Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And he picked me

I was all set to write about Mr. Benanti who still ranks as my #1 favorite teacher of all time, but today I want to share the story of another teacher. He was my teacher one Friday afternoon in my last class of the day. I don't remember what he specifically taught...and to this day I don't even know his name.

When we moved back to the U.S. at the beginning of high school, I was enrolled in a new school in the middle of the December. I was painfully shy, and terribly homesick for the life I had in Vicenza, Italy. And because classes were overfilled, the guidance counselor stuck me in a drama class.

Me. In drama class. With 28 loud, dramatic students who had known each other since kindergarten. Every single day I dreaded that class.

One Friday afternoon the drama teacher announced that we would be having a guest speaker: a Shakespearean actor from a company performing at our local college. When he walked into the classroom all the girls sighed. He was tall, blond, very, very handsome, and quoted Shakespeare. Thinking back on it today, I suppose he looked a little like John Tesh.

I was so enthralled listening to him...that is, right until the moment he asked for a volunteer. My heart stopped beating. Twenty-eight enthusiastic hands shot up into the air while I mentally pleaded, Please-please-please don't pick me.

The Shakespearean actor looked around, walked all the way to the back of the classroom, took my hand, and escorted me to a small stage in front of the classroom.

Amazingly, I didn't have to say a word. He was speaking of body language on stage and wanted the class to help stage/direct us. So he sat me turned away from him and asked the class how he could get my attention. Following directions from the other students he walked around me and sat facing me; he took me by the shoulders to make a point; he gently put his hand on my chin and turned my head to face him.

At the end of the lesson he took my hand as I stepped down from the stage. He escorted me back to my seat, and in a very Shakespearean gesture dramatically kissed my hand as a thank you.

To this day I still remember that moment. A handsome actor, teaching Shakespeare for one hour to some high school students, did a miraculous thing for a quiet, lonely, terribly shy teenager. He helped transform her from someone who was pleading please, please don't pick me, to someone who later walked out of that classroom thinking HE PICKED ME!


(Note: Today's homage to great teachers is hosted by Laura at Catholic Teacher Musings. Check out her site for other beautiful stories on inspirational teachers, and/or leave a link with her to share one of your own. Have you hugged a teacher today?)

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Case of the Super Wart


E-mail from my middle son to my brother, who is a doctor:

Dear Uncle David,

I need to chop off a wart. I tried freezing it 2 times and nothing happened. It only got a little smaller. Please tell me what to do!!!!!

JONATHAN with warty finga

My brother's reply:

Dear Jonathan with Nasty Warty Finga...

First of all, don't touch me. Don't even come near me with your Nasty Warty Finga.

And I hope you're not typing with your Finga, 'cause then the keyboard will get
all Nasty and grow warts, too...

Besides that, you should probably let a doctor freeze it off. The over-the-counter wart Freezer Thingies are not as strong. You probably shouldn't try it anymore on your own for that particular Superwart.

Call your doctor, but don't make The Wart mad, or else he'll Take Over the World.

Uncle Dave

Is He Even My Son?


Advice from Jonathan as we are walking into Lowe's to buy a new toilet seat.

"Don't buy a boring one. Get one with fur, or something."


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dark Chocolate, Kisses, and...George Burns (?!)

My friend Laura has invited me to share with the entire blogging community six quirky traits...well, hold on to your hats. To start off the quirkiness I'm going to forgo the list and do a top six countdown to my #1 quirkiest trait.

6. No dark chocolate for me...only milk chocolate.

5. I've never purchased a Lottery ticket.

4. I can't eat a sandwich if I don't have potato chips to go with it.

3. Unmade beds drive me crazy. We make our beds every morning, and if for some weird reason it doesn't get done, that night I will totally make it before getting into bed.

2. When I kiss my boys on the cheek I just can't kiss them once. I have to give them two or three kisses, one right after another. Being boys they don't like it. But I can't help myself. It's written in my genes...my Nonna used to do the same thing.

