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

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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Outfit Stress

Do you get a new Easter outfit every year? I'm asking because I don't; in fact, the whole Easter outfit thing stresses me out. All those light pastels (pink, light blue, yellow), floral prints, lace and ruffles ... so not my style. At all.

But Saturday afternoon I began worrying, so I texted my sister. Everyone knows that a sister is who you go to with any fashion dilemma and, sure enough, she texted back immediately: No black! No Brown! Go out and get a new outfit! Something bright! With colors!

I'm not sure, but with all those exclamation points I think she was yelling at me.

Well, there was no way I was going to the mall Easter weekend, so I scrounged around my closet and found a solid red dress that I wore one time. I needed a sweater, though, and as I was looking around I spied two bags of clothes that I have been meaning to take to Catholic Social Services. Hmm, I remember putting a purple shrug in there and, sure enough, there it was!

So I un-donated it and added it to my outfit.

The only thing was ... well, red + purple and people might think that I was a member of ... you know ...

Yikes. But my dress was more a light pink-red, and my shrug was more lavender than purple so no one would think that. Right? RIGHT? At least that's what I told myself because I was NOT going to the mall.

Anyway, I apologize because I am usually not this shallow. On a loftier note, this year Holy Thursday Mass was a profound and moving experience for me, on Holy Saturday we watched Romero (great movie) with the older boys, and on Sunday we had my parents and my sister and her family over for Easter lunch.

Then there's this. I don't know who liked these cute little bunnies more ... the six grandchildren who opened their eggs to find some spending money for upcoming spring breaks, or the rest of us who smiled at the mental picture of Nonna and Nonno sitting together at the kitchen table, Nonna gluing on the pipe cleaner ears and Nonno drawing the bunny faces. So sweet.

Now it's Sunday evening. The dishes are done. I am jelly-beaned out. And I have a whole year to plan next year's Easter outfit ... or not.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Stillness of Soul

Just taking a little break during Holy Week.

Prayer of St. John of the Cross
O blessed Jesus, give me stillness of soul in You.
Let Your mighty calmness reign in me.
Rule me, O King of Gentleness, King of Peace.

Photo taken in the heart of Tiuscany at the mountaintop Monastery of La Verna
where St. Francis received the stigmata.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Life Lately: Organization, St. Joseph, and Espresso Cups ... in 7 HAPPY quick takes

Things that make me smile. Happy Friday!
~1~ Organization in a little boy's room.

~2~ Disorganization in a big boy's room.

~3~ St. Joseph Feast Day gift bags.

~4~ Spring wreaths.

~5~ Vintage napkin rings.

~6~ Espresso cups.

~7~ Lenten symbols.

Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary ... she's honoring procrastinators!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yellow Spring

pollen, pollen everywhere
and it makes me sneeze.
pollen, pollen everywhere
go away ... please?
~from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

Monday, March 18, 2013

What are little boys made of?

Meet Precious.

Not the boy, the lizard.

Precious was a surprise guest at Timothy's birthday party, and he was an instant hit. Nerf guns, legos, Wii, and basketball were all forgotten. Instead, four boys spent an afternoon running around finding a bucket, gathering leaves and grass, googling what do lizards eat? (insects) and do lizards eat each other? (they don't), and taking turns holding him (or her).

Poor, poor Precious.

But happy, happy boys.

Buon Compleanno Timo-Supremo!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Breaking Home Ties

Our eldest son is going away to college in the fall, and last night I woke up in the middle of the night making mental lists of what he needs to take with him. I had a panic attack. Too much to think! Too much to plan! Too much!

And I'm humble enough to ask for help.

What are your ideas on what a young man will need when he packs his bags for college? Advice? Thoughts?

I welcome them all.

Breaking Home Ties by Norman Rockwell
Breaking Home Ties, by Norman Rockwell. This classic painting shows a man and his son sitting on the running board of the family's farm truck. All the elements come together to tell a story of a boy leaving home for the first time to attend college. A train ticket protrudes from the son's pocket, and his books are stacked on a band new suitcase. He is looking ahead to the future, while his dog is sad to see him leave. His father, on the other hand, is looking in the opposite direction, perhaps back towards home. He is holding both his hat and his son's, and it's obvious he is reluctant to see his son go.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How do I love thee? Let me count the facebook ways.

So, who changes the toilet paper roll in your family? In my family ... okay, here's the thing. When I notice we need another roll I tell myself, Not now. I don't have time to run all the way to the linen closet which is all the way down the hall; in my mental hierarchy of what's important, replacing the toilet paper roll is pretty much at the bottom of my list.

On the other hand my husband says, We're out of toilet paper. I'm going to walk all the way to the linen closet which is all the way down the hall and get another roll right now.

And sometimes if we're out of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom, he'll immediately walk all the way upstairs to get another roll. Me? I just wait until the next time I go upstairs.

