God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Felice Anno Nuovo!

Felice Anno Nuovo a Tutto Amicos Qui e Li!

Our little family sits in front of a crackling fire while listening to rain tapping music on the windows--yes, it is raining in San Diego! For us it is enjoyable--making the four walls around us cozy and comforting; but, it isn't the best weather for New Year's Eve-is it? San Diegans do not handle wet roads well--it is such a novelty!

Today we began taking our Christmas decorations down and boxing them up--a strange feeling this year knowing that it will be a couple of years before they come off the rafters again. A few things we are keeping out to take with us to Italy. I say it is so that Casey will have some of our familiar traditions but--really--it is just as much for me. Ken, of course, who thinks I always pack too much if I take two pairs of shoes, has grimaced a couple of times--like the pretty Christmas paper napkins I snuck in the pile. "What--they don't have napkins in Italy?" Anyway, our Christmas stockings, nativity collection from our travels, a few favorite things--like the little Santa that bobbles down the chimney and special tree ornaments will accompany us.

Actually, it isn't much at all. We'll take it over with us in March and leave it with Rita and Lino in Chiocchio, which is just a few kms. down the road from Greve. Yes--we are beginning to think in kilometers and kilograms--rather than asking for 5 slices of ham (using my fingers to demonstrate), I will be able to speak! I will be so proud! Of course, the real question is "Will I be understood?"

Along that line, next time I write--remind me to tell you about my current language teacher--Casey. Yes--it is starting already. Yesterday he laughed until he cried trying to teach me how to say 14--quattordici. I start language school next week--hopefully, I won't slow down the rest of the class--language acquistion has never, ever been easy for me and I have tried multiple times with multiple languages. Somehow reading and writing are not beyond my capabilities but speaking and hearing are molto difficile!

Well, I was going to close with a unique and noteworthy picture of Casey celebrating New Year's Eve by blowing a noise maker through his nose while playing his armpit. But--the picture just didn't turn out well--sorry. Who or what else than a 7 year old would find such an activity to be delightfully fun and a talent of which to boast! Other than being patently gross, it was a rather hysterical form of entertainment.

So I close as I began:

Felice Anno Nuovo a Tutto Amicos Qui e Li!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Day After Christmas

OK--I know that in some places today is what it's supposed to be --fresh fallen snow, icicles glistening in sun drops, fireplaces roaring with golden red flames and mittens and boots piled high at the door--but--here it is sunshine, shirtsleeves, shorts and a dip in the pool--or at least relaxing in the jacuzzi. Lest you doubt, here is Casey on Christmas Eve, taking in the rays. I know, it just isn't fair, you say. I wonder, do you?, why we are choosing to move to a place that requires winter clothes, boots and snow tires.

My friend Judith in Citta di Castello had her car door locks frozen the other morning--haven't experienced that since living in Syracuse! When we left that snow belt of the USA, we threw away all our ice scrapers and the other cold country paraphenalia--knowing we would never need all that stuff again. Oh my--where was our crystal ball?

Christmas was good! We went to church service on Christmas Eve. This is always a beautiful, moving, emotional celebration of the birth of Christ and the beginning of the hope ultimately realized in the crucifixion and resurrection.

Having Casey with us is always (or almost always, anyway) a joy, but never more so than on Christmas morning. Somehow Christmas morning is a time that belongs to children. There are few things that compare with the excitement and sparkle in little eyes as they anticipate what lies behind all the colorful wrappings and boxes. A child in the home at Christmas brings special pleasures and Casey does just that.

This year he struggles with the creeping knowledge that Santa Claus and his elves may be less than real. I know that he knows but he is choosing denial--for one last go around. He doesn't want to lose the fantasy--the magic--and I will mourn the loss of his innocence next year. Some of the sparkle dims when the enchantment goes away and the real world intrudes.

This year Santa even had a new name on a couple of packages--Babbo Natale. Actually, Babbo came on Christmas eve as his schedule was nine hours ahead of ours. Now, he will know us next year in Italia.

The Christmas holidays are a time of special family moments which are quite different from other vacation periods. During the day, we sort of do things in slow motion, go to the movies, help Casey ride his new razor scooter and bike and forget for a while the minutia of everyday life. At night we play games--Scrabble, Bingo or Uno--in front of a crackling fire and munch on cookies and candy. Casey loves the games and is old enough now to give some fair competition to his Uncle Jeff, Gramma and Papa. He is growing up!

Tomorrow night he wants a "movie night". This means popcorn and a family movie from Blockbuster or from his own pretty extensive DVD collection. This is quite an impressive decision on his part as it means giving up his daily allotment of 1.5 hours of TV. It is nice to know that we come in first sometimes!

He truly is a very loving boy who warms us with his cuddling and kisses and I love you's. And, each night I count my blessings when his last words are "I love you a million, trillion times and one more." What music could be more beautiful? We are blessed.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Italy Update Time

Well, it has been a while since updating the Italy saga--not that nothing is happening but we are at the bits and pieces stage--trying to get all the details set up for the much dreaded but anxiously awaited trip to the Italian Consulate in LA. It is rather inconceivable but nonetheless real that we could be denied our visa. The great dilemma continues to be the elusiveness of what it is that "they" require us to have. It's like a "we gotcha" game with only one side knowing the rules.

Anyway--the latest events, concerns and puzzlements are:

1. Our plane reservations are made and paid for--this brings a sense of true commitment. We leave July 30 at noon--arriving in Florence at 2 pm the next day. And then--our adventure as short-term expats begins! Our visas will be good for one year and so we will return to the US of A on July 30, 2007.

2. Ken and I are flying over March 4 - 15 in order to take care of details such as:

Kids normally need to be registered for school in January; however, my friend Rita--who is a real gift in our lives-- has talked with the school in Greve and since it does not handle enrollment via mail, they are quite willing to enroll Casey in March. Apparently all we will need is his birth certificate and his immunization records. As far as I can tell, Italy requires the same shots as California and so that is no problem--Casey needs no more immunizations until he is a teen-ager.

Casey's New School in Greve

Camilla--Alessandro's ( our landlord) daughter-- is in the same grade as Casey and already looks forward to our coming and helping him in the classroom. She and Casey have exchanged pictures. We will get there about 6 weeks before school starts and so, hopefully, he will have several friends from the sports center and park by the time the bell rings.

We have the rental contract worked out with Alessandro and so will sign and register it with the comune in March. We will then have that visa hurdle out of the way.
Alessandro has made this process easy, delightful and stress free--a harbinger of our relationship when we are living there. Every indication is that things will be smooth--both they and we are looking forward to a friendship between our families and the opportunities we will have to learn from each other.

The latest good news about our apartment is that it has ADSL computer hookup--which is not available in all places in Italy. For those of us who get upset when our high speed connection slows down a teeny-tiny bit, the thought of returning to a 28 or 56 speed dialup is nothing short of nightmarish!

Well, this is becoming a major focus of attention, frustation and concern right now. For reasons I do not and c
an not understand, there is little consistency within this world we call home when it comes to electronics, radio signals, frequencies, etc.

Basically, what we are wanting to do is take Casey's many DVD's and Game Cube paraphernalia over with us. Sound simple? Right? Wrong!

Televisions are different--the US has something called the NTSC signal system while Europe has something called the PAL system. DVD players need to output signals in the format that matches the TV. OK--then get a DVD player that works with Italian TV's--problem solved! Wrong, again.

When it comes to DVD's, the world is divided into 6 regions. The DVD's formated for one region won't play in another region. So, since USA is Region 1 and Italy is Region 2, we can't play our DVD's on a synchron
ized TV/PlayerPAL system.

