify things that should be complicated… 
But that’s all me… And tonight I feel more like me than I have in a while…I think that deserves a Laura-twirl…