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

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gotta Love Him

Remember when I wrote about Jonathan ... he of the nice smile, cute dimples, but QUIET personality?

Well, last night he comes home from work and tells me he requested next Wednesday off. You see, he had heard that my parents and Joe were going to be out of town on my actual birthday ... and he wanted to make sure he was here for me.

So, he has the nicest smile, the cutest dimples, AND he's thoughtful.

I think I'll keep him.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finish the Sentence

When our two oldest sons began playing school sports, a whole new world opened to us. At first it was all good (and fun!), but one day, without even realizing how it happened, or when, things turned serious and not so fun anymore. I won’t go into all the issues, but sitting in the stands you could sense an undercurrent of unease. Something was wrong, but nobody wanted to say or do anything. And who could blame them? Put the words kids and sports in the same sentence and you instantly create a hot topic. Furthermore, coaches and athletic directors carry a big stick, and to say anything means being ostracized from other parents or being branded a “bad sport”.

But my husband and I had some ideas on how to improve the sports program. We quietly set up a meeting and amicably presented them. At no point (and I want to be very, very clear about this) did we discuss playing time or whether or not a child deserved to make a team; also, the meetings weren’t about our boys, but about all the students. At those meetings we presented some ideas concerning oversight of the sports program, accountability for coaches’ behaviors; a more standardized method for conducting tryouts; and ways to better promote inclusion for our young athletes. Ultimately, we felt our school’s theme of a Christ-centered atmosphere was not represented in our sports program – not by a long shot – and some changes needed to be made.

So two meetings, with two different past administrations (again, to be clear, the meetings weren’t with our current administration) and what happened?  Absolutely nothing.

Oh, we could have pursued it further. We could have gone to the school board, or presented it at a PTO meeting, but at the end of the day my husband and I looked at each other and realized: It’s just sports, for God’s sake. It’s a game with a ball. In the grand scheme of things, none of it matters. Middle school (and high school) is a blip on life’s radar. A blip.

So we let it go. Our two oldest sons had some great seasons, and some not so great ones. They made most teams, but not all of them. Middle school ended, and high school meant new challenges and issues: a football coach who told one son that he wasn’t necessarily needed on the team; a son who made the basketball team one year, but the following year was pushed aside for players who never participated in tryouts or any of the pre-season practices; coaches who saved spots for players still involved in other sports, thereby ignoring those present and willing to play. Yes, there were issues, but we dealt with them at home, as a family, as best we could.

Then this past week a friend shared on Facebook her helplessness in dealing with her daughter’s tears due to a team sports situation, and even though we have moved on (at least until our little guy is old enough to start playing for the school) I felt compelled to comment; in fact, there were comments from many people, most of whom were sharing honest, personal, and sometimes painful experiences. The comments were not accusatory, but empathetic in nature. Most importantly, they were encouraging dialogue.

That is, there was dialogue up until the point someone expressed how they were offended by both the original post and the ensuing comments and, just like that, no more dialogue.

Whoa. Refer to the last couple of sentences in Paragraph One.

Offended? How, how was this person offended? The comments weren’t about their pain; the comments weren’t their stories. Was this person offended by honesty? Offended because we were openly talking about problems in our sports program, something which most people only whisper about? Did this person think we should be going through the channels instead of commenting on Facebook? (Well, refer to Paragraph Two above. Been there, done that. Twice.)

Or maybe it’s because they thought we were complaining about our school.

Look. My husband and I live in a great county in which there are a number of great public schools a short bus ride away. We don’t have to send our boys to a Catholic school. But we choose to do so, and the fact we are still there shows that we love our school. We support it. We promote it. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Too often I have heard people say, “It’s a great school; it’s not perfect, but …”

And they leave it at that. An unfinished sentence.

But what? It’s not perfect, but we just ignore that un-perfect part? But we choose not to acknowledge certain issues? But it’s not happening to me so it’s not important?

It’s not perfect, but we don’t care?

I recently watched Out of Africa, and toward the end of the movie Meryl Streep’s character has lost everything: her farm, her house, and her way of life. Before she returns to her native Denmark, she is determined to find a place for a tribe of South Africans who have been living on her land for generations. She appeals to her neighbors, her friends, and even government officials for help, but they are all embarrassed about her situation. They are offended because she is intruding in their perfect world with her oh-so-imperfect problems.

Well, there is so much that is imperfect in our perfect world.

Ever since his election Pope Francis has said that he prefers a Church which is bruised and dirty from having been out on the streets; that we need to come out of our comfort zones – leave our schools, churches and homes – and go out to confront illness, poverty, ignorance, injustice, prejudice, pain … all those elements of humanity which are messy. All those things which make people not experiencing them, uncomfortable. Offended, even.

But how – from the comforts of our schools, our churches and our homes – can we address all these things? It’s not so hard; as with most things, it begins by standing on what is good, opening our eyes to the not so good, and making changes right here in our schools, our churches and our homes. And during the process – by making it about others and not about us – in big matters and in small, in political arenas and in sporting ones, the good has the potential to become even better.

