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

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Lessons

At the beginning of this, my birthday month, I gave myself the gift of office hours and the challenge of posting every day for the month of February.

As far as presents go, they were spot on.

By setting specific office hours -- a blocked time period in which to write, work, and answer emails -- I was much more productive. I no longer dragged my work with me throughout the day; instead, I worked during my allotted time, and then moved on to other things.

With the daily posts came some interesting discoveries. Amazingly, writing never became a chore, and throughout the day I learned to gather nuggets of inspiration, store them, and bring them out later in my writing. I also learned to write without worrying about being perfect. I didn't agonize over word choice, or phrasing, or even sentence structure. I simply wrote.

So, the month is over. Now what?

I will continue with my office hours, and I will continue to post ... although I probably won't post every day. When I made the birthday pledge I didn't factor in Lent and my Lenten resolve to tackle a certain project, which is what I really need to be concentrating on during this period.

But February turned out to be a very good month.

A very good month, indeed.



The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.

Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.


~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Afternoon in February

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Follow the Drinking Gourd



As a family, we have a love for the nighttime sky. On clear evenings we will drag the telescope outside and focus it on the moon, or Jupiter, or Venus. Often we make the 45-minute drive to the planetarium in Aiken where, on Saturday, they feature different shows about the planets and stars. So far our favorites have been 'Tis the Season (which describes the nighttime sky and the possible astronomical explanations for the Star of Bethlehem) and To the Moon and Beyond (which revisits past missions to the moon).

This past Saturday we saw Follow the Drinking Gourd, which described how slaves used astronomy and song to escape to freedom; the title refers to both the hollowed out gourd used for drinking and to the Big Dipper, which pointed to the north star that they used as a guide as they made their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and up into Canada.

I knew a little of the song's history, but what I didn't realize was how the song was passed along. According to tradition, a white laborer named Peg Leg Joe went from plantation to plantation doing odd work during the day, and then meeting with the slaves at night to teach them the song which detailed their escape route.

Every line, every word meant something. For example, the second verse goes like this:

The river bank will make a mighty good road (describes how to follow the route north)
The dead trees show you the way (they traveled in winter when the nights are longest)
Left foot, peg foot, travelling on
(Peg Leg Joe marked the trees along the way with the outline of a human left foot and a round spot for his peg leg.)
Follow the drinking gourd.

It was all wonderfully fascinating.

After the presentation we went outside to clear winter sky and there, in all its glory, was the Big Dipper pointing to Polaris, the north star. And it was sobering to think how this same sky, during this same time of year, meant salvation to so many ...


Monday, February 27, 2012

What are you wearing?

Did I stay up to watch the Oscars?
No.

Have I seen any of the Best Picture Nominees?
Yes. The Help.

Did I just spend a perfectly wasteful 20+ minutes scrolling through the Oscar fashions?
Yes.

My three favorites?
Ta-dah!

(fyi, the following represents another 20+ minutes in choosing and uploading)







And what am I wearing?
Workout clothes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stations of the Cross ... Bringing them Home


During Lent our family prays the Stations of the Cross together every Sunday evening. While our parish holds a service Friday evenings, I have found that Fridays don't work well for us mainly because the boys have already done the Stations during school that day, and to turn around and make everyone go back that night makes for a bad case of the grumpies.

So we do them at home, often inviting my parents or some friends to join us, and I like to find ways to make it special, meaningful, and spiritual. As a result, praying the Stations of the Cross has become a Lenten tradition in which our entire family actively participates.

Our favorite way to pray the Stations involves placing fourteen votives across our mantle, with a black and white etching of each station taped below. Then, as we read a station we blow out the corresponding candle until, when the last one is blown out, we sit in darkness in silent contemplation. On Easter morning we gather to read the 15th station, and instead of blowing out a candle we light an Easter candle in celebration. You can read about our tradition here, as well as find a link for the etchings.



Last year I came across a Stations of the Cross that was straight out of the sixties. I mean, if there were such thing as a Stations of the Cross for hippies, that would have been it.

But something about that version spoke to me, so much so that I decided to update it, tweak it, and make it my own. This year we will be using it for our Sunday stations...