Next solution: Get a DVD player that is 110-240 v; 50-60 hz and can switch between Pal and NTSC. This means we can play region 1 DVD's in Italy. Right? Right. But--we won't be able to play DVD's from Italy with this player. Plus, such a DVD player may not have the right connectors for the European TV which uses something called SCART rather than our coaxials and stuff like that. (If you understand about these things, you probably can tell that I don't have a clue about which I speak.)

So--I think I have figured it all out (with the help of a couple on-line gurus) and I think what we need does exist. It is a codefree, region free, dual current player with the ability to switch connector types. Now to decide where to buy it--here or there. One more thing to put on our "find-out about" agenda for March.

Next maze--figure out what to do about the Game Cube. Is there anyone out there who can make this journey into technological nightmare go away? If so, you'll earn a whole blog entry all your own! What a prize!

But now--it's time to think about Christmas and put Italy a way for a while.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Taking Communion with God

At our church, communion is served the first Sunday of each month. Today, while I listened to the words, ate the cracker and drank the juice, it occurred to me that I should write a blog entry telling of my beliefs and God commitments. A principle of my life has been that it is imperative to act upon beliefs and share them with others—be it spiritual, political, social action, or any other element that makes up whom I am. To do less is to devalue those beliefs and make them inconsequential.

For some reason, it has always been easy to speak up politically or for causes—even in the face of opposition and when doing so invited degrees of personal risk. Being to the left of center politically and being involved in “liberal” social causes (civil and human rights, universal health care, etc.) while living in strong right wing communities has never intimidated me—in fact, it has been rather invigorating.

But—this willingness to speak out and act on my even stronger and more consequential spiritual beliefs has been difficult. Why? I can only think it is because in so many cultures, both in the US and elsewhere, people who speak out about Jesus Christ and proclaim his sovereignty are often ridiculed and viewed as myopic and “right wing nuts.” Of course, I don’t want to be considered either right wing or nuts. Or, more simply put, I have been a coward.

So—it is now time to speak boldly and with clarity about what I believe and am convinced is true. It is very easily said and explained as, contrary to what people believe, being a follower of Christ is actually quite simple—it is bending the knee to the lifestyle and commandment of Jesus that is difficult.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. That His coming was foretold in the Old Testament and that the prophecies were fulfilled in His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven.

I believe as the apostle John said: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” and “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

No one states the road to salvation or provides the access key to heaven more clearly than Billy Graham—whom God has gifted with communication skills of such clarity that it is impossible to miss the message. As he preaches, it is essential to be “born again”--referring to a spiritual rebirth which requires that a person acknowledge:

  • that Jesus was born into a human world
  • that he is the Son of God:
  • that his death and resurrection were required as atonement for the sins of Adam and Eve (and consequently those belonging to the rest of us.)
  • that we must admit sin and accept the gift of saving grace by asking Jesus, the Son of God, to enter our lifes' and then walk together for the rest of eternity

So—it is about as simple a thing to do as blinking an eye and yet it is, for so many, a hard step to take. The tragedy is that eternity offers only two options--one provides a glorious forever and the other promises an eternity of pain. And so------for those of us who believe and know this truth, our greatest sin is not sharing it freely and openly.

How can I explain being concerned with the quality of life that people have or don't have while on this earth and yet remain silent on the greater issue of forever? The answer is simply that I have failed in being true to my own human standards and philosophy and, more importantly, failed God's expectation for me.

I think of the faith of children and its purity and wonder at what point the child leaves us. Three years ago when we were in the great cathedral in Seville, Casey stood mezmorized in front of a large crucifix. After a while, he turned to the stranger standing next to him and said, "He's not on the cross anymore, you know." I often wonder if that stranger ponders the thought of a little 4 year old.

The Faith of a Child

This was at the cathderal in Ortygia, Syracuse, Sicily. As we were doing what adults do, checking out all the nooks and crannies, Casey asked if he could kneel and pray. Sometimes I wonder why we were given this little treasure of a child. But--I thank God for him daily.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

When Is Paradise No Longer Paradise?

Sometimes the anticipation of things to come interferes with settling into the here and now. Thus, as I sit here in lovely, beautiful, tropical “everyman’s” perfection, I find my mind turning to next year--wishing that we sat watching the yellow and red colors of vineyards rather than the blue and turquoise waters of Hawaii. Who would have thunk?

Ken and I have been here several times over the years, with and without children. We have snorkeled, flown over volcanoes, watched flame eaters and graceful hula dancers, felt the velvet of leis, sipped wine as the sun sets, ridden pineapple trains, tasted poi, marveled at manta rays, green turtles and huge slithering eels and, finally, reluctantly waved good-bye as the plane lifted into the air on the way home to the deluge of daily life in “normal” land. But this time it is different—somehow the magic hasn’t worked its spell as much as in the past. I’m not sure if we have become more jaded. If familiarity has diluted the awe, or if the lure of a new adventure overwhelms everything else between now and then. I suspect it is a little of all but mostly the latter. Maybe it’s that being home in time for Casey to get a good night’s sleep means we can’t take those moonlight walks—with the quiet, melodious sounds of Hawaii drifting on the night air

I also know that there have been monumental changes in Hawaii since we first came twenty-five years ago—more people, more commercialism, more Hilo Hattie and ABC stores defining the landscape. Beaches that were once empty are now so crowded that fees are charged to use them. Strip malls are as ubiquitous and unsightly as on the mainland. Large hotel complexes obscure the waterfronts and traffic can be horrendous.

With all that said, there remain some special, beautiful and unspoiled places on the islands. North Shore on Oahu is such a place—here are some of the most exquisite sunsets in the world, beaches are still simple, vistas are lovely, surfers dot the landscape of the waves, simple houses intersperse with the tastefully understated houses of the affluent that quietly live along the shores. And---the shrimp wagons continue to do business as usual.

A drive around the “Big Island” (Hawaii) is as enchanting and gorgeous as always—amazing in its diversity—tropical forests, mile after mile of desolate black lava, the desert like area up Parker Ranch way, deep cliffs dropping off to the blue waters below, colorful flowers and foliage spilling over houses and walls, two fascinating National Parks—The Place of Refuge where Hawaiian Royalty lived and where asylum could be sought and absolution obtained if a kapu had been broken and the Volcano National Park where lava continues to flow, redefining mountains and shores. This is a young island not yet grown to maturity. It’s possible to stand on the lava shore line and watch as new lava travels into the sea, sending up great billows of steam, creating new land which in time will have soil and plants and sustain life—not in our lifetime!

Oops—it is now two days later and I must take back what I said about being jaded! There is an ocean storm and the waves are crashing and roaring down below us. The surges are so strong that windows and walls are rattling and the blankets of spray reach up 5 stories. From our terrace we watch huge waves that are pounding the lava formations below--just the sounds are powerfully awesome and exciting. Skies in the mountains are black with storms. Boats, scuba divers, outriggers are all safely on shore or carefully moored. The rawness and forces of unrestrained nature always, without exception, let us know how truly powerless and insignificant we are in the realms of nature. God has given us the gift of intellect and creative powers—but—nature reminds us that He has limited us and that, ultimately, we are never “in-charge.” His majesty and power are unmatchable and beyond our attainment.

So--I guess, after all, we will return—after Italy.

