May 5, 2015

Bereavement Notice & Birth Announcement

Bereavement Notice: Mourning the loss of the Lana’s beloved 20something years (June 19, 2005-June 19, 2015).  

It’s was a wild 10 years. College and graduate school were completed.  Took some left turns, but found a career she loves. Found a wonderful man.  Maintained friendships with friends, siblings and even became friends with parents.  Traveled the world but never overcame the fear to fly.  Had a lot of fun, on some occasions one too many cocktails and every summer spent plenty of nights in Gull Point and Dewey Beach.  The 20something years were a blast, but they are now peacefully laid to rest.  No time to repeat, only happily moving forward.  The 20something years are survived by all the great memories, photos and social media documentation, as well as the 30something years and the infinite future.  Donations and gifts of good will and positive energy are asked to be sent to the party welcoming the official birth of the 30something years.  RIP 20’s :)

As you can gather from the obituary above, in a little over a month, I am turning 30. It is the end of an era for “20something; Straight Up, On The Rocks, or With a Twist.”  But it is NOT the end of an era for my writing. So stay with me, and keep this URL listed in your favorites.

I never liked those women, who lied about their age.  I always think it’s odd that they’re so caught up by a number and ultimately refuse to age gracefully.  Instead, I admire the women who are not defined by age and proudly take it as it comes.   So, I will be “taking it as it comes” and making the graceful transition to 30something.  Therefore, the web address will stay the same, ( but the title will be moving into the next decade as “30something—Straight Up, On The Rocks, or With a Twist.” 

But before we forge into the 30something future, we have to have a formal send off to the 20’s… 

I think about all the changes that happened in my 20something years. Such a short amount of time, in the grand scheme of life, but riddled with change and self discovery.  Changes that are prevalent in this formidable decade; Style changes, education changes, location changes, relationship changes, career changes, family changes, friend changes, even tolerance changes. Almost everything has shifted, yet, something’s have stayed exactly the same—which is a either a breath of fresh air or a colossal disappointment.  It depends on where you stand.

Turning 20 seems like a distant memory of a young naive girl, who thought she knew it all. At 20 I was facing my final year in college.  I thought I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer when I graduated.  I thought I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted to marry.  I even thought that my student loans didn’t matter too much, because lawyers make great money, and down the road it wouldn’t be an issue.  I thought I knew exactly where my life would be by 25.  I thought I was sure of everything…

Turning 25, I accepted that many of my expectations were false and that many of my goals were not what I wanted.  I had changed.  I didn’t want the same things my 20year old self did.  I struggled with that.  I guilted myself for that.  By 25 I hated the idea of practicing law.  I was unhappy with every cookie-cutter man I dated.  I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in 5 years, let alone how I would pay off my student loan debt.  I wasn’t sure of much, but I was sure about writing.  So I wrote.  I wrote this blog.  I wrote for newspapers.  I wrote essays in graduate school.  I even wrote for glossy magazines.  Through that writing, I started to find myself.  Not the pretentious person I thought I was “supposed” to be at 20.  Instead, I found (what I believe) was the first sights of my real self.  The one I really liked. The one that I accepted; even though she hated law school.

By 29, I like to think of myself as a more refined, tough chick, who accepts that I have a lot to learn.  Who knows that sometimes listening is more important than talking, but that writing still trumps them both. J  I am now a woman who can wear the “hat” of a professional, but still needs the shoes of a girl who knows how to party. I can be silly and cut lose as easily as I can be serious and practical.  My writing outlet turned to a career of published work, journalism, and a professorship… so I can show all those “know it all” 20 year olds how to write.  Maybe it will save them too.  If not, at least their mothers will be able to appreciate a properly formatted sentence in her Mother’s Day card this weekend.

In the past decade, I have battled heavy legal books and filled empty computer screens with lovely words.  I have been a punching bag, a shoulder to lean on and an ear to bend—just as often as I’ve needed the bag, the shoulder and the ear.  I have been absolutely certain and I have been utterly lost.  I have felt the praise of highest honors and the desperation of not making the cut.  I have welcomed nephews and a niece and I have said goodbye to all of my grandparents.  I have learned to hate hospitals as much as I am grateful for them.  I have learned to hug the people I love a little tighter and a little longer.

I have neatly folded loss, disappointment, “what could have beens,” uncertainty and fear into piles, and gingerly packed them into the personal baggage of my life.  But, I wouldn’t change a thing.  You need to be faced with real life decisions, lose some sleep, and pick a route to charge down. You need bad dates, mistakes and heartache.  You need to be startled and feel off center, so you know how to ground yourself.  You need scares and prayers and hands to hold in the dark.  

