{Vintage} What is love? An Interview With My Grandparents

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{I wrote this piece in 2011 for my NonFiction writing class in college. I interviewed both my Nana and Grampy separately. I have always loved their story. They traveled the world together + understand the hard work that comes into love + marriage. Enjoy!}

When Ann Lee was born, her parents thought that she was completely deaf. They sent her to the Cleveland Clinic to see what could be done about her hearing loss. The doctors removed her tonsils and adenoids at the clinic and that did not help. As trying as this was for the Lee family, they were not sure what to do. Mr. Lee drank too much and Mrs. Lee was a very religious, prim woman. In nursery school, the teachers noticed that Ann could hear a little bit. Later, another teacher suggested getting Ann a hearing aid. “That was the turning point in my life.” She tells me, her eyebrows high. When Ann grew older, they sent her to live with her aunt and thirteen children, and she attended a public school with a special program for hearing-impaired children. It was very difficult to learn there, as the classroom was very large. Ann learned to read lips at an early age.

Time passed by. Her father had to move because of his a job change, which resulted in Ann and his entire family moving as well. Moving to a new high school was a different experience. “I had my older cousin to look after me, and that was good… I hear but I don’t hear. And I have a hard time with that. For instance, if we’re in a group and everybody is talking, I’m not with it. I have to know the topic and what’s being talked about. If I know that topic, I’m okay. But when everyone is talking all at once, I’m lost, and I’m just sitting there. I’ve had this all my life.” She explains this with a bemused expression, looking down into her lap. It was a scary thing for her, as she was unable to completely hear what people were saying. It was by either luck or fate that Ann’s family moved to Lima, Ohio. As she walked the hallways of Lima Central Catholic as a junior, she couldn’t have known that she would meet the love of her life. “That’s where I met my husband. But I didn’t like him. I didn’t like him at all because he was such a menace.” She says the last word with distaste, a slight smile still on her face.

“Well, I was born very young. And I was happy until I turned twenty-one, when I got married.” The ornery Francis Guagenti grew up in a Sicilian family. His mother and were father very hardheaded people as stubbornness is the Sicilian way. Francis first started working when he was fourteen years old, and his job was washing cars and pumping gas. When he went to high school, he began working at Milano’s Pizza Carryout. After he quit making pizza, he worked for Woodlawn Pharmacy stocking shelves and waiting on customers. When Francis turned eighteen, he spent six months in the regular army and then went into the National Guard for six and a half years. He was never active during wartime. “I had dated a lot of girls during high school… And then I met your Nannie and it was all over.”

Ann’s first impression of her future husband was rather distasteful. When I ask her what her first thought was, she wrinkles her nose. “Oh, it was horrible!” She shouts. “They were trouble makers, him and his cousin, they acted and looked like hoodlums. Them, with their leather jackets! It was hard for me to be friends with him and his cousin…” Ann and Francis began dating when he took her to the prom despite her ‘horrible’ first impression. It also sent an intentional message of rebellion to Ann’s controlling mother.

“What made you think you liked him?” I ask her, and she laughs.

“I guess I kind of liked him. I don’t know… butterflies in my stomach. I really loved his parents. When I met his family, I found out where he came from. I could not believe that he came from such a wonderful family. That’s when I found out what he was, after I met his parents.”

When I ask Francis about his first impression of Ann, an expression I have never seen on his face takes over. “I thought she was beautiful. She was kind and easy to get along with.” He says to me sincerely. “A buddy of mine had been dating her and he told me, ‘I have been dating that Ann Lee for three or four months and I haven’t gotten so much as a single kiss.’” Francis bet his friend that he could kiss her first, and he took Ann Lee to the prom. “So I dated her and I kissed her… I knew that I would marry her just about the time we started dating.” Their first date was at the Allen Country fair. They had a wonderful time but when they returned to their car, somebody had stolen it and returned it, completely wrecked on every side of the vehicle. “I always said she was bad luck from the start… we got along pretty good.” He says with a smirk.

After high school, Ann attended an all-girls university. When she was at school, Francis wrote letters to Ann when he was in the service. “I was very worried for him.” Ann shakes her head. He pleaded with her to stay with him. Ann decided her junior year that college was not for her. “When I was in college, he tried to make it up to me and he sent me all of these stuffed animals and letters, trying to get me to stay with him.”

“How did you feel when he proposed to you?” At this question, Ann’s eyes light up and a smile graces her face.

