Monday, December 31, 2012

The last day of the year already?

Does anyone else feel the same way as I do? Where did 2012 go? The years seem to fly by so quickly even though there are times when we feel like things we wait for will never occur!

It is our last big holiday in Italy. We are still waiting to hear when we will move to Belgium. So many exciting things to look forward to in 2013 -- Michael's 15th birthday, moving, a trip for me to Penn State in April to see Kristen in "The 25th Annual Putnam Co. Spelling Bee," Kristen's 21st birthday, home leave this Summer to name a few.

We often make resolutions and then know full well that they won't be kept for long. So this year, as one of my friends in the Netherlands has posted, I'm not making any specific resolutions. I just plan to live a full life and remember what's important - family! So many people are grieving for those that were lost and their lives are changed as a result. It is so easy to live for tomorrow when, in fact, we should be living and loving all of the little moments of each and every day.

Kristen and I are sitting watching Julie and Julia before we go out to the kitchen to have a cooking adventure for New Year's Eve. Short ribs from Ital Carni are on the menu for tonight with turkey breasts to be roasted tomorrow instead of our usual pork roast and macaroni and cheese.

What surprises will 2013 bring? Wait and see...

Buon anno/Happy New Year from Nettuno!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Sunday before Election Day

I'm sitting here in the almost dark and it's 10 am in the morning! It's a rainy grey day here in Nettuno. The quiet is wonderful and has given me time to look at various sites on the web. The biggest news is that we are only 2 days away from the Presidential election. Two days! So many people have predicted victory on one side or the other. My hope is that our country will be led by an individual who has the best interests of the country in mind and that good decisions are made. We have already voted by absentee ballot so all we can do is sit and watch what happens. An exciting point in this big day is that Kristen gets to vote for the very first time. I know that this is something she is really excited about. I don't remember the first time I voted. Almost 40 years have passed since then! Now I really feel old!

Whoever reads this post, please pray for those who are going to vote, for those who are responsible for maintaining the proper handling of the votes and for our country. We can be proud that we are able to vote in a free election. I know that there have been stories of different ways that people are trying to influence or change votes and ballots. Pray that they are not successful. I don't engage in political conversations online because they usually get uncomfortable for one person or another. This is not meant to promote one party or the other. We did have a very exciting election 4 years ago when America elected a man of mixed race for the first time. He promised change. It was a very big promise to keep. I'd be happy with a strong government who protects its citizens with appropriate assistance and continues the story of our country as the greatest nation under God.

Get out there and vote!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


1. Having an unknown or unacknowledged name: an anonymous author.
2. Having an unknown or withheld authorship or agency: an anonymous letter; an anonymous phone call.
3. Having no distinctive character or recognition factor: "a very great, almost anonymous center of people who just want peace" (Alan Paton).
Have you ever felt anonymous? It is a lonely feeling. It is a time in life when you know something is missing but you aren't really sure what it is. We all go through seasons in our lives when our schedules are clear and we are not over involved with activities and groups. But, when a season of anonymity comes upon us not of our own choosing but through someone else's decision, it finds us feeling adrift, unsettled and alone even when we are with our family or other people.

This is how I feel right now. After years of working in law offices, belonging to church choirs, playing in musical groups, having numbers of friends who I met along the way that led me to learn to cross stitch, quilt and scrapbook, join PTA, and, last but not least, study the Bible, this season of anonymity is upon me. When we are overbooked and schedule weary, we crave days of quiet and filled with nothing. When we are under booked and schedule empty, we crave days of activity, times with friends (who are far from us), reasons to get up and go!
When you have left behind a life that was filled with reasons to get up and go, it takes time to adjust to the quiet. My days are far from quiet due to homeschooling a 9th grader and keeping connected to our dear daughter at college. I guess what I miss the most is the sense of community that we had in our lives, when we lived in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The people in our lives here are occasional contacts vs. consistent interactions which bring about that needed sense of community. It feels temporary but is lasting longer than that word usually means.
I'm reading a wonderful book that was suggested to me by a dear friend, Kristen Logan (who I met via PWOC). The title of the book is "Anonymous: Jesus' hidden years...and yours" by Alicia Britt Chole. The description is: "We all experience times of hiddenness, when our potential is unseen and our abilities unapplauded. This book redeems those times by reminding us that though we often want to rush through these anonymous seasons of the soul, they hold enormous power to cultivate character traits that cannot be developed any other way!" This book definitely helps explain why each step in our life is the main event. Here is a quote from the book that I just read and want to meditate on before reading further:
"In moments when I am tempted to treat this gift called time as though it were some unfortunate filler,
 I hear a gentle whisper from God in my soul: "Child, I am the God who wastes no man's time. 
To me, every course in your life is main.""

