Thursday, February 2, 2012


It has been awhile since I have posted. Everyday continues to bring challenges and opportunities, depending unfortunately, on how I may be feeling. But always remembering what Dad would say...ehwuhyagunnado? Lately, I've been watching the challenges and opportunities my daughter & son are going through. Joseph continues to be blessed with certain athletic skills that continue to amaze me and other people. He approaches his kicking skills as an artist who is both passionate and disciplined. My hope is that he will always focus on the small steps to achieve his goals, while always being aware of the big picture. Perhaps the irony of life as my father taught me. Our daughter, Emilia, is facing new challenges & opportunities, too. So proud of the things she has already accomplished. Graduating with honors from high school and a major university. Finding a job with a large corporation and excelling. Moving and living on her own in a great American city, Boston. And now, accepting a new job in Nashville with a new company. Our prodigal daughter is coming home to live with us for awhile. Deep breath all around. OK, it is a blessing for my wife and me. After these many years, Emilia is returning and will be living under our roof. She is no longer that curly red head little girl, but rather, a young adult who is making her way through life. And we are blessed to be a part of her life, her challenges & dreams. Still, I will always see her as my little girl. Fidgia mio. And as she travels that road of life ahead...I hope and pray that she will remember the wisdom and insight she showed me one morning so long ago. Emmy was around 3 or 4 years old. I was taking her to daycare, but told her we had to first stop at the bank. She got all excited at the thought of going to the bank and getting a strawberry lollipop. As I left our house, I took some back roads. She started crying. I asked her why she was crying. She yelled,"you said we were going to the bank and this isn't the way to the bank!" I assurred her that we were still going to the bank, and that I was just taking another road. The she replied, "Oh, so you can get to the same place by taking a different road." I pulled the car over and started to cry. It isn't everyday that God speaks to you through one of his angels. So you follow your many dreams in life, always remember the words you told me that day so long ago. Welcome home. Love, Daddy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tools, A Personal Memoir Kindle EReader

Pleased and humbled to announce that Tools, A Personal Memoir, Vol 1, is now available for Kindle EBooks. Pleased, because it was kind of(in my mom's words)...a pain in the ass. I'm not confident when it comes to tech many in my generation, this internet & computer stuff, isn't in our genes. After unsuccessfully trying to register an account and upload the text..I found a small company on the Amazon website to help me format Tools...for Kindle. So that was all good! Why humbled? I feel humbled God there are so many books and things out is anyone ever going to find my little tribute book about Dad? But when I think about it..I am soon reminded about a chapter that I wrote about Dad in Tools. Dad was always proud of everything I ever did...size didn't matter...he was always appreciative of my efforts..and proud of my accomplishments...big and small. So if I start feeling intimidated by the thought of the size & competition of all the books & stuff on the internet, I type in Dad's book title..Kindle store...and wait for it to pop up...and there it is...pops up like an old friend showing up at your side door...and I smile...I smile because I can see Dad smiling...and I laugh...because I can hear Dad laughing...and I feel proud...because I feel Dad's love.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

January 1st. Hard to believe it's here. Haven't really thought about the coming year. Maybe because we spent the Christmas holiday in Youngstown, Ohio with Anne's folks, and I did alot of reflecting there. One thing for sure. Finding it harder to go back to Youngstown, and easier to leave. Enjoy my in-laws, but miss my folks. A true reminder of the years passing & how things change. Seeing where I grew up, friends gone. Some died, others just moved on. More change. Still connected with most of my cousins, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church, my brother in spirit..Dave C., and a few HS friends. Still feel a sense of identity & roots there, though I planted my roots in Nashville some 32 years ago. Interesting to see my hometown through my children's eyes. My cousin's restaurant(Hey Dad, how are we related lost me..?), Handels Ice Cream, & Mill Creek Park. Glad I gave them a different opportunity to grow up in though. Much like my grandparents did for us in leaving Sicily & Italy. Glad for the upbringing of my own folks, who gave me their many gifts, including their gift of letting go. So I guess my new year spirit of reflection really started last week, as I was visiting Y-Town for Christmas week, & then leaving Youngstown on Dec. 27th, heading back home with my wife, daughter(in from Boston), and teen aged son. Reflecting on the past & future, closing out another year heading out on 1-80 West, welcoming a change of scenery as we headed home, and looking in the rear-view mirror reminding myself of why I left Youngstown in the first place. Situations change, dreams change, and I guess I've changed, too. Still, I recall the words from Paul Simon's little known verse of The Boxer. "Changes upon changes we are more or less the same." So...maybe things haven't changed that much at all. Here's to another year of reaching for those old & new dreams & enjoying life con mi familia & mi amicos. Love to all..Happy New Year. Tom

