Thanksgiving Day – The True Meaning & What It’s Now Become

Even though the leaves have all fallen, the air is crisper than ever and we’ve all pulled our down coats out of storage, the cold temperatures signify that the holidays are around the corner. Ever since we experienced that first 30 degree day this season, I got excited to know that Thanksgiving would be here before we know it. And here we are, Thanksgiving Day – a true start to one of my favorite times of the year.

Thanksgiving is about being with your family – and not spending it with them in line at a store.  Thanksgiving is about truly giving thanks for all the good things in our lives.  This year, I have more to be grateful for than ever before.

I had the opportunity to explore new places this year – San Francisco, Savannah, and soon to come, Dominican Republic.  I found a great first home for Adam and I.  I grew in my role at Townsquare Media and received a promotion.  I went through six grueling months of sending resumes, networking, and interviewing to lead me to a fantastic new job at Salesforce – one that was well worth the wait.  Adam and I bought our very first brand new car.  And last but not least, both of my parents were in separate car accidents in the last two weeks and what I’m truly grateful for more than anything, is that they weren’t seriously hurt.  It’s never easy to receive an alarming phone call from the ER.  I’m thanking God today especially that my parents came out alive and well.

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Thanksgiving Day started with mainly good intentions.  Nowadays, it’s still about giving thanks and gratitude, but now mixed with the greediness of consumer goods.  I saw on the news today people lined up at Best Buy, K-Mart and Target to get the first hands on the latest big screen TVs.  This really isn’t anything new – this has been happening for years and years but this is one of the first that those retails stores opened their doors before 8pm.  And this was the first time that I actually saw on TV a little girl saying that her family was celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow so that her family could go shopping tonight.  How backwards is that?  Even worse?  I saw one of the first people in line at a Target in Chicago with a baby in her arms.  A BABY.  Who had been out since 11am.  In the cold.

It’s incredible to me the level of absurdity it is when people stand in lines for electronic devices, home goods, etc. any day of the year, but even more so on this day of thanks.  I don’t care how great of a deal you’re getting – you’re just enabling these big corporations to open their doors earlier and earlier each year.  Soon enough, these businesses will be open all day on Thanksgiving!

My point is, I wish our country could back track and return back to the days when Black Friday was Black Friday and Thanksgiving was Thanksgiving.  Nowadays, Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday – Black Thursday.  Those days of families around the nation sitting at their dinner table with loved ones are undoubtedly gone for America.  One thing is for sure – I will never step foot into a store on Thanksgiving and instead use the day as it was originally established – to be with family and friends, to give thanks and create everlasting memories.

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Holiday Cheer and What It Really Means

Growing up as a kid, I always knew what to put on my Christmas list. There was always multiple things I wanted and asked for – from a furby (heard those are having a comeback this year and they are still creepy, if you ask me) to a cell phone to a snowboard. Being the spoiled girl that I was, I usually got what I asked for.

I came across a quote yesterday that read:

I think as you grow older, your holiday wish list gets smaller, because the things you really want and need cannot be bought. 

I read that and thought to myself, how true is that?  As I’ve gotten older and moved away from home, I’ve really come to learn the true meaning of Christmas (and the holidays in general, for all my non-Christian friends out there) – it’s a time that really does bring families together – and that’s what counts.  The holidays are a time for traditions, seeing family you haven’t seen in months, making treats and goodies together, reminiscing on past holidays, remembering those we have lost and can no longer be with us, and forming new memories to carry along with us for the years to come. The holidays can definitely be bittersweet, especially when you begin to think about the people you wish could be with you, but can’t.

This will be the second Christmas my grandma Crivello that I was closest to will not be here. It will be the fifteenth Christmas my grandpa Crivello and grandma Nash will not be here. And it will be the fourth decade grandpa Nash will not be here (clearly who I never met). It’s thoughts like those that bring a tear to my eye, but then I realize that I have so many others to celebrate the holidays with.  I’ve been so blessed with the family I was born into and the friends I have met throughout the years. It’s when you really sit back and think about the people you have in your life that you truly become aware of how blessed you are.

Not only are the holidays about spending time with family and close friends, it’s about a time of giving. Nowadays, i get way more excited to give gifts than I am to receive them. I absolutely love the feeling I get when I watch a loved one open a gift I bought or made especially for them and see their face light up with excitement and gratitude.  There is nothing better (plus, I always feel awkward opening presents now with people watching me).  What’s even better than all of that, is giving gifts to those I do not know.

