Category Archives: One thing I have learned…

Life lessons….things I learned the hard way

Life lessons….things I learned the hard way

Sister sunflower

Before you begin reading these lessons…please know that this is how I attempt to live my life. I am not always successful with all of them, but I do try.

1.) Let your “NO” be no and your “YES” be yes.

If you commit to something, follow thru. Never change your plans because something better came along. People are counting on you. Be a person of strong commitment. This is one of the characteristics of being a responsible and dependable person.

2.) Never give a LOAN to anyone.

If someone comes to you with a request for money think long and hard. Pray about it. Is this going to help this person or do you need to consider “tough love”? Don’t be an enabler. However, if you see a true need and you are able to provide the funds requested, do so never expecting to get the money back. That way you will never build up resentment toward this person. Most of the time the money is not repaid, so approach it that way from the start and you will never be disappointed in anyone. Give it and forget it. Never share your generosity with anyone, except if you are married you should make these decisions jointly.

3.) Respect other peoples possessions as well as your own.

If you borrow something, return it in the same condition or better than when you received it. And return it promptly.

4.) Live your life as if each day is your last.

If you begin each day with thanks just for waking up and breathing, you will never be disappointed. Gratitude is a key factor in happiness. Do what you can within your personal limitations to make each day full. If you have a bucket list….get busy. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

5.) Tell the ones you love how much you love them.

If those around you don’t know how you much you care about them, tell them. This encourages love, respect and nothing but positive emotions. Oprah once said, “You want someone’s eyes to light up when you enter a room.” Be sure the ones you love KNOW this love. (With social media, even a text or a tweet can show you are thinking of someone.You don’t even have to speak to them.)

6.) Never forget your priorities.

God first, family second and the rest last. If you live your life with your priorities in proper alignment with your faith, you will have NO regrets. God will smile on you.

7.) Live a life of giving.

When you give, you are showing others God’s love for them. You are His hands. It needn’t be anything more than a smile. Give as much as you can and do service to others and you will reap rewards you never imagined. Remember that giving is not always dollars.

8.) Love on older people.

I am sure you have heard it said, “Older people are just young people in wrinkly skin.” There brains are still back in their youth. Even if they forget things, they still are living and breathing as they did in years past. Show them respect and encourage them to share their life experiences with you. You might just learn something. Plus, it makes them feel they still have value, something to offer to this world.

9.) When you go to church go to honor God.

If you go to church only to have your faith nurtured you are going for the wrong reason. Go to give God one hour of your week in respect and gratitude for the many blessings He has given you. If you learn something from the homily along the way…..wonderful. Go out and practice what you learned.

10.) Only speak positive words.

If you surround yourself with positive people and speak positive words, you will have a happy and stress free life. The old saying.”If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” applies here. Who wants to be around a negative person? NOBODY.

11.) Look for the good in everyone and everything.

If you look for the good in every situation or every person, you will forget about the bad. There is a silver lining in every situation, and sometimes it is more difficult to find it than others. But it is there…as bleak as it may seem. I promise this is true.

12.) Always tell the truth.

I used to tell people things that I felt would make them fell better or what they wanted or expected to hear. Sometimes these things were far from the truth. (Rules 10 and 11 apply here.) It is always difficult to remember untruths. They will often turn into a chain of lies and then you are sunk. You probably can never remember it all. Stick to the truth and unless you have Alzheimer’s disease you will not fail.

13.) Teach your male children to always open the door for the ladies. Tell your female children to always act like a lady. Wear clothes that express your feminism not sexy. And, Father’s, teach your girls how to be treated by a man thru your words and actions from the day they are born.

They may not always be ladies, but he is always a gentleman. Tell your children to always be faithful. If they wish to spend time with someone else, break off the relationship. Be honest and fair and respectful of everyone.

14.) When children are introduced and a hand is offered make sure they look them straight in the eyes when shaking their hand.

15.) You get what you you get and you always say “Thank You”.

Enough said.

16.) Always pay your bets.

If you play games and monetary bets are made ALWAYS pay your bets. This is something you should learn early in life. Nobody wants to play with a person who justifies not paying up. And, even more importantly, don’t sit at the table without money in your pocket. It’s best not to gamble at all. But, these are rules that you should follow and in some crowds, it can be dangerous if you don’t honor the code!

