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

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Kindness Challenge

1- The inspiration for this post.

Thanksgiving week I came across a book called One Good Deed a Day. Basically, it's a journal with daily ideas for doing something kind. As I stood there flipping the pages and reading the different entries, I was reminded that being good, or kind, or thoughtful sometimes requires purposeful intention. I bought the book, and ...

2- ... came across this story. Tissues, anyone?

A tourist took this photo of NYC policeman, Larry DePrimo, presenting thermal socks and all-weather boots to a homeless man in Times Square. Then he knelt and helped the man put them on. You can read the entire story here.

3- Which reminded me of an airline ticket agent.

Once, after spending a couple of weeks with us, we drove Sr. Gaudiosa to the airport and, as we were helping her check in, the agent said that both suitcases were overweight and she would have to pay extra. It was a pretty hefty fine.

I looked at the agent and said, "Everything she owns in this world is in these two suitcases."

And I knew what I was talking about because I had helped her pack them: her habits made from thick, blue material, her black shoes, and some toiletries. That's about it.

The agent didn't say anything, and my husband got out his wallet to pay the fine.

Except there wasn't one.

When the agent took the suitcases he said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Have a safe flight, Sister."

And he smiled.

Sr. Gaudiosa

4- And let's talk about the kindness of strangers.

Once upon a time a stranger stopped to help me after I had a car accident. He called 911 for me, and stayed with me until the police arrived. Later, he returned with some cold Diet Cokes for me and some Oreo cookies and juice boxes for my son. His name was Chaz, and a couple of years later I heard he had passed away. Here's the letter I wrote his family.

5- An anonymous gift.

During my second year teaching high school in a rough neighborhood I had to be present at a parent conference held in the principal's office. It wasn't one of my students, but I had witnessed an incident and had to be there. It was ugly, the parents were hateful, and I left in tears. I was both frustrated and disillusioned.

The next morning I got to school and on my desk was a beautiful flower arrangement in a ceramic vase designed to look like stacked books. There was a lovely, encouraging note ... unsigned. I never found out who sent them.

6- Little things make a huge difference.

The sales clerk who gave me the sale price when I didn't have a coupon; our neighbor who picked up our newspapers when we were out of town; the thank you note with the Starbucks gift card I received for a small favor; a new friend in my Body Pump class who set up my step and weights for me in my usual spot; the stranger who complimented my outfit; the young man at a carnival who won a prize and gave it to our son who didn't win.

 It goes on and on.

7- Now it's your turn ...

~Forgive someone.
~Strike up a conversation.
~Be happy for someone.
~Compliment a complete stranger.
~Be the first to apologize.
~Make art.
~Stop obsessing.
~Withhold judgement.
~Let it go.
~Befriend someone new.

*Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary. She's kind enough to host this event every Friday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When words are inadequate ...

The above photo says it all.

Several times now I have started to write about our Thanksgiving week; over the holidays I even opened my laptop to blog about our family adventures, but as soon as the screen loaded I shut it down again.

Sometimes words get in the way, and it was lovely to just to be in the moment and not try to capture or hold it down in any way.

Besides, how can I take a week of memories and whittle them down into a simple blog post? How can I possibly fit all the words I need onto this computer screen to adequately describe our beautiful beach house, dolphins in the ocean, loud poker games, and beach football?

How can words -- neatly lined up in military precision -- convey the confusion (and sometimes bedlam) of 17 people under one roof? Of the laughter, the time-outs, the endless dishes, the slamming doors, and even of that nasty cold virus making the rounds?

And what tender words do I use to describe the Hallmark moments -- Bear's hugs, Nonna and Nonno square dancing, the grandchildren huddled around Nonno as he opened his birthday gifts, or everyone hula hooping, singing, juggling, or playing an instrument during the Family Talent Show?

I am a poor writer, because I have no words for it all.

Except thankful. Maybe that will do.

The Gathering Place

A Surprise for Nonna and Nonno
A Family Art show featuring art from every family member ...


Nonno's birthday gift: Art Supplies
(See? There was a theme to the evening)
Because he is always borrowing crayons, markers, and pencils from the grandchildren, and because he does have some hidden artistic talent, we gave Nonno his own art supplies.
We also gave him an iPad, but that's another story because 
who knew the words Nonno and iPad would ever be in the same sentence??

Family Talent Show:
Everyone participated, including 
Nonno and Nonna who showed us their square dancing moves!


