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 27, 2006

Count Down

The final days are here and we are in count down mode. Next week at this time we will be in our new home in Tuscany--Greve in Chianti to be exact. From what I read, it will be akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire as it is even hotter there than here. We haven't been below 70F (21C) at night for two weeks now--and, of course, much-much hotter during the day. So worse seems unbearable!

Today we finished (I think) packing our check-in luggage--seven pieces weighing close to 70 lbs each. This has involved three trips to Sports Authority to buy an increasing number of duffels. We had thought we would use 2-3 and then regular luggage for the reminder of our belongings which, of course, are crucial to our life in Italy. But, one by one we outgrew the suitcases. Now we will just buy suitcases in Italy for our travels within Europe while we are there. We do have carry-ons for electronics and emergency clothes in the event our things don't arrive. In fact, I think it will be quite miraculous if it does all get there--at least at the same time. This picture gives a partial sense of our check-ins. Now just double the number and add 1. The good news is that a lot of what is in them is expendable or will be left in Italy when time to come home. And--for my Slow Travel friends, note the familiar logos and tags proclaiming THE Best Travel Site on the Web

If you have been following the blog and the dilemma of choices--my knives are packed, my pots and pans aren't. Also, hidden within the mystery of contents are aluminum foil, press n'seal and baggies. When a friend wrote last week saying that foil had been €14 at the local COOP (supermarket chain store) and that the foil is very thin and tearable, it seemed prudent to bring some with us.

The only things left to buy now are a 5 lb bag of cheese and some tortillas--for those evening meals when a taste of home is important--and, maybe some gauze skirts and blouses per Judith, my friend and fashion guru in Citta di Castello who says that with the heat the way it is, gauze is the only way to go. The problem then becomes what do I remove from our duffels to make way for the new belongings? What we most don't want to happen is get to check-in and find that we need to open luggage, upset everyone else behind us in line as we reshuffle to meet weight restrictions. S0--there will probably be one more trip to our vet's office for a final weigh in. They now laugh when they see us coming--Oh--you're the Italy people. I think they think we are quite weird! But we aren't--really!

This will probably be the last entry for a while as I am not sure when we will have our internet connection again--or when there will be time to write. Remember--what was packed, must be unpacked. A thought that I don't even want to entertain at the moment.

So--Ciao for now and A Presto from lovely Italia.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'm Going to Miss..........

"I am going to miss church." What a wonderful,warming confirmation of Casey's values. There are times when I think "yes, we are doing an OK job of the task God has given us in raising this precious little boy."

Casey--who faces the unknown with a bravery that belies his fears and worries and trepidation at leaving all that he knows--opened one of these fears as he said goodbyes to his friends this morning. He was busy moving around the courtyard, making sure he saw everyone he cares about and who care about him--many of whom were adults. Over and over I heard him say how much he was going to miss church--which to him means learning about God and Jesus--whom he loves.

His Sunday school teachers gave him quite a send off--providing him with the sense that he matters and that people care and will miss him. They knew he likes the character Bible Man--sort of a super hero who uses his powers to work for God and His truth. Casey has many of the DVD's and his bible is Bible Man themed. All this appeals to the same part of him that likes Power Rangers and other action hero figures--little boy adventures and excitement.

So, these teachers had a Bible Man going away party in Sunday School. All the kids autographed a very nice going away poster, the teachers signed a card saying how much they love him and will miss him--class won't be the same without him. They served his favorite sweets--Fruit Roll Ups--which he really isn't supposed to eat due to the orthodontia appliance which fills his mouth. And the very best part was a Bible Man Cape and Mask which he gleefully wore while he ran around bestowing his goodbyes--the cape flying out behind him.

Casey with our senior pastor, Carlton Harris
--who immediately recognized Bible Man.
A night does not go by that Casey does not pray that God will
be with and take care of "Pastor Carlton."

One of our concerns in this short term move to Italy is that we won't be able to find a church to attend. We can do our own studies and listen to the pastor's sermons via podcasts but we will miss the type of fellowship that church friends offer. But--it may well be that people will cross our paths that share our faith. God makes those kinds of serendipity things happen.

Anyway, tonight when I was putting Casey to bed and we had our little night time chat, he enumerated things he will miss--friends, Scratch (his unattended to dog), Uncle Jeff (that is going to be a big miss) and his pillow. Now he wants to bring that along with everything else. We really need to leave before the proverbial kitchen sink does find its way into a duffel.

So--a week from tonight we will be somewhere over the Atlantic, maybe sleeping, watches set to Italia time and wondering what lies ahead. I wonder?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

12 Days and Counting

All the planning is quickly coming to a close and the reality looms. Even so it all seems far away--unreal--as we sit in our home of 29 years, listening to backyard fountains creating music, relishing the quiet of evening--having earlier enjoyed Casey frolicking in the pool, Sratch rotating between chasing his tail and his ball and the pleasure of conversation with son Jeff who is living with us these last few days and whom Casey adores and worships

Evening is so nice because we relax in the family room, ignoring the chaos of the rest of the house with its half filled duffel bags, stuff strewn on the floor, piles of "take this" and "leave that" and whatever else is there.

Today's activities have included:
  • Wiring a significant amount of money to pay for the car our landlord has bought for us--a silver, Megane station wagon.
  • Deciding we were taking too much and so starting to unpack duffels and making new decisions about what things we really don't need to take--a lot as it turns out.
  • Cancelling cell phone service.
  • Visiting two banks with Jeff--signing papers giving him access to our accounts and adding him to our checking accounts--yep, we trust him totally.
  • Lunching at Joe's Crab Shack with Jeff-realizing that soon it will be italian, italian, italian for lunch (pranzo) and dinner (cena).

