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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Joe's t-shirt isn't Joe's anymore

I interrupt my Masters prep to go pick up Timothy from school. I am wearing Joe's oversized Adidas t-shirt with black leggings.

"You look skinny in that shirt," he tells me when he gets in the car.

And I was like . . .

#really? #theshirtisnowmine #notjoesshirtanymore

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I heart books

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.  
~ C.S. Lewis

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life Lately: The Washington Review (art & basketball, the photo rule, who we saw, and what I wore)

With Nicholas graduating from Clemson in May, this past week was his last spring break. And since Jonathan's spring break was the same week, and since Joe was traveling to Washington D.C. on business, we decided to pull Timothy out of school and make a family trip of it. Four days in our Nation's capital . . .
~1~ Something for Everyone

As parents we know that vacations are a way to build lasting memories, but when there are so many varied interests in one family it takes a little juggling to make sure everyone is happy; as a result, we've learned that, at some point, everyone gets the chance to make a decision when we're on vacation, whether it's picking where to eat or what to visit next.

For this trip we collectively agreed to visit The White House Visitor Center and then walk to the White House to take photos (something we didn't do in our 2007 visit), and we knew we would meet our nephew/cousin for lunch in Chinatown (he works at the U.S. Mint), but after that our itinerary included a combination of "must-sees" and everyone's top choice:

Joe: Since this was a business trip for him and would therefore be gone during the day, he organized a nighttime activity by scoring tickets to a Washington Wizards basketball game.
Me: Tour of the U. S. Capitol (This was my baby; I contacted our congressman, I scheduled the tour) Nicholas: National Museum of Art (West Wing only as he was not interested in the East Wing's modern art)
Jonathan: National Museum of American History and/or National Museum of Natural History
Timothy: National Air and Space Museum

Something for everyone: two museums, a basketball game,
an art gallery, and a U.S. Capitol tour

~2~ Getting Around

We Metro-ed everywhere. Ironically, during our stay we read two articles in the Washington Post lamenting all the problems with the city's Metro system, but we found it to be wonderfully convenient. Basically we arrived at our hotel, parked the van, and never moved it again. Our hotel was two blocks from a Metro station, so Joe took the train to his meetings and we took the trains everywhere else. Admittedly there is an initial learning curve (What direction does this train go? Is this the right platform?) but after that first day we could maneuver through the system like a pro.

Riding the Washington Metro

~3~ The Hill in Capitol Hill

Fun fact: the U. S. Capitol sits on a hill. And we know this because on the day of our scheduled tour we walked from the National Air and Space Museum and climbed UP the hill to get to the Cannon House (the oldest congressional office building). The Cannon House is exactly one block beyond and one block over from the Capitol, so it was even more up.

Once we went through security at the Cannon House, we went up flour flights of stairs. To be sure there was an elevator, but it was a rather official looking one and it was being used by rather official looking people and we weren't sure if we qualified as being official enough. (We found out later that we were official after all.) Basically, with all that climbing we arrived to Representative Rick Allen's office hot, sweaty, parched, and generally disheveled, but in total awe of everything.

Many thanks to Representative Rick Allen and his staff
for their wonderful hospitality

~4~ The Highlight

There are basically two ways to schedule a tour of the U.S. Capitol: book online, or contact your congressman's office and request a tour. I decided write our congressman, Representative Rick Allen, and received a response the very next day with a date and time for our tour, instructions on how to get to his office, and a city map.

The tour was, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip.

We arrived not knowing what to expect, so everything that happened was a delightful surprise: the welcome from his staff, the offers of bottles of water, the official photograph around Rick Allen's desk (it should arrive by mail any day), the passes to the Visitor's Gallery for the 115th Congress, and a private tour of the Capitol.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet Rick Allen because Congress was in session and he had just left his office, but at one point during our tour we had to step aside to let Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pass. He was THIS close; I was so awe-struck I forgot to take a photo.

Trip highlight: tour of the U.S. Capitol

~5~ Cruel and Unusual

That's what Timothy thought when we spent an afternoon at the National Museum of Art (which was Nicholas' choice). Why? Because just last month he endured an entire rainy Saturday afternoon following me around the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and two art museums within one month ... oh, the horrors!

But wait, it gets even more dire. On the day we had lunch in Chinatown, we discovered that our metro stop was right next to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and ... well, we were right there anyway ... and there's nothing like seizing the opportunity ... so we decided to enter.

THREE art museums within one month, two within the same week. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? (Timothy's words)

In the end,  I caved. Oh, we still wandered through the museum, but I gave Timothy my iPhone and let him catch Pokémon to his heart's content. There's nothing like finding a Pokémon next to a painting by Edward Hopper or Georgia O'Keefe. And there's nothing like an art museum to inspire a little sarcasm ...

Art brings out the sarcasm in you-know-who.
Me: This is beautiful. It's not a triptych, would they call it a panel series?
Timothy: How about a comic strip?

Three art museums in a month. Oh, the horrors.

