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Posts tagged ‘Liz Shipman’

Farrell Family Favorites: A tribute to a favorite uncle and his amazing daughter

Two of my favorite ladies!

Two of my favorite ladies!

I opened Facebook today to find two of my favorite ladies smiling back at me. I was so excited to see that my cousin Coleen had chosen one of my favorites from my wedding day as her new profile picture. It’s a candid of Coleen and Mumsy, in their respective roles as maid of honor and mother of the bride, taken as we were waiting to be collected for the beachfront ceremony.

As I looked at those familiar faces, smiling back at me, I felt so incredibly blessed. I am blessed. Blessed to have found the love of my life and made it official before family and friends on what would have been my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary. And blessed, also, to have these two amazing women in my life.

For the last 40 years, they have cared for me, comforted me, supported me, cheered me on, laughed both with me and at me, and helped me celebrate all of life’s milestones – big and small. And even though we’re a few thousand miles apart at present, we all carry each other in our hearts every day.

In a family of 35 first cousins, it’s a dangerous thing to go picking favorites. Difficult, too, since the Farrells are a pretty amazing bunch. But Coleen and I have always had a special bond. The fact that more than a decade separates us in the roster of Farrell descendants has never been a factor.

It was Coleen who dropped everything and drove from New Jersey to Syracuse the night before my surgery a few years ago, so that Mumsy wouldn’t be alone during those tense hours.

Fun in Philadelphia for AFSP's Out of the Darkness Overnight walk to prevent suicide.

Fun in Philadelphia for AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight walk to prevent suicide.

Who walked 18 miles from dusk to dawn with me to raise money for suicide prevention, a cause that has hit both of us far too close to home.

Who, quite literally, held my hand to keep me sane when a nasty infection in my leg had to be lanced. It was painful, yes, but worse was my fear that it would keep me from making it back to the DR in time for my own wedding! (Something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if not for Coleen’s sister Jean, who diagnosed the problem and started me on a course of strong antibiotics before sending me to the clinic.)

It was she who moved heaven, earth and the passport office in order to stand up with me on my wedding day.

That’s just a sampling really, of the thousand and one ways she has been there for me over the years. This despite all of the challenges life has thrown at her along the way. You’d never know it though, the way she’s willing to drop everything for everyone around her.

While we have always been close, it was during my father’s illness that we went from being cousins to sisters. She, her husband Steve and their three phenomenal offspring (Jillian, Bret and Eric) were such a comfort to my dad during those three long years he battled cancer. And by a comfort, I mean an excuse to shoot off automatic weapons, adventure out on 4-wheelers or snowmobiles and engage in epic Wii tournaments. They brought a lot of love and joy to a man doing his best to hide his Stage IV cancer from the world. And they’ve helped us find the strength to get through even the most difficult of days leading up to and since he took his last breath on January 26, 2012.

Through all of that, I vowed to myself that I’d do the same for them if ever they faced a similar situation. That unspoken promise was put to the test this year, as both Steve’s mom and then Coleen’s father, my Uncle Bill, fell ill.

It has been difficult to watch both from afar, knowing there is little I can do from this distance. But I know that’s nothing compared to what they and our families have gone through.

I vividly remember the night of August 30. As I tossed and turned, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of my Uncle Bill. I finally gave up trying to sleep and decided to write down all the memories swirling around my brain. I was determined to tell him just how much he meant to me and to all of us Farrell cousins that had been privileged to grow up in his shadow.

My mother has seven brothers, but only one big brother. He was everyone’s big brother, in fact. I can’t imagine the pressure he felt – the responsibility he had – being the oldest of 12. At what it must have been like to lose his younger sister Agnes at such a young age. To have been closer in age to his mother, than to his youngest siblings well before the last of the litter, my Uncle Tim, came along.

One of my favorite pictures of another of my favorite ladies, Aunt Cecilia.

Our angel, Aunt Cecilia.

He would also be the first to go off to join the Navy and, later, to start his own family with the talented nurse who nursed his father back to health after losing his leg in an accident on the tug boats. This last was his coup de grace, in my opinion, because Aunt Cecilia – like her daughter Coleen – is a walking angel in my eyes.