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Climb your ladder again and again

Been thinking lately about how fast time passes. Lately it seems like the slide has been greased. In my youth, I couldn't wait for things to change, time to pass, for life to get better. Now I find myself reaching back to sweet memories of times when I was not fully aware of how sweet life tasted, trying to stop the slide I'm on now...or just slow it down. Just like when I was a kid at Lyon Platt field, I'd sometimes place my hands and knees against the sides of the metal slide in a useless attempt to slow down, fearing I was going too fast. Most of the time us kids would race to the bottom of the slide so we could climb the ladder and slide down again. So maybe the point isn't to slow your slide. Maybe it's just to enjoy the climb & ride over and over. A ride that really keeps going. If you're still breathing and dreaming, you can climb up again and keep going down, again and again. That seems too simple & obvious, but maybe it's true.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Loss of Innocence, from Tools, a Personal Memoir

Loss of Innocence…

As a child growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, one of the favorite past time games in our neighborhood was playing war. Between the glorifying World War II stories of Hollywood B films and TV shows, and real life veterans we knew, it seemed our God given, patriotic right to take on this role in innocent play. Many of us had make-believe guns and other assorted army toys, in which to act out our fantasy warfare. My favorite military toy was a plastic mortar launcher that shot out missiles which we would add our own sound effects to for dramatization. We would stage our games amidst the bushes and trees in our yards where the whole neighborhood was one large playground battlefield. We would even play at night with flashlights guiding our military tactics and camouflage. Looking back, I shamefully admit to participating in the choosing of sides for our war games, and always selecting little Bobby to play the part of the wicked Japanese soldier. Bobby’s mother was actually a sweet Japanese woman that his father married while stationed in Japan after the Korean War. Even now, I wince at the memory of Bobby pleading with us in vain to let him be John Wayne at least once.

Growing up in the 1960’s, television brought home the realities of war. From the many gray and white grained news broadcasted flashes from the battlefield, the conflict in Viet Nam seemed like the exciting games we played as children, and the movies we saw and the stories we heard. Exciting tales of glorious victories re-told by some fathers and relatives and friends in backyard settings of our family and neighborhood gatherings. From veterans of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, to Guadalcanal, the stories were mostly all the same and usually ended with a declaration that if they were serving over in Viet Nam right now, the war would be over in 12 months! The more alcohol consumed during those festive occasions by these war vets, the quicker the war would be over.

Dad drank toasts with these vets and quietly listened to all the stories told, but never joined in the telling of war tales. Dad never served in the military, as did many of my uncles and friend’s fathers. When I was a little boy he once told me how he went downtown to volunteer for military service on Dec. 8th 1941, with his cousin and two childhood buddies. The army rejected him because of flat feet; the navy rejected him because of a heart murmur; and finally, the Marines rejected him because of poor vision. Dad said he did his service at home helping the war efforts by working double shifts sometimes at the steel mill, producing military materials.

About 1967, when I was around twelve years old during the height of the Viet Nam war, Dad and I were watching the Walter Cronkite evening news reports about a battle which was going badly for our troops. I asked Dad to tell me his story again about how he and the three men volunteered on Dec. 8th, 1941. Dad explained that one went to each of the three branches of services they visited that day, but he didn't get the chance to go to war. Then I asked him what ever happened to the men? Dad shifted uneasily in his recliner, fumbled with his rolled up newspaper in his lap, and softly replied with an ash, gray look on his face, “dey never came back.”

We never discussed his experience again after that, and I never played soldier again, either. Like many of the lessons in this book, it was another memory I recalled as I wrote his eulogy. Even now, I can’t imagine how he truly felt or how it affected him for the rest of his life to lose a cousin and two childhood friends in that terrible world war, while he was saved from that hell. I have a hunch, though. Now looking back as an adult and a father, I think I understand why he bowed his head solemnly while pledging allegiance, sang out the words to patriotic songs at the top of his lungs, and brought flowers to the cemetery every Memorial Day. And also the reason he was thankful to God that I never had to fight a real war like he almost did once, a long time ago, before the loss of his innocence.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lighting a new year