Monday, October 22, 2012

Are you registered to vote?

We mailed our absentee ballots from Naples on Friday.
What a privilege we have living in a free country where we
can each voice our choice for President every four years!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

9th grade and 14 year old boys...

We are back to work and made really good progress today. I finally put everything in notebooks - I planned on doing this from Day 1 but that would be in the perfect world that only lives in my mind.

Our trip would have been better, if it hadn't been at the beginning of our new school and new year.

Now we are back on track and have made a little headway on our missed lessons.
K12 online seems to be a great fit. Even with a 14 year old who is dealing with 14 year old issues. Boys are definitely different from girls at this age. Maybe I'll learn to listen more and talk less and sympathize with what I hear instead of trying to always fix it... Prayer helps too.

Tomorrow is another day.

So many languages...

Buenos tardes, Buona Sera...

We are just back from a 5 day trip to the Netherlands. Wow! In only 2 hours from Rome you can reach Dusseldorf, Germany and start the parade of words in my brain and out of my mouth. Unfortunately, they don't necessarily come out in the right country for the right purposes. Like when we walked up to the Backerei and I asked for apfel kuchen and replied Si! to the nice man behind the counter. Rewind would be a great function for our mouths at times I think! But it generated a fun conversation with Mike and how he can speak (well, I might add) so many different languages. I, on the other hand, try my best to not make a complete fool of myself. I'm not always successful - there's the "noggin" story from our time in Germany and the "je suis pan" from Belgium. Not to be outdone, there's the fish tea story from Italy!

Our trip actually took us to the Netherlands for the Requiem concert at Margraten. We had the best time staying with our dear friends, John and Liz Nuyts. Visiting over meals and putting our feet up at night laughing and just visiting was the best of the best.

Saturday morning we drove over to Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery to visit with our friend, Caroline. This was our first cemetery to be posted back in 2001. It seems like yesterday that we lived there! Coffee and torta followed at Lou and Anna's home. English and Italian flew back and forth as we visited in our old home. Some changes have been made since we lived there but it brought back special memories just having a little time to spend with them.

On Sunday morning, we were able to attend Chapel in Brunssum and that was a very special experience for us since we aren't able to do that here in Italy. Seeing a few friends still in attendance at the Protestant service, sharing coffee and John's cookies upstairs in the American Room and finally getting to hug on a few friends from the Catholic service made for a full morning. We ran by home to pick up Iris and then drove to Margraten for the reception and lunch prior to the concert. Lovely food presented by the committee for these concerts in a tent on the grounds was very well done. The concert was performed by the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and Brabant Kor (chorus). Sgambati's Requiem Messa was not familiar to us but soon became clear that it is well written and an exciting piece of music. The orchestra and choir were in top form and it seemed like it could have been a recording for the quality of the sound. I can't wait to find a recording of it and listen again!

Sunday night we enjoyed a dinner of mussels made expertly by John and pizza (for 2 who didn't want to eat mussels - they missed a treat is all I can say!). Then football time with the New England Patriots which was a good game - nothing better than watching football with friends, right?

Monday morning rolled around too quickly for us as we prepared our suitcase and repacked to make the trip back home to Italia. The triborder community of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands will continue to be thought of as home in all of our minds!

Back to the normal routine and life goes on. La dolce vita in Nettuno...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer is almost over!

The last days of our Summer are here... Kristen returns to school on Friday. Our home will be quieter. Less singing. Less girl time for me.

Michael starts 9th grade on the 29th. Where did all of the time go?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Glee Project and catching up on the show!

Discovered the Glee Project through Kristen. Now we wait anxiously for the next week's episode! I enjoy being right about who will be eliminated. We finally started back on watching Glee since we stopped after when Kristen went back to school. We're way behind and have already heard spoilers about what will be happening (or not). What's not to like?  Twenty year olds playing teenagers in a glee club that never existed in any schools we know!

Mindless summer TV viewing between Olympic events, (yawn).........

Laptop dies and Blogging comes to a standstill!

Here I am sitting and typing on K's laptop since my trusty first laptop died suddenly several weeks ago! I am behind on adding to my blog about our great trip to Tuscany... and our summer here enjoying time together with Kristen.

School is finally finished and we can celebrate and enjoy some time just doing whatever we want to do without any pending assignments. Let the fun begin!

Monday, June 4, 2012

When the right words won't come!

