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

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Stink, Stank, Stunk

As a mom of boys, I have learned that whenever I pick them up from practice -- whether it's football, basketball, tennis, or soccer -- it is of the utmost importance to drive home with the windows open, regardless of the weather. Rain or shine, sweltering or freezing, the window is open.

This is called survival mode because when a boy enters the van in all his sweaty glory after a 2-hour practice, the air quality is severely affected. And I need to breathe.

Yesterday I experienced an entirely new level of stink. Brace yourself.

"Oh my gosh, Mom," said Timothy as we were driving home after a soccer game. "My knees are so sweaty and my knee pads really stink. Here. Smell."


I am not going to say anything except this ...

knees sweat.

Who knew?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Life Lately: No wine, thank you notes, adrift, a yellow world, thinking

I just wanted wine

This weekend Costco was promoting a French wine -- Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé. It looked light and refreshing, so I picked up a bottle with the intention of serving it that very day when my parents came over for lunch.

But it was the wrong day to buy wine.

"I'm sorry," said the cashier. "It's Sunday, so by law we have to wait until after 12:30 before we can sell the wine."

At first I was a little embarrassed for trying to purchase wine so early in the morning, and then I felt downright sinful because I wanted to buy the wine on a Sunday.

The cashier looked sheepish.

"I guess they want you to go to church first," he said.

"Well, been there, done that earlier," I replied. "And I still want that nice bottle of wine."

For some reason, the man behind me thought that was funny. Like, he laughed out loud.

So I walked out of Costco without that nice bottle of wine, darn it. Moral of the story: if you are so inclined to indulge ... plan ahead.

THIS is why I like to drive for school field trips ...


Tonight, we are adrift, anchorless as the evening hours stretch endlessly until bedtime. No longer can we sit on the couch here, while our hearts are in South Korea. No more snowboarding, cross country skiing, or ice skating. No more saying PyeonChang three times in a row, very fast, in order to sound Korean. No more staying up late to watch the guys from Minnesota and Wisconsin win the curling gold medal, or watching 3,000 athletes from 92 countries embracing the Olympic spirit during the Opening Ceremony.

The Olympics are over, and we are sad.

The yellow stuff ... it's a-coming

Thinking about ...

this painting for the guest room,

and this rug for the family room.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol 2 (Living Fully)

Inspirational nuggets from last week. Which one speaks to you?

"Pray for the grace to live bigger than the smallness of yourself."
(The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf)

"To live without faith (to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth) is not living, it's getting by. We should never just get by, but really live."
(Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati)

"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving."
(Saint Francis de Sales)

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it."
(Chinese proverb)

and my favorite ...

"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say."
(Flannery O' Connor)

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Kiss

Yesterday I volunteered to drive for a field trip to see the production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

On the drive we discussed the book (they still haven’t finished reading it in class). Since I’ve seen the play several times I felt I needed to forewarn the boys: there’s not a lot of action, it’s all dialogue, and everything happens in the annex (no exciting scene changes).

The boys nodded.

“Just so you know,” my son informed me. “Anne Frank and Peter Van Daan kiss. Consider yourself warned. We are not supposed to laugh or cheer or make any noise.”

Oh. My. Gosh.  THE KISS. I remembered what happened when I drove on this very same field trip when Timothy’s older brother was in the eighth grade: the entire theater audience – in the IMPERIAL Theater, mind you, with velvet seat cushions and plush carpets – erupted in spontaneous applause at that one, teeny tiny, very chaste kiss.

“Look,” I told the boys in the car. “I think you can handle the kiss.”

In the rearview mirror I could see them all smile, most of them sporting braces. Kisses and braces. Now THAT’S funny, but I kept that particular thought to myself.

 I understood the teacher’s warning, though. This was a serious play, with a very serious subject matter, and the students needed to act accordingly.

So sitting in the nosebleed section of the Imperial Theater I held my breath during the scene when Anne exuberantly throws her arms around Peter and kisses him. There was ONE SECOND of silence, and then it began. Nervous giggles here, scattered clapping there, and then … spontaneous applause. (To give credit to the boys’ teacher, our students didn’t clap or cheer, but they were definitely smiling, nudging, and whispering).

Once things settled down, I thought how most of the students in the theater were the exact age as Anne Frank -- a young teen who was constantly reprimanded for being frivolous, or scolded for talking too much, or told to be quiet. She was a thirteen year old girl thrust into a very adult world, and she was still able to be a kid, to laugh and joke and tease. She seized happiness where and when she could.