“I was so excited.” Apparently, Francis was not a very affectionate young man. He had a little box with her engagement ring in it, and he tossed it at her.

As I have been told a number of times, marriage is not easy. It’s hard as hell. Francis and Ann did not always have money to spend. They worked very hard to get themselves where they are now. “I think we got along better when we didn’t have money,” Francis chuckles with a twinkle in his eye.

No matter what, they both admit that they were good for one another. Francis helped Ann to be more self-sufficient, as her mother had been doing everything for her ever since she could remember. Ann most likely helped Francis become more patient, as he admitted that it was very hard to date and constantly be around a hearing-impaired person.

He tells me a story about the dryer starting a house fire. Ann’s mother was around the house and Francis told Ann to call a man about fixing the curtains. “I’ll do it.” Ann’s mother suggested. “Like hell you will,” Francis said to her. “If she can talk to me, you, my mother, and her sister on the phone she can sure as hell call Mr. Murphy.” Although Mrs. Lee wasn’t fond of this, it was much better for Ann to call everyone and talk to the person herself.

When Francis and Ann settled down together, they learned that Ann was pregnant. “I was very happy,” Francis remembers, staring into the woods in his backyard. Unfortunately, this time was not their time to have children. “It was awful.” Ann tells me, her face turning grim. “Having a miscarriage is just like giving birth. You have the birth pains… it’s very painful.” This was a very hard time for Francis and Ann as they had been very excited to have a baby. Soon enough, they had a healthy baby boy, Gary Guagenti.

Francis had to work a lot so that his family could have nice things. “I loved to work,” he says. There is a proud air to his voice that only a businessman can emit. “I worked all my life. Fifty years was enough at one job. My legs weren’t as good as they used to be and I couldn’t do all of the things I wanted to. I just threw in the towel and retired.” He would often have to get up in the middle of the night and take care of baby Gary because Ann could not hear her son’s cries.

“When he went into the army, he bought me something called the Sontral.” Ann tells me. “He put it under the bed and when Gary would be crying in his crib, it would just… BUZZZZ!” She demonstrates the vibration that would wake her in the middle of the night. “It was wonderful.”

They later had two more sons, Joseph and Francis Jr., despite the second miscarriage Ann suffered through. Francis worked very hard so that his family could have nice things, which meant that he was not at home too often. Ann was not good at disciplining the children, which was a little frustrating for Francis.

Ann and Francis have a different life together now, as the years go by. I ask them what they do now, as they are reaching their fiftieth anniversary.

Ann is quick to answer me, brushing her white hair from her eyes. “It’s hard for me to lead the live that I want to lead. I want to go kayaking and swimming. Grampy never wanted to go to the movies or out to dinner. He doesn’t like to go out. So I have gotten used to staying at home.” Ann shrugs. “But I have my own circle of friends and we do things together. I don’t mind it too much now that I’m used to it, although I still enjoy doing things to stay active… I want to be with people and in the public.”

Francis’ Sicilian profile is very defined against the setting sun. “You know, when you get seventy years old, the stories don’t get as crazy. You wish you did more. I always liked to drive fast, very recklessly, and that’s the way it was. It’s been a good life…  and then I have them damn grandkids. I knew I forgot somethin’. And my Julia, that was my first grandchild. Sure changed Grampy’s life. Grandkids are better than kids because you send them home at night… I sure enjoy them and I love every minute of that.”

Ann sits across from me with a smile on her face. “I have my three sons who are my whole life. And oh my God, when my first granddaughter came along… that was the joy of my life. It was precious and it was a whole different life. I enjoy all seven of my grandkids and I try to do as much as I can for them.”

“Was it fun to be with Nana?” I ask my grandfather. In response, he squints his eyes.
Sure, it was fun. The fun never stops. We had good fun for about thirty or forty years. It’s really hard to be with someone who has a hearing problem but I love her.”

“What do you think of love?”

Love is a mother goose tale.” Francis looks me in the eye while telling me this. “Most of the time, it isn’t love that people are feeling. It’s lust. Love is a word that is very overused. Love isn’t marrying your ‘best friend’ like everyone else says so. Love is two people getting along and working together. Marriage is hard. It’s harder to stay married and it’s easy to get divorced.”

“Oh, that’s a hard subject,” Ann pauses, looking thoughtfully into the night sky. “Love is understanding each other. Trying to make peace with the two. Trying to keep everything calm and collected. Trying to make each other happy… Love is being together.”