Repairmen have descended on my home. Some expected and some by surprise. Italian repairmen... who speak no English at all. The words I need to communicate with them haven't been learned yet. I didn't plan on learning the terms for circuit box or access areas for wiring. I'm sitting here trying to feel comfortable but can't. The electricians are in the living room. Bookshelves have been moved to access the wiring behind the access plates. Now I'm hearing sounds of things being moved in a big way in the pantry (I'm afraid to look). It's just the beginning. The air conditioners are being taken apart and put together correctly in the attic. It's chaos on a Monday morning.

Meanwhile, there is no way that I'll be able to get Michael to be able to concentrate on school work today with all of this craziness going on. I can only hope that the work planned can be done in one day. We are gaining on the end of 8th grade bit by bit and this will definitely put us behind yet again. Homeschooling a teenager with ADHD is tricky and adding these distractions makes it almost impossible. I'm sitting here praying for peace and quiet and the wisdom on how to organize our work to find our way to the end of the tunnel! The thought of taking the train and bus to American Overseas School of Rome flashes in my mind. At least the learning would be in a place reserved for learning. When you home school, life interrupts the learning environment when you least expect it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day memories

On May 28, 1984, Mike and I got married. It was a warm day with a little rain which we were told would bring us luck. As we celebrate our 28th Wedding Anniversary today, we were witness to the Memorial Day ceremony here at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. It rained during the entire ceremony which was small sacrifice when looking out over the grounds and seeing the almost 7,900 crosses/stars of David on the graves of those who were loyal to their country and paid the ultimate price, their lives for our freedom. The sailors and soldiers who participated stood out in formation during the entire hour and provided a visual reminder that we continue to have those who serve their countries faithfully. The bands (Italian and American) played music befitting the occasion and stirred the hearts of all attending.

Remembering back to our wedding day when our family and friends gathered to witness our marriage, we knew little of what our lives would bring. We've already had many adventures and have lived in many States and Countries. Mike continues to serve his country, not it in the military any longer, but in the service of the U.S. Government. We have the honor of living in places of beauty in Europe and are able to share experiences in visiting places quite unlike our hometown in Pennsylvania.

Today, following the ceremony, we were invited to attend the luncheon hosted by the Admiral of the Navy from Naples Naval Base. It was in a small, intimate restaurant at the Port of Anzio. We had a perfect view of the small boats going and coming. The preparation of the food was done in front of us by a talented chef. Handmade pasta, beautiful seafood (straight from the fishing boats), ending with handmade pistachio gelato (it tasted a lot like peanut butter which Mike and the rest of us found amazing!). We drove back to Nettuno (10 mins. away) and Mike continued his visit with one of the Commissioners of ABMC by taking her and her mother on a personal tour of the cemetery. Our Anniversary will end like all of the Memorial Days have since Mike joined ABMC in 2001 -- with us happily sitting in the living room with our feet up giving thanks for a day well spent.

Before we embarked on this second career/life, I have no memory of Memorial Days during our marriage. I do, however, remember marching with the West York High School Band in the Memorial Day parade that ended at the VFW. I remember that well and knew how special it was to honor those who fought for us in the wars. My father, adopted father, and uncles served in the military and fought in WWII. They all survived the fighting and came home to their families. God bless them for their service. They are all up in Heaven and I hope they are looking down on these ceremonies and cemeteries with pride for their sacrifices during their service. We will not forget. The Greatest Generation will not be forgotten.

Taps was played during our ceremony as it is at all Memorial Day ceremonies at our cemeteries. 
And we will rest...

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

                                 By Horace Lorenzo Trim

Friday, May 25, 2012

Optimism - Seize the Day

True Story
(Picture from Facebook "A Beautiful Mess Inside")

I was born in the late '50s and grew up with a mother who lived through the Depression, World War II, the death of my father in the early 60's, and ensuing life events. The life my mother lived was much like others lived at that time. She, however, never was able to look forward and have a positive viewpoint. It shadowed our lives. She repeated stories about things that went wrong in her life and in the life of those she loved. It was rare that she was happy, but, when she was, I so enjoyed being able to share that with her. I grew up feeling like I had the possibility to be anything I wanted to be. Optimism was my point of view. This made our relationship strained because it is difficult to have a happy relationship with someone who is your opposite. I always hoped that things would get better, that I could do something that would change her outlook.

Now that my mother has passed away, there are many days I wish I could talk with her and share how I feel. I miss her! Having a daughter in college who lives away from us part of the year has shown me the loneliness that she felt when I married and moved from home. Now I just look to Heaven and think these thoughts and hope she is looking down and is now in a happy place and all of the unhappiness has been washed from her.