FIRST STATION: JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH
Jesus, our brother, we stand in silence as you are condemned
by Pilate. Standing in silence is not new to us; we have stood in
silence as you went hungry by our tables, as you were orphaned
in our wars, as you walked powerless in our world. We stand in
silence because, like Pilate, we are bowed, broken, and afraid.
Give us the courage to speak in your behalf. Amen.

SECOND STATION: JESUS ACCEPTS HIS CROSS
Jesus, our brother, we watch you bear you cross and do not
understand. We are afraid of suffering. We flee sickness,
sorrow, and pain. But you carrying your cross says something
different about suffering. Help us to follow you even when we
do not understand. Amen.

THIRD STATION: JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME
Jesus, our brother, you have fallen with your cross. Everywhere
we see signs of weakness: in our Church, our nation, our world.
We see dissention, controversy, turmoil. We do not understand.
Our faith falters. Help us know and understand your strength
beneath the cross. Amen.

FOURTH STATION: JESUS MEETS HIS MOTHER
Jesus, our brother, we are moved by Mary’s love for you. She
saw beneath your grime and agony. She saw your hidden beauty.
We know she does the same for us. We need to be understood
these days, and with Mary we are not alone. Amen.

FIFTH STATION: SIMON HELPS JESUS
Jesus, our brother, we have to admire Simon. He took up
your cross and followed you. He had so little doubt, so
little hesitation. We see you suffering all around us: in
the poor, the powerless, the misunderstood. We are often
hesitant to come to your aid. We find so many excuses.
Grant us the wisdom and the courage to help the least of
our brothers, and in doing so we help you. Amen.

SIXTH STATION: VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS
Jesus, our brother, you rewarded Veronica for her courage.
You left your face upon her veil. Help us forget our fears
and reach out to serve others so you will leave the imprint
of your face upon our lives. Amen.

SEVENTH STATION: JESUS FALLS THE SECOND TIME
Jesus, our brother, you must have been discouraged by your
second fall. We, too, know discouragement. Our best efforts
sometimes end in failure, and life does not bring us peace. What
shall we do? We will imitate your example and try again …
even in the face of futility. Amen.

EIGHTH STATION: JESUS SPEAKS TO THE WOMEN
Jesus, our brother, in the midst of your sufferings you had
compassion for others and their pain. Too often we are so
self-centered. We want pity, kindness and understanding,
and yet, we are unwilling to do the same for others. Help us
forget ourselves. Awaken us to the pain of others. Amen.

NINTH STATION: JESUS FALL THE THIRD TIME
Jesus, our brother, your third fall is the beginning of your
death agony. Our world I filled with dying people: in war,
in famine, in hospitals, on highways. Many this day will die
alone. May our prayers be some comfort to the dying. Amen.

TENTH STATION: JESUS IS STRIPPED
Jesus, our brother, there is something fearful in thinking of
you stripped before the crowd. Even the privacy of clothing
is taken. You have given up everything for us. May we have
the grace to give of what we have to help our brothers and
sisters around us. Amen.

ELEVENTH STATION: JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS
Jesus, our brother, the pain of those nails was unjust. Your hands
which did such good and your feet which walked on errands of
mercy are now punished. You received little gratitude for the good
you did. Help us to be like you: to give, and ask nothing in return.
Amen.

TWELFTH STATION: JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS
Jesus, our brother, you have the greatest love for us. What
can we say in the face of it? We can only try to imitate
you by responding to the brothers and sisters you have
given to us to love. Amen.

THIRTEENTH STATION: JESUS IS TAKEN DOWN
FROM THE CROSS

Jesus, our brother, you are laid in the arms of your mother.
The agony is over, but resurrection is not yet. Your Father’s
plan requires patience. So it is with us. We reach moments
when only patience can carry us on. We know that something
better will come … but when? Help us find some of your patience
in our lives. Amen.

FOURTEENTH STATION: JESUS IS LAID IN THE TOMB
Jesus, our brother, the end of life is so definite. We fear it
deep within. We do not want to die, but help us understand
that our lives are but a prelude to a new life … a life with
you and your father. Amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I woke up today and didn't want to be me



I woke up today and didn't want to be me
Flat Stanley was who I wanted to be!
Mailed in an envelope sent across the sea
to beautiful, breathtaking, sunny Italy.