17.) Teach your children about the commitment of marriage.

When they think they have found the person they want to share their life with you need to ask some hard questions. Did you pray about this person and did God give you a clear message they are the one He has chosen for you? Do you believe you can live your entire life with him/her? And, the final thing is, when you are married, you are married for life. But, if you find that you made a mistake in marrying him/her, be honest and fess up. Tell them immediately, seek help, and do not see another person until you are honest with your spouse and the marriage has been terminated. Be respectful of one another above all else. You married this person and believed you would love them forever. Find out why you don’t and fall in love all over again. Don’t wait until it is too late and things have been said that cause hearts to be torn apart.

18.) When you meet someone and you think they might “be the one” wait six months before you do anything drastic. It takes six months before the true self is shown.

19.) Don’t demand respect from your children…..earn it.

Enough said.

20.) Never throw your sibling in front of the bus.

The last two of my children were eleven months apart in age. When they were teens this came up. I wanted them to remain close throughout the teen years and into adulthood. While this is difficult for parents, it is wise. Ratting on your brother or sister causes them to lose trust in you. No trust….no deep relationship. Today, while they have strong opinions and voice them to each other, they remain very close. Nobody understands you like your sibling. The love between sisters and brothers is a deep and unending love. Don’t lose out on this blessing from God.

21.) You are only as good as your five best friends.

Do they make you a better person? Do they lift you up or tear you down? Do you want to be like them or do you sometimes justify why they hurt you or others? Choose wisely and embrace strong and nurturing friendships of those who share like values or those you would aspire to.

22.) Pray for God’s will, whatever it is, not for what you want….He already knows that.

The most important thing I can share with anyone is to pray for God’s will. It is the single most “freeing” rule I can give you. That is why I saved it for last.

If you pray for what YOU want, you will be disappointed. God doesn’t always work on your time schedule and He certainly doesn’t listen to your plan. He already has everything all worked out. He already has a plan for you. He WILL give you your hearts desire. I promise it will be bigger, better, more loving and more dependable than YOUR plan ever could be. I am the living breathing truth of this.

If God had answered some of my prayers, I would not be what I am today, where I am today and probably not half as happy and loved as I am today.

As Garth Brooks puts it. “Thank God….for unanswered prayers…”

Where does a dream come from?

Where does a dream come from?

When a dream becomes a reality it is a humbling experience. Today I feel as if I am floating on a cloud of gratitude. For a year and a half we have built a pyramid stone by stone beginning with a meeting of minds to discuss an idea. We lured them to our home with a promise of pizzas from the wood burning oven, craft beer on draft and plenty of cabernet to get the conversations going. What resulted was far more than we could have ever imagined.

Tommy had always wanted to throw a golf tournament on the golf course that we have viewed every morning for over twenty four years and one of the most famous in professional golf, the TPC Stadium course at Sawgrass. With each think tank meeting a team was forged. Ideas came from everyone, contacts were contacted and the event began to take form. We set up a meeting with the appropriate TPC staff and received their blessing. We asked our long time friend if he would want to join us once again. He gave a positive response with no hesitation. Our legal expert and a JTTF board member set out to form the Funk-Zitiello Foundation a new non profit, our JTTF marketing team began to work on the creative for the event. A web site was developed and social media began to promulgate. A team of over 80 volunteers was assembled. We were on our way to organizing a first class event at a first class venue.

However, before I go any further there is an element of the process that must be revealed.

Where does a dream begin? How is it born and how does it grow like ripples on the water? This dream came from a place deep within Tommy and I. We believe that God tugged gently at our hearts. We know He is the reason for our team, for our creative and crazy plans and for success beyond our wildest imagination. But, then it became not just our dream, it became the quest for others who heard about it. We believe it was all God’s plan.

When we look back over time we can see His work behind the scenes. Not just the past few years, but for our entire lives. Why did we move to this place we call heaven on earth all those many years ago? Why was it the next home being built belonged to a striving pro golfer? Was all of this by chance? How about that hard working golfer pulling off a win at potentially the fifth major golf tournament on the PGA Tour calendar and it happened just months after a young high school senior suffered a near fatal spinal cord injury on the football field. How did he meet JT Townsend? How did Fred and Sharon Funk and his band of golf fans, the Funk’s Punks join together to rally a community to build that young man a home so his family could live under one roof? How did I survive a cancer that is statistically a death sentence within one year? You just can’t make this stuff up. God was and is always in control. And, His plans are perfect.

