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Friday, December 23, 2016

The Christmas Blues

CHRISTMAS BLUES - I am here to tell  you that if you have the “Christmas Blues” you are not alone.  It’s hard to be sad at Christmas time, when everyone else is proclaiming that it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  For me, this is my first Christmas without my beloved Dad.  And my Dad’s birthday was December 26th.  I associated Christmas with my Dad, probably because we always had a party for him the day after Christmas.  When my husband and I bought our house (a house my Dad absolutely loved; to him it was a Palace), I started the tradition of having a big party for my Dad every December 26th.

If you have been reading my Blog, you know what a big part of my life my Dad was.  He was everything to me.  Last year was his 80th birthday.  I wanted to have a big party for him at a restaurant or a hall and hire a live band.  Several of his friends had big birthday bashes and I wanted my Dad’s to be just as special.  But he was adamant.  He didn’t want a big party, he wanted to have his 80th birthday at my house, his favorite place in the world, surrounded by family, especially his grandchildren.  And that is exactly what we had.  The whole family was there, and I made all of my Dad’s favorite dishes, from lasagna to meatballs to lemon bread.  We gave him a new Lazy Boy recliner that he absolutely loved.
Four months later, in late April, my dad went to the doctor’s for a fairly routine appointment.  He had emphysema and was having trouble breathing so they took him up to the hospital.  He was fine, joking around, making friends with the doctors and nurses as he always did.  They wanted to keep him overnight for observation and release him the next day.  I really wanted to stay overnight at the hospital but my Dad wouldn’t hear of it.  “Go home to your children, they need you, I will be fine,” my Dad told me.  He kissed me on the head, we said our I love you’s and I went home.  At 9 am the next morning, I got a phone call.  “Your dad had a stroke,” the floating voice on the other end of the phone said.  “But he’s OK, right?”  I said.  “You better come up here right away,” is all they would tell me.  My Dad died on May 3rd, one day after my wedding anniversary.  I truly believe he held on just long enough so he wouldn’t leave me on my anniversary.
Dad was buried with full military honors and I wrote more than a few blogs about the whole process and his amazing life.  
I have grieved mightily, gotten very sick, gotten better, burned through my grief with twice daily workouts, and more or less have come full circle.  With a clear and sharp hole in my heart -- but otherwise I have been fully functional and happy.  I visit my Dad frequently at the cemetery.  It’s a beautiful resting spot and I find it very comforting.
My Dad loved Christmas.  We were that family that had their Christmas lights nailed into the house year round.  Because It was never too early to turn on the Christmas lights.   He wasn’t generous, he was overly generous, especially at Christmas time.  I LOVED Christmas and never missed a Christmas with my parents. Then we would pick up the fun the next day with my Dad’s Birthday party.
I have many friends who lost someone this year.  It’s hard.  I know my father wants me to be happy and enjoy my family and my home.  I feel his presence all through my house and mostly in my heart.  Having strong faith helps a lot. But there’s no way around it.  I miss my Dad most at Christmas time.
So if you are hurting, I’m here to tell you it’s OK.  You’re not alone.  You are normal.  Whatever the reason, maybe you lost a pregnancy, a parent, a friend.  Maybe you lost your job or your house.  It’s OK to mourn, to grieve, to be sad.  In fact, it’s necessary.  If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you cannot walk around your grief, you have to face it and walk through it.  Grief is the final act of love.  In fact, it is the other side of love.  The more you love someone, the more you will grieve.
I miss you, Daddy.  But I wouldn’t trade one minute or change one thing.  Merry Christmas in Heaven.  
Photo from Christmas 1967, my Dad, Mariano Muyot, is on leave from the Navy, holding my newborn brother and I am holding on to my Dad.  
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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas at NYU

THE LITTLE THINGS.  Today's snowy day reminds me of my first snowfall in NYC.  Michael and I are so excited to see Broadway's newest musical comedy, "In Transit," at Circle in the Square.  There's nothing like New York City when it snows.  

I will never forget my first snowfall in NYC.  I was an 18 year old freshman at NYU.  I had a group of friends, including Ronnie, a crazy brilliant Conservative Jew from Atlanta Georgia.  Ronnie had never seen snow and he was soooo excited.  He really wanted it to snow before we all went on break.  We were in our dorm on Fifth Avenue and 10th Street.  My roommate Noriko woke me up to tell me it was snowing.  It was 3am.  At first I was like, who cares, I'm tired!! Then I remembered Ronnie.  I got on my coat and boots and ran outside.  

There were no cars on Fifth Avenue.  But there were a bunch of my friends and they were playing touch football in the snow.  Ronnie was delirious with joy he kept diving -- unnecessarily-- for the ball so he could roll around in the snow.  The streetlights were glowing orange, Ronnie was dressed for Antarctica, and somebody put on Bruce Springsteen.  I remember looking around.  We were 18, young, athletic, and all majoring in different subjects, from all over the country.  I wish I could take that moment and save it forever in a snow globe it really was magical.  But 33 years later I'm taking my son in to see a show and I will get to see him experience his first snowfall in NYC.  

"Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things." ~~ 

Kurt Vonnegut 

Have a great day everyone 💛 Mrs. Lo (Photo of Washington Square, NYU, in the snow)

Friday, November 4, 2016

The children's home of Kingston

KEEP DOING THE GOOD STUFF - I don't know about anyone else but I'm looking forward to November 9th.  I'd say it's been a pretty stressful presidential campaign for just about everyone I know; anyone with common sense, and I count myself as one of them, does not  even discuss presidential politics. So please,  let us elect someone, anyone, to the office of US president and let the animosity be over.  

Locally, the news out of Newburgh is just too sad to discuss.  Too many violent deaths, too many shootings and too many young people gone too soon.  I don't have the strength to write about it at the moment; however, I'm going to stick to my plan which is to keep lifting people up.

We can all do our part. First of all, even if the person that you were not rooting for is elected, please do accept that person as your president and let's all be friends again.  Really, all this sniping at each other on Facebook and Twitter -- it's not good for your blood pressure.  If you want to elevate your blood pressure, do something more enjoyable, like chowing down on French fries from McDonald's.  

Back to the point of this blog though, I wanted to tell you about some of the good stuff that I'm doing.  You probably know by now that I am the founder and director of America Rows and swims Newburgh.  This is a not for profit organization and I obtain grants and donations to support our programs. Primarily, we provide free swim clinics to underprivileged youth in Newburgh as well as scholarships to allow underprivileged youth to enjoy the sport of Rowing, at the Newburgh Rowing club. And next week, we will be announcing a major expansion of the program.  

ARSN will be joining forces with the Children's Home of Kingston to provide them with a rowing club for the boys who are residing there.  The Children's Home of Kingston has been around for 140 years, providing services to boys and young men between the ages of 8 and 21 whose personal, social, developmental, or family situations preclude them from living at home or in a less restrictive setting, and who may benefit from milieu therapy, active psychotherapeutic interventions, and specialized care.

