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

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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Next Year in a Better Way

It's New Year's Eve, the boys are watching football, and I am sitting here by the fire grateful that we are having a quiet evening at home. I have much to write about these past few weeks, but for now it feels more fitting to be looking ahead to the New Year.

There is always so much hope about looking ahead, and it's exciting to think I have an entire year - 365 glorious days - to learn, create, grow, become. For me, it's not so much about resolutions as it is about continuing the journey I am on, but in a better way.

Two years ago I decided to not bother with Resolutions; instead, I chose one word, or idea, to carry with me throughout the New Year. In 2009 I chose the word embrace to remind me to be fully present in a moment without conscious thought of yesterday or tomorrow.

Last year I chose the idea to learn to love what is good for me. It was an idea that helped me physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.

This year I want to learn to not take myself too seriously. I want to be an adult with a child-like freshness. I want to bring out the me that I tend to keep hidden from others. So, this year I pick fun as my word.

Fun, as in this year I will do things such as . . .

walk barefoot in the grass;
get up early just to watch the sunrise;
teach the boys the funny camp songs I know;
read Anne of Green Gables;
bake bread;
wear red danskos;
play the guitar on the back porch, instead of inside;
write a children's story/poem;
paint on a canvas, and have it framed;
try a new recipe once a week;
plant tomatoes and grow basil;
and make weekly visits to the Farmer's Market.

Next year - soon to be this year - I will not take myself too seriously.
I will be fun, have fun, and experience fun.

Seriously. I will.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Stargazing and Being Locked Out

Timothy received a telescope as an early Christmas present from Nonna and Nonno, and with the lunar eclipse occurring the very next night, the timing was just perfect.

We immediately made plans: we set the alarm for 2:41 a.m Tuesday morning, placed winter coats and shoes by the front door, and prepared the telescope.

When the alarm went off Joe and I first went downstairs to make sure the eclipse was visible. I walked out the front door and literally gasped ... what a sight!

Joe set up the telescope on our front walk and I ran upstairs to get the boys. Timothy and Jonathan would not budge. At all. I had more success with Nicholas, though.

The three of us took turns looking through the telescope. Nicholas whispered (in typical teenage fashion) "Neat!" and went back to bed. Joe and I stayed, and the night was so crystal clear we spotted Orion and the Big Dipper. Really, everything was so magical . . . until we realized Nicholas had inadvertently locked the front door.

There we were, in our pj's and winter coats and fuzzy slippers, stranded on our front porch. We rang and rang the doorbell. We knocked on the windows. We pounded on the front door. Really, it's a wonder nobody called the police.

Finally, FINALLY Jonathan woke up and let us in.

Gee whiz ... who knew stargazing could be so adventurous?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taking Aim at the Christmas Tree

This year we are hosting a Christmas party and, in addition to our family room tree, we decided to put another one up in our dining room.

We bought brand new lights and everything. Nice ... isn't it?

EXCEPT, that half an hour after I had the tree fully decorated the lights on the top third of the tree started blinking on and off ... on and off ... then, off. Nothing. No more lights.

Take a look ...

My cousin Cory-from-Texas assured me that he could fix the lights with a hammer.

Now, he is a much gentler soul than I am ...

I was thinking more along the lines of a sawed-off shotgun.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Dear Family,

792 ... that's how many tortellini Nonna, Nonno, and I spent all yesterday morning making.

Nonno rolled enough dough to make 792.
I filled 792 tortellini.
Nonna folded 792 tortellini.

We are positive the number is 792 because Nonno lined up all the tortellini military style in rows of ten. He can be very efficient.

And this year we made 792 (the most EVER) all by ourselves. No one else helped. No. One.

792 is a lot of work . . .

And I'm sure all of you are really, really, really appreciative.

p.s. I need a new guitar, a new camera, a gift certificate to Starbucks, oh, and a Kindle would be nice. But if it's too much trouble ... you can at least do the dishes:)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twenty Years

Twenty years of marriage is twenty years of saying daily, I do.

I do . . .

choose you;
wake up next to you every morning;
stand by you;
recognize you as a gift;
appreciate your thoughfulness;
see your faults, but love you anyway;
love watching you with the boys;
know God brought us together;
believe in you;
share everything – my thoughts, hopes, dreams – with you.

And my I do of today is my I will of tomorrow.

Happy Anniversary, Joey.

Look What I Got Yesterday ...