It was not an easy task putting this event together. It took a team and it took a lot of work and worry and so many conversations I can’t begin to count them. But, in another way it was simple really. All we had to do was tell our story. Those who have been touched by something so raw and devastating were caught hook, line and sinker, many had been touched by pancreas cancer or had seen the work of JT Townsend and his foundation helping others who found themselves in the same position as he was, disabled and with no hope of getting the things they needed.

When we began we had a budget that I felt was aggressive and maybe unattainable. But, I knew we had to make everyone on our team understand what we wanted to achieve. Just a few weeks before the event we were not even close to our number and I heard discouragement in Tommy’s voice. I assured him, this was not OUR event, the perfect people would be there and the perfect number would be achieved. We just needed to have faith and keep putting one foot in front of another. And we did by achieving not only that lofty budget, but going over it by almost twenty percent.

We were also concerned about holding the event during the rainy season in North Florida. The showers had appeared each day for a month, a nice drenching rain to water the flowers and keep the hot days humid and sustain our natural beauty. But, rain could potentially shut down an outdoor event. Again, I turned to my faith and declared the day would be perfect because this is His event not ours. And, it was a perfect morning with not a cloud in the sky as the JT Townsend Gospel Choir sang praises on the hill overlooking the golfers as they warmed up on the driving range.

The JT Townsend Memorial Gospel Choir

But, there was one more God wink that probably came from our beloved JT at near conclusion of the golf tournament. Fred Funk, who had never hit a hole-in-one on TPC Stadium Course’s most photographed and feared hole #17 did just that. Not only did he do it that day, he did it right when Tommy, his son and his father and his best friend were on the tee, a group of diehard golf fans who as Funk’s Punks had followed Fred for twenty five years of his career. Everyone could hear the cheers throughout the course and knew something wonderful had happened. And it did.

What has been confirmed to me is that when God is involved we just need to listen for his next instruction. We need to place our complete faith in Him and allow each piece to fall into place. He will never disappoint.

What is your dream waiting to come true? Do you possess the faith you need to make it a reality?

The crowd erupts as Fred hits a hole in one

“With God all things are possible” Mark 10:27

Judi Zitiello, Sunshine, Carmen Townsend, Tommy Zitiello, Precious Townsend

The sponsors who made this event possible. Thank you all

The olive branch

The olive branch

My sweet Joseph and I feel as if God showers us with His blessings with these amazing little gifts He sends called babies. Two of our boys had blessed us with five special angels. We loved watching them grow and develop into little humans with individual traits that distinguished them from one another. Slowly time slipped past us and they were no longer infants or toddlers. We missed that innocent stage where each new discovery was met with awe and increased curiosity. While we watch with amazement at their accomplishments in sports and academics and social skills and see their faith life growing we are thankful and proud. He continued to gift us as we watched them grow.

Suddenly our younger children began to marry and we knew it wouldn’t be long before they would experience what true love really is all about. Since 2014 God has sent us three love gifts, and our hearts are exploding as we watch with eager anticipation each small development, a grin, a smile, a belly laugh or the moment when their eyes connect with ours. It is all so surreal. We count these days as some of the happiest of our lives. Days that transform our lives. Days that will bring us through the difficult days.

These tiny infants, completely dependent upon their Mother and Father for food, warmth and love have stolen our hearts and teach us once again that life is precious and fleeting and so very special a true gift.

January 1st we were blessed again with Olive Adelle Zitiello, weighing just 6 lbs. 9 oz. and 20 inches long. Finally a pink bundle to dress in soft pink and bows. We are thrilled beyond belief, every one of us.

She came quickly and naturally and perfectly formed..thank you Jesus.

Her name held great significance. Adelle is Tommy’s Mothers legal name and beautiful. She was the greatest Mother, Grandmother. We are so pleased Olive’s parents decided to honor her in this way.

We realized shortly after we heard it, her first name Olive evolved from early planning of Louis and Emily’s wedding. The theme was chosen by Emily – Olive branches, simple and full of meaning. The leaf signifies the truth of faith and it’s fruit, the olive is the good of charity. From Emily’s shower to Louis and Emily’s wedding the olive branch was used to decorate the wedding cake, the tables and even the crown on our brides head. It was a single 5 letter word that held great significance for these two parents. Emily’s push present from her husband, a delicate Tiffany olive branch necklace. But, the true gift was this little pink soft being…Olive Adelle Zitiello.