But, I think that we will choose Kauai and some of the unspoiled regions of Maui for that next time. Because--there is a paradise and, while we must wait to enter that promised land, we can find a taste of it in the 50th state--an ocean away from the mainland where aloha is a smile and the velvet sound of mahalo is as gentle as its meaning.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Off to Hawaii

We lead a rough life, I know. Tomorrow we're off to tradewinds and spectacular sunsets in Hawaii. A week in Oaho for a conference and visiting good friends Ann and Paul on North Shore and then to the Big Island for a week. The advantage of this timing is that, once again, I need not worry about Thanksgiving dinner and stuffing us and the turkey.

So--for those of you who check in now and again to see how the saga is going, there probably won't be a posting for a while as who wants to blog on the sands of the Pacific? Not me!

For the record--Casey's italiano is zipping right along. Had to laugh the other day when he was rolling his r's while talking English--and he didn't even realize he was doing it. Pretty funny but encouraging.

Talk to you more when we return. Have a great Thanksgiving--giving thanks to the Creator.

Casey Last Time In Hawaii--I Love this Picture!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Road to Italy

...does not run smoothly.

One of our favorite things to do in lovely Italia is to explore the secrets and surprises along the "white" roads--those byways where sheep and tractors still cross the rocky, unpaved lanes that lead between villages, vineyards, farms and history.

But--it isn't charming or fun to traverse white roads in planning our future--particularly for a type A person who likes the ball to roll straight and fast--of course, this character flaw is in direct contradiction to the "Italian Way" as friend Nico delights in reminding me. Maybe that's why I love Italy so much--it is my diametrical opposite! Maybe I believe that "go slow" will become my nature and patience my virtue.

After finding the incredible airfare--which by the way may have been one of those computer glitches we hear about-more on that later--and being euphoric over the opportunity to meet the school and location questions head-on, there came a slight bulge in the bubble. And it was one that I should have foreseen.

November 1 is All Saints Day, a major holiday in Italy. Having been in Italy last year at this time, I know this. The country shuts down, cemeteries are groomed, graves are bedecked and great honor is bestowed on ancestors. We took great pleasure in observing this in Sicily when we wandered a cemetary outside of Sircusa the day before, when mausolems were been scrubbed, vases were being arranged, treasured pictures were being displayed. The next day, we found ourselves absolutely trapped in spiderwebs of traffic around the cemetery until an observant poliziotto came to our rescue and somehow threaded us through. Traffic was backed for miles. Now--I do think that Sicilians are much more into this observance than mainlanders are, but, like we in the United States, a holiday is never turned down.

The upshot of this is that schools are closed and people don't work--voila--a dead day (aptly put) for me. But--it gets worse. Since November 1 is on a Tuesday, a perfectly wonderful long weekend comes by shutting everything down on Monday. Now, I lose 2 days of accomplishing what I came for--leaving only 4 days to see schools.

But--having recently had conversations with Casey about half full glasses and that old cliche about making lemonade, I have listened to myself and adapted expectations and am fully convinced that all that needs to happen will.

The wonderfully encouraging and warming situation is that several friends in various parts of Tuscany and Umbria are stepping forward, going out of their way to help--offering property hunting assistance, checking with schools, locating B and B's/hotels, and so much more. So--in the long run, what orginally seemed disastrous has brought something better and valuable--the sense of becoming part of a new community of friends--a reminder of just why we are wanting the year for which we plan.

A week from today I will be somewhere between here and there--before then, the plans will change daily as we reevaluate the where's to look. Tonight it is the Montepulciano area, the "suburbs" of Siena, the Chianti and the area around Perugia, Umbria. Today Cortona was dropped and by tomorrow maybe the Siena suburbs. The remaining three all draw us and have definitive potential.

So--November 4, I hope to return triumphant--a location chosen, potential rental properties and an agent with whom to work and, most special, more people to call good friends.

Now--plane fare story. Today, having decided that I really could use 2 more days there, I called UAL to see how costly it would be to change the reservation. The person I spoke with put me on hold while checking with "the fare" department. When she came back, her comment was "you have a deeply discounted fare (this was quite emphasized). The fare department says it will cost $2000 to change the date." Somehow, that seems like an exhorbitant change even for the weird rate rules of airlines. I believe that somehow I checked the website at a magic moment and won the prize--a nice feeling!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quick Note--Off to Italy--Soon!

Having managed to produce a state of perpetual fog and confusion to encompass an often feeble and addled brain, I have decided that it might unscramble things if I go to Italy and check out schools and properties. Actually--I decided this weeks ago but airfare was so costly and routing so inconvenient that it just didn't seem feasible--particularly since we already have arrangements to go in February.

And then--today I called a friend from Hawaii who is now in Italy just to talk (and to ask her to pick up some cheese for me since we will see her at the end of November.) By the end of the conversation, she had me convinced that there was no choice--I had to get to Italy--sad thought that might be. (I think she is just tired of hearing of my indecision and "what should I do" e-mails.)

Then serendipity--when I went to the UAL site, there was an incredible deal--all the way from San Diego to Florence for $569. Didn't take much brain power to snap at that--even though it means riding economy as the fare isn't upgradeable.

So--off I go, alone, October 26. Can't wait. 10 days to check properties and schools and see friends and eat. What fun! Now I just need to make all the arrangements with schools and agents in Cortona, Sarteano and the Siena area. And--as long as I am flying to Florence, might as well check out the International School and properties around there--which had been our original plan.

Maybe when I get back the location section, which has been sitting in draft form for days, will finally be finishable. That would be sooo sssooooooo nice!

Afterthought: My good friend talked me out of cheese from Italy. It seems that Costco has great parmisiano. And, believe me, gourmet Italyophile Ann knows. But--I will miss thinking "this is the real thing" and remembering the market from whence it came--somehow Costco doesn't breed nostalgia!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Odds and Ends

This is supposed to be about "location"--but, at the moment, I want to forget all of that--trying to figure out what to do makes my head spin and I am very tired of feeling like a mental pretzel!!

So--let me tell you about Casey--because this is kind of a neat thing.

Obviously, it is important that he learn some Italian before setting foot in the Italian class room next fall. Thus, he is currently using the Muzzy language program--which has him mesmorized. And, although it is too soon to tell if it will be effective, at least, he is paying attention and isn't rejecting the idea of learning the language. He can't wait to get home from school or where ever so that he can watch the story tapes--over and over.

Then--we have just found out that a young girl who lives near us and who is the perfect age for baby sitting is fully fluent in Italian. Her family speaks Italian at home, including 4th grade twins who go to Casey's school. So, now, Mary Grace has become our "official" babysitter and will speak to him in Italian when she is here--plus, we are hoping, that Casey will be able to spend time with the family so that he has immersion experiences. If all of this works, he may be well prepared for what lies ahead.

The neat thing though is that he is "teaching" his classmates an Italian vocabulary word every day. The willingness of his teacher to let him do this has given some immediate purpose to his efforts--which, in turn, is serving as significant motivation. Aren't good teachers wonderful? Ones who know how to encourage and expand kids creativity and inquistiveness? We feel so fortunate this year.

At a local teacher supply store, we found a small wall hanger with velco strips so that he can post each day's word--which at this point includes: Buon Giorno, grazie, molto grazie and prego. Coming up are per favore, ciao, and several classroom related words.

Mary Grace teaches him pronunciation--which, believe me, is far, far better than my feeble attempts at anything more than the bare basics. Although I can say Pimsleur and some texts are getting us started on this language journey--is there any question as to who will become the more proficient--Casey or grandma and papa? Don't think so! I have no doubt that he will become our teacher and language assister.

