Monday, January 18, 2016

Let Me Tell You Something: Life As A Real Housewife, Tough-Love Mother, and Street-Smart Businesswoman

To begin this fresh new 2016 year, I thought I would ring in this new year with a story about family. This book was written by one that is described as a tough cookie on the outside; but a marshmallow on the inside. As a woman of her own; she is not just a mother to her 3 kids; but a MOTHER to everyone. On her own, she is also a wise businesswoman. While this book is an all-access into her life, it is a positive enlightenment of her attitude. As one who was the only one whose life displayed NO dramatic mess; just family. This is the book written by the matriarch of that family; Caroline Manzo.

One of Caroline's main incentives in writing this book is to set the record straight. Telling you who she TRULY is. NOT by what she was perceived on TV. The REAL Caroline is a jokester who loves to read. As one who has been on TV; the response Caroline receives is AMAZING. Looking to Caroline as a pseudo-mom/friend. Living a life that teaches a lesson; you don't have to be to KNOW! All Caroline has done is live her life based on her moral compass. Aside from Caroline's job selling real estate; her family was her job. Caroline was a typical housewife. She first heard about the show from her sister-in-law, Jacquline Laurita, who already auditioned for the show and told them all about Caroline. After they met her, Caroline was asked to try out for the show. She thought it would be fun to keep her occupied for the summer. Perhaps raising her profile as a realtor; bringing in more business. The only Housewife show at the time was Orange County. Compared to what was wanted; Caroline KNEW she wasn't what made reality TV. Caroline was shocked when the networks called her and wanted her to join the cast. Seeing her as a potential balance for the other craziness. Al, Caroline's husband, she do it just for the summer, just to have fun with it.

No one realized what it become. Turning their lives upside down. Caroline underestimated the effect the show was going to have on her life. The next morning on a 7:00A flight and was recognized by the flight attendant. All of a sudden, publicity came. Caroline was stopped. It bewildered her. Overnight, people seen her as a celebrity. She did not like it. She wasn't prepared to lose her anonymity the way she did. Dealing with the highs/lows that come w/ fame & notoriety. The hardest part is the constant assumptions about her life. Caroline values & appreciates her fans. Stopping and talking to as many people who want to talk to her. Giving advice to those want it from her. While others view her as a celebrity, Caroline is just a woman trying to make a first impression. You only have one shot. Caroline is one who's always loved to talk. If she was offered a talk show, similar to the ones she loved as a kid, Caroline would do it in a heartbeat. Never did Caroline think she would've imagined her life turning out this way. If you change yourself for the cameras, you will become a puppet for the show. No amount of money will make Caroline change. Say something she wouldn't say in REAL life.

Caroline is TRULY GRATEFUL and remembers who she is/where she's from. She was in no way prepared for what happened when the show hit. The most important lesson Caroline's taken away from the Housewives is the strength of silence. Her trust in human nature has been shaken. Ultimately, Caroline learned that her family can get through anything. UNITED as a family. While it is what it is, Caroline KNOWS this "fame game" doesn't last forever. When it's over, she'll go back to her life with grace and dignity intact.

Even with COMPLETE strangers, Caroline has made a HUGE IMPACT on those she influences. Since the show started, Caroline has absolutely loved meeting those who watch. She loves the connection that people feel and the stories they share with her. Encounters that FOREVER stay with her. Some encounters bring a tear to her eye. Points in the show resonate with others. One point was when the episode aired of Albie failing law school. Emotions  pour out with others on how they relate to their kids. Moments like these of pure, real emotion and healing for people that makes everything else about this show completely worth it. Caroline has gone through some stinging betrayals on the show. They were devastating to go through and worse to re-live while watching it. It wasn't that she didn't like being on the show and is LOYAL to her commitments LOYALTY is IMPORTANT to her. Being LOYAL to herself is the MOST IMPORTANT thing she could so.

Dinner time is the time of day you reconnect with family. Catch up on the day. Be IN the moments. A shared experience that's fun for everyone. Al worked so much that he was never home for dinner w/ them. Caroline would take the kids down to The Brownstone and they ate at his desk. It doesn't matter on the place; just as long as you're together. The Manzo's always prioritized their family dinners; even with the challenges of Al's demanding job. Those meals became the glue that held their family together and connected.

You will learn so much in the time scheduled for dinner time than you could an entire on Facebook. As Caroline grew with her kids, she wasn't upset about the change. Instead of cooking for her kids; Caroline cooks w/ her kids and family events. She cooks every Sunday at home, and when visiting the boys in Hoboken, Christopher loves to cook for his mom. Inheriting Caroline's love of cooking; making Caroline so happy. Food is one of the best ways to connect w/ her family and her past. Food is traditional and it is love. Approaching food in ways that show you care. Caroline is like one of those moms who doesn't let you leave you on an empty stomach. She wasn't a mom to her boys; she is a mom to EVERYBODY! Every person should have their own signature they develop over the years. A recipe that grows generationally. Taking the recipe and making it your own. EVERYONE can cook one thing WELL! You don't have to be a chef to make your family food they love! It's not what you cook; but the love & care you put into it.

You look back at your childhood w/ siblings and it's amazing how you perceive it. One sibling sees it as the way they want it to be while other siblings see it the way it is! Caroline's parents were very strict and the kids had to do their work around the house. The brothers dealt w/ the outside while the sisters took care of the inside. Growing up with siblings; their values are the same; but COMPLETELY UNIQUE people. Her siblings range in 19 years in age; from 40-59. So many different thoughts and perspectives in the same house. The family dynamic was always evolving & changing. When the family was expanding, they all fell into the the same routine, but it was wonderful and a true blessing. One lesson to be taken from growing up with so many siblings that Caroline applied to her own kids is to NEVER compare one another.

