Five Minute Friday — Loyalty

Happy Five Minute Friday time.

The assignment this week was, quite frankly, challenging. The FMF prompt was LOYALTY, which should be easy peasy. But my mind kept wandering off in different directions {that’s why I call them free range thoughts} and trying to herd them into a coherent five minutes was quite a challenge.

I wonder if my fellow writers at Kate place ( had the same challenge. After this post, I’ll take a peek at the offerings from my writing soulmates. You should check them out as well. Or, better yet, try your hand at focused, unscripted writing for just five minutes. And share on Kate’s website.

But for now, the timer is set for five minutes, so let’s see what kind of a herdsman I am. GO

Yogi Berra had a way with words. Consider this … “When you’re part of a team, you stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through good and bad, because they’d do the same for you.”

Yogi was a pug from my neighboring Montclair, NJ, who made his mark in the baseball world. As sharp as he was as a professional athlete {one of my growing up heroes as catcher for the New York Yankees, my profession for the Chevy Midgets}, he wasn’t polished. He was rough around the edges. But he had that “it” factor. He saw the world through the lens of common sense. Ah, the good old days.

He is, actually, completely right. Loyalty isn’t just a word. It’s  a commitment. It takes “me” out of team sports {or activities} and replaces it with “we.” It’s a way of life. It’s understanding there is a greater purpose.

We see that loyalty expressed everyday. We are {hopefully} loyal to those around us … our God, our selves, our families, our friends, our workmates … STOP

… and, yes, even our government and country.

By the way, as an aside in this political season, we’re told precisely that. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 (NIV). And in America we have the opportunity to choose our governing authorities. Vote responsibly!

Getting back to the topic, loyalty means we stand up for God, our selves, or families, our friends, our workmates and our governmental leaders. We don’t run away or abandon them when things get tough. We rally behind them when they’re in a slump because we expect them to rally behind us when we’re in a slump. And we’ve all been in slumps!

That’s it for this week. But before I leave, I was also reminded of a recent ad that sums up Yogi’s {and mine} point.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we said yes to our children and no to overtime at work.

Posted in baseball, encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, God, inspiration, Life, relationships, teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Special Birthday Present

Yesterday was my birthday. I celebrated it quietly and alone {not complaining}. I puttered around the Internet {including writing yesterday’s Five Minute Friday post}, caught up on the last few episodes of How To Get Away With Murder {interesting cliff hanger} and watched a sappy, predictable Hallmark movie and a few innings of the Angels-Yankee game before heading to bed. My Facebook account was blowing up with birthday well wishes. According to Fitbit, I slept just nine minutes shy of my eight hour goal at a 97% sleep efficiency {thanks to age-related bathroom breaks}.

birthday (2)All in all, it was a very good day.

Generally around birth day, I get somewhat introspective. I remember the past as I celebrate the day and look forward to the future. I usually smile at the memories. I often wonder about the future. What has changed in my life from birth day 2015 and birth day 2016? What will the next year bring?

I use the day to map out adventures for the coming year. I guess that’s as close to planning as I get.

Two things happened today, however, that were the frosting on the proverbial cake.

14064177_10209308725268059_3246549363458882660_nFirst, my cousin posted a glowing Facebook post remembering our Grandma. She wrote, “Tomorrow is ‘gramma’s’ birthday. Born August 22, 1898, she was the most important person in my life, my go-to ear and shoulder when I needed to talk, or make a decision. She was my hero, my model. After 5 brothers and three sons, I was the first grandchild – and GIRL – to come into her life. She’s even my godmother. Miss her everyday. She made this doily, which I had framed. She taught me how to crochet. This is gramma dressed up to go visiting, and with Grandpa and uncle Francesco and her three boys. (Dad is on the far right, my Dad is the little squirt in the middle.). What a special lady!”

All I can add is, “Amen!” The weird part is I’ve been thinking a lot about Grandma lately as well.

14064175_10209308726108080_3329615493844650485_nGrandma was the most remarkable woman I ever knew. Despite being handed a life of lemons — my grandfather was gassed in World War I and spent most of the rest of his life in a veterans’ hospital — Grandma truly turned it into lemonade. She raised three sons on her own during the Depression … and they turned out pretty good. I never heard her complain about the “raw deal” but rather saw her live her faith.

