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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mrs. Lo's Top 10 Pieces of Advice for 2014

Hard to believe that another year is drawing to a close but here we stand on the precipice of 2014.  Here are Mrs. Lo’s Top 10 Pieces of Advice for the new year, from various sage persons I have known in my life:

10.  ON PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES - from my dear friend Vivian Lanzarone, professional photographer: “My sister died when I was young, and when we looked around the house, we had virtually no photographs of her.  I started taking lots of photos of the family and then became inspired to become a professional photographer.  You can never have too many photographs of your family.  Never.”
9.  ON BEING THERE FOR YOUR KIDS – from Coach Kennedy, Senior Rowing Coach in the Hudson Valley, Programs Director for the Newburgh Rowing Club and Head Coach of the NFA Varsity Crew Team:  “There is no choice between a non championship crew meet and your son’s Playoff football game.  Skip the crew meet.  My mother came to every single one of my high school football games.  Every time I looked up in the stands, I looked for her and every time, I found her there in the stands.  And it gave me courage and inspired me.  There’s nothing more important than being in the stands for your son’s playoff football game.”
8.  ON BEING ABLE TO LET GO – from Coach Brad Clausen, Head Coach of the Goldbacks YFL D3 Division: “Sometimes things happen in a game that shouldn’t happen.  But you have to let it go.  What’s more important is, how are you the adult, behaving as role models for these kids. The kids are always watching to see how their coaches and parents will react.  In the end, football is a game.  Accept it, thank God for your healthy players and a great season, and move on.”
7.  ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PARENTHOOD OVER CAREER – from Judge Thomas Dolan, retired Dutchess County Court Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice:  “You want to know my advice on whether to accept that Law Partnership or keep working part-time so you can be home with your baby?  That’s simple, Julie.  Put off making money for now.  You’ll have plenty of time to make up for it later.    You’ll be a lawyer for the rest of your life.  But your kids will only be babies for a little while.”
6.  ON MARRIAGE – from my Mom:  “Never discuss the inner workings of your marriage with anyone, not your kids, your girlfriends, not even with me.  Marriage is sacred, what happens in a marriage is between you and your husband, and no one else.”
5.  ON PARTNERSHIP – from my Husband.  When asked at a cocktail party how we figured out the partnership split every year: “what’s to figure out when you share everything you have?”
4.  ON BULLIES – from Lolo (my Dad):  “you kids have been kind of sheltered but soon you’re going to go out into the real world soon.  There will be people who don’t like you, either because you’re mixed race, or any number of reasons.  No matter what someone says to you, you are never allowed to get in a fight over words.  Words can hurt, but you don’t use physical force to retaliate. Even if they make fun of your parents, you have to turn and walk away.  (And this part was for my brother, not me) However, if someone throws the first punch, you have permission to square up and finish it.”
3.   ON SELF CONFIDENCE:  from Michael, my 9 year old son:  “You have to believe in yourself, Mommy, because I always believe in you.”
2.  ON MONEY - from Phil Shatz, my mentor, and a former senior partner, now of counsel, to the Poughkeepsie law firm of McCabe and Mack and one of the most successful people I know (advice given to me when I was in my twenties and Phil was in his late sixties):  “Kid, I’m going to give you a little piece of advice about money.  Right now, you have enough.  You just don’t realize it.  People don’t realize that if they have enough money to put a roof over their head, keep the lights on, and buy some food, they have enough and the rest is just gravy.  Once you grasp that, you’ll not only be happier, you’ll start making money hand over fist.”
1.  ON LIFE – from Nellen, my beloved grandmother:  “Jules, remember to count your blessings every day, just the way we do every night before you go to sleep.   Love Your Life and be thankful for what God gives you, taking the good with the bad.  Because it’s the only Life you’re going to get – this is not a Dress Rehearsal.”

Happy New Year’s Eve, Everyone!  Thank you to all my Readers, for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, entering the contests, and just checking the page once in a while.  It’s been a great 2013, looking forward to spending 2014 together with you too!  Remember to Count Your Blessings, Love You All! <3 Mrs. Lo 

Friday, December 27, 2013


 Once again, this past Christmas Eve day, the Newburgh Rowing Club and NFA Crew Team members teamed up with Danielle Crinieri’s Families 4 Families to deliver presents to adopted families in the City of Newburgh.  I do a lot of rewarding things in my life, and this is definitely one of the most rewardinevents of the year, and something I look forward to all year.

