An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What ...

What I'm (simultaneously) reading ...

1- Pachinko (for book club)
2- Brunelleschi's Dome (for a presentation)
3- A Gentleman in Moscow (audio book)
4- Game of Thrones (Clash of Kings)

What I'm watching ...

1- The Durrels in Corfu (PBS) (love this series)
2- Les Miserables (PBS)

What I'm loving ...

1- daily yoga (in the morning before anyone else is up)
2- gym workouts (every other day)
3- evening walks

What I'm looking forward to ...

1- white water rafting (Memorial Day)
2- Hilton Head Island (June)
3- Virginia Beach (July)
4- biking the Virginia Creeper Trail (July)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Shopping for Glasses

I love eye appointments, mainly because it means I am getting a new pair glasses. Some years I just get new prescription glasses, other years it's prescription sunglasses, but this year I'm getting BOTH. At the SAME time. 

You see, I have this wee little trip coming up in the fall and I need to update both.

And just like that I'm in my happy place because I LOVE getting new glasses. I mean, really love. And the fact I'm getting BOTH means I love, LOVE getting new glasses. 

BUT, there's a process to making the perfect selection, and it's not a quick one. Faced with an entire wall (or store) of options, how's a poor girl supposed to make up her mind? It's not easy, I tell you, and I refuse to be rushed. So I try on pair after pair, take notes and take photos, and mull things over. I even try them on with my hair down, and then up in a ponytail. 

After my eye appointment this morning I tried on glasses at my doctor's office. Now, I was just there last week with Jonathan, who was getting prescription sunglasses. Here's how that went down: Jonathan walked over to the Oakley case, pointed to a pair, tried them on, and he was done. The first pair he tried on was the pair he purchased. It took two minutes. 

Here's what happened with me: I tried on at least a dozen pair of sunglasses, put one on hold, and then went to LensCrafters AND Costco to explore ALL my options. And I still haven't made a decision ... but I'm close. I'm going back out tomorrow.

In the meantime, I give you this photo of me trying on a pair of glasses and Jonathan waiting patiently in the background. Before you go feeling sorry for him, know that I had just finished waiting patiently for him while he tried on some dress pants at the department store.  

He tried on clothes, I tried on glasses, and then he bought me lunch.

See? I love shopping for glasses. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: On a Wing and a Prayer

Exactly three years ago Nicholas and I had an appointment at the Post Office to renew our passports. I needed to renew mine because my old one had expired and I have never, in all my life, been without a passport; Nicholas needed one because he was about to graduate from Clemson and, with a college degree and a passport in hand, he was primed and ready for adventure. On that day, when I handed the clerk Nicholas' birth certificate, signed documents and turned in his old passport, I felt like I was giving my son to the world. 

He was ready; I was not.

As it turned out, that passport turned out to be a very good thing because Nicholas needed to have one for his job (a requirement for employment). Then, last summer he needed that passport for a trip to the Netherlands, and just this morning he used that passport at the Atlanta airport for a flight to Japan where he and a few friends will spend two weeks exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Yokohama. 

I have always said that I wanted to give our sons the world, and these past few months when Nicholas called to share his travel itinerary or ask me questions about money exchange or the efficiency of pocket WiFi, I've realized that THIS is what I've always wanted ... for our sons to be independent, adventurous, and curious about the Big World out there.

With one son ready to fly halfway around the world, our second son, Jonathan, will be leaving soon for a 9-week internship at an accounting firm in mid-town Atlanta. Yesterday he told us that he didn't need any help moving in to his temporary dorm/suite on the Georgia Tech campus. My husband and I were a little surprised since we had already planned to help him move in, map his commute to and from work, and then take him out to lunch. But Jonathan said moving in wouldn't be a big deal and that when we came for a visit he would then show us around. 

Once upon a time I would have been offended and maybe even a little sad, but this time I was proud at this young man willing to start something brand new on his own terms. 

In my book, An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses, I write of the time our youngest son and I were invited into the cockpit of an Air France jet as it flew over the Atlantic. It was almost midnight, and as we huddled in that small place with the pilot and his crew, no one said a word while we gazed at a full moon that looked close enough to touch. It was a magical moment, and I remember thinking how I wanted my sons to always see the moon with the knowledge it shines on other lands, cultures, and peoples; that the moon reminds us of our place in the world, but also calls us to distant shores.

I've come a long way from that day in the Post Office when the reality of a passport reminded me our sons were growing up and that the very same passport promising hello, buon giorno, and konnichiwa also brings with it goodbye, arrivederci, and itte kimasu

Of course, this is not to say that letting go is easy; on the contrary, it's hard and teary and gut wrenching. 

