Anthropology and Social Media: Like PB & J

The Similarities Between Anthropology and Social Media

I was recently in a position to meet with many local business owners from around Rhode Island, as I taught an introductory class on Organic Online Marketing, with an emphasis on Social Media.  I had met a few of the owners before at networking events, or had simply spoken to them on the phone in a different context; others were new to me.  For that reason, I spent a few minutes introducing myself, and sharing how I had come to be with them.  Now, I’d like to share it with you.

I first learned about social networks during a family vacation in Aruba about three and a half years ago.  My sister was extolling the virtues of Facebook.  I had just started my own business, so I was interested in cool, innovative ways to market businesses aside from the traditional, and typically expensive means, such as print.

It took me some time to grasp the message she had for me.  I signed up right away when I returned home, so that I could stay in touch with her in Massachusetts, but I still didn’t get it.  I was so focused on me and what I wanted to use Facebook for, that I wasn’t looking at the big picture.  And then one night, about six months later, I was watching the movie Apocolypto, an awesome adventure flick about the Maya people of Mexico.  While I found serious issues with the ending, I couldn’t help but enjoy it, and it took me right back to my college days, where I had focused all of my energies and degree on that very subject:  Anthropology and Meso-American prehistory.

I was so inspired by that movie, that I decided to flip through some old text books that I couldn’t bare to get rid of.  And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks.  Social networks were my research and studies of cultural and social connections times…millions!  Observation, evolution, research, the difference between qualitative and quantitative results from the relationships that are formed online.  I just needed to put it into perspective.

So in the end, I was hooked.  I found my niche in a huge industry where it’s so very difficult to stand out.  A lot of people call themselves experts in their chosen field…and there are many people who claim to be experts in Social Media Marketing.  But I’ll be honest with you…I’m not one of them.  There’s no way I can be.  It changes and evolves so quickly, that I’m able to learn something new everyday.  While the hottest sites to place your business information are more or less stable, how to work with them and use them in an advantageous, yet thoughtful, conscious, and sensitive manner can be tricky.

I’m reading and researching every day, so that you don’t have to.  I’m here to take what I see and read and use, and present the most helpful and valid information that I can.  I’ve been handling marketing in every way, shape and form for over twenty years.  You’ll find lots of marketing and ad companies out there with similar experiences, but I have what I consider to be a HUGE advantage.  What makes me so special?  My anthropological background, and my ever-present interest in how people act and react with each other in social, online forums.  Those people become clients of yours and mine, and that keeps my work VERY interesting.

It takes a special person to convey what they know to others in a cohesive and exciting fashion.  I wanted participants to know that I cared, indeed was passionate about what I was about to tell them.  I truly wanted them to be as excited about their online adventure as I was, and that I wanted their business to grow from their time spent with me.  I’m positive that I succeeded.

Until next time,
Stephanie

Business Community Culture

The BFFRI Networking Group at Java Madness

Networking Group on a Mission for South County Kids

I thought I’d share a press release I recently submitted and was picked up by the local papers and PROJO. It’s one of the largest projects I’ve taken on in my career, and it felt awesome to have caught all the balls that I had in the air on this one. A special thanks to my family and friends for their support!

On August 16, 2016, the local networking group BFFRI (Business From Fellowship) led by Leslie Bannister-Pierini of Edward Jones, 231 Old Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, participated in the SK Kids in Need (SKKIN) School Supply Donation Drive, which ultimately delivered seventy backpacks filled with school supplies to area elementary schools within the town of South Kingstown.

Stephanie Healy, owner of Charlestown-based Aztec Design Services, LLC, BFFRI member, and Marketing Manager for the Edward Jones branch led by Pierini, organized the School Supplies Drive in an effort to bridge business and community, with a focus on area children in need. Says Healy “Pierini and I were both looking for a way to impact the community and I’ve always been passionate about youth. We both have children in the district and knew it could be challenging, but it felt right.”

The items were donated by local business members of BFFRI and residents, and were collected at Pierini’s branch over a period of two weeks, with a large outpouring of support. Supplies included pencils, erasers, crayons, rulers, colored pencils, notebooks, folders, glue sticks, tissues, hand sanitizer, and more. The supplies benefited the schools in need: Matunuck, Peace Dale, West Kingston, and Compass elementary schools.

“We asked South Kingstown residents and BFFRI businesses to go “The Extra Mile” and donate school supplies or volunteer their time,” Pierini said. “These donations can add huge value, as one more students will be provided with the appropriate tools to begin or continue his or her learning and development.”

Kim Mather, principal of West Kingston Elementary School enthused, “This is unbelievably fantastic! The children will be so excited to have something of their very own; these are items that will help them be successful, and I’ll be hand-delivering them to kids as soon as I can!”

What’s next on the agenda for Pierini’s Wakefield branch and the networkers of BFFRI? “We’re planning on walking “The Extra Mile” in early October for another, local, non-profit that centers their attention on children. We’ll be announcing the date and organization soon, so stay tuned!” says Healy.

Special thanks to the BFFRI businesses and residents who donated both their time and supplies: Jeff Kreyssig, co-founder of BFFRI and owner of Padgett Business Services, Wakefield Books, Alisa Mahoney – a Stylist with W by Worth, Lauren Peters of Keller Williams Realty in Middletown, Janine Bellandese of Santander, Java Madness Waterfront Coffeehouse and Pick Pockets – both of Wakefield, Sean Lennon of Nationwide Insurance, Attorney K. Erik Wallin of Richmond, and Albert, Maryann, and Alena Ferraro – Pierini’s Office Manager – of Narragansett, RI.

The Culture of Entrepreneurship

Maia and her Dad at Defender Industries annual picnic.

Me? A Business Owner?

I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I was quite comfortable working for someone else. I was forced into the role in an effort to maintain autonomy; I wanted to take care of my baby, but I also didn’t want to give up my career. So we made the decision that my husband Jeff, would be the one who stayed home with our daughter for as long as we could. I had a job loved, and was an integral part of the marine side of a wholesale treated lumber company. I had great benefits, and while the office dynamic was challenging at times, I managed to carve out a niche for myself.

So back to Jeff…he’s really smart. His intelligence comes, not only from his college degree, but in his ability to teach himself how to do almost anything. As a kid, he progressed from taking apart radios and and putting them back together to repairing his brother’s boat engine which had been all but destroyed in Super-storm Sandy. One of the things Jeff taught himself to do was graphic design and coding websites. For two years, as he took care of our daughter and watched her grow, he also immersed himself in everything he could find in the industry. An offer by the largest independent boating company, Defender Industries out of Waterford, CT, was more than Jeff could refuse, and we made the difficult decision to find a preschool for Maia so we could continue our respective careers.

