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

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

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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Little Melancholy on a Rainy Evening

This evening I attended Back to School Night in which parents have the opportunity to go and meet their child's teacher.

As I was sitting at my son's desk, noticing how he organized his books and how his pencil was sharpened down to a nub because he (obviously) loves his handheld pencil sharpener, I became a little melancholy. One son in high school, one son in eighth grade, and one son (my baby) in first grade.

Then I remembered this letter I wrote almost three years ago.

That feeling never does go away, does it?

Dear Little One,

You know how Peter Pan felt when he lost his shadow? Well, that's how I feel today on this, your first day of preschool. For the past four years you have been my shadow, accompanying me everywhere: Bible Study, carpool, luncheons, weekday Mass, library.

The one constant of my days has been you at my side.

This morning I went to the grocery store and you weren't there to mix up my coupons or beg for a matchbox car. I didn't have to explain in two words ("morning snack") to the checkout lady when she asks why the potato chips, the fruit snacks, or the animal cookies were all open.

And now you're off on your own, experiencing exciting adventures, meeting new friends, learning new things, and discovering the beautiful world that is out there. You will have fun, of that I am sure.

But I will miss you.

It seems that once a mother gives birth, she then spends the rest of her life letting her baby go.

Mille Bacioni,

A Little Jedi Wisdom at the Park

I like when school starts because I am more organized with my exercise routine. Most mornings, I drop the boys off at school and, on the way home, stop at a nearby park and jog 2-3 miles.

But I am not an ordinary jogger because I like to do intervals of power walking, sprinting, and jogging. I really work up a sweat and get my heart rate going.

This morning I was keeping pace with a black woman in front of me. She was a little older than me, short, and very, very round. Not overweight ... just round.

But boy could she jog. She jogged and jogged without stopping.

As I was walking around trying to cool off after my workout, she approached me and asked why I always walked up the hills and then jogged down them.

A little embarassed, I started telling her about my interval training routine of walking and jogging, of how I maintain a good heart rate, of how . . .

but then I stopped.

She was actually making me feel guilty.

You keep a very good pace, she said. But you should jog up those hills. Learn to use the terrain ... lean into the hills, and then catch your breath as you let the momentum carry you down the hills.

Wow. I felt like I was getting a lesson on life from Yoda.

But her name was Dell, and I liked her.

I hope I see her tomorrow . . . and you can bet I will be jogging up those hills.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is why we won't be using tablecloths for a while ...

A short video to wow your Monday (p.s. Tizi, click on play).

Thanks, Michelle, for giving my boys ideas. Sheesh.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Different Points of View

What my husband and I like about our son's decision to play football? The discipline. With Study Hall immediately after school, followed by a practice for 2-3 hours, then more homework ... his days are full.

What my son likes about his decision to play football? On game days, a cheerleader "assigned" to him will bring him a baked good during homerooom.

There he is on the left ... #15.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do You Speak Caveman?

Oh the joys of what it means to have a teenager in the house.

Okay. That was totally sarcastic.

But really, how have we raised a caveman? Lately our son doesn’t talk, he grunts; he answers questions with one word; he slouches. Really, all he needs is a bone through his nose.

Then there is the fact that he is also grumpy. He is a grumpy caveman.

AND he is so moody. He is a moody, grumpy caveman.

I am getting whiplash from trying to keep up with his moods. Is that a happy face? Grumpy face? I’m not really sure … they all look the same.

Part of the problem is the stress of this first week of school: classes, homework, football, and his stint as a writer for the Teen Board on the Augusta Chronicle all started THIS WEEK. Going from the nothingness of summer to a full schedule is not fun, so we are trying to be understanding and supportive.

But Geez Louise.

Anyway, I know my limitations, so today I searched for advice from several Catholic Parenting Web sites.

Yes, I am perfectly willing to admit when I need help.

One site had an entire section on teens, and one point that was emphasized was that the responsibility for developing a healthy parent-child relationship rests primarily with the parent; that (like it or not) it's really up to us to keep the peace and maintain open lines of communication.

Okay, I get that. We’re the adults, we’re mature, we know how to take the higher road. In other words, we are bigger than they are.

Then there were Biblical references concerning the "rod" of discipline (Prov. 13:24; 23: 13-14). In Biblical times the rod was the staff used by shepherds, not as punishment, but as a way to corral and guide wayward sheep.

