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

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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Do Things Yesterday

Last night I had a dream.

It was the night before our departure for Italy and everyone was spending the night at our house. (And that’s everyone as is in ALL 32 women).

In the midst of the craziness Joe whispered the dreaded “P word” in my ear which is a bad, bad word in our house. I get more lectures about procrastination only because, well, Joe does things yesterday and I do thing tomorrow.

ANYWAY, in my dream I had decided to pack in the morning (the day of the trip) because I would have plenty of time (hence the the "P word"). 

You can probably see where this is going. 

A storm during the night knocks out power to all our clocks, and all the backup batteries were dead. Do you know that scene in Home Alone when the family oversleeps and everyone is running around trying to get ready for their trip to Paris? Yeah, that one. In my dream I had 45 minutes to shower, get ready, and pack my suitcase. I was a wild woman trying to get everything done; at one point, I texted Joe (who was downstairs and couldn’t hear through the chaos of 32 women)  to GET MY PASSPORT OUT OF THE SAFE and to HURRY IT UP because WE NEEDED TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW.

I woke up with my heart pounding.

Moral of the story: Be like Joe (who does things yesterday) and not like me (who does things tomorrow).

The end.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Trip to Somewhere

Joe has planned a little family trip for Labor Day Weekend.

Now, you're probably wondering where we are going. Yeah, about that. I would tell you except I DON'T KNOW. Even after using my Mom Interrogation Skills (which are pretty awesome), I know nothing.

Joe knows where we're going. So does Timothy. Even my parents know.

But not me.

It's TOP SECRET INFORMATION and I'm the only one who doesn't have clearance.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Travel Journal: Interacting with the Travel Experience

When I first saw the movie, The English Patient, I loved the scene when Almasy shows Katharine Clifton his travel journal. Bursting at the seams, the leather notebook is  filled with drawings, observations, maps, and notes of his travels. As a writer and a former avid diary keeper, Almasy's journal fascinated me and has ever since inspired me to keep a journal when traveling, but not for the obvious reason of simply recording my day-to-day adventures; instead, I keep a travel journal because it has taught me to not only experience the world as a traveler, but also as a writer and an artist. 

As a result, I have learned to notice things that would otherwise be overlooked—the ice cream vendor with the disarming smile (and missing front tooth), how the sun filters through sheets drying on a line, the way the raindrops sound on cobblestones, the gnarled hands of the shoe maker, the taste of a flaky pastry while strolling through a market. 

Keeping a travel journal doesn't have to be complicated. Sometimes I keep a traditional journal with daily entries, sometimes I simply write lists of things I’ve seen that day, and sometimes it’s a postcard taped onto a page. The important thing to remember is that the act of recording the trip should not prevent you from experiencing the trip. So, during the day I will make a mental note, jot down a single idea, or take a photo to remind me to write about it later--usually in the hotel room that night or on a long bus or train ride.

In three weeks we leave for our 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy, and my journal is ready ... empty pages like stepping stones to adventure.

Travel Journal Ideas

1- Traditional vs. Non-Traditional

Instead of writing entries in a notebook, you can write about your day on the back of a postcard and mail it to yourself. Then, once you get home the postcards will begin arriving to your mailbox, each one with a special memory of your trip. (This is something we have always done with our boys, and they still like looking at those postcards they mailed to themselves years ago.) You can also journal with photos (in the past, I've done highlights of each day in five photos) or think of your journal as a scrapbook and fill it with postcards, brochures, ticket stubs, train tickets, restaurant napkins, or even a candy wrappers.

                                                             2- Bullet Points

If I am planning a big trip I like to prep my journal ahead of time by giving pages specific titles. For example ...

Before the Trip
(In which I jot down notes, lists, flights, and planned itinerary.)
(Sometimes I also include packing lists.) 

Quote of the Day 
(While traveling I like to write down things people say ... the funny, profound, insane.)
(This was one of my favorite journaling inspirations from our last trip)

  People I Meet 
(I like to describe some of the people I meet, 
everyone from the quirky tour guide, to the grumpy waiter, to the handsome boat captain.)

What I Ate
(How many times did I eat a gelato? Or what was my favorite meal of the entire trip?)
(Sometimes I will take a photo of a dish that I want to recreate once I return home)

 Things I purchased
(Not only what, but where, with whom, when, and why.)
(There is always a story behind a purchase.)

 Wow moments 
(What moved me? What made me smile, cry, angry, or amazed?
What rendered me speechless?)

 Things I Learned
(Because when I travel, I am always learning.)

from the files of very bad poetry by bia
(This is my tagline because sometimes I am inspired to write a poem.)

Where in the World is Bia?
(Nothing says "travel journal" like a good map.)
(Maps. Drawn, sketched, torn from a book.)