So, fill in the blank with whatever is your circumstance (school, church, home, family, government) and finish the sentence: It’s a great school; it’s not perfect, but … but there’s room for improvement; but we are addressing the issues; but we are making some changes; but we are learning, forgiving, trying.

Finish the sentence. And it starts from there.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Caveman Speaks at 5 P.M.

On days when I have to pick the boys up from school, I get Jonathan first and then look forward to a quiet ten minutes of conversation while we wait for Timothy to come out.

Yeah, conversation. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

Today it was no.

Now, I've written before about Caveman Speak (that teenage way of talking which involves grunting and one-word answers), but my goodness Jonathan takes Caveman Speak to an all new level. He has the nicest smile and the cutest dimples, but he doesn't divulge anything.

"Sometimes I just don't feel like talking," he says.

"Sometimes?" I ask. "You never talk."

"Well, sometimes I don't like to talk right after school gets out," he explains.

"Okay, I get that. Tomorrow when I pick you up I won't say a word," I promise. "I'll wave to you when you get in the car, and then I'll drive with one hand on the wheel and the other covering my mouth."

He laughs.

"By the way, what time tomorrow will you be ready to talk?" I ask. "I mean, is there a magic time?"

"Yeah, five o'clock," he replies.

I nod. Okay, then.

"Wait a minute!" I say a few minutes later. "Tomorrow you have to work. You'll be gone at five o' clock!"

He smiles his nice smile and flashes his cute dimples.

I've been hoodwinked.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Life Lately: A Mess in the House, A Mouse in the Attic

~1~ A Buen Camino for Me

Evidently I am meant to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. After I wrote this post and mentioned the The Way, my sister watched the movie during her lunch break and noticed this: my nickname on a rock. I don't know how she spotted it, but she subsequently sent me a photo of the still and there it is ... written in blue ... Bia.

~2~ The Storm before the Calm

Yes, I meant to write it that way. Starting next Monday, within a span of seven days, we are replacing the carpeting in three bedrooms, having hardwood floors installed in the master bedroom and hallway, replacing our porcelain kitchen sink with a Corian one, and installing a new shower door in the master bathroom.

But before carpeting and hardwood floors can be installed, stuff needs to be moved; to prepare to fuse a Corian undermount sink to our Corian counter top, the counter top will be removed and we will have neither a counter nor a sink for 24 hours; to get ready for a new shower door, the old one needs to be taken down and therefore no showers in the master bathroom for two days.

You can imagine the moving and shifting that is going on. Like I said, the storm before the calm.

~3~ Blogger Issues

Blogger has been giving me fits lately. Double spacing when I want to single space, not uploading photos, not saving properly, and when I write something in Microsoft Word and copy and paste it to blogger, it rearranges everything. Really, I am this close to making a switch. Suggestions?

~4~ He Shoots, He Scores!

The stomach bug has made an appearance, but things like this don't stress me out anymore mainly because it helps that everyone in the family is now old enough to aim their ... eh, hem ... projectile into the nearest toilet or garbage can. Remember those days? The ones in which it was hit or miss ... mainly miss?
~5~ The Christmas Mouse

Every December a mouse gets into our third floor attic. I purposely say mouse -- in the singular -- because to imagine the plural would absolutely freak me out. This time, though, despite the combined efforts of Joe and the nice guy at Advanced Services, that mouse (in the singular) is being uncooperative. And until this little problem is solved, I am not going up there.

~6~  Catching Flak

In a post this past Monday, I mentioned how I had spent 20 minutes wandering the aisles of Target  because I had some time to kill before an appointment. I also pointed out that, sometimes, killing time pays off because on that particular Monday I scored a pair of boots (fully lined! comfortable!) on clearance for (gasp!) ten dollars.

Well, that post elicited different responses: one person mentioned that when she has free time she goes to the Adoration Chapel (major guilt trip ensued); one person called me a typical girl just looking to spend some money (which made me feel defensive); and several of you wanted to know if Target had any more boots left.

My response to all of those: sometimes I do that, too; alas, I'm not perfect; and, sorry, I purchased the last pair.

~7~ Weekend Plans

See #2 above.

No go visit Jen at Conversion Diary where she talks about (of all things!) Benedictine Beer.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To My Son's Teacher: I Sincerely Apologize

This morning Timothy gets up, eats breakfast, and waits until we get to school to announce that his stomach hurts.

For a mom, this is one of those decisive-take-action-moments.

No it isn't. I don't have enough to go on. A stomach ache is too vague when there are no other underlying symptoms. So I resort to the tactic of let's-try-it-and-see-what-happens.

I drop him off at 8:50 a.m. and I get a call from the school nurse at 8:55 a.m. telling me Timothy's stomach hurts.

Okay then. Back I went. Later, on the drive home -- this time with Timothy -- he enlightens me on what happened in the 55 minutes since I last saw him.

"I threw up," he announces.

"You threw up?" I say. "The nurse didn't tell me you threw up."