Thanks to Coach Kennedy and Coach Sheila Wise, we will be starting the boys off with an indoor rowing program this month. At the beginning of next year, we will bring our nationally recognized swim program to the boys and finally, this spring, we will be moving them into crew shells on the Roundout so they can enjoy the great sport of Rowing.  We are very excited about expanding the program to a group of children and youth who can truly benefit.

My grandmother always said, you can't change the world but all you need to do is give one person a hand up.  And that is what I am trying to do every day; and I hope that everyone reading this will do the same. You don't have to go out and start your own not-for-profit foundation but you could start by looking more kindly upon your fellow American, even if they are rooting for a candidate you don't like.  Bring someone a cup of coffee. Drop some food at the food pantry -- every little bit helps.   Have a great day everyone! 💛 Mrs. Lo 

(Here I am with Jay Mooers the director of operations at the children's home of Kingston on Friday).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Ladies in the Boat

DARE TO DREAM - Two years ago, my Rowing BFF and I competed in our first rowing Regatta.  I was 49 and scared out of my mind.  Flash forward 8 seasons, countless meters, and many regattas later.  Today, Mrs. Mills and I are returning to the same regatta, with a bit more confidence and, oh yeah, we brought backup. We are at the fun and friendly Rockrimmon Regatta in Springfield, Massachusetts once again.  

Two years ago, it was just the two of us.  We rowed in a double and we were the only adults rowing for the Newburgh Rowing club.  We were recreational rowers but we were total novices when it came to racing.  What made us race?  We were tired of sitting on the sidelines and slinging hash while we watched our kids race.  We were ready to take the oars and start racing ourselves.

We overcame our fears, kept at it, and discovered we really do have a passion for Rowing. And today we are returning as the outside pair in a women's masters four man.  That means there are two other adults rowing  with us, and our coach will be our coxswain.  We have really come to understand the concept of bonding with and trusting the members of your boat. It's not just something that happens in high school.  We all had to learn a different kind of rowing (sweeping) to participate in this particular event.  We have discovered that when the four of us are together, it is indeed a party.  

We support each other and push each other.  The other night, we practiced for our race on the indoor rowing machines.  Marian, ever the optimist, did not even complain when I told everyone that we really should erg.  We did erg, a "broken 5K" and it was hotter than Hades.  I said to the ladies in my boat, "OK, I'm jumping in the Hudson River  afterwards who's with me??!!"  I was not the least bit surprised when everyone agreed to jump in.  I couldn't see without my glasses, so Maggie, the youngest in our boat, had to escort me down the dock like I was her grandma.  I was so hot I forgot about the holding hands part and just ran off the dock and jumped in the river.  Maggie pulled me back out so we could try this one more time!

The four of us held hands on the edge of the dock while our coach took a video.  We looked at the river for a few minutes, with a little bit of hesitation.  I know we were all contemplating the same thing. Sewage, pollution, bacteria. But at the end of the day, friendship won out.  Together, we held hands, took a deep breath and jumped into the river together.  It was totally refreshing, both literally and figuratively.  

And really, what more can you ask for than  friends who will jump in the River with you??  And Row all year with you, drive with you all over the Northeast, lend you a precious 7/16 wrench, and text you all day to make sure you get down to practice.  Yes, Rowing has made us physically fit and has challenged us in ways that we never thought we could overcome.  But most of all, we have created something.  We have created a boat.  

We are the ladies in the boat, and today we are going to Springfield to row our race.  It's a 5K, which is no joke in the sport of Rowing, so wish us luck!! Keep challenging yourself and no matter what it is, never give up on your dreams! 💛 Mrs. Lo

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All Roads Lead to the Beach

ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE #BEACH.  And so we find ourselves on our last summer jaunt of 2016.  This time we are in #Hyannis, Massachusetts, the "Downtown of Cape Cod" with four boys: our two sons and my two nephews.  This was a completely impromptu trip.  I booked the rooms 3 days before we left.  While some traveling requires intense, focused, long term planning and preparation, such as  international travel with the family or a group; other travel can and should be completely spontaneous.

If you haven't done so already, consider taking a completely spontaneous trip before Summer is over.  Ours consists of a long weekend, but it could be an overnighter or even a day trip.  Perhaps a trip to the beach, a national park or a water park.  Whatever you do, remember the words of one of my favorite philosophers: 

"Life's too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy, they just promised it would be worth it." ~~ Dr.Seuss

Have a great day everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings 💛 Mrs. Lo

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mrs. Lo's Top Family Vacation Tips

MRS. LO’s TOP SUMMER VACATION TIPS - Poof!  And just like that, our 16th trip to Kennebunkport, Maine is in the books.  Vacation weeks do seem do fly by a lot more quickly than other weeks.  Since we do travel quite a bit, I have put together my top Vacation Tips for traveling with your Family this Summer:

8.  DO WHAT YOU LIKE - that may sound obvious but it is important to find something the whole family enjoys.  I have friends who love camping but I just can’t rough it in the woods.  Similarly, we love Disney World but I have friends who would rather chew cud than visit Disney.  To each his own!  Take your time exploring and researching on the internet and in person.  When you find something you like, remember, if it ain't t broke, don’t fix it.  That’s why we are in our 16th year returning to Kennebunkport, we absolutely love it!

7. PACK LIGHT - the more experienced the traveler, the lighter their luggage.  Most people tend to overpack, some wildly.  When I lived in Spain, my friends and I traveled all over Europe with just a small backpack.  When my husband and I spent 3 weeks in the Greece, island hopping, all we had were carry ons.  To this day, we all travel by air with one carryon each.  We never have to wait for our baggage, or pay for it, and getting around is a breeze.  Whatever you plan on packing, you can probably cut it down by 75%.

6.  BUILD UP TO IT - when the kids were younger, we only took vacations in places we could drive to.  Eventually, the trips got longer and we built up to taking our youngins on the plane.  First to Disney and then on longer international trips. I have never been a big fan of babies on planes.  The altitude really does hurt their ears, which, of course leads to crying.  But there’s always that exceptional baby that loves to fly!

5.  LET THE KIDS HELP PLAN THE TRIP - nothing makes kids more invested in a trip than being in on the planning.  Disney does a great job of letting you plan everything, from lodging to meals to rides, in advance.  I sit down with my kids and make a Bucket List of things we want to do on every trip.  This trip’s Bucket List included going to all 6 beaches, kayaking, paddleboarding, golf, biking, fishing, hiking, and going to some of our favorite spots, like Ben and Jerry’s in town.  We didn’t do everything on our list but we did almost all of everything; and the kids enjoyed being able to put a big green checkmark next to items on our Bucket List as we completed them.

4.  LIGHTEN UP ON THE SCREEN TIME THING - we usually try (unsuccessfully) to limit our kids screen time.  We don’t own an X Box, play station or any video games (so they play video games on their tablets). But when on vacation, we let them do what they want.  Yes, both my kids were walking all over Kennebunkport trying to capture different Pokemon Go characters.  So were lots of other kids.