3- Traveler, Writer, Artist

Not everyone is a writer, so if you are more artistic, sketch a gondola, a pot of blooming geraniums, the mountain goat. If you're a musician, take photos of every street musician you encounter. If you're a dancer, join in a folk dance and then tell the story through a video, a photo, or a written description. If you are a chef, turn your travel journal into a recipe book. 

4- Final Words

Finally, during my travels I want to step confidently, explore boldly and, most importantly, experience wholly. I want to be fully present in the place I am visiting, and part of being fully present is interacting with the experience. A travel journal helps me do this. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: words

i like words that
mean what they sound 
bamboozle, flummox, festoon
or sound what they mean 
chattanooga choo choo.

sometimes words
mean something mean 
devious, diabolical, machiavellian
or invoke a dream 
quixotic, visionary, idyllic.

you can laugh
at words that are funny 
cattywampus, discombobulate, wonky
or words that are funny to say 
worcestershire, hullabaloo, flibbertigibbet

there are words
for letting go 
ephemeral, evanescent, fleeting
or others for holding tight
grasp, clench, embrace.

some words
inspire change 
adventure, creativity, curiosity
or provide anchor 
gratitude, contentment, peace.

mostly though
i like words 
spoken and written
or, neither spoken nor written
but understood.

*from the files of very bad poetry by bia

Friday, August 23, 2019

La Bella Figura, ch. 6

"I once watched Nonna eat a tomato. We had just gone shopping, and as we were unpacking the groceries Nonna reached into a brown paper bag and pulled out a juicy red tomato that the farmer promised had been picked from the vine just that morning. Then, holding it like an apple, Nonna bit into the tomato. She closed her eyes in bliss as she chewed, and when I giggled she opened one eye, looked at me, and took another huge bite. She was passionately living in the moment which, I later realized, is the key to la bella figura. If you have a passion for something then you give it your very best, which consequently means you are living completely, wholly in the moment. There are no half measures."

An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses (La Bella Figura, ch. 6)

An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses
available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thursday, August 22, 2019

La Dolce Vita Travels: Riding the Wave

Rome, 2015. My sister and I are standing in front of Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica.

Today, just 27 days away from our 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy, I look at this photo and experience the waves of emotions which result when art, history, culture, and travel collide.

They are powerful emotions.

And I look forward to riding the waves.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Bra Workout

WARNING: If you are a guy, I don’t think you’ll be interested in this, so just mosey on along. But for you gals … continue reading.

I’m sure many of you would agree that shopping can be a workout. Bathing suits, skinny jeans, and the perfect prom dress require oodles of time, so much so that you write it on your calendar. THURSDAY: mall for bathing suits; SATURDAY: find perfect pair of jeans. Shopping for these items also involve marathon try-on sessions which, as in the case of bathing suits and skinny jeans, turn you into a contortionist that would put any Cirque de Soleil performer to shame.

And then there is bra shopping, which took up TWO HOURS of my time this morning.

I’m sure you’re scoffing. Two hours? How can that be? Allow me …

First, the selection of bra types is mind boggling: minimizer, t-shirt, push-up, racerback, full coverage, underwire, cross-back, balconette, bandeau, contour, convertible, full cup, demi cup, maternity, padded, plunge, shelf, stick-on, and strapless.

Then, the size you THOUGHT you were isn’t working anymore. You know this because, having been professionally fitted, reality comes crashing down with the news that you’ve been wearing the wrong bra size all along. Well then. Now you know.

But you don’t, not really, because knowing your perfect fit is just a STARTING POINT. You now need to convert your professionally fitted bra recommendation to the size and type of EVERY brand of bra because a 34B or a 38C is not the same across the board.

The cruelest thing? The sizes don’t necessarily translate between color because when you find the perfect fitting black bra, you go pick out a nude one in the same style and size thinking that your job is now done, but the nude one doesn’t fit the same as the black one.

Let me repeat that: same size and brand, but a different color, and the sizing is off. What the heck?

So you can see how the two hours were necessary. A SWEATY two hours because… well … Cirque du Soleil in the dressing room.

See? A workout, I tell you.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: Now Moments

an early weekday morning ... whispers in the dark ... 
a quiet breakfast ... a quiet drive ... 
first day of school ... 

10th grade, when just yesterday it was kindergarten


after dinner, still at the kitchen table ... a board game ... 
brother vs. brother ... mother vs. sons ... laughter ... 
mom loses ...

but nonetheless wins


Sunday evening ... one phone call, then two ... 
one son, then the other ... voices deep, young men now ...  
checking in with mom ... 

calling home


cooking again ... dishes again ...
the repetition of chores ... but then, a husband holding a flower ...
and just like that ...

what chores?


a cardinal in the sprinklers ... a blue jay on the fence ...
splashes of colors ... later, a rainstorm in the sun ... a rainbow in the gray

things you see when you look

You must live in the present,
launch yourself on every wave,
find your eternity in each moment.

