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August 18, 2014

Family Is Everything

author Giacomo Giammatteo and his dog Slick

Giacomo & Slick

Family Isn’t Dead

Everyone has problems, and sometimes problems have a way of multiplying as we grow older. Worries heaped atop other worries, and those on top of physical issues. Despite that, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world.

I grew up in the most loving family I can imagine. And we lived in a neighborhood that I still think of as the greatest place on earth to raise a kid. It wasn’t just our family. It was a neighborhood of working-class people, many of whom were descendants of immigrants—Irish, Italian, Polish, and others.

This neighborhood and the values that we were raised with find their way into some of my books in the friendship & honor series. In my other series, the entire theme is, La famiglia é tutto—family is everything.  

But this post isn’t about books.

This Is About Family

I often worry about where this country is heading, mostly due to what I see as the lack of values in the younger generation—values that were infused in us when we were young. Read the news on any given day, and you’ll be appalled at the stories of things kids do to each other, and to themselves. It makes me wonder just what is being infused into the younger children. It’s depressing to read article after article of bad things happening, so when I run across a good story, especially about a young person, it makes me feel as if there’s hope.

I ran across just such an example recently.

Tim and Mike Ferrier were good friends of mine when I lived in Cleland Heights. Like many of the families at that time, the Ferriers had a lot of kids and they made sure the kids grew up in a very loving family. Mike sent me a poem that his granddaughter Rosalina wrote for a school project. I was so impressed, and so moved by the emotion, that I had to share it. The title of the project was…

Where I’m From

by

Lindsay Tucker

 

I am from a comfortable family,

Not a lot of money, but enough.

I am from the old brick house on South Clifton Ave.

The one that you couldn’t see until the old oak tree was cut down.

I am from the red rose bushes in my Grandfather’s garden,

And the old bird’s nest on top of the fan outside.

I am from the nickname Rosalina given to me by my Grandfather

And the many stories that go along with it.

I am from sun blankey and my yellow sunglasses

That were used when my Grandfather picked me up from school and the sun was too bright.

I am from a Grandmother, who helps me to be the person I am today,

And I wouldn’t have made it where I am today without her.

I am from the family with a million cousins

And plenty of hearts ready to help.

I am from a house that gets packed on Christmas Eve

And has many Italian foods ready to eat prepared by Mike and Marie.

I am from the world’s cutest puppy named Marilyn

And two younger sisters that make me want to pull my hair out at times.

I am from one true best friend that no one could ever replace,

Also known as my Mom.

I am from the brown hair and blue eyes

That comes from my Great-Grandfather.

I am from a small city where everyone knows my Grandfather,

And an even smaller neighborhood where everyone knows each other.

I am from the pizza and Chinese food that my family eats on special occasions

And the birthday cake that has a 0 candle on it no matter what age you are turning.

I am from a family where stress is overcome by love

And problems are worked on together rather than on your own.

I am from a loving family, who cares about everyone,

That would do anything for anyone at anytime.

Rosalina

Rosalina, whose real name is Lindsay Tucker, is 15-years old. This poem is from her heart, and from her experience. You can’t make this up.

This is what family is all about.

What strikes me most about this poem is Rosalina’s self-awareness. “Where I’m From,” is a broad topic for a teenager. I’m sure many of them wrote about their neighborhood, or their city, or even about the country where their ancestors originated.

Rosalina dug deeper than that.

She has an awareness that most adults haven’t learned to recognize, much to their detriment. Rosalina seems to realize, even at this early age, that who she is, the person she has become, is a result of her family and her surroundings.

I am so happy for Rosalina, because I already know that no matter what life throws at her, she’ll do fine. She is a very lucky girl.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

August 12, 2014

Pretty Girl Is Safe

close up shot of pretty girl, a pit bull we rescued on our sanctuaryPretty Girl—No Home Yet, But Safe

Back in June, I wrote a post about Pretty Girl, a pit bull rescue who was dumped on our sanctuary. She was one of several who had been left there, and it was obvious from looking at her that she had been abused or used for fighting. She was very friendly, but animal aggressive, which meant we couldn’t keep her even if we did have the funds, especially considering we had just taken in one of the other pit bulls who had been dumped.

So we kept her for two months, trying everything to find a home for her. But no one would take her. We were determined this good girl was not going to die, so we kept looking. We finally found a no-kill shelter who might accept her, and on Friday, Mikki and I made the drive—a 350 mile round trip—but it was well worth it.