Works Cited
Guagenti, A. (2011, October 8). Personal Interview.
Guagenti, F. (2011, October 8). Personal Interview.

In loving memory of my amazing, hilarious Grampy.
Listen to: “Que Sera, Sera” by Doris Day (Grampy’s favorite song)


XX JULES

“Confetti on the floor…” Happy New Year!

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2018 started right. I spent it surrounded with people who care about me. Man, what a year! In 2017, I quit a job that made me extremely unhappy, I became a certified yoga instructor, I met some really amazing humans, and I began a job that I love with my whole heart and soul. So much has changed in this past year, good and bad.

I was talking to my Grampy yesterday when I was still in Ohio. He said something very profound, as usual:

“There is good and there is bad. So take the good and make something of it. You can’t make anything from the bad. Trash it and start over. […] I have always been happy. Happy is a choice.”

He’s right. Lately I’ve been so down in the dumps, trying to figure out why people treat others the way they do. Over the past couple of years, I have been handled carelessly and selfishly by others. But here’s the thing: we can’t do anything about it and we will never know why it happens. All we can do is learn from it and move on. Plenty of people in my life treat me the way I deserve to be treated. Move on and start over. Let the good times roll.

So, here’s to 2018! I have but one resolution (because science is against them): Let’s all refuse to accept less than what we deserve. We deserve fruitful friendships and relationships in which the give and take is equal. We deserve love from others that is as fearless as the love we have to offer. We deserve to be treated like human beings. Don’t accept anything less. We are all badass in our own way. Let’s do 2018 right!

Listen to… “Happy New Year” by ABBA

“Happy New Year
Happy New Year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbor is a friend
Happy New Year
Happy New Year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
You and I”

XX JULES

Watch: Ladybird (Crash Into Me)

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Sairose Ronan in Ladybird.

Whenever I return to Ohio and suggest to my family, “let’s see a movie!” I am usually met with a huge sigh because they know I’m going to pick something “artsy” or “weird.” This movie succeeded and pleased me because it was a little bit of both. But I loved Ladybird most for what it isn’t.

Ladybird is about love but it’s not a love story. It’s about love between family and love in friendship. The film follows Christine, who has re-christened herself “Ladybird,” as she navigates her way through the last year of adolescence into adulthood. She is quirky and vivacious. A little bit awkward. I haven’t related to a character this heavily since Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. Sairose Ronan glows on screen with captivating personality and wit. She plays Ladybird as feisty, flawed and set in her own ways.

Ladybird is witty, yet harsh with it’s lessons. With growing up, there is heartbreak. True, mascara-streaked, sit-in-your-car-and-cry-to-Dave-Matthews heartbreak. There is pain in getting excited about someone and having it fall apart before your eyes. Seeing your boyfriend kiss another boy. Or giving your whole self to somebody and being cast away like you are nothing. Ladybird exhibits heartbreak so beautifully and realistically that I could feel it, too. Growing up, boys come and go… but friends and family are there to clean up the mess.

Ladybird’s friendship with her best friend, Julie (the fantastic Beanie Felstein) is sweet and carefree. They have innocent fun together and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Ladybird’s loyalty to Julie wavers but when they are friends again, it’s like nothing has changed. They dance like fools at the prom together and it is heart-warming. Friendship is a unique form of love. It is mutual, unconditional, but friends are the family we choose. There are not a lot of movies that exhibit love between friends without taking it too far.

The other type of love is family love. Ladybird lives with her family on the “wrong side of the tracks,” as she jokingly likes to say. Money issues raise tension between family members but strengthens their love for each other in the end. Ladybird’s rocky relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) hits rock bottom when she goes to New York for college (her big dream). Her father (Tracy Letts) supports her in her decision in his own relaxed-but-quiet style. In the end, Ladybird learns a valuable lesson.

Family and friends are sometimes all the love you need. You can’t love anyone until you love yourself for who you are.

I wrote this because I can’t get this film off my mind. It’s been sitting there for two days, circling around. It’s haunting in a way, as this film hits home pretty hard. I recommend this movie if you enjoy artsy, feel-good films. Below is a song I chose from the soundtrack. Enjoy!

Listen to this: “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews

XX Jules

Blue Christmas

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I have been struggling to write for the past couple of days, trying to figure out what to say. The words rush into my head and just as quickly, they are gone. I suppose what I could start with is that I spent the holiday working.