Sunrise from our back deck

Again, thankful. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Who was Lino Villacha?

1.  He lived in Brazil.
2.  He was a poet.
3.  He had leprosy.
4.  His wife had leprosy.
5.  He lost his lower limbs to the disease.
6.  He was friends with Sandro, whose life is being invesitaged by the Holy See as a candidate for sainthood.
7.  And this is one of Lino's poems ... which is our family's Thanksgiving blessing every year.

Obrigado Senhor

Thank you, Lord, for my healthy limbs, when so many are crippled,
For my perfect eyes, when so many are without light,
For this voice that sings, when so many are mute,
For these hands that work, when so many have to beg.
It is wonderful, Lord, to have a home to return to,
When there are so many who don't know where to go.
It is wonderful, Lord, to laugh, love, dream,
When so many cry, hate, and die before being born.
It is wonderful, Lord, to have so little to ask,
And so much to be thankful for.

Lino Villacha

Sandro Nottegar and Lino Villacha
*You can read about Sandro here and here, and Lino here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Best Thank You Note Ever

From my nephew ...

Thank you Aunt Maria
for my Dream Lite Pillow Pet
that lights up in the dark.
I love it super much almost as much as God!
Whoa. I think he liked it.
I'm a good auntie, no? 
Sorrento-the Amalfi Coast
Italy, 2010

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ha. Ha. Very Funny.

I came home and gathered everyone into the kitchen to show them my new purchase: texting gloves!

Joe and the boys weren't impressed.

Joe: A pair of gloves with the fingertips cut off? Did you pay money for these?

The boys just laughed.

Huh. I never claimed my guys were fashion forward. At all.

Anyway, that night we were watching Fiddler on the Roof.

What does that particular movie have to do with my purchase? Absolutely nothing, until someone pointed out that Tevya and the villagers were all wearing texting gloves, too.

Tevya, Fiddler on the Roof
Sheesh. For some reason they thought this was funny.

Ha. Ha.

I still like my gloves.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Life Lately: I sincerely apologize for the following quick takes

Yesterday my sister sent me a photo (see #5 below), and the fact that she and I found it funny just shows how being the mom of boys opens up a whole new world. So, I sincerely apologize for the following ...

1. Poopy Words
Not too long ago I picked Timothy up from school and he told me that during activity time he had to put his flower in the weed bucket (a disciplinary chart: good behavior = flower in the basket; bad behavior = flower in the weed bucket).

Evidently he and two friends were saying "poopy words".

Upon further questioning it seems that at the time they had been making gingerbread...with each child given a chunk of brown, lumpy dough.

And I'm thinking: if you give a boy something brown and lumpy, it's just a matter of time before the poopy words begin.

2. Bathroom humor in the kitchen
I am cooking when I hear Timothy giggling.

I look up, and notice he is staring at these cute salt and pepper shakers I purchased in Sorrento, Italy two summers ago.
I know he's up to something, but darn if I can figure out what it is.

Then, one at a time, Timothy drags his brothers into the kitchen, points at the shakers and whispers something that has them laughing.

Now I know he's up to something.

And he is. It seems he is looking at the pepper shaker and, instead of pronouncing it pepe with two short e sounds, he was pronouncing it with two long e sounds.

Which he thought was terribly funny . . . as did his brothers.
3.  And speaking of the bathroom ... it once inspired a poem
(from the files of very bad poetry by Bia)
So here’s the thing, my three sweet boys
I was in your bathroom today.
But when I entered I lost my poise
and stood there in utter dismay.

I shouted out so all could hear,
Why, oh why can’t you boys aim?
Who is at fault? It’s really quite clear
There’s no one but you three to blame.

Now aiming is something I know you can do…
It’s done in sports, I assume.
So make your aim so straight and so true
Like an athlete…in the bathroom!

Indoor plumbing is a privilege, you know
Its comforts you must respect.
And when nature calls and you have to go
Into the bowl your piddle you’ll direct.

Or else.

Love, Mom
4. Better not to know
Running carpool one afternoon, the van full of boys started discussing the following three categories: machine gun ... atomic ... sbd (silent but deadly)


If you don't know what they're talking about . . . keep it that way. Sometimes ignorance definitely is bliss!
5. Since we're already in the toilet ...
6. Oh, let's talk about picking our noses, shall we? 

It's early Saturday morning and Timothy climbs into bed with us.

"Guess what?"