Pretty Girl Passed the Test

All dogs, especially pit bulls, have to undergo a test to make sure they aren’t people aggressive. They test them with food, put their hands in while a dog is eating. Take the food from them. Give them toys and take them away. Play tug of war. And do a lot of other tests to ensure that if someone adopts the dog there will not be a problem.

Pretty Girl passed the people test, but her problems aren’t over.

She Still Needs a Home

Despite being safe and having a home where she will be fed and taken care of, she still doesn’t have a family. And this girl needs one. She is super lovable. She is loyal. She listens well. The only issues would be with other animals. She cannot be with other dogs or cats, or any animals.

What Can You Do?

If you know of anyone in the Austin, TX area who is looking for a great companion, Pretty Girl might fit the bill. She would be fantastic in any situation as long as it doesn’t involve other animals. She walks well on the leash, is well behaved, and follows commands. She is sweet and lovable. She seems great with kids. Please contact us if you know of anyone looking for a dog. gg@giacomog.com

Here are some other pics of her, including Mikki and I saying goodbye.

Pit bull on Tuskany Falls Sanctuary, smiling Pretty Girl smiling. A pit bull we rescued on our sanctuary

pit bull rescue pit bull rescue

Please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

August 4, 2014

What Does Your Profile Picture Say About You?

Will a Casual Profile Picture Doom Me To Mediocrity?

When I first uploaded my profile picture on LinkedIn, I had a number of friends and associates tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I should use a different one.

“Something more professional,” they said.

I’m not one to ignore advice without checking, so I looked into it further. After all, as an author I was going to need an image on a couple of websites, a few Facebook pages, G+, Pinterest, Twitter, and for articles I wrote as a guest blogger.

Social Media Best Practices

Almost every article I read on social media best practices discussed the profile picture, and I think I read them all:

• How to build a profile on LinkedIn.
• How to build a website.
• Enhancing your Facebook and G+ pages.  

After reviewing a few dozen examples and reading advice from many experts, I opted for…being me.

What Does That Mean?

It means that while I occasionally dress in a suit, and I enjoy a formal event now and then, I am most at ease dressed in casual clothes and hanging out with one of the 40–50 animals on our sanctuary. So I decided that my picture would represent that.

That’s me with Slick, the best dog I have ever seen.

Experts told me I was wrong, that I shouldn’t use such an informal picture for my professional profile. But the way I see it, is regardless of whether it’s business or not, you do business with a person. I want to like the people I do business with, and I would hope they feel the same. I’m also convinced that if someone doesn’t like my profile picture, they probably won’t like me. I’m fine with that. What I won’t do is put up a fake picture of me, dressed in a suit with my arm draped over the mantel of a fireplace. So I ignored all the advice and went with my gut.

And To My Surprise…

The feedback has been positive. I’m sure the people who don’t like it simply don’t take the time or have better manners than to say so, but the sheer number of people who have written to say, “I love your profile pic. What kind of dog is that?” Or something along those lines…has been amazing.

Bottom Line

While doing research on this, I didn’t find one article that suggested simply being yourself. I wrote this post for those of you who don’t want to put up a more formal picture. Maybe this will inspire you to “just be yourself.”

You might be surprised at the response.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 28, 2014

Smashwords and Overdrive

Building a Library Presence With Smashwords and Overdrive

There has been a lot of talk about Smashwords’ deal with Overdrive. Some people claim that indie authors have been relegated to an “indie ghetto” and that librarians won’t even be able to find an indie author’s books if they wanted to.

Let’s examine that for a minute.

What do you think is Overdrive’s intent? Do you think they spent a ton of money and went to the trouble of making a deal with Smashwords just to hide the indie authors so nobody could find them?

Why would Overdrive do that?

Or do you think it’s possible that Overdrive is simply taking a cautious approach to this expansion?

My Take on the Matter

My take on it is that Overdrive is being perhaps too cautious, but that’s their call to make. The library business is not known for its willingness to accept new things with open arms. Just last month I spoke with Kirkus about their marketing campaigns. One of the first things they mentioned was that librarians weren’t much interested in self-published titles. Some were, but not the majority.

If that’s the case, why would Overdrive, whose main business is libraries, risk putting indie titles in their system? They wouldn’t, unless they believed in the indie movement and were committed to it for the long term.

