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Monday, December 22, 2014

So I'm Thinking.....

I am filled with gratitude today for the men and women who nudged be through last week. Those five days were tough.  I was overly tired from jet lag and deeply disappointed when my beloved Niners lost to the Chargers in OT, so I have no doubt I have been a bit too sensitive.  That being said, I was also very confused. On the one hand,  I was being battered about for being a really awful person.     I was then being asked for help. 


 I do not get that kind of thinking - if I am that awful, then run!  Run quickly!

I don't understand and I doubt my ability to do so is going to improve.  I thought a break from the madness would help.  It didn't.  I am not good enough, I am not smart enough and I am not...well, I am not 'enough'.  As a result, I surrender.  Nothing I can do will repair the problem and I just have to let it go (and no, I am not going to start singing, though I will take the time to admit I am apparently the only person left in the US who has not seen the movie Frozen).  I am just going to walk my path.  If anyone wishes to join me on that path, it is wide enough for them to step right along.  I hope they do; I believe it is the path of Truth and will offer healing of soul, mind and body.

As for the Niners you can rest assured I will not be rooting for the SeaHawks (oh HELL no) and really, I won't be rooting for the Cowboys either (I mean, come ON); however, my friend's son plays for the Cowboys so I am going to root for him.  Since it is physically impossible for the phrase "Go Cowboys" to pass my lips I will have to settle for "Come On Stirling!".

Yes, that is just my way of staying connected to football.  I love football.  I don't care if that is not considered a girly girl thing to do.  I love the game and I love my Niners.  I am Forever Faithful.  This year, however, has been a tough one.  We just could not over come the injuries, the crazy off-the-field antics and the outright goofiness that is the NFL on any Given Sunday.  We are probably going to lose the best coach we have had since Bill Walsh but hey!  You are talking to a girl who has rooted for the boyz when our record was 2-14 so this ain't nuttin' honey.  I am NOT a bandwagon fan. Win, lose or tie - Niner Faithful 'til I DIE.

I am back at work, showing a few pictures and basking in the pleasure of knowing that my office team rose to the occasion while I was gone.  They done good - worked hard and apparently got along.  No one is reporting any fights or tantrums or breakdowns to me.  This is a good thing. 

On Christmas Eve a downtown restaurant will debut my Grandmother Rose Bernini Crocco's tomato sauce on its menu.  I can't be there for the unveiling but I just know Grandma is pleased.  La vostra salsa รจ perfetta, la nonna, e noi amiamo vogliamo bene!

As we approach Christmas Day, I want to take just a moment to thank everyone who reads my blog.  I want to even thank the one who reads it and then gleefully points out to others what a horrible person I am and how I am breaking the traditions and hurting others by my writing.  I want to thank those who were convinced I was attacking them when most of the time I was not even thinking of them (which may be worse, who knows?).  You have been as much of my learning curve as those who read with an open mind and open heart and give me real, honest feedback.  You have taught me to love those who are unlovable and trust me, that is not an easy thing to do for this chick.

My resolution for the New Year is to keep growing, to keep trying and to stop teaching others that the way to get me to behave is to keep poking and poking and poking until I lose my temper and then give in out of shame and guilt.  Instead, as soon as the poking starts, you will find yourself poking thin air.  I am going to walk away from you and love you from a distance.

Please pray with me an for me, that I can stay the course and do the day at a time....

Oh, yeah...


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting the Idea and a New Year's Resolution

My Grandmother Rose left Italy with a child and traveled across the Atlantic, through Ellis Island and then across the country by train to join her husband in Stockton, California.  A year or so later, now with two children, she was a widow.  She did not speak the language well, had the skills of a lady's maid and kitchen helper and very little education.

The trip I took this year gave me a new found respect for that journey.  How frightened she must have been but how desperate for a better life.  The mountain villages are tidy, picturesque and tight knit but poor.  Her family were sharecroppers - they loved music and were pranksters, loving to tease each other, but they all wanted something better than just the hardscrabble existence the area offered to them.

Because Rose had the experiences she had, I am sitting here today.  Well fed, well educated and the worst problem I have right now is an angry person in my life who is trying (and came darn close) to  goad me into a fight.

God is with me, however, because when I slipped and almost got into it this morning I was unable to do so.  This is a God thing.  There are no coincidences.  There are times, however, when God is anonymous.  This was one of those times.

I am not a huge proponent of Dr Phil but one of the things he always says is that we teach people how to treat us.  I have taught people, over the years, that if you keep pecking and pecking and pecking at me I will give in and engage.

My goal, for the new year, is to stop that behavior.  It is not right.  it is dishonest and it is unbecoming.  To be goaded into an argument or pushed into a retaliation or to be manipulated into a confrontation is not something a 59 year old woman should experience.