Life is a present, enjoy it to the fullest each day! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vet Clinics in Italy

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful Veterinary Clinic not far from our home. The fact that they are open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm is so very helpful since everyone knows that our animals are like our children and they never get sick during times the Dr. is available or when Daddy is home. They even have someone there all night long in the Pronto Succorso (which actually is like the ER but also serves as a follow on clinic with Vet Tech. assistants who can give shots or administer IVs, etc., and by the way is not pronto/fast). I bet you are wondering why I am going on at length about the virtues of our Vet we have found?  Well, Muffin (our dear big black dog) starting vomiting on Saturday evening and then again on Sunday morning (at 6am on our king sized bed/quilt which doesn't fit in our washing machine). So I had the fun of taking her to the Vet to be checked. I walked in and hopefully walked towards Dr. Gandolfo's door only to find that there was no appt. sheet on his clip board on his door. To explain, there are no appointments, you just walk in and sign up on the sheet of the Dr. you want to see. Then begins the waiting... If your Dr. is the popular one, like Dr. Gandolfo who is the Director of the Clinic, you may wait for a long, long time. Oh, by the way, he speaks a bit of English so that is a big plus for us! But, on Sunday, I encountered that scary situation of which Dr. to pick which I don't know and probably doesn't speak English  to put my name on their clip board... I chose Pasqualina and then sat there for about 30 minutes or so coming up with the Italian words to explain why we were there. Remember that I haven't taken the time to learn a lot of Italian much less medical terms to describe Muffin's malady!

Finally, she opened her door and it was our turn. I immediately asked if she spoke English and she said "poco" which, of course, means little... to which I replied I spoke Italiano "poco." We were quite a pair. Even though I told her I spoke little Italian, that didn't stop her from quickly rattling off an explanation of what she thought. Needless to say, I got the point across and she decided the best course of action was to give Muffin anti-nausea medicine along with some fluids. Their chosen method of doing this is by IV (which always seems to me that they are really bad off and very sick - but does not mean that every time they do it). The part you will be surprised with is the fact that she did the first treatment there in the office but sent me home with the bottle complete with tubing and NEEDLE!!! to continue treatment at home for two days. Did you read NEEDLE???  I was supposed to poke that thing into Muffin's back and give her this medicine at home by myself!!! Now I can list "able to administer IV medicine on dogs" on my resume along with legal secretary, substitute teacher, cash cage clerk, professional volunteer and homeschool teacher! God only knows (literally) what I'll be able to add to that list next! Oh, and by the way, Muffin never vomited again after those times on Sunday morning (SIGH)...

Ciao until next time!

Pronto? Hello! Pronto?...

When our phone rings, there is a good chance that it is a wrong number. Well, this morning the phone rang and I jumped up to see if it was a "real" phone call or a peddler (as Mike's Daddy likes to call them) or perhaps just a wrong number. So gamely I answered the phone "Hello" and immediately they responded "Pronto?"  I repeated "Hello" and they repeated "Pronto" and this happened yet one more time. I guess I really wanted to ask them "What part of Hello did you not understand, the "Hell" or the "O!"  Maybe they were just hoping that I'd miraculously turn into the person they were trying to call by magically uttering the word "Pronto" again and again. Alas, that wasn't to be. They muttered something else at me and then hung up! Ah, the joys of living in a small town in Italy and being American! I could have replied "Si!" but then I would have been deluged with probably too many words rapidly fired at me in Italian and then I would have hung up!

This was definitely more amusing than the telephone calls from the peddlers when they are trying to sell us some sort of wonderful plan for our phone, internet, electric (which we don't personally pay), etc. Some actually speak a little English and yet others are just recorded messages which I really, really do not like. I'm pretty sure they don't have a "Do Not Call" list here in Italy!

Pronto? I always thought that just meant fast... But then, again, "piano" has way more meanings than a musical instrument or a dynamics marking in music. I'll save that for another day... Ciao!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The God Box by Mary Lou Quinlan

A beautiful book written by a daughter to her mother reflecting on a mother's journey in life with faith and love and letting go. In her act of letting go by writing and placing the requests in her God box, Mary's mother gives it all to God to answer those prayers. A woman I'd love to have met who has blessed so many just by listening. I highly recommend this book to all who want to learn more about this wonderful idea of giving it all to God!