This past year has been filled with plans, hopes, and encouraging results. I continue to reach out via the vast internet. I have seen my actions result in a mixture of continued aspirations...some continued frustrations...and even great satisfactions. Such is life...since life is in itself a great mixture of those things. Practicing the preachings of my dear friend, Mark Montgomery, who said..."Give your content away for free," has resulted in a call back from an Italian-American themed magazine publisher in Chicago. I had previously sent him a free CD copy of TOOLS, A PERSONAL MEMOIR, nearly 18 months ago. This past week, as 2009 drew to an end, his reporter and I spoke for nearly 2 hours. I made a new paison & friend. As we talked, I realized that the goal I had set when I wrote TOOLS, was moving in the right direction. The reporter got it. The stories in TOOLS were about my father and his generation. I was merely the vessel. Theirs was a generation that lived through great disappointments and uncertainity, economic hardships, survival and success. They were the first generation to be born in USA of immigrant parents, who had sacrificed to come here so their children and grandchildren would have a better life. Most of that generation passed away before seeing that goal reached. I hope that I continue to share the message of TOOLS with more and more people, so they can see their parents and grandparents in a positive light. And I hope that a little of that light spills over and guides our generation in the right direction when times grow we keep moving...dreaming..and achieving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To our parents

Haven't posted for awhile...things are good...working on our projects...slowly progressing...On the eve of Joseph & I's birthdays...I wanted to share a chapter text excerpt from TOOLS, my memoir audiobook, about my late Dad, John Occhipinti. Hope you enjoy reading much as I it.

Our Parents Were Young Once, Too…

My wife and I are blessed with a 21 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. We conceived our first born after one attempt with no birth control. Naturally, we felt confident that we could easily time the next birth and be successful again. Wrong! We then began traveling a painful road over the next two years to conceive a second child. We tried everything we could do following a natural course of vitamins and supplements. I also began eating Brazil nuts and molasses and drinking ginseng tea between meals. Still no luck! During this time, I remember my parents telling me many times that I was a surprise baby. My parents were nearly forty-years old, and mom had previously miscarried at least three times, from the time of my sister’s birth in 1944, till when I was conceived in 1954. In fact, her Doctor attributed Mom’s frequent morning nausea due to her gall bladder acting up. The Doctor finally ordered tests run, that proclaimed her gall bladder was fine, but she was definitely five months pregnant. Mom and Dad kept assuring us that we still could have another baby and to just be patient…and that God has his plans.

After nearly five years of our failure to conceive a second child, we visited a fertility clinic. The first month we tried to conceive was January of 1994. As soon as we pinpointed my wife’s ovulating time, we headed to the clinic where I proceeded to provide my own sperm sample to the staff for washing and insertion by tube. It was not very romantic. Still, no luck! We tried again the next month under the strangest of conditions. A major ice storm hit Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday, Feb. 10th at around 10:30pm. Within two hours, the ice crushed several power grids leaving the city and most of the state without electricity. We were lucky. We could keep a fire going in the fireplace for some warmth, and managed to ride the storm and it’s consequences out. By Monday, Feb. 14th, with still no electricity, my wife announces that she is ovulating. So, we packed up and visited the fertility clinic again and repeated our earlier try. Six weeks later, Anne’s OB confirmed the earlier at home EPT kit. The Doctor then calculated our due date as November 11th. We laughed because that is my birthday. I asked the Doctor “how can you be sure?” He explained that since we knew that we conceived on Valentine’s Day at the clinic, it was an easy calculation.
At that very moment, I realized that my parents conceived me on Feb. 14th, 1954, and was almost immediately overcome with nausea myself, at the thought of my parents having sex. Anne and the Doctor laughed and tried to console me, but I still cringed at the thought. Later that night, I called my parents. I told Dad the whole story about how we conceived on Feb. 14th, and the due date being Nov. 11th. He excitedly yells in the phone, “Tommy, dat’s ya birthday!” I said, “Yeah, it is…so I guess you and mom conceived me on Feb. 14th, 1954. You guys had some Valentine’s Day celebration that night, huh?” My father said nothing at first…and then replied, “Well….to tell ya da truth, Tommy, ahhhh…..I don’t remember. Ya want I should ask ya muther?” Before I could answer him “no,” Dad added, “Nahhh, I don’t think ya muther’d remember it either!”
Now that my parents have both departed, I’m able to see them in a different light. When I think about my birthday on November 11th or my son’s birthday on November 12th (my wife’s labor started on the 11th and lasted until 2am, the next morning!), I am sweetly reminded that my parents were young once, too. They laughed, cried, dreamed, hoped, played, worked, sang, danced, and most important of all, loved.