I am who I am - I am a woman shaped by the experiences of the people I saw gathered around the graves of men dragged into the snow by the Nazi's 70 years ago.  I am the product of the men and women who braved the crossing to a new country, scared and poor but determined to have something more in their lives than what was available in Italy at the time.

If I break, always allowing myself to give in to other people's whims and fancies, how I am carrying on their legacy of strength and determination?

So, once again, God steps in and protects me from myself.  Once more time I am given the chance to be a woman of grace and dignity.

I think, just for today, I will take that opportunity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trying to Make Amends 101

One of the first amends letters I ever wrote to someone was returned to me, corrected, and it infuriated me.  I was hurt and embarrassed that my heart felt attempt at apologizing for past errors had been rejected.  I took the letter to my sponsor and demanded some kind of justice.  I wanted someone to validate my rage, to tell me the other guy was wrong and that I was right.  Instead, he read the reply, laughed out loud, and ripped up the letter.  

I was aghast!  "Why did you do that?" I yelled.

He looked at me and asked, "What were you planning on doing - keeping it and re-reading it over and over again?'.


I think making amends is one of the most difficult things to do.  People like me are, at our core, manipulative.  We try really hard to get our own way and when we make amends it is really difficult to not include something that implies, "I am really sorry YOU did such and such and caused me pain" or "I am really sorry YOU made ME behave badly".

My experience has also been that the hardest people to make amends to are people in 12 Step programs.  We have read the literature, we have our (dearly held) opinions on how something should be done and God forbid someone try and do a step and their action does not jive with how WE think that step should be taken.

When I make an amends to someone, I have been taught to leave anything and everything THEY did out of the equation.  I cannot apologize for their action,  I cannot make any allusion to my behavior being linked to something they have done.  It makes it virtually impossible for me to make an amends without going over what I am going to say with another person.  In my case, I go over it with my sponsor and I try very hard to 'stick to the script' when I am speaking to the person.   At some times I am more successful than other times but over the years I can honestly say I no longer need to make amends for the amends I make - and for someone like me, that is a huge improvement.

This week I am going to be working with another woman just like me and we are going to start Step 9 together.  She has her list and she has started her writing and we are going to be going over the scripts. 

As she begins this part of the journey, she is going to be amazed before she is half way through but it is going to be such a tough part of the deal.  

It is going to mean making herself vulnerable and possibly being rejected.  

It is going to mean working very hard to not blame the other person at all.

It is going to mean doing this without any expectations.

If she can do this, she is on the road to a life that is going to be amazing. 

My heart goes out to those men and women in our program who cannot, or will not, take this step.  I understand how difficult it is and how frightening it is but I can testify to this truth:

If you are willing to put the other person out of the equation and see this simply as a way to clean up your side of the street, taking full responsibility for your life, your life will improve one day at a time.

I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this process.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Trip of a Lifetime - Healing & Love

I returned last night from a sojourn to "The Mother Land" - Italy.  I am tired from the traveling but, like so many people, too excited to sleep for more than a few hours.

The trip was two years in the planning and included my cousins Valerie, George, his wife Marla, my cousin Anna and Gilles and their cousins Sonia and Claudio and his wife Susan.  The primary purpose of the trip was to honor the memory of our cousins, the Bernini Boys, killed as resistance fighters in 1944.

To that end we travelled from Modesto, Sonoma and Switzerland, gathering in Parma, Italy for one reason - we are family, and our family needs to be remembered for the sacrifices they made during that great conflict 70 years ago.

The trip was a resounding success on many levels; it was fun, it was challenging and it was necessary.  It allowed me to connect with family members in a deeply loving way and it also gave me greater insight into the world my beloved grandmother, Rose Bernini Crocco, left behind when she made the crossing to America.  Our family name may be old and honored in the Renaissance but those people had a tough and challenging life in the mountains of Parma.  Landed gentry they were not; rather they were hard working Peasants with a capital P and I have never been so proud of the stock from which I come as I was standing in that Church in Ravarano during the Mass held to honor those men.

Of course, the trip was not without its foibles. I made it on the airport bus from the hotel without a problem.  George and Marla missed it, took a cab, went back again once they realized they had left ¼ of Marla's stuff in the hotel room and then got there in time to go through the metal detector laughing the entire time.   I spent the first hour on the flight to Milano with a makeshift ice pack on my forehead.  Bending over to tie my shoe in the bathroom of the plane meant smacking my head on the handicap guardrail.  George looked at me when I came back to my seat and just shook his head.

No one can say we do not have a sense of humor.

From the Milano airport it was time to learn the train system in Italy and by golly we did a great job.  I would like to brag that we did it all by ourselves - we did not.  We were aided by a kind young Italian man in the Milano Centrale and made a mad dash to the train to Parma, dodging cigarette smoking Italians with leashed dogs.  I had wanted my 93 year old mother to come with us but this really would have been too much for her.  George had to practically push us onto the train but by golly we made it and once on, we spent the trip gazing out the window at what could have been the Central or Northern Valley of California.

