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

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Life Lately: Too Clever By Far ... in 7 quick, quick takes!

~1~ Edible flag. Uhm ... can you guess the flag?

~2~ Really, how clever.

~3~ Hmmm ...

~4~ I don't know if I should eat it or drive it ...

~5~ Now THIS I need to try!

~6~ Just in case you have an old piano you don't know what to do with ...

~7~ My personal favorite idea ...

*Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. She's the one who hosts these fabulous Fridays!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Crying over spilled anything

Every once in a while I pick up my boys from school with a car loaded with groceries. They hate when I do that. After studying all day and slaving over their textbooks, it's not fair they have to spend the first 15 minutes when they get home unloading groceries.

Huh. I'm just mean that way. And uncool.

Anyway, the other day we were in the process of unloading groceries,when a bag ripped and an entire bottle of olive oil fell onto the garage floor. Olive oil . . . oozing everywhere.

Liquid detergent, olive oil . . . that stuff is hard to clean up. After scooping up olive oil and glass with paper towels and scrubbing the cement floor with soapy water, there was still a stain. And since it was a warm day, by evening the garage smelled like an Italian restaurant.

Then, this morning. Let's talk about splatter effect. I read crime fiction. I've seen a few episodes of CSI. So I know about the intricate science of splatter. But has anyone done a splatter experiment with MILK??

One cup of spilled milk splatters everywhere. Chair legs, bottom of the table, baseboards, and I even found evidence of splatter in the next room. Milk is sticky, too. Did you know that?

I have a good friend who is a decorator. Every once in a while she tries to convince me to put a nice area rug under my kitchen table. You have nice hardwood floors, she says, and a rug will give definition to the eating area. I think about it. I like pretty things. Definition is good. Then I see a photo of my three smiling sons.

I had to spill it out for her (that was a pun, by the way): Hello! Can you say milk? or purple Kool-Aid? or the occasional soda? or, one time, a bowl of minestrone? Can you say twice a week . . . at least?!

She got the point.

Today is Thursday, we've already had two major spills this week, so we're clear for the rest of the week. Right? I mean, law of averages and everything . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Part of Something Bigger

We were living in Vicenza, Italy when I participated in a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event was held at the American school on the military base, and part of the celebration included students from the two sixth grade classes reciting portions of Dr. King's historic I Have a Dream Speech.

All the students were terribly excited. Not only were we part of an important event, but the American television station would be filming the ceremony and then broadcasting it that evening on the news. Teachers began assigning lines, and every student raised their hand in the hopes of being selected. One by one lines were assigned, one by one hands went down as one student and then another was picked, and there I was, still sitting there with my hand raised.

Finally, much to my surprise, my name was called and I discovered I would be delivering the very last line of the speech, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

A few weeks ago Joe and I took the boys to visit the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, and there, next to the eternal flame across from his tomb, I told my family this story. They had never heard it before.

"Why were you picked to recite the very last line?" asked my son. "I mean, that's one of the most memorable lines from the speech."

Believe me, I have often wondered the same thing; after all, wouldn't it have been more fitting to have had one of the black students recite the line (like Chris, who was tall and had a booming voice)? Maybe I was picked because my teacher liked me (and he did), maybe he felt sorry for me (I was a mousy, timid thing), or maybe, in his wisdom, he knew that those words transcended race, gender, ethnicity and religion; that the speech was bigger, truer, and more far reaching than any person who delivered it.

Of course, I didn't understand the scope of his speech as I delivered those lines with all the passion of a timid, sixth grader; in fact, it wasn't until two weeks ago as I was exploring the museum with our boys, standing in the pulpit where Dr. King used to preach, seeing his Nobel Peace Prize, and walking across the bridge alongside the life-sized statues depicting the march from Selma to Montgomery that the memory even surfaced.

But I'm glad it did. In my own small way I had been able to participate in something bigger, truer, and more far reaching than I could have possibly understood at the time, and two weeks ago, standing with my family next to that eternal flame across from Dr. King's tomb, we talked about how we are all part of something bigger, truer, and more far reaching.