A Mother’s love

The family began to pour into the maternity ward to meet the newest member. We gathered to share our thanks and wonder at the miracle of birth.

Little Jude was amazed when he saw Olive for the first time.

We had told Jude for many months that baby Olive was in Emily’s belly. Now he could see her.

Joseph and I have realized how fleeting life truly is. This is what age does for us. We know that God sends us these miraculous gifts to perpetuate our existence here on earth. We are blessed beyond our belief and truly thankful.

A peace that surpasses all understanding….Phil 4:7

A peace that surpasses all understanding….Phil 4:7

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I can smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee as I anticipate the fade of the percolators pumping sound. Pouring the cold, sweet creamer into the cup then lifting the heavy pot, I fill the cup to the brim with dark, rich coffee. I take a taste and return to the kitchen table where my bible lays open, a vanilla scented candle burns next to the workbook. It is my quiet time. The only sounds of the house are the whirl of the refrigerator. It is my special time with my creator.Time when I can focus on His teachings. I am completely rested and at peace and eager to get to today’s lesson.

Since 1996 I have been involved in small group bible studies and prayer coffees. The impact on my life is extremely recognizable to all who knew me BC….yes, before Christ, they might say I am a different person. And, yes, I am a new creation in Christ.

I thought I had Christ in my life from the time I was a small child. And, He did dwell within me, but He was certainly not the one I gave credit, consulted or loved beyond any human love I now describe. It took the prompting of author Wilma Stanchfield, “Struck by Lightening – Then by Love” who came to speak at a Christian Women’s Club luncheon I attended with a neighbor.

At her prompting after hearing her powerful testimony, I bowed my head and tearfully repeated the prayer of salvation. That day, I drew a line in the sand, I promised to put Jesus Christ in control of my life. A strange feeling of peace washed over me that very moment and has remained with me every moment since.

Early on the women’s club invited me to host a prayer coffee. The ladies gathered at my home for a slice of quiche, some sweet rolls and coffee. We sat in a circle in the living room and some of the ladies asked if we would pray for specific things. When we began one of the ladies opened with a prayer, “We know that when two or more are gathered in your name you are with us Lord…” One lady asked for us to pray for a family member who was facing a difficult surgery, or a daughter expecting a baby after a miscarriage, for salvation for a brother who was on drugs. It was all really remarkable. The prayers from these ladies were the most comforting prayers I had ever heard. The words seemed to drift from their lips like feathers. I felt warm inside and could envision a circle of angels surrounding us and I felt I was truly in God’s presence.

As months passed I joined a bible study group. I didn’t know my way around a bible very well. As Catholics, we never really read the Bible. We would hear the gospel each mass and the priest would give a homily he had prepared surrounding the message. But, I was not familiar with the book itself.
I went to the Christian bookstore and searched the shelves for a bible some of the ladies recommended, a Life Application Study Bible. I also purchased tabs for each book of the bible to make it easier to locate each book and scripture during our study. I would highlight the scriptures we discussed and loved that the notes at the bottom of each page explained what the verses meant in lay terms.

There were some rules that were explained at the beginning of a new six week study. We needed to arrive promptly and let the hostess know if we were unable to attend. We were encouraged to invite others to luncheon so they could learn about our group and hopefully receive the blessing of salvation. We were told never to share anything discussed personally outside of the room. A bond of confidence was critical so everyone would be comfortable sharing life experiences.

We learned first hand that not making each other feel guilty when we couldn’t attend was a huge reason the girls continued to participate. And, that a persons individual religious doctrine was not important so long as we stood on the word of the Lord. As we closed in prayer each week we asked God to place a name of a friend or neighbor on our hearts that He would want to join our group.

We found that everyone had a story about how they came to know the Lord. I realized my story was not so bad after all and that forgiveness begins with ourselves. If God forgives us, we surely need to be able to forgive ourselves too.