Remember the Porches on Parade Contest sponsored by Mary Louise at MLCHgarden? Well, yesterday I picked up my beautiful, handmade wreath.

It is huge.

It is absolutely gorgeous.

In fact, my wreath looks exactly like the ones hanging at the Biltmore House during the Christmas season.

Grazie mille, Mary Louise! I am planning on leaving my wreath up until springtime.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can He Keep a Secret, or What?

I helped Timothy buy his older brother a Christmas present. As we were wrapping it he promised not to say anything.

Two hours later, this conversation . . .

Timothy: Nicholas, I got you a present. It starts with a W.

Nicholas: Really?!

Timothy: Yup. The beginning sounds like wall...


Timothy: I know how to spell wallet, but that's not what I got you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Follow the Star . . . Nativities around the World

Every year since 1983 the city of Verona displays a collection of over 400 nativity scenes from around the world in L`Arena, a Roman amphitheater. The exhibits are lit with special effects and the visitor becomes a participant as he/she strolls from scene to scene. An enormous Star of Bethlehem reaches out from the Arena into the beautiful Piazza Bra, which is the social center of the city.

In our little corner of the world, these are some of our favorites we set up each year . . .

Who says nativity better than Fontanini?

Joe's aunt, who lives in Bethlehem, PA, has given us many beautiful nativities over the years. The first one was the Lladro inspired one we received for our wedding,the latest was this one.

This one was handmade by a local potter; the stable I found in an antique store, the star is from Puerto Rico.

Our most unusual one: this American Indian nativity scene from our parents after they took a trip out west. It is one of our favorites.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


What I love about Thanksgiving:

~pumpkin pie with cappuccino;
~traveling to be with family;
~Thanksgiving cooking smells;
~apple pie with cappuccino;
~family football: all guys + me + my two sisters-in-law;
~cathing the first two passes in the family football game;
~that calories don't count on a holiday. Right? RIGHT?
~and my favorite . . . Thanksgiving is simply about gathering for a meal.

How perfect is that?

P.S. I also think that a holiday about being thankful is a perfect way to set the tone for the Advent season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dr. Dave

My baby brother is a doctor in internal medicine and I must say it’s very nice having a physician on call in the family.

As soon as he graduated from medical school my sister and I began calling him with all our baby questions: how much motrin for a 13-month old? decongestant or antihistamine? when is a rash contagious? is it normal for poop to be this color?

I know we drove him nuts … especially considering that he was practicing in another state and pediatrics was not his specialty (something he reminded us over and over again).

Then there are my parents and all their friends … you know, with their various and sundry ailments.

Mom: David, I have a question. Rosa’s left eye twitches and she wants to know if it’s related to her medicine. What’s that? The name of the medicine? I have no idea. Oh, and Stella’s bunion is bothering her … what should she do?

Sometimes we like to put him on the spot. One Thanksgiving we were sitting around the table discussing – of all things – tropical diseases like buruli ulcer disease and schistosomiasis, and on cue we all turned to David.

David: Look, I am not a doctor on infectious diseases! Internal Medicine … remember?

Sheesh. Touchy, touchy.

All kidding aside, he is always there for us.

~When I had a DVT in my leg during my third pregnancy, for months afterwards I would periodically call him in tears thinking that I had another one. His was the voice of calm reassurance that all was well.

~When Jonathan was worried to the point of tears on a private matter, he called Uncle David and all was right with the world again.

~When my nephew had to see a neurologist, David took off work and drove down from North Carolina to go with my sister and brother-in-law to the appointment.

~When our Dad was in the ER, David drove through the night to be with him, staying a couple of days until he was discharged.

Yes, it's nice having a doctor in the family but, truthfully, it is as a son, brother, husband, and father that we know him best.

The doctor part is just icing on the cake.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Conversation on a Sunday Afternoon

I was reading when Timothy came and snuggled next to me.

"Mom, who is your boyfriend?" he asked.

"Well, Daddy is," I replied.

"Who is your little boyfriend?" he continued.

"Let's see ... I guess that would be you," I said.

He nods in agreement.

"And I think you're my girlfriend," he remarked.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beat the Guesser

Tonight we were all sitting in the family room when our little guy brings down the bathroom scale to play his version of the old carnival game, Beat the Guesser. He had us all guess his weight, and then he stepped on the scale and the closest guesser won a fake pirate doubloon.