3.  BANG ON BUDGET - don’t blow the budget to go on vacation.  Set up a vacation club savings account so you can pay for your vacation ahead of time.  While on vacation, set a budget and stick to it.  We rent a house in Kennebunkport, which has to be paid for well in advance of coming up here.  Once we get here, we buy groceries and grill or cook at the house.  The only time we went out to dinner this week was when we had burgers at the Dine In Movie Theatre.  Nothing ruins a vacation like coming home to credit card bills.   

2.  CREATE A NO WHINING ZONE - whatever gripe anyone has, just Let It Go!  Really, you’re on vacation, that’s not the place for whining and complaining.  Somebody stole your parking spot?  Oh well, guess they're just faster!  The person you asked to take your family photo also took a picture of his thumb?  Hey, I have fun editing photos!  It’s amazing what an adjustment of attitude can do.

 1.  TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK - unless you’re writing a Travel Blog -- which I do for fun because I love to write and I love to travel  -- you can post your fabulous vacation photos to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook when you get back.  While it’s great to interact with your friends on social media, it’s even better to give that a break until you get back.  Focus only on your family during your family vacation.  Your spouse and kids will notice and will be thankful, believe me.  Because Family Vacation time is a precious commodity and you only have a finite amount vacations over the course of your kids’ childhood.
I hope everyone gets to go on a great Family Vacation this Summer!  Next up for us:  Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and then a jaunt to Cape Cod in August.  
Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo (Photo of the sweet little 3-Bedroom house we stayed in this week, just across the street from the Beach) 

Punta Cana: a Mrs. Lo Travel Blog

have traveled to dozens of countries and the Dominican Republic is one of my absolute favorites.  Our most recent trip was to Punta Cana, currently one of the hottest spots in the Caribbean.  Forty years ago, this part of the DR was all jungle.  The development began in 1970 and got going when Club Med put in a hotel.  In 1984, a real commercial airport was built in Punta Cana and development began in earnest.  There are now 162 resorts in Punta Cana, with an average of 5,000 travelers per day coming through the airport.  

    We stayed at the beautiful Ocean Blue and Sands Resort, an all inclusive resort located right on the beach (this is a key thing to look for in a resort -- some resorts, like the Hard Rock, are a pretty good distance from the beach), with 8 restaurants, 10 bars, 2 pools, a theatre, casino, and lots of water activities.  We were able to use our Disney Vacation Club membership to stay here, meaning we did not pay for the lodging, just the food and the airfare.  (We have a lot of Disney Vacation Club points, which is how we are able to take 5 - 6 family vacations a year).

    I would highly recommend a family, couples or even solo trip to Punta Cana.  If you book a trip, here are a few things to know before you go:

 1. PACK LIGHT - I know I say this all the time, but you really don’t need anything more than a carry-on.  It makes traveling so much easier.  For a trip to the DR generally, you will need swimwear and coverups, some shorts and shirts, and some resort wear for dinner.  Check the dress code before you go.  For instance, the restaurant on the beach, which we favored, required a shirt and pants/ or dress (full coverage)  for breakfast.  However, you were free to stroll into the lunch buffet at the same place in your swimsuit.  Go figure.

2. BRING A PEN AND TEN’S - this blog assumes everyone has their US Passport and knows the rules of international travel.  Here are a few extra tips.  Bring a pen in your personal bag.  You need to fill out the customs forms (“no, I’m not bringing livestock into the country”) on the plane and they don’t provide you with a pen.  Having these forms all filled out on the plane saves a lot of time.  There is also a $10 per person fee to enter the country and they don’t take credit cards.

3. ABOUT PESOS - the Dollar is very strong right now, and if you exchange dollars for pesos you will get a lot more bang for your buck.  I exchange at the ATM in the airport.  You will pay a $5 fee but you will get the best rate.  There is a huge transaction fee everywhere else.  Of course, since the dollar is so strong, everyone wants you to pay in dollars.  But since you can get 45 pesos for One Dollar, I like to do the exchange.  If you are staying at an all inclusive, you will only need money for taxis, tips, souvenirs, and excursions.  A good tip would be 250 pesos ($5.55 ).  

4. THE LANGUAGE - I always speak Spanish when I am in the DR or any other Spanish speaking country, because I love the language and I am like to speak with the people and get all the nuances.  However, you need not speak any Spanish at all, everyone at the resorts speaks enough English to do their job, and the concierges are very fluent in English -- and often several other languages. 

5. OUTSIDE THE RESORTS - unless this is your native land, don’t be wandering outside the resorts without a guide.  There is a lot of poverty and poverty makes people do things to survive.  You are perfectly safe at your resort and on an expedition but you want to stay in your lane.

6. ALL INCLUSIVES - depending on your resort, your all inclusive will generally include unlimited food and beverages (which alcohol is included is resort specific), unlimited room service, towel service, use of the beach cabanas, transportation by golf cart or trolley around the resort, the nightly shows, and certain water sports.  Kayaking and snorkeling were included at our resort.  The catamaran was an extra fee as was the banana boat, surfing and parasailing but it was all on property and very reasonably priced.

7. EXCURSIONS - the off property excursions are an extra charge.  Sometimes we like to go all over the country with excursions, this particular trip we wanted to relax.  We did however, visit Hoyo Azul and the kids went on a Snuba dive (cross between scuba and snorkeling).  You can also visit Sanoa Island, go in dunebuggies, go ziplining and visit dolphins and aquariums.

8. FOOD AND DRINK - the food at our resort was outstanding.  We tried almost all of the restaurants.  Our hands down favorite was the Villa Marina as it was located right on the beach.  There is a sitdown breakfast, breakfast buffet, lunch buffet and sitdown Dominican dinner.  We also enjoyed the Hibachi Japanese restaurant, Italian restaurant, the Steakhouse and the Mexican restaurant.  Mike’s Coffee Bar was a coffee lover’s dream and is said to have the best coffee in Punta Cana, along with desserts.  All of this is part of your all inclusive fee.  The theater shows were akin to shows on a cruise ship, some are better than others.  The Dominican show was fabulous, with some of the best costumes and bachata dancing I have ever seen.

9. HAVE FUN!!  Punta Cana is not like Santo Domingo or even Puerta Plata, where there are lots of historic sights from the 16th century, and beautiful cathedrals and architecture to see.  Punta Cana is not a town.  This was pure jungle 40 years ago, and it was called Punta Borracha (Drunken Point).  The developers changed the name and eventually it became a Beach and Resort mecca.  Trust me, you’re not missing anything if you were to sit on the beach, read and occasionally swim or snorkel.  The entire economy is built on you, the valued guest, having a good time, relaxing, and coming back.  So Relax and Enjoy one of the most beautiful spots on earth!

Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings!  Mrs. Lo (photo from the beach in Punta Cana).  If you click on the blog, there are more photos from our trip!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Days in Maine 2016

Our Summer Days in Maine - We just arrived at our beach house for the week, here in Kennebunkport, Maine. This is our 16th summer in a row coming up to “the ‘bunks.”  I truly can’t believe it has been 16 years!  It seems like just yesterday we were packing precious little Baby Christian into his carseat to come up here for the first time. But in fact, that was August of 2001. Neither of our kids can remember a time when we didn’t go to Maine during the Summer.  I often blog about the importance of creating and maintaining traditions for your kids and grandkids.  It’s 
more than just a fun thing to do, it’s actually a building block for raising happy and successful adults.  (A great read if you have time is "The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” by Dr. Edward Hallowell). 

