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Things I learned from my mom

Hug Frequently
A hug costs nothing yet gives a huge return. Spend them on family and friends as though you have an unlimited supply, because you do.

Enjoy Family Time
My mom was happiest when we were all sitting at the dinner table, swapping stories and making one another laugh. I am happiest when I am sitting at the dinner table with my own kids, making each other laugh.

Laugh Easily
Open yourself to laughter. Try to find the humor in things, even if it sometimes comes at your own expense. When frustration is about to lead to anger, try laughing about it instead.

Protect Ferociously
If you attempt to harm my child I will personally introduce you to the afterlife. No, I am completely serious.

Marry My Child, Become My Child
When I married my wife, my mom didn't treat it as though she lost a son but that she finally gained a daughter. She gave her love unconditionally and always treated my wife as her own child.

Say “I love you”
Don't assume your family and close friends know that you love them. This isn't some awkward teenage crush, these are the people that are most important to you. Tell them. I never had a conversation with my mom that didn't end with her telling me that she loved me, unless I managed to get it in first.

Share Your Pride
My mom frequently shared how proud she was of me. She always focused on my accomplishments, and merely noted my failures to me privately. She instilled in me a drive to succeed, not a fear of failure. Find the positive things your children do and build on them.

Don't Give Up
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. It may be a spouse going through a tough time, a personal financial crisis or even cancer. Fight it because your family needs you.

Teach By Example
You can't expect your children to behave any differently than you do. If you want your children to pay attention to you, pay attention to them. Be as kind to them as you want them to be to others.

Keep Chocolate Handy
Every problem looks easier to solve with the application of a little chocolate.


Adalene was born on February 14, 1930, the fourth child of Salvatore and Rosaria. My grandparents immigrated from Sicily just a few years earlier and settled in a little burg in Western Pennsylvania. My grandfather hand built the house that my mother was born in and remains in the family to this day.

My mom was a child of the Great Depression and quit school after the 8th grade to take a factory job and help provide for her family. She spent the first 30 years of her life devoted to her parents while staying in Pennsylvania. When Salvatore died, my mom, her sister Angelina and her mother moved to California to start a new life. It was there that she met my father Dave Alison.

On her first date with my dad they were involved in a horrific car accident when a drunk driver ran a red light. My mom's foot was nearly severed but they were able to reattach it, though the injury would plague my mom for the rest of her life. At this point it became pretty clear that my mom was a survivor.

In 1962 she married Dave and became Adalene Alison. A year later she had me, followed by my brother a year and a half later. With a young family under her wings, she and my dad set about building a life for themselves. My dad had a couple of business ventures that failed, putting some pretty heavy stress on the family. To complicate matters, my dad was an alcoholic, alternating through beer, whiskey and vodka over the years.

Through all of these challenges Adalene remained committed to Dave. My grandmother Rosaria lived with us and watched my brother and I while my mom and dad worked during the day. It was only when I was an adult that my mom and dad revealed how hard times were when I was a child. I never knew this; I always had clothes, there was always food on the table and my parents would somehow find a way to give us huge quantities of toys for our birthdays and Christmas. My brother and I wanted for nothing.

In the late 1970s my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She insulated my brother and me from it, always assuring us that she would be fine. She always seemed more concerned with us than herself. She had surgery several times to remove the cancer before it would come back. She kept fighting and eventually had a mastectomy. Though scarred from the surgery, she was cancer free and would remain so for the rest of her life.

Over the years my mom encountered other health problems that led to her quality of life declining. Fortunately my dad quit drinking and became the devoted spouse my mom had always been to him. As dementia started to affect my mom, my dad was there to help her get by. The year 2011 was a series of declines for my mom and it was pretty clear that her time on this earth was coming to a close.

Though my mom fought many battles and overcame adversity every time it knocked at her door, she never lost her ability to laugh and smile. Even while in hospice care and bound to a wheelchair, she would reach out and hold the hands of others around her, trying to comfort them.

On August 11, 2011, while my mom quietly breathed her last breath, my dad held her hand and whispered into her ear "I love you".