The 30 Year Secret: A Journey of Self-Discovery

The 30 Year Secret: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Coming soon from Writestream Publishing and author Samantha Kincaid.

From the Foreword:

As the old saying goes, “Writing is therapy.”

I wrote this book for a multitude of reasons. First, the process of transforming my incredible true story into a fictional tale was therapeutic on a personal level. It helped me to put my actual life events and circumstances into perspective. Within these pages, through the characters of Theresa Chianti and Lucy Napoli, I tried to express my deep gratitude to my mother for giving me the greatest gift I could have ever received after an unplanned conception: a home filled with love, even if lacking in material comforts.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, where my mother, brother and I lived in a studio apartment with a kitchen and bathroom. None of us had the luxury of a private bedroom; instead we slept on convertible couches, chairs, or cots depending on whomever happened to be visiting. Thanks to our apartment building’s unaddressed infestation, we could always count on the constant companionship of roaches. And while I remember our father as a loving man who always treated me like a princess, his financial irresponsibility meant that my mother worked two grueling waitress  jobs to keep food on the table and send us to Catholic school.

Between the ages of eight and ten, my brother and I were often separated for long periods of time. During the summers we’d live with relatives since my mother had to work. Even though he loved us, my father struggled with his own demons which prevented him from stepping up. Still, I never lacked for love.

Now imagine reaching the age of 30 and receiving news that shatters everything you believed to be true about your life. That’s exactly what happened to me one day when my oldest sister called to request my presence at her house immediately. I assumed she was going to tell me about another death in the family since we’d had more than our share of them at the time. When I arrived, I was struck by how pale she looked and knew that whatever she was about to share was not good. However, I was completely unprepared for what she disclosed.

As it turned out, no one had passed away. But figuratively, all of my beliefs about my birth, childhood and upbringing were destroyed.

A single tear fell from my eye. How could I not know? How was it possible I hadn’t figured it out on my own when the signs had all been there?

So many questions.

Theresa’s journey is my journey. Certain circumstances, places and people have been adapted for fiction but what you are about to read is based on my own life. Whatever you are dealing with, I hope you’ll find inspiration in the strength of maternal love which I know from my own experience transcends biology, legally binding contracts, and financial hardship.

With gratitude and love, I dedicate this book to my mother, a woman who lived for her children. She may not have been perfect but her love for us never failed to reflect the love of God and her devotion to the Catholic faith.

Stay tuned for details as we get closer to the release date.

Cover design by Kimberly McGath.

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Ash Wednesday Musings

Ash Wednesday Musings

Growing up Catholic and attending Catholic school, Ash Wednesday always felt like a somber day of remembering one’s bodily mortality, e.g. “Remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust you shall return,” and deciding which decadent treats (chocolate, soda, cake, etc.) you were willing to give up. For better or worse, the day became synonymous with dieting for many people, as the concept of self-denial centered around food and beverages. Some argued that you could have Sundays “off” while others insisted you must stick to it for the full 40 days.

Why the discrepancy?

According to Catholicism.About.com:

Lent, the period of prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter, is 40 days long, but there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, and Easter. So how are the 40 days of Lent calculated?

A Little History

The answer takes us back to the earliest days of the Church. Christ’s original disciples, who were Jewish, grew up with the idea that the Sabbath—the day of worship and of rest—was Saturday, the seventh day of the week since the account of creation in Genesis says that God rested on the seventh day.

Christ rose from the dead, however, on Sunday, the first day of the week, and the early Christians, starting with the apostles (those original disciples), saw Christ’s Resurrection as a new creation, and so they transferred the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday.

Sunday: The Celebration of the Resurrection

Since all Sundays—and not simply Easter Sunday—were days to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, Christians were forbidden to fast and do other forms of penance on those days.

Therefore, when the Church expanded the period of fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter from a few days to 40 days (to mirror Christ’s fasting in the desert, before He began His public ministry), Sundays could not be included in the count.

Thus, in order for Lent to include 40 days on which fasting could occur, it had to be expanded to six full weeks (with six days of fasting in each week) plus four extra days—Ash Wednesday and the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that follow it. Six times six is thirty-six, plus four equals forty. And that’s how we arrive at the 40 days of Lent!

