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

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

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.