Let me just begin by saying that I love my job with all of my big, fire-filled heart. I work in a psychiatric unit for children and adolescents. It fills me with so much joy to watch our patients get discharged and see the positive changes in them. I get awesome artwork, letters, and tons of kind words. Sometimes my job isn’t easy – I won’t lie. But when a kid approaches me and tells me how much I helped them or how I changed their perspective, it makes everything worth it. That’s just my job in a nutshell.

I worked a double on Christmas Eve. I probably played a million games of UNO during free time with the kids. I then headed to the Older Adult unit to work the most difficult shift I have ever had to work. There is always good with the bad. I laughed with cute old ladies for most of the night. They were ornery and we had some great banter. The biggest thing that struck me is that one patient stopped what she was doing and gave me a look.

“Why aren’t you with your family?” She asked me. I smiled and explained to her that my family is in Ohio and I couldn’t go home for Christmas this year. I added that it was okay because someone has to keep “you young ladies” out of trouble. She had this hysterical, infectious laugh.

“Well, you know…” She leaned in as if she were telling me a secret. “You are so appreciated here for the work you do. I have enjoyed your company.”

Wow. Do you ever just hear something like that and come out of your own head? I had been completely devastated that I couldn’t go home for Christmas. I was distracted and lost until I got to that unit and really began to enjoy myself. Sometimes we fall into these patterns of apathy and we can’t seem to break through. We fall into crisis and ask ourselves questions that keep us there.

Why is this happening to me?
What did I do to deserve this?
What if ____ was different?

There are no real answers. Shit happens to everyone. Bad things happen to people. All the time. It is what it is. We can’t change where we come from but we can change where we are going. I don’t regret spending Christmas Eve and some of Christmas at work. I was working with people who truly need comfort and care. Kids who couldn’t go home for Christmas and don’t understand why they can’t have their presents on the unit (contraband). Kids who don’t want to go home for Christmas because they don’t come from good homes.

The honest truth is, I walk outside every day knowing that I’m not having the worst day. I walk outside every day, spreading positivity and love even on bad days. And I walk into work every day, knowing there will be a challenge and I say “bring it on.”

On Wednesday, I packed up my car and drove to Ohio. Although not everything went according to plan, it worked itself out. We had a great Christmas on not-Christmas. In the words of Grampy’s favorite song,

“Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see. Que Sera, Sera.”

XX Jules

{Vintage} A Thinkpiece About a Midlevel Band

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Source: Tumblr

  {I wrote “Culture of Cool: A Thinkpiece About a Midlevel Band” back in 2015 when I first started blogging. I recently found it on my computer and decided to bring it back because I’m too sweet for rock ‘n roll and whatever. No editing – this is purely vintage. Enjoy!}

A few questions came to me as I re-watched one of my favorite films last week. What does it mean to be cool? What does it mean to be uncool? Is the theme of the movie really all about the music or is it about getting approval from others? I think it’s a little bit of both. Almost Famous is a classic film about a 15-year-old child prodigy named William who becomes a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine. William is uncool. He’s two full years younger than his classmates, who have dubbed him the “narc.”  So, when his sister, Anita, leaves the nest to become a stewardess, she leans down to talk to her younger brother.

            “One day, you’ll be cool. Look under your bed. It’ll set you free.” (IMBD)

When Anita leaves him alone with their mother, William rushes to look under his bed. He finds a collection of records. Thus, began his love for rock music. While music is very important in this film, it still doesn’t make William cool. In fact, any character who genuinely loves the music is treated poorly one way or another. When William meets with his hero, rock journalist Lester Bangs, the subject of cool is addressed again. Lester Bangs is “cool” with being uncool. He embraces the uncool. Most importantly, when William joins the band on tour to document their journey, Lester warns William to be aware of the band.

LESTER: “Friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.

WILLIAM: “Well, it was fun.”

LESTER: “They make you feel cool. And hey, I met you. You are not cool.”

WILLIAM: “I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn’t.”

LESTER: “That’s because we’re uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don’t have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we’re smarter.”

WILLIAM: “I can really see that now.”

LESTER: “Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love… and let’s face it, you got a big head start.”

WILLIAM: “I’m glad you were home.”

LESTER: “I’m always home. I’m uncool.”

WILLIAM: “Me too!”

LESTER: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

WILLIAM: “I feel better.”