There have been a lot of changes over the years --but some things about our trip to Maine have remain steadfast traditions.

The first summer we came up to Kennebunkport, we only stayed for a long weekend.  We couldn’t afford a suite, we were lucky to pull off a single hotel room.  We took the door off the closet and created a “nursery” for Christian (we put it back on before we left, we’re not the Rolling Stones).  Somehow, that will forever be known to our kids as the year we “put Christian in the closet on vacation.”  We were still building our careers and I was only working part-time as a young lawyer, so it was a financial stretch for us to stay in such a “fancy” place, even for a few nights.

We made it work and we ended up falling in love with the six beautiful, pristine beaches of Kennebunkport, with our favorite being “Mother’s Beach.”  We simply adore this sleepy, quaint New England village where cars actually STOP when you're in the crosswalk; and life moves at about the pace of fictional Mayberry.  We vowed to come back every year.  We came home, learned to cut coupons, collected loose change and started a vacation club account.  Our ultimate goal was to be able to travel the country and the world with our family.

By the time Michael was born, in 2004, we were able to rent a house a few blocks from the beach.  Michael was just 5 months old when he first came to Maine.  Four-year-old Christian towed him around in a little red flexible flyer wagon, which we continued to use as “beach transportation” for many years.  Yes, that was the year that I forgot to pack Michael’s clothes and had to run out to the mall for baby clothes (hey, everybody makes mistakes, don’t judge!)

Over the past 15 years, we founded our own law firm, a full-service Mediation Center, and some other businesses.  We have sold some of our businesses but have kept the main ones, the law firm which bears our name, the Mediation Center and the travel agency.  We had some failures, which we learned from, and forged on.  Over time, we have both worked very hard and achieved enough success to allow us to pursue our passions: traveling, rowing, sailing, and private Catholic schools for our kids.  We otherwise live very modest lives.  We live in the same home we bought when we married 18 years ago.  We spend almost nothing on things that are important to other lawyers, like cars, clothes and jewelry.  I have always said, I'd rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff. 

We now go on several vacations a year, with our time in Kennebunkport still being our special time together.  The first thing we do when we arrive is park the car, pile out and head straight to the ocean just to feel the waves at our feet and our toes in the sand.  We have been to many beaches, from Hawaii to the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, but there's nothing quite like our favorite New England beach and the aromatic salty air.

Every summer, my first task is a big grocery run, which is necessary with all rental houses.  I started out being able to walk to the little grocery store in town with the red wagon and haul back enough food for the week.  At some point, I had to start driving to the local supermarket.  Now, I take Michael and head for the giant Hannaford two towns over and we each fill two shopping carts.  

Dinner is easy.  Anthony grills just about every evening and the rest of us make the sides.  Every morning, I get up early to watch the sun rise.  I like to sit on the beach with my cup of blueberry coffee and greet the glorious day all by myself.  Eventually, I head back and make blueberry pancakes for my hungry boys.  We like to pack up sandwiches to take to the beach.  We basically walk out the door and plant ourselves in the sand and surf for the day.

 Our days are pretty simple -- we spend them at the beach.  I do like to get in a few of our other favorite activities -- the rides and the Boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach; kayaking on the Kennebunk River; hiking the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve; and of course, the intown narrated Trolley Ride (I often know more about Kennebunkport than the trolley driver -- and I do not hesitate to correct him or her  -- much to my children’s chagrin).  The kids spend pretty much the whole day boogie boarding, body surfing, fishing and building sand castles.  The first time Christian was able to boogie board on his own was a major victory, complete with hundreds of photos and videos.  Anthony and I used to go in the waves to “lifeguard” him.  Now both of our kids can entertain themselves in the water or out.  One summer, my heart was in my throat as I watched little Michael go INTO a wave and not come out right away; I didn’t see my older son either.  But that was because Christian had gone in to retrieve him.  Michael was able to swim back on his own with Christian kind of pushing him from behind.  Five minutes later they were both back boogie boarding like nothing had happened.  It's good to know your kids have each other's backs.

For 15 years, we only went out to eat at one restaurant -- Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant, which not only had the best lobster and blueberry in town, they accepted us with open arms when we first came in with babies.  Of course, they were best known for being a favorite eatery of the Bush Family; the Bushes have a compound here in Kennebunkport.  We were pretty disappointed to come up this year and find out that Bartley’s had been sold to a restaurateur from Booth Bay Harbor and had been replaced with an upscale Italian place.  We haven’t been interested in going out to dinner since then, although we have had lobster roll for lunch in quite a few locales. (Hint:  the best food in town is often found at a food truck and Kennebunkport is no exception.  Check out “Ocean Rolls,” the oldest working food truck in the US -- dating back to 1961 -- currently, it can be found at the corner of Ross Road and Route 1 in Kennebunk.  Great prices and delicious lobster rolls!)  We also enjoy local community theatre in town.  This year, we will be going to the free outdoor Shakespeare Festival.  

We have a few other vacations planned over the year: the Dominican Republic, Cape Cod, San Francisco, Hawaii, Disney's Grand Floridian, and Vero Beach, Florida.  Not to mention Christian’s college visits.

It took a lot of perseverance, hard work, and belief in ourselves to get to the point where we can travel freely with our family.  And it has all been worth it. There's nothing we'd rather do than be together as a family.

 Have lots of fun this summer creating your own Summer traditions, whether it’s time at the beach, camping, backyard campfires, or outings at the park.  Whatever it is, do it as a family.  Because one minute you're putting your kid in his car seat-- and in the blink of an eye, your kid is taking turns driving the car to Maine.

Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo 

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Fourth of July from Mrs.Lo

I just love everything about the Fourth of July, it’s such a HAPPY holiday!  The whole point is to love and celebrate America.  And we do that best by loving God, country, and gathering our families around.  It’s a time to enjoy barbecuing, appreciate our unprecedented freedom, fly Old Glory and swath ourselves and our homes in red, white and blue.  And I love all my family’s great traditions and memories from past years.  If I had to identify one single favorite memory, I guess it would be the Jello.  More specifically, the red, white and blue Jello Flag cake I made with my grandmother for years, and that I now make with my kids.

    My grandmother had a big beautiful Victorian home in the village of Cold Spring.  Talk about all American. This was before everyone from NYC discovered Cold Spring and the only ones who hiked Breakneck mountain were billygoats.  The village of Cold Spring had (still has) a little gazebo where there would be a band in straw hats playing patriotic songs.  Families would bring down picnics and camp out all day on the Hudson River, fishing, barbecuing and enjoying the live music.  

