Don’t Worry, Make Flashcards!

Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974)


I remember when I had my first child, I got caught up in the hype of teaching baby to read from the moment it comes home from the hopsital. Of course, I wanted to do everything I could to give my baby the best possible start. I bought this “better baby system” (even the title now makes me chuckle), which consisted of large white rectangular cards with bold lettering of simple words. I took matters into my own hands and thought up more words for baby to learn. Before you know it I had these signs all over the house and on everything (told you I went overboard :-). The stove had  a sign that read “STOVE”; the floor , a sign that read “FLOOR”, etc. Guests would come over and ask me if I was afraid they would forget what a ‘WINDOW” was or how to spell it.

William James believed that every image has a motor component. Dr. Roberto Assagioli, Italian psychiatrist in the time of Sigmund Freud and pioneer of a new school of thought called “psychosynthesis”, believed in the power of what we look at, to produce corresponding results. With his patients, he would take cards, and write words such as “Bliss”, “Happy”, “Calm” etc, and found that they would produce these states when placed in a place where a person looks at them often.

The notion of placing “reminders” where you will see them often has come back into popularity in the past few years, but it really does seem to work.

How to Use this Tip: Take a few sheets of paper, upon which you write the words that represent what you want to achieve today. One word or short phrase per sign. Then place these where you will be exposed to them frequently–the refrigerator, your desk at work, your bathroom mirrror, etc.  Make sure you take time to read and reread these words. You can even change them or add/subtract, depending on which thoughts most represent what is in your heart the next day and the next.  Do this for three weeks, and see if it makes a difference in the way you feel, and in what you achieve.

Be blissful, as if No One is Watching


One morning, my nonno and I were staying with realatives in Calabria, we woke up nd realized there was no one else in the house but us. Where could everyone have gone? We got ready for the day and went out in search of our loved ones. There was music in the distance, and the sound of a small crowd growing larger. We followed our ears to the local church and discoverd the sacred feast in honor of the town’s patron, San Ruocco, had begun.  We wen inside where a Mass was just ending, then lo and behold,  our relatives, came marching down the aisle,carrying a statue, and upon reaching the outdoor steps. picked up  instruments, andwith focused passion that would be interrupted by nothing, began marching. playing, praying. They appeared to have lost themselves in the beauty of the moment. Miles away from the troubles of everyday realities, they so were deeply immersed in their passion they didn’t care if they were on tune or off tune, if they little hats looked silly or not, if  nonno and I had woken up in time for the festa or not. That is exactly what following your bliss should look like.

When is the last time you immersed yourself so deeply into what you are passionate about, that no person or thing could tempt you to distraction? When is the last time you even thought about the activities that stoke your inner fire and deliver you to the doorstep of bliss? Perhaps you are so busy attending to the day-to – day routine that you don’t even make time for what you used to love to do.

In reality, there is no time but NOW. Pick up that paint brush and PAINT. Seat yourself at the piano and PLAY. Go to a baseball game and CHEER LIKE YOU MEAN IT. Don’t let doubts of imperfection, or the judgmental eye of others stand in your way.  We miss a lot when we neglect the activities that make us  feel blissful.  Make this committment to yourself.  In your most joyful activities lies the key to who you really are.

Have apassion that YOU”d like to get back to with full abandon? Write to me and let me know!  Or I invite you to comment below. Would love to hear from you!


Coming next spring: my new book “Lemons into Limoncello”. I am so excited to bring you my special brand of  Italy-inspired self-help ideas for not only getting through your difficulties, but coming out on the other side with an even deeper joy for life.  Join me also, for my Lemons-into Limoncello Resilience Retreat in Italy. It will be life-changing.

Italian Anti-Aging Secret: La Notte Bianca

Photo courtesy: ” Notte Bianca Roma”

The phrase itself refers to a sleepless night, but “la notte bianca” has come to mean this in a good sense. A festivale sense.  A community party about fun, fun, and nothing but fun into the wee hours of the morning sense. When is the last time you partied all night? When you were in college? High School Prom? Some of you may not even be able to remember when your fuddy-duddy routine of closing yourself in the house and losing consciousness in front of the TV started happening. Yet, happen it did, and tonight, like other nights, you realize you are sprawled eacross the couch,  TV remote in hand,  while around you the sun goes sadly down without you,  and another day comes to a close.