1. My #1 quirky trait? I have the most fantastic, vivid dreams. For example, last night I had a dream that I was at a picnic held in a giant field. Everyone was sitting on blankets, but for some reason I was walking somewhere. Suddenly, George Burns steps in front of me, says that he's been looking for someone to dance with, and then starts dancing and twirling me around the field while everyone claps. Now, you would think that with it being a dream I could have my pick of dance partners like...oh, I don't know...MATT DAMON or MR. DARCY. But no, I had to dance with George Burns who I'm not even sure is still alive. (Maybe my dream made a mistake and got the wrong George...it's George Clooney, silly me. Not George Burns!) Well, to make it even more strange, George was wearing a white glove and I remember thinking (in my dream): I am dancing with George Burns who is channeling Michael Jackson.

Believe me, I couldn't make this stuff up. Just ask my husband...he's used to it. This morning when I asked him if he wanted to hear my dream about George Burns it didn't even phase him.

Now, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hoodwinked

Our four year old has been saying "no" to everything.

In exasperation we finally said, "You, Mister Fister, are not allowed to say 'no' anymore."

"YES I CAN!" he yelled. (He was not having a good day.)

"Excellent! We like how you just said yes," we replied calmly.

To which he looked thoroughly confused and slightly insulted...as if we tricked him, or something.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Una Passeggiata

Andiamo a fare una passeggiata (let’s go for a walk), my Nonna would often say. Many times there was no particular destination other than to meander and enjoy the day. As a little girl I accompanied her around the streets of Verona, stopping to talk with friends and store owners, or to buy an ice-cream, or to throw a coin in a fountain. She would tell me stories, she would gossip, and we would laugh.

For Nonna, una passeggiata was not only a means of exercising, but a wonderful way of socializing. She never met a stranger; she nodded and smiled at everyone, falling easily into conversation. We walked with her in the Alps, on the beach, on the cobblestone streets of Assisi, over countless bridges in Venice, and even in Disney World.

As she grew older the walks became shorter. One day while visiting during the summer, I noticed that instead of me holding on to her hand, she now hooked her arm into my elbow, letting me lead. We were still Nonna and her nipote, but somewhere along the way our roles had reversed.

In 2004 Nonna passed away. She died peacefully, in a hospital with a beautiful view of the hills of Verona. She understood what was happening; when her two sisters came to see her she opened her eyes and said Vado dalla Mamma (I am going to Mother).

Her death left an empty place in my heart; the ache will always be there, but that empty place is being filled with memories of her that come in waves, many times when I least expect them. And as I travel through these memories that transcend time, geography, and even death, I can hear her whisper even now: Andiamo a fare una passeggiata . . .

Nonna and me
my first visit to Italy-1967

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Absolutely Nothing

We just returned from one last vacation before school starts tomorrow. This was our first visit to Edisto Beach, an island in South Carolina boasting one teeny, tiny grocery store, no fast food restaurants, dirt lanes, and miles of beautiful, rocky shores. I mean, there is n.o.t.h.i.n.g to do...which was fine with us because doing absolutely n.o.t.h.i.n.g was what we wanted to do.

Nothing, that is, except swimming, walking along the beach, watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and playing boardgames during an afternoon thunderstorm.

Nothing, except going for a candlelight walk on the beach one night, and the next morning discovering the tracks of a loggerhead turtle that came in from the sea to bury her eggs, the area already roped off by local volunteers who patrol the shore every morning for new nests.

Nothing, except reading late into the night, laughing at our four year old wrestling with his older brothers, and eating junk food (our first meal on the island: sub sandwiches, Sour Patch Kids candy, soda, and Klondike ice-cream bars).

And it was lovely doing absolutely n.o.t.h.i.n.g because, starting tomorrow, we will be doing absolutely e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Down on the Farm...sort of

I may have mentioned before that I am a city girl. Oh, I love nature and love doing outdoor things like hiking and white water rafting, but I don't know very much about farming or animals. Apparently, neither does our little one.

Case in point: we took Sister to the Children's Museum in Columbia, South Carolina where my youngest one got to experience milking a cow. He squeezed the teat (just like the sign says) and in delight yelled, "Look, the cow is going potty!"

And before I finished mentally cringing and Sister finished laughing, he grabbed TWO teats and yelled, "Look, now he's going a whole bunch of potty!!"

I think I need to go purchase a Farmer's Almanac, or something.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mungu is Good

Today is not Sister's birthday...it was early last month. But we celebrated anyway.