~from the files of very bad poetry by Bia, who was inspired by the following email which arrived just this morning:

Dear Timothy,

Stanley has arrived!!! We are so happy we are friends. Chiara and Martha will accompany him in the coming days to visit Verona, and then he will return to you. I hope he has a nice vacation with us and that he has fun. It's too bad, though, that you can't be here, too.
Ciao from all of us, and Stanley, too, who at this moment is watching Luciano prepare a huge plate of pasta.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Fast and Feast during Lent



~1~
FAST from doing it my way; FEAST on obedience to God.

~2~
FAST from mindlessness; FEAST on mindfulness of God's presence.

~3~
FAST from judging others; FAST on seeing Christ in them.

~4~
FAST from being in control; FEAST on obeying those who are.

~5~
FAST from busyness; FEAST on stillness by turning to God throughout the day.

~6~
FAST from running away; FEAST on stability

~7~
FAST from monotony of the everyday; FEAST on the sacredness of the ordinary

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guess who is sleeping on the floor?

The furniture we ordered end of December, which was due to arrive in February, but postponed to April, then re-scheduled for early March ... arrived YESTERDAY.

We had two days to move Timothy's car bed up in the attic, dismantle guest bed and re-assemble in Timothy's room, dismantle master bed and re-assemble in guest bedroom.

We moved dressers, nightstands, bookcases.

You can imagine the state of our house. Furniture, piles of clothes, and bedding everywhere.

Then, just to make things even more fun, remember that mattress we purchased this past Monday? It won't arrive until next week, which means we have a lovely king-sized bed with NO mattress.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Entering the Desert

Lent. Forty days now of awareness, of turning inward and taking stock. Forty days of asking hard questions, and then searching for answers.

This year, these forty days will be about climbing a mountain as I tackle an ongoing project which has been in the works for two years. I have been hesitant to put the word "book" in front of the word "project" because I am all too aware of my shortcomings as a writer; I have also been afraid of venturing into the unknown and, if I am being honest, of failing.

But it's time I face my demons.

It's time I enter that desert so I can strive for the mountaintop.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recognizing the Freedom of Lent

We all know the story of the Prodigal Son. Traditionally, the father in the parable represents our heavenly father, the older son represents the Pharisees who live the letter of the law but not the love of the law, the wayward son represents all sinners.

However, the beauty of a parable is that it can have many layers -layers that speak to us at different times in our lives and even during different liturgical seasons of the Church.

Which is why I think this parable is also a story about Lent and what happens when we misuse one of God’s most beautiful gifts . . . the gift of free will.

You’re probably wondering, “What does free will have to do with Lent?” I know that many times Lent seems as if we are in chains . . . that Lent is all about what not to eat, or what not to watch, or when to go to church. There seems to be nothing free about it at all.

But the wonderful thing about these next 40 days is that each and every day serves to remind us to appreciate the free will that is God’s gift to us; that we have the power and self-discipline to live as free people.

The key is to devote that freedom to God.

And in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, both sons show what happens when we misuse our God-given free will.

In the case of the younger son, he desired independence from his father - both his earthly and his heavenly father – and wanted to be in charge of his own life. He mistakenly thought that freedom could be found in the opportunity to do what he wanted; he didn't realize that freedom comes not from the opportunity to choose, but from choosing the right thing. Instead of finding freedom, he became enslaved to his own selfish desires.

On the other hand, the older son shows us a different kind of misuse of free will.

Lent isn’t meant to be oppressive, or weigh us down, or enslave us; if we let it do that, then we are like the older son who merely goes through the motions of doing the right thing. His misuse of free will is that he does it out of obligation ... it wears him down ... and there is no freedom in that. He doesn’t freely choose to do the right thing, he does it because he has to.

God created us in His image, and He loved us so much that he let us go ... and just like the father in the parable who lets his youngest son go only to eventually have him return home, God releases us because he wants us to freely choose him instead of being forced to choose him.

Wisdom teaches us that unless we are free to say no to something, we are not free to say yes to it. During Lent we are reminded that our free will of saying “yes” and “no” is a gift from a loving parent.

