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

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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Life Lately: An Italy Trip Teaser, Travel Outfits, and Travel Coloring Books

We're headed out of town for a week, and again it's a vacation in parts. First we are driving to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit our son; afterwards, we're off to Kansas City, Missouri where Timothy and I will play while Joe works.

Before I go, let me leave you the following tidbits ...

1- This week my sister and I have had to make some major decisions concerning our 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy, and I'm pleased to announce that we have an itinerary, we've secured a hold, and now we're just waiting confirmation. So stay tuned for news about a 13-day all-inclusive trip to Tuscany (including Florence and Cinque Terre) and northern Italy (Milan, Venice, and Verona). Here's a teaser: wine tasting at a Tuscan farmhouse, cruising on Lago Maggiore, lunch in a 17th century palazzo, and a cable car ride to view the 19 peaks of the Dolomites (a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps).


the breathtaking Dolomites

2- And because I'm getting excited, I'm already thinking about travel outfits ...

3- Finally, on our road trip this week while I'm traveling and dreaming about traveling, I will do some coloring ...

Two Pounds of Words

The other day a package arrived from Amazon Prime with two books I had ordered: Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl that Broke Its Shell (for Book Club), and Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton (just because).

The arrival of a package -- any package! -- is cause for excitement, so Timothy was standing next to me when I pulled out the books.

"What's THAT?" he asked, pointing to the Hamilton book.

I laughed. At 800+ pages, all of it written in teeny, tiny font, it's a hefty book. Literally. It weighs over two  pounds.

"I'm going to read it," I replied.

"WHY?" he exclaimed, looking horrified.

He didn't get it, I could tell. For someone who only reads under duress from a deadline, a report, or his mom, the fact that I would VOLUNTARILY read a book this size was incomprehensible, ludicrous, and downright insane. After all, who reads when they can play Fortnite?

I just patted him on the shoulder, commiserating. Poor thing.

He has a mom who likes to reads. Oh, the horror.

Ugh. My mom likes to read big books.
For no reason.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses

I've been sitting on this for months because it didn't seem real.

But it is.

This afternoon I received the first proof for my book cover, and I am over the moon.

It's really happening.

Monday, July 23, 2018

How many clouds do you have? (or, the Misadventures of Nonno and Nonna with their iPhones)

Last Friday evening Joe and I made a quick visit to my parents. We let ourselves in the front door and discovered my parents sitting at the kitchen table huddled over their iPhones.

"We are downloading all our photos from the clouds," says my mom, wearing her reading glasses and using an index finger to jab the keyboard.

"Um, Mom. You do know it's a CLOUD. Just one," I reply helpfully.

"Oh no. I have hundreds of photos. I definitely have more than one cloud."

She jabbed away. I thought about the time my mom purchased an iPhone specifically for an upcoming cruise. She was proud to have entered the modern age! She took classes at the Verizon store. She learned how to text, take photos, and send an email. She asked Nicholas to set her screen image, Jonathan to increase the font size, and Timothy to edit her address book. She was ready for their trip.

After their cruise to Scandinavia, I picked them up a the airport and right away my mom wanted to know why I never -- in the entire two weeks! -- replied to any of the texts and photos she sent.

"Your sister answered my texts. Your brother did, too. But not a word from you," she complained, making it clear who were her favorite children.

I had no idea what she was talking about. But upon investigating further we realized that she did indeed send me photos and texts. Lots and lots of them. To our home phone ... our LANDLINE.

Evidently, the Verizon class didn't make that part particularly clear.

So, standing there in my parents' kitchen, I figured a cloud by any other name (whether plural or singular) was still a cloud. I left it at that.

EXCEPT ... except my father, who up until a month ago sported a tiny flip phone clipped to his belt, now has an iPhone.

Consider yourself forewarned.

Surprised, shocked, and totally dismayed
The world is in complete disarray.
Things like this don’t happen every day …
For Nonno bought an iPhone today.

-from the files of very bad poetry by bia

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 16 (I know nothing about parenting, but I will tell you the nothing I know)

With our two older sons out of the house, my husband and I are grateful we still have the bambino, the caboose, my baby. Except, the bambino-caboose-baby is 14 years old and taller than I am. He’s also venturing into that vast wasteland of mood swings and attitude better known as the teen years. But this time, after having gone through this twice (and survived!), we know what to expect. We are better prepared. We will know how to handle everything from caveman speech to missed curfews. Right? RIGHT?  Help me out here, because when I stumbled upon this old post I'm not so sure …

After a week of enduring what I referred to as Caveman Syndrome from the older boys – grunts, monosyllabic words, slouchy posture – I embraced my limitations and browsed several Catholic Parenting Web sites for advice.