Even through the family holiday STRESS, Christmas is hands down Caroline's favorite holiday. A TRUE FAMILY holiday. A perfect holiday with some sort of drama. Instead of ruining the day; just roll(ing) with it. If the holidays feel like a chore, rein it in a bit. Make it less of a production, but keep it personal. It's not about the money, it's about the time. As a kid, Christmases were unbelievable. Caroline's father's plastic company provided plastic to the major toy makers. So on Christmas, they'd get a massive truckload of toys delivered from the companies. As she transitioned to being a parent herself, Caroline wanted it to be special. As long as you've got a house full of love & laughter, your holiday will be perfect. In recent years, Caroline & Jacqueline have started trading off and hosting most of the holidays, Caroline does Christmas and Jacqueline does Thanksgiving. One will do one holiday, and one will do a birthday. Caroline's brother, Chris is as fond of the traditions as she is, so that's why they share. Now these points in the hosting traditions are shifting. Passed down generationally. Rather than let traditions lapse, the kids have all stepped up to make sure they continue.

As much as Caroline has done for her kids, they're NOT spoiled rotten. If they got NOTHING at Christmas, they'd be fine w/ it as long as Caroline kept up the Christmas traditions they have around the holiday. They loved the routine more than the gifts. It the little things than mean ALOT. What began at helping the holiday began and does STICK becoming tradition. Although annoying and bothersome as all hell, in the end, it's 100% worth it. All the local businesses have their Christmas parties at The Brownstone; including the toy companies. Caroline sees the simplest gifts, ones that cost the least, become the most cherished. When Caroline's dad hit hard times when she was growing up, her mother would make their gifts. These days, her parents will ask their grand-kids kids; Albie, Chris & Lauren, to make something for them. It's NOT about presents; it's about tradition and family. Christmas Day has always been the one day that Al has taken off from work. The only time it's a GUARANTEE! It's not so much the of Christmas Day itself but the feeling & joy surrounding it. Being PRESENT in the moment. It's the little things that mean ALOT! Caroline's mother taught her to be the head & lady of the house. A role she took seriously. A way to get yourself all sorted out and feeling good before starting the day. A way for Caroline to feel good about herself and get things done. All of Caroline's kids have been taught the values that were passed from Caroline and their grandmother. The boys & Caroline are both sentimental. The things your kids bring, buy or make for you are of the MOST CHERISHED!

While Caroline is the first to admit that she can over indulge at times, as a parent, it was one of her TOP priorities to make sure their kids also developed a STRONG work ethic. Even from a young age, her kids have understood the value of hard work. Because Al worked such long hours, the kids were frequently at The Brownstone to visit her. It's a second home. The kids KNEW their dad was working and unable to play w/ them. The boys began pitching in to help their dad at The Brownstone when they were in elementary school. Taking the tasks and being SERIOUS. Albie was on cleaning patrol. When it comes to work; the kids FOCUS on the mission at hand. It was IMPORTANT for the kids to get in there and do the work and not automatically get cushy jobs due to the parents being the owners, The boys had to work their way up. They wanted and took PRIDE in their work. Christopher was on polishing all the bottles on the bar. Taking his job as it was. Some people said the kids were being treated harshly; but the kids didn't see it that way. When they proved themselves, the boys moved up the ladder. Chris LITERALLY worked his way to the top. By the end of his time at The Brownstone, Chris had a desk beside his dad. Taking after him.

Lauren worked around The Brownstone. Not as hard of labor as her brothers, but she checked coats, took reservations & helped w/ wedding parties. She loved the job, although certain parts were a bit unpleasant. Lauren was also always expected to help around the house. Caroline was very tough on Lauren in the house, and Al was harder on the boys at work. The kids were paid for their work done at The Brownstone; but they never paid them for work done at home. They were never given money for work they didn't do. Never given money . . . . just because. If the kids asked for money; they were asked why? If it was for clothes, Caroline would go and buy the clothes. They got the clothes they wanted; and they always had enough money to hang out with friends. All of the kids have inherited their parents work ethic, and not one of them is a spoiled brat.

When Chris started the 8TH grade, he seen a Rolex watch he seen on a billboard and he had to have it. He told his dad that was one thing he wanted, although it cost $4,000. Albert told him he could have it, but he had to work for it. Chris was relentless and never stopped. By the time he graduated 8TH grade, that summer, he had saved enough money to buy it. It's a completely different feeling when you work for it, rather than have it bought/given to you. Caroline was so proud as his mom to see the joy in her son's face when he made the final purchase himself, so proud she cried. Teaching her kids to sacrifice in order to earn. All things are attainable if you earn them. They understood the value of hard work and money better than their friends. Caroline & Albert did it RIGHT by giving their kids a STRONG work ethic. Growing into hardworking adults.

When it comes to the topic of sex, they let the teachers take care of the nuts & bolts of the situation. After that, Albert & Caroline would do the follow-up to let the kids know about the responsibility and respect that go along w/ being sexually active. They were very blunt and open with their kids. The open dialogue they kept in their house revolved around their kids respecting themselves and those they were with. As a mother, Caroline's message to Lauren was even more important. She was very matter-of-fact with her. The talk that you give to your daughter is more vigilant. It's incredibly important to let a daughter know that her self-worth does not revolve around her popularity w/ boys. You can't be ashamed of having or prepping your kids for the sex talk. Would you rather deal with a few minutes of uncomfortability or a lifetime of regret? Caroline was always the mother kids came to w/ their sexual problems. Lauren would bring her friends for them to talk to Caroline. The Manzo house was the place kids ran to!

At a certain age, there was a shift in how they communicated w/ the kids. If they went on spring break, all Caroline asked was that they call and check in once they arrived. She wasn't invasive, just wanting to know her kids were alive and well. Albert knew role as their father and Caroline knew hers as their mother. When they were growing up, Caroline learned to respect their privacy. Even with Lauren, she's been with her boyfriend-now-husband, Vito Scalia, but Caroline still has her boundaries. If they're living together, that's a different story. These days, instead of talking about sex, the boys ask their mother's opinion of the girls they date. The kids have all made it to adulthood with no unplanned pregnancies or other sexual problems.

The time had come for Caroline to share part of her parental duties with her kids' new influences, so she enlisted the help of teachers, principals & guidance counselors. As a parent, Caroline let the teachers teach; but she did value the guidance they gave her and she always looked to them to help her become a better parent. Teachers loved the way Al & Caroline parented their kids. They thought it was refreshing and uncommon. They appreciated that they respected their position as educators. All of the Manzo kids were very different in school. Chris was a cutup and a smart-ass in a good way. Lauren was quiet; but deadly. She knew which teacher to schmooze, so she never got in trouble. Albie was serious, always wanting to please the teachers, but he was also mischievous. Caroline e-mailed the teachers all the time, so she always knew when the kids had homework; even when the kids said they didn't.