So I appreciated the students’ response because it was so real. At this age they can be immature at times, frustrating most of the time, but wonderful all the same.

They laughed when they probably shouldn't have ...

and it made me smile.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Wired for a Smile (pt. 2)

Once upon a time baby brother was fascinated by his older brother's braces. He asked lots of questions -- Did they take your teeth out and put them back in with the braces? If my teeth get bent or squished, can I have braces, too? Can I have all your gum?

Well, today baby brother knows the answer to all those questions. And by the way, he is wearing St. Mary's blue from head to toe -- sneakers, shorts, shirt, AND braces.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday

Inspirational nuggets from last week:

"God doesn't meet us halfway; He meets us where we are."
(homily, Deacon Al Sullivan)

"You are his work, his poem, his masterpiece."
(The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf)

"You may not feel you are a likely candidate for God to work through. That's the beauty of it -- none of us is."
(The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf

"Thank God for the things you have prayed for but have not yet received.'
(The Faith Dare, Debbie Alsdorf)

"Cultivate the gift of gentleness."
(Happiness in this Life, Pope Francis)

Photo: Verona, Italy 2015 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bia the brunette, Ua the Blonde

Once upon a time

there were two sisters named Maria and Laura, except to their families they were known as Bia the Brunette and Ua the Blonde.

One day the sisters met for lunch in Aiken, SC to celebrate Bia's birthday. It had been three whole weeks since they last saw each other, and twelve hours since they last spoke on the phone, so they had a lot of catching up to do. They walked around the beautiful downtown area, talked about everything, and wandered in and out of the quaint shops lining the main street. At one point they were browsing in an art store featuring local artists.

"Hey Ua!" Bia called. "Come and look at this. It's us!"

She pointed to the wall where two pieces of weathered wood were hanging, one with a painting of a blonde girl, and the other a brunette. And it was true, they were Ua and Bia! The sisters laughed at their discovery and then headed to lunch at Malia's.

After a marvelous meal, and after sharing a huge slice of peanut butter pie, the two sisters kissed each other goodbye and headed home.

Two days later Bia the Brunette saw a package on her front porch. Curious, she carried it inside to open it.

It was from Ua the Blonde, and the contents made Bia both laugh and cry.

The End

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Presidential Potrait: Let's Discuss

The last time we were in Washington D.C. as a family, everyone had a say-so about our itinerary for the week.

Joe: a Washington Wizards basketball game
Jonathan: National Museum of American History
Timothy: National Air & Space Museum
Nicholas: National Museum of Art
Me: private tour of the U.S. Capitol via our congressman's office

Of course, you cannot go to Washington D.C. without visiting an art gallery, or two. You just can't. Luckily, my boys LOVE art museums; there is nothing they'd rather do. It's the highlight of any vacation.

Ha! In case you missed it, that was sarcasm at it's finest. Here's what usually happens at an art museum ...

Or, allow me to express this artistically ...

But as far as museums go, I have learned that visiting the presidential portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is very relatable and encourages contemplation. See ... here are my boys contemplating.

And here is Timothy who is even smiling. (Or maybe he's smiling because of the toy he is holding, the one we purchased at the Spy Museum.) (Now THAT museum they loved.)

This April we will be accompanying Joe on a work trip to our nation's capital and I have plans to once again visit the Portrait Gallery, if only to see the newly revealed portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

And since art inspires conversation, I have to ask: what do you think of them?

Before I could answer the question I had to do some research; I had to go beyond what is actually visible in order to delve into the story, meaning, and inspiration behind the art. 

In former President Obama's portrait, for example, the African lilies are a nod to his father's home country of Kenya, the Chrysanthemums are the official flower of Chicago (the start of his political career), and the Arabian jasmine thrives in Hawaii where the president spent his childhood. The presence of all these flowers challenges the viewer to grapple with the improbability of Obama's rise, and the way the president leans forward, his collar unbuttoned, denotes an openness which is in stark contrast to some of the earlier presidential portraits.

In Michelle Obama's portrait, her usually animated face is calm, almost as if she's at peace with her role during those eight years in the White House. Her long hair represents the low-maintenance glamour she was known for. Ultimately, this isn't a portrait of the Michelle Obama we know (in fact, it doesn't really look like her), but one of how she sees herself.

Interesting, yes? But knowing the story behind the art doesn't mean you have to like it, not at all. It does, however, give you a sense of appreciation for what the art is trying to say.

Which is where I am with the portraits. I appreciate them, but I'm not sure if I like them.