And that is what Lent is: a time to say “no” for a while so that we can fully appreciate it when we say “yes”.

John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right (or the free will) to do what we ought.”

And that’s what I want my Lenten journey to be about . . . to choose God in everything and experience that freedom he so desires us to have.

(originally posted 3-8-11)

Monday, February 20, 2012

I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.

The above quote by Henry David Thoreau has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Except that it reminds me of sleeping. Which reminds me of matresses. Which reminds me of mattress shopping.

Which is exactly what Joe and I will be doing today.

Our furniture is arriving at the end of the month and we need to have a mattress ready and waiting.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking, but it's not easy with the staggering amount of styles available: Firm. Extra firm. Plush firm. Pillow top. Foam. Then, to add to the confusion, almost every mattress brand begins with the letter S: Sealy, Simmons, Serta, Stearns & Foster, Sleep Number (repeat them over and over and you'll feel like taking a nap).

The only person who actually likes mattresses shopping is Timothy. The minute we enter a store he takes off. Bounce, bounce, bounce ... from one bed to the next. His feet never touched the floor the entire time we're in there.

Enough of this madness. Today we're getting a mattress. Today.

And with Tigger in school, there will be no distractions.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gnocchi



This morning my beautiful, talented, fun-loving cousin sent me this photo of some gnocchi she made by hand. If you don't know, gnocchi are soft dumplings, usually made with potatoes, which are served as a first course instead of pasta.

With a light sauce and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano, they are delicious.

The only problem in Martha sending me this photo is that I am here ...



and she is over there.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Today's Agenda



referring to above, we are doing: a,c,d,e,f,g,j,k,

in addition, we are also:
painting last three chairs
cleaning up garage workstation
making beds
planning meals
changing oil in joe's car
cappuccino-ing
finishing hardwood stairs in rec room
visiting friend in hospital
lunching at nonna & nonno's ... homemade pizza. enough said.

THEN, we'll do letter the i.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Life Lately: A Vacuuming Teen, A Winter Break Surprise, and the Story of William (in 7 quick takes)

~1~ When Papa's grandfather arrived on Ellis Island from Slovakia in the late 1800's, he informed the officials that his name was Valent which, in English, is Valentine. They changed his name to William. The name stuck, and there has been a William in the family every generation since then. Papa is the second William, named after his grandfather.

~2~ If you give a teen a vacuum cleaner ... he will rock.



~3~ I have been aware for some time now that Nicholas is getting tall, but today he was standing next to me and I had to tilt my head up to look at him. Yikes.

~4~ Speaking of growing, guess who grew two inches overnight?



~5~ Five articles in nine days ... I am dain bread. I mean, brain dead.

~6~ War Horse is coming to the dollar theater. Have you seen it?

~7~ The boys have been off this week for a winter break. They don't know this, but this weekend I have plans for them: their closets, drawers, and desks are going to get a deep cleaning. This means going through (and trying on) clothes to see what fit and what doesn't, and going through every single thing they own and donating anything they don't need anymore. Should be fun, right? Right?


Mrs. Berenstain's expression will be my expression. Of that I am sure.

(7 quick takes is being hosted by Betty Beguiles who today talks about beauty and Conan the Barbarian. Check it out!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Keeping Time

As many of you know, I have an affinity for two things:

1. Dansko clogs (Hello?! Dansko? Do you KNOW how many times I've mentioned you on my blog? It seems you could reward a faithful customer with a pair ... red, patent colored ones would do if you need a suggestion. Think what a lovely blog post that would make.)

2. Watches. Besides my wedding ring, a watch is my jewelry of choice. I'm not picky ... sleek, classy, or chunky they are ALL wonderful. For example, I have this one, purchased from Island of Capri; then there is this one Joe brought back from Santa Barbara; and for my birthday my parents gave me a beautiful silver watch with a silver and leather band, which they had purchased on their cruise.

Dansko clogs and watches. I am not complicated at all.

Last night Papa arrived to spend a week with us. As always, he came with his power tools (projects!) and he came bearing gifts from my sister-in-law ... who knows me all too well.

