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

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 9 (truth and love)

Yesterday we were driving home from Atlanta and decided to stop and attend Mass at St. James Catholic Church in Madison, Georgia.

The church was tiny, with maybe 75 parishioners in attendance, most of them retired. Timothy was the youngest one there, and Joe and I might have been, too.

But the priest from that tiny church packed quite a punch with his homily on truth and love. Before his homily I thought of truth and love as two separate concepts, but now I see how important it is to live them as one -- truthandlove. While he spoke within the context of our faith, I think his words hold meaning to all areas of our life, whether we're in school, work, home, the sports arena, or even the political one.

Anyway, here are some quotes from his homily...

"Christ calls us to live in truth and love. Not truth or love. Not truth over here and love over there. But truth and love. Together. Like the vine and the branches."

"Those who live truth to the extreme point fingers at others and accuse them of being wrong or tell them they're going to hell. This isn't love."

"Those who live love to the extreme keep the truth buried. They embrace the idea -- popular in today's society -- that love means getting along and doing or saying anything to keep everyone happy. They become afraid to speak the truth for fear of offending anyone. This isn't truth."

"Although it will cause a reaction, both good and bad, practice truth and love as one -- love the truth, but live it with love."


Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Whole Lot of Less

I once went on a day trip to Atlanta with a nun from Tanzania who, upon leaving our house, slipped a handkerchief into her pocket. No purse, no handbag, no jacket or snack. Just a hankie.

That image stayed with me and later I wrote (and published) a story on the lessons of simplicity she taught me during her visits with us. (A Hankie for My Pocket)

Those lessons keep me mindful of too much, of clutter that has a way of taking over all aspects of life -- everything from what is in our closets to how we schedule our free time.

It was in this mindset that I packed for our spring break trip to Florida, a 9-day trip in which I wanted to keep things simple. Then, because I needed to provide drawer and closet space for our Masters guests, I squirreled away the rest into storage boxes -- the clothes, shoes, and jewelry that weren't going with me. Here is what I packed:

mix and match outfits for nine days
(two pairs of leggings, two maxi dresses, tank tops, one button down shirt, workout clothes)
bathing suit and cover-up
four pairs of shoes

Fitbit Blaze with interchangeable straps (black and brown)
a ring
a pair of earrings
a wrap bracelet
a scarf
one reversible tote

beauty products
only the essentials, packed into one small zippered bag

That's it. I packed all these items into one medium sized suitcase and one tote.

For those 9 days of vacation I had what I needed. I had a choice of what to wear, but wasn't debilitated with too many selections. I wore a watch daily, added the wrap bracelet and ring in the evening, but didn't waste time pawing through my jewelry drawer. When it was chilly I wore a cardigan, when it got warmer I knotted it around my shoulders, and I carried the same tote all week (sometimes brown, sometimes reversing it to black).

I wanted for nothing, but had exactly what I needed. Not too much, not too little, but the blessing of just enough.

Interestingly, we have been home for 2 1/2 weeks and I still haven't pulled my clothes and jewelry out of storage. I'm sure at some point I will, but I don't even miss them.

Living with enough is plenty.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Souls and Raindrops

I am sitting by an open window,
the tapping of my computer keys echoing the pitter-patter of rain.

Outside, an orchestra of raindrops -- the drumming on a rooftop, the clinking on a rainspout, 
the swishing under car tires, and the plip-plopping on an umbrella.

Crescendo, pianissimo, fortissimo.

I am sitting by an open window,
a red cardinal painted in relief against a branch slick and shiny with water. 

Outside, an artist's canvas -- red raincoat, yellow pansy, pink rose, and blue gazebo
vibrant and alive in a backdrop of grey.

Abstract, surreal, stark.

I am sitting by an open window,
words written in raindrops and poetry whispered in the wind.

Outside, a river of books --  of once upon a times and the ends, of princesses and kings,
of loves lost and friendships found, of good guys and bad.

Fantasy, adventure, memoir.

I am sitting by an open window...
wishing I were a raindrop.

*from the files of very bad poetry by bia

And for your pleasure, a real poem by a real poet ;-)

Souls And Rain-Drops ~by Sidney Lanier

Light rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea,
Then vanish, and die utterly.
One would not know that rain-drops fell
If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.

