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, January 31, 2008

New Fun

I have a Candian friend, Jerry, who has a great blog Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants. Many of his postings are recipes which sound so appealing that I try them. They have all been winners. I really liked the honey roasted carrots which I mistakenly thought might entice Casey to like a vegetable--wrong again!


Recently I noticed that Jerry had added a fascinating little widget to his blog. In fact, I was so entranced by it that I decided to add it to mine. It's kind of fun to check out when I am bored. You can find it if you scroll all the way down to the last item on the right side bar.

I installed it two days ago and already it is has rather fascinating and puzzling information. Amazing!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Most Important Job in the World

Tonight we were watching Bush's State of the Nation address....contrary to Ken's wishes, I might add. Casey, knowing our political persuasion, asked why we were watching it.

Being the open-minded grandma that I am and believing that it is important 1. to teach him to have a mind of his own and 2. to give him a sense of what being the president of the United States means, I said something like it is important to listen and know what he is thinking as being president is the hardest job in the world.

Then we caught a glimpse of what really counts to a 9 year old as he said....but, I thought being a grandparent was the most important job in the world.

How could I argue with that?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Disillusionment Is Oh So Painful

I hate clothes shopping--I think I have shared that before. This was not always the case. For most of my life, at least after having enough money to buy what I liked, it was fun. But...now I hate it. And I know why.

I still like the types of clothes I liked before growing "mature." My tastes have not changed. I liked fun things, things that were catchy, tasteful, a little out of the ordinary.

Not this.........................but.....................Maybe This
So now I see these things and think--"oh, that's me."

And it is...but, that's the inside me, not the outside me. I hate it. Don't people realize that we are who we are inside? I like my mirror before the glasses go on.

I realized that I had lost this battle just the other day.

Not too long ago, when Ken and I asked for the senior discount, there would be a question in the money taker's eyes......"Should I card them?"

Then came the day that the ticket seller asked if we wanted the senior discount. Oh--Oh, not a good sign. We must need more sleep at night.

But, two days ago the final reality hit when we realized that the young clerk had gifted us with the discount without even asking.

Does this mean that granny clothes are now compulsory? Is there no more Red? or Yellow? or Purple? No designer jeans--my favorite dress? This is not good! I am wondering if a burka's not a bad idea. I could still wear what I want under it--who would know? I would still feel like me. Guess I'll go on-line to see what's available. Givenchy? Chanel? Lacroix?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Strength of Rainbows

Friday Ken and I were out and about doing "things." Following the course we set for ourselves in our Italian year, we stopped for lunch--not at a small, countryside trattoria or osteria but at one of the thousand of fast food places available in the USA. This time selecting "the fresh Asian Kitchen" Pick Up Stix.

Diversion: Contrary to what people in other countries perceive about the junk food society of the United States, there are chain restaurants that offer relatively healthy food. If this isn't one, we like to think it is--after all they only use "fresh ingredients."

As we sat there, I looked around and was forcibly reminded of one of the great and unique strengths of this country--the extraordinary diversity of our people. We are a land like no other in many ways--and I readily admit that not all the ways are good or admirable but many, many are.

It struck me Friday that as much as I love Italy, the richness of cultural differences and ethnic contributions does not truly exist there. Although there are many nationalities living there, what each has to offer has not yet entered into the fabric of the country.

I understand why this is. Italy is an old country with genealogies and history of a people going back hundreds of years, the homogenizing taking place over many of these centuries to form "italian." Yes, there are regional differences reflecting cultures that formed them but it is not the same as here in the US.

This is not to say or even imply that all is harmonious here--hardly. But, we are a people and a nation that in its formative years was referred to as a "melting pot." Somehow in this process, ethnic values often were retained as unity was established. As more country groups join us, we continue to struggle with achieving equality and fairness, but, this is a concept that most citizens recognize as important and necessary--even though the means to achieve it remains elusive.

Yesterday I was reminded of these thoughts when a Hillary Clinton campaign flyer found its way to my mailbox. In it was a picture that encapsulates the dream and hope of the United States. The strength that comes with rainbows of color.

This picture can be seen today in the United States. Not all the time; not every where but we're getting better. Hopefully, the world-at-large will get better along with us.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fact or Fiction?

I have a friend who has a blog, well, truth be told, I have many friends who have blogs. Blogs are fun to write and sort of keep us out of mischief, more-or-less. The fact that they are read remains a puzzlement to me.

Valerie, from New Mexico and now living in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, writes a blog 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree. I like to read it because she tells of her life in Italy--a life that many days I long to be living again.

Right now Valerie is in the US and creatively has guest writers keeping her blog alive while she reacquaints with life here. I like that idea.

The current entry is written by Giorgio, a student in Ascoli Piceno. Giorgio has reintroduced me to the hilarious videos by Bruno Bozzetto which have been linked to by Slow Travel for sometime now--but, I forget about them after a while.

This one is for those of you have who have traveled in Italy, live in Italy or can't wait to go to Italy. It will let you laugh today--and maybe domani, too.

Enjoy.......... My favorite is "burocrazia. What's yours?

In defense of Italy I need to point out, that it has been one of the leading EU countries in terms of restricting smoking in public places.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Touch of Green

Kenya--Iraq--West Bank--Sudan--Somalia--Myanmar-- Pakistan--New Orleans

I think of these places and their sad cousins and become aware of how shallow my little moans and groans and complaints are--the petty grumblings of someone who has been given (surely not earned) an incredibly disproportionate share of food, wealth and unnecessary things.

I don't understand the vagaries of fate or the designs of God which result in such unfathomable disparity. Mostly I don't understand why I am one of the fortunate ones who luxuriate in deciding among hotels and destinations of pleasure, who struggle with the questions of what make and model vehicle to buy, whether to have fish or meat or chicken for dinner, who sit in homes with two televisions, 3 phones, pools infrequently used and more, more and more. Why? The word "fair" doesn't seem to have a basis for definition when faced with the bitter unfairness in life.

What great event has prompted me to dwell on these thoughts at this moment? Well...it is not a great event or even one of any magnitude at all. It came when I titled this blog entry and, thinking about the topic I had in mind, realized how, for wont of better words, sad and insipid my thoughts were.

A Touch of Green referred to envy, my envy, of friends of ours--Ken's and mine. Friends who have the freedom to travel at will--who have the whole world from which to choose their next destination--choices that can be made by the seasons, either here or there. Right now we have dear friends spending 2 months in Brazil, next week other friends are going to Spain and on and on.

So, I began to feel so sorry for myself--that in retirement our travels are limited by the school calendar just as they were 30 years ago. How lucky are our friends who can go as they wish! How deprived Ken and I are.

What foolishness! Our lives are rich beyond measure. What we need do is commit to ways to enrich other lives with food, warmth, medicine, compassion--finding ways is not difficult, commitment is the test. We need to encourage Casey, our greatest gift, to know a responsibility to the world around him. To care less about his toys, his Nintendo DS, his DVD's and care more for the satisfaction he has already discovered in giving to Samaritan's Purse and occasionally helping Ken in the homeless program with which he is involved. The greatest satisfaction our lives can bring will not be wrapped up in things or places or pleasure experiences but hopefully will be in the path Casey chooses for his life--a life that will make a difference in this world.

The truth of this blog is that I never know where an entry will lead once started. A word used, a thought expressed and at the end I am surprised by where I am. This time is a vivid example of the way words form their own paths-- as if there is a conspiracy between the keyboard, the fingers and the screen. And now I am led again to an examination of my values and what is important and where God wants to lead me.