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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Growing Old

I would like to grow old-really, I would. In the cycle of life, that is what I am supposed to be doing now. So, there are days when I think of these things:
  • Downsizing: What would it be like to move into a nice, new condo where the maintenance fee pays for everything? With a bathroom that doubles as a spa, has special shelves for candles and toilets that flush themselves. With a white on white decor to match the requisite little white fluffy poodle--with a bow on her head, of course. And, finally, a kitchen worthy of my friend Palma.
Problem: We would first need to sort through an accumulation of 45 years of "stuff"--a commodity which I learned during our year in Italy we don't need. Why I ever thought we did, confounds me. It seems that a good solution might be to rent a large container and just toss stuff in. But.............what about the art? the mementos? the silver that seemed so important for our wedding registry? the..................? Oh, it is just too over-whelming. Guess we'll probably stay put and let our son deal with the stuff....later.
  • Letting my hair become its new natural color-grey. Think of the money and time that could be saved. I could really be "me." Wonder what that is?
Problem: Casey thinks I am 51--until last year he was convinced it was 35, a year younger than his mother. He believes Ken dyes his hair (not true) but that my hair naturally changes color every month or so all by itself (true).
  • Forgetting that I used to be a size 6 and learning to love the new look--after all, double is better, right?
Problem: I hate the mirror these days. That surely isn't me looking back. Or maybe, as a practical joke, it has been exchanged for a fun house mirror. And--somehow now if "it" fits in the waist, it hangs on the hips or if the hips fit nice, the buttons don't work right. I had thought the problem was with Italian clothes--not so.
  • Traveling at will when seeing great deals to exotic destinations: Myanmar, Thailand, Fiji, Turlock, Disneyland...Bella Italia.
Problem: A 9 year old who needs someone to make sure he does his homework and who feeds him dinner. Plus--no clothes that fit the destination--or anywhere for that matter.
  • Moving to the countryside where night skies are black and roads only have two lanes--this way and that way.
Problem: Refer to #1 and... can we really recreate our idyllic, paradisiacal Italian hilltop vineyard home with its views of castelli medievali? Somehow Paso Robles doesn't quite do it.
  • Living life as a senior rather than as a parent. This two-hat existence overwhelms sometimes--as well as being confusing. What would it be like having a house not overrun with transformers, legos, and time machines. Most of all, what is it like to "send them home" at night?
Problem: Not being able to imagine life without our boy--his loving arms and endearing ways. Not knowing that Pokemen evolve into weird and wonderful creatures. Not discovering that it is possible to wet your hair and present yourself as having taken a shower.

And finally, I count my blessings that age has brought me youth rather than illness and pain or poverty and helplessness. Yesterday I was explaining to Casey the meaning of viewing one's cup half full rather than half empty.

My cup overflows--Most of the time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sophie Rose

In Greve in Chianti, at the end of Piazza Matteotti, is a small artist's studio, L'Inganno, which many people never find and therefore never know that they missed something special--a place where they just might have found a unique Italian treasure for their home. This is where Sophie Rose creates beautiful pieces of art--not the ceramiche, oils and water colors that seem to dominate purchases in Italy but exquisite Trompe L'Oeil inspirations.

Sophie's talents are known to Italians who commission her to decorate the walls in their homes or doors or furniture or wall pieces--whatever they want, Sophie is able to meet that vision.

Just about every Saturday when Ken and I reached the end of the market stalls, we would find ourselves drawn to the little shop--which was frequently closed as Sophie would be off working in the field. We would stand, looking in the window, admiring her work-- eventually deciding that we had the perfect place in our home for something of hers.

We wanted a painting for our kitchen that would integrate the designs of our Italian dishes. When we finally met with her, she asked many questions about the space where the Trompe L'Oeil would hang, the direction from which it would be viewed, the colors of our kitchen and more. We gave her photos of our dishes and wall paper. Sophie creates with purpose, specific to the client and the commission as opposed to having a ready made gallery from which to pick and choose.

Our dishes

We have been waiting for our treasure ever since we left to come back home. Sophie had other commitments to fill before starting ours. Eventually she faxed us a sketch for our approval. We knew it was perfect.

Now she has completed it and it is perfect. We are happy.

Beautiful--Isn't It?
Grazie Mille, Sophie.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Viva Viagra

What a title! Guaranteed to get a click! But it's really not what you think it might be--whatever that is. It's about none other than Casey, KZ, KC, K or what ever he has titled himself this month. And, he truly has no idea what viagra is.

The topic--TV commercials.