  • Being a resource to a couple other people starting the path we have been traveling-- there are some lessons we have learned and information that we have garnered that are worth sharing.
  • Making the last trip to Casey's orthondontist here before being handed off to Dott. Floria in Firenze.
  • Realizing that I have some serious spyware and infections on the computer and so purchasing a new program to augment the free ones I have relied on.
  • Linking Bushdrums.Com to my Tanzania website pages--if you are interested in the ecological and cultural preservation of Kenya and Tanzania, a trip to this site will be worthwhile. It is being developed by my dear friend in Montepulciano, Nico Pannevis, who owns Sant' Antonio Country Resort.
  • Working with Casey on completing two pages of his matematica work book from his school in Greve.
  • Enduring two games of WAR with Casey.
  • And more, more, more.
It has been a rather full day--and since I forgot to take my Tylonel PM last night and so have been awake since 3:30 this morning, a quite long one. Hopefully, once we are THERE sleep will come easily and will last a good 7 hours each night. But--with the heat the way it is in lovely Italia right now, that may be just a dream.

Now--off to a bowl of ice cream smoothered with much gooey hot fudge sauce--not gelato, for sure, but it'll do for tonight.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stress Has Arrived--An Unwelcome Guest

Clearly calm can not and does not prevail forever and so it is no surprise that serenity has now fled the premises.

My mind, my body my all hurts with unexplained aches and discomforts. Shoulders and neck feel as if they are stretched on the rack with the screws continuing to turn. A mysterious, hitherto unknown cough insists on being heard so that now my voice is cracked and whispery. I'm taking iron pills to off-set the trauma induced anemia that occaionally plagues me--not at all serious, just makes me momentarily tired. Of course, any one with half a brain can diagnose all of these infirmities--we embark in 17 days on this rather hairbrained adventure we have chosen to disrupt our lives with for a year.

And then--on top of the physical stuff, I am also questioning my sanity. Why are we doing this? What crazy moment in life convinced us to trade what we know for a year of unknown? Should we just back-off, undo all the plans and stay put in our safety zone? Are we out of our minds? There are people we know who would resoundingly say "absolutely!"

To top it off, as I started writing this, the termite man came for our annual termite check and--guess what--he discovered nasty subterranean termites residing in the walls of the garage--which is attached to our house. These creatures are the very nasty ones that dine on wood, causing structural damage. The remedy is to have holes drilled every twelve inches around the exterior of the house in order to pump in some chemical that protects us from being devoured. This is not what we needed to cope with at this point in time.

We just had a new stone driveway/entryway installed and the man assures us that the drilling process will crack and break the stones. All the stuff that finds its home in a garage (cabinets, books cases, water heaters, laundry, etc.) needs to be pulled out so that the crew can get to the walls. This is major disruption and time consuming work--on top of the expense that clearly was not in our budget.

So--we must decide if we should have the work done now or wait until we come back--will our house still be standing or will it be a pile of crumpled, gnawed wood? Our decision is to wait as I can't imagine that in one year termites can eat a whole house. Please tell me that is right!

So--back to the mindset. Of course, we are excited and of course we know that our decision is good and of course these are just last minute jitters--but, still, the tummy rumbles and the head spins.

I think that if it were just Ken and I, things would be different and not as overwhelming as what we would do is quite different than what we can do when the needs of an 8 year-old predominant. We would spend much of the year freely traveling throughout Europe--Croatia, Greece and Turkey (again), several Central/Eastern European countries which we missed before, the whole of Italy. These were the dreams for our retirement.

But--God has given us the gift of our grandson who is a joy and who needs us and so we adapt and find pleasure in what we can do and know that his hugs and kisses make up for the lost travel opportunities. We think of what his little life would be without us and know that God's plan is always good. And so our duffels are full of legos and transformers and bionacles and all those things that little boys love.

If we are lucky, his new life will be so rich that these toys become a secondary means of filling time. Hopefully he and Camilla will spend their time exploring the hills, sharing dreams and just giggling and having fun together--brother and sister for a year.

Yes--our decision is a good one and we are excited and anxious to begin the adventure--fears, be gone!

The life of a Southern California Boy

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bringing a Smile

For those of you who have followed Casey's on-again--off-again fears about moving to Italy and going to an Italian school, this will come as welcome news.

This week he received a stupendous package from the sculoa (school) in Greve, giving ample evidence that he is in for a wonderful experience. We and he are most fortunate to have found and selected this location when there are so many that beckon the dreamer. Not surprisingly, God has answered our prayers that above all other considerations Casey's needs be foremost and that he be protected and not harmed by our decison to follow a long-held dream.

Included in the package was a welcoming letter from the children signed by each one, a picture of the class, the two summer workbooks that Italian children take home in order not to lose the previous year's learning--matematica and lingua books and the school calendar for next year.

The books will allow him to do some appropriate school work over the summer and help his adjustment to text books in italian in the fall. He was very excited to receive them and has been completing several pages each day. Ken and I are able to help with the matematica book and his tutor Cami helps with the lingua excercise.

Camilla and her mother, Nicoletta (our landlord), included a second letter saying they would help him with the work once we get there. Since we will be there 6 weeks before the start of school, Casey will have time to learn and practice his new language--which we are assured will be picked up easily and rapidly. (Now--Ken and I are another story entirely.) A few days of playing in the pool together should make Camilla and Casey best friends and language should be bridged quickly.

So--I just wanted to say Casey is going to be OK and his fears seem to have abated--for a while, at least. God is good.

Footnote: Casey turned 8 this week and thinks he is now quite grown up--and I must say, 8 does seem to mark the change from little boy to growing up boy, even in my eyes. Tomorrow we are having a big swim/barbecue birthday party--another day of our hobnobing with our unexpected peer group--parents of growing children. Life is so very strange.