The two oldest got caught up in the game. We tried to guess Nicholas' weight and, of course, his brothers gave insulting guesses like 268 pounds.

My husband went, and because he's tall and lean, he's hard to figure out; in fact, he always beats the guesser at the carnival.

We were all laughing.

There was a pause . . . and all eyes turned to me.

Uh oh.


No, no, no.

No way, Jose`.

That scale and I have a rocky relationship and up until this very moment I was having fun. What? Are you kidding me?

Uhm . . . Monopoly anyone?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

From the Booth ... A Dad's View (guest post)

Aquinas' football season ended abruptly last night - driving for the dramatic, winning score before an incomplete pass on 4th down on the 10-yard line. Their final record was 6-4. Our middle son Jonathan has played several seasons for Columbia County during middle school, but this was Nicholas' first venture into the world of football. We were a lttle surprised this summer when he wanted to go through conditioning and training, etc. in order to play on the team. As a sophomore, he primarily played on the JV team, but dressed for all home varsity games and most of the road games. He also saw his first action on the field in a Varsity game! We are very proud of his perseverance and dedication (he never wanted to miss a practice), and look forward to two more seasons of Friday Night Lights. Here is a picture with me, the proud Dad, with the disappointed player after the loss. The Fighting Irish played hard, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Nicholas w/ Dad

Nicholas w/ Papa two weeks ago

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If You Vote for Me I'll Make You a Cappuccino

Recently I entered a Porches on Parade Concert which involved submitting a photo of our front porch decorated for Autumn. I am one of three finalists.

The winner of the contest receives a beautiful evergreen Christmas wreath ... but not just any wreath. THIS wreath is handmade by Master Gardener ML at MCLHgarden, and I know it will be gorgeous!

Now, I won't tell you which porch to vote for ... but gosh darn it I would love to win that wreath.

If you go to MCLHgarden, you can cast you vote on the sidebar on the top right.

Here was my entry ... now go vote ... I make wonderful cappuccinos:-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hero Worship: What Not To Admire

Perhaps it’s because I am all too aware of my own imperfections that I am very cautious about putting someone on a pedestal. To be sure, there are people I admire and respect, but there's a difference between admiring someone and thinking they hang the moon.

I am bothered by the fact that many times people are held in high esteem for no other reason other than they can throw a football, or look pretty on television, or lose weight, or make multi-million dollar deals. And I am bothered at how willing some of us are to look up to someone who is, when it comes down to it, very human.

Mid-way through the football season a talented player on my son’s team was sidelined due to an injury, resulting in some very interesting remarks: that’s it, it’s over and now we'll never win were just some of the comments I overheard. My son, along with some of his teammates, had made this player out to be such a hero that everyone else in comparison was . . . a non-hero.

Furthermore, by putting all their hopes on one person, the potential for other talent to emerge was stifled; they were abandoning hope in themselves, in their abilities, and in their gifts because, somehow, this one player’s talents made them feel less than who they were.

Needless to say, I had a lengthy conversation with my son, reassuring him that there is nothing wrong in recognizing something good in someone and wanting to be like that person. But when you cross the line into hero worship, you are basically setting yourself up to be less than that person . . . which is almost like saying God (who made us in his image) somehow made a mistake in how he made you.

I once accompanied a group of local doctors to Haiti for a 10-day mission trip. Part of that experience included a lot of rough travel, the most grueling of which was a 14-hour truck ride through mountains, desert and jungle until we reached the small village of Jean-Rabel.

During that long, long trip I was surrounded by doctors and missionaries who spent that time talking. One discussion involved the misdirection of youth, and a young missionary made a comment that rock music was a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

Oh, brother! I remember thinking.

But over time I’ve come to realize what she was trying to say. There’s nothing wrong with getting excited during a rock concert, or cheering a star athlete, or looking up to someone, or recognizing them as a leader.

The problem occurs when we lose sight of the First Commandment and lay those feelings of enthusiasm, admiration and even hope at the feet of someone who is merely human.

The problem occurs when we measure our own self-worth by human, rather than spiritual, standards.

I am grateful that the world is full of many wonderful people . . . people I admire and respect . . . people who inspire me to be a better person. But putting them on a pedestal? I know of only One who can hang the moon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yeah, Yeah I Hear You ... I'm Just Not Listening

I'm too tired to go to school.
I'm not going to school.
I can't get up.
My eyes can't open.
I am not getting dressed.
I don't want to eat breakfast.
I am NOT going to school.