I think her strength came from her connection to family and her strong faith. There was always someone at Grandma’s house, checking on her, helping her out and just visiting. And she welcomed them with a pot of coffee on the stove and cookies and fruit on the table.

14040208_10209308726468089_5385153611509831368_nWhen I think of Grandma, I remember a woman who was always there to listen to my horrid jokes … to put up with my schemes and dreams {I can still hear her say, “Put out your hands. Wish in one and shit in the other. See which comes first!” before giving me that big grandmotherly hug} … to “solve” problems with a cookie break.

And she was one of the “stars” of the DeGrezia family reunion of 2012 {wow, has it been that long?}.

That’s the segue to the second incident that happened today. Somehow, the post I wrote about the reunion — Families Ties ( — resurfaced out of the blue today. It seems a long, lost cousin, Joan Rotella commented on my post. I’ve never met her … didn’t even know she existed. I have no idea how she uncovered the blog, let alone that specific post.

“From Quindici, Avellino, Italy, Giuseppe and Giuseppina Scibella had 3 daughters. Luigia married Giona Scala, my husband’s great grandfather. Louisa married James Balbi. Carolina Scibella married Nunziato Cavallaro. Their daughter Angelina S BeBe Cavallaro married Frank DeGrezia. Hello cousins.”

Yeah. Frank DeGrezia and Angeline S BeBe Cavallaro were Grandma’s brother and sister-in-law. Happy Day! Another piece of the geneological puzzle linking the family history back another generation.

This wasn’t the first time my words expanded my world. My grandfather’s sister’s daughter-in-law connected with me a couple of years ago. So I say it again, all in all, it was a very good day.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if Jesus wasn’t only talking to the rich man in Matthew 19:21.

Posted in Birthdays, Blogs, encouragement, Faith, family, growing up, Life, love, Memories, reflect, relationships, reunion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Team

Happy Saturday! Time for my Five Minute Friday contribution. Check out the amazing five minutes takes at Kate’s place ( by our special community of writers.

This week’s prompt is TEAM. The timer is set, so it’s time to GO

We’ve heard the cliches. There’s no “I” in Team. Sports are a team effort. We’re all part of a team.

They’re true statements. Even individual athletes and accomplishments are the result of a collaborative (team) effort. There are the encouragers, supporters, coaches, trainers, technicians, etc.

But what about life? Are we in this alone? Do we make individual decisions? Are we responsible only for ourselves?

Well, yes and no.

I think we ultimately make decisions ourselves, but we are influenced by a variety of factors and people who guide us toward our decisions, be they good choices or bad choices. So, it does takes a team. And that includes bringing us to the ultimate decisions we choose, let’s say, making Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

It takes good teachers. It takes good role models. It takes the efforts of a community of believers to bring us individually to the point of decision.

I’m not going to fault anyone for not … STOP

… choosing the same things I do or did, including salvation. It is an individual choice. But I will continue to peddle my influence in whatever way I can to assure my actions reflect my values, that I not only talk the talk but walk the walk. I want people to look at me and recognize the Jesus I know as my best friend. I’m not going to hound them. I’m not going to preach to them. I’m not going to abandon them if they choose a different route. I will continue to shine my Light and pray it illumines their way.

I’m not perfect. I make errors. I strike out. I drop the ball. I kick it wide right or left. I rim a number of shots. I shank it. I miss the putt. But when I do, I try to keep going forward with an eternal purpose. That’s what I want people to see.

Life IS a team effort. I’m just one of the players.

Well, that’s what popped into the noggin this week.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we actually lived out our Facebook status

Posted in ecumenism, encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Life, love, relationships, sports, teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Lift

Happy Saturday. Time for Five Minute Friday thoughts. When I heard the prompt, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I couldn’t wait to join my fellow writers at Kate’s place ( But … Things sometimes go awry.

At any rate, the timer is set so it’s time to GO

Well, this week was a little … um, embarrassing. I guess I don’t know squat about music … especially lyrics. My first thought was On Eagles Wings. Problem. The lyrics are … And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings … not He will lift you up.

Next thought was Lift Me Up. Problem. The song wasn’t the one I was thinking about which, of course, is Raise Me Up. Right sentiment, wrong word.

I think Kate and her crew picked the wrong prompt.

But Lift Me Up is appropriate for the point I wanted to make as well. That is, we need each other … we need our faith … we need to lift ourselves up.

