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.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Does a 9-Year-Old Think?

The answer is no.

In my imagination, somewhere in Heaven there is a production line where earthbound children receive brains. But, God, in his incomprehensible wisdom has done something inexplicably strange and puzzling. For reasons that escape mere mortal understanding, He doesn’t package common sense and brain matter together. You would think that He would know that if He doesn’t balance these things out, children will do some very strange things—and they do.

If you have followed this blog at all, you know that Casey is the delight of my life, but, you also should know that Casey drives me crazy. He has an abundance of grey matter but he is short, exceedingly short, when it comes to common sense. Maybe the angels ran out that day; maybe he was busy watching butterflies; maybe he couldn’t find the right line. Whatever it was, he has extraordinary brain power but just doesn’t corral it into thinking.

The prompt for this musing was the day he decided to write music. He has never had music lessons; although he and we are trying to find a way to fit them into his already crowded schedule. At school, traveling music teachers introduce the children to violins, drums, winds, brass, etc. Each type of instrument receives several dedicated weeks of instruction. Casey loves the days the music teacher arrives. He particularly liked the violin and drums.

These experiences have prompted him to sit at our piano and compose. He has positioned a notebook on the rack where he writes the notes as he listens to what he plays. I have been excited about this interest and what may be a natural ear for the beautiful. That would be wonderful.

So, I let him alone while he creates little tunes and, as I listen from other rooms, wonder if this is a new Mozart being born. Surely he would be nothing less.

Then came the day I noticed that he was sitting at the keys with a black, wide nibbed, indelible marker in hand. Knowing that he had not been writing in his notebook with this, I wandered over to see what was happening. This is what I saw:

Along with 6, 4 and 2, were numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7. I was transfixed!--Intelligently asking him “what are you doing?” Being very bright, he did pick up on the fact that gramma was somewhat upset. I can say though that I did remain relatively calm which is sort of my MO with larger things. It is small inconveniences and misbehaviors that tend to set me off. This was too far off the scale for anger. Although, I did have a sense that we were destined to have this little ditty forever implanted on the piano.

Fortunately friends came to the rescue. Palma from Palm Desert said to use toothpaste; Sheena from Canada said alcohol. Since these were not true ivory keys but whatever synthetic is used, I tried both of these remedies and they both worked well; however, the alcohol was much easier and faster. A few swipes and the keys were like new. Casey was relieved; I was relieved and he is back at the piano.

Of course, there are myriad other examples of this disconnect from common sense. Multi-tasking is an impossible endeavor. Figuring that if one sock is to go into the laundry, the other should too doesn’t compute. And I could go on but………I sense that this resonates with anyone with a nine-year-old. Maybe Casey is not so different. Maybe this is what’s called normal. Do you think?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Italy on the Horizon

Two years ago all waking hours and night time dreams were consumed with preparations for our big adventure--the moment when we would finally step off into our fantasy year. Italy beckoned.

Ken and I are quite ordinary people with ordinary lives--with the exception that simple risk and the not-too-blurred unknown pose challenges wanting to be fulfilled. In life, there are so many "if onlys" ready to become so much more--waiting for a step to be taken. Most often all that is required is that moment of decision--a moment that seems to materialize from nowhere when the thought that has seemed so impossible suddenly loses its shackles and the primary obstacle is recognized as complacency.

Much of our journey toward that day when we stepped on the plane with 490 lbs of "stuff" in the hold was documented at the inception* of this blog--it is how this journal began. The impetus behind it was to journal the journey so that Casey would have a record in the future. The web seems like a time capsule that holds the past for the future.

Words become a way to crystallize experience and thoughts, saving them for the future. As we began to live our life in Italy, each day was a marvel of sensations and flavors. So, the blog then became the means of making the ethereal real. At the end of a day or a week, I would try to capsulize the wonders of wandering and learning to sense the soul of an old-country with a soulful history.

Now Italy is a part of who we are--common sense says a small part but our hearts make it much more. We were there not needing to make a living; we were outsiders allowed in; we could enjoy and live a fantastic dream without involvement. In many ways it was a year of escape. It was quite wonderful.

Now two months from today we will step back on Italian soil for two months--this time it will be a time when we can see the end from the beginning. It will be different. It won't be the same. But, we will be among friends, once more traveling the roads that lead somewhere, looking for undisturbed places, stumbling on quiet trattories not found in Fodor's and Frommer's or even Carla Capalblo. We will see the castle on the hill and the farmhouse across the way. Casey will run for Bruno's hug and slice of bread. The gelato ladies will know we're back. I'll use my COOP card. We will see our little man again, waving each time we pass him along the Greve River. We will be going home for a short while. We can't wait. There is not a day that passes that one of us doesn't bring it up--Casey leading the way.

So, Greve friends--we're almost there..............Ce Vediamo!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Season for Warnings

I’ve had some good times lately—Hawaii, Savannah and points in between—talking memories with treasured friends and sharing discoveries with new friends. So, it is strange that I now have consecutive entries focusing on not so good things. Somehow Hawaii, Savannah and friends have been temporarily pushed aside. But, just as the last entry was important to share, so is this.

Colon cancer arrives like a phantom; it stalks in stealth. It is deadly and consumes a body quickly. It is an evil that insinuates itself into a life without clarity or warning. But…there is a redeeming aspect to this enemy that is not shared by many other cancers. Colon cancer can be defeated before it begins!

For several years now, each time I have had a physical, the doctor has indicated that I should have a colonoscopy—a really simple procedure to determine if polyps have made an appearance in the colon. If so, they are biopsied to determine if cancer is present. But, because the concept of the procedure is less than pleasant, and the fasting and purging required the day before is not fun, I kept putting it off—I know that I am not alone in this misguided procrastination.

I think because I need more years to raise Casey, the last time the doctor lectured me, I listened and made the appointment. There were several times between then and the fateful day when I seriously thought about backing out—after all, I am healthy, agile and reasonably energetic. But, I have made a pact with God—He has given us this beautiful child to raise and so He must allow us to do that—for Casey.

Finally, two weeks ago, I had the colonoscopy. Two days ago I returned to the doctor for the results. As he reviewed the report on each of the polyps, I sensed that maybe not all had been perfect. And it hadn’t been—one had been cancerous. But—because I had the colonoscopy, the cancer was found before it had developed or grown enough to be a danger. The removal of the polyp removed the cancer. I asked the doctor what would have happened had it not been discovered. In a year or less, I could have been fighting colon cancer.

A colonoscopy and removal of polyps can reduce the chance of colon cancer by 76-90%. Experts tell us that anyone 50 or older should have this 30 minute procedure. I am saying that it is foolish and self-destructive to avoid taking this step. I am well past 50 and lucky. Colon cancer is deadly.

If this entry gets one reader to the doctor, it has been worth writing. I urge you now.

This is one of many good resources on the web. Colon Polyps & Colon Cancer?