It wasn’t long before I was hosting bible study at my home. The group would enjoy my passion for cooking as I prepared a morning meal for the ladies and prepared cappuccinos and tea at their request during the half hour of fellowship before we moved to the living room for discussion of last week homework and a video presentation.

bible-study-breakfasst

Word spread throughout our neighborhood and our group began to grow. The ladies I least expected to join us were suddenly at our front door. We grew closer and closer to one another as we shared our life trials and blessings. And, we grew closer and closer to Jesus as we began to understand His promises through studying the stories and the amazing men and women of the bible, people just like us, flawed and human.
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It was a wonderful time of sharing, learning and caring. The diversity of age and religion was a blessing too. We were able to draw from Godly women who had been studying the bible most of their lives. They shared solutions to difficult situations in relationships they had experienced. It was very enlightening and felt good to receive sound counsel.

I credit these Godly women with leading me to a personal relationship with Christ, I doubt I would be the person I am today had I not joined that club so many years ago.

Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation.The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. 2 Corinthians 5:17.

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Champions for Hope

Champions for Hope

Judi and JT graduation copy

On a warm June day as I stood at the UNF Arena podium before approximately twelve hundred mourners, I felt a strange peace come over me. I had prayed I could get through the eulogy of a man who changed my life and the lives of my family. A man I love dearly. A man who had shown me my purpose.

At that time I felt my purpose was to carry on his legacy of fulfilling the mission of a foundation we built together by helping people who had been in his very situation, broken and afraid. On that day I could never imagine how that defining moment would explode into yet another purpose even more personal than this.

Just ten months later my husband and I sat on the sofa of my new doctors office. I had always been very healthy. Recently what I wrote off as advancing age; knees clicking, meniscus tears, indigestion all started creeping up on me. Years of walking, body sculpting classes, treadmills and ellipticals pounding my medium sized frame were starting to reveal a truth…I was aging. Confident the doctor would concur with our diagnosis, we smiled when she entered the room and asked me to take a seat on the examining table. She was pretty, about thirty something, so accomplished for her age. But her demeanor was serious. She began to explain the results of the sonogram she had ordered the day before as she turned to her computer screen she pointed to something in the middle of my torso. “You have a mass in the head of your pancreas.” she said. Tom jumped from the sofa to sit on the table beside me. “Your blood work and symptoms reveal it could be pancreatic cancer.” A tear trickled down her cheek as she stoically shared her findings leading to this conclusion. My immediate response, “Can you live without your pancreas?” I was unaware of what the pancreas did. Tom held me tightly as she explained, “Yes,you can, but you would live on insulin for the rest of your life.” She had made an appointment with a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic for the next day. We left her office in utter shock.

The rest of the week was filled with MRI’s, more blood work, conversations with our surgical team, visits to church and meetings with immediate family. I was on a fast decline. Just 11 days after my initial appointment I was on the operating table for a 9 and 1/2 hour Whipple surgery by one of the best pancreatic cancer surgeons in the world.

My treatment and recovery took more than one year. To this day I am affected by the resection of my entire digestive system. Chemo and radiation have turned my stomach muscles to mush as well as deterioration of my bones. I recently underwent 2 and 1/2 hour surgery to repair hernias that developed where drains and other incisions had been required.

But, I am here 26 months at this writing cancer free from a lethal cancer that has a less than 8% survival rate of five years. I am a miracle.

To endure a day like October 8th, 2004 for JT, the date of his near fatal spinal cord injury and April 29th, 2014, the date of my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, is something I would not wish upon anyone.
But, a friend told me one day I would look back on this trial as a blessing. And, that has proven to be true.

That blessing is the revelation of purpose. To move forward with each day that God blesses us with. To take that most difficult situation and turn it into good. To show others that through faith you can conquer anything. Be the example, make others see the hope you glean from a relationship with the only one who truly matters, our savior Jesus Christ.

What was hope for JT? That he would walk again? That he would be able to play football again? That he would hold his wife and baby one day. Only JT knows the true answer to that question. But, he never questioned “why me”. He moved forward each day with a smile and purpose to use his life experience to help others.

What is hope for me? That I will survive this death sentence? That cancer will not steal me from the ones I love too soon? Deep in my soul I promise you I am fine with death. But, I am hopeful that others will see my peace and they will reach deep down too and use each and every day to fight to give others hope.