    The absolute best Fourth of July ever was 1976,  I was eleven years old and it was our nation’s Bicentennial.  That was the year the historic Tall Ships, replicas of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, sailed up the Hudson River from NYC.  It was so incredibly thrilling to see the tall ships after hearing about them from months, and then they actually docked in town.  I didn’t think that life could get any better.  And then I remembered,

    We still had the Jello Flag Cake to eat  It was the first year that Nellen (my grandmother) had let me take the lead on making the Flag cake.  She had the recipe memorized and she sat on the kitchen stool and told me what do to.  It is made of red and blue jello, Sara Lee pound cake slices, cool whip, strawberries and blueberries.  We had made it the night before and carefully packed it in cardboard, waxed paper and a portable ice chest (now known as a “cooler”).  And it was absolutely perfect. As the sky turned to dusk, my brother and I got our jars out to chase fireflies (we always let them go after a few minutes).  Then my parents got out the folding lawn chairs from Montgomery Ward and we settled in to listen to the band play Philip Sousa and patriotic tunes.  We were pretty sleepy but we woke up quickly when the fireworks went off.  Ooooo.  Ahhhh.    

    Looking back, it has always been these simple pleasures that have been the absolute best and the most memorable.  We now have our own tradition with our kids.  While Newburgh doesn’t have a small town gazebo or a party on the green, there are plenty of area fireworks to watch.  However, we find that we prefer to just be home with family and friends to barbecue.  One thing we do like to do is get out on a boat -- this year, it is a sailboat -- and watch the fireworks on the Hudson River from the boat.  It’s the best seat in the house.  And right after that, we get out our new fangled “ice chest” and dig into my kids’ favorite -- the Jello Flag cake.  

    Some 240 years ago, regular folks just like us laid down their lives and fought and suffered so that the “colonies” could have independence from an unjust King.  As a matter of fact, George Washington spent a good deal of the latter part of the war right here in Newburgh, and you can (and should) visit Washington’s headquarters often.  I know I do.
    There’s no wrong way to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Love God, your country and your family.  And if you want to make yourself something nice, I highly recommended a jello flag cake -- Mrs. Lo 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Summer! From Orion the Dog Blogger

HAPPY SUMMER DUDES AND DUDETTES!  It’s me, Orion, the only four-legged LoBiondo.  As you know, my mom only let’s me blog at the beginning of every season (BTW, I am looking for paw-ssible legal representation to negotiate a better deal for me.  Funny, no one wants to negotiate for you when both your parents are lawyers.  But I digress).  SUMMER is my very favorite season!!!  Along with Fall, Winter and Spring.  And Mud, that’s my favorite too but Mom says it’s not a season. I don’t know why not, it’s so much fun.  Anywhos, SUMMER means Family Time!!!  My brothers will have time to throw me the frisbee and my tennis ball.  There will be swimming in the creek in my backyard, and there will be lots of barbecues on the back deck -- and I know exactly which relatives will sneak me treats under the table (Ha!  Even my Mom doesn’t know and she never will!)

    This summer my younger brother will be going to Rowing Camp at the Newburgh Rowing Club, as usual. He is 12 now but he was their very first camper at age 7!!!  My parents were so worried about him they drove down to the River on their lunch hour and stood at Gully’s to watch him kayaking by.  They tried to pretend they weren’t there but Big Coach always spotted them and called them out on his megaphone, hahaha!! Good times!!  And I’ve been around so long that I will be a camp counselor at the rowing club summer camp, along with my older brother.  Yes!! Can’t wait to get my hat and whistle.  Wait, what’s that?  Oh come on, Mom, not againnnnn!!! Okay.  Correction.  Apparently, once again I will not be a camp counselor at the rowing club.  However, Mom said I can have a hat and whistle!!!  Which will come in handy because I am the Captain of the Neigh-Boar-Hood Watch group.  Which consists of yours truly and my beloved, Abby the Beagle up the street.  We are so busy paw-trolling in the summer it’s CRAZY TOWN! Just the other day I had to chase down and forcibly remove a brazen surly dangerous woodchuck.  And the deer -- who do they think they are -- eating Mom’s petunias??  Yes, I am that good, I can chase down and nip a deer in the ankles.  But the real paw-trol work comes from chasing those evil rats with furry tails.  Those no good squirrels!   don’t even get me started.  Go right ahead buddy, run up that tree after STEALING from the bird feeder.  I can wait here all day!  Until I get hungry, then you know, Mom puts chicken drippings on my dog chow so … Pry-Or-It-Eez!
    I can’t wait for all our vacations this Summer.  We are going to Maine, the Dominican Republic, and the Adirondacks!!!  I’m already packed and I don’t even need a Passport!  Wait, what?  Mommmm!  Aaargh, once again Mom says I’m not going on the first two trips.  Well, that’s unfortunate because I love the beach and I may have to do a little tinkle on the Oriental rug right now to express my dissatisfaction.  No, no, my inner Jiminy Cricket say that would be wrong.  To tinkle or not to tinkle?  See, this is why I need representation!!!
    That’s Ok because I will get to stay with my grandparents and their dog, Magoo, this Summer during vacations!  I call him Goo for short.  And he calls me Orion (he’s not that good with coming up with nicknames).  Me and the Goo have so much fun.  I can relax over there because really, Grandma doesn’t care about the fat woodies and evil squirrels eating her shrubs and stuff.  She actually likes woodchucks.  So you know I don’t have to paw-trol as much.   The Goo has that covered anyway.  I gotta give it to the big lug he has the bark of a Lion!!  But sometimes, I’m just like DUDE, Turn up for What Already, it’s just the paperboy!  See, I am a lot more chill at Goo’s house.  I take a lot of naps, eat a lot of treats and when we’re not napping in the yard, Goo and I like to watch the Animal Channel.  Those monkeys are something else!!!
    My mom always gets excited about the Summer because she doesn’t have to make my brothers’ ginormous lunches the night before.  Then she realizes she still has to make them bag lunches for rowing camp and the thrill is kind of gone on that one.  Mom likes to row as much as she can in the summer and boy does she!! She even goes down to the rowing camp during the day and rows with the kids!  And Dad loves to sail his sailboat in the Summer.  Guess what??  I am an Ace # 1 First Mate!  I love going on the sailboat and letting the breeze run through my ears while we cut across the Hudson River.  Life is good!  The only thing that would make it better … if I could bring my friends Abigail and Goo on board the Sailboat.  See what I’m saying, this is why I need representation!!!
    Well, gotta wrap it up here.  You have no idea how exhausting it is type when you don’t have opposable thumbs.  That’s why those monkeys are so lucky.  They should really start their own blog oh HEY GOTTA GO -- SQUIRRELLLLLLLLL …….
    Signed - Orion LoBiondo, Special Guest Blogger

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Regrets: A Fathers Day Poem

NO REGRETS, A Poem for my Dad
Oh so many people
Their words tinge with regret
when they talk about their father
I want to hug and tell them
I wish they could have met
a Dad sent down from Heaven
that's what you were to me 