And furthermore, why would Mark Coker, who has been a fierce supporter of the indie movement risk his reputation on something that didn’t look as if it would pay off? Remember, Smashwords makes no money unless authors make money.

A Closer Look

Coker has always had indies best interest at heart. I cannot see him doing anything to jeopardize that. My mother always taught me to look at intent and find out what a person’s motivation was for doing what they did. Let’s look at this.

Why Would Smashwords Agree To A Deal Where Indies Are Treated As Second-Class Citizens?

I’m not one to be silent about mistreatment. And I don’t like to be relegated to the second tier of anything. So if a cause is there to speak up about, you’ll normally find me at the front of the line. But I like to make sure that the line I’m in is the right one.

People have been blaming Smashwords, when I can’t see why? If a group of authors want to scream bloody murder, first find out who is responsible.

My guess is this was Overdrive’s decision to segregate the titles. And I’m also guessing that it will work out as soon as Overdrive has had a chance to integrate all the titles and deal with issues on the library front. I say it’s a guess, because Overdrive has not returned my calls.

I’m sure Mark Coker has an idea, but he’s not going to say anything bad about Overdrive; they’re a business partner. Imagine being a partner with Apple and saying bad things about them? It’s not good business, no matter who is at fault.

Would You Like Some Whine With That Cheese?

The thing that really bothers me is the way too many indies rally around a few whiners. Think about this, people. If you aren’t happy regarding the Overdrive situation, it’s easy to fix. Go to your Smashwords’ dashboard. Go to Channel Manager, and then scroll down and opt out of any or all books for Overdrive. It’s as simple as that.

Or, you could wait patiently for Overdrive and Smashwords to fix this mess and then—ideally—reap the rewards of having your books in tens of thousands of libraries.

Most of the complaints from indies have centered around being treated as second-class citizens. Guess what? Indie authors have been treated as second-class citizens all along.

  • Independent bookstores won’t accept indies (with few exceptions), but I see no one screaming at them. That bothers me more than Overdrive putting me in a ghetto.
  • Amazon has never treated indies the same as traditionally published authors. Even with the newest deal—Kindle Unlimited—indies are treated like crap and others not. I have to say that bothers me a hell of a lot more than the Overdrive situation.
  • Most of the traditional awards programs won’t recognize indie authors.
  • Many reviewers won’t accept indie books.

The list goes on and on. And do you know what? All of that bothers me a lot more than what Overdrive is doing. Unless an author was with Overdrive before this, and showing up in normal search mode, this situation is not harming anything but their pride. I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. But it’s not costing me a dime. It does represent a potential loss in income from books that might get into libraries. But the things that Amazon does to indies costs me a lot more money.

  • Being undiscoverable because I’m not in Select.
  • Or being lower in rankings of “average customer reviews” because other books are pushed more. (More on that later.)
  • Or only earning half the royalties because I’m not in Select.
  • Or being forced to price match.

These things cost all indies a lot more than what Overdrive is doing.

What Else Can You Do?

My first suggestion is the same thing I’ve been doing for print books.

  • Talk to librarians as if they were real people and discuss the situation. Don’t complain.
  • Ask your readers and fans to request that their library carry your books. I have found this to be the best way to encourage librarians to stock your books.

I’m convinced that as this program moves forward, both Overdrive and the libraries will see that stocking indies was a good idea. The few items I mentioned will help that along, but the best thing we all can do is continue to write great books.

Bottom Line

If six months, or a year from now, the situation at Overdrive is the same, I’ll join you on the front line screaming. In the meantime, I think I’ll practice patience.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 22, 2014

Foods To Die For

Figs With Gorgonzola

I had my annual stress test yesterday. I normally avoid scheduling any such test in the month of July for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is because of figs. You heard me right—figs!
I’m sure you’re wondering how figs could affect a stress test. It’s not so much that the figs interfere with the stress test, it’s more that the stress test interferes with the celebration of figs. I don’t like my meals ruined by thoughts of running on a treadmill and worrying if what I’m eating might affect those results.

For those who don’t know, fig trees bear fruit once a year, and the figs usually last about one month. Where I live, they usually ripen in late June or early July, and, for the following month, we feast on figs. We occasionally just eat the fruit, but more often than not we prepare them the way God must have intended them to be prepared—stuffed with Gorgonzola and lightly broiled. This is a picture of last night’s meal. My son made it for me to celebrate the passing of one more stress test.