The only thing is, now Papa keeps asking me for the time ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

See? I'll Never Learn to Speak Southern

Yesterday I wrote a heartfelt post about our first move to the Deep South in which I tried to convey the difficulty of those first years when I was trying to figure it all out and trying desperately to fit in.

I think I made my point better than I realized.

Last night I learned the expression I used yesterday is supposed to be smack-dab and NOT dab-smack.

I would say something right now, but what I'm thinking is not exclusively southern and it's definitely not lady-like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The New Girl

When my father retired from the military he decided to move our family smack-dab in the middle of the Deep South. I was just about to begin high school, and the combination of being a teenager (with all that angst) as well as being the "new girl" made my first two years Stateside very difficult.

I was painfully shy and awkward; we had just spent two wonderful years living in Italy, within the loving embrace of my Nonna, and now I was trying to figure out how my Italian-ness fit into our new life.

The first day of school I wore a beautiful blue wrap-around skirt; everyone else was wearing Jordache Jeans. In homeroom a big, black girl leaned over and asked if I were Eye-talian and how long did it take to drive to Italy. I didn't know how to answer her because I was too busy trying to figure out if she was pulling my leg (she wasn't). In an environment where best friends are formed in Kindergarten and social connections are woven through generations, I didn't quite fit in.

No, it wasn't an easy time, but slowly things improved. My mom bought me a pair of jeans, I made some friends, and there was even a boy on the bus who liked me. He was the one who gave me a copy of The Outsiders, and when I got to the part when Johnny dies and tears started streaming down my face he nodded, "I knew you would like it."

In early February of my sophomore year the Student Council did their Student Council thing and began selling Valentine carnations. For $1 you could purchase a red, pink, or white carnation which would be delivered with a personal message written on a pink heart.

On Valentine's day the deliveries started. I was in my fourth period Math class when the teacher came in carrying a fistful of pink carnations. She handed out three to some girls sitting in the front, then she walked to the back of the classroom and stopped in front of my desk. My heart began pounding. Oh my gosh, I was actually going to get a carnation.

But no, she didn't give me a carnation. She handed me the entire dozen.

Today I am still living in the Deep South. There have been many Valentine's Days since those early high school years, and while I remember the tears and insecurities of trying to figure it all out, it is the image of those bright, pink carnations that stand out most in my mind.

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.


*P.S. It was the boy on the bus who gave me the dozen carnations.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life Lately: Monday Ramblings

~Yesterday I spent a long time sanding one chair, and then looked up and saw the other five lined up ready and waiting. So I got wise and threw myself at the mercy of my Dad who lovingly outfitted me with an electric, handheld sander with attachments. Ahhh ... a girl and her tools.

I LOVE having Sunday lunch over at my Mom and Dad's. Yesterday it was HOMEMADE tagliatelle (wide noodles) with HOMEMADE sauce, bruschetta, and HOMEMADE chocolate chip cookes. My Mom feeds me and my Dad gives me power tools ... it's a beautiful world.

~Every Monday night I have a "date" with the two older boys to watch Hawaii 5-0. It's on at 10 p.m., which means the big guy (Joe, who has to get up at an ungodly hour) and the little guy (Timothy, who needs his nine hours of sleep) are already in bed. So it's just me, Nicholas, and Jonathan taking in an action packed, car chasing, good guys vs. bad guys show. We now have our own lingo: uh-oh he's a runner ... book him Danno! ... 5-0 headquarters

The whole Whitney Houston thing: sad? Very. Am I surprised? No, not very.

Daria over at Coffee and Canticles held a book give-away last week and, wonder of wonders, I won and was able to select a book from an impressive selection list. I decided on The Pope and the CEO because it's written by a former Swiss Guard and, if you've ever been to Rome, the Swiss Guards are intriguing. The book came last Saturday, I love it, and I'll be posting about it soon.

That's it. Sorry for the rambling, but it's Monday and it's going to be a rambling kind of day. I can tell, so excuse me while I fortify with a cappuccino ...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Down, Five to Go

Shortly after moving into this house we built a separate, two car garage at the end of our driveway and converted the original garage into a rec room. When it was finished, I bought a large farm table but no chairs; I already had an assortment of chairs and a friend gave me some old ones she didn't want anymore. I went for the ecclectic look which worked great.