Though God has called you back
I have not one regret
you always knew how 
to make me smile
You would tell me stories 
That made me laugh so hard I cried 
They say you were a hero
To me You were
My first love 
My hero Dad
The one I thought of first
When I was sad
Or needed help
With tires flat
When life just wore me down
My Dad will fix this
I would say
And that's what I will miss 
You always had the time for me 
Your heart was always open 
Not just for me, you loved mankind
Even those who least deserved it

I always knew 
How proud you were 
of Little Juliana
And though
It seemed so silly then
You joined me on my first date
With blue ribbons in your hands
My daughter won these
You would say
And my husband didn’t run
He knew that we would be
A great big happy family
And that indeed we were
Our circle of Love 
went so far
We flew so high 
We touched a star
I see your Star every night
Can you see me Dad?
I hear you in each word I write
I see you in the wild flowers 
The bees, the breeze, the leaves
I see your imprint everywhere
in me, my sons, 
the way my heart is shaped

So many people speak of
Regrets about their Dad
The fights
Or worse the I love you's never spoken
But not for us, Dad
You always said I love you
I always said it back
Sunday, that was our day
I’d make your favorite dish
We never missed a holiday
Your birthday, no need to wish 
I made December 26 
The party of the year
No combining that with 
Christmas Day for my father dear

The last words that we spoke
Your voice was stolen by the Stroke
I said to you:
I love you Dad
You said I love you too

I gave you the best sendoff
That a child could
Goodbye My Sailor Dad
And in the strains of Taps
I first let you go
And began 
To fill the ocean
With my tears of rage and love
Why can't he live? Damn it I raged!
Then in my Dream
you said 
My child, you must forgive
My Legacy in you will live
Be happy, child, 
That’s what I want for you

And now
I regal your grave 
I kneel, my head I bow
I feel your arms around me
I see you clearly now
Cry not, you say 
For Daddy’s always with you
I gave you wings to fly
Go soar! 
Be with your loving husband
And your boys, I love them so
Take care of mom
Your brother too 
regrets are not for you

What more could I have asked for, Dad
Maybe just one more day
Another game of chess
Another chance to play
But we will have that one day 
when I see you up in Heaven
So set the board, Dad
Wait for me
And when it is my time
Take my hand and lead me to 
The Chessboard in the Sky 
Then endlessly we will play
and laugh and spread our wings
and o’er the Heavens we will fly 
My little hand in yours

By Juliana LoBiondo

In memory of my Beloved Dad, Mariano Muyot (December 26, 1935 - May 3, 2016)

Photo from Hawaii 1975, Diamondhead in the background

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Girls: Rowing and Swimming to the Top

MY GIRLS: OUR STORY - Last night I had the honor and the privilege of watching "my girls” graduate from Nora Cronin Presentation Academy.  I call them my girls, because they row at the Newburgh Rowing club and we have been together for years, with Karla joining us at the age of 10.  You can only imagine my pride and joy when each of the girls received multiple academic awards and Karla graduated as valedictorian.  Also in their boat is our wonderful Bowseat, Diana, who was there for support; and Caridad our Coxswain who is in sixth grade and was also there for support.

Karla has been with us the longest. I will never forget when she came to the pool for swim lessons. Her little brother Richie was just a baby and he was so adorable I could not stop picking him up and hugging and kissing him.  He quickly got tired of that and started running away from me every time he saw me, laughing every time and daring me to chase him.  Last night, Richie came to the graduation in his little boy suit, so handsome, and shook my hand and congratulated me. Everyone is becoming so grown up!

“Little Karla” was always coming into the office, where I would be going over one thing or another with the rowing club coaches. She was polite but relentless. Here she was, this little cherub who had just learned to swim, and was just learning to use the indoor rowing machines; and pretty much every week she would stop at the office and ask me the same thing: Mrs.Lo, can I move up to competitive rowing yet?  Not this week, Karla I would say, but soon.

Coach Kennedy had known Karla since she was in kindergarten and had always wanted her to come down to the rowing club.  “She is born to row, that one,” said Coach Kennedy.  He's uncanny like that. 

Citlaly was the next want to join us.  I have never seen an athlete with such heart.  She is so kind and yet so incredibly physically strong.  I try not to ask too much of her unless it is really needed. Because if I ask her to, she will literally row so hard for me but she will pass out. And that's not what we want. But that's the kind of heart she has.  

Isabella and Diana joined us towards the end of sixth grade.  All of the girls are incredibly gifted and incredibly brilliant. Isabella is an all-around athlete. She can run incredibly fast and has won running 5K's, and she is an incredible swimmer, as well as a natural musician. Diana is tremendous at bow seat.  That means that she's responsible for being the captain of the boat so to speak and yet she has to row at the same time.  She is also loyal and diligent. If I ask her to follow up on something, it's as good as done. I can definitely see her practicing law someday.

Fast forward to spring season 2016. The girls are not little pollywogs anymore, they have become serious scholar athletes. They are leaders.  They are kind in their heart, their words, and their deeds.  As are their families.  When my dad passed away at the beginning of May, the girls’ families took turns delivering giant casseroles and tins of delicious food to my house. Every night for nine nights, I would come home and there would be food on my porch.  They were there for the wake, the funeral and the burial.  Somewhere along the way, along with the parents and grandparents we became way more than athletes, we became a family.  And they are all very close friends with my younger son, Michael.  

In the boat, Karla is stroke, meaning she leads the boat sitting in Front of the other rowers and setting the pace.  Citlaly sits behind her at three seat, And Isabella sits behind her at two-seat, forming the "engine" of the boat. Diana steers the boat sitting at bow seat.  They are incredibly versatile in that they can change from sculling (holding two oars in their hands) to sweeping (each row or holds one or in their hands).  They have been rowing against high school girls and on many occasions have beat them. They became the first all middle school boat in history to medal at the Orange Ulster County championship this spring and went into the league championship undefeated, and proceeded to win the first place in the Hudson Valley Rowing League Girls 4+ Division C championship.  What a way to end their career as 8th grade middle school rowers! 

But Rowing for us is about much more than the medals.  It is about friendship, bravery, leadership, and setting an example for the younger generation.  Each of the girls has overcome tremendous adversity in order to get to where they are academically and as rowers. In September, the girls will go off to high school.  Two are going to Lourdes and one to Kennedy Catholic with full scholarships.  Another is entering into One of the best programs at NFA. 

Our younger generation of sixth grade Nora Cronin Rowers will start taking the helm this summer and training to race.  

Our girls who just graduated will start transitioning to a freshman boat, as they all plan to stick together for as long as possible Rowing. And they will spend part of their summer training the younger girls to row competitively.  The entire program is free to the girls as they receive scholarships from the foundation that I cofounded with Coach Kennedy and which I direct, America Rows and swims Newburgh, an official affiliate of USRowing's America Rows  program.  I spend a good deal of my time writing grants and obtaining corporate donations.  This allows us to provide a free learn to swim program and swim club at the Union Avenue community fitness center in new Windsor; and grants to provide free learn to row and competitive rowing programs for kids living below the federal poverty level and kids of differing abilities including down syndrome and autism.  