What a beautiful image. That’s exactly what my husband and I are trying to do as parents … guide our son in the ways of the world.

Unfortunately, as I was letting this beautiful image run through my mind, I happened to glance at my watch. The time in which my son was supposed to call home to check in came … and went. No phone call whatsoever.

Truthfully, in that very moment, I just wanted to take that rod and whack my son over the head with it.

Now who’s the caveman?


Be nice ... or else (the bathroom incident)

Yesterday's post resulted in my brother, David, the upright and compassionate doctor that he is, turning into a tattle-tale about his wife, Leah, and the "Bathroom Incident."

Here ... in his own words:

Leah’s bathroom story in a nutshell:

1. Leah is in bathroom at restaurant in Italy, tries to flush toilet by pulling the “panic cord.”

2. Toilet doesn’t flush, therefore #1 gets repeated multiple times.

3. Panic bell is ringing like crazy wherever the employees are hanging out, they therefore rush into the bathroom.

4. Leah doesn’t speak Italian.

5. Said employees don’t speak English.

6. Toilet is still not flushed (awkward…)

7. Everybody hugs and eats food.

That pretty much covers it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Be nice ... or else.

As the only one in my family who blogs, here is what I have to deal with:

-are you going to put that in your blog?
-hey, I am going to tell you something, but don't put it in your blog.
-you're going to blog about this, aren't you?
-I read your blog today ... I'm telling Mom what you wrote.
-is this what you call a blog-worthy moment?
-uh,oh ... she has that look ... she's going to blog.

Oh, they tease me, but the exact thing they tease me about has now become my secret weapon.

As in ...

If you guys don't stop laughing at me I'm going to blog about ...

-the time David put Laura's box turtle in his mouth;
-Laura's bubble on her nose that all the doctors took pictures of;
-Leah's bathroom incident in Italy;
-the time David "ran away" from home;
-Nonno's fire safety demonstration while camping;
-Nonna's interview with channel 6;
-Joe's golf ball trick and resulting black eye;
-Nonno losing his pants while fishing w/ Nicholas;
-the time Peter spit up on Christopher's head;
-Laura's dentist - I mean - dental appointment;
-Laura's doctor appointment ... cough, cough;
-Mom and her flying shoe;
-Patrick driving around, and around, and around, and around, and around the traffic circle in Italy.

See? I have plenty that I could say.

So you'd better be nice to me ... that's all I'm saying.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Well, duh . . .

A few weeks ago (or months? summer does something to my sense of time) our blogging Catholic School teacher, Laura, wrote this post about how the purchase of a pair of rubber gloves turned her into a super scrub woman (minus the cape).

And that post got me thinking: why in the heck am I not wearing rubber gloves?

Despite applying lotion to my hands on an almost hourly basis, my hands are always dry. I guess applying lotion and then submerging my hands in water is counterproductive.

Yes, I see that now.

Then I thought about my zia Tiziana who has just lovely hands. While we were in Italy this summer she cooked, washed dishes, cooked, and washed dishes for us incessantly . . . and no dry hands. Why? She wore rubber gloves.

So that's it. BASTA! No more dry hands for me. I bought myself a pair of rubber gloves.

Purple ones.

And I am a new person.

I see what Laura was talking about . . . I am a superwoman wearing these gloves. I no longer leave a cup in the sink "for later" just because I don't want to get my hands wet. No! I slip on my purple rubber gloves and deal with the matter right away (see? they even help with procrastination).

Overnight I have become . . . everyone sing along now . . .

a two-eyed, no horned, standing purple-handed cleaner!

I think the ring adds a certain flair, no?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Last Quote Says It All

Quotes from my nephew, Christopher, who survived his first overnight summer camp experience ... a week which included 100+ degree heat and many severe thunderstorms.

"I loved it!"

"I need to buy a battery-powered fan for next year."

"I held a snake around my neck and I wasn't even wearing a shirt!"

"These strange designs on my arms were drawn by my counselor in permanent ink!"

"Don't worry about this rash on my torso and back; everyone has it."

"We had a mud pit fight Saturday. Want to see my shirt?"

"My favorite part was the dance Friday night."

"Let me show you how to do the sprinkler dance."

"Gosh, it's cold in here!"