NO, NO, e poi NO! You must save yourself from living an “old” life, when  you are still very much young at heart and in spirit. I am all in favor of the restorative power of sleep, but every once and a while you have to also nourish the soul with late night FUN.  Take an impromptu break from your routine! Untrap your soul and go all out for a late night party.  Come on, just this once!  Check the papers to see what is going on this weekend. Is there an outdoor concert you might invite a few friends to, and then afterward go out for a light bite and a glass of vino?  Do you live close enough to a big city where you and some friends can simply walk around drinking in the lights, sounds, and happenings, perhaps popping into a beer bar or a pizza joint or local play? What about having an all-nighter at your house? You’d be surpised at how few of your friends and relatives would turn down the invite.

Yes, okay, you might be “tired” the next day. And so what? Life is about LIVING, and embracing something new, something fun that  you havent done in a while. This is what keeps us young, vibrant…and even sexy. So go ahead, put on your best duds, stay out past your bedtime and HAVE FUN (safe fun, that is)! Happy Notte Bianca!

“I sing because I can’t dance”

Massimo Ranieri

Massimo Ranieri is one of the most loved and admired contemporary Italian singers in the world today. From  a young age, I  couldn’t help but be gripped by songs like “erba di casa mia”, “surdato innamorato”, o rose rosse per te”. His voice is powerful, slightly unpolished, and so real you feel he is in the room with you and you alone. He will touch you with the emotion in his notes, vocals sometimes cracking just a bit, wooing our hearts at certain times  with his neapolitan dialect. He might never have shared this gift with the world had it not been for friends who dared him as a boy, and told him if he didnt’ sing right there in front of everyone, they would throw him into the water. So he sang. “I sang”, he said, “because I coudn’t swim. ” (This is also by the way, the name of his latest album–Canto perche’ non so nuotare) He sang in front of restaurants and in front of people who increasingly couldn’t get enough. We still cannot get enough of the singer whose fame  came as a result of turning a mild adversity into the courage he needed to do what he was meant to do in this life..

What are you meant to do in this life that you feel you have not done yet? What talents do you have that the world is still waiting to enjoy? It shouldn’t take other people’s dares, to bring out our gifts. We should be regularly challenging ourselves to keep growing , stretching our creativity to the max, and breaking out of what we do day in and day out, in order to explore a new interest or talent.  Have you always wanted to paint?  Write? Sing? Ballroom dance? Teach? Start a business?  Use adversity to fuel your next important chapter. Dare to plot out your goals with courage and passion. Then follow them to break free of the chains of mediocrity and stagnation.

By the way, I write, because I would have made a lousy lawyer:-)



Save One Event for “Speciale”

The NYC “automat”

When I was a kid, each year on my birthday, my father packed us all in the car and drove us to NYC for lunch at the “automat”. It was a magical event, with little food displays that I had never seen before. While at home we always ate things like escarole and beans, homemade pasta with tomato sauce that had simmered all day, la minestra, braciole, peaches in wine, zucchini flours, steak appizzaiola, at the automat we could eat “American food” and feel part of the masses! I know what you are saying, and you would be right. What we ate at home was truly  wonderful— today even  considered chic when you order those dishes in a restaurant. . But oh….the yearly trip to the AUTOMAT!

My eyes would buldge as I peaked into the little glass windows, deciding where I should insert my coins. Would it be the mac and cheese? the baked bean casserole? Or what about the open faced roast beef sandwhich with gravy? Would we also get dessert and a beverage? The anticipation  of going to the Automat would build the whole year long. Why? Because it wasnt’ something we ordinarily did, so to me and my sister, it became like another Christmas or Easter, or Thanksgiving. My birthday was magical because I could choose “foreign” foods of my choice, drink in the sights and sounds of the big American city, then talk about it all the way home. That roast beef sandwhich on two slices of spongy white bread seemed like heaven!