-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 9, 2019

An Evening Contemplation

Yesterday, looking at the evening sky, these were my totally random thoughts ...

A friend of mine (who is now a Franciscan priest) once told me that clouds are every color except white. Studying the puffy, billowy clouds overhead I saw purple, pink, blue, grey and yellow, but no white.

The puffy clouds reminded me of  this conversation from Winnie the Pooh: "Why is the sky blue?" asked Piglet. "To give us something to talk about," said Pooh.

Then, probably because I was in an introspective mood, this quote popped into my head: "Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

And such was my evening. That night I went to bed and slept well.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Day Before the First Day of You-Know-What

We are not allowed to say the "s" word around here. It's verboten. To do so ruins all the carefree, youthful abandonment of summer vacation.

That being said, tomorrow is the first day of you-know-what, so here's how we prepare ...

1- restock homework basket
2- clean out kitchen drawer (we don't have enough rubber bands) (ha!)
3- fill folders with notebook paper, gather supplies, pack backpack
4- pull out lunchbox
5- laundry
6- get in all the Xbox you can because once you-know-what begins, gaming is only on weekends

Monday, August 5, 2019

Makes My Monday: Adulting

Last Friday, Jonathan came home after a 9-week summer internship in Atlanta. After all that hard work I assumed he'd spend this time relaxing before heading back to school in the fall, but I was wrong. On Saturday morning, he got up when his alarm went off at 7:30, showered, ate breakfast, and began studying for his CPA exam. He emerged from his room at lunchtime and dinnertime. The same thing happened on Sunday. He's determined to use these two weeks to get a head start on his test prep.

Three states over in Arkansas, Nicholas, who is a computer engineer, also woke up early Saturday morning. Due to a new program implementation at work, he put in a 9-5 workday. When he called Sunday evening to tell me about it, he said he didn't mind. He likes his coworkers, he likes his job, and they were treated to a catered breakfast and lunch.

And what did Timothy do on Saturday? He did not get up early; in fact, at 10:30 I went in to wake him up. He ate breakfast, made his bed, poked his head in to say hi to Jonathan, then went to work on his Xbox for the rest of the day.

"School starts this Wednesday and I'm running out of time!" he explained.

Somehow, I have a feeling he wasn't just talking about school.

Timothy, always following in his brothers' footsteps

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: Pockets of Grace

Once upon a time I was a woman on a mission. I had exactly five minutes to run into Publix, figure out what to fix for dinner, pray for a short check-out lane, hope for no traffic snarls, pick up the boys, run home . . . the list went on and on. It was one of those days.

Chicken fingers, I decided. Rushing to the deli counter I got there at the same time as another man. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but I was so busy mentally going over my to-do list that I didn't even acknowledge him.

"Who's next?" asked the Publix attendant.

I looked at the older gentleman standing next to me.

"Oh, you're prettier than I am," he said graciously. "Please, you go."

A laugh just bubbled out of me. I thanked him and placed my order of 15 chicken fingers, remembered that I was picking up the boys from practice, and changed the order to 20 chicken fingers.

The man laughed.

"How do you suppose she keeps her trim figure eating all that?" he asked the Publix attendant.

Later, when I was telling this story to the family during dinner, I had to convince them that A) the man wasn't senile, and B) that he could see just fine thank-you-very-much. Oh, the teasing was all in good fun but, really, the point wasn't what the man said but that he said anything at all.

Mark Twain once said that he could live for two months on a good compliment and, while I don't know about two months, I do know that my stranger's kind words certainly put a spring in my step and changed the course of the rest of my day. I slowed down, I remembered to breathe, I wasn't late for anyone or anything.

And dinner was great.

A moment with a stranger was all it took for time to stand still. There is a visceral beauty in reaching out to others in kindness, warmth and good-will, in sharing a moment, a laugh, a story, or a even a compliment with a stranger, for these little pockets of grace reaffirm the wonderful interconnectedness of humanity.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Boy, Oh Boy

I'm surrounded by boys, and sometimes ...

Sometimes, after spending all day cooking, I wish they would linger over the meal and not wolf everything down in two seconds.

Sometimes, I could do with less wrestling matches in the house.

Sometimes, I'd like someone to go to the mall with me and not act like they're being tortured.

Sometimes, I would like to watch a Saturday afternoon movie instead of basketball, football, or golf.

Sometimes, I get tired of tripping over size 12 sneakers all over the place.

Sometimes, I wish for something pink in my house.

Sometimes, I'd like to walk into a clean boys' bathroom.

And sometimes ...

Sometimes when they sing in the shower, lean over my shoulder to see what I am writing, kneel next to me in church, show me their latest essay, call just to talk, or plant a sloppy kiss on my cheek, then I think ...

I wouldn't have it any other way.