"Go away; I'm napping."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Hankie for My Pocket

A Hankie for My Pocket

by Maria Novajosky
*published in the July/August issue of Canticle Magazine, 2009

For one week this past summer our family had a nun from Tanzania stay with us in our home. To prepare for her visit I cleaned, made lists, and lectured my three sons on the importance of table manners (elbows off the table) and good behavior (no arguing, no name calling). I was nothing if not organized. What I wasn’t prepared for was what she would teach me.

Once Sister Gaudiosa arrived, it didn’t take long for everyone to be drawn to her enthusiasm and zest for life. She visited our sons’ school and taught the class the “Our Father” in Swahili. She watched football with my husband, giggling when he got too technical in his explanations. She often sat down on the floor and had lengthy conversations with our toddler (no language barriers between those two).

As the week progressed, I stopped consulting my lists and started enjoying just being with her. We were two women from completely different countries, with different callings in life, and yet we had marvelous heart-to-heart conversations. I loved how she spent an hour ironing her veils, how she danced for us when we found some Tanzanian music on the internet, how she always had one helping at the dinner table and never, ever had seconds, and I loved how she laughed with complete abandonment when I took her to see “Hairspray” at the movie theater.

One day we decided to take her on a day trip to Atlanta. That morning I rushed around gathering maps, coupons, and our itinerary. It was cloudy, so I found some umbrellas. I pulled out my biggest purse and packed it with necessities:  wallet, makeup, sunglasses, eyeglasses, camera, snacks for the boys . . . by the time I was done my purse must have weighed twenty-five pounds.

And Sister? As we headed out the door she quietly slipped a hankie into her pocket.

On the way to Atlanta, as I thought about that hankie and compared it to my stuffed handbag, I recognized the freedom that can be found in simplicity. It took almost the entire week, but spending time with Sister helped me see simplicity as a gift, a peace of mind and heart uncluttered by the craziness of our lives. Sometimes all we simply have to do is decide we want it.

Now, I am not naive. I have three sons, one of whom is a toddler, and I do need my purse. But I am learning to make things less complicated and to recognize the beauty of God’s gift of simplicity. A walk in the woods, a child’s laughter, a rainy afternoon, or a meal with a neighbor are simple things that say more about the gift of life than all the running around we do to live it. So now, when I leave home my purse no longer weighs twenty-five pounds . . . it’s down to fifteen.

And I always, always slip a hankie into my pocket.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One Journey

This has been a summer of travel for our family and this past Thursday we embarked on yet another trip to Virginia Beach . . . but this time to say goodbye to Nana who had passed away last week.

This was our second trip there within a one month period, and the contrast between that first trip and this one is a study on life: three weeks ago we were full of plans that included swimming in Nana and Papa's pool, going to Busch Gardens, visiting cousins.

This time we were full of thoughts on how it was going to be to enter Nana and Papa's house with Nana gone. After 54 years of marriage, how would Papa be? How would the the boys and their cousins handle it? How could my sister in-law, who said goodbye to her husband a mere two months ago, now say goodbye to her mother?

But a wonderful thing happened over the course of the weekend: it was all okay . . . beautiful, even.

To be sure, tears were shed; however, there was an overwhelming peace in knowing that it was okay to smile and laugh; that in gathering together we divided grief; that death can be a source of blessings and graces.

When Nana was diagnosed three months ago with pancreatic cancer, she knew exactly what she was facing, and she was dreading the ravages of the disease. But when she suddenly passed away from a stroke last week, she bypassed all the awfulness that comes with a stage 4 cancer. We were able to see her death as the gift it was, one free from suffering and pain.

Then, over the past month her four children (my husband, his brother, and two sisters), their spouses, and nine grandchildren (8 grandsons, 1 granddaughter) had wonderful visits with her. We were all given the gift of being with the Nana we know and love - which is how she would have wanted us all to remember her.

Finally, Nana had made it very clear to her husband and her children that she did not want any extraordinary measures taken to prolong her life. When the time came, her children had been given the gift of knowing when to let go . . . and accepting it.

Acceptance is a beautiful thing because it converts the internal struggle of it's not right to this is the way it is, and it's okay. Accepting God's will. Accepting the sadness. Accepting that, somehow, it is all good.

I used to think of life as one journey and death as another, and yet they are part of the same journey. Two trips, one journey.

Life . . . in all its stages.