It was from Uncle Bill that I learned to appreciate the Pecan Sandie above all other commercially available baked goods. And I’d wager I’m not the only Farrell cousin that swore never to get a tattoo after being weaned on the story of how he contracted hepatitis from those he’d gotten in the Navy.

Uncle Bill’s family newsletter, Farrell Family Facts, drew something of a cult following among my college friends. A few even angled for invitations to the Farrell Family Fun in the Sun Social, another brainchild of my dear uncle. And when it came time to plan a Winter Break trip to the sunny Florida Keys, a pit stop in St. Augustine to visit Uncle Bill and Aunt Cecilia was considered a given.

This is how I'll always remember Uncle Bill, dancing with Aunt Cecilia.

This is how I’ll always remember Uncle Bill, dancing with Aunt Cecilia and finishing each other’s sentences.

He was recovering from a stroke at the time, and my mother wanted a full report on his progress. But what I remembered most was how he and my Aunt Cecilia finished each other’s sentences. Not out of necessity, but out of habit. I thought to myself at the time that someday that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to have. And I do, with Andry. Although, granted, my fledgling Spanish may have something to do with that. (A topic for another blog, I promise.)

The last time Uncle Bill was at our house, he mentioned that visit to me and I was so touched. Until I realized, that is, that the reason he remembered it so vividly had more was because Liz and Melissa, my traveling companions for the trip, were both close to six feet tall.

It was these memories and more that I endeavored to put on paper that night. It was just a first draft, which I intended to polish up in the morning. I never got around to opening that document again, though. Because at a little before 6 a.m., a message came through from Coleen.

“He’s gone,” it said.

And with that, I knew I’d already said my goodbyes without realizing it.

It reminded me, though, how important it is for us to show our love, appreciation and gratitude while we can. So this isn’t a eulogy for the dead, but an ode to the living. Because he does live on in each and every Farrell.

Coleen, I love and appreciate you more than you know. You are not just my cousin, but a true sister and friend.

To you, Aunt Cecilia, Billy, Timmy, Jean, Cecilia, Terry and your families; My mom and the rest of the Farrell siblings; and rest of the extended Farrell clan – I send all the love in my heart and strength in my body. Because I know that even now, especially now, we reel from the loss of the man who was at once husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, sailor and friend.

Uncle Bill, I hope heaven welcomed you with an unlimited supply of Pecan Sandies and old Hollywood movies on-demand. Don’t let my dad and Uncle Rich take your last nickel at cards. Give Mom Mom a kiss for all of us.

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My R+F Journey: Confessions of an unlikely skincare consultant

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Why, HELLO, sun damage...

Why, HELLO, sun damage…

My last name may be Italian, but my complexion is 100% Irish. Translation: the tropical sun is not my friend. As 40 approached, sun damage was all I saw every time I looked in the mirror. Because my skin is also sensitive – and my one attempt at erasing that damage a very painful failure – I resigned myself to living with those brown spots and freckles forever.

Then one day, I started to notice my friend Rosemarie’s posts about Rodan + Fields on Facebook. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I reached out to her.

Rosemarie told me her R+F story. Not only about how REVERSE had done what no other product had been able to do – get rid of her own brown spots – but also how the business opportunity was changing her life.

When we had that conversation, a light bulb went off for me. At the time, I was struggling to get my freelance writing career off the ground. Not only was it not taking off as strongly as I hoped, but it was also cutting into my personal writing time – the very thing it was meant to help me support.

Rosemarie’s story inspired me. But the kicker was when I discovered Liz, my best friend from college, was also interested in Rodan + Fields. Liz signed up for her own micro-franchise, and a week later, I did, too.

Let me say that I’m the LAST person you would expect to launch a skincare business. I’d splash some water on my face and consider myself good to go. The only thing I did remember to do on a quasi-regular basis was moisturize, but even that was sporadic at best. But that nonchalance was catching up with me, as evidenced by the aforementioned sun damage. Suddenly taking care of my skin seemed important.

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

When I received my REVERSE regimen in the mail, I was nervous about trying it for the first time. But as soon as I did, I fell in love.

Because of my sensitivity, I eased into it – using it every 2 to 3 days to start and gradually building up to daily use. Because of this, I expected my results to be gradual. But almost immediately, I started noticing subtle changes in the tone and texture of my skin. And as my freckles and brown spots slowly fade away, I’m loving my brighter and more even complexion.