We found the perfect place right around the corner from my employer. While Maia had lots of fun, and had found a loving and caring teacher in Miss Karen Kuski, she caught every illness in the book. She had multiple ear infections, suffered from bronchial infections and stomach bugs, and finally headed up to Hasbro for ear tubes. Her pediatrician finally told us something had to give, and recommended removing Maia from the daycare situation to get healthy. We found ourselves facing one of the biggest decisions in life, but knew in our hearts that Maia deserved to be healthy and happy, and would always come ahead of our careers.  Jeff had had his time with His Girl; now it was my turn. I took advantage of the Family Leave Act, and unwittingly embarked on an adventure that would change my life forever.

Saying Goodbye to a Weekend Landmark

When the Valueland Shift Ends

As a teenager, I spent many of my Friday nights at Ocean Club Roller Skating Rink; it was an institution of teenage roller angst and the place to be on any given weekend night. So when my daughter asked to head there during spring vacation, I didn’t hesitate. I also didn’t plan on skating. When we arrived however, we learned that this was to be the very last weekend for Ocean Club; it was closing for good, and rumor had it that a Dave’s Market was taking its place.

So I rented skates, and feared for my life. I stood upright and wiggled my way along the concrete barrier that separated the smart parents from…well…me. As my previously torn hamstrings groaned in disbelief (a wave took me out at East Beach two summers ago, but that’s another story), I thought “Hey, it’s like riding a bike. And don’t be scared – you rode the Everest ride in Disney. You can do this.” I continued to inch along the carpet, but couldn’t gain enough confidence to skate with the boat-load of kids who moved along the rink like the Indy 500.

I eventually ditched the skates and watched my 11 year-old daughter skate circles around me. And then everything changed: The DJ played Michael Jackson’s Beat It. I put those skates back on and jumped into the rink as the 16 year old who once whizzed around that same rink, not the 40-something who wasn’t sure she’d live to cook dinner. I’m grateful for the many parents who warned their children I was coming, or simply grabbed them out of the way. And the best part? I walked with only a slight limp the next day. Fun times!

Clan Culture: One Year After Dad

The Aftermath of Papa’s Passing

As the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s passing came and went, I was filled with a mixture of heartache, pain, and Relief. Yes, Relief with a capital “R”. The past year had been filled with all of the “Firsts” without Dad; the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, his birthday, Mom’s birthday, his granddaughter’s birthday, and finally, my birthday; special days without him seemed like torture and he was sorely missed.

Those who knew my Dad well, knew what an incredibly humorous, caring, giving, and dedicated man he was. “Hi, my name is Sally, and I’ll be your server today.” Dad would almost always respond “Hi, my name is Dick, and I’ll be your customer today.” Chuckles ensued around the table. He spent all of his retirement years on a golf course, and I know the players appreciated his humor as much as his skill. I bet there are more than a few who feel the loss as they pass through the Pro Shop.

The year hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it has probably been one of the worst years in my life – and I’ve had some pretty bad years. Not only had I been grieving the loss of the first-and-best man in my life, but there were many times when I had to push aside my own grief to take care of my Mom and my daughter.

I’ve also felt the stab of knowledge and the subsequent dull-ache of losing my favorite aunt. My Auntie Jill was married to my Uncle Bobby, the sole survivor of the original Iovino Clan, and the second youngest. My Auntie Jill had acted as a Godmother to me; she was always honest, loving, a fantastic cook, and made me feel like I was always welcome in her home. One of my fondest memories is staying with her family during the days immediately following the Blizzard of 1978. She was obsessed with Elvis, and when my husband and I danced to “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, Auntie Jill clapped and yelled out “Alright Stephanie!” It will one of those things that will remain in my heart until it is my turn.

So as this “worst-ever” year comes to a close, I try to tell myself that Dad wouldn’t want me to suffer over this loss, but to rejoice in him, his ability to make people laugh, and most of all, to see the bright side in any situation. I feel my Dad around all the time; he comes in the form of music while I’m driving, his voice in my heart, and through the smiles and laughs of my daughter, Maia.

Clan Culture: Stephanie’s Story

Stephanie in the ceramic circle of Narragansett inn

DIARY OF STEPHANIE IOVINO HEALY

November 29, 1995: 26 years old

This morning at 11:00am, I pulled into the driveway of the home of my Uncle Raymond. I was really nervous; I hadn’t been to his home on my own, and hadn’t had a ton of contact with my father’s side of the family. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of times I’d seen my family: once -a- year on Christmas Eve and other exceptions like high school graduations and over the years, had come to look forward to. But some time ago those stopped; Mom says the family got too big. And for reasons I was unaware of, my mother was never fond of my father’s parents, so visitation with them was kept to a minimum, and many died when I was younger.

Mom never talked bad of the  Iovino clan, but she also never encouraged interaction with that side of the family.  Dad’s side always seemed kind of foreign to me. My sister and I looked different; for one, we were blond and they never let us forget it. They cracked jokes and showed this tough exterior that is so like my Dad. My Dad was an integral part of the fun times in my life growing up. He taught my friends how to dive, he headed to the beach with my sister and I during his two weeks of vacation he took every summer. My first memories of Scarborough Beach are with him throwing us into the waves. But it took me a bit to crack his tougher exterior, only to find out that he is a big softie. But are his brothers just like him? I was about to find out.

The short answer? Yes, or at least my Uncle Raymond is.   My uncle has proven to be a huge softie and as soon as I sat down, he started crying. I was startled at first, and I told him that we did not have to talk about anything that might upset him, and he replied that he didn’t just cry when he was sad, but that he also cried when he was happy. I stared at him for a bit, feeling a bit uncomfortable, and then I slowly realized that I wasn’t there just to complete one of my last college papers. I was there to understand where my Dad came from and to understand that, I had to dig deep. Dig into my family’s past, from Italy to the USA. Tears sprang to my eyes and the years slipped away. We talked for hours, as if we had known each other for years, but knew no specifics about the other. My Auntie Camille hovered around waiting on us hand and foot, while their sons and daughters flowed through the house, dropping by unannounced: Something not done often in the house I grew up in. I soon realized that this house was a home – a home open to all who wanted to stop in to say hello, fill their tummies, give a hug.

