As Walt and I continue to promote our Poetic Bloomings family, this Web Wednesday interview is especially meaningful to me.  Today, I get to introduce you to the strong, remarkable woman I have the privilege of claiming as a cousin.  My cousin Chris Donadio (one of my favorite people on the planet) married Kelly Conti in 1991.  Best decision of his life.

When asked to choose a poem she feels represents her work and herself, Kelly chose one that will have Walt nodding in agreement.

Kelly says, “This poem pretty much says who I am; a generally straight forward, no nonsense person who doesn’t ‘play games.’  I prefer people be that way with me, too.   The poem is also indicative of my writing style.   Though I try to venture into various poetic styles, I typically like an easy meter and some rhyming in my poetry.”


By Kelly Donadio

 I don’t need a BFF

just a good friend will do.

We may have known each other for years

or our connection may be rather new.

I don’t need a BFF

just a good friend will do.

Where platitudes are not accepted

and only the truth will come through.

I don’t need a BFF

just a good friend will do.

Pretense and pride are dismissed

we are here for each other, it’s true.

I don’t need a BFF

just a good friend will do.

One who laughs with me and at me

as long as we can laugh at you too.

I don’t need a BFF

just a good friend will do.

I’m careful when choosing good friends

could my non-BFF be you?

  MARIE ELENA:   I’m so excited to get the opportunity to interview you, Kelly!  To be frank, it took me completely by surprise when I had the pleasure of reading the first poem you posted to Poetic Bloomings.  I had no idea you had an interest in poetry.  When did you first try your hand at it?  Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote, and would you be willing to share it with us?

KELLY:  I have always loved poetry and writing of any kind.  I had a teacher in 6th grade (a Science teacher!) who, every few weeks would draw a crazy scene on the chalkboard, and then we had to do creative writing about the scene.   It was great and really expanded my imagination and writing techniques.  When I was young, I would write poems and lyrics in my journals.  My first poem was no doubt a card to my parents.  Sorry though, I can’t remember it.

 MARIE ELENA:  What is your own definition of “poet?”  Do you consider yourself a poet?

KELLY:  I think a poet is someone who can express thoughts and emotions unabashedly in such a way that readers find a connection with the familiar or the unexpected.  True poets write without hesitation or boundaries and offer words from the depths of their souls.  No, I don’t consider myself a poet – a writer who dabbles in poetry, but not a poet.

MARIE ELENA:  “… express … in such a way that readers find a connection with the familiar or the unexpected.”  Wow.  That’s about as good a definition as I’ve seen.

What inspired you to visit Poetic Bloomings and respond to the prompts? Do you post poetry at other sites as well?

KELLY:  I followed you and Walt on your Across the Lake, Eerily blog.  From there, I followed Walt’s other writing endeavors and was then drawn into participating in PB.  I do visit other poetry sites, but only to read – not to participate.

MARIE ELENA:  Is there a poem you would like to write, but have not been able to manage to make it work?   If so, what do you think holds you back?

KELLY:  I would love to write poems of praise to God.  For some reason, they just don’t happen.  I feel like they become more of a monologue or short story as opposed to poetry.  Every once in a while I get inspired and write a spiritual poem, but I would love to just flow with written praise to my Heavenly Father.

MARIE ELENA:  I can relate to that, Kelly.  Love poems in general do not come easily to me, and this includes love poems to God.

“Back in the day,” you were a DJ for Youngstown’s WBBG FM93.  As is typical of radio personalities, there was a promotional stunt or two you were roped into.  One was “living” atop a billboard.  Not something the majority of us have experienced. 😉  What was that like?

KELLY:  It was truly unbelievable.  Sleeping, eating, and broadcasting for five days on top of a billboard was pure craziness.  The Mahoning Valley loved the billboard campaign.  It was a great radio promotion, and raised money for a great cause … Easter Seals.  Little did I know that some 15 years later, my family would use their services.

 MARIE ELENA:  Who knew, indeed!  We’ll get to that in a moment, actually.

Kelly, I know you still do some recording and freelance writing.  Let’s focus on the writing.  What type of writing do you do?  How do you go about drumming up business, per se?

KELLY:  I’ll write just about anything, really!  I have written everything from phone scripts (literally, “Hello. Thank you for calling the furniture store”) to marketing pieces, commercial copy, website landing pages, inspirational quotations, and blog posts.  Having worked in media for so many years, I still have contacts in the industry, so occasionally I get work that way.  More often, I market myself via the web and get jobs through professional sites.

MARIE ELENA:  Your blog (Living 4 Real) focuses mostly on your family (you, your husband Chris, and your four beautiful children, including one “special needs” sweetie). Your personal motto, as posted on your blog, is this:

“God doesn’t give children with special needs to strong people; He gives children with special needs to ordinary, weak people and then gives them strength. Raising a child with special needs doesn’t TAKE a special family, it MAKES a special family.” (author unknown)

What a profound outlook. Please tell us about Marina, and how she has blessed your lives.


KELLY:  Truly, every day with Marina is remarkable!  She makes us smile, cracks us up and is so doggone smart.  I had the fall conference with her teacher and you know what she told me? Marina is a leader.  That just cracked me up.  God surely has a sense of humor – I am constantly telling my older three, ‘Be a leader, not a follower,’ and my child with Down syndrome is the leader!  She really does know what she wants, and in most cases she gets it!  The other day, she was negotiating with me to watch a video after I had said no TV.  She asked for one of her favorites and I said, “No, we aren’t watching any videos.” She asked for another one and got the same response.  Then she thought for a moment and said, “How about IT?”  IT is an educational video of sight words that she knows we like her to watch.  Now that is some high level thinking!  I looked at her and said, ‘You don’t really have Down syndrome, do you?’  She is pure joy!