Throughout the year, I’m constantly seeing the homeless across the streets of Chicago. Many people ask me why I always give my money to them.  They’ll say things like “You don’t know if they’re actually homeless!” or “You’re just enabling them to not get a job” or “That’s a waste of money!”  I don’t know what it is, but I seriously feel the heartbreak when I pass these homeless and hungry people on the streets.  Who knows, maybe some of them are faking it.  Maybe I am getting duped.  But what about those that really aren’t faking it?  What if they’re constantly passed day by day, with only change to spare?  That’s what I think when I give my money away.  The holidays just make me even more giving, especially this winter since it’s been so frigidly cold.  I hope the dollars I donate to them help them to at least seek shelter for a night to get a warm meal and a warm bed.  I haven’t really counted how much I’ve given away this season, but I can tell you it’s probably a lot.  I don’t care. My money is being well-spent.

The holidays are a time of a giving. Since I’ve started my new job this year, I’ve had more time to volunteer, something I really love to do.  I have been volunteering at PAWS Chicago (definitely need to do more than I have), fostered kittens with my roommate, and today, I volunteered at Feed the Starving Children in Libertyville. About a month ago, I knew I wanted to volunteer while I was home, either over Thanksgiving or Christmastime. I found this opportunity online and really didn’t know what to expect.  I had asked my dad to accompany me since my mom and sister had to work today. It was eye-opening and actually a really fun, rewarding time.

Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit organization committed to feeding children hungry in body and spirit. Volunteers hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and the organization ships these meals to nearly 70 countries around the world. My dad and I joined a team of other two other families, along with 100+ other volunteers.

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Today’s volunteering was different too – everyone had to donate at least $50. So, the fact that 121 volunteers came out today and then donated money, just speaks volumes of people’s hearts during the holiday season.  At the end of packaging and packing the food, we found out how many boxes we filled.  Today alone we packed 163 boxes (36 food packages each), accounting for 35,208 meals.  These can feed 96 children for a year.  In donations today alone, we raised $7,745.76.  I couldn’t believe it.  The power of people coming together and donating only two hours of their time changed lives.

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 I left the building with the biggest smile on my face, feeling so good about how that organization works and knowing how many children they save each year.

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Click here to learn more about how you can become involved.

Giving to those that need it most is what real holiday cheer is all about.  I am so thankful I am able to help others, even if it may be in the smallest way possible. With that, I’ll leave this quote by the great UCLA coach John Wooden:

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

And today, was a perfect day.

 

Luck of the Draw

My life is like a deck of cards. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. Some card players think it’s all about the strategy to win. Others think it’s pure luck. I’m one of those people that believe in superstition; believe in fate; believe in luck
 
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I am fully convinced that I have permanent bad luck. Things tend to happen at the most inconvenient times for me. For awhile, my friends thought I was full of shit — until things started happening more and more frequently. It’s now a joke that I’m “Bad Luck Nash” and my friends like to make fun of me for it. 

I got mono right before my 18th birthday and my senior homecoming. United Airlines lost my luggage for a day when I went to Colorado for the first time. I managed to find out that I have tendinitis in both of my knees when I was training for the half-marathon (not to mention my knee gave out during my eight mile run and I had to walk 4 miles home). I went through four laptops in college – yes, FOUR. My last one was stolen when my apartment was broken into my senior year of college. The last apartment I lived in, I dealt with rats, tarantula-sized spiders, and flooding. I got my wallet stolen the night my boyfriend and I became official. And don’t even get me started with transportation in general – somehow, I consistently have delays on trains, planes, whatever. You name it.

My luck of the draw. The card deck of my life has shown me that yes, I have been very unlucky, but I’ve also been very fortunate to land a great job, find a special guy, receive a quality education, travel to many cities I’ve always wanted to go, be there to witness my grandmother’s last breath. My unlucky moments have reminded me to cherish my lucky moments. I used to get extremely frustrated when all of these bad things happened to me and I would let it ruin my day, week, month. Now, I can’t help but embrace my unluckiness. 

I think how you deal with a situation really shows the type of person you are. So maybe in that card game, your luck was terrible [or your strategy- however you like to see it]. Are you a sore loser and become defensive? Or do you sit back, throw your hands up, and applaud your opponent all in good spirit?

I welcome my unluckiness now. It makes me who I am. It makes for a good story. And you know what? It’s ironically made me a more positive person with a healthier outlook on life. 