I hadn’t planned on staying for dinner, which is served promptly at 2:00 pm on a Sundays, just like it was for me growing up. You were at the dinner table until you had a job, and only then was it excused. And you may have still gotten a hard time about it! But before I knew it, a huge plate of the best-looking macaroni, meatballs, sausage and gravy sat before me. “You’re staying for dinner, right?” asked my Auntie Camille. As my Dad would say, “You’re darn tootin’!” Dessert was served right after dinner, just the way I like it. Uncle Raymond said he got it from a local bakery especially for me. I felt very special in that moment.

The revelations which flowed more easily after a good meal were startling and surprising. I had an some preconceived notions about my Italian heritage, but this was not what I was expecting.   Still, many questions in my mind have been answered, and one of those revealed why my Mom felt so uncomfortable around Dad’s family.

My uncle’s health, unbeknownst to me, is fading, as he has a little box in the side of his stomach which kicks his heart into action if needed. He can no longer drive, but enjoys golfing with Dad every Tuesday morning without fail. Uncle Bobby used to golf with them all the time, but as of late, has made excuses. According to Uncle Raymond, honesty is the number one value in his book, which makes Uncle Bobby’s excuses even more painful.

Our family has started the Christmas Eve tradition once again, and I look forward to it now, more than ever; I know now what it represents: A tradition started by my paternal grandmother and a symbol of what remains of a large Italian family. And another morsel of valuable information revealed itself: Uncle Raymond had filled in as “Santa” some years, and others, it was Uncle Tommy.

Although this project changed my views about family and life in general, I can’t help but feel sad. I’ve had so little contact with Dad’s side that the deaths of many relatives had not touched me as much as others, a few having passed before my birth. But the few Sunday’s worth of time that I had with my Uncle Raymond left me saddened; saddened that it had taken me so long to get to know him. One of the last comments Uncle Ray made to me before I left that last Sunday evening was that looking back, he didn’t know where all those years have gone. He suddenly woke up one day and felt…old. I’m hoping this paper will be a legacy of sorts for the Iovino family in the years ahead. I’m also hoping to show him j- and the rest of our family – that his life didn’t just disappear in a day and that it lives on through many generations to come.

April 22, 2004: 34 years old

Uncle Raymond has passed. I was so saddened to hear this, more than any other Iovino relative so far. As I read his obituary, I was able to remind myself what that project meant nearly a decade before, and those special Sundays we sat together, broke bread, and shared stories that made me simultaneously laugh and cry.

March 3, 2005: 35 years old

Today was the last day on earth for my Auntie Camille, aka Carmela. She passed away less then one year after her beloved husband, my Uncle Raymond. I spent days trying to find that old paper somewhere in my files and was finally successful. As I began to read, I realized I had come almost full-circle. I smiled as I read how these two lovebirds had met – through that age-old game of “Spin the Bottle”, and can’t help but smile and giggle over this fact. I think back to the huge plates of food she put in front of me, while I listened with rapture over her loving husband’s life story. How grateful I am to have had that time with both of them. How precious this paper turned out to be – not only for myself, but also another generation of Iovino. Like my daughter Maia who was now a toddler. How will she feel about this story? We shall see!

Clan Culture: Diary of Raymond Joseph Iovino

Uncle Raymond and Auntie Camille at Cousin Ray's wedding in 1981.

Diary of Raymondo Joseph Iovino

November 1933: 6 years old

Papa has sent me to my room for the night, and I am very nervous. He says my teacher wants to talk to Mama and Papa, and that if it is bad I am in very big trouble, and I may get a beating. But I am trying to think over my school day, and I am sure I did not do anything wrong.  So why did I still have to take a note home to Mama and Papa? Well, I guess I will know soon enough.

November 1933: 6 years old

Papa came up to my room tonight before I went to bed. He says that the teacher from Kenyon Street Elementary said that Papa and Mama must speak English to me all the time, and with all the other kids too because I am not doing well in school, and they do not want the same thing to happen to my brothers. I asked if I could speak Italian with my friends, and Papa said that if he heard me speak anything but English, I would get a beating. Okay, I said. So later I learned to read the Italian paper. But soon I forgot much of the language, because I am out of practice.

December 1934: 7 years old

Today, Papa’s place of work dropped off a huge box of toys for Christmas. Mama told me under no circumstances was I to tell my brothers that there were toys hidden on my closet shelf. So I told my brothers’ that the toys weren’t on the shelf in my closet. Mama gave me a good spanking for that.

March 1937: 9 years old

Mama and Papa have put me in charge of all the kids while they go out to dinner with their friends the Menentas’. The Menentas’ are good friends; they always move in next door to us, no matter where the family moves. So now I am not only watching my five brothers, but also the Menentas’ kids. They have four sons, the youngest is only five months old. It is kind of scary, because I have to run back and forth to keep an eye on all of them. Last time I watched the kids, the baby made a big mess. The baby’s bassinet is kept next the stove to keep the baby warm. Well, I was about to change the baby’s diaper, and as I discarded the dirty diaper, the baby went to the bathroom all over the stove. This was not very fun, because it took me a long time to clean up the mess, and I was hoping the Menentas’ would not catch me cleaning their stove. Papa also gave me a nickel tonight because when he got home, he saw that I had scrubbed the kitchen floor for them. I enjoy doing things to help the family, such as ironing shirts and especially cooking.

May 1938: 11 years old

I am very proud today, because Papa asked me to do something very important for him and Mama. He kept me out of school, which was exciting in itself. Papa gave me a list of all kinds of groceries, and told me I am to go to the stores and finds all the things on the list. I am then to cut up the vegetables and prepare the dough for bread, and then wait for Papa to get home so he can show me how to make supper for the family. I will make him very proud of me. Mama is sick, so I must also take care of Dicky, Dotty, Bobby and Tommy. I will take Tommy with me, while the babies are napping.

October 1939: 12 years old

I made a very big mistake tonight. Mama and Papa always tell us kids that if we are not at the table at exactly five o’clock, we go without supper.   Tonight, I came in the house at 5:05, and I went without supper. I was really hungry tonight too. I guess I will not be late again for supper.

October 1939: 12 years old

I made another big mistake. Last night I sneaked downstairs to get some leftovers, and Papa caught me. Just for that I got 5 lashings with Papa’s belt on my bum. I will definitely not be late for supper again. This was worse punishment than talking during supper, which is three lashes.

December 1939: 12 years old

Today I was playing outside with my friends in the snow. My friend, also named Raymond, had a really neat sled that I just had to have. So I followed him home and watched him put the sled in his hallway. When he went further inside, I sneaked into his house and stole the sled. It was very easy. Well, I took that sled home, and told the other kids that if they tattled on me, I would give them a whooping. They didn’t tattle, but when Papa got home, he asked me where the sled came from. I told him a friend lent the sled to me.