So souls come down and wrinkle life
And vanish in the flesh-sea strife.
One might not know that souls had place
Were't not for the wrinkles in life's face.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 8 (taking it outside with Lord Byron)

Today, in honor of Earth Day, we're taking it outside with a morning hike and a picnic along the river. Then, this afternoon I will lounge in the hammock with a book, but I won't read a word because I will be distracted by rustling leaves, a bird's song, the scampering of squirrels.

It's a beautiful, magnificent, breathtaking world. Standing on a mountaintop or in a field of wild flowers humbles me and leaves me floating on a cloud of gratitude -- for this life God has given me, for my husband and sons, for my friends and family, for morning hikes and midnight walks, for the imperfect and perfect ...

And for adventure found in pathless woods.

There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woods

– By Lord Byron
(from Childe Harold, Canto IV, Verse 178)

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Buon Compleanno, Roma

Today the Eternal City celebrates its 2,771th birthday (based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC). Auguri, Roma! I have been there four times, but there is still so much to see, do, and experience. I keep a running list on what I plan to do on my next visit so, Roma, a presto (until then)!

And in case you don't have anything else to do this weekend other than read about Rome, here are some links of my adventures in Rome over the years.

1- The first time I visited Rome, go here.

2- Here's the time I attended the Angelus Blessing with Pope Francis along with 22 women who traveled with me to Rome.

3- Yes, I lost my temper in Rome. You can read about it here.

4- From Caravaggio to Reality. Planning a Girls' trip to Italy. Read all about it here.

5- McDonald's in Rome? In which I speak about the Slow Food Movement in Italy. Go here for an excerpt.

6- In which I share some Pope stories.

7- God, Michelangelo, and light sabers. Read about my art lesson here.

8- St. Peter's Square, after dark. A story about the light in the Pope's window.

9- How to parallel park in Rome. See the photo here.

Unbeknownst to me, my friend took that photo of me (upper right) as I was
listening to Pope Francis' Angelus Blessing. It's not a particularly flattering photo,
but it's real. I'm smiling, but also crying, and reflected in my sunglasses is the
window where the Pope was speaking.

Friday, April 20, 2018

On a first name basis with George ...

Clooney, that is.

After a second Keurig broke in less than 15 months, and after getting tired (and annoyed) with both machines rejecting k-cups (those marked specifically Keurig), and after a friend (thanks Molly!) reminded me that our local Williams Sonoma is closing with all merchandise marked down 40%, I decided to purchase what I should have purchased in the first place: a Nespresso machine.

And I am in my happy place, one which involves early mornings, quiet time, and a good cup of coffee. Or a cappuccino. Or an espresso.

I will give my full review next week, as well as some fun ideas on creating a coffee corner in your kitchen. In the meantime, excuse me while I go enjoy a cappuccino with my friend ...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How to Cheat and Have Your Cake Too

Big occasion, but no time to bake? Try the following formula ...


1 chocolate cake from Publix bakery
1 can of Pirouette rolled wafers
some coordinating ribbon


cut Pirouette wafers to different lengths
place the wafers around the cake
tie a coordinating ribbon

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Birdie? Par? The Accidental Golfer

           When we first moved to Augusta, no one in my family knew anything about golf. We also didn’t know anything about The Masters other than it was a big golf tournament, known throughout the world, and it signaled the beginning of our spring break.

            Then, during my junior and senior years in high school I got a job working at the Augusta National during the tournament. This was my first time seeing it from the inside, and it showed me another world – an international world in which golf was the star. As I served egg salad sandwiches to patrons from New Zealand, Japan and Boston, I was caught up in the fervor. I still didn’t know anything about golf, and I couldn’t have told you the difference between birdie and par, but I was as excited as everyone else when one of the professional golfers took refuge under our tent due to an unexpected and ferocious thunderstorm.

            When my grandmother visited from Italy, we took her to a practice round. Admittedly, golf is not the sport of choice in Italy, and I’m sure she wondered why on earth we were taking her to a golf tournament, but once inside the gates she oohed and awed at the azaleas and marveled at the rolling hills of green grass, the lush woods, and the picturesque stone bridges. She was amazed at the quiet respect and gentility of the patrons. She loved those egg salad sandwiches.

