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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Will you leave already?

Last night, Joe was out of town, I had my Christmas Bunco party, and Timothy had the evening all to himself. This doesn't happen often so he had PLANS which involved his Xbox and the entire contents of the pantry.

All afternoon he prepped. He did his homework, he studied, and he took out the trash. He even emptied the dishwasher--with a smile! After all, what's a few chores when you have the entire evening (with no mom or dad!) to look forward to?

In the meantime, I got ready. In addition to wrapping one gift for our Bunco gift exchange, I also prepared small individual gifts for everyone. This year I decided to give everyone a miniature Panettone and a Pocket Angel purchased from my sister's Etsy shop, Alleluia Rocks.

There was a lot of last minute running around: upstairs to take a shower, downstairs to wrap, upstairs to curl my hair, downstairs to pack up everything, upstairs for my shoes, coat, and purse. Then, upstairs again because I forgot my earrings. In the middle of all this hustle and bustle Timothy was patiently waiting for me to JUST LEAVE ALREADY. In fact, this is me smiling because he had just asked, "What time did you say you had to leave? Aren't you going to be late?"

What a nice, thoughtful young man.

Eventually I (finally!) left for Bunco and Timothy (finally!) had the house to himself

And while Timothy was doing Xbox-y things, I had a blast at our Christmas Bunco party! This year we decided to meet for dinner, and it was an intimate, cozy way to celebrate. We ate, laughed, talked, and exchanged gifts. One of the gifts someone gave was MY BOOK! It was surreal to see someone open a gift and then pull out a copy of An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses. Then I was asked to sign it so, technically, Christmas Bunco was my first book signing! (Which is appropriate because as a group we celebrate many milestones.)

I think we were the last group to leave the restaurant, and while everyone was gathering gifts and donning coats I sent Timothy a quick text letting him know I would be home in 20 minutes. He responded immediately.

"Take your time," he texted. "I'm good."

What a nice, thoughtful young man (said with a smidgen of mom sarcasm).

THIS guy. Gotta love him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What happened when I tried NOT to wear black

Tonight our Bunco group has its annual Christmas party, and this year we are gathering at a restaurant where we will have a private room for dining, a gift exchange, and Bunco shenanigans.

Bunco shenanigans? What does that even mean? We are mature, intelligent, conversant, lovely people who behave properly.

ANYWAY, yesterday I was on a quest to find the perfect Bunco Christmas outfit. I wanted something festive and bright and (dare I say it?) sparkly. I wasn't totally against black, but since I get teased a lot about how much black I do wear, I decided that it had to be paired with something ... festive and bright and sparkly.

I shopped most of the morning and came home with FOUR dresses--a lavender/taupe shift, a grey and white sweater dress, a plum color A-line, and a dark purple swing dress. Not one had a smidgen of black. I planned to try them on, style them in a variety of ways, and then keep the one I liked and return the rest.

Well, I tried. I really did. But in the end I returned ALL of them.

I'm sorry but none of them were ME. One was too matronly, one had a weird neckline, one was just bleh, and the sweater dress (which I actually liked) was waaaay to short.

So I delved into my closet and styled a fitted long sleeve black shirt with an ankle length red skirt and black booties. Simple, clean lines. No fuss, no muss.

I was me again.

But I'll still do sparkly with some bangles and these ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Christmas Tree and the Painting

Every morning I come downstairs to this ... a trio of simple Alpine trees softly illuminating that tender painting (which I purchased, frame and all, from an antique store going out of business).

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Speak to Me (Advent) Sunday: Setting Forth

The suitcases were packed and standing in a line by the back door; I was in that in-between place of being ready, but not yet going.

I have often said that preparing for a trip is almost as fun as the trip itself. In the months leading up to that pile of luggage by the back door I applied for a brand new passport, purchased some new clothes, and managed to pack everything I needed. For months I gathered maps, read guide books, conducted Google searches, made reservations, and planned daily itineraries; in short, I did everything I could to help guide me into the unknown, and it was terribly exciting to imagine the possibilities and anticipate the adventure.
But it was also all kinds of scary.
Then something happened the morning of our departure as I stood between two worlds – the one I was leaving (familiar and safe) and the one I was headed toward (full of the unknown). As I reached into my purse to check (yet again) if I had my passport, I remembered the Dutch proverb that goes like this: He is who outside his door, already has the hard part of his journey behind him. It's a proverb about taking that first step which, without a doubt, is the hardest step of all.
So that’s exactly what I did – I picked up my suitcase and took that first step out the door, and for the first time in months I was completely and wholly at peace. I was on my way, come what may.

During this Advent as we embark on a journey connecting memory and hope, I am reminded how any journey – spiritual, physical, redemptive, etc. – begins with that first step. It may be the biggest step you may ever have to take, seemingly impossible and impossibly difficult. It may be a hesitant step, or a bold one. It may require a leap of faith. But in the end it's just a step.
And with that one step, you're on your way.

My sister's friend, Karla Falk, designs these unique etchings on slate taken from 
the roof of her family's 100 year old dairy barn in rural northeast Ohio. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Last night my friends and I attended The Night of 1,000 Lights celebration when what to our wondering eyes should appear ... but Santa!

Folks, he was the real deal. AND he was in Aiken, so he's close by. Just a friendly reminder to be more nice than naughty.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Story Behind a Book

Once upon a time, my high school Spanish club held a fund raiser which required each member to sell boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This was so out of my comfort zone. We had only recently moved to Georgia and I was struggling – to fit in, to be less shy, to be happy when I just wanted my old life back in Italy. So the thought of going door-to-door selling doughnuts to strangers filled me with anxiety. In the end, I sold two boxes to an elderly couple who lived behind us and a few boxes to our neighbors across the street. I used my babysitting money to buy the rest. 

Why am I telling you this story?

This week I formally announced that my book, An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses, was officially released and available for purchase. Truthfully, I could have made the announcement a week earlier, but I delayed because I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t make me feel as if I were selling those boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

And yet, if there is one thing I learned from writing this book is that I’m not that same person anymore. During those first years when I was trying to figure it all out, it was the written word—in all its forms—which gave me comfort. I read voraciously (my first job as a teenager was working in a library), I kept a journal, and I wrote stories. But mostly, it was the weekly letters from Nonna, my Italian grandmother, that gave me what I needed to keep trying. Nonna’s words (and her love) grounded me in ways nothing else could.

Eventually, I did find my way. Things became good, then better, and then even great.

It wasn’t until many years later when my mother and I were going through Nonna’s letters—years and years of letters—that I realized the true power of the written word. Just seeing Nonna’s handwriting helped me remember her hands, large and strong and thick-veined. Just reading her letters made me remember her passion, her laughter, and even what her voice sounded like. Her written words evoked memories, feelings, and more than a little nostalgia, and I recognized how so much of what she wrote and who she was could be woven into the fabric of my life—of who I was, am, and always will be.

The very next day I began writing An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses.

So last week, while contemplating how to announce my book in a way that was meaningful, the image of the Spanish Club fundraiser and those pesky boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts popped into my mind. But you know what? The memory made me smile. I am not selling doughnuts anymore; in fact, I am so beyond those doughnuts.

I’m telling a story.

Because that’s who I am.

It’s that simple.

To purchase 
An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses 
visit any of the links below. 
(Incidentally, books last longer than doughnuts;-)

(click on the "to purchase" button in the upper right hand corner)