December 1939, 1 week later: 12 years old

Today, Papa asked me again where the sled came from, for he had not seen me play outside with it. Of course I couldn’t take the sled outside because my friend would see it. Papa told me that I had better tell him the truth or he would give me a beating. So I told him. Papa said that I was to return the sled immediately and if I got caught putting the sled back, then I would get a beating. I did not get caught, and I never ran so fast in my life.

June 1941: 14 years old

Papa has told me that he needs me to help him support the family. So I will leave school, and this summer I will go and live with Aunt Marianetta in Hartford as a plumbers apprentice. Sometimes I think I will miss my favorite subjects such as English and penmanship. Although I am do not enjoy reading very much, I do enjoy History, especially European History, because someday I dream of visiting Italy where my Papa comes from. But I have found that I enjoy working with my hands because I can see the results of my handiwork much quicker than in any other job I might have. Maybe someday I will be able to go to a trade school to learn the theory of plumbing. I get to keep $3.00 a week out of $65.00, and the rest must be sent home to Papa for my brothers’ clothing for the new school year, as the hand-me-downs are quite ragged according to Mama.

July 1941: 14 years old

Aunt Marionetta and I drove up to Lawrence, Massachusetts to join Aunt Antonette, Mama and Papa, and the rest of the family for our once-a-year tradition of a “beach vacation”. We kids always have great fun up there, as it is fun to see how our cousins grow each year. This is a tradition I definitely plan to keep up when I have kids of my own.

September 1941: 14 years old

I have returned home from Hartford. What an experience. The best thing is that I did not have to go to church every Sunday like I do at home. Aunt Marionetta is not nearly as strict as Mama about those sort of things. Also, I see all my brothers going to Sunday school in order to make their First Communion. I guessed I missed the boat on that one being the first son and all. But now that I am home again, Mama wants me to help the kids with Bible Study, so that I can learn whatever I have missed myself. Personally, I believe God is everywhere, so why do I have to go to Church to find him? I asked Mama this question, and she slapped my face.

I am doing odd jobs around the Hill, for instance I clean the butcher block for the butcher, I slit the chickens throats that are hanging in the poultry shop, and I also shine shoes. Papa always says with hard work comes many rewards.

January 1942: 14 years old

Papa came up to my room tonight just like old times. He talked to me of the old country of Italy, and how much things are different there. Tonight he told me that the cats are very different here than in Italy. In Italy you do not feed the cats – they catch the mice to survive. Here in America the mice run right by the cats because the cats are fed by humans. Papa said that this difference in cats is not all that different from humans these days: some people do not work as hard here in America as they did in the old countries of Europe. Sometimes he tells me about his parents and him in Italy and his life later with Alphonse. It seems like a very tough life, and Papa also says he misses his Mama and Papa very much.

August 1942: 15 years old

Papa and Mama say we have to be in the house before dark, and if we are not, we must sleep outside. Well, last night I had to sleep outside. Good thing it is summertime! I just couldn’t stop playing Kick the Can and Hide and Seek with my brothers and my best friend, Ray Patriarca. Tommy told me that I should come inside with the rest of the kids, but I didn’t listen. I am also upset that I missed my favorite radio show. Each night, we gather around the radio to listen to such shows as Inner Sanctum Mystery, Amos and Andy, and my personal favorite, The Shadow. Next week I begin working at the Sea Bee Base at Quonset loading and unloading ships for the war effort. This is a good change for me from working in the local shops. Papa is also working for the Navy doing the same thing. He wanted to fight in the war, but the government said he couldn’t because it would cost too much to support his large family. So he will continue doing what he is doing until something which offers more money comes along.

June 1944: 17 years old

I have been working as a ship loader as of late, but when I tried to go and work with my friend in the plumbing and carpentry business, the owner said he could not hire me because I could not switch from working with the government to working for a private interest. So I decided to lie about my age and enlisted in the Navy. I leave for boot camp in a week. I will be leaving for boot camp in Samson, New York and I am very nervous, however, I am looking forward to leaving Providence, for this house is getting much too crowded.

November 1944: 17 years old

I have successfully completed boot camp in Samson, New York, and I am now stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. The weather is beautiful, but I miss home very much. I cannot believe I ever wanted to leave. Mama writes to me all the time, and sends me my favorite food in the world: a box of pepperoni. I love milk, and Mama said she would send me a cow if she could. According to Mama’s letter, there is a big snowstorm going on in Rhode Island. After I finished reading it, I went swimming!

July 1945: 18 years old

I am getting into big trouble here in Hawaii. My friend and I got drunk and stole a fire truck. We got one month hard labor which included picking up trash all over the base. This is the second time I have gotten into this kind of trouble. Last time my friend and I went AWOL to California. Big, Big Mistake.

June 1946: 19 years old

Last week I was discharged from the Navy on the point system, now that the second World War is over. This was fine with me, as I missed my family very much. It was surprisingly easy to adjust to home, I guess I am easily adaptable. At one time, I was eager to get out of the crowded house. Now, I do not mind at all squeezing into one of two rooms with 2 double beds. I sleep with Joey and Albert sleeps with Rene. In the other kids room, Tommy shares a bed with Bobby and Dotty shares a bed with Dicky, because he is the baby. It is fun to be back in the old neighborhood with all my friends, although there is a new family on the block. Mama doesn’t want us to hang around with their kids though, because they are Jewish. Mama said they might want us to convert, whatever that means, so we had better stay away from them. So my brothers and I keep playing with our old friends.

February 1947: 19 years old

Today I married the woman I have chased around the neighborhood for thirteen years. I told her that I knew I wanted to marry her about four years ago, when my friends and her friends were playing Spin the Bottle, and I purposely stopped it when the bottle came spinning towards her. Her name is Carmella, and she says she will make me a good wife and give me many sons. This is good, for Mama and Papa are looking forward to many grandchildren.

August 1947: 20 years old

Carmella and I moved to Hartford to live with Aunt Marionetta. We hear that there are lots of plumber and carpentry jobs in this area. This is good because Carmella is expecting our first child early next year, and I must make good money to support my family.

January 1948: 20 years old

My first son was born today, named Joseph Alphonse. My brother Joe also opened up his own business, a drinking establishment. This worries me because I think that he drinks too much already. But Joe is very stubborn, and I can’t say anything to change his mind. I am still working in the plumbing business, and doing quite well.

May 1951: 23 years old

Carmella and I have moved back to Rhode Island. Mama and Papa are now living in Warwick, and they said we can move in with them until someone finds another house first. This makes for cramped living conditions as Carmella and I now have two children, the latest one being a daughter named Barbara, born on February 27, 1949. Dicky, Dotty and Bobby are still living at home. But we will make do. We split the bills half and half. This is agreeable to everyone.