In fact, I truly believe it’s the disappointments, the harsh realities, the failures, and the unexpected events that shape us into who we are.  I also believe that 20something is the first time when life really gives you a good smack in the face.  I always liked a quote that said, “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”  I think this is true for all 20somethings. We’re all out there, newly testing the hot waters, discovering our strengths.

As my 20something years come to a close, what I’ve learned is that there is no magic formula or definitive path to follow.  There is no resolution or ending.  It’s a learning process.  School’s out and life is on.  We need to be reminded to reflect and slow down, but ultimately the goal is that of self-discovery.  You have to be happy and you have to live a life you’re proud of.   You are the only one staring back at yourself in the mirror each morning.  I’ve learned that we have to take the time to understand ourselves.  We cannot be frightened by the sounds of our own silence.  We have to love being with others as much as we love alone time.   We have to like ourselves, and be good to ourselves, because if we’re not, no one else will be.  When we do that, we can begin to achieve our own personal peace.

It will be different for all of the 20somethings.  For we are all struggling to find our place and prepare for our future.  We are facing unbearable truths that as we get older, so do our parents, aunts and uncles. And as excited as we are about the future, that truth makes us long for the comfort of the past.  We forge ahead anyway. We try to push the truths of age and ending childhood into the backs of our minds and strive to make memories—hopefully even a difference.  We attempt to overcome the stereotypes of the “supposed to’s” laden on our generation.  

We try to take new paths, but hold onto the past.  We seek adventure, but also comfort and familiarity.  We try to avoid failure, but know that we have to take big risks.  It’s a giant contradiction…we’re old enough to know that, but we’re still young enough to hope that we will do it differently…so we try. 

Ironically, just as we start to feel confident about our place and purpose as a 20something, we remember that change is the only constant thing in life.  Before we know it we’re 29 and we realize 30something is just around the corner.

So, I can honestly look back at the changes in the past decade and appreciate my 20’s.  I finished school.  I found a career I love, where I honestly feel tired and fulfilled at the end of the day.  I found a man who loves me, who I genuinely and infinitely love in return.  I have travelled the country and even the world.  I have understood the joy of adding to a family and the loss of losing a family member.  I have experienced true friendship; real/middle of the night/panicked phone call/on my way to help even if you insist not to/friendship.  I have experienced the change when dinner with my parents isn’t what I do when I don’t have plans. Now, its special time I have to plan to have.  They have morphed from “guardian” to “friend” but always remained “parents.”  (It’s an odd shift we only begin to understand as 20somethings.)  And just as important as relationships with others; I learned to accept myself.  I pride myself in the piece of me that is “not like everyone else.”  It’s something I struggled with at the start of my 20’s. However, it is now what defines me as a person, and is what I’m most proud of at the end of my 20’s.

So to my dear 20something years, I want to thank you for being good to me.  For being honest.  For teaching me lessons I wasn’t ready to learn and for teaching me lessons that I needed to learn.  For dragging me through the dumps so I could appreciate the view from the top.  For making me scared, for pushing me outside of my comfort zone.  For making me stand in awe of people, places, views, and life itself.  For all of those reasons, I can appreciate where I’m at now and how far I’ve come.  I feel grateful for all the people that are important to me and helped me along this wild 10 year roller coaster.  I don’t expect the next 10 years to be smooth sailing, but maybe knowing that piece of reality will make the bumps more tolerable?  I guess we’ll just have to see how it plays out. Either way, I’m excited to see what lies ahead. So bring it on 30something!


Farewell 20’s and Helloooooo 30’s :)



Jan 26, 2015

Pop-Pop Passed Away Last Night

In honor of Anthony Carl Morelli Jr.

I was in 1st grade when I remember losing my first grandparent. My “Grandma Leik,” my mother’s mom. A tiny lady, no taller than 5 foot (with shoes on) who had a thick Brooklyn Accent, ate yogurt, read the newspaper, loved lady bugs and always took my side. “She doesn’t have to finish her dinner, she has a tiny stomach like me, leave her be..but there is enough room for dessert.”  She was the only person who my mother retreated from. She was small, soft, but incredibly strong. She passed away from end-stage renal failure and I do remember she also has stroke. A "TIA" they called it. She said not to worry, it was just for a moment. “My tongue got twisted around my eye and I couldn’t see what I was saying.” She had the ability to make everything seem light and approachable. Even the scary parts of life.