"That's because I threw up after I left Mrs. Jackson's office." he explains. "I went back to the classroom to get my backpack, and then I ran to Mrs. Bosch's desk and told her I was going to throw up. And I did. Right next to her desk in her trash can."

Oh dear Lord, I think.

And here is where my apology comes in because in telling the story ... he sounds inordinately proud. Like it was a rite of passage. Like throwing up near the teacher's desk is cool. Like grossing out the entire class is funny.

So I bring him home, tuck him on the couch with water and saltines, and tell him the story of when I was in third grade and threw up in the principal's office.

 My son is way beyond impressed, and now I am the one inordinately proud. I mean, can you imagine? The principal's office.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Killing Time

This morning I had an 8:30 appointment at a local flooring store, but after I dropped the boys off at school I had a dilemma: there wasn't enough time to go all the way home, but it was too early to go to the appointment. So, what does a gal do to waste some time?

Yup. Target.

I ask you ... how many of us have wandered those aisles waiting for early dismissal, or killing time between different pick-up times, or trying to keep the little guy occupied while he-who-shall-not-be-named was serving detention for chewing gum?

There are more of us than you think.

My husband says wasting time costs money, but I don't know what he means because sometimes wandering around Target pays off.

Well. It doesn't exactly pay off ... I do the paying.

But still, I'm sure most of you understand what I'm saying. Why, just this morning if I hadn't gone into Target for the purpose of killing some time ... I wouldn't have found these super cute boots on clearance for $10.

See? You know what I'm talking about.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Buen Camino

Dear Nicholas,
For your birthday, I want to tell you a story. It’s a story, however, that’s not just meant for you, but also for your brothers, for Dad, for me, for everyone. It’s a story that begins in Spain …
In the very northwest corner of Spain is a beautiful shrine called the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where, according to tradition, the apostle St. James is buried. Beginning in the 9th century, this cathedral was the destination of what became known as The Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago), a leading pilgrimage route for people all over Europe; in fact, the pilgrimage to the shrine became the most renowned in Europe, and it was customary for those who returned from their pilgrimage to bring back a scalloped shell as proof they made it to the coast and completed their journey. Over time, the scalloped shell became a traditional symbol of the pilgrim because the shell’s grooves, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes to Santiago de Compostela.
Today, people still make that pilgrimage, walking el camino (the way) over mountain ranges, alongside streams, through beautiful open fields and, at the end of each day, stopping to rest in one of the countless villages along the way. The pilgrims typically carry three things: a walking stick, a scalloped shell as symbol that they are a pilgrim, and a “pilgrim passport” which is stamped with an official St. James stamp at every village where they stop to spend the night. By the time they reach their destination this passport is filled with stamps marking the points along their walk.
Just this week I watched a beautiful movie entitled The Way starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. The movie tells the story of a grieving father walking to Santiago de Compostela carrying the cremated remains of his son. Along the way he meets other pilgrims, each one with a different reason for walking el camino: to lose weight, to get over a relationship, to grieve, to find God. Even those who were doing it for no reason whatsoever, in the end, found meaning.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of this modern day pilgrimage is this: over and over, as people pass each other on el camino, sit down for a meal together at the end of the day or stand in line to get their passports stamped, you hear them wishing each other a buen camino. Translated literally, buen camino means “a good walk/path”, but within the context of a pilgrimage the phrase takes on a deeper meaning. To wish someone a buen camino is to wish them well in finding meaning and purpose on their pilgrimage.
And that, dear Nicholas is what I wish for you … a buen camino. One day I hope that you may have the opportunity to travel to Santiago de Compostela, but in the meantime, wherever you go and whatever you do, remember that while many may refer to life as a journey, it’s really a pilgrimage (whether or not we choose to call it by that name) and we are all pilgrims (whether or not we choose to acknowledge it).
So today, instead of wishing you a happy birthday I’m going to wish you a buen camino. Today. Tomorrow. Always.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Back to the (Pepper) Grind

Well. After weeks of big meals, clever leftovers and invites here and there, we are ready to get back to our normal routine. We will not be easing into Monday, but meeting it fully head on, and after late nights and sleeping in I foresee a case of the grumpies by 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Even our college student, who has an 8 a.m. class three days a week this semester, is in for a rude awakening ... literally. And just to mix things up, I am doing a three day detox. But more on that later.

Anyway. Meal planning. This week I didn't assign a meal for a specific night; rather, I made a list of seven meals and tomorrow I will shop for all the necessary ingredients. Then, depending on our schedules, each morning I will decided what we're having for dinner. No muss, no fuss.

1. Sloppy Joes w. carrot "fries"

2. Chinese Chicken and Rice (Eat Clean Cookbook p. 162)

3. Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Thyme Sauce (Best of Cooking Light Magazine, Apr. 2013)

4. Homemade Pizza; Root Beer Floats

5. Scaloppine di pollo; cooked greens (Jamie Oliver's cookbook, Jamie's Italy, p. 11); creamy polenta

6. Pasta with Lentil Bolognese (

7. Minestrone (Nonna's recipe) w. homemade crusty bread