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

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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Who am I? (One key question can help us recognize our role in the political arena)

By: Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist
*published in The Augusta Chronicle (Sunday, March 6, 2016)

In the world of politics, who am I?

I vote, but I don’t campaign; I have opinions, but I don’t force them on anyone; I listen to talk radio while driving, but I don’t use bumper stickers to promote a candidate; I watch political debates, but I don’t enter into one.

In the world of politics, I am not particularly well-versed, or savvy, or even influential because, after all, in the vast political arena I am but a grain of sand.

So who, then, am I?

I am an ordinary person whose vocation in life is to be a wife to a wonderful husband and a mother to three sons, two in college and one in middle school. I work both at home and from home – doing all the things that moms everywhere do while also working as a freelance writer. My world is uncomplicated. You might even call it simple.

And yet, it is from my world of carpools, basketball practices, spelling words, college applications, school uniforms and writing deadlines that I can look at someone like Donald Trump, listen to his speeches and watch his debates and, from my simple, uncomplicated world, see him for what he is.

I look at Trump, and I recognize the playground bully who pushes, ridicules, belittles, and thinks that he is smarter, faster, and better looking than anyone else; who, like a child, pokes fun at people’s appearances – their big ears, or propensity for sweating, or way of talking; who resorts to pettiness by name calling and labeling and hurling clever insults which incite others to be just like him; and who, with a bully’s ruthlessness, will do anything – threaten, sweet talk, fight – to make sure his reign on the playground is unchallenged.

I watch Trump and see a spoiled child who pitches a fit when he doesn’t get his way; who says I want and, incredibly, people rush to do his bidding; who, when caught with his hand in the cookie jar, blames everyone and everything else; and who never, ever says I’m sorry which, in my simple world, shows lack of conscience because if you believe you are always right and can do no wrong, then  apologies are not only weak, but unnecessary, and  . . . well, do you see how dangerous this can be?

I hear the things he says about women, how he justifies his rudeness, trash talk, and total lack of respect by saying that, man or woman, it doesn’t matter. He'll go after anyone. But in my world, men don’t talk to women like that and get away with it because every woman is someone's mother, sister, grandmother or auntie and no man in his right mind wants anyone to speak to his mother, sister, grandmother or auntie like that. In my world, how a man treats a woman is the litmus test of his character.

I listen to him planning to build a wall to keep out immigrants and close borders to keep out Muslims and I go back to history and read of those who thought similarly and who, after wars and unspeakable atrocities, are today vilified for their actions.

I see how this non-politician is perhaps the most political one of all. He takes people’s frustrations and anger and –very cleverly, I’ll give him that – uses them as mortar to build a platform on which to stand. He gives people what they want and says what they want to hear, and so they come to civic centers, auditoriums, and school gyms where he is speaking to be swept up in a wave that says it’s okay to think, say, and believe as he does no matter how outrageous or offensive; he panders to ideas which, under normal circumstances, you would never tolerate because conscience, morality and all that is decent and good would have prevented you from going there in the first place.

And in Trump I recognize someone who sees life as one big business deal in which the bottom line for everything is money. Every move is a negotiation; every handshake is a financial transaction. People are numbers on spread sheets, and success is measured in dollar bills. He is a businessman to the core, and for the life of me I can’t imagine how he can serve as our president and not make decisions that wouldn’t somehow line his own pockets.

Alas, no candidate is perfect. They all have flaws because they are all human. But from the ordinariness of my life, I recognize in Trump a man in whom I don’t want my sons to emulate simply because we have raised them to be better than he is. And in an election year, in which two of our sons will be voting for the first time, they call us with their political insights and text their political commentaries and we have wonderful, mature discussions which reassure me they will never place their loyalty at the feet of someone who would just as soon step on them. They get it.

In the end, where do I fit into the grand scheme of things? Because in the political arena of candidates, pundits and pollsters, in this time of speeches, rallies, caucuses and primaries, on the political map of which I am but a speck, who am I, really?

Well, if this election has taught me anything, who I am is more important now than ever. I am a wife, a mother, a writer. I drive for field trips, bandage skinned knees, and prepare dinner for my family. But I am so much more.
Who I am is a voice.