But--more than spoken language, Casey is preparing himself in the true and real language of the boys of Italy--the language that breaks all barriars in a moment creating instant bonding and brotherhood:

Moving on:
Have you ever wondered why on some blogs and other interactive sites leaving a comment first requires copying a strange combination of letters? The answer is that there are bizarre and strange people who know how to automatically leave undesireable messages and advertisements in comment sections. So, in order to stay one step ahead of this unwelcome invasion, the verification step kicks in. In the past I thought this requirement was a real pain and then the spam comments began showing up--now I understand. So, I apologize to anyone who stumbles on this inconvenience but at least you will know why--here or on any other blog.

Next up: Location, unless I find more ways to avoid the entire issue!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Big Three


These are THE major decisions we struggle with as we plan our move to Italy and they are entirely intertwined and interdependent--to approach them separately is about as effective as separating print from the page.

The part that makes complexity out of simplicity is the schooling. If all we needed were to determine location and from there go to housing, life would be simple. Although it would still be hard to choose where to live, we could do that in fairly short order. But--Casey complicates things immensely--Bless his wonderful, delightful, loving soul!


We have finally (I think) decided on placing him in an Italian public school as opposed to the International school in Florence. Originally we had wanted to do this but were concerned (and to some degree still are) about the language situation--he doesn't speak Italian. But--after cyber-conversations with many people who have taken this risk and their childrens' subsequent positive experiences, we have decided that Casey will do well, becoming bilingual fairly rapidly and successfully. This will become a part of the richness of this unusual year in his life.

A preview of Casey next year.
Photo by Peter Palmieri

This decision accomplishes two big things:
  1. We have more options for location.
  2. We have more € at our disposal.
Now the two issues we face in finding the right school and by default the right location are:

In Italy children traditionally go to school 6 days a week--lunedi-sabato. We do not want this for Casey. The good news is that 6-day school is not mandatory and there are schools that go for just 5 days--it seems each school can make an independent decision in this matter--strange! (They also seem to set their own school hours.)

2.) The other important factor is the kind of language assistance a school offers kids like Casey. It seems that all schools must provide a tutor or a pull-out type program for a period of time daily--provided by the government. But--some areas and schools have much more experience in doing this and already have English speaking children enrolled--much more accustomed and prepared to work with ex-pat kids.

Finding out which schools in which locations meet these criterium is not easy. Particularly when blending these things with some specific desires Ken and I have for our time there--becoming part of the ebb and flow of daily life, short trips to other areas, visiting friends we have made throughout Umbria and Tuscany, language school and whatever else strikes our fancy.

So--now we are in research mode--which involves much cyber searching, asking a multitude of questions of contacts we have had and are making in potential locations, finding circuitous ways to make contact with schools, contacting rental agents (much of which is in l'italiano)--and--rotating between wondering why in the world we are doing this and experiencing exhilerating anticipation. No misgivings--just butterflies.

Next Up: Location

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Planning is Half the Fun?" Oh--Say It Isn't So!

Well--I hope that's not true because if the experiential half is no better than this half, we are in BIG trouble! Who would have thought that planning for a simple year could be so annoyingly complicated. And then--the ugly spector of incompetence rears its head when my cyberfriend gets every thing done--from the initial lightbulb thought about "why not live in Italy" all the way through the settling into a Firenze apartment--in the space of three months. I used to be like that--a snap of the fingers and the dream was the reality. I guess fingers get weak as the years progress.
Now I am a little old gramma with a shriveling mind, leaking memory and a body that is hard to unfurl in the morning when a seven year-old jumps on the bed--ready for another day of exploring the mysteries of life.
Actually, the truth is that upon finally reaching that time known as retirement, with the plan to fulfill a 40 year fantasy of "sleeping in", what really happened is that my body clock reset itself so that I am awake and ready to go at ungodly hours of the morning. Ken, on the other hand, is reverting to teen years when sleep is an occupation--or so he wishes.
Enough of the rambles--on to Italy. The easiest way to approach this is to organize into topics, subtopics, detours and sidebars--so here goes:

Paperwork, the Los Angeles Italian Consulate and the Courts:
My latest attempt to penetrate the dark and mysterious recesses of the Italian Consulate appear to be as futile as earlier attempts. I am told that there is a building at 12400 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 90025 which houses this entity in suite #300. However, I won't believe it until the lettering on the door says Consolato Generale d'Italia a Los Angeles and we actually stand in the presence of a rarified being holding the key to our visas.

Because phone calls are difficult and faxes and e-mails remain unanswered, I finally wrote a real letter and included a self-addressed stamped envelop. In the letter I sweetly, nicely, hat-in-hand, sent a copy of the order from the Superior Court of the State of California which states unequivocally that we can take Casey to the EU, including Italy (in case there is confusion) for the calendar years 2006-2007. I told them/her/whomever that I was having this and the guardianship orders translated and certified. I then asked if this would be sufficient or if there something else they would need like an apostille--for which the translator in New York is going to charge a lot of money as she needs to go to court, stand in line or whatever to get verification that she is whom she says she is and that the translation certification is legtimate. If I can avoid that cost it would be nice. But--surprise--I wasted two 37¢ stamps as there has been no reply. So-- we will get the apostille just to be on the safe side.

Sidebar: In case you wonder what an apostille is--as I did--when you present a document as being certified and notarized, the notary could be forged. The apostille is a seal from the state that the notary's seal and signature are on record and that the certification is legitimate. In other words, an apostille certifies the certifier. How many of you knew about this? We're not sure yet but believe that we may need to have our marriage and birth certificates translated and apostilled. Of course none of this runs cheap! Just to have the letters of guardianship and the travel order translated, notorized and apostilled will run about $200. Now--doesn't this all sound like fun?

Passports: It is time to renew Casey's--which is sad as he has so many stamps in his that it's hard to trade it in. The law says that as court appointed guardians, we can get his passport. All we need is to take in his old passport, a copy of the court papers and $. This should go easily (she said.) We have an appointment at the post office in a couple of weeks but we don't expect a problem. However, we are applying for renewal early just in case.

FBI Check: Yes--we need FBI clearance stating that we are not criminals and that we are upstanding, honorable citizens. First we need to get full sets of finger prints and then send off to the FBI for a report. Heaven help us if there is a problem with that. I have visions of Bush having put all Democrats on a "hold" list.

Of course, there is more paperwork but some of that will be put off for a while.

We need a copy of a rental contract for the period of time we will be there. The bizarre, catch 22 is that this must be arranged prior to applying for the visa--which we then hope will be approved. And--we must assure the powers that we are planning to leave the country in a timely fashion. S0--we need our in and out plane reservation--which is an interesting thing to accomplish since airlines only write tickets 330 days out. Oh well-will cross this bridge some other time. As others have gone before us, there are solutions--probably quite circuitous and creative.

This Post is a Two Parter in Order to Accommodate Attention Spans--Mine, Not Yours

Coming Next:

Location, Schooling and Housing--the Big Three!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Heartwarming Sequel

I was pleased and Casey thrilled when the mail box held a small package for him from Samaritan's Purse. Inside was a letter thanking him for his gift--telling of the encouragement they receive from the hearts of children such as he. Included was a miniature shoe box filled with 52 scripture cards--one a week for the next year.

Again Casey glowed and the meaning of giving and sharing and caring about others was generously reenforced. I know that it underscored the beauty of his heart gift and will make it that more memorable--hopefully it will be the beginning of a lifelong sense of compassion and responsibilty to others.