JT and I have a mutual friend, a friend who we love and loves us both right back. The 2005 Players Champion – pro golfer Fred Funk and his wife and children joined forces with my husband, rock and best friend Tommy Zitiello, to create an event that will be like none other. An event to be held on one of the most prestigious golf courses in the country, The Champions for Hope Golf Classic.

The inaugural Champions for Hope golf classic presented by the Funk-Zitiello Foundation, Inc. (501C3 IRS designation applied for) will be held Friday, June 16th,2017, Father’s Day weekend, a gala, concert and auction at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse. Golf will commence on Saturday, June 17th on the famed Stadium course. There will be 25 foursomes and a fifth celebrity. The proceeds from this event will be paid to two First Coast causes, The JT Townsend Foundation, Inc. and to fund a grant to research pancreatic cancer.

We intend for this event to grow annually, to give hope to the families of those affected by both of these causes and in years to come other worthy causes.

To find out how you can become a champion for hope send your inquiry to info@championsforhopegolf.com.

God bless everyone, individuals and sponsors who have stepped up to join our team of champions for hope to help benefit these two deserving causes.

Champions for HOpe logo copy

“Mia”

“Mia”

It happened organically. My daughter-in-law and daughter always asked me what I wanted to be called when the grand-babies came. I never had an issue with being called “GrandMa” like many of my friends did. I told them whatever the kids called me was fine with me. But, I didn’t like “Grand-MAW” though. I like “Grammie” just fine. They called me “Grandma” and that was fine with me too.

But, one day something amazing happened. Around the age of 18 months Jude began to talk. He started showing an interest in family photos. Lindsay would drill him on who was in the photo hanging on the wall. Samantha, Lindsay’s longtime friend created a small book where each page was a family member. Jude quickly caught on. One day, he called me “Mia”. We all loved it.

His other Grandmother is “Mimi”, so maybe “Mia” is a shortened version of that. We don’t know, but it sure is fitting.

The other Grandchildren were not sure if they wanted to change my name. But, soon everyone was calling me Mia.

The other day when Jude was reluctant to take his afternoon nap he called from his crib…”Momma”…”Mia”….”Momma”…”Mia”. Lindsay and I just laughed. This was the perfect thing for a one quarter Italian baby to call out.

Today our angel turns 2! God blessed us with this little carrot to make it through the tough times.  We thank God for him every day.

Today our angel turns 2! God blessed us with this little carrot to make it through the tough times.
We thank God for him every day.

Will I be here for……

Will I be here for……
Jude's Main Dude

Jude’s Main Dude

The local greeting card store was not busy as I entered. It was time to buy some cards for the late fall birthdays approaching. The owner, recognizing me as a frequent customer, smiled at me and said “hello”. I nodded and kept walking toward the birthday section.

Should I buy just one card for my daughter and my sons? Or, should I buy several, sign them and put them away? I could tell them what I would want them to know, some tidbit of wisdom I had gathered from years of experience fitting for that time of life. This seemed like a great idea…until I started to read the cards.

After choosing a beautiful card for my daughter, I began to read the text, my eyes filled up with tears. This was going to be far more difficult than I had expected. The idea was loosing its appeal.

Suddenly, the store manager was approaching asking if she could help me find what I was looking for. She noticed my tears and sweetly asked if I was okay.

I had been strong for so long in front of my family and friends about this cancer thing. Suddenly the flood gates had opened and this poor lady stood before me.

One of the reasons I loved this store was because the owner and most of the sales ladies were Christians. They were so loving and kind and always sure to say “have a blessed day” as you left.

I figured the owner deserved some sort of explanation. I certainly couldn’t lie. So, out it came. “I am battling pancreatic cancer and I am not sure how long I will be around, so I was thinking of buying cards, signing them and putting them away.” Like and angel sent from God, she wrapped her arms around me and cried softly with me.

Then she began to pray over me. It was so comforting. We stood there in the birthday aisle for several minutes, until I had collected myself. I told her this might not be the right time to do this. She agreed. “Give it some more thought and you will know when you are ready.”

18 months have passed since my diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and 4 clear CT scans. I am currently cancer free. The PC statistics are not in my favor, but, I am feeling great and positive about the near future.

One thing I do know for certain, I am thankful I trust a God who loves me and protects me and sends His angels to hold me up when I need it, even a clerk in the greeting card store.