Lauren had only come out of her shell after high school - but she was also very popular. She moved along the cliques, but didn't belong to any of them. The only issues w/ Lauren were the typical "mean girl" situation. But Lauren was lucky and had to stand up for herself. These days, Lauren is almost as bulletproof as Caroline is. Albie was a different story. With Albie, Caroline taught him that he couldn't rely on being a smart-ass for the rest of his life. If Albie was part of something, he was not to be given special treatment; he was to be treated just as the rest of them. Sometimes a mom is tougher than the teachers, and with good reason. If Albie was at fault, Caroline made sure he truly took responsibility for his actions. Caroline still got updates from her kids every single day regarding EVERYTHING in their lives. Teachers played a small part when it came to discipline and punishment, but Caroline was never afraid to enlist their help when needed. You only get ONE SHOT to be a parent and you can't rewind later. Caroline has worked hard her ENTIRE life, but she was able to find the right balance being a mom and a businesswoman. When the started school, Caroline sold real estate. Being a mom before and after business hours. From the moment Caroline picked them up from school, she was back into mommy mode. Being in the moment when Caroline was with them.

Every now and then, Caroline and Al would get a sitter and they would have a night to themselves. Doing this on occasion to catch up with other adult friends or see a movie that wasn't right for the kids. During the special time you have with your young kids, you never want to miss those special moments. Caroline also never wanted to vacation without them. With all the time spent away working, the kids' time off was their time together as a family. Memories to forever cherish. Plays, recitals and such are those moments you DON'T really get back if it's missed. It may not seem important at the time, looking back it's a HUGE moment. Also a moment the child remembers and never forgets if a parent missed it. These days, as young adults, all of the kids want to spend time with Al & Caroline. They have a tight, natural bond built on those hours of togetherness.

Your baby will only get one childhood. The memories are a million times better than regret. Of course, Al & Caroline had different views on on how to handle the kids. The worst thing they ever disagreed on was curfew. Chris worked long hours at The Brownstone in his teenage years, so if he wanted to hang out with friends, he had to do it late at night when he was done w/ work. Albert had grown up working at The Brownstone, so he understood Chris' request and OK'ed a 2:00AM curfew. Caroline waited until Al got home to discuss it privately. He had his views and she had hers. They had to compromise: Chris had to tell where he wanted to go and they'd approve late nights on a per-case basis. A system that worked well for everyone. Caroline and Al never wanted to use their children as pawns when they were fighting. They were so careful to never disagree that they had a rule: if the kids spring something on them that they weren't prepared for, Caroline and Al told them they'd let them know later. To this day, when the kids as Al about something; they've never fought in front of their kids.

Overprotective parents raise under-prepared kids. Kids are kids; not idiots. They need to realize that there's HURT in the real world and it's up to the parents to make sure they're prepared to deal with it. You need to raise warriors. Kids need to know you can't win them all. Not everyone is going to like them. If you keep your children in a protective bubble, they will never survive in the REAL world. To not prepare them for it is a GIANT disservice you could ever do. Protecting your kids from certain aspects due to their content; ex. Rugrats, Bambi is naturally wrong. The Manzo kids watched every single Disney movie ever made. If there was a sad part, they discussed it as a family. The Manzo kids understood that things happen in life; and life goes on. You have to decide how it's handled.

From a young age, the kids were exposed to many of the harsher realities in life, including the concept of homelessness. On the morning of December 26TH each year, the kids were asked to go through their rooms and pull out anything they didn't want anymore, from clothes to toys to books. Things that Caroline & Al would castoff on a table at The Brownstone during a charity lunch. They learned to give away to those less fortunate and be giving & charitable. They pushed their kids to go and introduce themselves to these kids, to talk to them and learn about them. Through this tradition, the Manzo kids learned that there were those out there less fortunate than them. As open as they were talking with their kids, Al & Caroline taught it was never appropriate to talk about their private lives with their kids. Kids should never be involved in "grown folk business". They tried to always be REAL with them, but they also wanted their childhoods to last as long as possible. Caroline is smart enough to realize that she's not going to live forever and the kids need to be able to live without her. Caroline is NOT a mother who is friends with her kids. She is their MOM. Understanding that boundary is essential to good parenting. Never let the tail wag the dog. Once you've crossed yourself into friend territory as a parent; you've lost the original position as a parent. There comes a time as a parent HAS TO BE a PARENT. It's HARD AS HELL to rebuild boundaries from scratch. Building a relationship with your kids within a friendship; tell them stories of your own life and see if it relates to them in some way.

If you observe the way kids are with their grandparents, see that as the key to build that relationship with your kid. When you're kids are grown, they'll be grateful that you are their parent; not their friend. To make a rotten kid, it takes a rotten parent. From the time your child hits the terrible twos, you have to be the boss. It is also up to the parent to set a good example. Caroline wanted her kids to be welcomed at their friends' houses and make a good impression. As a rule I personally always follow: First impressions count ALOT! The worst examples are those of a child's behavior in public. Caroline sees it all the time w/ children's behavior at The Brownstone. She knows her grandkids will follow suit; because they will have Caroline's kids for parents and the lessons will follow down the generation.

When it comes to your kids, you have to pick your battles. Caroline's kids may curse every now & then. But, look at it this way . . . . would you rather your kids have the cleanest mouth in the world or hide an uglier problem; such as drugs, from you? You can use curse words in life and still maintain from using them and be professional. From the time the kids were 2 years old, they were taught to shake hands and look people in the eye. They were taught to say please and thank you. Being polite is everything. There is just a who, what & when to curse. A time and place. The Manzo kids had to call everyone Mr. or Mrs. Never to call anyone by their first name. Until an appropriate time is approximated and okay'd; it's just polite.