Which usually means it doesn't get replaced, hence my public apology.

But no worries. I know Joe still loves me because last night the boys helped him set up a facebook account, and for his status he put married. AND I was his very first facebook friend. So you see, toilet paper or no toilet paper, he loves me.
P.S. I know, I know. Why don't we keep extra rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms? That's not how we roll (ha!); to keep our bathrooms clutter free, I keep a perfectly neat (and stocked) linen closet. I just need to quit procrastinating.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How the Pope Ruined our Dinner and My Crush on the Swiss Guards (all of them) (in 7 quick takes)

1. I don't know what's wrong with me, but all yesterday I had this uncontrollable urge to go up to people -- complete strangers -- and say "Habemus Papam!", that's how joyful I was. And joy is not meant to be contained so ... HABEMUS PAPAM! everyone.

From Left Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI,
Center New Pope Francis,
Right is Blessed Pope John Paul II.

2. I almost abandoned our little guy at school this past Wednesday. 'Tis true. It was a little after 2 p.m. and white smoke was billowing out the chimney and I was supposed to leave at 2:20 to pick him up and I so did not want to leave because I wanted to see our new pope. I came this close to calling the school and telling them to  toss put him in after school care (something which we have never, ever done). But I didn't.

What I did was had EWTN streaming live on my iPhone, and it's nothing short of miraculous I didn't get into a wreck.

The newly elected Pope decided to take the bus back to Santa Marta with all the cardinals
  instead of riding in the official papal car.

4. Who wants to eat? Between watching the coverage, calling everyone (including my best friend who isn't even Catholic but who kept texting me Viva il Papa!), and crying ...  dinner didn't get done. Chicken sat defrosting in the sink, and the dinner hour was approaching fast. Wendy's saved the day. 
5. Evidently, airplane pilots like soccer matches and the pope. When I was little we were flying back from Italy during the World Cup when the pilot announced on the plane that Italy had won. Then, this past Wednesday my husband was flying back home from Kansas City, and the pilot announced to everyone on board that there was a new pope.
6. The Swiss Guards. When I was a little I had a crush on them ... all of them. They've always intrigued me, and last year I gave a PowerPoint presentation to a women's Bible study on the history of the Swiss Guard. I also spoke about a book I had read, The Pope and CEO, which is the true story of Andreas Widmer and the life lessons he learned while serving as a Swiss Guard under Pope John Paul II. Below is the book trailer.

7. Back to the Pope ... here is minute and a half recap of the conclave and the introduction of our new pope. Dare you not to cry.

Now, go visit our wonderful host, Jen, at Conversion Diary. Tell her I said hello.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Family Meeting

Last night we gathered as a family to pray the Stations of the Cross. There, sitting around the kitchen table, I was filled with such gratitude as I listened to the sound of the boys' voices as they prayed aloud:  Timothy's sweet voice reassuring me that he is still my baby, Nicholas' deep one reminding us that he will be going to college in a few short months, and Jonathan's voice which cracks (sometimes high, sometimes low) and makes us all grin.

It was a peaceful moment which (hopefully) set the tone for the family meeting which followed immediately afterwards.

Do you ever have those? A family meeting to discuss issues such as behavior, attitude, chores, expectations and goals? In our family, we make it a big deal and announce it ahead of time ("Tonight we're having a family powwow!") which, believe me, has everyone mentally doing an examination of conscience on the spot.

Truthfully, though, a powwow in our family can go any direction: sometimes the meetings are fun (such as when we discuss vacation plans), sometimes they're serious, and sometimes they involve a private, one-on-one discussion with each son.

Last night we had some of those.

The point is, when we hold these meetings everyone is prepared to pay attention, participate, contribute and, if needed, make some changes. And somehow, even when we go over serious issues, the meetings always end with laughter, teasing, and hugs.

So, how did last night's family powwow go?

I'll find out in a minute when I go upstairs and see if he-who-shall-not-be-named made his bed this morning (which would be the first time in nine days), if someone picked up his Pokémon cards, and if you-know-who finished his essay.

Our prayer candle

Sunday, March 10, 2013

All is Good

A few years ago I did not make a conscious decision to give up the computer for Lent, but that's exactly what ended up happening. A wonderful combination of events (no pressing article deadlines, no crazy spring schedule with the boys' school/sports activities) meant that I had some pockets of time which (without even realizing it) didn't involve my computer keyboard.

That is not to say I wasn't busy, because I was. But I was busy doing different things: I made some changes, set some goals, tried a lot of new recipes, organized my writing, and did some research. I also found time to pray and reflect.