Guess who ...
ate breakfast?
got dressed?
got over the grumpies along with a serious case of very bad cattivo?
AND was soon smiling, chatting, and annoying his brothers?

Guess, just guess, who went to school?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is it the football game or the stadium food?

This past Saturday Jonathan attended a University of Georgia football game with two of his school buddies. It was an all day adventure, and when he returned in the evening slightly sunburned and beaming, we all gathered to hear about it.

"Let's see," he began. "On the way there we ate the donuts and trail mix you gave us, and when we got there we ate the chicken wings Harrison's mom sent."

All this before even entering the stadium.

"Then, before we went to our seats I got a pretzel and a pack of Skittles," he said, thinking. "Oh, then they were also selling cotton candy so I got one of those, too.

We waited expectantly, knowing there was more to come.

"It got hot, so I bought a snow cone," he continued. "And on the way home we stopped at McDonald's and I got a cheeseburger and a coke. Don't worry, though, I didn't use all my money ... I have $5 left."

He left with $22 ... you do the math.

"And I assume that somewhere in there was a football game," interjected Papa, which had us all laughing.

"Oh, yeah. Georgia won," said Jonathan, grinning. "By the way, Mom, I think I'll skip dinner tonight. I'm just not very hungry."

Really. You think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting through the Firsts

All the firsts following the death of a loved one are so hard: the first holiday, the first birthday, the first vacation, the first family reunion.

This Friday will be a first for our family since Papa is coming for a visit and, for the first time, he'll be coming alone.

We are terribly excited about his visit, and yet we can't wrap our minds around the idea that things this time will be different. In the past, we gathered in the front yard to welcome them both. Nana would walk up our porch steps carrying the leftovers from wherever they stopped for lunch along I-95, and Papa would follow carrying their pillows and Nana's purse.

Year after year it was like this and so we can't imagine it otherwise.

This week we've caught ourselves saying Nana and Papa a lot ...

this Friday when Nana and Papa come ...
Nana and Papa are coming to your game ...
do you think Nana and Papa want to ...

I think, with over 50 years of marriage, we had stopped thinking of them as Nana and Papa, but rather as NanaandPapa ... one word, because the two never did anything without the other; they finished each other's sentences and made decisions as one.

So this first of Papa coming alone will be hard.

When I spoke with him a few days ago I told him I was planning meals -- that I was going to feed him well -- and was there anything he'd like me to fix. He said he likes pies, and so pies I will bake ... homemade crust and all. He said he has a craving for Manhattan Clam Chowder. I have never made Manhattan Clam Chowder but I will find a recipe and we will cook it together.

And since Papa also likes to stay busy, we have some projects for him: replacing recessed lighting with pendant lights; hanging a new chandelier in the master bathroom; replacing the belt on our dryer, which just broke today.

Night and Day ... Heaven and Earth ... North and South ...

Mom and Dad ...

Nana and Papa.

There are just some things that belong in pairs.

So, really, this weekend when Papa sits down to eat a slice of apple pie, Nana will be there because she wouldn't miss dessert for anything.

When Papa and I make the clam chowder, Nana will be there scribbling the recipe on a scrap of paper which she will then add to her recipe collection.

No, Nana may not be here physically, but Papa will be.

And wherever Papa is ... Nana is somewhere nearby.

Monday, October 11, 2010

That's the Sound of My Baby, Working on a Chain Gang

This is Timothy. Here he is on the first day of school.

When he grows up, we THOUGHT he wanted to be a pilot ...

we THOUGHT he wanted to be a priest like Fr. Mark ...

we even THOUGHT he wanted to be this ...

INSTEAD, yesterday he pointed out the window and announced, "THAT'S what I want to be when I grow up."

And there, working along the highway, was a prison work crew picking up trash and pulling weeds.

Look, he's already practicing.

Heaven help me ... should I be worried???!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Home Improvement: The Ultimate Marriage Test

A few weeks ago my husband announced that our front door needed to be refinished and I was in total agreement because I had, for some time, been wanting to change the entrance. I explained that I wanted to go with a darker stain and create a door that looks aged and weathered ... antique, if you will.

Together we went to Lowe's and purchased supplies: sandpaper, masking tape, and a deep chocolate brown Minwax stain called Jacobean. We returned home and, while I was discovering new lyrics to a Paul Simon song, my husband got to work.

After a while I took a peek.