It isn't until we realize this fundamental truth can we be truly "free at last".

The eternal flame accross from the tomb of Dr. and Mrs. King

Dr. King's casket was placed on a simple farm wagon and pulled by two mules.

Joining in the march from Selma to Montgomery ...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Life Lately: Urine Specimens, Movie Popcorn, and No Birthday for Me ... in 7 quick takes

~1~ A chance stop at an antique store resulted in this purchase. I love trays ... all kinds and sizes.

~2~ Yesterday I was talking about urine specimens with my cousin, Damiano (long story). Anyway, the conversation reminded me of the first time one of the boys had to give a urine specimen during a routine check-up. He was handed the specimen cup and pointed in the direction of the nearest bathroom. He assumed (and no one thought to instructed him otherwise) that he had to fill that cup. And he did. I have never more fully appreciated the concept of surface tension until the moment he walked out of that bathroom carrying that cup.

~3~ A few days ago I wrote about the funny rules parents have had to make, and some of you shared some great ones of your own. And because we should all stick together, here are some examples ...

Don't pet a bumble bee.
No stuffing berries up your nose.
No sticking your head between the banisters on the staircase.
No eating Doritos in the bathroom.
Socks are not a handy substitute for toilet paper. (eek!)

~4~ Here's a confession ... this is what goes into my purse before we leave for the movie theater. Yes, I have a big purse. Yes, I am one of those people.

~5~ This is a weird month. Joe has been doing a lot of traveling, but (truthfully) it's all good because ... HELLO! frequent flyer miles. HELLO! another family trip to Italy (and possibly England). It takes a lot of miles to fly five people over to Europe, but the points are accumulating ... slowly but surely!

~6~ I have been known to occasionally procrastinate. For example, despite knowing for some time that I need new running shoes, it took an actual hole (discovered just yesterday) to push me into action. As a result, I needed to get some RIGHT AWAY, and they weren't cheap. Tonight my husband, upon hearing the price, looked at me and said, "Happy Birthday."

My birthday isn't until next month. Whatever do you suppose he meant?

~7~ It's ridiculous how one itty bitty bag can make me smile.

Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary. She's been in the hospital, but is still able to offer inspiration and insight. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mom Rules

Do you ever find yourself making a rule for something which you assumed was understood, but somehow it wasn't, and so there you are saying something which sounds utterly ridiculous? A rule such as Don't blow your nose on your sheets no matter how desperately you need a tissue in the middle of the night. Or, Don't look around when you're urinating because you'll aim in the direction you're looking and Don't draw a turtle on the science room wall at school and then sign your name.

Let's see ... I have more:

You can't place a Playmobil Pirate on top of a light bulb because the pirate will melt (and it did).

The ironing board is not a slide (this, after my board was reconfigured into the letter U).

It is inappropriate to whisper Paul Blart, Mall Cop in the middle of Mass (don't ask).

No throwing a ball in the house (this one started off vague, but over time it included soccer balls, footballs, bouncy balls, basketballs, and even balled up socks).

Oh, and never,ever run and jump over the back of the couch to claim a spot ... someone might be napping unseen (Dad was).

A few years ago I was cleaning the boys' bathroom when I realized they didn't have any soap in the shower. My heart stopped beating because I was trying to think when was the last time I cleaned their shower so I could figure out how long they had been without soap. A day? A week? When I questioned my son he said he didn't think it mattered because if you stand under the shower the water washes everything off anyway. I mean, really. So then I found myself making the following rule:  When you take a shower, you have to use soap. Then, after a slight hesitation I added, And Shampoo! because, well, you never know.