March 1952: 23 years old

Father Delano lives across the street from us, which is wonderful because he is very supportive of us religiously as well as emotionally. The other day he came to visit and noticed that all the children’s clothes and shoes were quite worn. He asked us if there was anything that he could do for us, but Carmella and I are much too proud to admit that we cannot afford to clothe our children properly, so we said nothing, and Father Delano did not press the issue.

Well, Father Delano visited us again today. He had taken up a Church fund for us at Saturday night mass, and here are the proceeds. We are so grateful, and it is good to know that we can depend on the Church in our time of need.

June 1953: 24 years old

Three days ago, I went to a house that I was going to do some plumbing work for with my partner. It was for a Jewish family. While I was waiting for my partner to show up, Mrs. Myers asked me if I would like some breakfast. I said yes, and she invited me in for coffee and a bagel. The next day, the same thing happened. The third day, Mrs. Myers asked me my name, and I told her, and she seemed shocked. I asked her if there was anything wrong, and she said that she was under the impression I was Jewish because of my nose! I laughed at this, but that woman never asked me in for breakfast again, and my partner and I were there for one more week.

 February 1954: 25 years old

The plumbing business is not doing so well, so I asked Brother Joe for a job in the bar. Although I gave him a hard time at first, he would never turn his back on family. Joe put me in charge of collecting the debts from customers who owed him money. My job was to go to their house and do what it took to get the money owed to my brother. This was very difficult to get used to, but I was a good fighter in the Navy, and eventually it came back to me.

March 1954: 25 years old

My brother Rene was killed today in a car accident. This has devastated Mama, as she will not come out of her room. He leaves a wife and two kids. The brothers and I got together to grieve, and we have made a pact to become much closer, for we realize that someday, there will only be us kids to look out for each other.

August 1954: 26 years old

Carmella and I packed up the kids to go to Lawrence again this year. Financially, it has been a very tough year, but our cousins say they will help us to come and visit them anyway. Aunt Antonette has since passed on, but the cousins keep the tradition going.

November 1956: 28 years old

Papa called me yesterday very upset. He told me about how he had decided to go into the bakery business with a man named LeFrennier. Two weeks after they opened shop, LeFrennier took off with all their money. “Never trust a Frenchman, Raymondo”, Papa said to me. I promised I would remember what he said.

November 1958: 30 years old

Today, Carmella and I purchased a house. This is a very big move for us both financially and emotionally, for we will be moving out of Mama and Papa’s house soon. We purchased it for $5,000 from an Irishman. I was leery at first, but he seems like a very nice man. He has offered to finance the mortgage for us. That is very good for us. The only downfall is that it is a summer house, close to the ocean, and it needs many repairs and things to make it livable year-round. So I will do the work myself, and when the house is ready, we will make the move. Buying this house means that I will have to work even more hours than I do now. I already do plumbing, carpentry and any other work I can find on the side in addition to working with Joe at the bar. However, all this hard work does not allow for much of a social life, but at least we have our summer vacations in Lawrence.

October 1962: 36 years old

The end of our “baby” era has come. My wife Carmella has given birth to five more beautiful children:   Cheryl, born June 16, 1954, Janice, born January 11, 1958, Raymond, born January 13, 1959, Debbie, born August 3, 1960 and finally, my baby, Darlene, was born today. The doctor said it would not be in good health for Carmella to have anymore children, so Darlene is the end. Mama and Papa are very upset with Carmella and me for not giving the girls more traditional Italian names. I tell them we are not in Italy, we are in America and I want my kids to fit in. Mama did not talk to me for a month. Papa was more accepting of the idea.

December 24, 1962: 36 years old

This year, Mama started the first Christmas Eve tradition of having all her children’s families over for a big dinner. Dicky is the only one who is not here, for he joined the Army and is now in Germany. The food was wonderful, as everyone made and brought their favorite dish. There was seafood and pasta galore, I never ate so much in my life. If only the entire family could enjoy this feast!

November 19, 1966: 39 years old

The baby of the family, Dicky, is finally tying the knot today. Mama and Papa are not pleased because Dicky is the only child who will not be marrying an Italian woman. They are giving his fiancee’s parents a very hard time about the wedding, as she wants to get married in her Irish church, and Mama and Papa want them to get married in their Italian Church. But as the tradition is that the bride’s parents choose the ceremonial place, there is not much they can do about it, except to complain to us kids. My opinion is that if they are both Catholic, what is the difference? Besides Brother Joey, Dicky is the only one of us kids to have a big wedding. These Irish folks must have big bucks! But I must say that I admire Dicky for finding himself a nice college-type. But then I knew Dicky would make more of himself. Dicky says that his wife is making him go back and get his high school diploma. At least one of us will have one.

September 17, 1969: 42 years old

Tonight my brother Dicky called me up on the phone to ask me if I was going to his first-born daughter Stephanie’s baptism the next day, because brother Bobby’s wife had called him to say that Mama and Papa were boycotting the baptism because it was not in their Church. They felt that the only good baptism was a genuine Roman Catholic baptism. I told Dicky that I would be there, but it was a lie, because Mama and Papa have threatened to disown any one of us who goes to the baptism. I feel very bad about this. Not only that, but all the brothers including sister Dotty, lied about going.

July 1, 1976: 43 years old

Brother Joe has passed away at the age of 47. He died on the dance floor with a woman other than his wife, and has brought shame to the family. Alcoholism played a part, and his heart finally gave out. So I have been left with the bar to do as I see fit. Joe’s wife Lucia will not speak to any of us, as she feels we are to blame for everything. Two brothers gone, and we brothers and sister grow still closer. I turn on my favorite tune called “Sleepwalk”. Sometimes I like to listen to ‘50’s music, but I prefer instrumental music much better because it reminds me of cooking with Mama and listening to her old music, especially when I am sad.

April 1972: 44 years old

Some time ago, brother Joey allowed mob members, who happened to be very good friends of his, to come into the bar to set up booky arrangements with the customers. I was put in charge of the books. Joe gave them 50% of everything that came into the bar. Now they want the same agreement from me, but now I tell them that they can take care of the booking themselves, and I will rent them the space to do the booking, and they keep their own profits. They have agreed to this arrangement. But now I am bored without the booking job, so I will have to find another challenge.

October 1973: 46 years old

I decided to put a slot machine in the bar. This has brought me $500 a day in profits. Unfortunately, the cops have come in and confiscated it. That’s okay, it is only a misdemeanor charge. Next time I will put in two slot machines. That will bring me in $1000 a day!