Back to the graduation ceremony.  When I heard the graduation song and saw the girls in their caps and gowns last night I knew it would be a weepy (In a happy way) kind of ceremony. An hour and a half later, when Karla was announced as the valedictorian I began to choke up again. And when she took the podium and said "I am a competitive Rower" and then went on to compare her four-year term at Nora Cronin to a 2000 meter rowing sprint, I was pretty much bawling. All I could remember was that little pint size girl with the watchful eyes and perpetual grin who kept coming into the office asking if she could move up to competitive Rowing.  Even then, everyone in the office knew it.  We have something really special with these girls.

Congratulations girls, I love you a lot and can't wait to see all the wonderful things you are going to accomplish in high school and beyond. And I'm looking forward to spending the summer training up our new crop of Nora Cronin Rowers.  And continuing with our free swim club as well.  

God has been good to me and I try to share my talents and resources with less fortunate members of the community. If you are a successful person and you have resources, I urge you to share them with others, that is one of the great rewards of being successful.  I do my part to make my little corner of the world a little bit better every day.

Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings, I hope they are many!

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Grateful Heart on Memorial Day

MEMORIES OF LOLO ON MEMORIAL DAY - my very earliest memory is standing before a behemoth of a Naval ship, watching my mother cry.  I was about 3 years old. I asked her why she was crying.  “I’m crying because I am so happy, because I know everything is going to be fine.”  Even then I understood my mother was in pain and her actions did not match her words.  We were, once again, saying good-bye to my father, as he went back on his ship, and this was in the middle of the Vietnam War.  Luckily for us, my father did come home.  And although he missed the first 3 years of my childhood, he more than showered me with love for the rest of his days.

Not everyone was lucky enough to have their Dad come home from Vietnam.  Of those who did come back, many were “shell shocked,” or suffered what is now known as PTSD.   Back then, people were not so welcoming of Vietnam Veterans.  Some of my elementary school classmates chose not to tell people that their fathers were Vietnam Veterans because there was a stigma attached to it.  Not for my father.  He was IMMENSELY proud of his service -- at a time when others were not -- and taught his kids that we should be proud of it as well.  My dad had lived through World War II in the Philippines as a child, and he had lived through the Vietnam War as a combatant, that it how he received his US Citizenship.  And though he had endured so much, he loved everyone unconditionally.  
He loved to tell stories from from his 7 years in the Navy.  As a result, I can say three things in Tagalog, my father’s native tongue:  “Hello, how are you?”, “Thank you,” and “OH MY GOD THAT MISSILE’S COMING BACK!”  This is the story of “Bumabalik”.
Dad was stationed on board a guided missile cruiser which was stationed off the coast of North Vietnam.  They were conducting combat operations, firing land missiles from the ship in support of an amphibious attack on the shore.  It was something they did a lot.  Except this time, they fired a missile and, for some unknown reason, the missile turned around and headed back toward the ship.  This is the part where the sailors who were originally from the Philippines shouted, “Ang missile ay Bumabalik! Bumabalik!” -- or the missile is coming back!  
“My Commander did not panic, he did not hesitate,” said Dad.  “He immediately gave the command to shoot down the missile in the air.  If he had hesitated, or second guessed himself for one second, we would have all been dead.  We ran to our stations and shot it down.  It exploded in mid-air.  Bumabalik!”
On Memorial Day, we remember, pray for and give thanks to all those who gave their lives in the service of the United States.  No matter what your political stripes, your opinion, your religion or any of your many freedoms that you probably take for granted, none of us would have them if it weren’t for those service members, from the Revolutionary War to the present,  who made the ultimate sacrifice.  But there are some other people to thank, and that would be their family members -- the wives, sons, daughters and parents of those who did not return.  Because the family members served too, and they have made a sacrifice the rest of us cannot even dream of.  This is their day, the other 364 days, you can thank all veterans for their service.
Mrs. Lo

In memory of my Dad, Mariano Muyot (“Lolo”), December 26, 1935 - May 3, 2016 (Photo of Lolo on board the USS Galveston)

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Good Old Days? Growing Up in the 70's

My kids are perpetually amazed when I tell them what it was like growing up in my working-class neighborhood in the 70’s and 80’s.  Lately, with my Beloved Father, who I adored, having died last week, we have been spending a lot of time in the old neighborhood, so to speak.  My older son wanted to see the lake that we used to walk to.  When I drove him there he was in shock.

At first I couldn’t figure out why, after all it was a small man made lake and my son’s rowing team practices on the magnificent and sprawling natural preserve known as Monksville Reservoir in Ringwood, NJ.  The reason for his shock:  “I can’t believe Grandma would let you and your friends walk that far.”  It was about a mile away.  We didn’t have Fitbits or iPhone apps to measure, so I actually have no idea.  I told him we used to keep on walking another mile or so, until we got to the bakery, where we would get brownies and black and white cookies; again he found this  incomprehensible.  That his grandma, who never wants them to walk anywhere alone and is always telling them to wear a hat, would let her kids out of her sight for so long -- it just defied credulity.

    My kids know that, back in the day, our parents used to just open up the door, tell us to go play and the only rule was, be back before it gets dark.  All so we could spend our time riding our bikes, playing hopscotch, playing jacks; and walking to arts and craft class (mosaic ashtray anyone?), the bakery, and the library, by ourselves.

    “You guys have to be the last generation that lived like that,” my sons told me recently.

    And I believe that is true.  I think the demise came with Pacman, Atari and video games, which gave kids a reason to stay indoors.  But in a way, it was good that we put an end to that lifestyle where the parents were the opposite of “hover-parents”.

    I explained to my son that it really was Survival of the Fittest.  Sure, our parents didn’t micromanage us, which brought a lot of freedom.  But that also meant that bullying was part of growing up.  And everybody got bullied, including the physically and mentally challenged kids.   Mercilessly.  

    “That’s horrible,” exclaimed my kids.  It was.  But that is the downside of not  having your parents hovering over you at all times.  On the one hand, we pretty much were out there playing and having fun -- but on the other hand, we had to endure teasing, hazing, and witnessed a lot of fistfights.  By some miracle, no one ever had a weapon and no one ever got hurt; no one even had their eye poked out.  No parent ever made an appointment at school because their kid got picked on or got the worse end of a fist.  Basically, if you got your butt kicked, you picked yourself up and went back to class, end of story.

    I wanted my kids to know that yes, in a lot of ways our 70’s childhoods were better.  We were always outdoors -- and there was no structure, no teams (until Little League started) and no money involved.  But I also wanted them to know that it wasn’t necessarily an idyllic  childhood -- because it was a tough world out there, Survival of the Fittest is the only way I can describe it.  And political correctness did not exist.  

    We format ourselves to the world we are born into.  If you had told me as a little girl that one day, my son would be getting up at 5:15 am to take a train to Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, NJ, where he would then take an Uber to crew practice, row for 3 hours and then take a train home -- I would have looked at you like you were an alien.  I guess the first question would be -- what’s an Uber?  Followed by -- what is crew and where is New Jersey?  Our kids are a lot better educated in 2016, that’s for sure.