            Then I met guy who was an engineer on weekdays and a golfer on weekends, and for the first time I learned about the game itself. On one of our first dates he took me to the driving range at Jones Creek, and the next April instead of working at The Augusta National, I walked the grounds with him while he whispered informational tidbits about the different golfers. When we married one year later we had our formal wedding reception at the North Augusta Country Club with a resplendent view of the 18th green. 

            Before long my husband introduced both my father and my brother to the game, giving them their first lesson in my parents’ front yard. Today, my brother plays golf with his contemporaries in the medical field and every Friday my father has a standing golf game with his buddies.

            When we were expecting our third child (yet another boy), we moved to a new house and once again golf affected our lives. We had barely unpacked the moving boxes when our neighbors asked if we planned to rent our home during Masters Week.  Rent our home? To strangers? Of course, we had heard about people doing this, but never in a million years thought that we could be part of that scene. And yet, that April we handed over the keys to our home while we vacationed in Disney World. That was the beginning of a yearly ritual which we call Masters Spring Cleaning.

            This year was our 20th year of renting our home, and wherever we are we make a point to watch the tournament on television. Some years we’ve watched the final round from our rented condo, or from my in-laws’ house in Virginia beach, but this year we were in Florida when we watched Patrick Reed take home the green jacket. As we listened to the golf analysts explain how his life would be forever changed, I couldn’t help thinking how The Augusta National and The Masters Tournament have affected our lives through the years because like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, that week in April has been incorporated into the rhythm of our family life.

            And today, if you were to ask me, I would be able to tell you the difference between birdie and par.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 7 (a quote and an idea for seven books)

This week I have two golden nuggets of inspiration. One quote and one idea ...


This past Friday we traveled to Milledgeville for Jonathan's initiation ceremony into Phi Kappa Phi, an all-discipline honor society. During the ceremony, Dr. Samuel Muttiti spoke about his work in Kabwe, Zambia where a 100 year old government-run mine and smelter has resulted in highly toxic levels of lead, cadmium and zinc in the soil. Here, in one sentence, is the point of his talk:

"Whatever you do, whatever your major, do it honestly, ethically,
to the best of your abilities, and in the service of others."

~Dr. Samuel Muttiti
keynote speaker, Phi Kappa Phi Initiation Ceremony


Today we are headed to Columbia, SC for my nephew's Confirmation and, per our tradition, we are gifting him seven books representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The list changes depending on the recipient and his/her interests. For example, with our eldest son (an avid reader) I included many literary classics, but with our middle son (who would rather dribble a basketball than read a book) I included several sports biographies. Sometimes the list includes the Bible (if they don't already have one) with their name engraved on the cover. Sometimes I explain which book represents which gift of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes I let them figure it out; mostly, I try to find books that are appealing, inspiring, thought-provoking, and stand the test of time.

Dear Thomas,

For your Confirmation, we wanted to give you seven books representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As you read these books, we pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his gifts so they will help you grow in your faith.

Be a gracious receiver of these gifts! St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

Thomas, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and watch in amazement as God works through you, with you, and in you.

Uncle Joe, Aunt Maria, Nicholas, Jonathan, Timothy

1. The Gift of Wisdom gives us the desire for the things of God.

The Robe (by Lloyd C. Douglas)

2. The Gift of Understanding enables us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith.

Of Mice and Men (by John Steinbeck)

3. The Gift of Counsel helps us to see the difference between right and wrong.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

4. The Gift of Fortitude strengthens us to do the will of God in all things.

The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

5. The Gift of Knowledge enables us to know oneself and to know God.

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

6. The Gift of Piety gives us a deep respect for God and for the Church.

Daily Meditations with the Holy Spirit

7. The Gift of Fear of the Lord enables us to recognize an all powerful God.

Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Vacay Top Ten (including my photo rule and a Stormtrooper encounter)

~1~ Easter Sunday Mass in Palm Coast, Florida

Due to Masters Week and Easter coinciding, we had to be out of our home Easter Sunday. I wasn't happy about this, and I certainly wasn't happy about having to rush Easter Mass in our efforts to leave our house in pristine condition, pack, and get on the road for Orlando. So to avoid all that craziness, we made the executive decision to leave town Saturday, spend the night in Palm Coast, and enjoy Easter Sunday morning there before heading to Orlando.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church was moving, in large part due to the magnificent choir, and it was the perfect start for our drive later that morning.