Since I have only one 9 year old in my life, I have no point of comparison. Hopefully someone can enlighten me as to whether ours is normal. He so often seems to be--not abnormal--but, minimally, marching to his own drummer to a beat a little off kilter.

Casey becomes mesmerized by commercials. The world stops, he enters into an unbreakable trance and this boy, who finds it near impossible to focus on anything for more than moments, becomes captive to the sights and sounds of the latest pitchman.

Did you know that you can desecrate a white shirt with chocolate, berries, and other wild concoctions and that the magic of Oxyclean will make it like new? Being quite adept at tuning out television in general and commercials in specific, I did not know this--which may be why I have white things that are not spotless. Anyway, as Casey inspected his red sweatshirt emblazoned with a large, magic marker drawn Spiderman image, he patiently gave a "did you know" explanation of the wonders of Oxyclean and that "it really is true" and that we should try it on his sweatshirt. Evidently he has grown tired of Spiderman.

Then there are "the" Green Bags for only $9.99." He not only stands transfixed each time he sees the advertisement, he impatiently tells me that I should hurry and order at that moment so that we can get 20 bags rather than just 10. At the dinner table he has educated Ken to these marvels and that gramma needs to get some. And--best of all, he can apply this knowledge to real situations, proving that he really does belong in the class for high achievers. Yesterday, or was it the day before ?, as I muttered about moldy strawberries, I was reminded, with the self-righteousness that only a 9 year old can conjure up, that this would not have happened if I had the green bags--they not only would they have saved me $'s but they would save my life.

The first time I became aware of this strange predilection was in Italy where demonstrations of a product can go on for a full half-hour or more as a pitchman and his scantily dressed female cohort extol the wonders and capabilities of the "must have" product of the day. This was when we saw Casey stand at attention for minutes at a time, absorbing the magic and wonders of the newest in toilet and drain plungers. You could have waved a bag of Skittles in front of him and he would have been oblivious. Red dye running through a transparent tubing would have blinded him to his most favorite of foods. And, of course, he was sure that we needed to have one to bring home with us to San Diego. (We didn't.)

Now--back to Viagra. The final proof of Casey's addiction to the brain mushing inflicted by Madison Avenue came the other night at bedtime. He and I usually spend a few minutes talking and playing before I am required to sing a little song--the sillier the better. All of a sudden, I hear "Viva, Viva Viagra!" After stifling my laughter, I asked him what that meant--what he thought viagra was. To my relief, he had no idea. I guess that concept is a little more difficult than green bags, Oxyclean and plungers. I don't want to even think about a recital of the advantages and results of this modern-day pharmaceutical wonder. But, I am sure that is just around the corner.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm a Country Boy

Sometimes, and if we listen, experience teaches us truths about ourselves. If we are wise, we let these truths help form and mold us into what we become. So, the question I have is: When a child offers insight into his soul and reveals something about who he is, what is the responsibility of the adults in his life to respond to that self-knowledge?

I ask this because Casey, with the innocence of a child who in odd moments blurts out important insights, claims that he is "a country boy--not a city boy." At nine he not only senses who he is but can verbalize it. I fear that life as it unfolds will take this knowledge from him--that it will be smothered by daily life, forcing dreams to be put aside-- crowded out by the need to adjust to the environment he is captive to.

Casey lives in a city--an urban environment with houses on either side and behind, with busy crossroads, no room to explore and the constant, common fear of danger which keeps children tethered close to home.

Our children grew up in the same house that we now live but in "those days" kids walked themselves to and from school, explored nearby canyons, easily rode bikes to homes of nearby friends and had the freedoms that we associate with youth--the same ones that I experienced as a child. That has changed. Fear has displaced spontaneity and innocence.

Now parents drive or walk their children to and from school, canyons are off limits, seldom do kids ride their bikes from one street to another and the little park across the street does not promise safety unless kids are supervised. So, Casey participates in organized activities--soccer, Little League, flag football, karate, church activities and maybe chess (his latest thought)--but, he doesn't run free, discover hidden places or wander at will to where ever his feet lead. And I am sad for him.

He loved last year and thrived on being free. He and his friends would wander up the road, finding "crystals" and then bring these treasures home to break apart, looking for the riches they were sure they would find within. Woe to me if I threw any of this away.

After dinner on the piazza, he would go out and find friends and wander and play while we sipped our coffee, enjoying the ambiance of night in our small Italian village.

He was not afraid and we had no fear for him. It was a place for children to be and he loved it. "Gramma, I'm a country boy--not a city boy." And I understand him.