One site emphasized how the responsibility for developing a healthy parent-child relationship rests primarily with the parent; that (like it or not) it's really up to us to keep the peace and maintain open lines of communication.

Okay, I get that. We’re the adults, we’re mature, we need to take the higher road. In other words, we are bigger than they are. So then, I would keep my communication lines WIDE OPEN.

Then there were the Old Testament references to the "rod of discipline” (Prov. 13:24; 23: 13-14) which, in the New Testament, becomes the staff used by shepherds, not as punishment, but as a way to corral and guide wayward sheep.

What a beautiful image. That’s exactly what my husband and I are trying to do as parents – guide our son in the ways of the world. Be a shepherd to sheep.

Unfortunately, as I was letting this beautiful image run through my mind, I happened to glance at my watch. The time in which my son, who had gone out with friends, was supposed to call home to check in had come and gone.  No phone call whatsoever.
It’s hard to keep open lines of communication when THEY FORGET TO CALL HOME.

Truthfully, in that very moment, I just wanted to take that rod, or shepherd’s staff, or whatever, and whack my son over the head with it.

How's that for a title? Not Sheep in the Meadows or Frolicking Sheep.
No, just ... Sheep

Friday, July 20, 2018

Haiku Who?

It started when my-brother-the-doctor, who should have been busy doing doctor-ish things, sent my sister and me the following text ...

to which I replied: Oh my gosh! I need that t-shirt! I'm always writing haikus ... it's my favorite form of poetry.

To which my sister replied:

And then they ganged up on me ...

Well. Well.

Ever since high school, I've loved writing haikus. Fast forward a few years when I met my blogging friend, Laura (Catholic Teacher Musings), who hosted a weekly haiku fest entitled Bad Haiku Friday which covered everything from Frito Bandito to Bunions. She got me thinking in haiku. She even sponsored a haiku competition; here was my entry and I'm PROUD that this snotty one won a category (grossest?). She even mailed me a prize.

Little boy sneezes
long, slimy, strands of grossness.
Where are the tissues??!!?

Then one year I instituted Haiku Summer with my family in which every Friday during family night everyone penned a haiku about ... whatever they wanted. The haikus were taped in the kitchen and it was so much fun reading about our summer in a progression of haikus.
Going up, up, and then up
while on a roller coaster.
Please! I change my mind.

Nonno and his shirt,
Yikes! a tourist from Hawaii.
We do not know him.

Also, during a family reunion/picnic that very same summer, I passed out 3 x 5 index cards and made encouraged everyone to write a haiku. This was my sister's:

Bia is the boss.
We do whatever she says,
Or else we don't eat.

Oh, haiku how I love you!

Back to my brother and sister, both of whom I love, but STILL. They have insulted the haiku, so like a good sister I'm going to haiku the heck out of them ...

This is my brother
who is also a doctor?
He is, really, I promise.

He's smart but also
fond of the poop emojii ...
so I wonder.

This is my sister
she is a librarian.
You have to whisper.

My travel buddy
who doesn't know how to read
so uses the men's restroom.

What does David know?
Or Laura, for that matter?
Nothing. Just ask me.

So this is my ode
the five-seven-five format
in Haiku. The end.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Because I'm nerdy that way ...

I exercise to the rhythm, beat, tempo, and cadence of words. Right now on my playlist? A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 15: (To Strive)

Here is why I love to travel: it pulls me out of the routine and inspires me to think beyond myself, to try new things and explore unbeaten paths and reach for the moon. Too often in my day-to-day life I surrender to a current which shoves me here, pushes there, and deposits me where I need to be. In other words, I coast, allowing the tides of circumstance and the rhythm of routine to take over.
But what I’ve learn time and time again is that coasting leads us nowhere at all …
I was coasting.

This was the sobering thought that swirled through my head as I sat in silent prayer while waiting for Mass to begin.

Coasting through life -- doing the minimum, checking off the requirements, crossing out the to-do's -- but not taking opportunities to be more: more kind, more generous, more spiritual, more patient, more charitable.

And by not being better or by not doing more meant that I had been ... what? Languishing? Mediocre?

No wonder I wasn't happy with myself. God calls each and every one of us to holiness, and holiness wasn't even on my radar.