Then, on the Wednesday of Holy Week my husband had to undergo surgery. While it was not a serious health issue, it certainly reminded me how life is all about a progression of changes. It's easy to become complacent in our day-to-day life, but each day, each hour and, yes, each minute brings about change. In big ways and in little, changes are inevitable, but between the bookends of birth and death is a fantastic journey in which change is all part of it. It's not always easy (and it's not supposed to be) but with grace we can appreciate the entire journey and recognize it for the gift that it is.

Amazingly just a few days later, on Easter Sunday, we stepped outside and realized that the cicadas had arrived. After an absence of 13 years they were back, and in their loud, distant droning in the woods behind our house I heard nature's music of changes and seasons ... the Song of Life affirming that all is as it should be, and it is all good.

Friday, March 8, 2013

New Orleans in 7 + 1 Quick Takes

~1~ On my own. Last week we left our boys in the care of i Nonni while Joe and I headed for New Orleans for four nights, five days. And each morning after Joe headed off to a Chemical Engineering class (shudders), I grabbed my Coach messenger bag, a water bottle, and a city map to head off on my own.

~2~ Follow the music. It's everywhere, on every square and street corner, outside store fronts, and inside restaurants. One day I had to make a late morning phone call (an interview with a priest which had been scheduled weeks earlier). I just figured I'd find a quiet park bench somewhere and make the call. Well. I couldn't find a quiet place anywhere, and when I finally made the call there was a jazz band playing in the background. When I apologized to the priest, he laughed and asked if I had been to Cafe` Du Monde yet.

~3~ Cafe` Du Monde. Beignets. Every morning I headed to this little piece of heaven and ordered a cafe` au lait and a beignet (and you don't just get one beignet, you get three). And I won't mention that on the last day I went back in the afternoon and ... well, I'm not telling.

~4~ Bourbon Street. Okay. It's only one street in all of New Orleans, and I just hope visitors/tourists don't judge the entire city on those few blocks.  When Joe and I got into New Orleans we decided to stroll  down this iconic street figuring that, since it was Sunday, things would be tame. Uhm, no. Good grief.
**No photo ... this is a family blog.**

~5~ Second Line. Not sure what this is? Well, we had no idea until we witnessed one. It was a wedding parade, complete with a dancing bride (holding a white parasol), a brass band, and the entire wedding party following behind. Very New Orleans.

~6~ Meeting people.  Maybe it was because I was by myself, but everyone I met (tourists, shop keepers, waiters) wanted to talk. And not just talk, but have an entire conversation. It was wonderful! One day I took a guided walking tour of the Garden District and met a young British woman who was vacationing on holiday (as the Brits would say) in the States for two weeks. We had a lovely conversation, and the next day I bumped into her again in Jackson Square. I'll probably never see her again, but I'll always think of her as my New Orleans friend.

In St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, the day Pope Benedict retired.

~7~ Preservation Hall. This was by far the highlight of my week. For $15 and the willingness to stand in line for an hour just to be able to get in the door, Joe and I were treated to an hour of pure jazz. In a small, crowded room with brick walls and low ceilings, and without the aid of microphones and amplifiers, six jazz musicians showed us what jazz was meant to be: an experience. It was intimate, it was pure soul, and I totally got it.

~8~ P.S. And what about my resolve to pack light? See photo. Packed into that teeny duffle bag: outifts for four nights and five days, two pairs of shoes, workout clothes, laptop ... I did well, no?


*Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary for some more Quick Takes fun.
She has a book coming out!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How About Some Nutella with that Grammar?

This past Monday was National Grammar Day, a day which calls us to march forth on March 4th to celebrate punctuation, grammar, word choice and style. It's a day which highlights important issues (lie vs. lay, who vs. whom, i.e. vs. e.g., affect vs. effect) and showcases how a misplaced comma can be deadly.

Huh. I totally celebrated World Nutella Day in style (Feb. 5, in case you're wondering), but somehow I missed National Grammar Day.

You can see where my priorities are.

People assume because I am an English major and work as a writer that I have the answer to any and all grammatical dilemmas, but I don't (just ask my editor). I can hear the protests even as I type this -- But you are an English major! You are a writer! -- and, yes, both are true. But while my degree and my profession indicate that I am knowledgeable in the grammatical arena, by no means am I an expert.

Let me put it this way: there are English majors ... and there are English majors.

On one side are English majors who are grammarians. They are scholars on mechanics, semantics, and linguistics. They can diagram a sentence into tomorrow, get offended at comma splices, and hold a dangling participle over your head. They make great editors.

Then there are English majors who are literarians. They quote Chaucer, discuss Faulkner's writing style, and lose themselves in a bookstore. They attend poetry readings at the downtown cafe`, keep a journal, and fall in love with their Shakespeare professor.    

You can probably guess which type I am; however, just to be clear please know I can diagram a sentence, I make sure my subjects and verbs agree, and I don't leave any participles dangling. I do think grammar is important. Really.

It's just that I'll take a Nutella sandwich over a split infinitive any day of the week.