Friday, December 9, 2011

Believe...LOVE is what's for Christmas

Read below and see how YOU can receive a FREE 
signed copy of BEYOND BREATHING

Today is "Macy's National BELIEVE DAY"
Today Macy's is granting 55 nationwide "wishes" in conjunction with  The Make-A-Wish Foundation

Today is a day to BELIEVE.

believe Pictures, Images and Photos

In today's world we hear so much about the negative; the greed and contempt, the wars and fighting among one another, the struggles and hardships that tear at your heart and soul. How often do we hear of the GOOD that WE are all capable of doing? How often do we hear of what one person's ACT OF KINDNESS can do for humanity? In my opinion, not nearly enough.

But I believe in the spirit of giving.
I believe that gifts don't have to cost anything but your time.
I believe we ALL want to do "good" for one another.

I learned this lesson very clearly a few years ago...

Let me explain.

Holidays are always the hardest and Christmas is the pinnacle of pain.

The joys that used to fill this house now just seem sort of vacant.

The tree is up…big deal.

It’s missing all of Eric and Jena’s handmade ornaments hanging off its fake, lighted limbs.

No Christmas dishes are out.
No Christmas cookies are baking in the oven.
No Christmas cards will be written.

No, I’m not a Ba-Humbug kind of person, I just don’t care anymore.
Jena took the magic with her.

 If you listen carefully, you can hear her yelling at me right now. 

"Mom, get a grip!”

"Where’s the Christmas music?" 

"Where’s the Santa sugar cookies?"
"And where’s my glittered pine cone I made in second grade?”

She’d be so angry with me for the way I’m acting. She’d also be bugging me which present was hers under the tree; holding each one up, shaking, guessing…

Yeah, here come the tears….

Crying Pictures, Images and Photos

One morning in December of 2007 I woke up from a “Jena” dream. In my dream, Jena was shaking a wrapped present and said, "I just know this is my favorite gift, ever!" When I asked her what she meant, she smiled and told me I’d figure it out. Then I woke up.

Great…dream riddles... at Christmas… from Jena.

Turns out, I figured it out and I wouldn’t dare let a Christmas go by without a present for my daughter-especially her favorite gift EVER.

Here it is:

What’s inside, you ask?


Jena once told me, “When you see love, you’ll see me.” I believe her. I know for certain that we take our hearts with us when we leave this world and that love transcends.

So, back to the 'Jena Gift'... since that dream in 2007, my niece and nephew and I wrap an empty box, right before Thanksgiving, and leave a slit at the top. Then between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve our whole family engages in as many random ACTS OF KINDNESS as possible.

Here’s the catch: they can’t tell a soul. It’s a secret!

Then we write down all our random-acts-of-kindness on an index card, like we are addressing it to Jena, and slip each card in the wrapped box.

On Christmas Eve, when we are all gathered around the Christmas tree at my in-laws, we read them out-loud TO Jena, it’s her favorite gift, ever. It's giving of yourself, it's giving of your time, it's giving of your love.

She is forever with us. We want her to know we still go “shopping” for her to find her that perfect Christmas gift.

She loves presents, so feel free to join us in the gift-giving!

Ok, here's the deal:

1) YOU do something nice, an act of kindness, then tell me about it by midnight on Friday, DECEMBER 23, 2011.  

2) Please tell me about it either below in the comment section, or on my Beyond Breathing Facebook page , or if you rather not be public about it, you can: EMAIL ME HERE 

3) On Christmas Eve, my family will read your Jena gift with ours and then decide which 3 people I'll send a SIGNED COPY of 'BEYOND BREATHING' to and you too can *meet* Jena.

There's so much in this world to be thankful about.
There's so much in the world to share.
There's so much to BELIEVE in.

 May God Bless you this holiday season.
(Please feel free to SHARE this blog!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Adventure Day 12

The whole point of this "13-Day Adventure to Nowhere" was to desperately try to change the depressed emotional tailspin that occurs between Thanksgiving and December 4th.
It's Hell Week in every sense of the word.  Thanksgiving 2006 was Jena's last holiday with us, the next day her lungs collapsed, and she moved up to Heaven Monday, December 4th.

Though 5 years have past, the horrific ordeal is replayed in crystal clear clarity every "hell week."  Just seeing the date, 12/4, is a brutal reminder of the last exact date, time and second I held my baby girl.

To know me is to know I don't dwell in the negative for long.

I can't.
I won't.

"If you're going through hell...keep on going..."
Besides, that's the last place you'd want to set up shop.