 MARIE ELENA:  What a hoot!  Actually, my favorite poem of yours is about your little “high level thinker.”


By Kelly Donadio

 It starts at conception, they said

the chromosomal triplication

bringing a host of differences.

Nurture and feed, they said

basic needs for growth and survival

are the same as any other.

Saturate with love, they said

environment and support

can make all the difference.

Offer opportunity, they said

success and productivity may come

but don’t be too hopeful.

Watch in amazement, WE said

as personality, giftedness and

joy spring forth beyond all expectations!

This poem truly does reflect your reality.  I can only imagine that there had to be a level of fear when you received the diagnosis.  You’ve told us about how Marina has blessed your family …  now please tell us how her presence has changed your family.

KELLY:  Wow, this could take a while!

Expecting your fourth child at 41 is shocking; having her in an ambulance on the way to the hospital is really unexpected; finding out she has Down syndrome left two communications majors speechless.   But this little bundle of energy has brought more joy to our family than you could imagine.  She has opened our eyes to so many people and situations that we would have certainly missed otherwise.  I have no doubt our other three children are more compassionate, caring, and empathetic because of their little sister.  I have had numerous teachers tell me how kind and helpful my older three are to other students.  I know that is because they feel for the underdog, and want everyone to have a chance to succeed.

Marina is sensitive to loud noises, so although a family of six can do some “yelling,” she gets us to stop pretty quickly, and helps to bring a calm to the situation.   I’m pretty fast-paced and direct.  Marina takes her time and is careful.  She has helped me to slow down (somewhat).  She likes things ‘just so,’ but she is also teachable and accommodating.  When she is sad or hurt, tears will be rolling down her cheeks and she will look up and say, “Happy.”  She doesn’t want to be sad or make anyone else sad.

We have all been molded and changed for the better since Marina joined us six years ago.  We are better people, better parents, a better family.


MARIE ELENA:  So now I literally have to dry tears before continuing.  Kelly, she has not only made you better people, but her presence has had a direct positive impact on the lives of others with Down Syndrome and their families in the area in which you live.  To my wonder and amazement, you and Chris founded Down Syndrome Association of the Valley (DSAV).  Your DSAV vision is “… for people with Down syndrome to be active participants in a fully inclusive society.”  It seems society has come a long way since we were children, but the stigma remains. Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?   Please also tell us a bit about DSAV.

KELLY:  I do see a change in society and the acceptance of people with Down syndrome.   DSAV was started to provide support, advocacy, resources, education, and opportunity for those with Down syndrome and their families.  Part of what we have done is to invite the media to our events.  This helps to showcase our members and what they are doing.   The more that people in the community see individuals with Down Syndrome being successful, the less of a stigma there will be.  There is still such a long way to go, though.  People don’t realize the potential these individuals have.  I just want them to be given a chance.  I was speaking with a reporter a few months back and I told her, “Until Marina proves to me she can’t, I’m going to assume that she can.”  That is the total truth.  Don’t put limitations on anyone.

MARIE ELENA:  A huge AMEN to that, my cousin.

Now, I ask this of all our Web Wednesday guests, and many have said it is the most difficult question.  I have a strong feeling you won’t struggle with this one at all, Kelly:  If we could know only one thing about you, what would it be?

KELLY:  I love my children and their dad more than life itself, and want nothing more than for them to be happy!


MARIE ELENA:  Walt and I are thankful for every poet here, whether novice or veteran.  Kelly, you are an inspiration, both poetically and personally.  Thank you for sharing yourself and your family with us.

P.S.  Love to you all.


  1. As always Marie Elena, an excellent interview. Just before Christmas how wonderful that you picked this “non-poet” writer:an eloquent, articulate and expressive woman (who just happens to be a relative)who spoke in so many ways about walking the walk with her family and the last child to join their family, the inimitable Marina, an angel amongst us if ever there was one. Thanks to you for the interview and Kelly for her generosity in sharing a glimpse of her life with what sounds like a pretty special family – such a lovely gift.

  2. Oh my goodness, I truly believe she IS a poet……….she is definitely a woman that I would place in the carefully- selected angels of my heart.

  3. Do I dare comment on an interview and comments about me? I am humbled…by Marie’s glowing words and the kind thoughts of such wonderful poets. You all inspire me! Thanks for the encouragement, I’ll keep “writing”!

  4. Thank you all so much for your kind, sweet comments. And Kelly, ABSOLUTELY you may respond to these wonderful, inspirational souls!


  5. Feeling like a silent partner here at PB and needing to voice my approval as well. Kelly, I join with the other poets here in counting you among our number. Your gift is no less amazing as your wonderful family as so portrayed. And Marina? A true gift and treasure; she is every bit of sunshine and light! It was you that Marie had shown my poem about “Captain Conner”. It is based on the son and nephew of a friend of mine. Glad you had the chance to see it.

    And our Good woman? What can I say that hasn’t been said in the three years we have “known” each other (and to this date, still haven’t met). You were trepidation’s poet back then, so it’s good to know the fruit does not fall far from the tree. Thanks for doing all the hard labor on these amazing interviews of some of the most astonishing poets I’ve come to know. You make it easy for me.


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