If you don’t have an anual event in your life that you can look forward to, now is the time to CREATE ONE!  It might be a long drive to a quaint tourist town, or a visit to a museum that only frequent once per year, or a day at a lake in the far corner of your state. Whatever it is, make sure that you dont’ overdo it, so when you do go, you will appreciate it all the more.

Anticipating a positive event is good for the soul. Don’t wait for the calendar holidays to dictate when your anual special events should be. Invent one that is uniquely yours, and keep your date “same time next year”!

Semplicita’: Live Simply, Be Happy

Courtesy: Trattoria Pesce Pasta (Loved it!)

Last evening I was seated at a “holding table” in a fancy restaurant (which shall remain nameless) in the city, waiting for a seat to free itself in the main part of the restaurant.Glitz and glamor encircled me, from the gilded stilettos of the female patrons to the glimmering  cascades that  came pouring down from the celing. The bass on the stereo system was turned up to a defeaning vibrato and  diners were shouting over the sound to hear themselves talk.  Suddently I felt overwhelmed by the bombardment of stimuli. I had to walk…and just kept walking. My explorative passeggiata  led me to  a quaint and lovely  pathway through the village, and eventually to an unassuming –and might I add authentic–trattoria on Bleeker Street (Trattoria Pesce Pasta) , posting a host of Zagat ratings  in its window. When one door closes… It was very much like the kind of trattoria I always seek out when I am in Italy: Little tables covered in crisp white linens, squeaky-clean wine glasses waiting to be filled, family-style welcoming from the staff and owner, interesting looking patrons leaning in towards each other  engaged in philosophical conversation.

Quiet simplicity can be the the most life affirming experience of all.  Who needs a constant bombardment of lights flashing, noise blasting, animation going nowhere?  Sometimes all we need to recharge  is the opportunity to kick back and enjoy  the peace and quiet of little simple joys.   My preference last night: “Spaghetti aglio ed olio, del vino bianco un ‘insalata di ruchetta, un po’ di pane e un bel caffe’ alla fine.” Spaghetti with oil and garlic, some white wine, arugula salad, a bit of crusty bread and a great espresso to top it off.  What could be better? A simple yet amazing meal, in an atmosphere that elevated the soul. I felt my stress levels plummeting  and my creative juices flowing as I leisurely soaked in the quiet celebration of semplicita’.

What will YOU do this week to tune down the “noise” that pollutes your space of  inner peace and distracts you from living the simple , sure-footed path in life?

Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!


If this post inspires you, please let me know, with your comment, your share, your like, or your email.  Your feedback is what keeps these posts going!

* If you haven’t already explored other parts of this website , do check out my upcoming Lemons into Limoncello Italy Retreat (May 2013)and the October talks I will be giving in CT for Italian Heritage Month.

*You can stream in live at 7AM to The Art of Living Well 88.7FM or Great information on improving the quality of life, with an Italian American segment featuring ideas from my upcoming book “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (HIC), which will be out next May.

Getting Through a Loss in Your Life

Toss out the old

Rituals serve the purpose of helping us to wrap our head around important changes or transitions in our lives.  On New Year’s Eve, for instance, in parts of Italy  the tradition is to throw things out the window–old pots, pans, clothing–even sometimes furniture—as a symbolic way of throwing out all of the bad in the old year, and making room for all of the good in the new year to come.

When you are going through loss, although of course you want to retain the good memories, you also need to resolve –when you are ready—to let go of the pain, the heartache, and living in that space of sadness. Rituals are designed for that purpose. They help you to mentally and emotionally “break free”, and clearly mark a fresh new beginning.

You don’t have to throw anything out of your window to take advantage of this Italian New Year’s Eve tradition, any time of the year.  If you have been down about a major loss in your life and are ready to open up to a brand new chapter, then what about simply tossing a few things you don’t need or use anymore (or giving them away if they are still good) TODAY, and making room (in your mind and heart) for all of the good things that life still has in store for you?
Show Life your vote of confidence right now. Be confident in YOU and your ability to go forward and keep going in a direction that honors joy.  Believe in all of the wonders still coming your way. Make room for them, and they will come your way.

Good Riddance to the pain our past!