Book reviewed through NetGalley.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Chair

I read this book through NetGalley and would have purchased this if I had seen it before. This story is a journey for Corin where he travels from disbelief to belief through examples of God's love through miracles caused by the chair. I found it hard to stop reading and became involved in the characters' life stories. A chair made by Jesus' own hands. Such an amazing thing to even wonder at! A great book! Makes me want to read more written by Jim Rubart!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rome in a day

It's always fun when friends come to Italy and are in Rome so we have an excuse to go up on the train for a visit! Monday was just that sort of day. We left from Villa Claudia station and were surprised to be able to sit with Maria (Italian) and Carla (American) (Ernesto's wife and cousin). It was great fun sitting and speaking a mixture of Italian and English since Caroline is actually American. She has retired here to live and it was great getting to know her on our ride. We arrived at Termini in Rome in what seemed like record time since we were talking the entire time. We parted ways and made our way down into the bowels (yes it seemed that way) of the station to the metro platforms. Our trip to Lepanto station was very quick (only 5 stops) and we were surprised to find that the hotel where we were meeting Liz was only a half a block away!

Our plan was to have lunch and then on to St. Peter's Square/Vatican City. We ended up eating at a restaurant that was recommended by Rick Steves and he was spot on as usual. It was so good! It is called L'Isola della Pizza and located at Via degli Scipioni 47. We had an assortment of antipasti and pizzas. Mike had pappardelle con conghiale (wild boar) which is a specialty of theirs. It was wonderful!

We walked our lunch off by continuing on down the street to Vatican City. Passing through the double archway brought us into St. Peter's Square. Even though it was spitting rain on us and the skies were gray, the grand scene before us was much to behold. The line to tour the Basilica seemed long but moved along very quickly. A pit stop to the conveniently located toilets at the base of the steps and we were on our way up into the Basilica. As you enter, you can see the beautiful yet stirring Pieta. I remember looking at it as my mother told me about it as I looked in our Catholic Bible when I was a little girl. Now I was seeing it in person! Michael and I had studied the construction of the building, the dome and the many parts last year in Art History but walking through it was so much to take in. The paintings and sculptures are exquisite and in a large scale to be in keeping with the size of the structure. I wish we could have attended a mass there. I'm no longer Catholic but it would have been such a peaceful and special experience... maybe next time.

Once we emerged, we visited the gift shop (of course), took some pictures, then walked out of the square, through the archway and down the street. Umbrellas were popping up as the rain was stronger. This drove us into Bar Moretti to have cappuccinos and ice cream. The coffees were great as were the gelatos BUT this was one of those tourist moments where we didn't see a menu and ended up paying obnoxious prices for the privilege of sitting down. Warning to all: see the menu before sitting no matter how much rain is falling! We're all old-timers here and still got taken in... 

The sky continued pouring rain as we walked back to the hotel and then we made our way to the metro and gratefully joined the throngs of people on their way back towards Termini. We made it in time for the 7:08pm train back to Nettuno and had McDonald's for dinner. An American ending to an Italian day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A new year, new week and it's a bit quieter here in Italy

A new year has begun. Kristen is back at Penn State and we have to get back to life as a 3 family instead of a 4 family. Sadness will come and go. More frequently at the beginning and then will subside as the countdown until Summer break approaches. Meanwhile, we're here in Italy and life for us is as normal as normal can be while living in a foreign country. Michael and I will resume school here tomorrow since we decided that a one day grace period to ease back into our schedule. Besides, I have time today to look ahead at assignments and organize our materials. A good idea all around!

The best part of this plan is I can sit and collect my thoughts about the new year and my goals. So often, as a mother, I ignore my own thoughts, dreams, hopes, goals and get caught up in everyone else's. A friend just shared this feeling with me this morning and I so agree with her on this. This is the sort of mindset that causes us to lose sight of ourselves. This is one of the big reasons why I haven't been exercising or concentrating on improving my health. Of course, it's not the only reason but it plays a huge role in the rut we fall into.  I believe that the first and biggest step to making a change in my life has been that I need to come to the realization and commitment to change and not lose sight of this.

Another part of the plan is to take time to be creative. That has always been something that increases my happiness quotient a hundredfold. The colors in fabrics, threads and yarns are so beautiful and varied that they create an inner peace in me. 

Kristen has asked me to do a photo a day from home and post it on Facebook for her like a good friend of ours has been doing. That way she will still feel connected to us even though she is so far away. I just changed my profile pic here to one she took while we visited Philadelphia. She and I both love taking pictures of birds. Who knows why? It's a sickness or addiction for us and we laugh every time we come upon yet another picture of yet another bird of some sort.

Meanwhile, the doggies are barking because one of the men is outside driving about with a mower and they are going crazy. I guess my quiet is gone for now, sigh....