While I’m supportive of anyone using this time to deprive themselves of sweets (and lose weight in the process), I also love this idea from Aleteia.com:

During Lent we want to de-emphasize ourselves and emphasize our dependence on God. Almsgiving (materially sharing with those in need) is one of the three “pillars” of Lent. (The other two pillars are prayer and fasting.) We can give in ways other than money. In giving up things around our house that we don’t need, we can detach from “stuff” while helping others.

Here’s the challenge: During the 40 days of Lent, find one thing each day you no longer need. For most of us, this should be really easy. It could be a kitchen item, a jacket, a bike, an unopened gift hanging around. Go through your closets, drawers, basement, even the garage.

Click here to read the full post.

For me, it’s also about releasing old beliefs and thought patterns while embracing the knowledge that we are all children of God. With that in mind, here are some suggestions. During Lent 2017, let’s fully let go of:

  • Self-Doubt
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Laziness
  • Impatience
  • Jealousy
  • Selfishness
  • Distrust
  • Comparing Ourselves to Others

Instead, embrace our individuality as creations of God. Celebrate the unique gifts He has given to each of us. Vow to use them in service to your family, friends, neighbors, community, country, workplace and/or business. Stop the comparison/jealousy game and recognize that we are all here for our own purpose. It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I fully agree.

No matter how you honor the season of Lent, remember to express gratitude for all that you are and all that you have. Focus on your blessings, not your problems. By doing so, you just may find that God will guide you through every obstacle.

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Writestream Tuesday with Declan Finn, May 6 at 1 p.m. Eastern

Author Declan Finn.

Author Declan Finn.

Please tune in tomorrow at 1 p.m. Eastern when author Declan Finn returns to Writestream to talk about his books including The Pius Triology, his thriving career (he just got a contract!), publishing, social media and anything else on his mind. Just click on this link to the Blog Talk Radio Writestream episode:

Join author, blogger, writer and internet radio host Dariaanne for Writesream Tuesday on May 6 at 1 p.m. Eastern when she welcomes returning guest Declan Finn to the show. Declan is the author of several novels including Codename: Winterborn, A Pius Legacy, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller and It Was Only On Stun. Recently, he announced some very exciting news (and advice to always check the spam folder): he got a contract from Damnation books for his novel Honor At Stake!

He’s also a fellow member of the CLFA on Facebook. Declan and Dariaanne will talk about his prolific writing career, and his thoughts on publishing, marketing and winning back the culture.

During the live broadcast we welcome your calls at 347-945-7246 and your participation in the live chat. Visit The Pius Trilogy blog here.
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On Kristen Lamb, Bullies and Healing

About a month ago through Facebook I made the acquaintance of the amazing Kristen Lamb, an incredibly talented and successful writer with an endearing, engaging personality and beautiful smile. Even within the limitations of social media, Kristen’s genuine love of people and desire to help shine through every word she types. That was evident from the moment I accepted her friend request after commenting on one of her posts via a mutual friend, M.V. Freeman (whom I incidentally met through the awesome Lydia Aswolf and had the pleasure of interviewing last year on Writestream).

Award-winning author, blogger and social media professional Kristen Lamb.

Award-winning author, blogger and social media professional Kristen Lamb.

One of the things I like most about Kristen is her fearless honesty. She’s willing and able to share her most personal, hurtful experiences in the effort to genuinely assist her blog readers and fellow writers. This is exemplified by her hard-hitting post Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks — What Are Writers to Do? Before taking these cyber-bullies to task over their reprehensible behavior, Kristen first shares her own history with the “old-fashioned” form of bullying:

I grew up most of my life being bullied. I switched schools at least once a year and there was always a new gaggle of Mean Girls to make my daily life a veritable hell. I think this is why I grew to love books. I skipped school so much (to seek sanctuary at the public library), that I’m fairly certain I’m the reason for the current Texas truancy laws.

I couldn’t get out of bed. I became ill at the thought of even walking through the front doors of my school. I was poor and these girls in their designer clothes who drove their BMWs to school took great joy in throwing away what little clothing I had when I was at soccer practice. To this day, my ankles are pretty much destroyed because I have very narrow feet to fit.

These bullies stole my expensive Nike cleats that provided proper support, and threw them away. I was ashamed to tell my grandparents what really happened and pointed to the cheap $20 shoes that were far too wide (I have AAA feet). That earned me a massive third-degree sprain and four months on crutches. My ankle has never been the same.

