Care, teach…. MENTOR!

I needed a Mentor.

I remember it clearly. When I would get to those really important forks in the road of life, I had to make decisions. I didn’t realize it then, but I realize it now. I needed a Mentor…not because I made the wrong decisions (although sometimes I did) but because before, during and after big decisions you need support and encouragement…. everyone does.

I think about the time in my life when I was an impressionable teenager, under the impression that independence was easy and I knew everything. I think about that time often. I had gotten wrapped up in some rough situations and had to keep my head on straight. I realized that every influence was important, including the negative ones. I still do. However, since then I’ve learned that if you are surrounded by negative influences, you can and should change it. That was an empowering lesson and made me a lot stronger. See, life wasn’t always very nice to me but one thing I’ve always had was fact that I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t give up on myself and now I won’t give up on others.

Think about what a difference we could make on our society if everyone we knew mentored one person, and then they mentored one, and perhaps that even continued. The influence would be amazing and perhaps we could change the current culture that most people are complaining about. Young people especially need someone to believe in them, someone to point them in the right direction and someone to comfort and encourage them when they make a mistake.

Mentoring is so rewarding. I try to have two professional mentoring projects and two personal mentoring projects at a time. My Assistant worries about the required time but it is not a job, it’s an honor, so I won’t stop. I love the people I mentor, it isn’t just factual. You build relationships, see things through and you work hard with them and for them. My newest Professional is amazing and inspiring and I sometimes wonder how I can help her. We bring accountability and motivation to each other and I find that we are both better for it. Personally, I have just accumulated “little sisters.” I went through a phase where I would talk to anyone who would listen. Teenage girls have it rough and if they were open, I would give a “Laura lecture” as they would call it. I was surprised at how many tough, stubborn, teenage girls would listen and even ask for more.

As new generations come up, they are becoming less connected and less focused. This is a new day of distraction and temptation but some only need to hear that they have options. Integrity is important. Listening to your heart, face time (in person face time, not on an iPhone) and true relationships cannot be replaced. Keeping your word, letting actions speak louder than them and really being intentional about being positive will help, even when it doesn’t seem cool. These things seem simple to some of us and that is great but we’re only helping ourselves if we don’t share it.

I have never been able to commit to a formal program because of the demands of my Career but that doesn’t have to stop any of us. You can do it yourself, just like I can and you can make a difference in someone’s life.

I treasure every single person I’ve ever mentored and I can only hope that they have learned as much from me as I have from them.

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Life Goes On

I was interviewed for a radio show this week and was asked what I learned from my trip in Italy…

Well, first, I learned to stop and smell the roses.  This is about so much more than a flower.  It is about the little things that I know I like, the things I know will make me smile and the things that I constantly miss.  The anxiety and chaos of life kept me from enjoying the little things like the scent of a rose for years.   I want to say that I am going to keep fresh cut flowers in my house at all times from now on, but I think we all know that is unrealistic.  However, I can have them as much as possible and I can notice them where they are, outside of my home.   Today, I went to the cemetery to visit my Aunt and stayed on my knees until I no longer had any circulation working in my legs. As I talked to her, I noticed the overwhelming number of flowers around me. I have been there hundreds of times and I was just always so focused on getting to her grave, talking to her, saying my prayer and moving on to the next task of the day.  First of all, the thought of that is just sad to me now, but second, I just never noticed all the beautiful flowers.  I guess that was a good example. 

Next, I learned that I should sit and enjoy my coffee.  This was one of the top things that stood out to me while on my trip.   That girl at the winery said something like, why get coffee if you aren’t going to sit and enjoy it? Although she was speaking English, this was like a foreign language to me.  I have to say, I have not really enforced this in my coffee grabbing trips.  However, there have been a few coffee visits from someone special since I returned that have reiterated the point that she made while I was sitting in that winery in Chianti. Happy interactions in the morning make me chipper!  This is one of the things I missed when I moved back to Pennsylvania from Alabama.  I had to train myself to stop talking to people and saying, “good morning,” when I went into the store. In Alabama, everyone talked to me, everyone was pleasant and everyone was smiling.   The East Coast is very different. Everyone is in a rush, most are looking down at their phones and if you try to talk to people, they look at you like you are crazy.  Anyway, I have this hope that the smile will be contagious and people will be more happy and encouraging to strangers in the morning.  I’ve seen crazier things happen!

Last, I learned to listen when the birds are chirping.  This could fall into the concept of stopping to smell the roses too.  It is a little thing that most times we overlook and ignore.  Last week, I had the hardest time getting back to Pennsylvania’s time zone so I was waking up around 3:00am and starting my day.  So, one morning, I was sitting at my dining room table trying to get ahead of the day’s work and at some point, the birds started chirping.  I literally stopped working, closed the computer, grabbed my coffee and went and sat next to the door and just listened for about 20 minutes.   I’ve never actually appreciated the birds chirping before Italy. While doing that radio interview, they said that a study was done that showed that the sound of birds chirping makes people happy.  Well, yeah, it does!

Life after Italy has been so interesting.  It is almost like my body came back but my brain is still in Italy mode.  I think that is a good thing but we have a joke lately about my head being in the clouds.   I think I like it.   There is no anxiety and stress, there is no lingering frustration, there is just life… and it goes on.  So, things that would normally bother me, just don’t.  That is not to say I have not run into challenges, I will always have challenges. I just have a new perspective.  I just go with it.  We only have one life and we are meant to live it and love it!  I plan on doing just that.

DELIZIOSO #2

The food in Italy has been wonderful. I keep forgetting to take pictures of it but that is what people have asked for the most. Here are some:

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I liked the little sandwiches in the cafe in Venice.

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The food in this local restaurant in Chianti was phenomenal. We all absolutely loved it.

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Lunch in Sienna was perfect.

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Dinner from the sweet woman who ran the apartments we were in.

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A cafe in Rome.

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This local place in Rome made me fall in love with Ricotta.

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Trastevere in Rome provided all the Roman traditions. I tried three kinds of cheeses and three kinds of pasta. I can’t move!

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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