    Have a great day, everyone and as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Love Triumphs Over All: A Eulogy for my Dad

LOVE TRIUMPHS OVER ALL: A EULOGY FOR MY DAD.  My father, Mariano Muyot, was known to everyone in the last 17 years, simply as “Lolo.”  That is Tagalog, or Filipino, for Grandfather.  Lolo, in his lifetime, provided many lessons for all of us but the greatest lesson he imparted to us was this:  Love Triumphs Over All.

    Lolo was a mere 8 years old when World War II came to the Philippines.  As the baby of the family, he had been loved and cherished by his father, Vedasto, his mother, Juliana, and his 5 older brothers.  His life changed drastically when he lost his father to a concentration camp and watched as invading Japanese soldiers burned down his beautiful home.  His older brothers went off to war to help the American soldiers.  As a little boy, Mariano would hide and watch the Japanese soldiers as they buried land mines.  Then he would run and find the American soldiers and show them, from memory, where the land mines were buried. They say he and others like him saved countless lives.  When General MacArthur finally liberated the Philippines, Mariano’s father lived long enough to come home and see his  family one last time.  And Mariano knew what he must do:  become an American military man like the G.I.’s who liberated his father.

    Mariano did not seek revenge, he sought a way to show his gratitude.  Throughout his life, he told us over and over again, he harbored no hatred toward the Japanese people, because they too were victims in their own homeland.  He did not even harbor hatred towards the Japanese soldiers.  His strong and abiding Faith in God and his love of his fellow man was too great for that.  When Juliana was assigned a Japanese roommate her freshman year at NYU, a sweet girl named Noriko, Noriko was worried about meeting Mariano.  There was no need, on parents day, he hugged her and welcomed her as if she were a family member.  For he knew that Love Triumphs Over All.  

    Joining the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay in the Philippines in 1962 was an act of Love and Gratitude for Mariano.  He loved his days at sea on the  USS Columbus and the USS Galveston, and later in life, he loved to tell these stories to virtually everyone he met. He volunteered again and again for ship duty and was never ever on land, even when his children were born.  Once he met his future wife, he volunteered for submarine duty because the pay grade was much higher.  However, his hearing had been permanently damaged from firing the cannons during the Vietnam War.  He was dejected when the Navy told him he did not qualify for submarine duty because of his hearing loss but happy for his fellow shipmates who did make it.  Tragically, the USS Thresher Naval attack submarine containing his fellow shipmates, imploded beneath the sea in May 1963, killing all 129 souls aboard.  God spared Mariano’s life again because he had  other plans for him.

    Part of that plan was for Mariano to meet and marry the love of his life, a beautiful Irish American gal named Marie McCaffrey, soon to become Marie Muyot.  Marie and Mariano married while Mariano was still in the Navy and both their children, Juliana and Michael, were born while Mariano was serving ship duty at sea very far away.  He missed the first part of their childhoods but he made up for it by showering them with love, life lessons, and lots of family vacations, upon his return home.  Marie and Mariano just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary on April 4, 2016, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

    The fulfillment on Mariano’s mission on earth was without question, to become a Grandfather -- and a loving Patriarch to a family which included Juliana and her husband Anthony (whom he loved like a son), and their children, his beloved grandchildren Christian and Michael;  and also included Mariano’s only son, of whom he was so proud -- the handsome, successful and athletic Michael Muyot;  along with Sandra Markovic Muyot, and his two other beloved grandsons, Vuk and Nikola.  As a grandfather, Mariano was complete, he became the man he was destined to be.  Strong, loving dependable and capable of spoiling his grandchildren at a level we came to be accustomed to. And his children and grandchildren loved him beyond measure.  

I will never forget the first time Anthony and I left Lolo alone to babysit Baby Christian so they could go out to dinner.  He called us on our cell phone in a panic because he couldn’t find the “big pins”.  

    “What big pins are you looking for dad?”  I asked.

    “The big safety pins, I will not use these little safety pins on my grandson they could hurt him!”  I explained to him about modern diapers -- and how we don’t need safety pins anymore to close the diapers, and he was very relieved.

    But the clan kept growing, Mariano and Marie continued to have strong ties to Alenka and Svetco, the other grandparents of Vuk and Nikola. We lost Svetco less than a year ago. Mariano also loved very much his extended LoBiondo Family:  Ross and Jan, parents of Anthony; and Vinnie and Alessandra, brother and sister in law of Anthony, as well as their children, Vincent, Steven, Angelina and Matt.  In fact, all 8 grandchildren played together and talked to each other all week as if they were all blood cousins. Mariano was happy when his son found love again with his second wife, Vanessa. Because that is what Mariano wanted:  a big, gregarious happy family.  Love Triumphs Over All.

    Mariano had many achievements in life:  receiving college degrees in both the Philippines and the U.S., a 6 year distinguished career in the US Navy, for which he received numerous medals, a fulfilling and successful 25 year career at IBM East Fishkill from which he retired with great pride and lifelong friends.  But his greatest achievement was by far his family and his grandchildren.

    This past December 2015, just 4 months ago, Mariano turned 80.  Juliana wanted to have a big celebration for him with a band and a DJ.  But those were not his wishes.  He wanted to have a party at her house, a place he loved very much, with his wife, children, grandchildren, and the extended LoBiondo Clan.  We had that party, and we were able to have several more Sunday dinners and parties where the whole family gathered.  Just 2 weeks ago, we gathered at the River Grill, a place Mariano loved very much, for  Anthony’s 50th birthday party. Mariano held court, enjoying his big family, as well as a good steak, and he spent the day laughing, smiling, and of course telling stories.  He took Juliana aside at one point and said to her, “You did good, Julie, you did really good.”  She thinks he meant the party but she also believes he was alluding to the family that we had all  built together and the incredible closeness we all shared.

    And so if you take away one thing from Mariano’s life and Legacy, let it be this:  never pass up an opportunity to gather your family around you for a good steak, a big laugh, and some great stories.  

And in the end, Fear not for Love will Triumph Over All.


My father died peacefully, surrounded by family, on May 3, 2016 at Vassar Brothers Hospital, where they did a wonderful job caring for him.  We are holding a mass of Christian burial for him today; he will receive a full military veterans sendoff.  This is the eulogy that I wrote for him and which will be delivered by my brother-in-law, Vincent LoBiondo, today at the church. All in all, I can't help thinking about how much my dad would have enjoyed this day!  "Julie, you really outdid yourself this time," I can just imagine him saying.  The grief is still raw but this I can  tell you: the Love goes on and on and on.

Go in peace, dear friends, and remember always to love fiercely, be slow to injure and quick to forgive.  If you're lucky enough to have families, give them all a big hug and always tell them how much you love them.  I don't regret one moment.  Spend time with all generations of your family.  My father spent a lifetime telling me and showing me how much he loved me.  And I spent my life til now doing the same.  The last words we said to each other were: I Love You.  Make sure you never lose a chance to tell someone you love them!  Sending you all lots of love, and my dad in Heaven is blowing you a kiss  💕 Mrs. Lo