The deodorant incident. Now THAT has become the stuff of legends in our family. Several years ago our other son (again, no names) was getting ready for a formal party and came downstairs looking handsome in khaki pants and a navy blazer ... a blazer with streaks of a mysterious white residue under each arm. Evidently, he thought that the very same deodorant which smelled great on his armpits would smell doubly great on the armpits of his jacket. Who has to make a rule that deodorant is only for armpits and not clothes? Me, that's who. Luckily we had a spare jacket because, let me tell you, that deodorant wasn't coming off.

What is it with boys? Sometimes I think: Have I forgotten anything? Left out any details? What else have I assumed was common sense in my world but, somehow, overlooked in their world?

Maybe I need to start thinking like them.

Okay. Uhm ... new rule for me: Don't even go there.

The day my Three Wise Men became Two Wise Men.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Menu Planning after a Week Off

Last week, when Joe was out of town, I kept meals simple (pancakes, grilled sandwiches, and even a mid-week meal at Panera's). This week, with everyone home and back on full schedules, I am a little more organized ...

Rosemary Chicken
Fr. Justin's Root Vegetable Puree
Carrot "fries"
Honeycrisp Apple Tart; espresso

Spaghetti w/ tuna, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley
Caesar Salad
Homemade bread
Spicy Beef and Bell Pepper Stir Fry (Cooking Light Magazine)
Zucchini Frittata (Silver Spoon Cookbook)
Tossed Salad w/ vinaigrette dressing
Ciabatta Toast
Seafood Night
Pizza Night (homemade)
Raw Vegetable Platter
Rootbeer Floats
Lunch: Cauliflower Soup & Grilled Panini
Dinner: Chili; garden salad

Planning meals, and taking a little time to re-organize my recipe folders
 in order to make use of the pretty binders I recently purchased.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Life Lately: What'll ya have? What'll ya have? (in 7/8 quick takes)

1. Want to read a good book? Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Beautiful, heartwarming ... really, I couldn't put it down. It's also the kind of book that makes me realize that I am not a writer.

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

2. Remember how a birthday used to be just a day? Well, in our family birthdays can last a week. There's the birthday with family, the birthday with i nonni, the late presents which come in the mail from aunts and uncles, the celebration with friends. Nicholas' 18th birthday was this past Wednesday, which we actually started celebrating last weekend, and it's still not over (friends over tonight).

3. Speaking of Nicholas' birthday ... I just want to set the record straight. Remember when his cell phone fell into the ocean over Thanksgiving, and as a result he got my old one and I received a new iPhone 5? Well, we caught a lot of grief for that. Poor Nicholas, how can that be fair? Poor Nicholas, got Mom's "outdated" phone. Poor, poor Nicholas.

Well, for his birthday poor Nicholas got an iPhone and an iPhone docking/charging station complete with some state-of-the-art speakers.

So, no more poor Nicholas. Please.

4. I need some good running shoes. Really good ones. Suggestions?

5. Keyboard germs. This was Timothy's piano recital last month. One hour after this photo was taken I took him to the doctor where he tested positive for the flu. We truly had no idea, so I apologize for everyone who came after him on the keyboard.

6. What do you do to procrastinate when you're supposed to be doing something but don't feel like doing it? Personally, I call my sister.

7. This past Christmas Joe and I broke all personal records by seeing THREE movies over the holidays. We don't go to the movies three times over the course of a year, so you can see why this is a big deal. We saw Skyfall, Taken 2, and Cirque du Soleil.

But wait ... I actually saw FOUR because I went to see Les Miserables. Whoa. Four movies.

8. What'll ya have, what'll ya have? Last Saturday we took the boys to Atlanta for a Celtics-Hawks game and decided to have a pre-game meal at the Varsity. If you don't know, the Varsity is a burger joint which, the minute you walk in the door, thirty employees behind the counter are hollering, What'll ya have? What'll ya have? In an area which is steeped in tradition, the Varsity has been one since 1928. Just inside the front door is a wall of photos of famous people who dined there; in fact, a couple of months ago while we were taking a campus tour of Georgia Tech, just a few blocks away President Obama (in Atlanta on a campaign tour) was having lunch there.