Onto other things: The Italy portion--and really that is what inspired this blog--has been rather ignored lately--mainly because nothing has been happening in moving our plans along. However,it would be in error to interpret this to mean that we aren't hard at work trying--I have been spending entirely too much time on the venture. It's just that there are so many dimensions and intricacies involved that I've been waiting (some might call it procrastination) to write about it all. But--the time has come so that in the years to come, my descendents have a record of all that we have done--which was really the impetus to joining the legions of bloggers in the first place. To my surprise, people besides me read it--amazing!

Then--as if raising a seven year old, planning to move to a foreign country--where they speak a language we don't, fighting with recalcitrant electronics and just keeping up with the daily challenges of living in a country that seems to be running amok weren't enough, we have taken on the maddening challenge of completely redesigning the exterior of our house. So, we are covered with scaffolding, workmen have taken over, we have become extraneous and in the way and, at least a thousand tiny and not so tiny decisions need to be made. Really--I am too old for all of this!!!!!!!!

Anyway, tomorrow or the next day or the next day, you will get an Italy update.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Compassion from the Heart

No--this is not Katrina; although, the gift of compassion does ring out in stories from the last many days. We clearly have been given the opportunity to prove our humanity and people from around the world are passing that test.
But this is a story from a few days before Katrina and tells of the purity and beauty of a child's heart. It's one of those times that brings tears of awe and wonder as we catch a glimpse of innocence.

We were watching that family program--you know, the nightly news. There was a vivid and heart-wrenching report on the tragedy of the Sudan--the inhumanity and violence that has occured there--women being raped and tortured, children orphaned, cruelty beyond comprehension--the opposite of the heights the human spirit can soar to as we see in the response to Katrina.

Suddenly I noticed that Casey, who had been creating Lego masterpieces, had stopped and was mezmorized by the TV--so entranced that even his breathing was noticeably slow. When it was over, he turned to us with questions we all ask ourselves but children verbalize. "Why do they want to do that?" "What's going to happen?" "Why are they so mean?" A little while later, he said "We should do something about that. What can we do?"

The next day he brought down his piggy bank and he and Ken counted out his money--all $12 in change. He decided that he wanted to send $11 to the children.

After a web search, we decided that the Samaritan's Purse organization would be a good place to send the money. Then, rather than just take the money from him and us writing a check, we made a family trip to the bank so he could experience taking his money in, handing it to the teller and getting a check to send.

The teller was wonderful. She told him what a "lovely and generous" thing he was doing and that it would come back to him and then he could do more. She put his name on the cashier's check with the notation that it was for the children of the Sudan. He was glowing from the inside out.

Finally, he wrote a short letter to Franklin Graham and the check was mailed. Now, he prays for the children every night--along with his prayers for orphans he has heard about in India and the victims of Katrina.

If ever we wonder what a child is like before being corrupted by "the world", God sometimes lets us see and remember.

I hope this has brightened your day and that hope has been restored and renewed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hello Again

Yep--we're back from Alaska and have been for a couple of weeks. But, somehow, updating this journal seems to have remained at the bottom of the to-do list.

Katrina--electronics (the bane of 21st century existence)--Casey--business matters--just the stuff of life have filled the hours and days. Now, though, it is time to catch up with friends and strangers who seem to check in here from time to time.

First--Alaska is breathtakingly awesome and beautiful--beyond expectations and imagination! We have traveled extensively--the top of the Jungfrau--the Serengiti--castles and fortresses-- Tibetan plateaus--deserts--the Great Wall--but nowhere has proof of God the Creator been more vivid than in the pristine, massive, mystical, pure, natural wonder of Alaska. In time I will update our website as this blog is not a travelogue but for now, here are a couple more pictures.

And--my most favorite:

What else is happening? Well, I have been drawn over and over again to watch and keep up with the tragedy of Katrina. The human suffering, the massive failure of our systems, the humbling realization that we are as fragile as any third world country, the open window on the truth of the disparity between poor and rich, black and white has all been forcefully laid out in the light of day or in the recesses of a Superdome and a Convention Center. And then along with that we see the greatness of shared humanity, the empathy that surfaces in the face of despair, the desire to relieve pain and distress--we see what is good and strong in this species called man. We, along with the world, wait to see where this great tragedy takes us and what will be done. Can we admit mistakes so that we can change? As a nation can we refocus our priorities? Can we take care of our own as well as we can wage war? Can we address a crumbling infrastructure and find the resources to rebuild? These are some of the thoughts that Americans of the United States struggle with these days. I pray that God will lead us through all that is ahead.
On to lighter fare--Electronics:
Within two days of arriving back in San Diego, the cable modem quit functioning, the computer which crashed two months ago did so again, the microwave gave up life, and more. So, several days were spent working through all of this--which meant absolutely nothing constructive was accomplished elsewhere. I am one of those people who knows little about fixing technology but who willing (some would say, stupidly) jumps from the cliff and tries, often leading to even greater problems. This round resulted in buying and installing a modem (easy), buying a new computer (on order as I wanted some customization) and at the moment, being still in the market for a new microwave. Can you believe that to replace a microwave venting fan costs $299? Certainly not worth it for an 8 year old appliance.
Well, in reviewing the title of the blog, I see that this entry falls into the "other stuff" category which is not really the purpose of the blog at all. It's purpose is to share the wonders of Casey and the trials and tribulations of preparing for residency in Italy--both of which have twists and turns to share. So--I will close this now and get to the real stuff tomorrow, maybe.
I end with this smile for the day: While driving in Alaska, Casey, being 7 years old, constantly wanted to know things such as "how much further?" or "how much longer?" The typical answer would be "in a while" or "a while longer." Finally, fed up with such non-helpful input, his response was "I hate whiles!" Don't you just love kids?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Next Year at This Time!?

Already qualms set in! The summer has been delightful here in our little piece of earth we call our own. Even in a city, it is possible to escape into a private world of beauty and serenity.
Our property looks so beautiful this year--myriads of flowers; a startling pink bougainvillea owning a corner of the orchard; greens of every color; many, many birds with plumages of red, yellow, irridescent greens and blues flitting around the foliage and feasting from two feeders; water fountains playing music and the sparkling clear pool which has been Casey's favorite hangout this summer. It has been a rather perfect year--except for the whole visa situation and the obvious frustration of dealing or not dealing with a very obtuse LA Italian Consulate.
So--here's where it's at. For those of you who haven't been following the saga and really don't want to go back to the beginning--a quick synopsis of what's happened. Ken and I fell in love with Italy many years ago, so, in between travels to other places, we returned again and again--always finding enchantment in the favorite places and the new. Eventually we envisioned that in retirement we would spend several months a year in this country that captured our hearts.
Then--life played a trick, making parents of us again in our retirement. Because of a daughter who has run into problems grabbing hold of motherhood, we are now the court appointed guardians of our grandson--whom we adore and love wholeheartedly. He is a charmer who opens all kinds of doors for us as only a child can.
And so, he travels with us where ever we go--Italy, Spain, the Rain Forest, the Galapagos Islands, Holland, France--across the world. At seven he has seen more of the world than most people see in a lifetime. To read about these travels, check out our Travel Commentaries and Photos.
Now we are trying to make reality of the dream to live in Italy for a while. With this aim, we have been preparing to move there in July 2006 for a year, intending to enroll Casey in the International School of Florence. Our real preference would be an Italian public school but two things interfer with that. 1.) A year is not long enough for him to become fluent enough to learn well and 2.) In Italy, students go to school on Saturday and we want our weekends free to come and go.
There are several requirements to successfully apply for an elective residency or long term stay visa--some of them rather arcane and cumbersome but all are doable. But--we ran into a major hurdle revolving around our guardianship of Casey. The consulate wasn't quite sure how to handle this and was fearful to take the papers at face value. In this day of international kidnapping, countries have become cautious about allowing kids in when they are not traveling with natural parents. So--the Los Angeles Consulate (which is excruciatingly unfriendly and difficult to work with), decided that they would have to send our papers to Rome for a decision.
At this point, we decided that rather than hope that Rome would understand the legality and complexities of a California guardianship order, it would simplify things if we went back into court and obtained a direct statement from the judge stating that taking Casey is OK. The problem being that it is always risky business going back to court when you have a favorable ruling. Going back puts that in jeopardy in the event the judge decides to see things differently. Plus, attorneys do not come cheaply even when the work required of them is minimal.
So--we sweated this out for a few weeks but Monday, the judge ruled favorably once again, approved our petition and left out attorney to write the final wording.
Now we are back into planning and, as with anything that involves a major life change, we question and we wonder--but, not enough to seriously consider not following through. It is exciting, invigorating, exhilerating, etc. We can't wait--being a major type A person, I want to get it all done now--patience is not my virtue. I like to know that all is well and to be in charge. But, wait we must.
However, we have a short reprieve in getting started as Wednesday we leave for 3 weeks in Alaska-- bear viewing, walking on glaciers, river rafting, watching whales and more. We're taking our first cruise and then renting a car and driving on our own for two weeks. I have found that planning for Alaska is almost like planning for an international trip as it is so different from the lower 48. I think that this will be a lot of fun and anticipate sharing it when we return.
So--ciao for a while. A Presto!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Very Brief Post!