They’re all interrelated. Life happens. Bad things happen. The shadows are as prevalent as the light. We need to reach out to each other, sometimes in total quiet. We have to lift others up through the darkness. And, of course, we have to lift … STOP

… ourselves up. We have to recognize the darkness and we have to turn up the lamp to get some light. It’s tough. Sometimes, we have to be still in the darkness to recognize the therapy of the light. And that, my friends, is faith. Faith isn’t walking in roses and sunshine. It’s knowing despite our path, the ultimate road is lined in gold and Light. We know that ourselves … and we know that from our friends helping lift us up.

… You lift me up when I am weak
Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I’m letting go
You lift me up when I can’t see
Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I’m letting go

I can see the dawn is breaking
I am feeling overtaken with Your love …

Well, that’s it for this week. Join us at Kate’s place to see what other incredible takes on the prompt are there. Or better yet, join in. Help lift each other.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: What if we realized salvation is a gift born from sacrifice, grace and mercy and not the result of anything we can accomplish.

Posted in encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, God, Life, love, relationships, songs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DBT Class of ’65

Don Bosco Tech. Class of 1965.

We must have been the greatest overachievers in the school’s history or the biggest procrastinating slackards who ever lived.

2015-03-07 13.56.09Yes, the Class of 1965. Fifty-one years ago. We were too busy to celebrate our 10th reunion. Twenty came by and it was on our to do list. Ditto for 25 … and 30 … and 40 … and, alas and alack, 50. That’s right, from the day we turned our tassels to today, we have never, ever gotten together as a class!

Sure, over the years, we’ve kept in contact with some of our DBT friends. This blog has “found” others. But  it doesn’t negate the fact we have never gathered formally {or as formal as this class could ever get} to celebrate our lives post graduation, reminisce about our days in the hallowed {???} halls and classrooms we called home for four years and share our life experiences.

Mario Gillio — president of the Student Council back in those Dark Ages — and John Schilleri — our valedictorian — decided 51 years was long enough and drafted yours truly into organizing a Class Reunion. Tentatively, we’ve scheduled it for Nov. 2, possibly with a tour of the alma mater and including a sit down dinner.

2015-03-07 15.15.49Making plans, of course, is the easy part. Finding our classmates might be a little trickier. Even back in the day, we had classmates from 22 northern New Jersey boroughs, towns and cities and five counties. And we only had 70 graduates! Who knows where they are now. I, for one, have lived in six states over the past 50-plus years, currently shuttling between upstate New York and Maine.

That’s where you guys come in. We need your help tracking down the vast MIAs from the DBT Class of ’65. Back in our day, telephones were two tin cans and a piece of string. You would have gotten a blank stare with words like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat. A smart phone was one that ate your dimes before completing a call. Yes, many of us are social media illiterate.

dbtBut not our kids and grandkids. You guys can find any thing, any where at any time. That’s what we are asking you to do … just a little electronic detective work to help us locate our long lost classmates. If you or your dad attended DBT and graduated in 1965, let us know. If your granddad ever talked about his experiences at DBT 1961-65, let us know. Same goes for friends, neighbors or co-workers.

If you have a phone (??) contact or e-mail address, please let us know so we can contact them. Mario’s e-mail is John’s e-mail is My e-mail is

65So, here’s our gigantic Class of 65 and where we were from at the time of graduation. If anyone can provide any updates, please, let us know.