     Danielle started this massive undertaking about a decade ago.  She started out   with a handful of families, with my Sister and Brother-in-law helping out with the purchasing and delivering.  This year, Families 4 Families provided toys, clothes, coats, home goods, gifts, food and a holiday dinner for over 137 families in the City of Newburgh.  Social workers identify deserving families, who make out a “wish list” and they are anonymously “adopted” by individuals, schools, businesses and groups.  For instance, Mrs. Lo adopted “Family no. 21” a family with three[u1]  kids.  I got everything on their very simple Wish List and then had fun getting them extra things I thought they could use and enjoy.  I made them homemade lasagna and homemade chicken parm, and my kids went to their savings account and used it to buy Target gift cards for the kids.
            Many, many individuals, businesses and families donate to make this happen, and it is all overseen by Danielle, who also goes out and shops for the multitude of families. Everything is “housed” at Bishop Dunn Memorial School, then comes the wrapping, which is largely done by BDMS students and families, and former students and families.
     This year, on delivery day, which is the morning of Christmas Eve, I dressed up as Mrs. Santa, and retired City of Newburgh police officer and Newburgh Rowing dad, Jim Cobey, dressed up as Santa Claus.  I think we had about 20 people from the Rowing Club, between rowers and parents, out helping this year. 
     Last year, Coach Kennedy dressed as Santa Claus and it was really a hit.  The only problem was, being a phys ed teacher and coach in Newburgh for 23 years, he knew students and former students everywhere we went.  He even ran into students who were now grandparents.  The conversations went like this:  “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas from Families 4 Families.”  The kids would look at him and say things like, “Hey, Santa, aren’t you my gym teacher” or “Coach Kennedy, remember me, you were my football coach, here meet my grandson.”
     In the past when I helped with deliveries, I would just hand the sack of presents, say “Merry Christmas,” and be on my way.  Then I started the Student Ambassador Program and started driving around the City of Newburgh and going into kids’ houses and it all started to click. I decided to get out and meet and greet, speak to people in Spanish where called upon, and make it a little bit more of a presentation.
      Then Coach Kennedy got involved.  People recognized him or his truck and would run up to us in the streets and say, “Mr. Kennedy, I have nothing for the kids, can you help us.”  Coach told them sure, I will be back at Lander Street at noon, meet me there.  Last year, we went back and got the leftover presents and, as promised, we drove to the middle of Lander Street at noon.  A crowd was gathered.  The presents were labeled by gender and age.  We stood in the back of the pickup truck and were throwing presents to the kids.  Coach would identify a kid and their age and yell, “I need a boy present, age 8”, we would find something and we would throw it down, assembly line style until Santa Coach delivered the present.  People were openly weeping, saying they had nothing to give their kids and would not have had a Christmas had it not been for the “Santa truck.”  One woman told me in Spanish that her husband had just died the week before and had expected absolutely nothing.  Her kids were grown but we gave her all the “lady presents,” coat, perfume, scarf, we could find.  She was overcome with emotion and gratitude and kept thanking me in Spanish.
     Coach was unavailable this year, so Mr. Cobey stepped in.  One of the first houses we went to, one of our rowers banged on the door.  “No, no, that’s the Landlord Knock,” said another rower.  “Mommy, what’s a Landlord?” said Michael, my 9-year-old.  Christian, my 13 yo, has been going around with me doing my various City of Newburgh community projects for a good 3 years now.  This was Michael’s first time doing the Families 4 Families delivery run. 
     It’s very important to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  When I say to my kids, “To whom much is given, much is expected,”  I really mean it.  It is now time for Michael to come out of his bubble and see a little more of real life.  He couldn’t understand the concept of an apartment, he thought the entire building was the family’s house.  When I explained that the apartment building had several families living in it, he said, “Like when I get married and have kids and we all come live with you and Daddy?”  Not exactly.  We’re still working on the concept, but we have time.
      The kids this year just LOVED that Santa came to their house with sacks full of presents and a turkey or ham.  To see these little kids jumping up and down and whispering in Santa’s ear was just priceless.  I would pick up babies and they would hang on to me play peek a boo with me.  I packed a big green sack full of bags of cookies so we would give them out to the kids, and it was a real hit.  “Ohhh, Mrs. Santa, just one more bag of cookies,” the kids would say.  I know all of our rowers were very much touched by the whole thing.
     Someone recently tried to thank me for helping out with Families 4 Families, and I had to set them straight.  This organization is 90% Danielle Crinieri and all the rest of us pick up the slack.  Really, this one woman pretty much does it all.  She has no title, no staff, no office, no Awards Ceremony; there is no TV crew following her around, although there should be.  She has touched so many lives for so many years.  I love that the Newburgh Rowing Club can help her out a little bit. 
     And, as with all my projects, it’s always my own kids, and our rowers, who end up being enriched in the end.  After opening presents at three different houses, I found Michael sitting in the midst of all the wrapping paper and toys, looking into the distance.  I asked what he was thinking about.  “I’m thinking about the kids at (ADDRESS IN NEWBURGH) today, how they all sleep in one room.  And I was thinking I have so many presents.  Maybe I could trade some of my presents in for bunk beds for them.”  What a great thought, I told him, maybe next year.
     As my grandmother always said, someone is praying for the things you take for granted.  Remember to Count Your Blessings, everyone, I can assure you that most of us are abundantly blessed.  Have a wonderful Saturday!  If you would like to adopt a family next year, or would like more info about Families 4 Families, which delivers Easter baskets in Newburgh and packs back to school Backpacks as well, please contact Danielle at Families 4 Families' facebook page:


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Hero Dad's True Life Story - Happy Birthday, Lolo

This is a re-print of the most popular Facebook Page post on the LoBiondo Page, by far. I wrote this and posted is on the LoBiondo fb page for my father's birthday, last year.  It has been shared all over the country.   We are blessed to be celebrating his birthday together again this year.  Back by popular demand, here is the famous "Lolo Story": 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the first man I loved, my first and forever hero, and the most dependable, loyal, honest, charming, and loving man I have ever or will ever know, my dad, Mariano Muyot, known to everyone simply as "Lolo" (Tagalog for “Grandpa”). Lolo was born in Manila, the Philippines on December 26, 1935. His father was an optometrist, who had a large, beautiful home and office in the beautifultropical city of Manila. His mother a beautiful woman, a stay at home mom to him and his 5 much older brothers, they were all teenagers when he was born.

When WWII came to the Philippines, the Filipino army was probably one of the most under-prepared armies in the world at the time. Nonetheless, all 5 of my uncles volunteered and, because they were all educated, went in as officers. When my father was 7 years old, Japanese soldiers came to Lolo's beautiful house to interrogate his father, since my uncles were helping the U.S. Army learn to be "guerillas," the Japnese soldiers wanted to know where the US guerilla soldiers were. My uncle wouldn't give up their locations. He was beaten in front of my father and they smashed his precious eye-glass cases. The soldiers did not beat my grandmother but they slapped her in front of my father, which is something he will never forget. They burned down my father's house and took my grandfather to a concentration camp with other P.O.W.'s, including Filipino and US soldiers.

My father witnessed many atrocities and went from being an affluent doctor's son to being homeless. He never had a toy growing up. He looked in the sky and saw "dogfights" between US and Japanese warplanes daily. If you know history, you know that General Douglas MacArthur is personally responsible for saving the Philippines and the US soldiers left behind on that island nation. Truman was ready to abandon the nation and the American troops, but MacArthur said, "I shall return," to the Filipino people he loved so much and he meant it. Defying his own Commander-in-Chief and sabotaging his own career, MacArthur did come back, he did liberate the Philippines and the remaining American troops. My grandfather crawled home from the concentration camp, emaciated, he looked at the faces of his wife and children and moments later, died in my grandmother's arms. The "G.I.'s", the American soldiers who liberated the Philippines, were so good to the Filipino children they gave their own C-rations to the kids, including my dad.

Lolo vowed then and there to do something to re-pay the Americans. In 1963, he joined the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay Naval Base, initially as a foreign citizen. He served for 7 years. After serving in the Gulf of Tonkin, the only battle of Vietnam to be considered part of a "war" (Congress briefly declared war, then revoked it, hence Vietnam was actually a "conflict" although 56,000 soldiers and sailors died), he became a US Citizen under the provision whereby a foreign citizen who serves in the U.S. military during wartime is eligible for US citizenship. In between, he met an Irish American gal from Beacon, NY named Mary McCaffrey. They dated for a few weeks and got married in San Diego, CA during shore leave on April 4, 1964. They just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary.

I was born July 23, 1965 while my dad was on a ship in Vietnam. My brother was born December 20, 1967. After leaving the Navy, my dad worked a full career at IBM, from which he retired years ago. 