So, What'll ya have? What'll ya have? Well, what we had was indigestion. Teeny tiny greasy burgers, floppy fries, and a roach on the wall.

Not my kind of tradition.

Photo: Uhm ... not impressed.

Have a great day! Be sure and visit Jen over at Conversion Diary! Now, I really should be going because I have a million things to do ... but first I'll call my sister.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pretty Papers

2013 Family Planner
2013 Work Calendar
green binder: for House Projects/Spring Cleaning/Organization
floral binder: for Menu Planning, etc.
pretty green paper clips

This is what I know: I am a happier, calmer, and much more peaceful person when I am not running around in a frenzy.

Organization is key (planning meals, listing house projects, establishing a workout schedule) in helping me hold it all together.

Keeping things simple (making conscious decisions to be present, finding time for quiet things, knowing when to say no) helps me be more purposeful.

Getting rid of clutter in closets, drawers and cabinets, accessorizing mindfully, and even keeping kitchen countertops clear all help to create a peaceful space.

And to think ... it all begins with some pretty papers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Sound of Silence

Be still. Wait. Can you hear that?

It's the sound of silence, and right now it's a very good sound.

Sometimes you don't realize how noisy and chaotic life is until all the noise and chaos are (poof!) gone. After two weeks of Joe (who had a huge Christmas break) and the boys home, after two weeks of the front door opening and closing (never quietly, mind you), of endless dishes and laundry, of numerous trips to the grocery store to keep the pantry stocked (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, snack again ... see? boys eat all the time), of football games and basketball games ... well, as much as I enjoy all that busyness (and I really, really do), right now I can honestly say that I am enjoying this silence.

The boys are back in school, Joe is traveling, and I can actually hear the refrigerator humming ... ahhh.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Following the Star

I once read how, on our spiritual journey, one can move forward or one can move backwards, but one cannot stand still.

Moving forward or moving backwards. It makes sense, though, because if we're meant to be on a journey who wants to turn around and go back down the same way in which we have just come? How would we get anywhere?

Of course, there are moments in which we need to pause, but those moments serve to give us the strength to continue on. We are still, but our eyes, hearts, and soul are still looking ahead.

Today, as we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, I draw comfort from the journey the Three Wise Men took those many years ago. They did not know exactly where they were going, or even what they would find, but they looked to the heavens for both direction and guidance.

And most importantly, they never gave up. Their journey progressed; they searched until they found.

Which is comforting to me. In my spiritual journey I often stumble. I know that many times I am not making progress. Sometimes I even lose my way. But like the Three Wise Men, my journey can continue to move forward by seeking guidance from above and following that star.

As I child, this feast day seemed so exotic, so magical. Three Kings, dressed in flowing robes, following a star, bringing gifts ... it all fueled my imagination.

But today, older and wiser, I know I am not meant to be in awe of that journey.

I know am on that journey.

updated post from January 2008

Friday, January 4, 2013

Would You Believe?

A few months ago I was assigned to write an article which involved interviewing Fr. John Osom, a Nigerian priest from the Missionary Society of St. Paul. It was a lengthy interview, part of which (believe it or not!) was conducted in Italian. Unfortunately, a week after I submitted the article he was reassigned out of our area and, as a result, they decided not to run the article (I was still paid).

But his story is too inspirational not to share ...

Father John Osom
Pro Christo Legatione Ergo Fungimur
(Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ)
2Cor 5:20

When Fr. John Osom talks about his journey to the priesthood, he often uses the expression would you believe? before revealing an important event in his life. It’s a question which delivers a dramatic pause to emphasize something wonderful and unbelievable. And in Father’s story, there are many such moments.

As a little boy growing up in Akwa-Ibom (one of Nigeria’s 36 states), Father John knew at a very early age exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I remember that the priest would invite the children to come and sit closer. I saw him raise something up – was it a white cookie? – and then say something which I didn’t understand. I was only five or six years old, but I knew I wanted to be him,” explains Father. “Would you believe that I would even play Mass? I would gather my friends, they would kneel, and I would hold up a piece of bread and make up some words. When I was finished everyone would say Amen!”

