Name: Jaime (DelGatto) Pita
Age: 40 and FABULOUS as of today!
Kids: Francisco (aka Frankie) Age 7, Mariaelena (aka mini-me) Age 4 (going on 18)
Education: BA in Psychology, MS in Healthcare Management, Ph.D. in Humor and Sarcasm Studies (That’s a joke!)
I’m the middle of three children(which I’m sure explains a lot.) My older sister was 6 years older than I was, so growing up, I was that quintessential, annoying little sister who followed her around and stole her clothes and Aqua Net. She hated me for the most part. My brother, who is exactly 2 years younger than I am, was (and still is) the biggest mama’s boy on the planet. He could do no wrong, even when he did. My sister and I often joked that the sun rose and set on his ass. We hated him for the most part.
I was raised by a single mom. She was tough, loving, resilient and made us her priority over everything. As quiet and humble as she was, you messed with her kids, there was Hell to pay. I’ll mention this remarkable woman later this week, but no words can describe how amazing she is and how much she has inspired me to be a better person.
My Dad, picked up and left one day for good, when I was about 6. It was a weird time for me as a kid. I did not have many friends that had divorced parents. I remember crying a lot at school events that other dads would attend. Mine was never there. Growing up I really had no contact with him. My Aunt (mom’s sister) and Uncle stepped in to help raise my siblings and I when my dad left. I actually consider them my second parents. My Uncle, I actually consider my father. To this day, we are very close and I look to him for advice on many things. I am so grateful to have such amazing people in my life. I am not sure where my life would have ended up without their selflessness, their generosity and their guidance.
My family and extended family lived in a two family home with the doors between the apartments always open. We had huge parties for every holiday, with a gluttonous amount of food to feed an army. And even if it wasn’t an actual holiday, we ALWAYS found a reason to celebrate being together, cooking together and eating tons of food. I remember times at Thanksgiving where the crowd gathered was so big, it was standing room only, in most rooms of the house. And no one minded. My best friends growing up were my cousins and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Although we did not have many things in the way of material items when I was younger, I never knew that I was poor. My childhood was full of happiness. We were raised to be thankful of what we had in life, because there was always someone who faced more challenges than we did. It’s something I try to remember each and every day. It’s something I’m trying my hardest to instill in my children.
I enjoyed learning and was an Honors student. I was one of those “overachievers” who tried to do the best that I could at everything I tried, and excelled at many things. However, I was always fearful of my report card arrival as there was that statement at the end of every single quarter that said “Jaime is a terrific student, but can be disruptive to others.” As you probably imagined, I was always telling jokes, talking out loud and acting as the class clown (or so the story goes.) I liked to make people laugh at an early age, but also I was that kid that had no filter. So if you were my overweight relative, having a third helping of pie at Thanksgiving, I was the one to remind you that you weren’t helping your waistline (sorry, Aunt Mary.) I’ve since learned to control that filter (kinda) but still find enjoyment in making people laugh and laughing at myself. I’ve learned that life is way too short to not laugh at every opportunity. And if the opportunity is not funny…make it funny!
Despite a few fleeting moments wanting to be a doctor, I went to college to be a teacher, specifically a college English Professor. In order to meet the requirements for the degree, I was mandated to take a Friday, 8 am, linguistics class. No problem , right? Sure, except that the biggest party night on campus was Thursday night. So I became a Psychology major. Not knowing it at the time, but this was the most serendipitous event of my life. Sparing you the boring details of how it happened, I have been working in the mental health system for the last 20 years. I currently work for the NYS government in a Quality Improvement and Regulatory capacity for inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics and other community based mental health providers. In a nutshell, when I show up at a hospital with my fancy government badge, people get nervous. (If they only knew, right? Makes me shake my head every time!) I also help severely mentally ill individuals and their families connect to appropriate community resources. I love my career and to be honest, I cannot imagine doing anything else.
I have been a runner most of my life, beginning as early as I can remember racing my classmates around the school yard then looking forward to kicking some butts (especially the boys!) I was very competitive and always wanted to be on the winning team. I ran track while at Centereach High school, and did well, but with teammates like Lauren Jasinski (aka Huber), I never stood a chance at the Olympics. For those that don’t know her, she was on last month’s cover of Footnotes for winning the Blue Ribbon Run 5k in 12 minutes or maybe 18 minutes. Whatever…you get my point!
I graduated college, got married and like many of you, after having two kids, my focus became them and not myself. This passion had fallen to the end of my priority list. In October 2013, this all changed. I battled post partum depression after my daughter was born in 2011 and combined with taking care of an ailing parent, failing marriage, demanding career and trying desperately for that coveted “Super Mom” title, I found my life and health suffering the most. On the verge of what was considered a nervous breakdown Halloween 2013, I knew something in my life needed to change. The next day I started running again.
When I first started again, I must admit it was very difficult for me, who was once able to run a mile in under 6 minutes, to barely finish one mile without walking most of it. But I got stronger. My runs became longer. And I found myself again. I registered for my first 5K in May of 2014, The Barbara Bartell Memorial 5k. I picked this race as it was one of the programs that I directly provided oversight to and wanted the proceeds of my race fee to go to a cause close to my heart. I trained mostly on the treadmill (gross), barely finishing 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. Race day came and I was nervous as heck. The race began and I hit that first mile marker in just under 8 minutes, eventually finishing in around 25 minutes or so. I was shocked, and impressed but just like every 5K since, I vowed to NEVER run a 5K again. Until the next one I registered for and the next. I credit Lisa Pinto-Colby with introducing me to the Hills last January. She almost talked me into The Slaughterhouse that first time. I instantly met some great people, that I will consider family for the rest of my life, although Shelly RB, did not want to be my friend initially. Oh and just in case you are wondering, I have since run a few more 5Ks, half marathons and marathons.
Running for me is not an option, it’s a necessity. It relaxes me and keeps me sane. It’s increased my self esteem, decreased my waistline and has allowed me to eat enormous quantities of food at my gluttonous family celebrations without being mocked by my bratty niece (really, sorry about that Aunt Mary!)
I’m going to end my spotlight here as I am sure many of you have gifts to wrap, cookies to bake and Elves to move before your children wake up! (You’re welcome for the reminder!)
I’m looking forward to sharing my story with you! Here’s wishing you a very Merry and stress free week before Christmas!
Name: Jaime (DelGatto) Pita