As you can see, the figs and Gorgonzola are to die for, but the seafood crepes…oh my God! (By the way, I have never tasted a store-bought fig that was worth a damn, so if you don’t have a fig tree, plant one, or two.)

The figs are sliced and stuffed with Gorgonzola and then placed under the broiler until the cheese starts to melt. What you see on the plate alongside the figs are savory crepes stuffed with shrimp and tied with a chive. They are then baked in the oven until golden on the outside. And what you can’t see is the garlic aioli sauce my son makes, which is so damn good I could eat it with a spoon.

If you remember in last week’s post I talked about what foods were served in heaven. This is one of them. The only thing I’m hoping is that in heaven fig season lasts all year long.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

July 14, 2014

What Food Is Served In Heaven?

A Late Thank You for a Father’s Day Gift

Being a person who cherishes a well-prepared meal—and being Catholic besides—I have often wondered what food is served in heaven. And that is making a huge assumption that I earn my way there.

Sure-Fire Menu Items

I know a few things that are can’t miss items. And these alone are enough to keep me walking the straight and narrow. Let’s take a look at these known foods.

 

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
    • No brainer. If only the Italians voted for it, it would still be high on the list.
  • Seafood Ravioli
    • Another shoo-in. Who doesn’t love a good seafood ravioli?
  • Lasagna
    • I’m hoping it’s Mikki’s lasagna, but I’ve tasted plenty that would suffice.
  • Veal Marsala
    • No more needs to be said.

 

Getting Back to My Story

I went off on a tangent here—which I tend to do when food is involved—so let’s get back on track. For father’s day, my lovely daughter sent me a gift card for my favorite grocery store. Yes, I know, that’s an odd thing, but my daughter knows me well, and she understands that a special meal and a good bottle of wine are better than almost anything. Hence, the grocery-store gift card.

To make this more than just a special father’s day, my oldest son chipped in and volunteered to cook me up a meal beyond comparison.

A Little Explanation

I love tiramisu. I go berserk over sfogliatelle. And figs with gorgonzola…fahgettaboutit.
But there is one dish that I seldom get, and it just might top all of the others.
What is it?

Homemade Ricotta Cheese With Pears and Cinnamon

If you’ve never eaten this slice of heaven, then I offer my condolences. If you have had it, and presuming it was made properly, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Take a look at the picture below, and tell me you’re not drooling.

 

 

Of course, no meal is complete without a glass of fine wine. For this occasion we had Santa Cristina, a Chianti that is inexpensive and delicious.

 

 

The Rest of the Meal

I almost forgot the rest of the meal. My son is not one to dally around with food. When he cooks there is usually far too much for everyone. This is a genetically inherited trait that he got from his mother. She is a compulsive feeder.

Getting back to the meal. He also cooked veal Marsala, which was magnificent, and he made a wonderful salad. But for me, the meal began and ended with the dessert.

What if You Can’t Make It?

Have no fear. If you haven’t had this delicacy, and you can’t make it, or find someone else to make it for you, all is not lost. All you have to do is live a good life, because there is no question that this is a food served in heaven.

Recipe

If you do an Internet search for homemade ricotta, you’ll find dozens of recipes. Some will use lemon juice (or juice squeezed from fresh lemons) in place of buttermilk, but either will work. It boils down to preferences. This recipe can also be scaled up or down with consistent results. These measurements make enough cheese for about a dozen servings with enough left over to stuff shells or ravioli to feed about 8 people. (Stuffed shells with homemade ricotta is to die for.)

  • One gallon of whole milk. (Don’t use UHP ultra-high pasteurized)
  • One quart of buttermilk.
  • One pint of heavy cream.
  • One-half teaspoon of salt.

Note: Add more buttermilk to sweeten to your taste.

  1. Use a pan like what you make your red sauce in. Heat the milk, buttermilk, and cream (and salt) slowly. Stir every couple of minutes for about 10 minutes, until you see bubbles form. Then let it sit without stirring until the temperature hits 170°.
  2. When curds begin to form, remove it from the burner and let it sit (without stirring) for ten minutes. The whey and curds should begin to separate. Lay cheesecloth over a colander and put it on top of a large bowl.
  3. Now pour into the cheesecloth-covered colander, and let it drain. This might take up to an hour. (Wait until the liquid drains completely.)
  4. Put the ricotta in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. You should have enough for a few good meals. (This is assuming you can stop family members from dipping spoons into the mixture while it’s warm and stealing half of it.)