I'm still thinking about it ...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bia and the Wonderful, Fantastic, Very Great Birthday Present

Last week, a few days before my birthday which, by the way, I graciously shared with World Nutella Day, Timothy went out with his Dad. Since I wasn’t invited along I had a pretty good idea their declaration of “going to run errands” really meant they were going birthday shopping.

Sure enough, when they returned home Timothy nonchalantly walked through the kitchen holding something under his shirt. And like a good mom, I pretended not to notice. I also pretended not to notice when, a few minutes later, he rummaged through the kitchen drawer for scissors and tape.

As a mom, it is very endearing watching my sons learn how to gift. In the beginning it was homemade cards with “Hapy Birfday” written in a purple crayon; later, their cards were elaborately decorated with Pikachu, Jigglypuff or Bulbasaur, their drawings reflecting the Pokémon world which fueled their imagination.

Then, for several years I received gift baskets of soap or shampoo because in their young minds a mom is a girl, and girls smell good, so therefore girls (and moms) must really like gardenia soap or shampoo that smells like a lavender field.

Over time the gifts reflected things we liked to do together – a board game (Settlers of Catan) because that was the one strategy game I could play, or the DVD box set for Season 3 of Sherlock (which we watched together).

Then there were those gifts that were all about Mom’s favorite things: Starbucks gift cards, anything Downton Abbey, and Sephora gift cards which had me smiling just thinking of my guys walking out carrying that little black and white bag.

And I especially hold dear the thoughtful gifts: the year Jonathan, when he heard that Joe and my parents wouldn’t be here on my actual birthday, rearranged his work schedule at Arby’s so he could take me out to dinner; and when Nicholas, after he learned I had to limit my cappuccino to once a week due to a dairy intolerance, sent me a huge box of assorted teas from Two Rivers Tea Company.

Which brings me to this year’s birthday present from Timothy. Over the weekend he became even more mysterious when he informed me, “It’s perfect that your birthday is on a Monday because your present is a Monday gift.”

Monday? What was so special about Monday? The only thing we do every Monday is go to school, come home, go to practice, eat dinner, and watch Better Late than Never. Actually, that show – featuring Henry Winkler, William Shatner, George Foreman, and Terry Bradshaw – is the highlight of our Monday. Watching those celebrities (along with their sidekick Jeff Dye) cavort through Europe is funny stupid. Or is it stupid funny? Anyway, they’re all funny (most especially Terry Bradshaw) and the show makes us laugh out loud.

So, what was Timothy’s perfect-for-a-Monday-present? Drum roll, please ...
He gave me Terry Bradshaw’s book, It’s Only a Game. I laughed when I unwrapped because … well, can you imagine me … and a book about Terry Bradshaw? But then I laughed because it was the most perfect, thoughtful gift, one which will forever evoke memories of us laughing like crazy together on the living room couch every Monday night.
I’m going to read that book. I’m going to learn more about Terry Bradshaw than I would have ever thought possible, and then I’m going to proudly display it on my book shelf ... right between the Shakespeare volumes and poetry books.

Hapy Birfday to me!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dance with a British Accent

Scene: Driving on the interstate when Ed Sheeran's song, Perfect, comes on the radio.

"What's he dancing on?" asked my husband. "Crass? Cross? I don't understand."

"Grass!" I replied. "He's dancing on the grass."


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Amazing Race Couch Contestants

The evening ahead couldn't be more perfect: no homework, no practice, lots of rain, spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, and a two hour episode of The Amazing Race.

We're easy like that.

Seriously, though, we love The Amazing Race. Joe and I always play along and discuss which one of us would do which road block. Maneuver through the rat infested Karni Mata Temple in India? Joe would so do that challenge. Drink pig's blood in a Hungarian castle? Joe, again. Restore a fresco on a church ceiling in Italy? ME! I would do that one.

Sometimes we talk about trying out for the show but I honestly don't think we'd survive -- Joe doesn't dance and I'm a wimp. If Joe had to wear lederhosen and learn the polka, we would be eliminated for sure; if I had to bungee jump, eat something weird, or go without my hair dryer I would do the ugly cry right there on national television.

So we're good right where we are -- eating spaghetti on a rainy winter evening and then watching the show from the comfort of our couch.

Monday, February 5, 2018

It's my birthday and I'll eat Nutella if I want to

On my birthday, all the crazy, zany things of my life. I'm an open book.

~The stars aligned when my birthday was declared World Nutella Day.

~Whenever we play miniature golf as a family, I always win. I'm surrounded by all these guys, all these GOLFING, SPORTY guys, and I win. Makes them most annoyed.