~6~ Freedom in a Cross-Body Bag

It's taken me a while, but I've learned this all-important rule of life: if you carry a big purse everyone will ask you to hold their stuff -- water bottle, jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks -- you name it. When you're a mom with young children this is the norm, but now that everyone is older and self-sufficient I like being hands-free with my Coach cross-body messenger bag. It's the perfect size for a wallet, iPhone, compact, lip gloss, sunglasses, map, and a tin of Altoids. That's it. That's all I need for a day of sightseeing, and now everyone carries their own water bottle and manages their own jackets.

Hands free with my Coach cross body messenger bag

~7~ These Shoes are Made for Walking

Any time you visit a large city -- think Rome, New York, Washington D.C. -- be prepared to walk. A lot. A city block is longer than you realize, metro stairs can go on forever, art galleries and museums are sprawling; in other words, we walked miles. And lots of them.

My point? Wear comfortable shoes. While I can wear boots for an afternoon walking around the High Museum of Art, they wouldn't work for city walking. But I didn't want to totally sacrifice fashion for function, so before the trip I invested in a pair of Fit Flop Sporty-Pop X Lizard-Print Sneakers in a pretty blush, the it color for spring. Not only were they super flexible, ultra-lightweight and sooooo comfortable, but for sneakers they were pretty darn cute.

See? This is why I lag behind.

What I wore for walking around

~8~ One Picture a Day

Here's a conundrum: I like to take photos, but Nicholas and Jonathan don't like to pose for photos. So before our trip I set one rule: I was entitled to one photo of them a day, with no complaining or eye rolling. Which is how I got this photo where they are both smiling. It was a good rule.

They're posing! They're smiling!

~9~ Final Word

There was a lot going on in Washington D.C. while we were there: FBI Director James Comey was testifying at the Capitol, confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch were going on at the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress was voting on the health care bill, and President Trump made a couple of visits to the Capitol. 

Which is why I have to end with this: I absolutely love Washington D.C.

The architecture, the art, the history, our government ... it's all there. And politics aside, just being in our Nation's Capitol is a reminder of how we are all parts of the whole. It's exciting, humbling, and so inspiring.

I love Washington D.C. and can't wait to go back!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life Lately: Football for Females, Dante's Hell, and other stuff (the mundane and perfectly ordinary in 7 +1 quick takes)

~1~ Spring cleaning

When you rent your house for the Masters Golf Tournament, spring cleaning is taken up a notch. Go ahead, take a look at the photos, feel free to ooh and aah, but then read the disclosure statement below.

kitchen cabinet

spice drawer

linen closet


Please know that the neatness pictured above lasts about a month, after which everything falls into disarray. Notice the following photos. Then next spring I start all over again; in other words, I'm living in Dante's 4th Circle of Hell when he references the myth of Sisyphus who was forced to roll a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again for all eternity. Yup, that's me: doing the same things over and over and over again.

Legos, legos

See those shelves?

Not to sound overly dramatic, but ....

~3~ Bargain Secret

We are headed to Washington DC tomorrow and although it's the official first day of spring, the weather will not be spring-like. During our stay temperatures will hover around 50 degrees. With chances of rain.

So I decided I needed an all-weather coat. I have plenty of blazers/peacoats/overcoats, but they are not waterproof. And anything I have that's waterproof, isn't warm enough. So off to the mall I went.

Now I'm going to tell you something important: if you need a winter coat, now is a good time to buy one. I found a thin (but warm) puffer jacket, fitted, in a lovely mocha color for $10 (down from $70).

Mission accomplished, right? Nope, because then I saw a robin's egg blue knee-length coat I absolutely, categorically, emphatically did NOT need, but since it was marked down to $20 from well over $100 I decided it was meant to be. Plus, the blue reminded me of Tiffany's in NYC ...

Channeling my inner Audrey Hepburn who
told me to buy the coat I absolutely, categorically, emphatically did not need.

~4~ Take the shot

This weekend two years ago Timo met these guys ...

and made this shot.

~5~ Welcome Home

But note that when the cat went away, the mice did play. Case in point, while Nonna and Nonno were cruising Central America, we invaded their hearth and home: Joe foraged in Nonno's garage to borrow his electric hedge trimmer; I raided my mom's china closet (and linen closet AND flatware drawer) for my Bunco party; and then on the night of the actual party Joe and Timothy escaped to my parents' house where they finished all the Tootsie Rolls in the candy bowl.

~6~ Feast Day of St. Joseph

Since I was hosting our March Bunco, I decided to combine our monthly meeting with the Feast Day of St. Joseph. I was thrilled to be able to share our family's tradition with my friends, and I loved telling them all my St. Joseph stories. I heart St. Joseph.

~7~ Sounds from the laundry room

Scene: Joe and Timothy are in the laundry room replacing the lock on our back door. I am sitting on the couch listening to their voices as they work together on this project. Music to my ears.

~8~ I mean, can you imagine?

The older boys were looking through boxes in our attic when they came across some of Joe's childhood paraphernalia: trophies, a stopwatch, his high school class ring, and sports books. Lots and lots of sports books. Nicholas picked up The Encyclopedia of Football and opened it to chapter 8: Football for Females (How to Marry or Keep the Male Football Maniac). Gave us a good laugh ...