Most importantly, enjoy! Buon appetito.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

photo credit: stu_spivack via photopin cc

July 7, 2014

Happy Anniversary To My Wife

On Being Married For 45 Years

On July 4th, Mikki and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. Way back in 1969, on a scorching hot Independence Day, we swore vows to each other. I was 17. She was still 16. But we knew what swearing to a vow meant. It was the way we were brought up.

jim and mikki giammatteo wedding

I still remember our honeymoon night, if you want to call it that. We had no money, so the honeymoon consisted of our first night in a new apartment. New to us, that is. It was actually an $85 per month roach-infested dump, but we didn’t care.

We Were Young, And In Love

We were talking about our honeymoon as we sat in bed reading the other night. That first night was special, so special that we both remember it almost exactly the same way. A rare thing after so many years.

Then I started thinking about how different things are, comparing how we went to bed back then, versus now.

  • Back then we couldn’t wait to touch each other, our bodies intertwined. Hot and sweaty in an apartment with no air conditioning.
    • Now we are normally propped up on pillows reading books on our iPads.
  • Back then after being intertwined, we would turn off the lights and go to bed with our arms wrapped around each other.
    • Now the light on her iPad goes out long before mine, and we go to bed with a wall of pillows separating us, so our hot bodies don’t touch.
  • Back then we looked at each other with lust in our eyes.
    • Now we look at each other with love.

But Is That So Bad?

I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that not only is it not bad, maybe it’s better. Neither one of us looks like we did back then. We definitely aren’t in the same shape physically. And we certainly don’t have the stamina we did on that night so many years ago.

But We Have Memories

And I believe it’s the memories that get us through the tough times. Memories are hard to compete with. They can be good or bad. For me, the memories are fantastic. I don’t mean that I see her in the same way as I did when we were teenagers.

  • But I’ll catch a glint in her eyes that makes me recall a particular incident, and that brings a smile.
  • Or I’ll hear her laugh, and remember a day when we hooked school and went to Philly. Back then all days were filled with laughter.
  • Or I’ll hear her cry when one of our animals die, and I’ll wish for the days when there was nothing to cry about.

Bottom Line

Regardless of how tough things are, or how tough the road ahead looks, we’re fortunate because we have those memories. And when times get the worst, we can always turn off our iPads, toss the pillows off the bed, and relive a few memories.

Happy anniversary, Babe

Ti amo con tutto il mio cuore.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

June 30, 2014

Pit Bulls and People Who Suck

Some People Deserve to Die, But This Pit Bull Doesn’t


Yes, I know that statement might offend some people, but I don’t care. It’s the truth. Every 11 seconds a dog is put down in this country.

Every 11 seconds!

That’s sad. The world would be a much better place if we substituted some of the worst people instead of dogs. I have never met a dog I felt should be put down, but I can think of a lot of people that should be…

Including Whoever Dumped “Pretty Girl” (Above Pic) On Our Sanctuary

Let me back up.

About a month ago, we had a dog dumped by someone on the private drive to our animal sanctuary. She was a pit bull, and it was obvious from her ninnies that she had recently given birth. We were able to lure her into a 12’ x 12’ pen we made from horse fencing under the shelter of our barn. She seemed nervous at first, but after we fed her and showed a little love, she warmed up to us.

She was infested with fleas, had mange, and showed signs of scarring in quite a few places. Despite all of that, there were no signs of aggression; in fact, she has turned out to be one of the most lovable dogs I’ve seen. She is wonderful with our grandkids, and although we haven’t introduced her to all of the dogs yet, she’s met three so far with no problems.

We have never owned pit bulls, but any animal is welcome at our sanctuary as long as there are funds to support them. We didn’t have the funds, so we tried finding a home for her. For two weeks, I posted on FB and we contacted many rescue centers, but no one could take her. We were almost ready to call animal control, when she put on a show for us during a nightly walk. Take a look at this video and tell me if you could send her to be put down.

We were walking and she suddenly decided to jump for the branch in the tree. After numerous attempts (I cut almost 55 seconds from this video) she opted to go for a branch that was easier to access.

