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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving Full

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. It's an uncomplicated holiday -- one that is simply about sitting down with family and friends and breaking bread together. Really, it doesn’t get better than that. This year Thanksgiving was extra special.

Thanksgiving Gathering

It’s all about family

And lots of it. Although we were hosting for Joe’s side of the family, because my parents live locally and I have siblings nearby, Thanksgiving was a coming together of both sides. Joe and I are very blessed in that not only do we have wonderful parents and siblings, but our families know each other and get along.  I love, for example, that my brother-in-law went fishing with my father and that my sister-in-law was helping my sister bargain shop for a Nespresso machine.

Taking it outside

From the moment we started planning, I knew that we would be dining outside under a canopy of red, yellow, and orange leaves – the bounty of family and food nestled within the bounty of nature.
Twenty-two around the table.

Thanksgiving Day Weekend

With family arriving from Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, Thanksgiving was a weekend affair. And we kept everyone busy . . .

Wednesday night: the Novajosky Soup Kitchen (soup, salad, fruit salad) officially opened for anyone who rolled into town at any time.

Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner
Give Thanks (printed from Pinterest)

Place settings (harvest leaves also found on Pinterest)
The buffet line.
Cousins waiting for the dinner bell.

My sister made the most decorative pumpkin pie.
We could not have asked for more perfect weather.

Thursday night: S’mores, wine, conversation, and laughter around the fire pit.
There is something magical about gathering around a fire.

Friday: Picnic at Hamilton Branch State Park with fishing, boat rides from Nonno, cornhole, and golf. Golf?!?  Why yes, golf.  With an island just offshore, Joe brought clubs and a box of 150+ old golf balls and challenged everyone to hit “closest to the pin” (a marker in the middle of the island). I can’t say for sure, but a LOT of balls landed in the lake.
1. too far away  2. a little closer   3. perfect distance
Will and Matt heading out with Nonno for a boat ride.
Closest to the pin.
Hamilton Branch State Park
(for the picnic, our number grew to 27 when my brother's family joined us)
Friday night: the girls attended The Nutcracker at the Imperial Theater.
My sister-in-law saying hello to James Brown before heading to the
The Nutcracker at the Imperial Theater.
Saturday: visiting Aiken
Aiken was bursting with fall colors.

Football and Shopping

From the moment we parked in downtown Aiken, there was a problem. What to do with all the guys while the gals explored the stores along Laurens Street? THE SOLUTION: park them in the upstairs sports bar of the Aiken Brewing Company. With a gazillion televisions broadcasting every football game known to man, and fortified with a hearty lunch, the guys were perfectly content to stay right where they were and the gals were free to explore and shop.
Aiken Brewing Company for Papa and the guys.

Thanksgiving Full

By Saturday evening everyone had gone. Our driveway, which had looked like a car lot for three days, was empty. When Joe, the boys and I came home from Mass, we sat around the fireplace and shared memories from the weekend. It was all so very good.
And then there was one ...
I'm not going to lie. Sunday I was tired and stayed in my pj's all day,
but it was a good tired. A contented tired. A grateful tired.
And I would do it all again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Story of a Vote

               Last Saturday my husband and I voted, which just happened to be the day after the FBI’s announcement concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails. But the headlines weren’t a factor in us going to vote; simply, for several weeks the date had been marked on our calendar with a smiley face and the words Go Vote! written in cheerful purple ink.

                But that morning as I inserted my ballot into the machine I was anything but cheerful. And I wasn’t smiling. This entire election season has weighed heavily on me not only because of its contentiousness, but because our two eldest sons would be voting in their first general election and I was viewing the entire process through their eyes.

                “Our first time voting for president and these are our choices?” asked one son.

                Yes, indeed. After a primary season of drawn battle lines and hurled insults, after more qualified candidates were ignored or forced out, and after the dust finally settled, like it or not, these were our choices for president. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any more sordid, it did, and the entire nation entered a political season the likes of which will be talked about for generations.

                As a writer, I haven’t been shy about sharing my struggle about this election. During the primaries this past March, I wrote a guest column for The Augusta Chronicle in which I listed all the reasons why I could not vote for Donald Trump (One key question canhelp us recognize our role in the political arena, Sunday, March 6, 2016). At the time, I honestly thought that out of so many qualified nominees, there was no way he could win the nomination. Boy did I get it wrong.

                So like many voters, I was in a bad place. I strongly disliked Trump, and I felt the same about Clinton. In many ways I was very bipartisan in my inherent distrust of both candidates. I suppose the pollsters would have labeled me an undecided voter, but I wasn’t so much undecided as disgusted. What to do?

                There was no end to the advice – from family, friends, talk show hosts, political pundits, and experts.  Many cautioned to think long term; that is, ignore the candidate and vote on a single issue or strictly for the party’s platform. In theory, a single issue vote made sense – and for me that would be the Pro-Life ticket – but in reality it would mean casting a vote while holding my breath, pinching my nose, and ignoring the elephant in the room (no pun intended). Figuratively, I’d still be standing next to a person I didn’t believe in.

                Voting third party, then, was another option. This was new territory for me, which was daunting only because I was starting fresh. I had to learn, read, and investigate my options.

                Then there are those who advised me to brandish my vote like a weapon to stick it to the other side. I admired these voters because they were so sure, but in their single-minded quest to keep out the other candidate they ignored any scandal, FBI investigation, sexual assault, or outrageous video that put their candidate in a bad light; furthermore, when their candidate did something wrong they’d protest how the other candidate did something even more wrong.

                It’s funny (but really it’s not) because all I could ever see were flaws – serious ones – on both sides.

                What ever happened to casting a vote for someone?

                Maybe I’ve been too idealistic, but in past elections I always thought of my vote as an expression of what I am voting for; in other words, a vote was my way of saying I believe, hope, and trust you; here is my vote because I have every confidence you will lead our country well, with honor and integrity, and that you will be a role model for our children.

                Except this time I can’t say any of that about either candidate. I cannot extol their virtues, sing their praises, or put them on a pedestal. Neither candidate is worthy of my vote, but one will get it because despite all the mess, I will vote. Too many have sacrificed so I can have that privilege, and I will always honor that gift.

                So I went to vote last Saturday, and standing next to me was our twelve year old son who, along with his older brothers, is learning that sometimes a leader is not a role model, sometimes life gives us choices in which there are no clear answers, and sometimes we need to struggle to do the right thing.

                “I insert the card here,” I whispered to my son. “Then I go through each page and check the boxes. And look, here on the last page, it says ‘CAST YOUR BALLOT.’”

                And so I did.

                In the end, what did I decide? Well, I’m going to leave it there, preferring to let that question mark represent all who struggled, like I did, with what to do.  And hopefully the openness of a question mark – an unknown future, if you will – will lead us on a pathway to something nobler because, as a nation, we can do better than being forced to make the best bad choice.