Aunt Sherie’s Chocolate Cherry Cake

Aunt Sherie’s Chocolate Cherry Cake
Sherie, Judi and Kathy

Sherie, Judi and Kathy

1 Package Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling
3 Eggs
1 Tsp. Almond Extract

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Prepare two 8″ cake tins. Grease with shortening and dust with cake mix.
Combine all ingredients and pour evenly into prepared tins.
Bake 35 – 40 minutes, testing to be sure a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely

Frosting (Amazing)

1 cup Sugar
5 tablespoons Butter softened
1/2 cup Milk
1 pkg (12oz) Chocolate Chips

In small sauce pan bring to a boil the first three ingredients, stirring constantly.
Cook one minute and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until melted and cool.

Frost the cooled cake and enjoy.

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day
Me, Dad and Sherie at the lake.

Me, Dad and Sherie at the lake.

Growing up my Father was the most handsome man in the world. I admired his broad shoulders and the wave in his hair. He would go to work in a freshly starched white shirt and tie and a great suit with matching wing tipped shoes perfectly shined.

His closet held only suits and shoes, very few leisure clothes, except for a couple of jewel toned Ban-lons. But, the suits were neatly organized by color and the shoes would be lined up on the floor below.
Dad 1945

His name was unusual…..”Bim”. His legal name was Aubrey Ernest Green. Born in a small village just outside of London, Mount Sorrel, he made his new home in the US, Royal Oak, Michigan, with his parents when he was just 6 weeks old.

He held a very important position at Wolverine Tractor and Equipment Company as Operations Manager over their two locations. He had a secretary who would take my calls. Dad was always “on the road”, but she would surely give him my message.

Dad came home just one night during the week and usually around noon on Saturday. When he got home Mom and Dad would pile into the car to go shopping, usually to the pet store to buy more tropical fish. When we arrived home he would siphon the tank with a rubber hose into a bucket and clean it carefully while the fish swam around a mixing bowl looking for shelter in the seaweed that wasn’t there. We would clean the tank, add the new fish and relax around the family room gazing at the sparkling tank, the only light in the room, The fish darted through the fresh seaweed and rock formations as they became acquainted with their new tank-mates.

Sometimes he would sit at the grand piano and play “Stardust”. He rarely sang the words, but always added plenty of tinkling notes to the arpeggios. Mom would sometimes sing the melody and I would lay on the floor, hugging my favorite doll, listening intently. They were a beautiful couple.

Dad loved his music and would play classical 78’s on his diamond needled Hi-Fi. My appreciation for all types of music grew from this. Besides classical music he also loved The Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. The records would be played over and over and over until I knew every word.

On Sunday he would cook dinner. He would make a beef roast with all the fixings. Potatoes, squash and carrots. It was a feast for a king and to this day one of my favorite meals. I remember the wonderful aroma of the roasting meat. Usually, my older sister Sherie and her husband Bill would come for dinner. We would sit together at the table, the only meal all week where we were together.

In the summer he would grill steaks and we would swim in the above ground pool. They would sip on cold beers and enjoy the midwestern humidity. The smell of the fresh mowed grass was sweet. And the perfectly manicured back yard Mom would painstakingly trim and cultivate every day was worthy of any magazine. Usually Sherie and Bill would bring their kids to play with our little brother Ernie. It was always fun.

Mom and DadZ

Mom and DadZ

When I married Tom, I acquired another Father in my life…Louis John Zitiello.

What a striking difference between the two. Tom’s Dad was always on the scene. He worked all day, delivering potato chips around Cleveland, but he was home every night with his children.

As a family they went on vacations every summer, usually drove to Florida from Ohio. He would save all year to make that trip possible. They would often reminisce over those days at Walt Disney World or on Jacksonville Beach and eating at Howard Johnson.
Jude and Lugi
Their family went to church every Sunday without fail. To this day, my Father in Law attends church every Sunday. He says a rosary using his fingers instead of beads. You can see him moving his lips as he runs through the decades holding his knuckles. What a wonderful example he set for his children….and theirs.

He was there for every question, every failure, every success and every achievement. He was there. He loved his wife and his children and now his grandchildren and great grandchildren above everything except his God.

Words cannot express the emotion of this moment in time.

Words cannot express the emotion of this moment in time.