Caroline is taken aback that kids she's met through her own kids don't have an open dialogue with their own parents. Caroline, just like my own mother and her mother, were the mom's kids ran to! A kid should be able to speak freely in their home. No matter what was going on in their lives, Caroline and Al were there to listen. To care. To help. Make your kids eligible to come to you. Let them say fuck than hear they're on heroin. Caroline's kids never experimented with drugs due yo being scared straight early on. Even though Caroline had her kids young, by that time in her life, she'd already seen the destruction it can bring into a family. There were friends and family members with substance abuse problems, and they decided never to hide it from their kids. Caroline would show the kids videos of people strung out and high. When the kids were little and they'd drive through BAD parts of Patterson, Caroline would show them the junkies living on the street. See, THAT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! Later, Caroline would take them to The Brownstone and show them what happens if it's done RIGHT! The kids KNEW that drugs weren't recreational. Caroline's been around drugs her WHOLE life and seen them upclose and she KNEW they weren't for her. You need to set the ground rules early and stick to them.

Just remember, early boyfriends are your training for Mr. Right. Before meeting Albert, Caroline went on dates and had 3 boyfriends. Although pretty shy, she was oblivious for the those who did flirt w/ her. She didn't pay attention. Her first serious boyfriend was when she was a senior in high school. A baseball player who looked just like Rocky Balboa. Caroline was a good girl and he was so popular. She had to date him. As a 16-yr-old girl, she seen him as irresistible. It didn't work out of course. He was older, more mature and wanting more than Caroline was ready for. She just wasn't ready. At a young age, even then, Caroline stood her ground. He was a gentleman, it was just that he wanted to take things further than she had wanted. Later on, as things turned out, his sister married Caroline's brother and they became in-laws. There is always a lesson w/ past relationships. It shows you what either want or don't. After high school, Caroline began getting more moxie when it came to guys. Finding it easier to go up and talk to them. Everything changed the night Caroline met Al.

She fell for Albert at her brother's wedding. Caroline is happy she dated the way she did. In hindsight, she is grateful that was cautious with boys. When the right guy did come along, she was ready. Learning about herself through the ghosts of boyfriend's past. Caroline dated well and kept it light. Dating was the training for the longest, most amazing marathon of her life - her marriage to Al. Caroline had always taught her kids to see past the physicality. Beauty fades and REAL character shows. You SEE them. They don't always match the exterior. The Albert Caroline met when she was 16 was the exact opposite of what she was attracted to! Yet somehow, Caroline KNEW he was what she wanted for her future. Caroline was immediately able to SEE him. She seen the way Al was with her family. Al had & showed signs that he made a great husband that were pretty hard to miss. When it came to Caroline, Al always treated her like gold. Throughout his HECTIC work schedule, he always made time for Caroline. No matter how exhausted he was, but he never showed it.

Due to the exterior of how he dressed, Caroline never imagined she would fall for someone like Al. When she got to KNOW him, it became apparent they were meant for each other. His exterior was that of a 1980s New Jersey cliche. As you can imagine, this was not cool with 19-yr-old Caroline. A COMPLETE meaning to the term Opposites Attract as far as the exterior. Albert figured out Caroline was the one for him pretty quickly. If you're looking for a long-term relationship, the signs are pretty easy to spot. Don't stress too much about common interests. Just making sure if you maintain separate interests but also having time for each other in mind. You don't have to like the same things; but keep in mind of the others' interests. The show is a great example of how different they are. Caroline was interested when she auditioned. It sounded great, fun and exciting. Al was not interested at all. When Caroline had been cast, he did not want to be a part of it. It was important to Caroline, so he appeared on the show. Al also recognized that, for now, this show is Caroline's career, and he fully supports her decision.

Lauren and Vito Scalia
Despite her certainty upon meeting Al, Caroline doesn't believe in love at first sight. Not at all. She could see and spot in as a mother when she seen Vito with Lauren. They met when she was 16 and they didn't even start dating until she was 21. It was a first impression. It wasn't love at first sight for them, but she immediately recognized that Vito had a lot of the same qualities as Al. Now Lauren Manzo has become Mrs. Lauren Scalia. At a very young age, Caroline told herself to find the one who's going to make her smile. Al & Caroline aren't perfect; but they're perfect for each other.

Caroline's family moved from New York to New Jersey when she was 16. She finished school and went right to work. She had no social life at all. Caroline went home from work and cooked and helped her mom. Her dad met Al's dad through their attorneys, and they became friends. Carolines dad went to The Brownstone and told his mom that he liked it and Al's family and he wanted to give them some business. So, they moved the wedding to The Brownstone. Al met his future father-in-law while he was planning their wedding. Caroline's father loved him and came home wanting a son-in-law like that, a guy who worked hard and was friendly and decent. One day Al walked into her dad's shop to deliver the place cards for their wedding. Caroline was doing the books in her father's office, she looked at Al and it wasn't cool at all. She just looked at him and knew she was going to marry him. She just knew. Hitting her like a ton of bricks. Al, of course, tells the story different. He liked her sister Ann. He was only 20. It's funny how things happen.

Caroline's sister, Cookie, liked Al's cousin, who was a bartender. The night before, Caroline dared Cookie that if Al would dance w/ Caroline at a wedding the next day, she had to go and talk to his cousin. Caroline had asked Al to dance so that Cookie would be with the cousin. At the wedding - which she went as someones date - Caroline went up to Albert. He remembered who she was. Caroline, insisting as maid of honor, that Al had to dance with her. It was the FIRST BIG wedding The Brownstone had ever done. He said he couldn't, he was too busy. Caroline refused to take NO for an answer. With what Caroline was wearing; he would dance with her. The wedding became when Caroline KNEW she was going to marry him. She ended up with her soul mate and can't imagine her life without him. Caroline's engagement was a triumph of love over horrible tragedy. One night after work, they were driving in Patterson on their way to The Brownstone. Al COMPLETELY SURPRISED Caroline when he picked out an engagement ring and asked for Caroline's hand in marriage.