 

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Me as a freshman at the University of Illinois, embracing the rainy day, cheering on my Illini.

The Beauty of Ancestry – The Crivellos

Over the last few months, I’ve become more acquainted with my family roots on both sides (Nash and Crivello).

I think my interest particularly sparked when I was at my Crivello family reunion back in June.  I was able to see and spend time with the part of my family I rarely see but always learn to appreciate each time I see them.  I found out that my mom’s first cousin, Charlie, researched the Crivello side of the family for years and ultimately wrote a book of his findings.  After my mom bought me a copy of the book in July, I became more and more engrossed to find out what the Crivello family was like years and years ago.  The data dates back to the early 1700s, where the Crivello lineage began in Termini Imerese, Sicily, Italy.

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I was able to find out that my great-grandfather, Michele Crivello traveled to America in March, 1894, arriving at Ellis Island.  He then began his produce wholesale business in Alton, IL, where my grandfather, Leo Crivello, and his 11 brothers and sisters also worked growing up. The picture below is inside of the shop (which was a single room), circa 1920. It’s been fascinating to read this over 200-page book my mom’s cousin wrote to learn more about the Crivello family history. Image

My grandfather was born in 1909, which is crazy since most of my friends’ grandparents were born around the 1930s. Because my grandfather was much older when I was born, I didn’t get the opportunity to really get to know him and to hear stories of his past.  He died in 1999, when I was only 10 years old.  Luckily, my parents, sister, and I continued to visit Alton since my grandmother still lived there, which also gave me opportunities to see my great-uncle Francis and great-uncle Gene. They would tell me stories about my grandpa as I grew up, and also about WWII, since all three of them had been in the war. I had the opportunity to go to Alton in December 2011 with friends and jumped at the chance to visit my uncles. I was able to meet with Francis and hear more about the “good ol’ days.”

My great-uncles’ favorite story about my grandpa was the fact that he was a skilled billiards player and even had the chance to play against the world-renowned William Hoppe during WWII while on tour – and beat him! Below is a picture of my grandpa with Hoppe himself.

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Leo Crivello (my grandpa) was also selected by General Dwight Eisenhower to travel around the U.S. during WWII and speak at every major ammunition plant in an effort to encourage citizens to buy more war bonds. Ironically enough, my grandpa wasn’t supposed to go, but was chosen once one of the men opted to stay in Europe. That man died in battle two days later. That could have been my grandpa. Then my mom wouldn’t have been born and well, I wouldn’t be writing this today. It’s mind boggling to think that some choices unknowingly can be that cut-throat – Life or Death. One newspaper captured a shot of my grandpa in Denver, talking to the workers at Rocky Mountain arsenal.

ImageMany of you probably don’t know, but my great-uncle Gene (the last of the 12 Crivello children) and me have become pen pals ever since I was in Alton in June. It started with just a “It was so good to see you” letter but it has turned into much, much more. Gene has sent me countless articles and pictures about my grandpa, the war, etc. The latest letter I received from him was yesterday, with an article/picture of himself with the famous Ralph Manza (below).

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Apparently they had met in the war when they were stationed together in Iceland and became close friends. Together they performed three musical comedies for the troops during the war. Ralph Manza went on to become a popular actor after the war and him and my uncle remained friends. I had no idea about this until I saw the article.

From reading the Crivello history book, to hearing stories from my great-uncles, to receiving letters from Gene, I’ve learned quickly over the past few years how remarkable the Crivello family truly was and still is today. I am beyond thankful to have this heritage and to call it my own.

Along with that article Gene sent me yesterday, he also sent me a felt version of the Crivello “coat of arms.” Let me just say, I am damn proud to be a Crivello.

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Technology’s Tight Grip

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With the burst of the new iOS and iPhones, I’m not entirely surprised at the mania revolving getting your hands on the latest and greatest. This is especially true in my career field, where you’re constantly expected to be on top of what the newest thing on the street is. I’m not hating on Apple by any means, because I’m an avid Apple user and will be loyal for many years to come. But the fact that people are literally standing in line today to be the first of their friends to get their greedy hands on the new iPhones just disgusts me. Whatever happened to the days of standing in line for the newest Harry Potter book? Those days aren’t that far behind us, but it seems like a lifetime ago. Technology is the newest devil to grab hold of us.