He had colon cancer in 2001 but beat it. He was in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital on 9/11 when the planes hit. The nurses and doctors couldn't wait to meet me and tell me how all the patients were so scared but my father, who had just had surgery days ago, walked around the hospital wheeling his IV with him, comforting the patients, especially the younger ones, saying he had faced death several times before, and not to be afraid, the worst thing to do if you're going to die is to be in a state of panic, to put themselves in a state of peace and everything would be all right. They say he brought peace to an otherwise panicked hospital. I could go on and on about my dad. All I'm going to say is I was one lucky little girl, you can only imagine what it was like to be Daddy's little girl. Not that we had a lot of money, we didn't, but I always knew I was loved, loved, loved. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY, I LOVE YOU!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


 It's hard to believe that Christmas is just 4 days away!  Whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday, it's a time for traditions.  For those who celebrate Christmas:  if you close your eyes and breathe in deeply, and clear your mind, you can probably remember your favorite childhood Christmas memories.  I'll bet it doesn't involve a toy or a possession.  Most likely, you will recall the fragrant smell of baked goods wafting through the kitchen, or the feelings of anticipation and excitement on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  And that is exactly what your kids and grandkids will remember.

We all work so hard to make Christmas perfect, to make sure Santa gets everything on the kids' lists, to have the tree done up just right, to entertain everyone.  All of which is wonderful.  But your kids won't remember the perfectly decorated tree or the dozens of gifts they opened.  I know what I remember.  No matter how busy my grandmother was, she would always make cookies with me.  I realized later that my grandmother had a Doctorate in Education, that her advice was highly esteemed and sought after, and that she had a lot more going on than baking cookies.  But she would drop everything and get on her apron and make cookies with me and, even if it was from a box, it was fabulous and fun.  And she would always let my brother and me lick the spoon.  It's one of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood.

The other night, Christian had a hankering for chocholate chip cookies.  Usually, that's not a problem because I always keep a giant tub of Pillsbury pre-made dough in the fridge.  I was a little off my game because we were just back from Disney and I hadn't done my big Sam's Club shopping trip yet.  I had him go check the downstairs refrigerator.  He bounded up the steps triumphantly with the tub of dough like he had just made the winning touchdown.  "Look, Mom, I found a tub, it feels kind of light though."  We peered inside.  Talk about disappointment. I had forgotten that I put the turkey fat from Thanksgiving in that tub.  Yuck.  He looked up at me and said, "it's OK, Mom, don't worry about it."

It had been a long day.  I had a lot of Christmas "work" to do.  But I knew that my grandmother would say, "Jules, forget your list of things to do.  Make them some cookies.  They don't even have to taste good."  I put on my apron and whipped up a batch of lopsided cookies.  Some chocolate chips, some butterscotch chips, whatever I could find.  And, of course, I gave them each a big spoon full of dough and a glass of milk.  The look on my oldest son's face told me that this was the kind of thing he would rememer.  Some day, he would realize how hard it must have been for his mother to be a lawyer and run a business all day, and still be able to make cookies for him.  "Thanks, Mom, you're the best," said Christian.  "The very best Mommy," said Michael as the two of them sat there watching "The Santa Clause" marathon and licking their spoons.

So many readers wrote in recently for the Holiday contest with their favorite traditions, all of which were lovely, I enjoyed reading them all.  For those who celebrate other holidays, like Chanukah, it's also a day of traditions: one Reader wrote in that it was a day their family all went skiing together.  For those of you who do celebrate Christmas, I wish you all the Merriest Christmas ever! Always remember the Reason for the Season. If you have kids and or grandkids, please remember to put down your Christmas "work" and get down on the floor to play, or get out and build a snow fort, or do something else together.  And if you make cookies, do be sure to let them lick them spoon.  If you have a family, a roof over your head, and enough grocery money to buy cookie dough, then you are very rich indeed.  Merry Christmas, Everyone! <3 Mrs. Lo  (Photo from Disney World's Animal Kingdom, December 2013).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Best Disney Photo Blog Ever: Mrs. Lo's Disney Photo Blog 2013

Day 1:  Sunday, December 1st.  We arrive at our resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge

The first thing we do:  take the ferry across Bay Lake (8 minutes) to the Magic Kingdom, which is completely decked out for the holidays

Time for a Photopass picture!

Then it's off to the brand new "Be Our Guest Restaurant" in the new Fantasyland.  Our concierge started trying to get us in 180 days prior, but it wasn't until the last week that they were able to get us a dinner reservation.  Hottest dinner spot in Disney right now!