~I laugh maniacally. My brother and sister refer to it as Bia's annoying laugh.

~On a mission trip to Haiti, I was the only one in my group who did NOT succumb to intestinal issues. I was Super Missionary with Intestines of Steel.

~Joe and I were once selected out of the audience to participate in a hobby horse race at a Dolly Parton Show. We won, and we have the medals to prove it.

~At a Beatles tribute concert "Paul McCartney" threw me his guitar pick.

~When I was on a girls' trip to Las Vegas, we met Pete Rose. I didn't know who he was at the time, but I did afterwards. I also met Nicolas Cage, but he was fake. I always wished it had been the other way around -- a real Nicolas Cage and a fake Pete Rose.

~While studying abroad in Spain, we visited a matador training facility (a capea) where I faced down a bull. Well, it was a baby bull. Actually ... it might have been a cow.

~I taught my son's kindergarten class how to dance the Tarantella and introduced them to Nutella.

~My college professor at UGA liked my term paper on Jane Eyre so much that she made me read it aloud to the class.

~My favorite book is Jane Eyre.

~I like art museums. My guys? Not so much. But on Mother's Day and my birthday ... they come around.

~I was once served with a subpoena to appear in court and testify against a drunk driver who hit me head-on and then threw beer bottles into the lake before the police arrived. (And this: while he was destroying evidence I was kneeling in the road next to his dying 7-year old son who had been thrown from the car.) (And yes, the guy was sent to prison. This was his third DUI offense.)

~When I was in the second grade I was chased by a GIANT Irish setter who knocked me to the ground and ate my First Communion prayer book. I have been afraid of dogs ever since.

~I was four months pregnant with Nicholas when I climbed Giotto's bell tower in Florence. Temperatures were in the triple digits and nobody else wanted to do it, but this pregnant lady shamed them into it.

~Last night I texted my sister for help with this post, and she was most helpful.

~So, based on her helpful response ...When I enrolled at UGA I decided to leave my car at home since I was living on campus. My sister totaled it my first week of classes. Let me repeat that: she TOTALED my car. Thanks, Ua!

~Finally, I leave phone messages like I'm dictating a text (not on purpose, either): Hi dear sister EXCLAMATION POINT You still owe me a car PERIOD Like, a real car PERIOD But I'll settle for lunch PERIOD Do you want to meet in Aiken this week QUESTION MARK Love you DOT DOT DOT

Friday, February 2, 2018

Life Lately: a doppelgänger, a rose, and the difference between a seahawk and an eagle

Find your doppelgänger  through a selfie

Do you look more like the Mona Lisa, or Cruella de Vil? There's one way to find out ...

Open the Arts & Culture App (free download) and scroll down until you come to "Search with your selfie". Click on the link, take a selfie, and let the app match your selfie with a museum potrait. It's great fun, especially if you take photos when you are not at your best. Here's me, matched to Honest Abe.

It's all in the rose

This week the 8th grade basketball players and their parents were honored. Joe and I did the math: we have been part of our parish school for 19 consecutive years. That's as long as we've lived in our house. That's almost as long as we've been married. Nineteen years. Whoa. And it all comes to an end when Timothy graduates in May.

Sometimes you need a little sparkle

Water is good, but sometimes a little sparkle and a tiny hint of flavor is just the thing. La Croix Sparkling Water -- zero calories, sweeteners or sodium, but très bon!

Empty Spaces

When the older boys are home there is always music in the air -- Jonathan usually plays on his keyboard, and Nicholas on the upright piano in the dining room. Yesterday I was cleaning our rec room and realized how sad this space looks without Jonathan's piano papers and keyboard. And then I remembered how Nicholas, when he was home over Christmas, sat down at the piano and started playing City of Love from La La Land. I was cooking in the kitchen and stopped right there as my heart melted into a puddle on the floor.

Super Bowl -- pretending to know what I'm talking about

I know you probably won't believe this, but I am excited about the Super Bowl, mainly for Jonathan who has been an Eagles fan since the beginning of time. Also, I'm glad I don't have to share my birthday with the Super Bowl which is what happened last year when I got showered with attention right up until game time after which ... nothing.

But this Sunday I will fix Super Bowl food, pull out our football-shaped plates, and get ready to take secret mom photos of the guys going bonkers.

And to show you what a great sport I am, I just ran up to Jonathan's room to retrieve his football helmets with the intention of setting out a helmet for each team. But I tell you, it's a good thing I first checked with Joe because I originally came down with a Patriots helmet and a Seahawks helmet.

Seahawk, eagle ... they looked the same to me.