December 1973: 46 years old

Today the police came in and confiscated the slot machines. I also have been arrested, and now I must appear in court because this is my second offense of this kind. Hopefully Papa and Mama will not be too ashamed of me.

September 1974: 47 years old

A very sad day, for Papa has passed away. He had a heart attack, and died in his sleep. Mama is heartbroken, and says that she cannot live without him. Us kids tell her she can, that she has all of us, but she has confined herself to her room just as she did after brother Rene and Joe’s deaths. Somehow I think that my trouble with the law brought upon his illness and death, but it is now too late to apologize.

February 1975: 48 years old

Mama passed away yesterday. She never quite recovered from Papa’s death, and said in the hospital that she could not wait to see Papa and her sons in Heaven. She told me to look out for the rest of the kids; I obeyed her wishes, and she died just moments later.

June 1980: 53 years old

My youngest child has graduated from high school. She, like the others has no desire to go to college. It has always been my dream for my children to get more of an education than I did. I suppose I should be thankful that at least they have all graduated high school. With Darlene’s graduation day coming up, I have gotten to thinking that I wish I had made something more of myself, and therefore maybe my kids would have a better life. Although I would not take back any of the gifts God has given me, I have to wonder. . . what if my background had been different, like Dicky’s wife Bev? You can bet her kids will get the education they deserve. Although money would have been tough, I would have found a way to put each and every one of them through college.

August 1980: 53 years old

Today I went fishing with brother Bobby. This is my favorite thing to do next to golfing since we purchased our small but cozy house near the water. I find the ocean to be the most beautiful thing in the world. I often wonder when I look out at the ocean what it was like for Papa to sail half way ‘round the world to America. So I decided to find out at least what it is like to sail, and purchased a boat with the last of the money I earned from the slot machines in Brother Joe’s bar.   I will keep it docked in Galilee, my favorite little town in Rhode Island.

I have decided to shut brother Joe’s bar down, as my wife and I are concerned about the types of people moving into the neighborhood, all kinds of Chinese-looking people and Niggers. So now I spend my days doing some carpentry work, but my health is failing me, so I mostly fish and golf with my brothers. This gives us a chance to spend more time together.

December 1983: 56 years old

The Christmas Eve tradition that Mama started some 20 years ago has come to a halt.  Brother Bobby’s wife, Gilda, says that the family is too big, and her house is too small, which is where we have gotten together since Mama passed on. I am deeply disappointed, and now we go back to each family having their own Christmas Eve celebration. What would Mama say to this?

October 31, 1985: 58 years old

Brother Tommy has died from the cancer which ravaged his body for years. Dicky and I went down to North Carolina to visit him after his wife called and said that it would not be long. Dicky and I were too late, and I will carry this guilt in my heart forever.

January 20, 1986: 58 years old

My only sister Dorothy has died today in Rhode Island Hospital of cancer. She has been ill for some time now, and Albert, Dicky, Bobby and I think that her suffering has gone on long enough. The end was painful and sad, for our only sister has gone on to be with our parents.

May 1987: 60 years old

My birthday today has made me reminisce about the old days, and my dreams which have not exactly come true. My dream of Italy was destroyed three months ago with my second heart attack, as the doctor has told me that I cannot fly. I have finally given up smoking; it is hard to believe that the cool Camels and Lucky Strikes of the old days have done this much damage to me. I try to get Carmella to stop, but she will not listen. My kids are happy, although I wish some of them would find better mates, but whatever makes them happy. . . Brother Dicky is taking me out golfing this afternoon for my birthday. Oh how I miss the carefree days of playing pool and touch football with all my brothers. Yesterday I received the best gift of all my life, my first grandchild. Although I never had much time for my own kids, what with all my various jobs in life, these kids I’m going to give all my attention to. I believe that they are the key to the future. I look at my nieces and nephews, and even my youngest kids, and I feel things are different now. They don’t have the responsibleness that me and my brothers and sister had, and they don’t respect their elders as much as we were taught to do. If this is what progress is, I don’t want it.

July 1994: 67 years old

Yesterday, brother Alberto joined Mama, Papa, Renaldo, Joseph, Thomas, and Dorothy in Heaven. He too has succumbed to cancer, and now we are down to three. Unfortunately, I suffered from my third heart attack the day before his death, so I was in the hospital the day he died. Again, I did not have the chance to say good-bye and to tell him I love him. But there is nothing I can do now, for he is in God’s hands. Robert, Richard, and I have made a promise to start those Christmas Eve parties again, and to rekindle a dwindling Italian tradition.  Maybe I can dress up like Santa as Brother Tommy did for all his nieces and nephews so many years ago. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot.

November 1995: 68 years old

Dicky’s oldest daughter, Stephanie is coming over to visit. She called a couple of weeks ago to ask me if she could talk to me for some class that she is taking at the University. She says she wants to know about my Italian heritage. I don’t know exactly what she means by heritage, but I’ll give it my best shot. I asked her if she knew the questions already that she was going to ask me, but she assured me that they were not tough questions, and that I’d see what she means when she gets here. This is the first time she has come to our house without Dicky, and the closest I have been to her is a dance on her wedding day, which was very short. I am a little nervous, and very excited, because for all that I have been through, I realize now that my family is everything. I do not have much else at this time. I hope I don’t cry when she gets here.

Clan Culture: Diary of Joseph Antonio Iovino

Let me begin by sharing that this story hasn’t seen the light of day for over a decade. As a third-year Anthropology major at the University of Rhode Island in the early 90’s, I had to interview a first-generation United States citizen about their upbringing, and how culture shaped their lives. I chose my Uncle Raymond, my Dad’s oldest living brother at the time. I came across this story quite by accident today, and remembered I’d promised to send it to Sandra Iovino Bartlett that day at SCH. Here’s a good ‘ol dose of culture from The Hill. Framing the story in a diary format came to me after some struggle and desperation in trying find a creative outlet for all of the information I’d compiled. I still have pages of hand-written notes from our conversation tucked away in a box, along with a copy of the textbook.

“Textbook” you ask? One of my prouder college moments  – and believe me, there are some I choose to forget – is about a week after turning the paper in, my professor called me over and said the following “You know you got the best grade in the class, right?” I just stood there and gawked. I knew it was special, but my hard work was validated by the only person besides myself, that really mattered with regards to this project. He stuck a clip-boarded form in front of my face, asking for my permission to add this paper into a future required textbook. I was published for the first time, along with one other student with an Italian relative from Westerly, RI. Of course I signed. I’ve updated the document to reflect more recent events, but I pray the loop won’t be closed for many, many more years. Enjoy!

