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

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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Leonardo da Vinci and his Mona Lisa

Could a weekend be more perfect? Thursday night I played Bunco with my girls' night out gang, Friday morning was my Familia prayer group, that night we went to a GREAT costume party dressed as Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa, Saturday I spent the entire day in Columbia, SC scrapbooking with my sister, and Sunday we went to church and then had lunch at my parents' house. Really, I feel as if these past few days all I had to do was show up wherever it was that I was supposed to be!! Isn't life grand?
Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa

Thursday, September 27, 2007

La Bella Luna

I admit that I have a quirky trait: I love looking at the moon. On a clear night, with no clouds, there have been many times I have dragged my family to a window (and, yes, even outside in their pj's) to look at the beautiful moon. "La bella luna" , in Italian.

Last night, when the full moon was hanging low and heavy right over our house, I found myself again calling to my family to come and see. I enthusiastically pointed out how serene it made everything look. I challenged everyone to think of as many songs as they could that mention the moon. I even made up this corny poem: "The man in the moon smiled as he looked down on the mother and child." Then, when I noticed everyone looking at me as if I were, well, looney (from the root word "luna"; lunatic also comes from "luna"), I realized that I was turning into my mom . . . and my Nonna.

In the early nineties, when we were vacationing in Florida with my parents and my Nonna, we were told that the space shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral could be viewed from our second story balcony. The fact that it would take place at 3 a.m. didn't stop us because we knew that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially for my Nonna who was visiting from Italy.

At 3 a.m. we gathered on the balcony, listening to the shuttle countdown on the radio and watching the horizon. When the shuttle launched, and we could follow the shuttle's ascent, my Mom and Nonna couldn't contain their enthusiasm:

Mom: "OH! Lord bless them. Bless them. Keep them safe!!" At 3 a.m. she shouted this 550 times from our balcony.
Nonna: "Maria Santissima! Cielo santo! Che bello! Dio mio!" Again, it was 3 a.m., and this was also shouted repeatedly.

With the mixture of English and Italian being hurled towards the heavens, the rest of us cringed (did I mention that it was 3 a.m.?).

So, last night as I was extolling the virtues of "la bella luna", the reality that I was becoming just like my Mom and Nonna hit me. Yikes!

"Cielo Santo! Maria Santissma!"
I'm not sure if I should be terrified or not. (wink! wink!)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Taking a knee

In a moment of weakness my husband and I decided to let our middle son play football. There are many things about football that I could complain about: the long practice sessions; the grass stains; the sickening sound of helmets clashing (it is, after all, my son's head under that helmet); the reality that it always rains when it is my turn to take him to practice; the fact that it disrupts our family dinner.

But I am surrounded by boys, and in order to relate to them I am learning to enter their world. I now know that "sacking" has to do with tackling and not a large bag; that when someone calls "hit it", pushups are required; and I know the difference between a lineman, a linebacker, and a wide receiver.

One evening after practice the coach gathered the kids around and told them to "take a knee". It was a beautiful thing to see, all these sweaty boys, bulked up with shoulder pads, kneeling on one knee as they respectfully listened to the coach. At a scrimmage the following evening, the whole team "took a knee" in silent prayer when there was an injured player on the field.

While praying is something we do often as a family, I now realize that my son is getting a new lesson on this theme from football. By "taking a knee" with his coaches and his teammates, he is learning that prayer can be incorporated into many areas of our lives. Prayer isn't just limited to church, or the dinner table, or our school, or family rosary night.

I love that my son is learning this. Kneeling is a very humble act. We kneel in adoration, in respect, in prayer, in times of need. It is an acknowledgement that we as human beings are indeed frail, and when we kneel, we surrender this weakness and yield to a higher authority, our God. I want my sons to learn to "take a knee" in life.

So now, instead of complaining about all the disruptions this football season has caused, I am thankful for lessons he's learning . . . lessons that reinforce what we try to teach him at home. And sometimes I get a glimpse, however brief, of the man he will one day grow up to be.

Taking a knee in football practice . . . and in life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Java Joe . . . or not

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and I love him dearly. He does have one character flaw, though. He doesn't drink coffee. He doesn't like coffee. He has never even tried coffee. Now, that's just wrong.

I, on the other hand, love my morning cappuccino. Between my Bialetti stovetop coffee maker and my Barista espresso machine (a gift from a wonderful sister-in-law!) I wake up every morning with Starbucks at my fingertips. For me it's a comforting ritual, one that is carried out in the early dawn when everything is still quiet and peaceful.

My husband just doesn't get it. I was making my morning cappuccino recently when I offered to make him one as well. He didn't even answer; he just made a face.

"How can you not like coffee? You've never tried it." I remarked, determined to ignore the fact that he was shuddering.

"Why do I want to start drinking something that I can get addicted to?" he asked, sounding too much like the engineer that he is.

"I am not addicted." But I was getting perturbed. And defensive. "I only have one cappuccino in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon."