We now have clarification from the judge that we can take Casey to the EU, including Italy, for an extended stay. This should satisfy the LA Consulate--I hope.

Must do dinner now--ugh! Will fill in more when time is not at a premium.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Yes, Virginia, There is No Paradise!

You say you would love to call San Diego home? 24/7 sun--sand and beaches galore--athletes of the waves riding the boards--home to 4 Nordstroms--more boat marinas than you can count (lots of $$$$'s here, folks)--backyard pools by the 100's--world's best Mexican food and not at all bad Italian.

Yep-sounds like paradise to me. So--why would we want to leave paradise by the sea, even for colorful, glorious, unfathomable Italy?

..perhaps because sunland has become a parody of what a major city should be.

It has always seemed that we resemble wannabe's--wannabe be taken seriously as a metropolian area; wannabe grown-up; wannabe sophisticated and worldly wise; wannabe contenders in any sport; wannabe savvy and in the know; wannabe culturally important. The truth is that a parochial, old boys network, rule by developers, a refusal to make hard choices, non-principled, weak willed and no convictions politicians along with a complacent,let the sunshine in citizenery has really kept us as a backwater, backwoods city with a mentality that sees no further than city boundaries. We take ourselves so seriously with such hubris.

Let me enumerate the situation that now exists here:

1.) Our last election was a circus. The actual top vote getter for mayor was an envirommentalist write-in candidate who received more votes than the encumbent mayor. However, many who voted for the challenger,while writing in her name, did not bubble in the circle; thus, after numerous court appeals from both candidates (the law was not clear on the issue and so either side needed court verification in order to be declared winner), the encumbent was declared mayor while the challenger with the majority of votes was cast aside.

2.) Shortly thereafter, the mayor was named by Time magazine as one of the 3 worse mayors in the United States. He announced his decision to step down two months ago--just several weeks after fighting for his right to be mayor.

3.) We are in the midst of a HUGE pension scandal with the probable placing of the funds into receivership. Several pension board members are under indictment. That board has taken out a restraining order against the city attorney who has surfaced some of the questionable dealings of the board and who wants them to cooperate with the federal investigation.

4.) In December the aforementioned mayor selected the councilman who would serve as Deputy Mayor.

5.) At the time the mayor did this, that councilman, along with 2 others, was under federal indictment on a corruption charge. This was from a federal investigation indicating that these men had accepted money from a lobbyiest for a Las Vegas and San Diego strip club owner. The quid pro quo was to be the rescinding of the no touch ordinance between dancers and customers. Needless to say this was a fascinating trial--straight from a seedy magazine story, certainly worthy of the Enquirer.

6.) One of the above mentioned men died before the trial.

7.) Last week the trial of the two remaining councilmen was sent to the jury after 7 weeks of testimony.

8.) Friday was the mayor's last day in office. With little fanfare, he packed up and left--after enumerating all that he is proud of during his tenure.

9.) The councilman who was awaiting the jury's decision on the federal corruption charges became THE mayor.

10.) Monday the jury verdict came in. GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY. It seems the taped phone conversations between the councilmen and the lobbyiest told the story.

11.) Today both councilmen resigned. By law they did not need to; although, by law they could no longer receive pay, sit on the council or conduct city business.

12.) We now have no mayor and only 6 out of 8 council seats filled.

13.) There is an election for a new mayor next week but there is a large field of candidates and so the expectation is that there will be no elected mayor until the November elections. The write-in candidate from the previous election is in the lead but probably will not get a majority.

14.) In the meantime, the eight term local congressman who campaignes on integrity and outrage at others' immorality and dishonesty, has been found to be bought and owned by a Defense Contract company whom he has served well. He is under investigation and has announced his retirement. It is probable that he will be forced out before retirement time comes. Of course, he is being "persecuted" as he did no wrong.

15.) Our city attorney is a meglomanic who believes that single-handedly he can right all the wrongs of the city; hold every polictican, businessperson, and whomever accountable for every sin and misdemeanor and more. And the truth is, he is making a difference and appears to be the first honest person on our political scene in many years. The problem is that he makes more enemies than stars in the sky so who knows how long he can be effective.

16.) Our very popular right of right-wing, revered radio talk host was mayor several years ago but was forced to resign when he was found guilty of, I believe, tax evasion--or maybe some shady land deal, can't quite keep it all straight.

17.) Our bond ratings are in the tank--but that should come as no surprise.

18.) And developers keep getting richer and richer and richer with no city masterplan. What was once beautiful San Diego is becoming a jungle of hodgepodge buildings, ugly and massively huge apartment buildings strategically built across from such shopping meccas as Costco and Ikea, major shopping malls built in river bottoms which flood with each rainfall and a regentrified downtown which is falling on hard times.

So--Italy here we come--or at least Arizona or Nevada.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

How Do You Say "Taco" in Italiano?

Tonight a major revelation puts our hopes and dreams for an Italian sojourn in jeopardy! As I stood at the stove, frying aromatic corn tortillas--after having cut the avocado, tomato, lettuce, and cilantro, prepared the meat and poured the already grated (who uses a grater anymore?) cheeses into a bowl, it occured to me that a year without tacos, chili relleno burritos, enchillades, refried beans and all of the south of the border foods we Californians call our own may not be manageable.

With apologies to my Texas countrymen (and women), the culinary anomaly refered to as Tex-Mex fails to qualify as real, true Mexican food--in fact, you can't even get the real thing in Mexico. The truth is that the only place you can find true, real, authentic, caloric and cholesterol laden Mexican food is in the land that has everything--including a penchant for electing movie stars as governors--California.

Now--we feast on Italian food all the time--both at home and out. Life without pasta in all its forms would be unthinkable. No olive oil? Help! But---Italian is universal food--China, Africa, Mexico, Peru even Texas (home of GWB) have great Italian restaurants with true Italian chefs. Unlike Mexican food, one can live anywhere and satisfy the craving for osso bucco.