Her husband, my grandfather, passed away when I was an infant. I don’t remember him. So when it was just her in the house, she moved from New York to Pennsylvania. It wasn’t longer after that she got sick, less than a year after her move. Maybe she knew she was going to get sick, maybe it was God’s plan. It was perfectly imperfect timing though. She was never alone while she was ill, I just wish we had her healthy for longer.

When she passed, my mother was distraught. She had lost her father and brother less than four years prior; and now her mother too. I can’t image the emptiness she felt. Like a piece of her family, her childhood, all gone so quickly. The funeral was in Long Island New York, at my mother’s childhood parish.

My grandmother’s viewing was the first time I remember ever seeing my mother cry. As a first grader seeing your strong stoic parents have a vulnerable moment sticks with you. I wanted to comfort my mom. I wanted her to go back to being the one who comforted everyone else. It felt backwards and that made me feel frantic. I sat next to her and said “Don’t worry Mom, Grandma will be a baby in someone else’s house now, we just have to figure out where she lives.” 

I don’t know why I said it, or where the idea came from. 7 year olds, particularly Catholic 7 year olds, aren’t generally exposed to ideas or theories of reincarnation. The internet didn’t exits then, so it wasn’t a product of Google. We only ever watched Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, so it wasn’t the premise of something I saw on Television. It just came from somewhere inside of me. It was something, which I truly believed. Maybe children are closer to heaven so they have a better understanding of the circle of life. Either way, my comment, stopped my Mom in her tracks. She didn’t cry and she didn’t speak. She just looked at me and then hugged me.

Years later, she reminds me of that story and tells me of how much peace it brought her in that tumultuous time. The wise words of a 7years old.

Fast Forward, 22 years. My grandfather has been diagnosed with Liver Cancer. This time it is my father’s father. I have since lost my Father’s mother and this is my only living grandparent.

It happened right before Christmas. He had some curious test results and needed to go back to the Doctor. “Make sure he doesn’t come in alone, we’d like someone to be with him” the receptionist told my father—and that’s never a sign of good news.

By New Years Eve the cancer was also found in his Colon, Rectum and spread to his Lungs. All stage 4. He woke up less than 10 days ago feeling like he couldn’t breath. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

He never came home.

They kept him in the Intensive Care Unit for a little under a week and then moved him to the hospice floor. He knew he wasn’t going home and we knew he wasn’t going home; but I never talked about it to him. “Make sure your Aunt throws away my milk, it expired yesterday. And tell her to bring me my glasses and cell phone.” It was a last exercise of control over his life and made him feel better to get just a few things in order.

My grandfather deteriorated fast. It was hard to watch, but also a blessing. He was too proud and refractory to allow us all to watch him slowly shrivel up and fade away.

He was the type of man that did everything his way. He never wanted to depend on other people and loved his independence. Hell, he worked full time up until his diagnosis. He was a mover and a shaker and he never seemed “old” to me because he never retired to a life of sitting on the couch watching sitcom re-runs. Instead, when his job required him to learn the computer he took a computer training class. “I’m the oldest one in the class Lana,” he said to me proudly. 

He didn’t get lost in the tides of change, he keep swimming and always stayed in front of it. He got a cell phone when the trend started and even knew how to operate the voicemail, although he refused to leave his own voice on the prompt for a personal message. My message says “Hi, you’ve reached Lana, I’m unavailable to come to the phone…” So he would leave all his messages saying, “Unavailable Lana, it’s available grandpop, make yourself available and call me.” It made me smile every time.

He was a man who always did things his way. He was painfully and refreshingly pertinacious.  He was famous for these one liners; that were part persnickety and part fun. 

“Pop did you get your hair cut? It looks nice.”
“No, I got them all cut.” He’d say with a devious smile.

“Hey Pop, that’s a good idea.”
“Ya know Lana, I was so bright my mother called me SUN.”

“Pop what did you say? What?”
“Don’t you call me a whop, Eye-talians don’t like it.”

He was an original jokester and a text book wise guy. I loved that playful side of him.

Five years ago, when his wife, my grandmother passed away, he didn’t want to be “that old guy who moved in with someone” <-those are his words. So he sold his house, rented an apartment, got a new car and even got a girlfriend Wanda. A family friend who was also in her 80’s and they rekindled a romance. He was like a teenager again. 

          “Pop are you coming over for the BBQ?”
          “No I can’t, I ‘m going to Wanda’s house.” 

And he’d hop in his new car, with a Teddy Bear on the dashboard (given to him by his girlfriend Wanda) and drive up to take her out to dinner.