"Uhm, that color is still a little too light," I said. "Were you planning on painting a second coat?"

I'm not sure if he was actually planning to, but he did. And just to be sure, he painted a third coat before calling me out to take a look.

YIKES! It was dark, all right ... almost black. AND it was so shiny I could see my reflection.

I must have look horrified because my husband immediately got defensive.

"YOU picked the color," he said.

"WE picked the color," I corrected.

"Give it some time," he said. "The color will fade."

"When, in twenty-five years?" I asked, trying to tone down my sarcasm.

I stared at the door. The mental picture of a warm, inviting front door did not, in any way, resemble the reality of the black, shiny, monstrosity of a door that now graced our front porch.

And I knew that we were headed where many couples have gone before ... the Will-This-Marriage-Survive-the-Makeover/Paint Job/Renovation Epidemic that is due, in a very big way, to every Home Depot and Lowe's springing up across the country.

"You'll get used to it, you'll see," said my husband, whose decorating philosophy is to just wait it out because, over time, anyone can get used to anything.

Well, there was no way I would get used to that door. The following weekend I attacked that door with sandpaper, determined (at the very least) to get rid of some of that shininess.

I sanded a little bit here, and a little bit there, and some more over here. The older stain started showing through in places and, before I even realized it was happening, the door of my dreams began to emerge ... a door that looks as if it has been salvaged from an older home.

Welcome! Benvenuti!

I love, love, love my front door. And just to be clear, I love my husband, too.

But we're not going to be repainting the kitchen any time soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Diamonds on the Soda Machine?

Yesterday was one of my husband's Fridays off, and while he worked on staining the front door I was inside dusting. The windows were open, so I decided to put on a cd and crank up the volume so we could both hear it.

I selected Paul Simon's Graceland, which I think is one of the single best albums of all time. The percussion, the African rhythms ... just beautiful.

And there, on track no. 5, I made a startling discovery: up until that very moment I thought the lyrics to the song were diamonds on the soda machine. Imagine my surprise when I heard diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Huh? I grabbed the cd and sure enough ...

When I told my husband he was, quite frankly, speechless.

As I'm sure you are, too.

In my defense, refer to my previous post ... it will explain everything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's not what we say ... it's what we mean to say

My mom, my sister and I have this quirky trait: we (unknowingly) swap out words to come up with new titles.

For example:

Me, to the boys: Nonno and Nonna are in South Dakota today. They are visiting the sites where Dancing with the Wolves was made.

What I meant to say: Dances with Wolves


My Mom, to us: Have you seen that new television show, Two Seconds to Win It?

What she meant to say: Minute to Win it


My Sister to me: You know, that movie Postcards from Verona is coming out on DVD today.

What she meant to say: Letters to Juliet.


Me, to the boys: Why don't we watch a movie tonight ... how about Wind Breaker?

What I meant to say: Air Bender


That last one had my boys rolling in laughter ... especially when it took me a good five minutes to figure out what was so funny. When I finally got it (that's another quirky trait I have ... it takes me a while to get it) I had to admit it was funny ... I mean, can you IMAGINE a movie entitled Wind Breaker? Sheesh.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

King of the Kandy Kastle

This past Saturday night we let Timothy plan Family Night. This was his first time in charge, so he took it very seriously.

Here's what he came up with:

Food: pizza
Faith: say the Our Father together
Fun: play Candy Land

Of course, earlier in the day we took Nicholas and Jonathan aside and set some ground rules: no teasing Timothy about his Family Night, go along with whatever he planned, and everyone must participate (even Nicholas's friend who was spending the night with us).

So, after some pizza we sat around the kitchen table and Timothy led us in saying the Our Father. Then he announced that we were all playing Candy Land and, to their credit, not one of the teens groaned or rolled their eyes.

And because the game only comes with four gingerbread men, Joe and I sat back and watched four boys (ages 6, 13, 15,15) play some serious Candy Land.

They cheered when they pulled the Queen Frostine card, groaned when Mr. Mint sent them back to the beginning of the board, and called each other some really, really bad names such as Gramma Nut, Plumpy and, most insulting of all, Princess Lolly.

At the end of the night, Nicholas may have been crowned King Kandy . . .

but Timothy was the real winner because his first Family Night was a big success.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Little Caesars Dancing Girl

Saturday evening I decided to leave the men at home and run an errand. Truthfully, the "errand" was an excuse; I was tired and looking forward to an hour by myself.