The iOS7 debuted this week and I’m pretty sure I’m probably one of the last people who hasn’t downloaded it yet. Even my baby boomer father already has. I just don’t see the urgent rush for it. There are many other things I’m more concerned about – the 13-person shooting in Chicago last night, the homeless man on the street that I pass everyday, the endless debate regarding Syria. And the world continues on, along with the never-ending lines outside every Apple store in America today.

What’s even worse than how much technology has affected us all, it’s how much technology has affected the children of the world. I came across this YouTube video that Mashable posted today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTpXVv-DaBQ. Watch it now, seriously. 

Okay, so you’ve watched it. What are your thoughts? How pathetically sad is that a 4-year-old knows the difference between iOS6 and iOS7 and is expressing his disdain of the changes? These children are turning into menacing technological-dependent monsters. A few months ago, I was out to dinner and kept hearing annoying cartoon sounds. I perplexedly turned around to find where the sound was coming from. There it was. An iPad in the hands of a two or three year old, out to dinner with his parents. What happened to the days where a child had books or toys to play with at dinner, or simply, NOTHING? And just had to sit there? 

Funny enough, I had asked my mom last night whether or not I was a happy baby, just out of curiosity. She told me I was most of the time, except it seemed that I’d get fussy and start to cry every time my parents sat down to eat. I wonder, if that time was fast-forwarded today, if my parents would just shove an iPad in my hands to shut me up. I hope not, at least. Now, I don’t want to judge the parents of today, especially when I am not a parent yet (and won’t be for another 5+ years), but it seems like more and more parents are allowing their kids to have iPads or iPhones to play with as a form of entertainment, so they’re not forced to watch them 24/7. Or it could be that excuse that they use it as a ‘learning tool.’ I’m not buying that crap. I didn’t have an iPad growing up and I learned from books and educational toys and I think I turned out just fine. It’s one thing when parents are genuine about using the technological tools for education, but it’s another when they use that as an excuse just so they don’t have to deal with their kids for a few hours.

I’m constantly wondering how the children of today are going to turn out as they get older. That generation is undoubtedly going to be more tied to technology than my own generation. I’ve already noticed ‘Millennials’ quickly losing the face-to-face interaction and the inability to hold a conversation with a stranger or afraid to meet new people because of the “social awkwardness.” What happens when literally everyone’s face is in smack-dab in front of a technological device? 

As we ponder that alarming question, we’ll continue on in this technologically-crazed world.

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A Letter from September 5, 2012

So about two years ago, I discovered this website, FutureMe.org, where you can write a letter to yourself and pick the date to have it delivered to your e-mail. The last two years, I’ve written letters to myself and had them sent on my birthday. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the letter I wrote to myself last year on my birthday in my e-mail today, because I completely had forgotten that I had written it.
It’s funny how in a year, so much can change, but remain the same. I just want to put it out there (as I’ve said time and time again) how blessed I feel to live the life I live and to have the family and friends that are always there for me. I am so, so thankful for everything I have, especially when I’m constantly reminded how lucky I am when I see homeless people living on the street and hear about the murders that happen on a daily basis in this city. My heart pains for the awful things that happen in the world and I hope someday, I can make a difference in some way. 
Thank you to my dearest family and friends for the wonderful birthday wishes today. I can’t tell you how much I truly appreciate it all!
Without further ado….
Dear FutureMe,

Wow, I cannot believe another year has already passed. You are officially 25 – time for that quarter life crisis. I wonder how much you are freaking out!

As I sit here on my 24th birthday, I really can’t complain about how my life has turned out thus far. I’ve officially moved out of the parents’ house and am living on my own with Morgan, who’s been such a great roommate. We’ve sure had our fair share of experiences already in Chicago. It wasn’t easy moving out and saying good-bye to Mom and Dad, but I’ve learned to really live on my own the past few months and be completely independent and responsible. It’s actually fairly refreshing. Nevertheless, their relationship with me is one I cherish most. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without them. Never forget that. They raised me into the person I am and for that, I’ll always be grateful for them always being by my side and supporting me.

Kerri and I have gotten closer over the year with her now living in Chicago, and I hope that relationship still remains dear and near to your heart.

My job is pretty meh at this point, but am casually looking around to see what else is out there. I know I’m deemed for more. I have yet to travel the world and help people, which really is my dream. I hope this letter finds you well and you have started to follow this dream of yours.

This is the first birthday without Grandma. With her passing away 2 weeks ago, things have been rough. It’s hard to swallow that she’s really gone, but I know deep down she is happier where she is. May she RIP always, as I know she will be with me along the paths I take in this life, along with my other grandparents that have passed away.