Caroline burst into nervous laughter looking at her surroundings; this had taken Caroline by surprise. She seen how much Al loved her. He couldn't wait. She burst into nervous laughter. She had the flustered butterflies. Of course, she said yes! Al's dad bought The Brownstone in 1980 for quite a bit of money. Five months after their engagement, Al tragically lost his father in August 1983. They had only had The Brownstone for 3 years, with his father's passing Al & his family inherited The Brownstone and the responsibility to make it work. In many ways, they were lucky. They had a huge engagement party at The Brownstone before Al's dad passed. He had the chance to see them so happy. For Albert, the loss of his dad was the most horrible time, especially considering the tragic way it occurred. They searched everywhere for the next 4 days and found nothing. On August 23, which was Caroline's birthday, the doorbell rang. It was the police. They found Caroline's future father-in-law's body. Al was 23 at the time and is the oldest of his siblings. He had to go to the police station and be questioned about his own father's death. Questioning had taken all day. When he got home, the house was in total chaos. Caroline couldn't find Al throughout the midst of it all. She searched everywhere. NO ONE had a clue where he went. He was gone for about an hour & 1/2. There were no cell phones back then, so Caroline was panicked!

When Al showed up again, he took Caroline outside to the yard to a quiet corner and out of sight of everybody. He looked Caroline in the eye, with all of the hurt and loss in his eyes and told Caroline Happy Birthday. She was so shocked. Caroline had completely forgotten. He apologized, gave Caroline a hug and a kiss, held her and was sorry for ruining Caroline's birthday. Al had given her a beautiful ruby and diamond ring. A gift Al had designed for her birthday. He had wanted to reflect this amazing time in their lives and how much she meant to him. Caroline will never forget that.  

Caroline couldn't believe how much honor Al had. The man she was engaged to. To this day, the circumstances surrounding Al's father's death is a mystery. The years that have passed haven't made it easier on them. They spent the rest of their engagement getting stronger & stronger as a couple. The adversity of this time brought them closer together. Al told Caroline he would've understood if she didn't want to marry him anymore, but she told him to quit being stupid. Others told him to postpone, but they stuck to their original plan. As viewers seen in season 3 of the show, when Al pulled over and proposed to Caroline on the Route 80 underpass doing it the right way. Taking Caroline back 30 years prior. Caroline NEVER became a bridezilla. She loved the circumstances and details but was never obsessed. She wanted it to be simple & modest. Setting a tone for the entire wedding. They were engaged in April, and after dealing with the loss of Al's dad that August, they changed their date for the following July. They consciously downsized their wedding due to what happened to Al's father. 300 people and getting through it without head-or-heart ache. What parts that were outrageous they did themselves. All it needs to be about is LOVE!

Caroline was calm all the way right up to her wedding. Nothing else mattered. All Caroline wanted out of that day was to become Albert's wife. Everything else was unimportant. The only thing that has to be perfect on your wedding day is your love for each other. Marriage is a marathon; you gotta stay in shape. Keeping it fresh. It's all in the details and the work it's put forth. It's the little things that mean ALOT. Where Al & Caroline are now didn't happen overnight. 35 years in the making. A long relationship is like a house that you're building. An event that happens to you as a couple is another brick in the wall of your house. The absolute essential thing that is a good foundation is friendship. You don't have to have the same interests; just develop a basic sense of knowledge. When it comes to their lives together later in life, after getting their marriage into great shape for 30, the next 30 will be a snap. That love they have is THERE!

When Al & Caroline got married, they had never lived together. Had never even been away together. After the whirlwind of their wedding day, they flew off to San Francisco for their honeymoon. It was a HUGE adjustment for them both. They had both freaked out. When it was REAL! They felt like complete strangers. They both felt like running back to their own lives! They both agreed to stay on the honeymoon, to have as much fun as they could, if things didn't work out, they'd go home, break up, give everything back & go their separate ways. In the end, it was just the WORST case of the jitters. They went on to have a beautiful honeymoon and begin their lives.

Caroline had ALOT of learning and adjusting to do. She was used to living in a house full of people; and has never liked being home alone. It was her worst nightmare to be home alone. Caroline had to figure out how to deal with it. They lived above The Brownstone, so if Al had a free moment, he'd sneak upstairs to see Caroline. Sometimes she'd go down and work with him, just so they has some time together. Small gestures go a long way. Sometimes in times of distance, your friends/circle of people become your family. Al HAD TO make the business work. He was taking care of Caroline and their family. Sometimes it got to be too much for the both of them. He was working 7 days/week, from 12p-3a. Caroline would bombard him with demands, that she needed more of his time. She needed to know there was still an US. She'd break down then have to regroup. Al was working and knew he was sacrificing. Missing out on things he wanted to do. There were times when Caroline would break down. She would fall apart crying.

They had no money; lived in an apartment above The Brownstone after they were married. At the time, Al was making $200/week, and working 105 hours/week for a paycheck. They lived in their apartment 2 years until Albie was born. Then they were lucky enough to be able to afford a house when Albie was 4 months old. Caroline had 3 kids in 3 years. When she found out she was pregnant with Christopher, Lauren was 4 months old, and she had a complete breakdown. It hit Caroline at once. When she brought Christopher home on Albie's 3RD birthday, Caroline was alone. Her mother-in-law was a tremendous help. When she was down, Caroline's mother stepped in. When she was younger and less secure, Caroline worried about other women. Ultimately, it was the kids, not Caroline, that got Al to work a little less. They were small and having those moments. Moments you regret missing. Due to working, Albert was missing them all. It wasn't Al & Caroline anymore, he needed to take time and be present for these milestones. So, they created Daddy Day. Wednesday. On that day, Al devotes his time to Caroline and the kids.

Caroline had 2 miscarriages when she was very young. Her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and another one in between Albie & Lauren. The second one was worse in that she already had one happy, healthy baby, and Caroline KNEW the joy of having a successful pregnancy and also remembering the horrible experience of losing a baby. Although Caroline knew what she was in for, it didn't make things any easier. It was a sad, grim time for both Al & Caroline. Although Caroline wanted Al to leave, he really fought her to be there when it came to the 2ND miscarriage, due to Caroline wanting to be alone throughout both of them. Throughout these miscarriages, Caroline managed to hold it together. Both times, she was very matter-of-fact about it. She KNEW it wasn't meant to be! She never grieved about it and was almost cold about it. There were never any motherly instinct or attachment to either of them. Caroline's sadness around those times was her grieving about the thought of being pregnant.