But somehow the thought of dining on tacos in a Tuscan trattoria just doesn't compute. This rather unappetizing picture presentation is a taco pizza! Rather scary, isn't it? If pizzas and tacos can be so corrupted here in the land that belonged to Mexican's many years ago, what horrors await in another country? Oh my. what to do? So--I will sleep on this dilemma, hoping that things look brighter in the morning and facing a year without a taco/relleno plate isn't so daunting.
Our friends coming from the states to visit us in Italy, may find the request to bring along tortillas, El Pato Salsa Picante Hot Sauce and frijoles a strange way to weight the luggage. But then, what are good friends for except to pamper us?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

God Was Right!

Oh, yes! God was so right when he made parents and grandparents different from each other, giving each unique roles and jobs!

Parents are meant to be young, energetic, quite flexible and a little innocent and naive! Grandparents are to be wise, gentle, tolerant, loving and ready to send young ones home at the end of the day. Now, let me say--it is hard to be all of these things at once--particularly when no one goes home at the end of the day.

Why this topic? Because today we had the joy? pleasure? challenge! exhausting! experience of a 7 year old birthday party. Twelve active seven and eight year old boys, all totally into being boys, do sap energy and give reason to collapse and vegetate when all go home (except one.)

I guess it is no suprise that all boys like pizza and soda so feeding them was easy. Not so watching all of them at once in the pool. This year the deep end of the pool belongs to them--no more staying where feet touch the bottom. Watching the horseplay and making sure all are safe is more than a full time responsibility. Fortunately, several of the parents stayed around and so it was easier than it might have been.

This is a short one--just wanted to give a little addendum to the last entry where I sort of sloughed off the question asking if this role is difficult sometimes. The answer to that, if you question it, is yes, sometimes it is quite difficult and not for the faint hearted. We really live one day, one phase at a time, as, if we stop to think of the future ahead of us, it quickly becomes quite scary and overwhelming. Imagine being 79 when your child turns 21! Or would you rather not? Where did our old age go? Maybe we just won't have one!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Magic of a Child--Makes It All Worth While!

And--what do ancients, retirees, empty nest lovers, people with dreams for the golden years do when life turns upside down and a twosome becomes a threesome? For us, the options were one--love him, adore him, gift him with a love for God and an appreciation for the wonders of His creation and promises. Casey deserves all that life can offer and if God, in his infinite wisdom, believes we are the ones to give it, then we are honored.

Is it hard? I guess it is--but the rewards are constant and the laughter uplifting so we choose to relish the innocence and cherish the always unexpected.

Recently an adult friend of ours, including Casey's, had strep throat. Casey's bedtime prayer went something like this:

"Please Jesus, take care of Mr. Park's hurt neck. I know it's heartburn because I've had heartburn three times."

Tell me--how does one keep from sacrilegiously interrupting this loving and heartfelt prayer with uproarious laughter? Not easily........
Or--upon turning 7 he introduced me to the 21st century version of coming of age--you know that marker that has existed for all of us from young parents to old grandparents--the prized moment when we could drive? Well, the new benchmark is:

"I can't wait until I'm 8--then I can sit in the front seat." (California law, for those wondering.)

Then he ponders amazingly profound questions as:

I just can't understand how God can be Jesus and Jesus can be God. That doesn't make sense to me.

How was God not made? I know--there was a god who made a god who made a god who made our God.

God, please don’t make all the people because I want to see how you make us when I get to heaven.
Finally, after a morning prayer that he would be quiet at school, his bedtime prayer was:
God, thank you for helping me stay on green today even though I really did it all myself. (Don't most of us take credit when things go well?
So--although right now my nerves are being assaulted by two 7 year olds playing pacman on the Game Cube, by this afternoon something will have happened to remind me it is all worth it.
On to the visa saga and current frustration status: We are still on hold with this as when our attorney went to court last week with an ex parte hearing request, the judge denied it and is requiring a hearing. Without going into the details, this is a real pain and total frustration!!!!!!!! And--if by some outside chance he ends up denying the request, our entire ability to be free to lead our life as we would like to and should be able to do will be impacted. So we are really praying.
Our hope is that the judge is just wanting to make sure that the i's are dotted and the t's crossed so that there is no reason to challenge this further delineation of our guardianship rights. I believe that the only expectation on his part is that a letter of notification be sent to Casey's mother's last known address to put on record that a notification attempt was made.
Of course, this all has lots of $$$$$'s attached to it as attorney time doesn't come cheaply. If we could be sure that Rome would accept our current papers, we could avoid all of this--I keep thinking that maybe we should just give that a run but if it didn't work, we would be way off our time schedule for the start of the school year. It is all so maddening!
So, we will follow the course we have set and pray that God's will be done. The truth is that while we really hope for an extended time in wonderful Italy, life will go on quite nicely if that isn't possible. We can go for shorter periods, not requring visas and meet educational concerns with home schooling. There are always answers, options and alternatives and, experience tells us, doors close for a reason and the alternatives almost always end up being better. It shouldn't be a surprise that God's way is always the best way!
Again, I hope that each of you has something special enter your life between now and the next time I get the urge to add to this journal.
Soon we will be getting ready for three weeks in Alaska--flying to remote areas for bear sightings, landing on glaciers, riding waves in search of whales, dogsledding over summer terrain, floating the rapids and lots more. What an adventure for a child! and for us, too. Can't wait!
Ciao e A Presto

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Holding Pattern--So Boring!

Not much new to report--but thought maybe I should sign in and say thanks for stopping by. This week has been a nightmare as much of it was spent trying to bring a sick computer back to health and then putting a new one together for Casey's soon to be 7th birthday. It's amazing to me how our little ones gravitate to and understand technology almost through osmosis. As much as I am on the computer, I had to turn to him the other day for help! Can't believe it? Then--since he is constantly using my digital camera--which is a high-end Sony--we decided that he might as well have his own. So--yes--he's getting a new camera--albeit one as cheap as I could find that still has a printable resolution and is large enough for little hands to use. Actually, if you think about it, digital cameras are great for kids--no film costs, no development costs, they can take and take pictures as long as they like and, absent dropping or losing them or submerging in the ocean, they will last a long time. KC (my schizophrenic child hasn't yet settled on his moniker) found great fascination last week taking pictures of his nostrils and rubber facial expressions.

Anyway computers---after being so happy that my friend fixed mine without reformatting and losing all my data--it really didn't work. Before I could back up the stuff, it crashed again and this time it really crashed. So--he reformatted the C drive, wiping all out and beginning new. But--I wasn't worried as he first copied all my data to the D drive--so no fear--right? Again--short lived relief as the data transfer didn't work and so, when I, with great expectation, opened the My Documents folder--nulla (that's Italian for nothing)! I searched and searched, clicked and clicked--nada (that's Spanish for nothing). Tax records, vital records, etc, etc, etc. had all been there--along with all the guardianship documentation and just the nuts and bolts of our lives.
Do We Really Need Them?
Now, you are thinking--"you dummy, you should have backed it all up"--surprise--most of it was--at least through the end of March. Plus a couple more recent files I had on a thumb drive. So---things could have been worse. Like--no tax records for the past 5 years and having to rescan all our personal documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.) and losing all those records that make up our lives. And, because I use two computers, some stuff was on this one. But-----the message is still loud and clear--get an external hard drive and keep all backups current. Oh--the other good news was that I keep pictures on the D drive and so they were still there when all was done.

For all of you who do not back up---stop whatever it is you are doing right now and take care of business or you will live to regret procrastinating!