DIARIA D’ GUISSEPPE ANTONIO IOVINO

May 1906

A son is born to Antonio and Maria Iovino, given the name of Guisseppe Antonio Iovino, he will live in Marzano Appia, Italy with his parents. He is the fourth child to be born to Antonio and Maria. A formal baptism will be held in five days.

October 1918: 12 years old

Antonio Joseph and Maria Alicia Iovino are killed in a horse and buggy accident. They are survived by 4 children: Antonette, 20 of Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA; Marianetta, 26 of Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Alphonse, 27 of Providence, Rhode Island, USA and Guisseppe, 12 of Marzano Appia, Italy. A private funeral will be held in two days.

November 1918: 12 years old

Brother Alphonse has sent for me to go and live with him in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. I am very scared to leave the land I know and love, but I cannot live here without my Mama and Papa, and so I must go. My sisters Maria and Antonette want me to go and live with them also, but they do not have enough money to support me, so I will go to Alphonse, for he is a baker with his own shop. Oh how I miss my Mama and Papa, but other family and a new life await me in America.

December 1918: 12 years old

After weeks on a large ship, I have finally arrived at my destination. Brother Alphonse and Sister Antonette are waiting for me on the dock of a city unlike any I have ever seen. Alphonse is waving papers at a man who gave me trouble; apparently I need a sponsor and a job to be able to come to America. Brother Alphonse says everything is okay, that he has taken care of everything, and we will have a Christmas after all! Just being here with my family is all the Christmas I need.

February 1919: 12 years old

I started in a new school, which has been very difficult for me. The teachers are speaking a language I am unfamiliar with, but I am sure to catch on quickly. The teacher gets annoyed with me easily though, and she is always saying that I must learn things the “American way”, or I will not be able stay in school. I must try harder to please her.

March 1919: 12 years old

Brother Alphonse is very pleased with me, as my teacher has moved me from the sixth grade to the eighth grade in just a few months. I am learning English much quicker now, as Brother is always speaking the language now so that I do well in school. Besides learning a new language here in America, school seemed a lot harder in Italy.

April 1921: 15 years old

I have left school so that I may help Brother Alphonse in the bakery all the time. I am disappointed to leave something that I am doing so well in, but responsibility lies with Alphonse, for I would not have this wonderful life in America if it were not for him. I believe that I already know everything that is important to know anyway, but I will miss the friends I have made.

May 1926: 6 days before my 20th birthday

I have met the woman of my dreams. Her name is Pasquelina and she came into the shop today to buy some bread for her Mama. She asked me if this was my shop, and I said no, it is Brother Alphonse’s shop, but I am in the dough anyway! Oh what a smile she displayed. Mark my words, someday she will be mine forever.

July 1926: 20 years old

Pasquelina and I are to marry tomorrow. It has been some years now since my Mama and Papa passed away, and the memories seem to be fading fast and sometimes I cannot remember what they look like. I wish so hard that they could meet my lovely bride to be, but alas it was not meant to be. Tomorrow I will be surrounded by friends and family, and hopefully Mama and Papa will be smiling down on me from Heaven.

April 1927: 20 years old

I am so proud, for Pasquelina has given me a son, and we have named him Raymondo Joseph. He will be christened when he is a little stronger. We are living now on Cedar Street, in a fine but modest home; a good home to bring up many children. I am still baking with my brother, however, he has not been feeling well as of late, and I am very worried. I have written to Marianetta and Antonette to tell them about our brother, they will come immediately for a visit.   Although we do not have much room for them here with the arrival of Ramondo, we will make do.

October 1929: 22 years old

I have once again been blessed with another son to carry on the family name. This is very important to me, for there is only Alphonse and I to carry on our name, but we will not survive forever. Our second son, named Joseph Alphonse was born at home today. It is strange to have a baby in the house again, for Ramondo is getting so big, so fast. We speak Italian to him, and he is picking up many words very fast. His first word was Mama. Oh how he made Pasquelina proud!

November 1933: 26 years old

Today we received a note from Raymondo’s teacher saying that she must come over at once to speak to Pasquelina and I about Raymondo. I can only hope that it is nothing serious and that no shame has been brought to the family. I have told Raymondo to go to his room until after his teacher has left just in case the news is not good.

Pasquelina and I have been blessed with three more sons: Alberto Renaldo born in November, 1931, Renaldo Armando born in July, 1932 and Thomas Guisseppe born in May of 1933.

November 1933: 26 years old

Raymondo’s teacher has informed us that we must speak English to Raymondo at home all the time, as it is not enough to just speak the language in school. Pasquelina is very upset at this, for this is our one connection to our homeland. But alas, I remember my teacher saying the very same thing. Pasquelina and I will give it much thought before we make a decision to further cut our ties to our homeland of Italy.

September 1934: 27 years old

I have a new job working for the WPA which has been started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I make $13.00 a week. Brother Alphonse has sold the bakery, as he is too sick to take care of it and I must make more money than the bakery can give me to support my large family. So I have taken a government job, and hopefully this will lead to many more job possibilities for me.

December 1934: 27 years old

Today, the WPA dropped off a large box of toys for the children for Christmas. Pasquelina told Ramondo not to tell the children where the toys had been hidden, which was on the top shelf of his closet. So what do you think he did?

April 9, 1938: 30 years old

A sad day has come. Brother Alphonse has passed away, on the very day a son was born. He has been sick on and off now for about ten years because of a heart ailment, and I feel the loss very much. He is now with our Mama and Papa, looking down proudly. But for every man who has passed, one will come anew. Pasquelina has given birth to yet a sixth son named Roberto Ricardo in March of 1934. Unfortunately, Pasquelina miscarried between the births of Roberto and our first daughter Dorothy Maria, named after my Mama, born in August of 1936. She is the apple of my eye. I have always wanted many sons, but there is something special about my Dorothy. Ricardo Donato is the blessed one, born on the day of the death of my beloved brother Alphonse. He must be special to have come to us on such a sad day. There will be no more children for us, as we feel this is certainly a sign. We have been very lucky to bring into the world so many healthy children that we do not dare to press our luck.

May 1938: 31 years old

Pasquelina is very sick today, and I must go to work, so I have kept Raymondo out of school to go to the store. This is a big test of responsibility for our Raymondo, and I am positive he will do well, for he always helps his Mama and Papa when we need him to. I have given him a list of vegetables and other assorted groceries to take to the store and purchase. I have given him instructions to prepare the food so that when I come home, I can show him how to cook a good meal for his family.