LESTER: “My advice to you. I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.” (IMBD)

This exchange, to me, holds the most important quotes in the entire movie. Lester isn’t just saying that “cool” doesn’t last, that being “uncool” eventually finishes the race. He is also saying that being “cool” doesn’t matter as much as being honest because it’s all about the music. The band constantly is begging William to make them “look cool.” But if William refuses to be honest with the band and focuses on making them look cool, everything people love about music will mean nothing. There is a constant push-and-pull in this film. The reality of William being uncool versus the fantasy of William feeling cool in the presence of rock stars. Will he risk everything to feel cool, or will the constant calls from his mother and Lester pull him back to the real world? Is the band manipulating William or are they being honest with him? Is being cool the same as feeling cool?

Russell is another interesting character to explore because no matter how cool or mysterious he acts, he is also desperate for the approval of others. The teenage house party scenes are very evident of this. These teenagers worship him. As they gather around and listen to him, he enjoys the fact that they hang onto his every word. He takes drugs with them and shows his vulnerability, which he never does with people who really know him. When he’s standing on the roof, being applauded by the whole party, William is the only one who sees this. But William is “uncool,” so what does he know? It’s okay for Russell’s last words to be “I’m on drugs” because the whole crowd of teenagers was cheering for him. We can deduce that Russell is aware that people idolize him from the quote “I am a golden god!” The truth is, Russell is afraid of being uncool. That’s why he welcomes the people who think he’s cool and shuns the people who really know him.

William’s desperation to be cool nearly sabotages his future. While he was originally there for the music, he got attached to the band and he fell in love with Penny Lane. We can only expect this kind of professionalism from an adolescent boy who has always been “uncool.” The band brings him back to reality when they deny almost everything he wrote about them because they didn’t like how they were portrayed. Even though it was all true. He was truly the heart of gold on that tour bus and they threw him out for doing his job, which was being “honest and unmerciful.” Only the kind of tantrum a “cool” rock star could pull off, ruining the future of a 15-year-old boy who had been masquerading as a rock critic.

Even worse, the band wasn’t even going to admit they had lied about the article until they realized the people around them saw their actions as “uncool.” In the end of the film, William asks the question in his final interview with Russell:

“What do you love about music?”

And Russell replies, “to begin with… everything.” (IMBD)

While it’s a relatable quote, the band’s trustworthiness remains debatable. Even if that scene had seemed “cool” of Russell, I don’t find the circumstance of the situation particularly redeeming. Especially since he has no intention of visiting William at all. While not a lot can be said for the rock stars of Stillwater, we can at least take what William learned from his journey: “coolness”  doesn’t matter, as even the coolest people can be uncool. Sure, he cared about the approval of others for a while… but when the rock stars can’t handle the truth, we turn to the music. After all, it was the music that took him where he went, and it was the music that set him free.

{I was really proud of this essay – which I wrote for fun because I’m a huge nerd – when I wrote it. Almost Famous remains one of my favorite movies. You should watch it. Or you’re uncool.

XX Jules}

Rocket 88

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Photo by Aly May Photo

Hey ya’ll! I’m Jules and I’m Too Sweet For Rock ‘N Roll. In honor of my first post, I thought I would name it after the (allegedly) first rock ‘n roll song ever, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, 1951. This may be my “Rocket 88” for Too Sweet but this isn’t my first rodeo. I closed I’m With the Bandha in early 2017. But I’m back and I’m ready as ever with my glass of French Malbec and my kitty, Fitzgerald, by my side.

Basically, I plan on writing about music, pop culture, maybe a little bit about my life. If you’re lucky. I have always loved writing – and as someone in the psychology field, I guess you can call it one of my ‘coping skills.’ I carry around tiny notebooks with me and I write. I write when I’m sad. I write when I’m excited. Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m feeling, so I just write. I tie my hair up, put on some rock ‘n roll and I just write.

In response to recent personal life events, I have been listening to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and everything by Fiona Apple. Rumours has always been one of my favorites. I love to sing along when I’m heartbroken because they were heartbroken, too (I plan on writing a review of Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Album by Fleetwood Mac by Ken Caillat and Steven Stiefel soon). Fiona Apple’s jazzy, husky style simultaneously makes you feel sexy and indignant all at once. Sometimes you just need to put on a good song and feel everything you’re feeling. When a void is created in my life, music rolls in to fill the emptiness.

There is music for everything. There are many different genres and so many varieties of expressions. And it’s universal. I can listen to French rap or Chillwave while I flow through my yoga practice. Today’s Hits in the shower. Billy Joel on road trips. Music follows my mood. Follow me as I navigate through life with a playlist and express myself through written word.

XX Jules