Joe Barrise (Paterson), Danny Barteluce (Maywood), Robert Beck (Clifton), Andrew Bello (Jersey City), Dennis Besida (Saddle Brook), Rich Bottino (Little Falls), Harold Bruckner (Teaneck), Richard Connor (Rutherford), Rich Daken (Totowa), Joe Dapassano (Totowa), Carm DeRosa (Paterson), Mike Dillard (Totowa), David Dillon (Belleville), Frank (Tommy) DiStefano (East Paterson), Larry Dolan (Maywood), John Dowling (Paterson), William Endres (Fair Lawn), Leo Fitzsimmons (Paterson), Joseph Fusco (Jersey City), Jack Galoyan (Paterson), Mario Gillio (East Paterson), Bob Glinka (East Paterson), Frank Goss (Hackensack), George Hamlin (East Paterson), Frank Hanna (Paterson), Dennis Haraka (Clifton), John Hayes (Union City), Bart Iurato (Paterson), Dennis Kaczka (Lincoln Park), James Kelly (Paterson); William Klein (Wayne), Ray Konopinski (Bloomingdale), Ed Korczynski (Passaic), Ken Korndorfer (Rochelle Park), John Leibrecht (Paterson), Ray Leszczynski (Jersey City), Mike Maggi (Totowa), Robbie Maimone (Clifton), Bruce Matthew (Kinnelon), Ed McBride (East Paterson), Stephen Menconi (Clifton), Thomas Murphy (Maywood), Tim O’Brien (Paterson), Tom Palinski (Wayne), Charlie Parr (Paterson), John Paul (Clifton), George Raineri (Paterson), Daniel Rankin (Jersey City), Doug Ruland (Little Falls), Joe Sapinski (Paterson), Matt Scheer (Passaic), Ken Schroeder (Wayne), John Scillieri (Little Falls), Charles Scimeca (Fair Lawn), Vincent Seminara (Clifton), Daniel Sheridan (East Paterson), Randy Shope (Saddle Brook), Al Simmons (Maywood), Robert Simons (Kearny), Leo Sopuch (Paterson), Louis Spinelli (Paterson), Bernie Spirito (Clifton), Ray Tahan (Paterson), Stephen Varcadipone (Wayne), William Vogel (Paterson), Michael Watson (East Paterson), Joe Wos (Garfield), Jim Yamroz (East Paterson), Fred Zahn (Clifton) and, of course, yours truly (Totowa).

We want to reach as many 1965 DBT graduates as we can, but we really need your help. We want to know, also, those who have passed on so we can remember them at our reunion. There is only 70 of us. Let’s see how many we can account for.

THOUGHT T REMEMBER: Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today. — James Dean

Posted in celebration, encouragement, Friends, growing up, Life, Memories, relationships, reunion, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Minute Friday — Happy

Well, it’s Saturday and time to settle in my fellow bloggers at Kate’s place ( You know, it’s where we go to ferret out our thoughts on a specific prompt word in just five minutes. It’s amazing what comes out … not always great but always honest.

This week, the word is HAPPY. You can really go in a lot of directions — and some of the hundreds who join me in this exercise have taken most of them — with the word. I chose to follow through on the first thing that crossed my pea brain. Well, actually, I peeked Thursday night following Kate’s tease. But this was the result this morning

So, here goes. The timer is set, GO

I found myself clapping the kitchen this morning with the tune, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” swirling in my head. Kinda strange before coffee.

happy and know itBut I was happy and the prompt triggered the song … which made me clap.

Typically I am a happy person. Does that mean I always have a smile on my face and do happy dances in my heart? Well, I generally do have a smile on my face and my heart kinda dances to its own happy beat, but there are times when I want that smile to frown and sulk. Not often, mind you, but I have my moments when I just don’t feel like doing the happy dance.

I usually solve that angst by driving — anywhere! If I get behind the wheel, I can get lost finding my happiness center. I guess you could call wheel-sitting as attending My Church. If I have a happy destination in place — like the ocean –it’s My Cathedral.

Over the years, I and others have tried to figure out why and how I can be so optimistic. I don’t know if any of us have, but I think it’s because, despite all the gloom and doom, the downs that inevitably follow the highs, I have trust in an Anchor I know keeps me grounded. I know I’m not going to drift too far away from port. I know the winds and rain and storms might buffet me, but I’m safe. So, with that confidence, why should I worry? It’s a heck of lot more fun being happy … STOP

… The exercise also reminded me of one of my first sermons. If you’re interested, it’s at Joy … Joy … Joy (

pollyannaThe pulpit story was built around Pollyanna of all things. Pollyanna looked for the bright clouds. As she told Rev. Ford in the movie, there are 800 happy texts in the Bible … texts of joy or gladness. “If God told us 800 times to be glad and rejoice,” she said, “He must have wanted us to do it.” Rev. Ford went to the pulpit the next day and corrected the young girl. There are 826 passages, he said, and he intending to dwell on one each week for the … well, it equates to the next 16 years or so.

Life happens. It’s cyclical. There are good times and bad times. There are times when you want to stay huddled under the covers. But there is a time to shout with joy when morning light pierces that darkness … or clap you hands to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” swirling in your head.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we put our trust in God and not in the number on our bank account statement.

Posted in encouragement, Faith, Five Minute Friday, God, joy, Laughter, Life, love, ocean, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maine Quirks

Every state or area has its own little quirks. Here are some of the ones I’ve discovered here in Maine.