My favorite part about this opportunity? I don’t need to SELL anything. My ‘job’ is simply to share my story and my passion for these products and this business. And that’s pretty easy when you truly believe in the brand. After all, it’s what sold me.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field's business model.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field’s business model.

Sure, I looked at the business model, the product philosophy, the compensation structure, the recognition the company’s received, the media impressions and the overall size of the anti-aging market. And let’s face it: the opportunity to partner with Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, the Stanford-trained dermatologists who brought Proactiv to market, IS pretty exciting… But what sold me was Rosemarie’s story. Her results. Her success. Her passion.

Yes, it’s true what they say about Rodan + Fields changing skin and changing lives. I know, because less than three months into the business, it’s already changing mine.

Are you ready to start your R+F Journey?

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life!

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life! (The crows feet are next on my hit list. Lucky me, we have a Multi-Function Eye Cream for that!)

Look Who Remembered How To Blog

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This deserted stretch of beach is located on the north coast of the Samaná Peninsula, just east of Las Terrainas. With places like this to explore, is it any wonder I’ve forgotten to blog for a few months?

Ok, ok. I know. It’s been awhile. Months as a matter of fact. Sure, I’ve teased you with photos and vague Facebook statuses. But I’ve deprived you of all the juicy details of the adventures I’ve been having in paradise.

Sorry about that.

In my defense, I’ve been busy. Busy having all of those adventures I’ve been teasing you with. Busy exploring my home-away-from-home (a.k.a. the Dominican Republic). Busy studying Spanish. Busy spending as much quality time as humanly possible with the love of my life, who I had the fortune to meet eight wonderful months ago. (Thank you, universe!)

In short, busy living every moment of every day to the absolute fullest.

One thing, though, has kept me the busiest of all. Writing. True, little to none has trickled down to this blog. But rest assured, I have been writing.

And I haven’t forgotten about you. Really I haven’t. You, my dear readers, have kept me motivated, inspired and scribbling away even when all I’ve wanted to do is…well, anything except actually write. And I plan to repay you for being the best friends and family a scatter-brained writer could ever have.

I know exactly what you’re thinking right now. How on Earth could she possibly repay me for being so awesome?! (Well, at least that’s what Liz and Julie are thinking, I’m sure…) Well, I plan to do it the best way I know how: by sharing my random observations and crazy adventures. Because I assure you the last few months have been anything but dull. And I know you’re dying to hear all about it.

You’ll get a taste of some of those projects I’ve been working on before long, too. I promise you that. But for right now…

Stay tuned, my friends. The Accidental Blonde is back. And, thanks to the tropical sun (and a slightly overzealous emergency highlight), she’s blonder than ever.

Introducing…The Accidental Blonde

Melissa Stagnaro 2

My name is Melissa Stagnaro, and no, I’m not a natural blonde. And contrary to my little tagline, I was never even really a brunette. My natural color is more akin to a mousy brown. Or at least it was until the infestation of silver follicles that prompted my favorite hairstylist to action. A few subtle caramel highlights, she said. That was just the beginning; the gateway highlights. It all went downhill (i.e. progressively lighter) from there. I didn’t even recognize how far gone I was until, one day, I heard someone referring to a blonde. It took me a moment to realize he was talking about me!

My Accidental Blonde-ing, as I called it in one of my old columns, delighted my best friend Liz, who is of the opinion that there is no such thing as “too blonde.” When I told her what I was thinking of calling my blog, she immediately pronounced the name “Genius!” and said she’d refuse to read it if I called it anything else.

In fact, you can credit (or blame) this whole endeavor on Liz. She has been nudging me to start blogging again since the moment I left The Evening Sun. You might call it badgering, or borderline harassment. But it was rather flattering. It’s rather nice to know you’ve been missed.

I’m more than a little humbled to say that Liz isn’t the only one that has encouraged me to get back on this particular horse. My needy little ego thanks you all for your kind words, support and encouragement.

Now, you better read the darn thing.

I suppose I should add a little disclaimer…

Be forewarned, my dearest friends and family. You know from whence I draw my inspiration. Tread carefully, lest ye become blog fodder.

xo

M