At a busy intersection I passed a Little Caesars carryout restaurant which is famous for their $5 pizzas. Ever since their grand opening a few months ago, the Little Caesars mascot has been a permanent fixture at that intersection and we have been thoroughly entertained. The mascot dances, waves, and twirls around. The mascot is cute.

This evening, however, the mascot wasn't there; instead, on the corner was a teenage girl, wearing a reflective vest (it was starting to get dark) and holding a Little Caesars posterboard.

And she was dancing. She had earphones in her ears and she was waving her posterboard and she was dancing. Joyously.

She was twirling and whirling and so into the moment, oblivious to the traffic and the noise.

And she made me laugh ... out loud.

I drove through the intersection and turned around. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I just felt as if I had to thank her for her joy.

As I pulled into the parking lot outside the restaurant the girl was walking back. Her shift was over.

I stood by the door. When she approached I told her what a good job she did and how her joy was infectious.

And she laughed.

And I laughed.

And that's it. My errand was over and I went home.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Nose Knows

Things have been smelly around here. Really, really smelly.


One word ... football.

Who knew boys could get so stinky? When I pick my son up after a three hour practice held in 95-degree heat, I crank the air conditioner ... and crack the windows so I can breathe.

When we get home, his dirty clothes cannot, under any circumstance, be tossed into the hamper; instead, they are hung outside on the back porch to dry . . . and air out.

After the last game, even his football gloves smelled funny. Everything but his cleats went straight into the washing machine.

Stink. Stank. Stunk. If blogger had a scratch-n-sniff feature ...

Okay. We won't go there.

On the other hand, here's Timothy's pezzetta (his blankie).

He has slept with his pezzetta ever since he was born. It used to be one blanket, but after a scary couple of hours when we thought it was lost, Nonna cut it in half and made two pezzettas.

And here's the best part: his pezzetta has the most wonderful smell. It smells sweet, and good, and cuddly, and so much like the little boy. When I make his bed in the morning I hold it up to my face and breathe deeply. It gets washed frequently --in the same detergent as his other clothes -- but it still has its own special smell. How does this happen?

I truly don't know . . .

but I sure wish football players had pezzettas.

An October-ish Christmas Present

Dear Joey,

I know it's early, but I really, really would like a new camera for Christmas.

Remember, I had wanted to buy one before our trip to Italy, but decided against it for two reasons: a) I felt guilty spending the money before we even left the country, and b) I wanted to give myself time to research exactly what I wanted.

So I've been limping along with our old digital one, the one that takes a good three minutes to snap a picture . . . three minutes in which everyone has to keep smiling like idiots and not move a muscle.

Now, thanks to my brother and my cousin Dami, who both have done the camera research for me, I know exactly what I want; in short, I want what they have. Simple, right?

And here's what I was thinking: maybe it would be good to get the camera before Christmas so I have time to study the instruction manual.

And since Thanksgiving is just a few weeks earlier, and we always travel over Thanksgiving, maybe it would be a good idea to have the camera then.

Oh, and about Halloween. Isn't it sad how the two older boys don't dress up anymore? But aren't we lucky that we still have Timothy who, this year, wants to be Luke Skywalker? It's too bad our old digital camera takes such lousy nighttime photos, though.

So, what do you think? And just to make things easy for you, don't worry about wrapping it . . . finding Christmas wrapping paper in October might be a problem.


Standing still, grinning like idiots ... waiting for the picture to take.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why God Matters

Why God Matters
a book review

I once read that in our faith journey, one either goes forward or one goes backwards . . . but one cannot stand still.

As a busy mother with three sons, standing still wouldn't describe my life. With my boys in Catholic School, it seems as if our faith is woven into the very fabric of our family: Mass on Sundays; big, Italian celebrations for every Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage; monthly Reconciliation; grace before meals; Sunday night rosary.

And yet, I wonder if my relationship with God - my personal faith journey - is being overshadowed by all the running around I am doing to live my faith; in other words, by doing things in the name of my faith, am I losing sight of God, the source of my faith?

This is one of many questions addressed in the book Why God Matters by Deacon Steven Lumbert and his daughter, Karina Lumbert Fabian. Through personal stories, scripture, and references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church they have written a straight-forward book reminding us that when we look for God in our ordinary day-to-day life, it then becomes extraordinary.

It's a simple book by a father and daughter, but its very simplicity highlights the richness of our faith.