But I've also realized that in wanting our sons to spread their wings, I also need to be ready to let them fly. 

" stand under a moon when across a vast ocean someone else stands under
the very same moon--that the moonlight shining down on me is also shining
down on other people in different countries who are sleeping in huts, or homes,
or in tents, or who, like me, are simply marveling at the moon. I imagine them 
eating or sleeping or fighting or loving, and I want to go there."

~An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses (Ch. 11)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

By Any Other Name

It is said
a rose
by any other name
smells as sweet
but any other rose
by any other name
is not my rose
so I will give it one
to mark it
as one among many
that smells as sweet
but is mine.

*from the files of very bad poetry by bia

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Smiling Eyes

On this Sunday, Mother’s Day, I’m not writing about perfection.

I’m not talking about beauty, or sacrifice, or the ability to have it all. I’m not talking about the perfect body, or the perfect hairstyle, or the perfect tan.

I won’t talk about these things because while the ideals of beauty, sacrifice, size, and accomplishment are presented in the media as attainable, in reality these “standards” make us feel less than who we are; after all, it’s hard to hold ourselves up to standards that are airbrushed, botoxed, and surgically altered.

This quest for perfection, which has us running around trying the newest recipes, the latest face creams, or a popular juice cleanse just leaves us deflated in both our attempts and in ourselves.

Even the proverbial selfie creates self-doubt and taps into our insecurities. Do I really look like that? Are those neck wrinkles? Is that what I look like when I smile?

So we tilt our heads at a certain angle, pout our lips just so, and angle our bodies to show off our best side until the end result is someone almost unrecognizable.

The other night we were watching The Amazing Race, and at one point my son asked this about a female contestant, “Why do her lips look like a duck’s?” Why indeed. And when I told him about Botox and lip fillers he just about gagged. Our conversation reminded me of an article I read recently which mentioned how Kim Kardashian never fully smiles because she doesn’t want to get wrinkles around her eyes.

Well … I don’t want to live in a world where a smile doesn’t reach one’s eyes.  

Perfection, the quest for it and the holding on to it, is exhausting. So bring on the smiles and eye wrinkles because maybe the secret to perfection is imperfection.  Maybe the secret is to work at being the best version of our self, and then loving that person.

Last week I came across a photo by Carla Coulson, a photographer, author, and life coach originally from Sydney, Australia who now lives in Italy. I follow Carla both on Instagram and Facebook, and she takes stunning photographs. Recently she posted the following photo, which she says was the most liked photo she ever posted on Instagram. This photo surpassed her popular beach photos, her flower girl series, and all the personal photo shoots she has done through the years.

THIS photo, of two women standing tall and proud on a beach in Puglia, is the one which has resonated the most, and it’s easy to see why.

So on this day, Mother’s Day, I look at that photo and salute those two women who are happy, secure, and comfortable with themselves. Who embrace their wrinkles and wear a bathing suit and smile proudly at a photographer. Who are not holding on to their past selves or striving for different future selves, but who are fully present in the here and now.

And who have smiles that reach their eyes. 

photo credit: Carla Coulson

Monday, April 29, 2019

An Open Letter to G. Clooney

Lately I've had several people ask me if the 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy is still happening. The answer is YES! In fact, we are within five months of the departure date when 32 women will embark on a 2-week adventure to Italy.

And if the following is any indication, we are going to have fun ;-)

Dear Mr. Clooney,

Five years ago I organized a girls’ trip to Italy. There were 23 travelers—from Georgia, South Carolina, Illinois, Washington State, and Washington DC—who accompanied my sister and me on a 9-day trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. The one question I was asked (repeatedly) before we left home was this: “Will we see the Pope?”

I am happy to say that we did, in fact, see the Pope.

The reason I am telling you this story is because next September I have organized another girls’ trip. This time there are 32 of us traveling to Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Milano, Verona, and Venezia. We will spend several days in the northern lakes region of Italy including, of course, Lake Como. Like last time, there is one glaring question I am asked, but it has nothing to do with the Pope; instead, this time the question is: “Will we see George Clooney?”

Before I continue, let me assure you that we are all quite harmless. We represent all walks of life; we are teachers, nurses, librarians, fitness instructors, and writers. As for myself, I am a wife, mother (three sons), a freelance writer, an amateur tour guide and, most recently, a published author. 

Simply, we are wondering if perhaps … maybe … “Will we see George Clooney?”

Of course, I cannot give them an answer, but the one thing I’ve learned about my travels to Italy is that there is magic in this world.

Maria Novajosky

scenes from the 2015 Girls' Trip to Italy
(in which we saw the Pope but NOT G. Clooney)