Now I have another Dad in my life. My husband, the Father of our children. He watched his Dad all those years. He learned how to be a great Dad. And now, he is the leader of our family. The one our children will emulate. The guy who changes the first diaper, who makes sure each birthday is a huge celebration. The guy who outshines Santa Clause on Christmas morning with well thought out presentations of the perfect gift for each child and for me. Who lays on the floor by the bed of a sick child. Who prepares a great meal when Mom had to work late. Who goes to doctors appointments, never misses a practice or a game. Who is there for advice whenever needed. He can be depended upon to be there. A man who loves his family above all else, except his God.

For most of my life I looked for love. I never was completely sure I was loved by anyone. But, my husband showed me what real love is. He has been there for me, unlike every other man in my life, for every moment, good or bad for the past thirty-one years.

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Today, I thank my first Father….Jesus Christ. I thank Him for blessing me with the Dad’s in my life. He taught me everything through these men. He taught me how to raise my sons to be godly men and Fathers. He taught me that He loved me unconditionally all along. All I had to do was trust in Him. I thank Him from the bottom of my heart.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you Fathers out there. Go love on your children, tell them you love them by your actions and make sure you are there for them…every day.
Zitiello Clan Cleveland Pic

Goodbye baby – hello toddler…

Goodbye baby – hello toddler…
Lindsay, Matthew and Jude. The Garrity's celebrate ONE

Lindsay, Matthew and Jude. The Garrity’s celebrate ONE

Today I washed and put away baby bottles, cleared the counter of the bottle warmer, pacifiers. No more bottles for our little Jude….he is ONE! The pediatrician said he doesn’t need to take a bottle any longer. He weighed 21.5 lbs. and is in the 85 percentile in height. He is thriving and performing all of the usual behaviors of a 12 month old. He is eating table food, most of the time organic, prepared by his Momma or Grammie or Mimi. He loves the smoothies Momma makes him. He is drinking out of a sippie-cup.

In the past few months we have packed away his Momma-Roo, his doorway bouncer, his wheeled walker and many of the infant “must haves” to await the next angel God sends us. We washed and packed his newborn, 3-6 mos. 9 mos. and even some 12 mos. outfits in a big plastic bin. Could this be possible?

No longer will he lay on my chest to sleep, when I can smell the fine hairs on his soft little head as I listen for his gentle and steady breathing. No longer will he lift his wobbly head off the floor during tummy time and stare up at me in curiosity. No longer will he crawl around on the floor or sit quietly shaking his rattle while he hones his motor skills. He is a toddler.

He loves to go on a wagon ride and play with his riding fire truck, pushing the buttons warning his dogs Duffy and Finn to get out of the way.

If he sees the stairs are not blocked, he hurries and climbs up checking behind to see if we have discovered his shenanigans. (He doesn’t know how to go down….just up.)

He walks everywhere but does occasionally come to us with arms outstretched to be picked up and carried. But, he is on the move and we guard him closely.

He loves to sit on your lap and look at this books as we read each page. After, he will mimmic us babbling in his own words what he heard us say and pointing just as we did. He is the supreme copycat.

His vocabulary is expanding. He knows many words we speak. This can be proven if we give him a command to bring us his teddy bear or ball. He knows “no”, “hot”, “bye bye” and much more. He is forming his language right on target. (We think he is brilliant of course.)

He is obsessed with buttons of any sort. Momma doesn’t want him to use cell phones, but I admit, he grabs mine whenever possible and knows how to talk to Siri and how to scan the apps and photos. It is amazing how they pick this up. Every remote is exciting because he can see on the television how the buttons react.

He seldom cries when he is laid down to sleep. He truly enjoys his alone time. He loves his teddy bear and “silly monkey” lovey who usually accompany him to bed. You can hear him talking in a high pitched voice to them just like Grammie does when he is put in his crib for a nap.

He is a really good baby. I remind his parents, they all are not like this.

Could the difference be that this baby is loved beyond belief by his parents, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He is loved by his parents friends and more. He gets loads of quality attention and all else he requires. Jude is blessed, and so are we.

So, welcome little toddler. We can’t wait to see what year number two will be like. We know you will soon able to tell us exactly what you are thinking.

We love you over the moon. We thank God for you every day. What a gift He gave us to get through this difficult year.
God’s most important request of us…..”love one another…as I have loved you.” John 15:12.

Jude & Grammie pic