And it inspired me to view every day as a gift in my faith journey . . . a journey for which I will neither stand still nor retrace my steps, but one in which I will continue to move forward.

Why God Matters
How to Recognize Him in Daily Life
by: Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steven Lumbert
book website: go here
Excerpt: Chapter 2

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nonno eating? Nonno Praying? Nonno Loving? Nonno sleeping.

My parents' downstairs air conditioner broke last week. During the night it wasn't a problem because they simply moved to an upstairs bedroom, but during the few days it took to order a new unit their waking hours were spent anywhere but at home.

They visited my sister in Columbia, they went to the mall, and one weekday afternoon they decided to go see a movie.

Before I continue, here's what you should know about my father: he watches the news, Jeopardy, and any movie with John Wayne in it. That's it. If anyone happens to be watching anything else, my Dad sees that as an opportune time to take a nap.

So, imagine my grin when my mom announced they were going to see Eat, Pray, Love.

Oh, this was going to be good. My father watching Julia Roberts eat her way through Italy, pray in India, and fall in love in Bali.

Imagine that . . . Nonno at a chick flick. Even just thinking about it sent me into gales of laughter. When I called my husband with this earth-shattering news, and after he asked, What's Eat, Pray, Love? he said, At least it will be cool in the theater so he can take a nap.

See what I mean? My Dad is very predictable.

So, what did you think of the movie?
I asked my Dad the following evening.

What do you think? he responded, trying to sound grumpy while grinning at the same time.

Which, in my opinion, is a very evasive answer.

So here's what I think: deep down in the recesses of his John Wayne heart . . . he secretly enjoyed it (at least those parts during which he was awake).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

911 Emergency

I never thought I would have to dial 911, but yesterday I did. It wasn't because of a car accident, or an illness, or a robbery.

I called because of a young boy I saw walking along the railroad tracks on a very busy Riverwatch Parkway.

A boy who should have been in school.

A boy who was (maybe) ten years old.

A boy who was all alone.

I pulled over.

Son, I called. Did you miss your bus? Shouldn't you be in school?

He looked at me, frowning.

No, he replied. I was suspended.

As he continued walking, here's what I thought: Suspended? The boy is ten years old! Suspended? This is only the third week of school! Suspended? He still shouldn't be wandering around unsupervised.

So, I called 911. They took the boy's description, the direction he was headed, and said they'd send a car to look for him.

There is a saying, Give me a child for the first seven years, and I will give you a man . . . and I couldn't help wondering what happened in this boy's first seven years that, by the age of ten, he is suspended from school and walking along a railroad track.

I wish, for him, someone had called 911 years ago.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Extraordinarily Ordinary

Once upon a time ...
there was a king! my young readers would say.
But no, my dear children, you are mistaken.
Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.
~introduction to Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio

Today was the kind of day that you try to imagine life as someone other than who you are.

To be sure, I wasn't sad or nostalgic. I wasn't complaining or lamenting my lot. It's just that every once in a while I get the feeling that I need to burst out of my roles as mother and wife and ... play the cello, or create an oil painting, or sing the lead in a musical.

Except, I don't know how to do any of those things although, amazingly, in my heart I somehow feel as if I could.

Sometimes I will imagine in my mind a small church nestled in the woods, or a city on a rainy afternoon, or the mist hanging low over a lake -- images that I know would look beautiful on canvas.

But when I try to capture the image by sketching it in pencil, it comes out looking amateurish; the image in my mind evaporates and I feel empty.

Sometimes I am presented a wonderful opportunity -- a risk, to be sure, but also an adventure -- but one that requires more courage than I have.

Like when I was a junior in college, had an interview with the Peace Corp all lined up, but never went to it. Today, I can still imagine that appointment calendar with a big no show written in ink next to my name.

Do you ever feel that way? That, despite obvious shortcomings, you can be bigger or better than you are?

That within you is the potential to be extraordinary instead of ordinary?

That's how I felt today and, although I wasn't extraordinary in the least, I am not finished. I know that.

Like Geppetto's block of wood, I am a work in progress and extraordinary will come ... one day.

C'era una volta ...
--Un re! -- diranno subito i miei piccoli lettori.
No, ragazzi, avete sbagliato. C'era una volta un pezzo di legno.
~Le avventure di Pinocchio

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taking a Knee

Playing football at a Catholic High School means attending Mass right before the game. Football and Faith ... it works.

In a moment of weakness my husband and I decided to let our 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.