She Got A Name

That was it. She must have suspected something was up, because from that night on, she was full of life and love. She had earned her name—Luci. Since then she has become part of the gang.

Here are a few pics of Luci enjoying her new home.

More Trouble

Luci was only with us about two weeks when another pit bull was dumped, and within the next two days, four more were dumped. The one thing they all had in common was that each had recently given birth, and all were in terrible shape. There was nothing we could do with so many dogs. Animal Control came and got them, and although we continued to try to find homes for them, we couldn’t take them in.

Fast Forward Two More Weeks

The other day another dog was dumped. This one looks as if they yanked the puppies from her while still nursing. Her ninnies are huge and filled with milk. We tried catching her for three days, but she seemed terrified of people. Finally, two nights ago, during a huge thunderstorm, she came to the house. She was shaking badly, and she trembled with each thunderclap.

We brought her to the barn and fixed her up inside the pen we had originally made for Luci. She devoured the first bowl of food and shortly after that, ate most of another. The next morning, when we took her for a walk, she was ecstatic. So full of life and love. Just like Luci. She raced around, and couldn’t get enough of us petting her.

Horrors

Upon close examination, it was apparent she had been badly abused or used for fighting. Take a look at these scars.

Her head was only the beginning. She has scars on her back legs, hind quarters, and neck as well. It’s obvious this poor girl hasn’t had much of a life, and yet, you wouldn’t know it by her attitude.

I just went out to feed her and she greeted me with an enthusiastic wag of the tail and a magnificent smile, which you can see here. She smiles all the time.

 

All of this news is good. She seems healthy, other than past scars. The rest of her problems, like fleas and skin issues we’ll have taken care of shortly.

But “Pretty Girl’s” Problems Aren’t Over

I call her “pretty girl” because I’m not giving her a name. I can’t afford to give her a name, which would mean she’s staying. I already can’t afford Luci, but we took her in. When I say her problems aren’t over, it’s because of that. If we can’t find a home for her soon, we’ll have to call Animal Control or someone else. Everyone knows what that means. Pretty Girl, will be gone. She’ll have gotten free of whatever horrors some humans subjected her to only to be killed.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’ve already fallen for this girl. Please help me find a home for her. I can’t bear to see another good dog be put down.

Bottom Line

I haven’t had her long enough to know how she is with other animals. We don’t introduce them right away, and we always make sure they are free of diseases before introductions. But I can attest to how she is with people, at least so far. She has been magnificent with my wife and I, and with our son and his family, including our grandsons. Absolutely no signs of aggression.

So, please people, help her out.

Share this post.

Tell your friends. Tweet it. Put it on Facebook or G+.

I know it’s a pain in the ass to do those things, but Pretty Girl needs your help.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

June 23, 2014

What My Dog Taught Me About Life

Gracie with napkinOne Last Lesson From Coffee Dog

This is the third post I’ve done about Coffee Dog. The first was back in January, 2013. It was simply titled, Coffee Dog. The second one I wrote six months later. I called that one, A Lesson From Coffee Dog.

Each of those posts were difficult to write due to the circumstances. Today’s post was much worse. We lost our precious Coffee Dog. It wasn’t a surprise or a shock. We knew that this day was coming for a while, but we never knew just when it would happen.

Last week we got the first signs, and took her to the vet for tests. Her kidneys were failing. I won’t go through the emotions of those last minutes. Anyone who has been through it knows the feeling.

So Why Did I Write This Post?

To relate what my dog taught me about life. For a few days after Gracie was gone, my wife and I reflected on Gracie and what impact she had on our lives. We talked about how happy she was, and how we had done all we could. How we had given her a home for 12 years and taken care of her throughout her battle with diabetes. And the more we talked, the more we realized just how special Gracie was.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Gracie. She was playing with Slick. She had the spirit of a puppy until the day she died.

Gracie the coffee dog playing with Slick.

Of all the dogs that have been through our sanctuary, I believe Gracie was one of the few who knew her place from day one. She knew where she fit with the other animals, and with us.

  • Gracie didn’t demand attention.
  • She didn’t try to be the “big dog” like our Great Danes.
  • She never pretended to be the tough dog like Biscotti or Mollie.
  • She wasn’t a protector, like Mollie or Bear.
  • She didn’t sound alerts, like Freckles.
  • She knew her place with the pigs, and cats, and with Joe, the horse.