Until now. Since the chairs were old to begin with, over the years they have become even older which means now, when we sit, we risk life and limb.

Yesterday Joe brought down from the attic a set of six old kitchen chairs that we had been saving for the boys' first apartment -- nice chairs, except they were white and the paint was chipped and flaking.

So, on this cold, Sunday morning I am sanding and painting six chairs.

The color? Cracked Pepper (Valspar signature color from Lowes). One down, five to go.




Saturday, February 11, 2012

And So It Begins

three no. 2 pencils,
sharpened,
lined in a row.

and so it begins.

next to a wallet,
with i.d.,
and car keys.

and so it begins.

an admission ticket,
a reporting time,
to test what you know.

and so it begins.

a, b, c or d,
little pencil bubbles ...
stepping stones to your future.

and so it begins.

~from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

*to Nicholas, on the morning of his ACT

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life Lately: What I do When I am Doing Nothing

In Italian there is a saying, e` dolce far niente, which translated loosely means how sweet it is to do nothing. The saying has absolutely nothing to do with idleness; rather, it's about pausing to live life to the fullest and appreciating the moment you are in, without conscious thought of yesterday or tomorrow.

In the hurricane of our busy lives, e` dolce far niente is about finding the eye of the storm, and letting the world go on without us. It's taking the time to linger over a morning cappuccino, abandoning a chore to go splash in a puddle, or taking a drive in the country and going where the road takes you.

Ironically, in doing nothing you're really doing something ... just not what life dictates.

So, in 7 quick takes, here is what I like to do when I am doing nothing.



E` Dolce Far Niente

~1~ Sip a cappuccino and read the newspaper in its entirety.

~2~ Study travel books.

~3~ Walk leisurely ... in the mountains, on a beach, or in the woods.

~4~ Linger over a meal.

~5~ Spend a rainy Saturday afternoon watching a movie marathon.

~6~ Enjoy a decadent dessert ... just because.

~7~ Sit in an outdoor cafe and people watch.

************

Now go visit Betty Beguiles for more quick takes ... she has a book coming out soon!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rain.

There is something about rain in art which appeals to me. To be sure, I like all kinds of art, and I am especially drawn to photography of old windows, doors and barns, but there is something about rain that hits the bullseye of my soul.

I suppose some people wouldn't understand this trait, and possibly assume I'm melancholy, but that's not so at all.

There is music in the rain. The drumming on a rooftop, the soft crackling as it falls on a pile of autumn leaves, the swish of car tires on wet streets, the plip-plop of raindrops on an umbrella.

Rain is a backdrop for color. The grey and clouds make red raincoats, yellow pansies, a candle in a window, or a blue gazebo in the town square appear vibrant and alive.

Source: thephobia.com via Maria on Pinterest


Rain softens the hard edges of city life, so the street lights and shop windows glow and beckon.



I especially love the juxtaposition of a raging storm outside, and the calmness and warmth inside. For me, the perfect weekend is a rainy one in which we are all home.



And there is something about rain that makes me reach for a book of poetry ...

Souls And Rain-Drops
~by Sidney Lanier

Light rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea,
Then vanish, and die utterly.
One would not know that rain-drops fell
If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.

So souls come down and wrinkle life
And vanish in the flesh-sea strife.
One might not know that souls had place
Were't not for the wrinkles in life's face.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Humbled

The other day I had some errands to run so I made a list to maximize my time. Stops A and B on the way to school, pick up the boys, and then a quick stop C on the way home. Quick, efficient, and timely -- I could do this.

Stop A went off without a hitch, but Stop B was messing things up. Red lights, a closed lane, an accident. And if that wasn't enough, I was stuck behind an extremely slow driver who seemed to be heading in the same direction. Great, just great.

He drove 30 mph and kept tapping his brakes.

When he made a slow right turn exactly where I needed to turn, I groaned.

I was still stuck! Come on!

He went even slower as he tried to find what he was looking for, but finally he signaled and pulled into a parking space in front of the same store that was my Stop B.

In exasperation -- and to make a point -- I zoomed into the spot next to him, parked, and marched quickly into the store.

I was in there ten minutes, and when I came out the driver was just locking his car door.