This past year, I’ve really learned who my real and true friends are (Brittany, Tarah, Kaitlin, Lindsey, Sarah, Morgan, Elle, Niki, Lauren, Meg, Camille, Mike Bauer, Matt Arce, etc.). It’s been hard realizing that some friendships truly just do fall apart. I’ve learned to keep those friends that keep me close to them, close to my heart. I really do feel blessed for the friendships that I have.

And lastly, my amazing, caring, loving, boyfriend Adam. How we found each other and developed our beautiful relationship is really beyond me but I thank my lucky stars every day for bringing him to me. He has been everything I’ve wanted in a man and more. He has made me the happiest I have ever been with someone and I’m praying, PRAYING, you are both still together and loving life together. You’ve deserved the best and I really think you’ve found it. He’s The One. I love him SO much.

This year has been a series of highs and lows – new relationship, new friendships, new living situation, deaths, awful days at work, etc. However, no matter how tough things have got, you have remained composed and strong. You’ve tackled every obstacle that’s come your way and I hope that’s still the same on your 25th birthday. Keep your head high always and keep a smile on your face.

I really hope this letter finds you well and that you are just as happy as you are on your 24th birthday. Life is great. xoxo

Things I’ve Learned in My 20’s.

I’ve become a huge fan of Thought Catalog and I came across one of my favorite articles yet the other day – something to the effect of Things You Learn in Your 20s.  As I read each of the bullets, I realized, shit, this is a lot of stuff I’ve learned so far in my life. I’ve taken my view on each of the extremely accurate points below:
·         Telling your parents that you are just not going to agree with them about certain things (especially regarding your lifestyle choices), and that you are ready to deal with the consequences that might bring in your relationship with them.
o   It took many years to convince my parents that I was capable of making my own choices, and at that, if I was wrong in those choices, that I would face the consequences. My parents were especially leery on the idea of me quitting my first job out of school and moving to another that had a few unknowns in their eyes. After much convincing that the move was a good one on my part, I made the decision and couldn’t be happier. Sometimes, I have an intuition about things that my parents just don’t always understand. However, there have been times where I have made decisions I later would have done differently – but those decisions turned into learning experiences. It’s just a part of growing up.
·         Removing friends from your life that you grew up with who are simply no longer good for you, even if you have known them so long as to consider them just a part of your life — something you assume will always be there.
o   I’ve unfortunately encountered this – numerous times at that – which is never enjoyable.  Part of growing up is just realizing that people do change, for the good and for the bad.  And it’s one of those decisions you just have to make whether or not you want to keep them in your life. 
·         Explaining to someone who is looking to date you seriously that you are just not in a phase of your life where you can offer that to them, and that your own development is more important than being in a relationship right now.
o   Sometimes, we just need to put ourselves first.  Being in a relationship is a compromise – you sometimes do need to make little sacrifices to keep each other happy. And I think it’s okay to be selfish every now and then and take time for yourself, even if that means passing someone by.  If it’s meant to be, it will be.  Never sacrifice your goals or dreams for someone else.
·         Moving somewhere where there is more opportunity for your professionally, but where you are an absolute stranger and have no comfort zone.
o   My current job was one where I knew I’d have more opportunities in my profession to meet more people, make my mark in the company, gain recognition, and have a more healthy life/work balance.  However, being in ad sales is a lot different than being on the agency side.  It was a bit scary moving to the “dark side,” but I’ve been very happy in my decision.  I truly believe it’s good to be a little scared and out of that ‘comfort zone’ to push yourself that much farther.
·         Accepting that you cannot party in the way you used to, and that you are going to have to start turning down some nights which people will tease you about because your sleep has become your most precious commodity.
o   I think my friends are all slowly starting to realize we cannot drink or stay out late like we used to in our college days (still cannot believe it’s been 2 years since we graduated…).  It’s true that sleep has become more precious, especially from the long days we put in at our workplace every week.  It’s happened many a times that I’ve turned down going out so I can rather watch a movie and go to bed early.  I used to get ridiculed more so a few years ago but my friends have caught up with me and now it’s just a mutual understanding.
·         Realizing that some friends are going to end up with people that you know, in your heart, are not a right decision for them — and that this is just a mistake they are going to have to make on their own.
o   A few of my friends are dating or have ended up with people I didn’t necessarily agree was a good fit for them. But it’s one of those things where you may voice your opinion, and let them make their own decisions. As hard as it is to sit back and let them go about their love life that you know may not be good for them, it’s something you need to let them do and learn on their own.
·         Understanding that sometimes, when people tell you that they are too busy to see you, they really mean it. Their lives are simply changing in a way that may mean you will not be able to be as close or see each other as frequently as was once the case.
o   Unfortunately, this is unbelievably true.  I feel like I always have something going on, whether it’s work-related, taking care of myself and exercising, social events, or simply just having that ‘me’ time. I’ve noticed the past few years that it has become increasingly harder and harder to make plans with friends.  I find myself planning weeks in advance with friends just to put something on the calendar so I make time with them.  But I think that’s what it’s all about.  As long as you find and make the time to see those special friends of yours, that’s what truly counts.  That’s what true friendship really is.