Gracie, our coffee dog, who taught me many lessonsGracie only did two things: She stole napkins from anyone’s lap at dinner time, and she demanded to go with me to the porch while I drank my morning coffee.

Oh, and she was friends with every person and every animal she met. Here’s a pic of her with the dreaded Freckles, who befriends no one.

What Did That Teach Me?

It sounds crazy to say I learned something new from Gracie, but I did. I mentioned in one of the other posts all the things I learned from Gracie as she struggled with diabetes. But now that I look back on her life, I’ve learned more.

Gracie knew exactly where she fit in this world, and she was happy with it. She knew who she was, and she didn’t try to be anything else. Gracie carved out her niche as Coffee Dog, and she was the absolute best coffee dog I could ever imagine.

As to me and what I learned. During the past few years I’ve struggled a few times with my writing—not writer’s block or self-doubts—but wondering if I should be writing something different. Something more popular. As I talked with my wife about Gracie, I realized that she left me with a bit of wisdom. I’m happy writing the way I do, and the stories I do, so that’s what I’m sticking with. I can’t change to please the market.

Bottom Line

Gracie had a level of self-awareness that made her happy. If more people could reach that level, we would all be far happier. I’m thankful she helped me reach mine.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

June 17, 2014

What Father’s Day Means To Me

What Do Newspapers, Money Clips, and Garlic Have To Do With Life?

Paul and Nalletta Giammatteo on steps kissing

My Dad and Mom

I lost my father when I was still a young man of 27. That’s a lot more time than many people get, but it was too early for him to go. I still had a lot to learn. But every year on father’s day, I celebrate the time I did have with him, and I’m grateful for the things he taught me.

What Did He Teach Me?

Silly things. Things like…

  • How to fold newspapers perfectly so they didn’t open when I tossed them onto people’s steps.
  • How to slice garlic so thin “you could see through it,” he’d say.
  • How to keep your money organized, and all bills turned the same way, with all wrinkles smoothed out.

bowl of garlic bulbsAs I said, these were silly things, but I did them. At first, I thought my dad was just being “a dad,” forcing me to do things that didn’t much matter. Then I started seeing the benefits.

  • The newspapers landed on the stoops and didn’t pop open; it saved me time.
  • The garlic was uniform and could be put on sandwiches evenly, improving the flavor.
  • The money I earned was easier to count, and I didn’t even have to take it out of the money clip.

As these lessons became ingrained in me, the process was no longer a chore, just something that had to be done. At the time, I didn’t realize the value of what he taught me; hell, I didn’t even realize he was teaching. Sometimes I thought he was just being a pain in the ass.

money clip and bills, organized neatlyWhat Changed?

I got married when I was 17. My first job was as a laborer for a masonry crew. I soon learned that stacking the bricks wasn’t much different than folding papers. If I did it, “just right” I saved time. During the next 40 years, I went through a lot of changes, from bricklayer, to homebuilder, headhunter, and now writer. The one constant was the things my father taught me never changed. Even now, as a writer, his lessons prove valuable. I know it doesn’t seem like those simple things have much to do with writing, but they do.

rolled newspaper, showing lessons learned in life from early teachingsHe Wasn’t Teaching Me To Fold Papers…

…Or to slice garlic (and tomatoes and meat).
…Or to organize money.

He was preparing me for life.

I don’t fold papers anymore, but when I write a book, the preparation is the most important part. And I do it meticulously, knowing it will save me time, just like folding the papers did.

When I get a new idea for a new book, the first thing I do is sit down and organize my thoughts, and I make an outline, and then I read through it and smooth out the rough edges. Just like organizing and straightening the bills in my money clip.

And the garlic…that’s for making garlic and tomato sandwiches, without which life would be meaningless.

So every father’s day, while I’m eating spaghetti and meatballs cooked with the recipe my fantastic wife cloned from my father, I think of him and say a silent prayer, and then a “thank you.”

At the beginning of this post, I asked what newspapers, money clips and garlic had to do with life. I hope the answer is obvious—everything!

Paul Giammatteo and his sister, Margaret WWII Paul Giammatteo's famous golf swing 6 Giammatteo brothers playing pool

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”




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  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist (rootsintheboot.com) and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (intoactionrecovery.com).

    I hope you enjoy the posts, and please let me know what you think.

    Ciao,

    Giacomo

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