I thought about this. I had parked, made my purchase, and was back in my car while the driver was just getting out of his. Sheesh. Talk about slow.

And just then I saw why, and it felt as if I had been sucker-punched.

The man had two artificial legs.

I watched him open the trunk of the car and pull out a walker. Slowly, laboriously, painfully he shuffled into that store.

Shame, humility, remorse ... I can't even narrow down what I felt to just one word. Needless to say, I never made it to Stop C. It just didn't seem important anymore.

In thinking back on that day I still have those feelings, but I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for a loving Father who wanted to teach me something in a way which was clear and succinct. No parables. No proverbs. No room for misinterpretation. Just a lesson that was gritty and very, very real.

A lesson which certainly hit home.

Sometimes Big Kids Want to Play, Too

Nonno and Nonna returned from their cruise and came over to tell us all about it.

We also had a lot to tell them, and Timothy and Thomas were excited to show them the artwork they did yesterday. And because they wanted to show them the masking tape technique, I hauled out all the supplies again and let them do an actual demonstration.

Then, Nonno started hovering.

He picked up a paintbrush.

Here let me try something, he said. But the boys weren't having it.

He tried to give them some suggestions.

Nonno! they exclaimed, fiercely protecting their work.

Finally I gave him his OWN paintbrush and his OWN paper.

Nonno was happy.


Light in the Window, Nonno (2012)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

International Relations

The older boys have been at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA participating in a model United Nations event.

Last night I received this text from Nicholas:

We're still here ... we go back at 11. But, Richard and I got moved to specific people on the US Security Council. So far, North Korea has attacked South Korea with China's support and WWIII is imminent. We basically debate for like 3 hour stretches and pass written resolutions with the other 8 members of the Council.


(Nicholas' alter ego at the model UN)

Meanwhile, on the homefront Laura and I did an art project with our two little guys. We took water color paper, made a tree outline w/ masking tape, painted with watercolors, and once everything was dry we peeled off the masking tape.









Saturday, February 4, 2012

How do I love thee? The bathroom is clean.

My sister is coming today to spend the weekend with us. Because the painter has been in and out of our house for the past 10 days, Joe and I had to work furiously yesterday to put the guest bedroom back in order. We managed to get everything done except the guest bathroom, which is still missing a shower rod. No problem, I thought. Laura can use the guest bathroom for everything except showering, in which case she can use the boys' bathroom.

The boys' bathroom.

A mental war ensued: My sister loves me, she won't mind if things are less than perfect in there.

Then this: I love my sister and there is no way I can subject her to the horror that is the boys' bathroom.

I went to bed in a mental quandry.

This morning I got up at 6:40 a.m. to clean that darn bathroom.



Sisters: Ua the Blonde, Bia the Brunette

Friday, February 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Inspiration from Kipling

~1~ What am I reading?
To Kill a Mockingbird ... is there anyone as noble as Atticus Finch?

~2~ Who is having a Super Bowl birthday this year?
See yesterday's post.

~3~ Where do we study?
The kitchen table, even though everyone has a desk. Note the cappuccino ... guess who was sitting there?



~4~ When will our new furniture arrive?
I don't know ... it's not looking good.

~5~ Why will there only be three of us here this weekend?
Nicholas and Jonathan are headed to Athens, GA for a model United Nations meeting (I like school sponsored field trips which require dress shirts and ties).

~6~ How long did it take our little guy to confess his sins during his First Reconcilation?
About two minutes. Tops. I concentrated on the top three things!

~7~ Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
~Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories (1902)

Betty Beguiles is sponsoring today's quick takes. Check her out, she has a book coming out next month.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Month of Birthdays

February is my birthday month, and I am planning two specific things to celebrate:

1- Due to the constant interruptions and distractions that come with working from home, I have decided to have specific office hours in the hopes that I can be more focused and productive. During that time I will work on any writing assignment that is sent to my inbox, and I will also use that time to work on my book project (a project that I all too easily shelve when things come up).

2- I have set myself the goal of blogging every single day for the month of February. Why? For the discipline. Some days I will be prolific, and some days I won't. The point, for me, is to write something daily ... to be disciplined.

So, Happy Birthday to me.