"Last night I had a giant booger in my nose," he informs us.

"And then what?" I inquire.

"It was on my finger."

"What did you do with it?" I ask, hoping that a tissue figures somewhere into this story.

"Then it got stuck on my thumb," he announces proudly.

Oh boy.

"But I don't see it anymore," he says. "I don't know where it went."

And I am thinking that this morning ... I am changing all the sheets.
7. And thank goodness for lemon-scented wet ones!
Jonathan (then in middle school) and a few friends decide to get a group together to go and see an afternoon movie. After a flurry of phone calls, and once the dust settles, the group consists of three guys and three girls.

Even numbers ... very clever.

To kill time before leaving, Jonathan and his two buddies play some serious basketball in our driveway. They play hard for almost an hour, and then pile into the car smelling like ... well, like boys who have been playing basketball in 95 degree weather in the middle of the afternoon. Not serious body odor, but ...

Okay. They smell like dogs.

On the other hand, I am sure that the girls (and correct me if I am wrong) have spent at least two hours calling each other, planning outfits, taking showers, and styling their hair.

The only hair styling going on with the guys is them sticking their faces right next to the air conditioning vents to cool off.

Hey guys, I say as I drive. You know, before you meet girls at the movies maybe it's not such a good idea to get quite so sweaty.

They are thinking about this, I can tell. One even sniffs his armpit.

Without saying anything, I pull out a packet of Lemon Scented Wet Ones and they begin seriously wiping faces, arms, legs, and even their hair. They don't have a comb (I was NOT going to give them mine), so they use their fingers to, basically, not improve matters whatsoever.

A few minutes later I watch them walk into the theater: one has a giant hole in his sneaker partially covered with duct tape, the other is wearing shorts with a shirt that doesn't match, and the last one's hair is sticking straight up on one side.

They are joking, laughing, more than a little goofy, and very loveable.

Amazingly, they smell like lemons.

Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. She's doesn't like to fly, so say a prayer for her.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Family Dinner on Election Night

Sometimes you just need to go with it.

Case in point, all this election hoopla.

Truth be told, we have been enjoying it. This is the first time the older boys have taken an active interest in the political arena, and it's been nice watching these young adults laugh and poke fun at the local political ads, ask questions on issues, and form opinions.

This morning, when they left for school, it dawned on me that today was huge. Yes, there is this little thing called the presidential election, but it's also the day the boys will be witnessing the result of something they've been following for a while now. It is, after all, an event which they are learning to be part of.

So, I needed to make this day special which meant, of course, a celebratory family dinner ... an Election Night Dinner. I thought about including foods from the candidates' home states, but in the end I wanted it to be about us, a family, like many others across the nation, sitting down to wait the election results.

Chicken and Dumplings, crusty bread, fruit parfaits. Comfort food.

And drinking through straws ... straw polls, get it?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Life Lately: How long it takes to burn off a Tootsie Roll (and other quick takes)

1. My husband has been in Albuquerque all week and tonight, sitting at our little guy's soccer game, I was missing him (especially because he is my personal furnace and I was sitting on cold, metal bleachers and freezing).

Around halftime I get this text: I've been saving up for your Christmas present. Are you intrigued?

Suddenly, I didn't feel cold anymore.

4. My shopping experiment this past Tuesday? A huge success. No fuss, no complaints. Jonathan picked out five items and Nicholas four. Whoa. Progress. Definitely.

3. Have you seen this? The little girl started sobbing because she was tired of hearing about the election. She and her mother had been listening to NPR during a trip to the grocery store when the 4-year-old decided she was done.

4. I've actually been enjoying all the election coverage. Our older boys have been very interested in this election, and I love having grown up conversations with them about various issues. In fact, our oldest is bummed he is two months away from being old enough to vote.

5. Speaking of voting ... done. Early voting is great; I was in and out in less than five minutes.

6. I don't know what's wrong with me, but this Halloween has been about Tootsie Rolls. I think I ate ... well, I won't tell you how many I ate, and I wasn't picky: the big fat ones, the long skinny ones, and the small bite-sized ones all called my name.

7. Because of #6, this morning I'm hitting the gym bright and early. According to Google it takes a 1/4 mile run or 550 steps to burn off one small Tootsie Roll. I'll be there a while.

And, believe me,  I'm not eating any more Tootsie Rolls ...

uhm, because they're all gone.

All this for some Tootsie Rolls?!

*Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for some more quick takes fun!