But it was worth it!  Great food and service, and the "Palace" looks just as you would imagine it.  There are different "wings" -- the Forbidden wing, where you will see the Rose under glass and the Ballroom where there is a giant sculpture of the Beauty and the Beast dancing and rotating like a music box.  Finally, you can meet the Beast on your way out in the Library.  He was a very gracious host!

This was our 11th trip to Disney, can you guess what the kids chose as their first ride?  

You guessed it, the one and only Small World!

Day 2:  Monday December 2.  We started out with the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at the Grand Floridian, where we met all the characters 

We had such a great time at the Grand Floridian, they we ended up buying a piece of the magic .... yep, that's when we toured and new Grand Floridian Villas and decided it was finally time to Mouse up and become DVC members 

After that, time to explore the holiday beauty of the Grand Floridian

Then it was time to Monorail it over to the Magic Kingdom for some magical haircuts at the Disney Barber Shop, another LoBiondo Family tradition ...

How many times can we ride Space Mountain?  A lot

Time to park hop it over to Hollywood for Dinner at the Sci Fi Theatre.  Mom and Dad shared a milkshake and Fried Pickles, yum!  Then our first peak at the Osborne Spectacle of Lights

Day 3:  Tuesday, December 3rd.

Enforced Rest Time:  an essential of Disney Vacation.  Resting all day at the Resort Pool.  Then off to the Magic Kingdom, for a late lunch at Tony's Town Square Restaurant, home of the Lady and the Tramp!

Then over to Frontierland for some old favorites:  Splash Mountain
 and Frontier Thunder Railroad.  Then back to Tomorrowland for Buzz Lightyear.  With the new MagicBands, Resort guests can book all Fastpass rides in advance.  You get 3 per park per day.

Getting a little hungry, let's head to the new Gaston's Tavern for giant hunks of pork and hummus.  Seriously, that's all that's on the menu but it's delicious!

Time for ... Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  There is a Parade with characters and music and of course, Santa!  There is not cocoa and cookies served throughout the park and a very, very special Wishes (fireworks) spectacular over the Castle.  Not to be missed!

Day 4:  Wednesday, December 3

It's an Animal Kingdom Day -- starting with Lunch at Tusker House.  This is a Character Lunch with an absolutely fabulous buffet filled with delicioius African food, as well as traditional fare.

Do not miss the Kilamanjaro Safari, a full on animal preserve filled with magnificent animals living in their natural habitat, many of whom are endangered species.  Bring a camera with at least 200x zoom, I had 300x.

Then off to see the Lion King, a 30-minute musical and acrobatic spectacular, also not to be missed

And last but not least, Expedition Everest.  We had Fast Passes but got lucky and rode 3 times in a row with no line.  

Finally, it was time for Dinner and a movie and AMC's Dine in Theatre in Downtown Disney.  The older kids went to see "Catching Fire" while the young and young at heart caught "Frozen," both great movies

Day 5:  Thursday, December 5th

We started the day with a photo shoot back at the Wilderness Lodge, anyone can book a photo shoot through Disney's Fine Arts Photography services, and you can choose from several of the Deluxe resorts as your backdrop.  It is worth every penny, these are the best photos I have ever had taken of my family!

After lunch at the Whispering Canyon, this was an all EPCOT day:    Spaceship Earth (where you go inside the "EPCOT ball"), Living with the Land, Mission Space, Soarin' and of course, our old favorite, Figment!

Then it was time to explore the World Showcase, where many countries are "recreated" in true Disney style, and have dinner at the "Biergarten", in Disney's Germany.  Delicious, authentic German food served buffet style and live, traditional German music.  

Followed by night time in the World showcase and ILLUMINATIONS firework and music display!

Day 6: Friday December 6th
First, some R and R back at the Resort Pool ...

Then, off to Hollywood Studios.  First stop, Tower of Terror.  Cover your eyes, Minnie!

You don't want to miss the Great Movie Ride, American Idol, Star Tours and, of course, Aerosmith's Rockin Rollercoaster!

We had dinner at one of our favorites:  Mama Melrose Restaurant, which is right next to the Osborn Spectacle of Lights which is also not to be missed.

Day 7:  Saturday, December 7th.  

Last day but the Disney Magical Express doesn't take us to the airport until 3:30pm, so plenty of time for some Disney magic.  It so happened they were filming ABC's Disney Christmas Parade that day.

Last ride of 2013:  the new Under the Sea Little Mermaid ride.  Another great trip is in the books, see you next year Disney, at our new Grand Floridian DVC Villa .... or maybe sooner, who knows!

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Have a magical day, everyone! <3 Mrs. Lo