When Caroline got pregnant with each of her kids, she was scared. With each of them came with the paranoia of a loss. It was so hard to be confident that she'd carry the baby to term, it wouldn't end in heartbreak. But, Caroline was lucky 3 times.

As far as it came to keeping the kids close with each other, Al & Caroline were very hands-on with them. They took vacations together and when a kid played sports, the others would come and watch. Helping and be there for one another. Caroline isn't adventurous, but she'll always go with the flow. As a mom, a wife, Caroline's happy to stay at home. But it hasn't prevented her from having some wonderful adventures. Although she has traveled outside of the country, the Manzo family trips have been inside the U.S. with their kids. The full-on "rent an RV and see the sights" kind of tour. They've been to all the places parents want to take their kids. Caroline has truly had some incredible times showing her kids the U.S. Vegas, Utah, Disney World, etc. Each containing an experience they'd remember for their ENTIRE lives. A simple. magical time. Outside of surprise trips, Caroline is pretty much a local traveler. She is always up for theme parks. She used to love roller coasters, or any ride that went fast and scared the crap out of her. The crazier the ride, the Caroline happier was. She was pissed to discover that as you get older, these rides cease in fun due to giving you headaches. After awhile, Caroline became the parent who sat with the kids who were too short to go on a ride. To this day, Caroline loves to go on the teacup ride w/ Al, and the reaction from within the ride is priceless & unforgettable. In their lives, now, the REAL adventures are about to begin. When it comes to trips on the Housewives and you see the tension, try to think of the detours and get-a rounds that you DON'T see. When you see tempers flair, think of what you don't see.

Caroline is fiercely loyal to Al and is just as committed. Nothing is worth losing a lifetime w/ someone else. Caroline has worked for too many years to throw it away on a fling. Caroline KNOWS & UNDERSTANDS she married a man at a young age. Al dealt with the tremendous pressure and responsibility. If he fell or stumbled, he'd pick himself up. Caroline isn't going to stress over what's not there, but she's aware of the realities it could.

Everyone argues. It's a fact of life. Very little is worth over having a war over, so Caroline'll start to crack a joke rather than crack a skull. Al & Caroline don't fight much; but they'll disagree all the time. In 30 years, they've maybe had 4 major fight; but a million disagreements. Caroline is smart enough to see that moment can escalate into a war if she chooses to be an asshole. At that point, you lighten the mood and make a joke. It diffuses the argument very effectively. It makes you realize that whatever you're arguing about isn't as important as being happy with each other. Sure it's important to get your point across, but it's more effective to chase it with something silly to lighten the situation. Even at their worst, they are both looking for ways to stop the fight rather than add fuel to the fire. Caroline is one who would rather avoid the drama. Screaming is no good in a relationship. Albert is one who doesn't raise his voice. He has always said her tears were his Kryptonite. He cannot stand to see her unhappy. If she cries, he literally cannot function. He will call her a million times until he thinks she's O.K. When they argue, they don't ever get to the point of no return. Due to the death of his father, this is why Al will always tell Caroline he loves her and asks for a kiss.

The big picture is always bigger than what you're dealing with. Caroline naturally has a nervous laugh, so when she's nervous about telling him something, she starts laughing. Then Al starts laughing, and whatever she has to tell him becomes a lot less serious. This is how Caroline has mastered the art of arguing so that Al still loves her when they're done disagreeing. As much as Caroline disliked the long hours that Albert worked, Caroline has benefited from it, as it has permitted her to devote every night to her kids. Al never felt the brunt of Caroline's dedication to the kids because he was never home. She compensated for the fact that he wasn't around too much by becoming a better mother. Caroline could've extended her social circle when Al worked late, but that wasn't for her. Caroline made sure she shared everything that the kids did with Albert; she kept them very connected. Even to this day, they share everything and that strong connection is the glue that holds their marriage together. Caroline is absolutely ready to lose her sons to other ladies, if they're happy. When Caroline married Al, she became the most important woman in his life forever. That's how it should be. When your children grow up and are with a significant other, they should be the MOST IMPORTANT! Caroline became Al's wife and the mother of his kids.

When her boys get married, as long as her children are happy, Caroline will be the best mother-in-law. If they make her children smile, Caroline will love them forever. What Caroline & Al have, she wants that for her children. When that person walks in the door, she wants them to beam smiling after 30 years. Caroline has become a friend to her children's partners, in any relationship they've had. She would like to be a mother-in-law that's around a lot. She is HONESTLY looking forward to each of them moving on. A next part of their family and Caroline can't wait to be a part of it. Caroline always becomes friends with the people her children bring into their lives. When the kids break-up, Caroline always cries. She's gotten tired of falling in love w/ these ladies. When they break-up, it's like Caroline's break-up with them. It's hard to see when there's a breakup and the family's already fallen in love with them. She truly hates it when her kids break-up with someone. Caroline is a mom + a mom to EVERYONE!

Caroline is one who is best described as a badass with a heart. She is very strong and very determined, but she is also sweet and can be vulnerable. When she sees herself, she still sees the child she was. When it comes to the show, she can't help mothering the crew. Her mothering instincts kick into automatic whenever she sees something wrong with them. Whether the crew is sick or something is wrong, Caroline goes into "mom mode". People like this don't give a shit. If you're around them, you are taken care of. A MOM TO EVERYBODY!

Caroline's source of shyness comes from a feeling of being "different". The Laurita family moved from New York to New Jersey in high school and Caroline didn't fit in. Being one of 11 kids was a great education in negotiation; how to go without and loyalty. Family was her best friends back then. She had little incentive to come out of her shell and socialize with others. Caroline is most content w/ just sitting and watching people. She studies body language, and is very good at reading people. She's very intuitive. She's happy being quiet and letting others do the talking. Caroline believes fighting, yelling and controversy get you nowhere. If she is wrong, Caroline will apologize. Reflecting on the Real Housewives seasons, Caroline has been fair on the show. She's called people out on their bullshit, but for the most part, she's been on the sideline for most of the BIG drama. Caroline truly hates to hurt people. Seeing people suffer makes her cry. She cries easily at the upsetting things in the world. Caroline is quiet as a mouse until someone backs her up against a wall and takes a swing at her or their family. Then, run as fast as you can!