With my parents and some good family friends who had met Sister last year, we sang Happy Birthday and presented her with her very own birthday cake. She was so excited she blew out the candles before we were even done singing.

Then, because a birthday party should have games, we played Pictionary using a large dry erase board...the children vs. the adults. Even Sister played, searching through the cards until she found some easy things to draw (the equator, a snake, a computer).

The kids took turns playing the keyboard and guitar, and then sister sang a song for us: swaying and waving her arms, she sang about Mungu (God) being present in the east, the west, the south, and the north. Mungu is everywhere.

At one point she whispered to me that she had something to say, so I shushed everyone so she could speak. She rose, and in her soft-spoken voice addressed everyone by name as she thanked us for honoring her birthday. She spoke for several minutes about love and how, despite being so far away from Tanzania, she feels at home with us and will always think of us as family.

There was not a dry eye in the room.

And I marveled how this nun, with her quiet voice and broken English, with her beautiful songs and humble manner, with her ready laughter and adventuresome spirit...how all these things about her have touched us in so many ways.

Yes, Mungu is everywhere...and Mungu is here, shining through this quiet Sister from a small village in eastern Africa.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In which Sister meets the Godfather of Soul

Today we took Sister Gaudiosa to The Augusta Museum of History. We showed her many interesting things about our local history: a cotton machine; a real steam locomotive; memorabilia from the Masters Golf Tournament; the flight suit of Susan Stills (an astronaut from Augusta). But the museum had added a new exhibit since we were last there, and so we were able to introduce Sister to James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.

Sister has music in her soul, so she was very intrigued by him. She listened to samples of his music, studied his over-the-top clothes, and oh, my did she ever get a kick out of his dancing. One video showing all of James Brown's signature dance moves had her laughing hysterically (I mean, what else can you do when they introduce a move as the "funky chicken"?).

Later that night we introduced her to our family movie night. We dimmed the lights, lit a few candles, popped 5 bags of popcorn, and watched The Lion King. After our discussion the previous evening about lions, we thought she would enjoy it. It was her first full length cartoon feature...ever.

She was amazed at how much Swahili was featured in the movie. Besides character names such as Simba (lion) and Rafiki (friend), she pointed out to us that at one point Rafiki says asante sana, thank you in Swahili. Then came the song Hakuna Matata and she almost jumped off the couch in her excitement; "No Worries!" she exclaimed to us.

With a little James Brown, a little Disney, and a whole lot of enthusiasm from a sister from Tanzania it was the makings of a perfect day. Hakuna Matata, everyone!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Song in the Dark

Today was the first full day of Sister's visit and we had a lovely time. We spent the morning at the library (checked out some books on Tanzania and on Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania), and then this afternoon I did something I never in my wildest imaginings thought I would ever do: I went bra shopping with a nun.

Well, she needed a new one. And just in case you're wondering (and I know you are) we bypassed Victoria's Secret and headed for the more sensible stuff found in department stores.

And we also got her a winter coat. She is headed for Kansas City, MO for a year and did not have any winter gear.

The high point (for me) was coming home from the movies after taking her to see Narnia's Prince Caspian, and in the darkness of the car she started singing in Swahili. We had been discussing the religious symbolism in the movie and how a lion is so often used to represent a king, when all of a sudden she started singing a song from her childhood about the roar of a lion being the voice of God. It was haunting. It was beautiful.

BTW, remember Simba from The Lion King? And Rafiki?
Well, simba is the Swahili word for lion; rafiki is the Swahili word for friend.

And that is what Sister is...our rafiki.

Haiku Festival...Important Update!!

UPDATE: Look what I got for my ugly haiku..."s'not" bad, is it??!!

Happy Haiku Festival Day... ACK! I sound like George's father on Seinfeld with his Festivus Day! Anyway, thanks to Laura for bringing us together. Go read some great haikus and join in the fun!
the good...

A nun in our home...
My boys on good behavior,
I think I’ll keep her.


the bad...

Black leather jacket,
Big hair, sunglasses, tight jeans.
Trying to be HAIKOOL.


the ugly...

Little boy sneezes
long, slimy, strands of grossness.
Where are the tissues??!!?

and from my sister, Laura (yes, she shares the same name as our Haiku Laura):

Is haiku a word?
This is the best I can do.
Good grief, it's Friday!