And from the extraordinary ordinariness of my life, I choose not to be silent.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Life Lately: Lenten Sunday Check-in: Me in Mukluks, Joe in Lederhosen

~Friday, a week ago, en route to Virginia Beach~

With the long weekend due to President's Day, we picked up the bambino from school and headed to Virginia Beach to visit Joe's dad and his sister. This was the first time we didn't take the van (no Nicholas, no Jonathan) and the three of us were nice and cozy in Joe's Toyota with our fluffy pillows and flannel blankets.

Well, not Joe. He was driving, but Timothy and I snuggled under our blankets and passed the time reading all those Pedro signs on I-95. Really, you never sausage signs (#tacky).

~Saturday, girl time~

Whenever we go to Virginia Beach, I ditch the guys and head out with Joe's sister, Lisa, for some girl time. This is our tradition: we have a lovely lunch at the Nordstrom Café (where we linger and talk), do some shopping, then walk two stores (and just two!) into the mall to Charming Charlie's, and finally we retrace our steps to head back to our car. On the way out we stop at the Nordstrom Espresso Bar for a cappuccino to go.

We timed it perfectly so that we met the guys at Mass.

~Sunday, celebrating everything~

Valentine's Day. It was cold. And blustery. So other than a quick trip to Ollie's (another tradition) we stayed in. I cooked a Valentine's Day dinner for everyone, and then we had Christmas and said Happy Birthday! Seriously. Lisa passed out Christmas and birthday presents. And see that change purse? My very first Kate Spade.

~Monday, me in mukluks~

In the early morning (very early, like time for milking early) I discovered it was snowing. So I made a hot cup of tea and as soon as there was a smidgen of light I put on my mukluks (actually they're fake Uggs, but mukluks sounds more weather-appropriate) and went for a walk. There I was, in my striped pj's, long overcoat, and mukluks walking around Papa's yard taking photos. I left snowy mukluk footprints everywhere while the entire neighborhood was still sleeping.

Later that morning, we packed the car and started the drive back home in the blustery weather with an inch of ice covering our headlights, front hood, and side mirrors. Our windshield wipers couldn't work fast enough to keep ice from accumulating on our windshield.

~Tuesday, Harry Potter~

Joe left for California, so it was just me and the bambino. For dinner we had Chick-fil-A and continued our Harry Potter marathon ... we're on the fifth movie. Boy did we ever have fun imitating, booing, and making fun of Professor Umbridge. Really, she is the kind of character who is fun to hate. Deliciously evil, that one.

~Wednesday, the most boring present (ever)~

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. I worked all day. Didn't even change. I picked up Timothy from school wearing my fuzzy slippers and looking like this:

At some point I finally took a shower, but only because I had Bunco. While I was at Bunco winning ... well ... absolutely nothing (#loser), Timothy had dinner with i Nonni and gave Nonno the most boring present ever (purchased at Ollie's): a 12-month fishing calendar in which a fishing lure is not only featured every month, but also on every day of every month. B.O.R.I.N.G.

Strangely, Nonno liked it.

~Thursday, a win~

Again ... deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. I had to skip Bible study. At some point I took a shower, mainly because Joe was coming home and Timothy had a basketball game that night.

And Timothy's team won their game! The bambino scored 11 points, including a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.

~Friday, two days ago, Joe in lederhosen~

I had lunch with a friend, and the weather was so lovely we dined al fresco. After eating I said happy birthday to her, she said happy birthday to me, and we exchanged gifts.

That night we watched The Amazing Race. Joe and I always play along and discuss which one of us would do which road block. The mud bath? I would so make Joe do that one. Sometimes we talk about trying out for the show but I honestly don't know if our marriage would survive. Plus, Joe doesn't dance and I'm a wimp. If Joe had to wear lederhosen and learn the polka, we would be toast; 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.

~Saturday, yesterday, the great jewelry purge~

What do I do when I have a Saturday to-do list, but don't feel like doing any of it? I organize my jewelry drawer. I procrastinate with bling.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016