Book smarts are great,but without street smarts & personality; you've got nothing. Book smarts will get you through the door, but personality keeps you in the room. Caroline dind't go to college. Her parents hadto care and pay for 11 children and she didn't want to burden them with the costs. What Caroline truly wanted to be was a child psychologist or an attorney. But she knew that her dad needed her at his work. Caroline graduated from high school, and the next day she began working at his office. She didn't go to the after graduation celebrations. To this day, she considers going to work w/ her dad to be one of the smartest decisions she's ever made. She did the books, ran his office, handled his creditors and learned to think fast. That job made Caroline who she is TODAY! Sometimes life  that you're living is a BIGGER degree than one from a University. One of the most valuable experiences Caroline had in her dad's office was being there as his business fell apart. His business was in plastics. A shortage had crippled her father's business. She seen him fail, seen him fall and seen him pick himself up again, because he had to, for his family. Caroline seen it all working for her father until the age off 22. She learned what to do and what not to do. The best education she could've gotten. Caroline's father was a pitbull in business. When things got ugly, he was a madman. Teaching his daughter the value of managing a group and understanding its dynamics.

Caroline's advice is this; and I completely 100% agree; if you're not going to college for a specific career; if you're going for the "experience", then save your money and don't go. John Lennon said:"Life gets in the way when making other plans". A degree is only as good as what you intend to use it for. Albie has a business degree from Fordham University. Lauren went to a trade school and learned to be a cosmetologist. Christopher went to the school of life. All 3 do their best that they shine in. Christopher uses his street smarts in the ability to get shit done! Humor gets you through the hard times. It gives such a relief. Sometimes a good laugh can derail a good cry. The harder you stop from laughing, the worse it gets. Things kids do when you KNOW it's wrong, you KNOW you have to keep a straight face when you teach to right a wrong. Caroline tries to her humor respectful. Kids can & do say the darnedest things, and it's hard as hell to keep a straight face. Laughter has helped with everything from grief-to-loss-to-fame. Whether life is headed up or down, we have a choice between laughter or crying. If she can help it, Caroline will choose laughter every time.

Caroline gets her tell-it-like-she-sees-it attitude from her dad. We are all human. We are all equal. You shouldn't be intimidated by anyone. One word of advice, though as coarse as it sounds, "everyone shits on a bowl". You're a person. They're a person. No matter what you've heard about a person before you meet them, whether they're famous/notorious or powerful or someone with a reputation for anger. What people want is to connect; to be able to relate to others and be accepted. Caroline has taught her kids the same thing. To this day, Caroline's never been starstruck. Even at a White House Correspondence Dinner, Caroline treated it like any other dinner at The Brownstone. It didn't matter who was there, Caroline just wanted to enjoy herself.

What Caroline finds weird is the concept that people have a hard time talking to her because she's on TV. Fans will get all nervous when she's approached. Caroline's taken aback about it. Why be all nervous? We are all human. Caroline is one who gives it all to her fans; including her time; no matter what others say. If fans care enough to show up at events, it was them who got her there; the least she can do is give them a decent conversation. At the end of the day, she is just Caroline Manzo. As she states it herself, Caroline happens to be a lucky lady; nothing more. The adoration is something Caroline has a difficult time with. But, she's always gracious about it. In the end, Caroline is just like us. The truth is something you can  escape. It comes from maturity and knowing who you are. Caroline knows who she is, 5'1. There is no reason to lie about stupid shit like that.

When Caroline started on the show, she knew they wanted drama. She also knew about bullshit displayed on TV. In the years since starting on the show, Caroline has refused to be drawn into the documented catfights. The only time she's reacted was the season 1 reunion. That was because what was discussed was destructive to her parents. They're off-limits. Ever since then, Caroline has not engaged and didn't need to get involved. Caroline will whether the storm. She will take the beating, but will never fight back.

Caroline has seen up close lies go bad. They've destroyed marriages, families & lives. It is NEVER worth it in the end. So  Caroline doesn't mind keeping her distance from a lie. She'll take the monetary public humiliation; because what goes around comes around. Guilty people need an audience to make themselves believable. Caroline's first impulse when a liar outrages to prove a point is to set the record straight. When it happens habitually, Caroline follows her own advice and disengages, nod her head and walk away. She doesn't have a pokerface. When someone's lying to her, Caroline's face lets them know she's not stupid. She can see through the bullshit. Lies push people to the point of no return, and some lies are so bad you can't come back from them. She would rather deal with the truth that hurts for 10 minutes than deal with a lie for a lifetime. Caroline states she may not be the smartest or the prettiest, but she leaves an impression to be remembered. Due to having no control over what makes on-air, some truly proud moments sadly end up on the cutting room floor. As a child, Caroline was painfully shy to the point of complete silence. But as an adult, Caroline got her sea legs. She realized she had options and became unafraid to share them. And it just grew up from there. What makes Caroline memorable is listening and being present in the moment.

Caroline hopes by the end of this journey, people remember her as someone who always had integrity and stuck to her beliefs. For a relativity unadventurous girl from Queens, Caroline's already had a remarkable life, and that has come from being ready to step up when a good opportunity comes her way. She was hesitant to do the show. She's not a big TV person. But she figured to audition just for kicks, just for a laugh; never thinking she'd get cast. When she got the job, Caroline took a leap of faith and said yes! She wanted to see where the adventure took her. To set an example. Jumping at an opportunity presented to her. As the premiere date for the first season approached, Caroline started to get really nervous. Albert took his wife on a vacation when the first 1/2 hr teaser aired. Spending a week down in Florida on a friend's boat. To this day, when Caroline gets the DVD of an upcoming episode, she waits until she can watch it with Al. Even now, this show puts Caroline outside of her comfort zone. There are always those incredibly high highs and really low lows.