Jena lived with so much zest for life that for me to be miserable for too long would be an insult to her passion of life and all the beauty it has to offer.

Jena Marie Cassalina is SO much more than "Hell Week."

And because of her, I won't dare waste a single breath if I can help it.

Eric seems to have come to terms with her moving up to heaven in his own way. He doesn't need to escape from reality and take the adventure with us.  I believe Eric has a special connection with Jena...

...and a unique perspective of it all that enables him to accept what is. Though he too is heartbroken, he has been able to live life to its fullest, not wasting it on what can't be changed. Eric is an amazing son and I learn from him everyday.

Marc and I had to find our own solution to honor Jena and survive a heartache that seems to not know time.  Last year our 'Adventure' was a great start and this year we knew we were on to something.
We knew we can't run away from the pain but rather reframed it into something adventure of sorts... with Jena guiding the way.

Call us crazy, but 'The Club' we belong to, no parent should be a member. We don't have a choice to go through this hell week but we do have a choice on how we will deal with it.

The pain of not having her to hold, hug and kiss will never cease but like Jena told us,"Pain is not a valid reason for stopping we do our best to make new memories with our "Flying J"

She has shown us that life is beautiful and yes, a fun adventure too...and we need to pay attention to the signs...
the best thing I know for sure is that LOVE NEVER ENDS and it IS the greatest gift of all...

Marc, Eric, and  I would not have made it through the day without all the love that came flooding our way either via facebook, text, email, and even phone calls.  We were amazed how many people keep Jena, and us, in their hearts. Please know that your love does help heal our hearts, more than you'll ever know...and that is why I am certain that Love Never Ends and we are never far from the ones we love.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adventure Day 11

Today was haul ass day.

We were still in Florida and had 1,200 miles ahead of us. We loaded up with coffee and gas, and The Starship Escalade was back in flight.

On the road again...

Marc cranked up his Willie Nelson and I booted up my iPad; what a perfect couple we make.

This is Day 11...11 days of adventure, 11 days of life on the road.

With 2 days left to go, here are a few things I've learned:

Sandbars do not have bartenders...

Trucks are not filled with coffee...

And alligators aren't the only creatures to fear in the Florida Everglades...

I've shared our Jena moments with you that I thought you would enjoy but the best moments were the ones I know were meant just for us to the the pot roast, the Pilot House on 13 Seaview at 3:13pm, a baby boy, 103 or 33, and of course, the fireworks.

I knew this adventure would open our eyes and hearts to signs along life's way and I know my baby girl is still teaching us lessons like:

Anticipate the unexpected...

Explore a new path...

And set your sail and let the wind take you on your own adventure...


Friday, December 2, 2011

Adventure Day 10

Time to chart the course back home...oh the heavy sigh...

I know, you really feel for me, right?

The Adventure has been wonderful and the weather has been picture perfect.

We sadly left Key West and headed north on US-1.

Marc still feeling a little 'Pirate' thought we should make a stop in Treasure Island, FL.

We landed 'The Starship Escalade' at an appropriate docking station...the aptly named, "Caddy's on the Beach" and had a drink or two...

We enjoyed the sun, the beach, and the postcard view that will soon become just a distant memory...

The only complaint this New Yorker had is THIS somehow doesn't seem right...

A snowman on the beach?

Then we said a sad adieu to our fellow feathered friend from Key West...

Yes, Carisa and Lori...he's been following us. We named him Scully.
Oh, and by the way Carisa, we gave him the Savannah pralines to bring to you...let me know when you get them!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Adventure Day 9

Hyatt Resort & Key home for now.

Marc was on a work conference call for an hour or so this morning while I enjoyed room service looking at this view:

A little after 9am, his call was over. He grabbed his coffee, leaned over the balcony, and took in the scenery. A few seconds later he started singing a Jimmy Buffett song:

"End of the road?
What do we do then?
Rev it up and jump that buggy to Havanna
We're goin' conky tonkin'..."

With that, he looked back at me, smiled and said, "Let's rent a boat!"

...and we did.

The 'Starship Escalade' ran out of road but we hadn't run out of adventure, so Cap'n Marc took to the sea in search of...nothing but that elusive horizon.

My crucial job as Co-Cap'n was to kick back and soak in the day.

Once we tossed anchor and made land, I knew I had island fever and wanted know more about life on Key West. I had a nice long talk with one of the island's oldest residents. I asked him how I could make this lifestyle permanent. He didn't say much but contemplated how this city girl could give up her nails and heels for ponytails and flip-flops.