I never really dated. I remember there was a boy (popular, of course) who I had a crush on when I was 15. He kept asking me out, but I knew I was being played. Finally, he seemed so intent and sincere that he did like me, I finally went against my gut and agreed to the date. He was supposed to come pick me up at 6:30 to go to a movie. I dressed up in one of the few nice outfits I had…and waited. 6:30 became 7:30 which became 8:30 and at 9:00 I gave up. I went to bed, then realized what day it was…April Fools.

I cried all night.

Heart-breaking, devastating, comforting….and totally relatable. Why comforting? Because knowing that such a talented, influential, smart, savvy, lovely, joyful and caring writer, author, friend, wife and mom could emerge from these horrific experiences to live out the old adage “Success is the best revenge” filled me with optimism and hope. It also made me realize that a myriad of accomplished people endured some pretty sharp slings and arrows while navigating their way through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. I felt comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in that regard.

Kristen’s post also dredged up a long-forgotten (i.e. buried) memory. One that I never even shared with my mom or sister when it happened. Like Kristen, I did have loving, supportive family members at home to soften the blows of the cold, cruel world of elementary and high school. But perhaps due to my extremely sensitive nature (I’m a Pisces, if that means anything to astrology aficionados) and a personality flaw that tends to bury hurtful events deep down into the remote recesses of my subconscious mind rather than talk about them with someone who cares, I hid this particular humiliation from everyone who might have put their arms around me and affirmed my worth as a human being.

Photo by Anthony M. Davis.

Photo by Anthony M. Davis.

The incident in question involves an 8th grade boy I had a major crush on when I was in the 7th grade. To set the foundation, I never felt as if I fit in at the Catholic elementary school I attended because I was, in essence, an outsider. Immediately following my graduation from Sacred Heart Montessori, my family moved to a gorgeous new home in the next town over, which necessitated a parish and school change. This did not sit well with my brother and sister who’d been happily attending St. Dorothy’s and didn’t want to leave their friends (my oldest brother was already in high school and my brother Ralph was in special ed through the public school system). After two weeks at the new school, they’d succeeded in lobbying my mom to secure bus transportation back to St. Dorothy’s where they could reconnect with their friends and teachers.

Having just started 1st grade, it hadn’t mattered much to me at first. And in the beginning, it was great. My new nun initially welcomed me to the class with open arms. But her kindness toward me ended soon after she discovered my father was a “rich” doctor; from then on, I was nothing more than a spoiled little brat in her eyes. Her influence seemed to spread to many of my classmates who upon seeing me wearing something “new” (read: hand-me-down from my sister), would make a huge point about it in the school yard while the nun would sarcastically observe, “I see Daddy bought you another jacket!”

Back in the day: Ralph and me engaging in one of our favorite childhood rituals.

Back in the day: Ralph and me engaging in one of our favorite childhood rituals.

Most of that year consisted of her lecturing me about the “poor, inner-city kids” and how the Bible tells us that rich men can’t get into heaven (I’ll never forget the sheer terror of believing that my decent, hard-working, surgeon father — humble son of Italian immigrants — was headed straight to hell). Of course, my wonderful dad explained that Bible verse as best he could when I later asked him about it at home and assured me that he was living as best he could to ensure he stood a good chance of going to heaven. Still, one day on the ride home from school with my mother, I lamented that he wasn’t a trash collector instead of a doctor as we passed the local dump.

“Mommy, I wish Daddy was a trash collector.”

“Honey, why would you say such a thing?”

“Because maybe if he was a trash collector the kids at school and Sr. Timothy Ann would like me.”

“Daria, your father works hard for his money, he doesn’t rob banks. He helps people get better. Be proud of that and just ignore those kids because they’re just jealous!” 

So yeah, the “money is evil” philosophy was ingrained in me NOT at home but in 1st grade by a vicious nun who had it in for me. This is not an exaggeration. My presence in that classroom inspired an actual class trip to West Philly so that us spoiled suburban kids could experience what life was like for the poor.

Mom and me in 2009.