·         Watching friends you love move away, and knowing that they will likely never come back.
o   This has always been tough.  This really started in high school when a few of my friends moved and I knew right then and there, I’d probably never see them again.  We’d try to keep in touch but eventually, we’d get immersed into our daily lives and lose track of each other.  College came and I found myself sadly saying good-bye to some of my best friends as they went across the country to follow their dreams.  And after college, I had many friends move to other states to be with their significant others, to a new job, to a new opportunity.  It’s never easy, but I’ve realized that’s a part of life.  What matters most is if those are your true best friends, you do everything in your power to stay in contact with them.  Two of my best friends live in CO and I make a conscious effort to talk to them when I can.
·         Realizing that some people are making the transition from “crazy kid who parties a little too much” to “person who has a serious problem with drinking/drug use,” and that there may be nothing you can do to help them.
o   I had a friend dealing with a drug abuse problem in high school and it was so hard to watch him do what he did to his body.  I remember visiting him in the hospital on my 16th birthday and thinking, I can’t imagine how he’s feeling.  I felt helpless though.  I tried everything to be there for him, but he eventually just pushed me away.  I tried for months to save that friendship, but ultimately, I left that friendship in the past.
·         Realizing that you are what you once considered “a grown-up age,” and that you do not feel “grown-up” in the least.
o   I am officially a “grown-up.” Someone living on her own, paying her own bills.  Yet, I do not 100% feel grown-up.  Yes, I’m turning 25 this year, but yet, somehow, I still feel like my 16 year-old self, just more mature and wiser.  My mom has been telling me for years how she feels trapped in her body, but still feels like she’s in her 20s.  Is that how I’m gonna feel when I’m her age?  Will we ever FEEL old?
·         Living with debt.
o    Ah, debt.  When I made my venture to the University of Illinois, my parents warned me of the debt I would incur over the years.  I shrugged it off, waved my hand, and figured, ‘eh, I’ll deal with that later.’  Well, later is NOW.  I won’t go into details into how much debt I actually have, but it’s a generous amount. Each month I pay off my student loans, I wonder, is this number ever going to go down?  I feel like it doesn’t budge.  While I’m lucky to be paid well at my current job and still save money,  it’s still a huge nuisance to pay off my loans each month and to know the amount of debt I’m in.  I try not to think about it because when I do, I feel extremely stressed I’ll never pay it off  (even though I know I will someday…).
·         Accepting that, sometimes, your parents really were right about things.
o   My parents always loved gloating when they were right about things, hence why I never gave them the satisfaction of knowing they were right about things in my life.  My parents had warned me my freshman year of college not to go to AZ on a 3-day vacation to visit someone, but I didn’t listen and went anyway.  I had a good time, but things happened on that trip that I had not expected and brought me back into a flood of memories of pain and heartbreak. I knew my parents had been right.  But like I said before, sometimes you just need to make decisions for yourself and figure it all out on your own.  It’s just a huge part of growing into the person you’re going to become. (Side note: I later told my parents they had been right).
·         Leaving the sense of competition you have with your siblings and appreciating that you can all succeed on different terms and still be completely independent people.
o    I think my younger sister, Kerri, feels that she’s competing with the shadow I’ve left behind.  I never want her to feel that way and have always tried to be there for her, encouraging her in her choices, career path, but being that conscious she needs to leer her in the right direction.  It’s inevitable that parents are going to compare their children here and there, but I do know that my parents have finally realized that although my sister and I are very alike, we’re also very different.  We have different interests, career paths, and we handle and choose things differently for ourselves –  but that’s what makes us unique.
·         Falling for someone who is never going to be a good decision for you, but who you cannot help yourself in loving.
o   I fell for someone years ago that I couldn’t help my feelings.  At the time, I thought it was the best part of my life happening. Looking back on it, I realize that we really weren’t right for each other. However, I learned so much from that relationship that I have taken with me through the years and I’ll always look back on those times fondly.
·         Looking back on decisions you’ve made over the years and feeling like there were clear forks in the road where you took the wrong direction, but which you can never really loop back around to find again. Living with the person you have decided to become, even if that means having to start from square one at 25 years old.
o   Your 20s are a time to make mistakes, learn from them, make more mistakes, and learn even more from those to make the right decisions.  I’ll be 25 in September and as I reflect on my life and everything that’s happened in it, I can’t help but smile. Yes, I’ve made mistakes here and there – I’m not perfect by any means – but I’ve acquired so much.  I’ve learned so much academically, socially, personally that has made me into the person I am today. Sometimes I really sit back and look at what I’m doing in my life and wonder if I’m 100% happy.  Will I ever have to start back at square one in my career?  My relationship?  Obviously I can’t predict the future, so who knows.  But one thing is for sure: I’ve made it this far and in present-time, I’m content with my life and the choices I’ve made. 

