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.

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

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Not Really a Posting

This is truly not a posting--am running around doing things like buying a flat screen monitor for KC, tires for car, etc. But---for my friend in Sweden--just want to tell you that it is a gloomy, cold by our standards-63 farhenheit, drizzley, grey day here--not sunny California summer weather at all! I may even have to put socks on with my sandals! Would you say we here are spoiled by God's bounty?

I do promise to write more in a day or two and catch you up on the saga of the visa--it has taken an interesting twist--maybe.

Now--off for a monitor. Ciao!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Attorneys and Pool Parties

Is it possible that you wonder about the title of this entry--you don't understand the connection between attorneys and pool parties? The truth is there is none--I just want to talk about both right now. One because it is a semi-update on the real purpose of this blog--defeating bureaucracy and getting to Italy--and the other because it involves the focus and center of our lives--Casey, or KC depending on the day.

Business first: All that has happened in the saga since the lovely interaction with the scintillating and encouraging LA Consulate is that we have contacted our attorney here--the one who represented us in the guardianship issue, and Signore Giovanni Papperini--an Italian attorney in Rome who specializes in expat concerns and issues. He comes highly recommended by Cristina, the moderator of the Expats in Italy board and friends who needed his services with their visa difficulties. Since, according to his site, his offices work with General Motors, Toyota, Michelin and other equally small entities, the euro signs are just popping up like fireworks in my ever active imagination.

It will be interesting to see what these two officers of the law have to say. I guess one possibility is that they will tell us just to pack it in but, I hope not. I choose to believe that Papperini is a true Italiano who knows how to move within the mysterious labryinth of Italian law. And--I have confidence in our attorney here that he will know exactly how to approach the court in such a way to get what is needed.

So that is all that has happened on that front..

Oh--not quite so. I forgot the uplifting news and reminder that good friends are a treasure not to be taken for granted. Opening my e-mail today was a message from one of my most favorite people--Nico (see his charming visage on the May 20th entry) of Montepulciano.

have been to Chiusi questure police station - imigration to talk about your situation.
Massimo will help with the car.
Frabrizio must get back to me with the rental. Infact I have now made a note to call him on Monday.
Lets get an action plan done - what do you think?

With a friend like this, it is hard to get discouraged. It's like handing out hope. If you are in the area of Bagno Vignoni in Tuscany, it is well worth your while to include his restaurant Il Leone in your itinerary for a wonderful dinner. If you do this be sure to tell him that Jane and Ken say hello--maybe you'll be treated to a special after dinner libation. Now I will need to make certain he reads this so that he'll know what to do!

On to Casey--my most favorite subject of all because he is such a gift from God and blesses us richly and continuously.

Before regaling you with his Little League pool and barbecue party here yesterday--where we cavort with our new peer group of parents of 1st graders, let me share with you a cute story about him.

A friend of ours (60+ years) had strep throat last week and so, in his bedtime prayer, Casey prayed with great concern: Dear Jesus, please take care of Mr. Park's neck. I know it's heartburn because I have had heartburn three times. So please take it away. Sure enough, Mr. Park was fine the next day--actually, I'm not certain about that but it makes such a good ending.

Dear Jesus--Praying in duomo in Ortygia, Sicilia Posted by Hello

OK--Pool Party Time
Casey has been a Padre this year--playing at the Rookie level. For those of you not familiar with the world of Little League this is the division where the boys and girls have live pitching for two innings and then a pitching machine for the last four. Fortunately for all concerned, the games have a 2 hour limit or we wouldn't be the only old folks at the end of the season.

Love the Form! He's a right handed batter! Posted by Hello

This is a lot better--end of season! Posted by Hello

To our great disappointment, the season is coming to an end--whatever will we do with our time? Maybe reconnect with our friends in the older crowd.

What I am finally getting to is that yesterday we hosted a swim/barbecue party for the team, including grownups and siblings. A new rendition of the old challenge of how many people can fit into a phone booth--or a Volkswagon Beetle was born right here in our backyard--how many kids can fit into a small, pool side jacuzzi?

The answer is--enough to displace all the water so that the patio and barbecue area is totally flooded and a slipping, sliding menace to life and limb. This is accompanied with so much whooping and hollering that we thank God for tolerant and deaf neighbors.

This is half of the number that was there! But what fun! Posted by Hello

Kids having fun--What joy! Posted by Hello

When our four children were growing up and playing sports a lifetime ago, I assiduously avoided such things as being Team Mom--just not my thing; although, I did go to games and root for my darlings, but being a mother hen just wasn't me. Guess what I was this year? Yep--you're right, halfway. I was assistant Team Mom. And the kids all called "Casey's grandma" whenever there was reason to get my attention. It seems that after years of seeking my identity, I have now fully lost it. Who am I? Obviously you need to find the 6-year-old to find the answer.

So-the sunshone, trophies were presented, assistant team mom was presented with a lovely bunch of flowers and nice gift, the pool was emptied of liquid and all slept as never before when heads hit pillows last night. And---Ken and I felt as if we had done something really special for our special boy.