Our conversation was interrupted by an island native who asked me to dance "The Scrub Dance" which he said was indigenous to The Keys. The dance was rigid and his hands were a bit 'spongy'...

I came to the conclusion that I'll be island tourist and do what us tourists do at Key West...

For the second night in a row, we ordered a Margarita and a spectaular sunset...and wouldn't you know,they were both made to perfection!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adventure Day 8

Co-Captain's log...Stardate 11.30

Hello, Key West!

Sunset & Margaritas

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adventure Day 7

SoBe is SoMe!

After an exhausting day lounging in the Miami sun...we hit the night life that is SoBe.

Here, all the women look like models and the men are flat out GORGEOUS!

I was perfectly comfortable to see all stares be directed at Marc, though I am not sure he would agree with the same comfort level.

After a stroll up and down Ocean Drive, we decide upon "Quinns" for dinner. Ocean Drive dining is beyond compare and we had a perfectly prepared dinner...mine was seared Ahi Tuna with wasabi and Jasmine rice.

After dinner,we went back to the hotel for a little stroll on the beach...well,let's just say that's what our intention was...

Vegas doesn't own all the rights, you know.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Adventure Day 6

South Beach, FL

I'm writing this, sitting on my balcony, enjoying the night breeze and a glass of Cabernet.

We haven't quite made it to the Keys...Do you have any idea how FAR Key West is from NY?

Though our minds were set on Key West, our eyes spotted the white sandy beach of Miami, so we pulled the Starship Escalade over and landed for a few nights. We couldn't have picked a better spot than South Beach, FL. We took in some much needed rays and of course, a few cocktails beachside.

Apparently the Art Basel exhibit is here this week in SoBe.

The town's a buzz over Art and the beach is beautiful!

We thought WE decided to stop here...but of course there are no coincidences.

  This is a close-up view from our balcony...

And this is the view up-close...

Yeah, I know what you're thinking...we thought it too.

 We asked the guy on the beach, who's guarding the ONLY art as far as your eyes can see, "So,what's up with the roses on the beach?"

He said, "I don't know, some big shot artist from NY."

We smiled and said, "No kidding..."

 We knew Jena was once again leading our adventure!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventure Day 5

Savannah, GA

"Mommy, the Titanic!"
The first time I visited Savannah, GA was in 1998 on a family trip. Jena was about 6 years old. One morning she had gotten up early and stood on our balcony and watched this huge merchant ship floating down the Savannah River. She yelled, "Mommy, the Titanic!" and the very next moment that ship let out an alarmingly loud blow of it's fog horn.  I sprung to my feet, and we stood out there watching this enormous boat float past us. It was one of the best memories with Jena.
Last year on our 'Adventure Trip to Nowhere' we ended up here on Dec 4th...the worst day of the year.
Marc and I managed to get through the day with heavy hearts and puffy eyes.  We stayed at a hotel in town, far away from the river, and tried to enjoy the painfully sweet memories of our last family trip to Savannah.
 ...and somehow we ended up back here again...
This year we stayed at a hotel right on the river.
This year we woke up to the sound of a ship's foghorn deafening blow.
This year I yelled, "Titanic!" and ran to the balcony to watch it float by.
I just love Savannah.
 I love the history, the Live Oak trees heavy with Spanish moss, and who doesn't love all that Southern hospitality?
If you ever make your way to Savannah,'s my 'Top 3 must-see List'
  1. First, go to Huey's on the River for the BEST coffee ever!  I felt like I was in a coffee commercial when I asked our Paula Dean look-alike waitress, "Excuse me, but what brand of coffee do you use?"
She cheerfully said in her charming southern drawl,"Oh Darlin' I'll just share our little secret with y'all." And with that she took out a pen and jotted this on our paper tablecloth:
2. Then walk down River Street and stop here:
You can't miss the wonderful smells seeping out of this place. No one can resist trying a free sample or two of their mouth-watering warm pralines right out of the oven.
3. For dinner and a little history...go here:
Huge thanks to our Facebook friends who kindly answered our quest of, "Where's a good place for dinner?"
Thanks to the suggestion to go to The Olde Pink House , we had a little history lesson (Georgia's First Bank) and a sensational dinner!
When dining here, you must order their "BLT", Fried Green Tomatoes & Sweet Bacon with Black Pepper Thyme Buttermilk dressing.  It's been featured on The Food Network's, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" ...and Marc agrees whole-heartedly.
But truth be told...the very BEST thing to do in Savannah, by far, make "titanic" fact, make them wherever you go...

"...near, far, wherever you are I believe that the heart does go on...once more you open the door and you're here in my heart "