For Caroline, the BEST thing to have come out of the show are 2 things; the first thing was sharing Albie's learning disability with viewers. It was his decision to share that. Though, as a mom, it's hard to revisit those episodes, but through it, Albie has become a role model for others who were struggling just as he did. The 2ND is a far cry from the first. Al never asked for anything. So when the show enabled them to visit the Playboy mansion and Al had a chance to meet Hef; who is not initially receiving guests. But, Caroline knew how badly Al wanted to meet him, so Caroline went about making this happen. After this dream came true for Al, the smile on his face was something to forever treasure. A direct result of taking a chance doing this show. Caroline is VERY THANKFUL that it allows her to do some good. She's visited people in the hospital, complete strangers who've written to her. She feels proud & honored. Thanks to Caroline as an example, young kids are able to come out to their parents. Her life on TV has helped guide people. Helping and enhancing another's life makes the decision to do the show one of the BEST decisions she's ever made. You never know if you don't try, If it works, it works. If not, dust yourself off and try again.
Albie Manzo: In His Own Words
Caroline's motto that she has lived by for as long as she can remember is this: Will this affect my life one year from now? If the answer is yes, I solve it. If the answer is no, I don't obsess over it. It is the best way to dig your way out of the small problems that make up our lives. Also a great metaphor for MAJOR drama. It helps asses the situation and deal with the present. Think of a business deal: if it's a success, there's a profit; if it flops; you've lost it all. It also redirected Caroline's energy to what's important. This was shown as an example when Lauren opened Cafface and mother/daughter were and are business partners. That business was a game changer for Lauren, it was make-or-break, and they made it. Each moment in your life has cause and effect. What's the cause and what is the effect of taking action or doing nothing? THAT will keep things IN PERSPECTIVE!

I, personally, am like Caroline in this way. No matter how crazy life has gotten; we both have made time to read, to retreat into a book. There is great peace in reading. Getting lost into the book and ignoring, not purposefully, the world around you. Some of Caroline's earliest happy memories are of her mother taking her and her siblings to the library. Every Tuesday morning, she'd round up whomever was home from school, and like ducks in a row, she'd walk them to the library where she'd read to them. The first books Caroline fell in love with were the Beatrix Potter books. Falling in love and marveling at their adventures. Every week their mom would let them check out 2 books, and return them the next Tuesday. Caroline still reads as often as often as she can. As much as a 500 page book in a night. History, comedy or biography. She loves to learn things, and there's nothing more thrilling than a good historical novel. Caroline's FAVORITE book of ALL-TIME is Gone With The Wind. She loves to get lost in Scarlett O'Hara's world and is amazed at how Scarlett views life. Getting lost in a new book and learning from the sharing of someones journey.

Caroline wishes Albert, Lauren & Albie liked reading books, but they don't. They get their enjoyment and pleasure from a magazine. For Caroline, it's not the same. She prefers to get lost within the books. Although she carries her NOOK w/ her to prevent a bad back on flights, she still loves the feel of a book, the weight and smell of its paper. When the opportunity came to write this book, Caroline was so honored. When she was writing it, she was thinking of the little girl who would go to the library with her mother, would soon have her own book in that library. Caroline is grateful for this opportunity to those who read this book. Respect is free; but you have to earn your keep. Once you have it, you are responsible for living up to the respect you were given. It is powerful & amazing. You can never assume that someone will respect you just because of who you are. For example: just because you impregnated someones daughter and you were supposed to be frog before she actually reached a prince. That doesn't make you a father. Example of respect to be earned. Caroline has been forced to truly think about respect since being cast on Real Housewives. She stopped reading online comments after season 1. Viewers on the other hand, matter ALOT to her. Their respect means the world. Fans are the ones who keep it all going, and for that, Caroline respects & appreciates them. Due to what's done on TV lives forever on the Internet, Caroline's promised herself to keep it cool and not resort to regrets. After the first season reunion's behavior, Caroline has sworn to never resort to that behavior again.

Caroline may be Albert's wife and Albie, Lauren & Christopher's mom, but she never forgets who Caroline Manzo is. The other titles are great, but they aren't the girl she was born. Caroline has stuck to her individuality through thick & thin. I have been one who is ADAMANT to who they are. While I may be a son, brother, uncle and medical patient; I am still my own person. Caroline believes staying true to herself has been the key to her marriage; and it has made her kids stronger and happier. Giving her a great moral compass, and a confidence in all kinds of circumstances. In love, Caroline's MOST IMPORTANT thing is to remain the girl that Al fell in love with. THAT is who he sees. The girl he fell in love with. When the kids move out of the house, the last thing she would want is for Albert to see is a stranger. It hasn't always been easy. Life got in the way. Caroline lost touch with herself. After 3 kids in 3 years, Caroline gave up. She always had long hair until she got pregnant with Christopher. She got sick of it, Caroline chopped it off. She let go of CAROLINE.

When Caroline got pregnant with Christopher, she got her real estate license, something she did for herself. It gave her a sense of self-worth. She was able to put Albie through Fordham with the money she made selling real estate. Keeping in touch w/ yourself in the middle of motherhood isn't easy, but it's crucial. There is a point Caroline makes that I 100% agree with. There's always someone out there who's got it worse than you. With all of the minute things people complain about in life; such as their phone or another electronic or problems that are purely insignificant; there are others who have it WAY WORSE OFF than you. Caroline sees the differences. While you're crying over spilled milk; others have lost a child, someone was diagnosed with cancer. Somewhere in the world, others have it worse. Say a prayer and help them however you can.

Somehow, there is a great sense of entitlement in this country. If it's not perfect or given to them, there's always a reason for someone to complain. There's either someone or something to create havoc and fuss. The worst is inventing something to complain about out of boredom. Be blessed & grateful.

People assume that Caroline's wealthy and she's never had a hard time. Things couldn't be further from the truth. There were times when Al & Caroline couldn't afford diapers for the kids. When she was pregnant for Albie, they couldn't afford maternity clothes; so Caroline wore sweats or leggings and Al's shirts everyday and his big old winter coat. She was happy with it. The lean years have made Caroline very aware of how important it is to keep your perspective when things are tough. When they started to have some money and they moved to Frankilin Lakes, Caroline made sure to always be involved in local charities, and find ways to help others. The people of Franklin Lakes are generous and kind. Life is short and the cards are randomly dealt. The older Caroline gets, the more grateful she is at the end of the day.

This book as well as the following from and seen within Caroline's life has been one hell of a ride.

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