December 1939: 32 years old

I believe my son has embarrassed me very much. Last week I came home from the bakery to find a sled in our hallway. I knew that this sled did not belong to any of my children, so I asked my oldest where the sled came from. Raymondo replied that the sled was lent to him by a friend. We will see.

December 1939: 32 years old

Well, that sled is still here one week later, and I cannot imagine someone giving up such a beautiful sled for so long, so I told my Raymondo that he better tell me the truth, or he will get a beating. He told me that he stole the sled. I told him that he must put the sled back in the child’s hallway immediately, and to never do such a thing again. Hopefully we will not be found out, for this could give the family a very bad reputation. Stealing is a very dishonorable thing to do in this neighborhood. I do not bring up thieves in my family.

June 1941: 34 years old

We have moved to a larger home to accommodate our large family. Our new home is on Spruce street. Our oldest son, Raymondo has left school to help his Mama and Papa support the family. He has been a big help around the house, and I know no responsibility is too great for my son. Besides, is there ever such a thing as too much responsibility? He also does things for the markets down the hill. He can not keep much money for himself however, for a child with too much money to spend becomes a very spoiled child.

June 1944: 37 years old

Another sad day, yet also a very proud one. My oldest son Raymondo, now 17 years old, has signed up to serve his country in the Navy. He has been sent to Samson, New York for boot camp, and his Mama and I already miss him. But he must make his own decisions now, for he is all grown up. We still have a full house, and the responsibility of helping Pasquelina around the house and with the children has fallen upon Joseph. Joseph does not seem as responsible as Raymondo, he seems very wild. But I am sure he will do his best, as I have brought up all my children to work their hardest at everything.

The Culture of Only-ness

Maia Healy at XCaret as a true butterfly

Lonely Only?

Only. I’m not fond of the word. It has such a negative connotation. It boxes us in, suggesting that what we have is not enough. Take for instance the phrase “Beauty is only skin deep”? I know a lot of beautiful people, who may be considered by some to be quite average looking, but their soul – what’s on the inside – makes them beautiful to me.

And what if you add the words “child” and “syndrome” to it? Only-Child Syndrome. Sounds nasty, doesn’t it? My child is an only child…does she have it? How about your child? The phrase is meant to express the behavior of a child with no siblings; the stereotypical only-child may be spoiled, isn’t a good sharer, and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Is the phrase out-dated? You betcha.

The fact of the matter is that only-child families are the trend. They’re called “single-child families” and, their on the rise. Over the years, we’re subtly made to feel guilty for not procreating. I’ve been told that there is always enough love in your heart for another child. And I know you’ve all heard the “So, when are you going to have another?” question. If you’re like me, the phrase hangs heavily in the air, while your wheels turn quickly to come up with an acceptable answer. Others offer the only-child scenario as cruel and selfish .

Then you may have, as I do, that little voice that occasionally speaks up when you least expect it. The voice says that I’m a good Mom – am I denying myself the privilege of raising another “good kid”? And more importantly, am I denying my child the right to share her life with a sibling, to have that constant playmate, and another connection when it’s time for her parents to leave this world?

I came to this Earth with God-given free will. There were no rules about how many children to have – the decision is solely mine. The other day, I was watching former President Clinton give an interview with David Letterman, and he mentioned that he and Hillary had always felt that raising Chelsea was their most important job. I’ve always liked the man, but I admired him even more for saying that – it echoed my feelings in that I’ve been given the privilege of bringing a child into this world.

And here’s the part where I’m brutally honest: I am selfish. There. I’ve said it. It’s easier for me to provide for my single-child in the toughest of economies. It’s easier for me to go out to dinner as a family – and it’s certainly cheaper. It’s easier for me to have a “date night”. My husband is easier to love. The future of paying for college tuition and a wedding isn’t that scary to me either.

My daughter is neither spoiled or coddled. She accepts the word “no”, and hears it often, especially on Saturday mornings when she’s watching commercials for the hottest toys. And so, I’ve made peace with that inner-voice. It no longer fills my head and heart with guilt over my decision to quit while I’m ahead. So my child is not an only-child, she is a child living singly in a home filled with love and ease.

And let’s just leave that only “only-child syndrome” as a phrase best used when describing my cat. But that’s a story for another day.

The Tough Love Job of Patient Advocacy

Jeff and Steph Healy are Team Aztec Design Services, LLC

Tough Love & Patient Advocacy

I’m hoping (and praying) that I’m finished with a very tough job. No, it’s not setting up a Google Campaign, or brainstorming a logo design with a new client. What’s the job? It’s not what you’d expect. It’s the full-time job of advocating for my husband, who was hospitalized twice in six weeks. After not feeling well on and off for about a month, I came home to find Jeff writhing with stomach pain, a pain that would take days of morphine drips to get under control. It’s taken me a few weeks to sit down and write this; admittedly, I took better care of my family than I did myself during the ordeal. But it’s important that I share this with you, in the hopes of preventing future frustrations for my friends, family and clients.

Our first visit to Westerly Hospital was in the early evening hours, and getting information from the staff was like pulling teeth. I found myself asking over and over “Where are you taking him?”, “What’s next?” and “Any results yet?”. Not a single bit of information came freely, and answers would come in days, not hours. The doctors seemed like ghosts to me; my visits in the ensuing days came too early or, more often then not, I had “just missed” them. I made some critical errors though: I was trying to take care of Maia as much as I could, trying to keep things normal for her. But there was nothing normal about this situation; I should have relied a lot more on my family. I desperately wanted to be part of what was going on with and around Jeff, but I was stubborn. I’d learn my lessons the hard way and spent more than a few nights awake, alone and frustrated.

Procrastination is not in my vocabulary, and my clients and family will attest to that. I want results and I want them fast, and I do whatever it takes to get them. I’m not very good at relying on others to give me the information I need. The question of what was causing the stomach pain was answered quickly: Pancreatitis. The reason behind it was much slower to come. After CT Scans, Ultra Sounds, an MRI and finally an Endoscopy, the culprit was revealed three full days later: The Gall Bladder. It was uneventfully removed a few days later.

When it came to the second visit just five short weeks later, I felt like a pro. The two visits were like night and day, literally and figuratively. Jeff was again admitted to Westerly Hospital, this time in the morning. The nurse in the ER was on top of things and I knew what was going on every step of the way. I was allowed to stay with Jeff during the tests because this time, I asked. I knew where the warm blankets were when Jeff got cold, I knew where I could (and couldn’t) get the best cell phone signal, and I called on family to help out with Maia so I could concentrate on taking care of Jeff.

To be continued…