Or was it? Could these feeling of dissatisfaction and restlessness be a gentle reminder to make some changes? To swim with the current, or against the current,  but not allow it to simply sweep us along?  I thought of John Paul II who said that the call to holiness was not only a state, but a task; that we are not so much called to attain perfection, as to strive for perfection.

To strive. To endeavor. To venture. I pondered this a few minutes.

I once read that in our walk of faith, one either goes forward or one goes backward, but one does not stand still.

This, then, was what God was telling me: I can't be better or do more unless I strive to be better or do more; that unless there is the task, nothing is accomplished. This is not to say that to strive is synonymous with success, but that the attempt is better than nothing at all.

photos: St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC

Friday, July 13, 2018

Vacation Part III: In Which I Flopped

After our vacation Part I in which we logged 18,000+ steps daily in Washington D.C., followed by our Vacation Part II in which we logged 18,000+ steps daily in New York City, when we arrived in North East, Maryland for Vacation Part III ... I promptly did this.

This was actually sent to me from my friend Gayle
after she returned home from our Washington D.C.
adventures. And she didn't even do NYC ;-)

Truthfully. I flopped down and basically didn't move for three days. Oh, I went on ONE morning walk, and on Saturday all the gals went shopping in downtown North East, but mostly I sat on the deck overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, ate, talked, and marveled at the gorgeous weather. I even had one nap.

Oh, and we did hike to this lighthouse to watch a sunset.

But mostly, I flopped.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Vacay Top Ten: Part II, New York City (a Naked Lady in Times Square, a Protester on Liberty Island, Wicked, Eataly, City Vibes)

After a whirlwind few days in Washington D.C., my friends flew back home while I remained and waited for Joe, Jonathan, and Timothy to arrive. Thus began Part II of our Vacation in Three Parts when, the next morning, we boarded an Amtrak train to New York City. So here is a Top Ten recap ...

Part II: New York City
Monday, July 3 - Thursday, July 5

Exchanging my gal pals for these guys, who aren't quite as chatty. But I made up for their lack of loquaciousness and told them all about my Washington DC adventures AND sang some Hamilton songs for them. I don't THINK any of them rolled their eyes.

Our first time on Amtrak! Three hours from Washington's Union Station to New York's Penn Station, and after the past four days in which I daily hit 18,000+ steps, it was a NICE to just sit. AND doesn't our conductor looked EXACTLY what you would expect a train conductor to look like?

Traveling light. Because we couldn't check in to our hotel right away once we arrived in NYC, we only carried backpacks. This way, we were able to hit the ground running. I'm quite proud that inside my little backpack (coffee cup for reference) was everything I needed for two nights and three days in the city although ... in full disclosure ... my makeup bag was in Joe's backpack.

Our first glimpse of The Big Apple. I loved the look on the boys' faces when we exited Penn Station onto a busy, traffic-filled, horns-blaring, taxis-everywhere NYC street. We were all smiles, especially when we walked through Times Square. Could that place be any more CRAZY? We saw Batman, a Trump Impersonator, protestors, and one naked lady walking around with body paint and not much else. Actually, nothing else. Thankfully, the Naked Cowboy (have you heard about him?) was absent.

Wicked on Broadway. For me, this meant TWO Broadway shows TWO nights apart in TWO different cities. It was wickedly good.

Ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, both especially meaningful since we were there July 4. Interestingly, about an hour after we left they had to evacuate Liberty Island because a woman climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty and sat on Lady Liberty's toes holding a giant sign protesting something. It took three hours for NYC's finest to get her down.

Eataly. Italian food. Italian grocery store. Italian restaurant. Very authentic Italian pizza. Need I say more?

The United Nations. We ordered tickets before we left home and I'm so glad we did. Did you know that while the Bible is the most translated book in the world, the United Nations Human Rights Declaration is the most translated document in the world?

The confession, which went like this: As we were checking out of our hotel Joe told everyone to make sure they had everything ... including chargers! In a very teen-like, snippy tone Timothy answers that YES he has everything. Thirty minutes later we were sitting in Penn Station when Timothy whispers to me that he forgot his brand new portable charger. I show him no mercy and tell him to go tell his dad. So he confesses to Joe, oozing charm right and left (just look at that smile). Then he redeems himself by calling the hotel and arranging for them to mail his charger back. All's well that ends well.

Walking around the city. While we had a packed itinerary, we had the most fun walking. New York is a city of contradictions: rude and welcoming, dirty and beautiful, chaotic and invigorating, crazy and wonderful. It's also so much more than concrete and skyscrapers. And it has the best shop window displays. We loved every minute of it.