Mom and me in 2009.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about kids knowing how blessed they are and learning how to properly care for their fellow humans. However, I fully reject the practice of injecting guilt into six year-old children born into stable, loving and financially secure homes. Shouldn’t the fact that there are some children who do have good lives be something to celebrate? How does beating them up for their circumstances help their less fortunate peers?

Even at that young age I wondered why — if money and rich people were evil — the church was constantly asking them to give money to the offertory every Sunday and during various, endless mission drives throughout the year. Furthermore, how could people give something away that they themselves didn’t possess? If the church wanted money from its parishioners, didn’t they first have to work and earn it?

Celebrating mom's birthday, circa 1992.

Celebrating mom’s birthday, circa 1992.

Adding to my angst was the fact that I was the only kid (after my brother and sister graduated a few years later) forced to take a “special” van/bus to school. Unlike the rest of my classmates who either walked to and from in groups or took the same bus to the neighboring community of Springfield, I had a transport that 1. dropped me off almost 30 minutes early in the morning, and 2. picked me up 30 minutes later than everyone else in the afternoon.

Between all of this and my chubby body…well, let’s just say elementary school was NOT my favorite part of childhood.

Fast-forward to 7th grade. On top of everything else, I now have braces — and a crush on a cute guy in the 8th grade. My friends (yes I did have them and no, we were not part of the “cool” crowd) and I kept it quiet for a long time and to this day, I’m not exactly sure who ratted me out. But the reality that someone did would hit me hard on one lovely May evening.

From a young age, writing and reading were my refuges.

From a young age, writing and reading were my refuges.

In the 7th grade, kids can volunteer to be “safeties,” which mostly involved chaperoning recess and dismissal for the younger grades. Every year, the Philadelphia Phillies held a “Safety Night” at Veterans Stadium for all of the area schools – public, Catholic and private. Having been raised an avid Philly sports fan, I was really looking forward to hanging out with my St. Dot’s friends and watching the ball game.

That night, my mom dropped me off at one friend’s house in Drexel Hill, where she and I would hang out for a bit before walking to another friend’s home. That friend’s dad had the pleasure of driving about six 12-to-13 year-old girls to and from the baseball game. As I strolled along with this one friend (whom I suspect had something to do with what happened next but never was able to prove), a car suddenly pulled up right next to us. The guy behind the wheel looked to be about 16 and most likely the older brother of the object of my misplaced affection. While he sat behind the wheel smirking, my crush rolled down the window, pulled himself halfway out of the car and proceeded to hurl the most vile, sarcastic insults at me while I stood there frozen.

Years later I'd become a ballroom dancer.

Years later I’d become a ballroom dancer.

Things like: “Hey man, you’re sexy!” delivered in the meanest, most condescending tone imaginable.

I was absolutely dumbfounded, paralyzed and humiliated. Ever had a moment where you wished a giant sinkhole would swallow you? This was definitely one of those moments for me. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it felt as if he was stabbing my heart with a thousand sharp daggers.

After what felt like an eternity, the car finally drove off. Come to think of it, I don’t remember the girl I was with stepping up to my defense which lends credence to the theory that perhaps she had something to do with it. She was kind of a surly, rebellious sort who liked to cause trouble for her parents. I’m not really sure why she was part of the circle of friends but it’s possible some of us felt sorry for her, not being part of the “in” crowd ourselves.

Strolling along the water has always brought comfort and peace. One of my favorite places is Satellite Beach, Florida.

Strolling along the water has always brought comfort and peace. One of my favorite places is Satellite Beach, Florida.

Anyway, immediately following his diatribe all I wanted to do was go home and cry. I knew my mother and my sister would be sympathetic and that I’d be comforted with loving arms. But since that was not an option, I internalized the whole thing just to get through the night. What should have been a fun outing with my friends ended up being a nightmare. Everyone noticed I was quiet but couldn’t pry it out of me. Looking back, that might’ve been my first “out of body” experience where I went through the motions but literally felt as if my spirit had gone somewhere else to try to heal its wounds in private.

When I mercifully returned to the sanctuary of my home that night, I’d rushed up to the bedroom I shared with my sister to cry on her shoulder — only to discover she was sound asleep. For a brief moment I thought about waking her up but decided against it. To this day, I’m not really sure why I made that decision. Or why I kept the secret the next morning and all of the decades to follow. Instead of answering my mother’s “Did you have a good time?” question honestly, I regurgitated back forced words of joy, excitement and happiness.