"I have seen you when you haven't had your coffee," he observed. "You're addicted."

Okay then.
Until he wakes up and smells the coffee, I'll just enjoy drinking mine!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things that go ouch in the night

I still check on my boys at least once during the night . . . a loving gesture, to be sure, since every time I do so I risk life and limb.

Last week, I stepped barefoot on a matchbox fire truck complete with a sharp ladder and a small siren. ("Ow!")

Many times I have stepped on a lego . . . or a lego structure. (Crash!!! "Ouch! . . . Ouch!")

Once it was a marble on the arch of my foot. ("Gee Whiz! How can something so tiny and smooth hurt so much???!!!")

But last night I felt safe because the boys had picked up before bedtime. Unfortunately, I had been so used to walking around things on the floor that I became disoriented and stubbed my toe on the bedpost. (I will not post those comments.)

Tonight I'll get my husband to check on the boys.

La Bella Figura and my Sons

In Italy, there is an expression "la bella figura", which means "a good image". My Nonna used this expression a lot. It's a saying that not only deals with being well dressed when going out, but also with demeanor and correct behavior. "La bella figura", in a sense, is presenting one's best self to the world.

Taking this expression to a deeper level, it is a basic human truth that, like it or not, our appearance, demeanor, and actions reflect who we are, where we practice our faith, where we go to school, our national origin, and even how we are raised.

Getting my sons to understand this can sometimes be a challenge. One day in Target my two oldest boys got into a shoving match in the check-out lane. I was mortified for two reasons: one, they were fighting and two, they were fighting while wearing their school uniform. Later, when everyone calmed down, we discussed how, when wearing a school uniform, they were more than two brothers scuffling . . . people looked at them and saw their Catholic school, their church, and even their parents.

Now, did they get it? For the most part. I think. Maybe. My Nonna explained it better. But the very next time I took them to Target while they were wearing their school uniform, a woman commented on how well mannered they were and inquired where they went to school.

Hmmm. Maybe the idea of "la bella figura" is catching on after all.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Real Men

This afternoon we were stopped at a traffic light when my son pointed out a bumper sticker on the car in front of us: "Real men love Jesus."

I looked at my him and said, "That's right. Are you a real man?"

My ten-year-old thought a couple of seconds, and with all seriousness replied, "Yes, I am."

I smiled. That's my baby!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Swinging through life's lessons

Yesterday I spent an hour at the park, most of it teaching my three year old how to pump his legs when swinging. It was not going well; he spent most of the time laughing and wanting me to push him higher. In total exasperation I thought: "Who doesn't know how to swing?". My next immediate thought was: "Who doesn't know how to e-mail photos?", which is what my twelve year old had to show me how to do earlier that day. Enough said.

See you at the park tomorrow . . . I'll e-mail the photos!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Nonna and Michelangelo

Today I just happened to hear on the radio that it was Grandparent's Day. Who knew? But it did get me started thinking about my Nonna, my Italian grandmother. The memories I have of her fill my heart, but one in particular stands out with me this day.

The first time I went to Rome it was with my Mom, my sister, and my Nonna. I was twelve, on the brink of puberty, and I was grumpy . . . a lot. In the Sistine Chapel I remember sitting next to my Nonna who had tears in her eyes as she tried to explain Michelangelo's majestic ceiling to me, but all I could think about was that it was too crowded, too hot, and too boring. Really, I just didn't get it.

Twenty-eight years later my husband, for my 40th birthday, sent me to Rome with my best friend for four nights and five days. While I had been back to Italy many, many times, this was the first time I would be returning to Rome since that first trip. And since my Nonna had passed away two years earlier, this time, in her honor, I was going to do it right.

I prepared a lot. I read history books, studied tour books, taped shows featuring Rome, and surfed the internet for tips. As I read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King, I felt something in me stirring, some understanding that was hovering just beyond my reach.

When we entered the Vatican Museums my best friend and I bypassed room after room as we followed signs to The Sistine Chapel, and so we were one of the first to enter. It was incredibly quiet. I found a seat on the bench running alongside one wall and finally looked up. It was too much. The notes and binoculars lay forgotten in my lap as I let the colors, the power, and the immense beauty wash over me. I didn't think, I just felt.

And I felt tears in my eyes. And I knew that in heaven my Nonna was nodding and smiling . . . because I finally got it.

Friday, September 7, 2007


I turned 40 this past February and I was determined to make some changes in my life, exercise being one of them. I've always been active, but I had been noticing some definite changes in my body (gravity DOES exist!!) and so I decided to be more aggressive in my exercise routine.

I began walking/jogging most days of the week. And here was the problem . . . where, Oh where! , were those endorphins, that natural high, that feeling of euphoria that you were supposed to feel when exercising? All I felt was sweaty and tired. Was I not working out hard enough?

Seven months later I have it all figured out: I do have endorphins after all! I do get that natural high, that feeling of euphoria , that sense of well-being. . . when the exercise session is OVER!! You go, girl!!