Upon arrival in Parma, we discovered the incredibly civilized method the Italians have for grabbing a taxi.  You stand in a designated spot and wait.  If you get to the spot and there are taxis waiting, you go to the first one.  If you make an error, the drivers point out who was next.  Amazing.  This is definitely not New York.

I will be writing more over the next few days.  The trip was fun, and frantic, a spiritual awakening that I am so grateful I did not miss.  I am still sorting out all the pictures and emotions and incredible things I learned.

Know only this - I am so grateful.  I am grateful to the 12 Step program that lead me to sobriety.  I am grateful to the Catholic Church for the powerful spirituality She has offered to me.  I am grateful to my family - here and in Italy - for being so kind and loving.

I am grateful to God, without Whom I would never be able to do any of this stuff.

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing life.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Healing and Love and Choosing to be a Woman of Grace and Dignity.

What an amazing Thanksgiving I had!

Despite that fact that my beloved Niners lost a game to the dreaded Seahawks, it must go down in history as one of the greatest Thanksgivings in memory.

My brother and his kids were here.  He fried up two turkeys and Mom and I put out a feast that resulted in smiles, laughter and gratitude for elastic waistbands.

I saw the look on my Mom's face as she sat at her table and shared a meal with her only son and her grandchildren and it was all I could do not to stand up and yell, "YIPPPEEEEEE!".

Of course, I doubt they would have noticed other than to just laugh at one more thing...because there was a lot of laughing on Thanksgiving and that is what makes a holiday a holiday.

I have also discovered that someone who does not know me at all has been taking the time to point out my character defects and what I should and should not be doing with my writings to others.

My response?  Don't like it? Don't read it.  Simple.  And if you think picking it apart for someone else is somehow being a good person?  Well, you do not share my values and for that I can only say, "Thank you, God".

And finally, I have discovered that the years of therapy I have gone through to help me no longer take actions that are similar to those unsuccessful behaviors modeled to me as a child is paying off.  How do I know?

Let me tell you about last night:

I spoke for my 12 Step program last night about 3 hours from home.  Driving there was no problem but by the time I left it was raining, hard, and windy.  I got on the freeway and took the wrong exit, heading towards the coast instead of inland, and ended up on a curvy, winding, rain soaked and windswept road.  There was a line of cars behind me, a six foot concrete barrier beside me, sheets of water coming up and over the barrier and I could barely see.  I looked at the white line delineating the shoulder for guidance and despite the line of cars and the dope behind me insisting I go faster I crept along at 35 mph, scared to death this was going to be my last car ride.

Inside, I felt the tension mounting and I wanted to explode - just like my Dad used to do.
I wanted to cuss and swear and threaten and throw a huge tantrum.

Why?  Because I was afraid.

I heard the yelling and screaming in my head and I very purposefully and intentionally said to those voices, "No.  I will not give in and I will not freak out.  I will not throw a tantrum and hold my passenger hostage".  Because I did not give vent, my heart began to pound so hard in my chest it hurt.  It was if my body was throwing a tantrum because I had chosen not to give in to the bad behavior that threatened to take control of the situation.  I did what I have been taught, however, taking deep breaths and slowing down my heart, feeling myself relax and yet staying alert.

Eventually, of course, we made it out of the toughest part of the drive onto a wide freeway and the bridge that would take us back to the East Bay and, eventually, Modesto.  As my heart quieted, the release of tension resulted in a release of sweat.  If I am ever missing, give my black and gold sweater to the bloodhound.  It should be able to find me in about a minute.

What did I learn?

I learned that the learned behavior of freak out and tantrum taught to me by my father does not have to be my excuse anymore.  I do not have to act the fool just because I am hurt or scared.

The passenger in my car said, "Boy am I glad you were are so calm and cool.  I felt so safe".

I thought, 'whose car have you been in?'.

But see, what happened is this:  because I have taken the time to learn how to be a better Leslie, when presented with a situation that caused intense fear I could very purposefully choose to not behave like an ass.  Because I chose to behave with dignity and grace?  The person with me felt no fear.

I was able to give to someone else that security I so craved - at that moment, I made someone else feel safe!

So, who cares that someone reads my blog, picks it apart for someone else in an effort to discredit me in their eyes?  Who cares that I got lost coming home (and somehow cut 30 minutes off my expected driving the heck did that happen?).  Who cares that I am not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough in someones eyes?

I drove home in a bad storm.

And for that?

I am really grateful!

I leave Tuesday night for Ravarano, Italy.......I hope you have a wonderful Advent......know that Christ loves you no matter what....and thank you for reading my blog.