Hugging Debbie Lee after her emotional, heart-wrenching speech. Only when we're older do we realize that some people endure much more devastating things.

Hugging Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee after an emotional, heart-wrenching speech. Only when we’re older do we realize that some people endure much more devastating things than mean bullies.

Maybe I faked it in order to spare her from having to fight yet another battle on my behalf. We’d already been through enough trauma including the time in 4th grade when the teasing about my weight actually altered my happy-go-lucky personality to the point where my very wise and perceptive mother could no longer sit back and do nothing. That led to a conference with the school principal and my teachers, which led to a very stern warning from the fair-minded young sister to the rest of the class. Yes, there were also some very decent, caring nuns which I should have made clear from the outset. And this new, young principal had zero tolerance for kids’ inhumanity toward other kids. God bless her.

Fast-forward 10+ years from the night of the ill-fated Phillies game. I’m out on a date with a guy who would become my first boyfriend (never had one in high school or college) at Pizzeria Uno. As we follow our hostess to our table I happen to look to my right to see the now fully grown (to say the least) bully seated in a booth, completely absorbed in conversation with a woman I assume is his girlfriend. But now he’s almost completely bald at 24 and sporting a rather noticeable belly. Having long since lost my baby fat but not my memory of that spring night in 1980, I immediately feel a sense of poetic justice.

Mom and me at the Hotel DuPont Green Room, March of 2012.

Mom and me at the Hotel DuPont Green Room, March of 2012.

But my euphoria was soon deflated by the sanctimonious jerk I was sharing the evening with. Because when I filled him in on the whole story, his reaction could’ve been delivered by the scolding SNL Church Lady: “Daria! That’s not very Christian of you!” (For some unknown reason, I nevertheless embarked upon a 1 1/2 year relationship which ironically subjected me to similar taunts of being “spoiled”, “pampered” and “over-indulged”). I should have listened to my mother and ended that one sooner. But as they say, live and learn. And boy, did I ever enjoy learning the hard way!

Anyway, I hadn’t intended this post to run on so long but the point of my story is that thanks to Kristen I am finally publicly acknowledging an event that has haunted me in one way or another for years. I am also assured in the knowledge that so many others who are now thriving and happy at one time endured similar treatment by the hands of deliberately cruel kids. Although I incorporated countless real-life events into my novel (including 1st grade nun Sr. Timothy Ann’s emotional bullying), this incident from my adolescence didn’t make the cut. Mainly because it just didn’t come to mind. But as readers of my novel know, once an event transpires that opens the memory floodgates I take to my keyboard. For Water Signs it was a psychic who correctly identified my first love (also buried in the recesses of my subconscious mind); for this blog post it was Kristen Lamb, whose heart-tugging personal story loosened the bonds of self-imposed amnesia with respect to my 7th grade crush.

Holding my niece (brother Paul's daughter) Emmy Rose on the way to breakfast the day after my brother Mark's wedding in 1993.

Holding my niece (brother Paul’s daughter) Emmy Rose on the way to breakfast the day after my brother Mark’s wedding in 1993.

To this day, my siblings and family friends who have nothing but positive remembrances of St. Dot’s, Drexel Hill, nuns, priests and teachers rhapsodize on Facebook about their wonderful experiences. Two of my siblings in recent years have condemned my alleged “angst” and “anxiety” and written me off as “unorthodox” for the crimes of choosing to live in another state and, notwithstanding fantastic memories of a loving upbringing, not partaking in their euphoria over having attended St. Dot’s and Cardinal O’Hara High School (in spite of the fact that I am carving out a life as a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, commentator, etc). I suppose that’s human nature: if you’ve attended the same elementary and high schools and have come away with nothing but fond memories it’s probably impossible to imagine that someone else — even your own sibling — might have had a vastly different experience.

Ironically, the mean guy in this story is the product of lovely parents with whom I’ve interacted on occasion over the years. Did they know their son was capable of this kind of behavior? Who knows. From what I hear through the grapevine, he’s now a successful insurance agent. I presume he’s still fat and bald.

And if being happy about that makes me a “bad” person, so be it.

Finally, many thanks to Kristen Lamb for being such an inspiring example of the triumph of the human spirit. So thrilled to have made her online acquaintance!

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