Significant Choices.

It’s remarkable how we don’t realize how significant a choice can be until maybe weeks, months, even years later after it is made. As I make my way back to Champaign for my second Homecoming as an alum, I look back on the last 5-6 years of my life. 


I remember as a senior in high school, I ultimately had to convince my parents to let me go away to school. Had that never happened, who knows where I’d exactly be today. Once that convincing was settled (which took literally months), I had to make the big decision of where to spend my four years of college. I was sold on Nebraska, as I got a 4-year scholarship. When my parents shot it down because it was “too far,” I knew something better and bigger was on my horizon. Once I was accepted at the University of Illinois in December 2006, I knew it was inevitable that I would be attending. 
Little did I know how much of a life-changing experience that it would be. What an impact U of I has left on my memories, my heart, and my life. 
It led me to my career path of advertising, something I take great pride and joy in. I am fortunate for the type of experiences I got at U of I to lead me to wonderful internships, leadership positions, and ultimately, a job at the biggest media agency in the world. I feel extremely blessed. 
Not only did U of I give me the quality education needed to enter the real world, it led me to a number of my best friends that I still consider to still be the biggest part of my life. Had it not been for my first choice to live in the 6 pack,  the last minute decisions to join classes, or to join specific clubs, or to apply for certain jobs, I would have never met some of the most special people I hold dear to my heart. It’s amazing just how simple decisions like that can determine who you meet, and who you deem to be the people you want to hold close. 
And lastly, had I never gone to U of I, I would have never met my amazing friend, Lauren, who ultimately led me to the most perfect guy for me. I cannot thank her enough for introducing Adam to me. Not only do Adam and I share a number of interests, we now share an alma mater, which is something that will connect us for many years to come. 
As I make my way to Champaign today, I reflect on just how much the University of Illinois has offered me and how grateful I am for it all. Cheers to a weekend of fun, craziness, and most of all, remembering and creating memories. 
#Homecoming2012

The Good in Goodbye

Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day.

Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed and very dear.
– Anonymous

As some of you may or may not know, my grandmother passed away last Wednesday, August 22nd at 4:31pm.  My way of coping with things has always been writing and this time is no different.  As I look back at what happened on Wednesday, I still cannot believe how everything transpired so quickly.

A few weeks ago, my grandma got double pneumonia.  She was hospitalized for about a week.  I was able to come home that weekend and was able to see her.  She looked weaker than I had last seen her and I knew her catching pneumonia definitely wasn’t the best thing, especially at her old age of 97.  Unfortunately, the weekend ended and I had to make my way back to Chicago.  I visited my grandma right before I got back on the train.  My last words to her were “I love you” and her the same for me.  I will never forget that.

Last Tuesday night, my mother called me and warned me that the nursing home had called saying my grandma’s breathing had become more rapid.  It caught me off guard, but not to the point where I was really worried, especially when I didn’t get a call during the night or Wednesday morning from my mom.  I texted my mom once I was at work and asked how my grandma was doing.  She proceeded with a picture of her – the worst I have absolutely seen her.  I knew it was bad then.

My dad called within minutes, his voice cracking, advising me to come home.  I immediately started crying knowing it was only a matter of weeks for my grandma.  I left work and my sister grabbed the 1:35 Metra to Libertyville.  As we rode the train, we both talked about our upcoming weekends.  We really weren’t aware how bad it was with my grandma.