He didn’t follow any rules and did what he wanted. I always admired him for that. He’d call me in the summers at 7:00am 


            “Why aren’t you awake yet?” he'd  bellow into the phone.
“Pop I’m on break from teaching, I’m sleeping in,” I’d moan into the phone.
“You can sleep in when you’re dead” he’d say. And even in my sleepy fog I’d smile. 

I visited him almost every night while he was at the hospital. I had to miss seeing him on Saturday, because I had plans to go away for the weekend. Friday night I asked him if I should stay home, he shook his head no and pursed his lips. “Live your life, don’t be a jackass.” I told him I’d see him Sunday and he shook his head okay and closed his eyes to go to sleep. Even in his final days he stayed true to himself. So I went to the beach for my annual girl’s weekend with my friends. And Sunday night, (last night) when I got home, I went to see him.

It was late, just me and my dad. They had classical music playing in my Pop’s room. It was nice, I know he enjoyed it, but it made the air extra heavy for me. My Pop was in an unconscious state...shallow breathing, sinking into the bed a bit, certainly smaller than when he arrived less than two weeks ago. Yet, he looked comfortable. I talked to him the whole time and although his eyes were closed, he occasionally moved his eye brows like he was listening.

I talked to him anyway. About the traffic, the weather. I told him about each one of my girlfriends; “The Nurse,” “The Ballerina,” “The one who eats the Pizza Bagels.” I’ve been friends with these women for almost 20 years but Pop had his only little playful names for them. At the end, I told him I wouldn't come up tomorrow because we are getting a snowstorm. I took a deep breath and I said to him that it was okay for him to take a long rest and go to sleep. “You can finally sleep in Pop.”

I knew he knew what I meant.  

He absolved me of my guilt to the go to the beach that weekend and if he had any feelings of guilt, I wanted to offer him the same piece of absolution. I told him I loved him and he moved his eyebrows like he heard me again.

As we walked out, my dad asked me why I talked to him. "He can't hear you, you know" he said. But I told my dad that two years ago, when he himself was in a comma in the ICU, I talked to him on every visit. I told my father that I saw Pop move his eyebrows like he heard me; just how my dad lightly squeezed my hand when he was in the coma. "He does hear me dad” I said. I wasn't sure of much, but I was sure of that.

I noticed my dad was timid to touch Pop. They’d always had a strained relationship. A lot of history, I’ll never fully or never need to fully understand. So maybe my dad was hesitate because they were never really affectionate anyway, or maybe because the beeping and the smells of the hospital scared him like it used to scare me. It's just... I learned to block the hospital out and focus on something that reminded me my Pop was still there. I stared at his forehead and thought about how his white hair was still thick and beautiful at 87. I kissed Pops forehead and told him I loved him.  

It was the saddest visit thus far and for some reason it felt like something was different. We were the last two visitors he had last night and we got news that he passed in his sleep at 3am.

I like to think that my conversation with Pop gave him peaceful vibes. But I yearn for the 7 year old version of myself who was so sure that he would come back a baby in someone else’s house. A version of myself that didn’t make death feel so hollow and definitive. That didn’t make death, in someway, about myself. But as we become adults and grown it’s almost human nature to equate things with ourselves.

So, I can’t help but think of the Lyrics from a John Mayer Song…

One generation's length away
From fighting life out on my own’

I am adult, not a child. My Pop is gone. I have no grandparents left. It’s like we’re all moving up on this infinite timeline whether we like it or not. It’s scary and ironic that death is the aspect of life that makes life feel real and precious and brief. It makes you want to stop the clock and just be in the moment. But time ticks and children grow older and adults do too. We transition from phase to phase in life effortlessly without convocation. Which is why sometimes I think we don’t notice that time just happens and life just happens. And death is part of life, no matter how much effort we put into ignoring it.

And if my grandfather were reading this right now, he’d remind me that sometimes in life there is nothing you can do but keep moving forward. “We’re all getting older, so what can you do? You get mad or sad you’ll get happy again. So live your life and stop being a jackass.” Besides, he never slept in, so now he gets his chance.

In Loving Memory of Anthony Carl Morelli Jr. 

Short and Sweet…AKA…Moral of the Blog
Hug your family tight. Tell people you love them. People get mad, but they get happy don't worry about it. Try, even when you think you can’t. Don’t be a statistic, be an exception. Always work and work hard dammit. But only do what makes you happy and screw em, if they don't like it. Take a hold of life’s opportunities, don’t be a victim of lifes circumstances. Most importantly, find the humor, always channel your inner wise guy. Life's too short not to laugh a little.
I love you Pop-Pop


“Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too” –Fleetwood Mac