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.

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