My dad picked us up at the train station and drove us to Winchester House, where my grandma had been a resident for nearly 2 years.  We arrived at 3pm.  As I entered the private room the staff had placed my mom in, I saw my grandma with her eyes closed, struggling to breathe.  The sight broke my heart.  Tears began falling down my cheeks.

I despise crying in front of others, letting people see that I’m broken.  I’ve always tried to remain strong in times of death, heartache, and sadness.  I felt so weak seeing my grandmother, especially as she lay in bed so weak herself and struggling to survive.

My family was in the room with her as she began to take her last breaths of life, mustering the courage to be strong.  Watching my mother cry for her mother was one of the worst moments of my life.  As I closed the door to the room for more privacy, my grandmother took her last breath at 4:31pm.  My family cried together, but knew my grandma was no longer suffering and no longer having to live in a nursing home.  I was so happy for her but so sad she was gone within an hour and a half of me arriving at the nursing home.

I know deep down, my grandma waited for my sister and I to get to the nursing home so we could be with her in her last moments of life.  I feel so blessed my dad called me and urged me to come home.  I feel so blessed my team at work allowed me to leave work.  I feel so blessed I made it in time and got to say my goodbye.

You know how they always say there’s never any good in goodbye?  I discovered the exact opposite of that on Wednesday.  As awful and hard it was to watch my grandmother die in my presence, we were able to say our goodbyes.  We were all around her when she died.  If I could put together a perfect death, that would be it.  I will thank God every day for giving us that opportunity.

Knowing she was my last grandparent in my life, it’s been hard to swallow she’s really gone.  She’s the grandparent I was closest to and the grandparent who was able to see a lot more of my life than my other grandparents. She was such a lovely old woman and I will miss her dearly.

RIP 
Josephine Crivello
4.6.15 – 8.22.12

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. 

Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. 

And we are never, ever the same.”

I remember reading the above quote in middle school and wondering what the hell it meant. No way did I believe that the friends I had at that time may not be my friends forever. As I’ve grown older, I’ve really come to know the meaning of this quote. The realization comes with age.  

My first realization was when I embarked on my journey to high school.  I went from a graduating 8th grade class of 56 to a whopping 1,000 in my class freshman year.  I told all my friends before high school started that we would stay in contact and that nothing would change.  Little did I know that was not the case. I saw them considerably less and after we all made new friends at our corresponding high schools, it got even harder to coordinate our schedules.

Throughout high school, I for the first time in my life learned the true meaning of heart break. But being the naive girl that I was, I thought we could be friends after the break up.  It took years to figure out that there was no way being friends was in the cards for us.  I closed that chapter of my life and said good-bye to a boy who had once been one of my best friends.

Then came college – an even bigger stepping stone in life.  Similarly to 8th grade, I thought I would manage to stay in contact with many of the people I had called friends all four years of high school.  It wasn’t too difficult in the beginning; I was able to balance keeping in touch with my friends at other universities, while creating new friendships on my campus.  However, as time went by, it became obvious that maintaining many of my high school friendships was faltering.  I quickly realized within a few months that the ones that cared most about my friendship would meet me halfway.

Now being almost a year out of college, I am a little shocked at how many friends I feel like I’ve “lost” since graduating.  It’s been consistently repeated to me throughout the years that those you meet in college are your friends for life.  Maybe so.  But I feel like whoever started that quote should have had a disclaimer: **Only SOME of those friends will be your friends for life.

I’ve learned especially over the past year that people just give up.  If you are both not meeting 100%, the friendship is going to sour.  We become preoccupied with our lives – our demanding jobs, our alone time with our significant other, making time for our new friends whether they be co-workers, neighbors, or randoms that you just met at the bar last Friday night.  Coming out of college, I had a list of friends I knew I wanted to speak to on a weekly basis to stay updated with each other’s lives.  The system worked well for about 6 months…then I realized it was becoming too demanding on both ends.  It’s just a bit of a punch in the stomach to think those friends you thought would be leaving “footprints” just come into your life for a short period of time and quickly go.  But to avoid any bitterness, I know that’s life.

Many of my previous friends have only been in a few chapters of my life.  They were there for a period of time, but I still have memories I can look back on with happiness. But then I have those friends that have stuck around and truly left footprints on my heart.  Some of my oldest friends date back to when I was in kindergarten (and even before that) – and that’s special.  With life comes a lot of realizations, but this has been one of the largest for me thus far.

With footprints,