The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) has a warped sense of humor. Road signage — especially for visitors — is vital. The DOT recognizes this. They are very good at posting road signs … about a tenth to a quarter mile before the turn. When you actually get to the intersection — which is usually more than a four way — the signs vanish. You have to scan all possible roads in the hopes another sign is visible. Often they are not. I went about 20 miles out of my way en route to Skowhegan — twice — via different routes  because of these vanishing signs and totally lost Maine 7 {a familiar road number} in Belfast after apparently failing to backtrack my steps correctly from my trip to Marshall Point Lighthouse.

maine_road_sign_poster-rb3b012514f134f43a76eb792efc5c2d2_wv0_8byvr_512I naturally stopped to ask two guys in a store parking lot if they knew where 7 was. They shrugged, weren’t from around there. I asked another woman. She shrugged and in a French-Canadian voice added she was just there for the night. Finally as I tried to backtrack to the last known spot for 7, I spotted a bike patrol officer. He was kind enough to roll to my window, thought for a minute and said, “I should know that … but I don’t. I’ve just been here for about a month. But it’s around here somewhere.”

Okay. Since 7 goes through Belfast, I would have thought someone would have known where it was. Apparently, no one calls it “7” but Church Street or High Street.

Using my native navigational skills, I opted to take a right at the light and as I passed a road, happened to spot a “7” sign on said road. So, I turned around and made it to 7, pretty proud of myself. Of course, when 7 intersected 95 it was slightly north of where I thought I was so I ended up going through Bangor and cutting over on 15 — only another 10 mile or so detour, but that was okay. I rewarded myself with a peanut butter sundae at Dairy Queen and found about the rodeo.

Driving in Maine is challenging as well. For some reason, when people are entombed in their cages of steel they act differently. After the July 4 fireworks, there was a steady stream of cars trying to get out. I wasn’t in a particular hurry, but cars literally were bumper to bumper to NOT allow me access to the traffic stream. I mean bumper to bumper. In fact, twice it was literal bumper to bumper. After about 20 minutes, though, I shifted into my metropolitan New York/New Jersey mode to show these northern rednecks how we get into standstill traffic.

And they don’t know how to respond to gestures of kindness. I was stopped at a traffic light blocking entrance to a store when a truck approached and put on his blinker. Since no one was behind me, I backed up to allow him access. It took him minutes {okay, seconds} to figure out what I had done and had this really confused look on his face.

However, if you’re walking and trying to cross the street, cars will stop whether you’re in a crosswalk or not.

familyWhich brings me to most endearing qualities of Maine life … the people. Outside their cars, they are the friendliest people I have ever met. It is not unusual for someone to stop and have a conversation with you — even as a complete stranger — on the street, in a store, in a restaurant or at an event like the rodeo. Nobody is a stranger. I asked a woman in the grocery store where the spices were. She not only walked me to the section, but told me there were smaller — and cheaper — sizes at Shaw’s.

While I was at the rodeo, a guy brought pizza for his family, then tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I wanted a slice. Doc, I had already eaten so I graciously declined … but it was the start of a real conversation. Complete strangers have come up to me at the Foxcroft Academy Pancake Breakfast and Piscataquis RiverWalk celebration. They didn’t leave as strangers. When I ordered a doughboy for the road that rodeo night, I casually mentioned how busy the food truck had been. I received a review of the day’s receipts, what was selling, what flubbed and what they were having for dinner that night.

Another quirky thing — and this is also a positive wrapped around a negative — is the absence of cell and smart phones by youngsters. Sure, the teens have them — although I don’t how much service they actually have — but the pre-teens didn’t have little appendages stuck in their fingers or nestled in a back pocket. They actually play on playgrounds and talk to each other. They enjoy riding their bikes and playing makeshift baseball. Yes, I’ve seen people talking on phones here, but I don’t think I’ve heard a ringtone in the past year. It’s kind of refreshing.

welcome_to_maine_sign_sticker-rb4252b5b683a4c4ba9d5026269b23f27_v9wxo_8byvr_324That leads to another incident, also at the rodeo. A father was talking to his son about some technical maneuver in the ring. The boy said — are you ready for this? — “I’ll have to go to the library and check that out.”

Life is different in Maine … for the better in my opinion … life the way it should be.


THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we looked into the eyes of the outcast and the loner instead of looking through the eyes of society.

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