Clearly, Joe's childhood was all about sports.

The chapter does go on to explain the game.
I might have to read it ...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

One Good Deed a Day: The Wonderful Interconnectedness of Humanity

Be the stranger that leaves a mark in someone's life.

Once upon a time a stranger helped me, and when I heard he had passed away I wrote a letter to his family ...

Dear ~~~ Family,

You don’t know me and we have never met. But allow me to tell you a story …

A few years ago I drove to Columbia, SC to attend my sister’s baby shower. With me was my youngest son, who was four years old at the time.

When we left my sister’s to return home, an SUV of teens coming back from the lake entered a traffic circle at high speed and plowed into our van. The impact was shocking, and when the two vehicles finally came to a rest there were tire marks, debris, and broken glass spread over two lanes.

While my son and I were shaken, neither we nor the occupants of the SUV were injured.

When I dialed 911 and the operator requested the location, I was at a total loss; my sister’s family had recently moved to this area, and I didn’t even know the name of the street I was on. Suddenly, a driver pulled up behind me, parked, and got out of the car to see if we were okay. I handed him my cell phone, and he gave the operator all the information. Afterwards, he picked up car parts from the middle of the street (a bumper, a side view mirror, two hubcaps) and before I could thank him for his help he drove off.

It was a very hot afternoon, and as my son and I stood in the shade waiting for the police, this same man returned. He said he had noticed from our license plate that we were from out of state and thought that we could probably use this … and he handed me a bag with inside several juice boxes, several sleeves of Oreo cookies, and two Diet Cokes.

Juices boxes, Oreo cookies, Diet Cokes. Just like that I was reminded of how, even in the midst of bad things, there is also such goodness in this world.

I later learned his name was Chaz, and over the years I would mention him to demonstrate the tremendous love, healing and power that can be found in reaching out to a stranger.

And so I'm writing to you today to tell you this story. No, you don’t know me and we have never met. But once upon a time I briefly met Chaz, and although I heard today that he no longer is with us on this earth, please know that he will forever be in the corner of my heart where cherished memories are stored.

God bless,

Sunday, March 5, 2017

One Good Deed a Day: Recognize that Everyone Has a Story

Behind dirt, poverty, ignorance, addiction, race, and ethnicity is a person. Behind the grime, body odor, and dirty fingernails is a story. And everyone's story matters. Each one is important.

Sometimes, we are called to act without knowing the story.

And this is where faith comes in ...

A tourist took this photo of NYC policeman, Larry DePrimo, presenting
thermal socks and all-weather boots to a homeless man in Times Square.
Then he knelt and helped the man put them on.
You can read the entire story here.

Sometimes, Maybe is Good Enough

By: Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist
*published in the Columbia County News-Times (October 14, 2015)

"Please, Miss, can we have some money for food?"

I had just come out of Hobby Lobby and was walking to my car when I was approached by a little girl pushing a battered umbrella stroller. With her was an elderly woman carrying a tiny infant and another younger woman; they all looked tired, poor and unkempt.

"Where do you want to eat?" I asked.

 "Anywhere," said the girl.

I was hungry, too. It was almost 1:30 and I was in a hurry to get home. I even knew exactly what I was going to have for lunch:  homemade bread, tomatoes, cheese, and a cold glass of water with a slice of lemon. Not only did I have the luxury of having fresh, healthy food available, but I had the luxury of choice. All I had to do was get in my car and in fifteen minutes I would be home. There were no worries on my part – it was all there waiting for me. 

But this little girl was worried enough to ask a stranger for help.
Food. Water. Shelter. Safety. Such basics in life, and yet there are many people locally who don't have these things. As we live and work in our nice city, driving home at the end of the day to relax in our homes or enjoy dinner on the back deck, it is tempting to ignore the man on the side of I-20 with a Will Work for Food sign, or a bag lady pushing a shopping cart filled with junk, or a hungry girl in a parking lot because, after all, we aren't in Africa, Indonesia, Haiti, Calcutta, or Syria.
To further communicate matters, life is messy. In our ongoing quest to find the perfect job, have the perfect marriage, raise perfect children, and develop perfect bodies we do not like to be reminded that, in fact, we are living in an imperfect world. We don't want to be in the position to need help, or to complicate our lives by becoming involved, or to face moral decisions of what is the right thing to do.
Because we aren't faced with situations like these on a daily basis, it is easy to become suspicious, fearful, and even judgmental. It’s easy to place blame at the feet of those needing help. And it’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone is so much more than what we see; that beneath the dirt, grime, hunger, mental illness, and poverty is a person with a story.
I didn't know that little girl's story; I didn’t know her name, her age, or where she went to school. All I knew was that she was hungry enough to ask a stranger for food. And so I gave them what they needed.
Was I conned?
Maybe I was but, then again, maybe I wasn't. The fact is I don’t know.
But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? I had something that maybe they needed, and maybe was good enough for me.

Afterword: Strangely enough, of all the things I've had published this one struck a chord ... and not in a good way. I received a couple very nasty letters saying what I did enabled and perpetuated the problem. What do you think?