~2~ Golf

Our vacation had real golf (the kind Joe plays) and Masters golf (the professional kind), but mostly it was about mini golf. Of course, whenever we play EVERYONE expects Mom to lose, and EVERY TIME I surprise everyone with my golfing abilities ... most especially Timothy who just get can't past the idea that his mom beats him. Sorry dude. And when we played Disney's Fairway Course (which is serious and does not contain spitting snowmen or spinning wheels) I actually tied with Joe.

~3~ The Lego Store

A visit to Disney World means a visit to the Lego Store. Boy Heaven. Timothy was given the green light to pick out one set, but only after revising his expectations down the price scale.

In other words, he wanted the $799.99 Millenium Falcon (that is the actual price) but settled for the more modest Racing Yacht ($39).

~4~ The Magic Kingdom

Because it was spring break, we knew it was going to be hot and crowded. And guess what? It was hot and crowded. But using the Disney App not only were we able to secure Fast Passes ahead of time, but we could also keep an eye on wait times, both which helped us have a really nice day. We did everything we wanted to (except the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because we were NOT waiting in line for 2+ hours). We also found a great viewing spot for the nighttime fireworks: the upper level of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.

~5~ Sit Down Meals

A long time ago Joe and I decided that when we are spend a day in a Disney park, we will make reservations for one sit down meal. We usually schedule a late lunch (1:30-2:30) which is just when we are all ready for a break. It's so nice to sit down for an hour, cool off, have unlimited drinks, and eat a delicious meal. At the Magic Kingdom we ate at the Liberty Town Tavern (a favorite with us) and at Hollywood Studios it was The Brown Derby (which was exquisite).

~6~ Hollywood Studios

This is our favorite park. The crowds are less, the wait times aren't ridiculous, and there are so many lovely shows to see. Our favorite (besides the new Frozen show which even Joe liked) was the Stormtroopers' March of the Hours. Coolest. Thing. Ever. And very, very dramatic, especially when the line marched forward and stood six inches away from us. Seriously. We were nose-to-nose with a Stormtrooper! Timothy and I couldn't stop giggling.

This is not zoomed.
He was THIS close.

~7~ Rocker Hair

So, we've been to Hollywood Studios many times, and every single time I take the yellow door when it comes to Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster. Thank-you-but-no-thank-you. But when we visited my dear sweet sister-in-law she said I should go on it (thanks for having my back, Mary! ;-) and so when we were at the park Joe showed me he had THREE fast passes for Rockin' Roller Coaster for later that evening ... one for him, one for Timo, and one especially for me because "Mary said I should".

And so I did. Then we went on Hollywood's Tower of Terror.

No time to be wimpy.

After Rockin' Roller Coaster I had Steven Tyler hair

~8~ The Nike Outlet Store

Whether it's the Nike store in Myrtle Beach, Orlando or Hilton Head, when we're on vacation we always stock up on sneakers for the year -- not because prices are particularly better than the mall(although you can catch some great sales), but because of the selection. This time was no different. Nike sneakers for all.

Right photo shows how long we've been shopping
at the Nike Outlets.

~9~ The Five Photos Rule

A few years ago I instituted the 5 Photos Rule whereby on vacation I am allowed to take up to FIVE photos of everyone per day with NO complaining, pouting, or being grumpy. Only five photos. And then I leave them alone.

This little rule works like a charm. Really. You should try it. That's how I got all these ...


All these photos and NO complaining!

~10~ The Little Things

A smile, a special meal, a wrong turn, a stupid joke which had us laughing hysterically. When we're on vacation there are so many little things which turn into big things in our hearts. Memories. They come in all shapes and sizes ...

It's a Small World ... always a classic.

Love me some Pooh Bear.

When you turn the corner and ... yikes!

Who needs shoes at Blizzard Beach?

If you ask for ketchup at the Whispering Canyon Café ...
they bring you all these.

Yahtzee ... almost every night.

There is no "may" about it ...
you WILL get wet.