The idea of the priesthood stayed with him even as he began his primary education. In Nigeria, religion in the schools is heavily taught, along with discipline and moral instruction, so Father was in an environment which continued to foster the idea of the priesthood. In fact, at the age of 13 when he was faced with the decision of attending secondary school or enrolling in a junior seminary, he chose the junior seminary.

            And Father did well. He studied, worked hard, and was even awarded a scholarship during his second year which would enable him to continue his studies at the university level. But when he passed his final examinations with honors and graduated at the top of his class, the scholarship complicated things because while the seminary was one pathway – one which he always intended to take – the university was also calling to his heart.

“The scholarship divided my attention,” he explains. “But then I heard about the Missionary Society of St. Paul, and would you believe that is what sealed my intention to enter the seminary?”

Unbelievably, this was a pathway Father hadn’t foreseen since he always thought he would attend the traditional seminary and, once ordained, return to serve in his diocese. But the Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSP), which was being established that very year in Nigeria, was different in that ordained priests would be following in the footsteps of St. Paul and be sent to all parts of the world to serve as “ambassadors for Christ” (2Cor 5:20).

The next eight years were difficult ones. The formation program was challenging, and to gain pastoral experience Father was sent all over Nigeria to work with different ethnic groups and with people who spoke different languages. Of the nine seminarians in Father’s class, over the years the numbers dwindled until, in the end, Father was the only one left. On June 22, 1985, Fr. John became the first member of the Society trained in the seminary and the first to be ordained.

Immediately following his ordination Fr. John returned to his diocese and began traveling from village to village to celebrate a Thanksgiving Mass. Not only is this an important tradition in Nigeria, but it is such a huge celebration that the Mass is held in the village square so everyone can attend. During this time Father assumed that he would now spend two years working in his diocese, but when he was in the middle of his 18-village tour something extraordinary happened.

“Would you believe that I was told that I was being sent to Rome to continue my studies?” he explains. “Everything happened so fast. I had to start celebrating two Thanksgiving Masses a day so I could finish them all, and I had almost no time to say goodbye to my family.”

Within the month, Father obtained a passport, boarded a plane, and for the first time in his life left his country.

When he landed in Rome he was hit with the harsh reality that all his classes would be taught in Italian (instead of English), and so he was given a train ticket to Puglia where he would take Italian language classes to help prepare him for school. Sitting in the train station, alone and away from home, Father felt overwhelmed; he didn’t know where to go and he didn’t know the language to be able to ask for help.

“Would you believe at that moment a man – a stranger – approached me and asked if I needed help?” he explains. “When I showed him my ticket he walked me to my train, bought me some snacks, and arranged for two young men on the train to help me at the next stop. At the next stop these two found a woman to help me during the next stage, and she arranged for a taxi once we got to our destination. All these strangers helped me in my journey.”

In six weeks Father mastered conversational Italian, in six more weeks he could understand the lectures at school, and at the end of the school year he challenged himself to take his final oral examinations in Italian instead of English. When he eventually left Rome he had a doctorate in Moral Theology.

The jump from Nigeria to Rome was the beginning of Father’s life as an ambassador of Christ, a life of going where you are sent. It has meant living in different countries, learning new languages, and being “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22). Today, as a missionary priest Father has worked in Nigeria, Rome, England, the United States, and Grenada. While he is first and foremost a missionary priest, he has also served as a chaplain, a pastor, a lecturer, and a teacher. And in all the places Father has been sent, and in all the places he could go, would you believe that now, for a short while, he is here with us? What a wonderful blessing for our parish.

“Anywhere I go I am comfortable,” explains Father. “I am where I am supposed to be. A missionary has to be as happy as any person, and I find happiness being with the people.”