Casey's new computer is a hybrid of stuff--I had an old laptop (2 years old which makes it ancient) just taking up closet space--so I wiped it clean, reinstalled XP2 and apps, put on internet controls, hooked it up to a flatscreen and external keyboard and mouse and he's thrilled. Using the laptop rather than a tower will make taking it to Italy much easier.
No new news on the visa front--our attorney here will go to court this week for the judge's order of clarification. Assuming that things go as planned, we'll be set to get the order and guardianship papers translated and then move to the next step.

Tomorrow we leave for Denver for a church conference. Will return Sunday. Then on Monday we will have a family birthday celebration for KC--Tuesday will be his birthday here with just us and then on Friday (9th) he will have a pizza/pool party with his little friends.
All that is to say that my blog will probably lie dormant for a while--unless there is some really big event or information.
I hope that each of you has something especially good happen between now and then. If so, why not share it as a comment and then we can celebrate with you.
A Presto!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A First Grader Comes of Age and the Inferno of Computers

Well--not much news to report regarding our adventure--but, since my visitor counter tells me that there are real live people who check in and read this blog, maybe I should drop by and say hello, buon giorno, ciao or whatever. Actually, PREGO would be good--for all of you who take the time to follow this saga through the mysteries and labyrinth of the LA Consulate--which is rumored to lead the way for alien invasion of golden Italy.

Never Never Land--located somewhere deep within the LA Italian Consulate.
The Big Event This Week: School is out and Casey (KC) is a second grader. He thinks he is pretty special (of course, he is) as he struts and grins from ear to ear. He's very proud of earning all E's and G's in academics with just a couple S's in behaviorial type things--such as settling down to work and focusing.
Here in San Diego even 1st graders have pretty stiff learning curriculums--certainly more than in my day. As an educator in my past life, albeit secondary level, I have serious reservations about 6 year olds being in school 6 1/2 hours a day followed by 15-30 minutes of homework and then a substantial time set aside for reading. When sports and other activities important in developing a dimensional person are factored in to this, our little ones begin stress overload very early in life--too early in my mind. When first graders begin to worry about achievement tests they will be required to take in second grade, it becomes pretty clear that some how we have skewed our priorities.

Check Me Out!------I'm a Second Grader!

Now as I write this, he and Papa are spending the night at the world famous San Diego Zoo--a unique way to ring in Father's Day.

Is he sleeping with

or or

What ever--it will be a night of adventure and dreams and wonderful memories! The question is "how will Papa handle all this?"

Now computers:

I finally met the enemy this week--a virus! Last week at the Little League party, one of the sisters, unbidden and permissionless, helped herself to my computer (the one that serves as my network hub) and, wherever she went on it, left a very sick machine. I couldn't even get to system restore--windows was totally inaccessible. I worked on it--to no avail--and then took it to a little computer repair shop down the road. Major mistake--the man there made things worse. Before his help, I could access programs and data; after his ministrations, the screen had disintegrated into inpenetrable blackness. Not nice. So--after a day and a half spent with stress level rising by the minutes and seconds, I did what we all try to avoid--called a friend who can do all and, yes, that nemisis of humankind is defeated, windows function and.....all data exists. Now I owe said friend my life.

Italy: Things are sort of sitting. But--as they sit, hopes are rising and anticipation grows. Our attorney has written a brilliant case for the judge to clarify our rights in such a way that even the strange people with the LA Consulate will understand what guardianship means. Or--is it much too optimistic to hope for that. Since they will not answer letters, faxes or e-mails, predicting their actions is somewhat difficult. Customer service is not their thing.

The good news and the great "burden off the shoulders" release is the solution for renting our house. We have been concerned about this because it would be difficult to maintain a house here while absorbing the expenses of life in Italy--plus, leaving a house empty for a year is not wise. But--renting is always a risk--and finding someone to rent a furnished house for the exact period of need is akin to finding the needle in the haystack.

The solution: Our son and his roommate will rent it--perfect! They are reliable, son knows the house, the dog can stay, mail can be handled, care will be taken. They get a reduced rent and we get peace of mind. The housekeeper, the gardner and the pool guy will continue to do their things. And--we will be able to rent in Italy a little easier.

Ciao for today.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

3 A.M--High Gear Brain!

The road to dreams!?!

Of course, anyone who has ever sought expat or extended stay status in Italy has traveled the road we are now on--the one that is filled with potholes, weed-filled cracks, big potholes, speed traps, really big potholes, deadends and enormous potholes.

So--we have programmed our minds to view the process as an adventure, just as life in general is. And, our spirits are buoyed remembering that the sagas we have followed over time have ended up just fine. People who have become friends via cyberspace now live, laugh, play and work in captivating Italy-where new potholes are found and bounced through. The adventures of life just keep multipling.

Where are we with the visa? Not very far but wheels are churning and maybe turning. I contacted the highly touted attorney in Rome who responded the very next day with a game plan that sounded super impressive--conveying complete confidence that bureaucracy was merely a stumbling block.

As soon as I riceived it, I've started to think about how to help you. I suppose that the case can be solved before in judicial session and then at the Consulate....

Of course he had more to say and needs copies of paperwork, judge's order, etc. but he was quite encouraging.

Then--our dear friend, Nico, told me to put everything on hold while he works on this with various contacts.

Before you start handing cash over, lets see what we can do with a couple of phone calls and the odd coffee meeting.

Don't you love the Italian way of getting things done?

So--now I feel we are in very good hands and wisdom will prevail over the morass of bureaucracy! Things are happening the Italian way and in that is comfort and confidence.

In addition, our attorney here is going to court in an ex parte hearing to get a definitive statement regarding a long term stay out of the country. This is totally legally unnecessary but, it should address any lingering doubts in the minds of whomever reviews the application. Oh--to live an ordinary, normal life--but, is there such a thing?

My 3 am brain

Now--why with all this hopeful news does my brain hit overdrive at an hour when stable people dream? Well--here's a partial list:

1. How does one handle money concerns abroad? Rent? Utilities? Day to day money can come from ATM machines, drawing on our accounts here--but, that won't work for everything. How much will we lose in conversion? Do we need to open an account with an Italian bank???????????

2. How are we ever going to learn enough Italian to be functional? Neither of us is a talented language learner--heaven knows we have tried in the past and that was with Spanish--a language that is as common as English here in San Diego.

3. Do we want KC in a public or private school? I redecide this daily--sometimes hourly.

4. Is this really the thing to be doing?

5. Where are we going to find a place to live that borders on a reasonable rent?

6. How are we going to get everything we need over there? And--what do we need?

7. When should we go on our planning and arranging trip?

8. Why can't I sleep and are the next 12 months going to be like this or is this just the opening gamut jitters

On top of this and maybe the why behind the unreasonable stress so far out is that, in our great and unfathomable wisdom, we have chosen now to redesign and reconstruct the entire facade of our house. This means pulling money out of our equity (always a butterfly in the gut process), trying to get contractor bids (akin to finding the hen's teeth), coordinating the stucco people with the paver people with the painter people with the roofer people (a totally joyless and improbable task) and wondering if we really want modified rounded arches in the entry or what? I read of what people are going through in Italy as they transform their homes--but, really it is just as frustrating here. It takes weeks for a contractor to return a call and then weeks more to get their bids--super frustrating!!

But--we are truly lucky people because we have Casey--KC--who always, always without a single failure cheers us, gives a smile, makes us smile, hugs with abandon and loves unconditionally. He is a constant reminder that what counts in life is not the material but the relational. We thank God daily and continually for this life and that he is ours. So--to cheer you--here's your gift of a smile.

Mr. Personality