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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

2 More Sleeps

In the common parlance of Slow Talk, a helpful site when planning trips to Europe and elsewhere, you mark off time to travel by counting the "sleeps"--nights before departure. We now have 2--tonight and tomorrow. Monday morning we are off and the daily grind is behind us for a few weeks. I have decided that part of my love for travel--besides the enrichment and cultural opportunities--is the total escapism it offers. Today this is less so than when we began our journeys--before the unavoidable prevalence of TV, the internet and mass travel, where new news is constant. But, it is still quite possible to lose oneself in anonymity and separate from home.

Anyway, we are ready. The suitcases are full and zipped--well, almost. We bring with us an odd assortment of things. Having lived in Italy for a year and having friends whom we know well, we bring gifts that are rather out of the ordinary. This year it is 10 lbs of pancake flour for Casey's friend Tommaso who asks for this each year. Then there are special kitchen sponge type things for Nicoletta because I know she likes them and can't get them in Italy. She will be surprised (unless she reads this) as she doesn't know that I know. Following these unique gift items are a couple strainers from Bed, Bath and Beyond for sink drains, kids things for Camilla, Sophia, Filippo and Tommy and other oddities for Alessandro, Signora Franca, Sara and Valentina.

So we end with one carry on with nothing but electronics and important papers. One carry on with clothes for each of us in the event of waylaid checked luggage. (I am pretty well convinced that our time is about due as we have had phonemonal luck with luggage over the years--even when we traveled with 9 huge duffles the year we moved.) And then my rather large carry on purse with a myriad of essentials.

We are checking 2 suitcases plus the duffel of gifts. This is not bad since there are 3 of us for 7 weeks. And, I know, that we have way more than we need. Do I really need 7 pairs of shoes? Of course! Fortunately, I buried them so Ken won't know until we get there.

When we return we will still have this assortment of valises as the replacement pieces for my dishes, which I had delivered to our home-away-from-home in Greve, will fill the emptied out spaces. This beats paying shipping costs to the US.

So we are off. Ten days in a limited area of Provence. Friends are picking us up in Nice. We'll have a couple days with them before heading off to Arles and surroundings. On the 9th we head to Italy with the first two nights in Bologna. There we will meet a friend from Hawaii for dinner. And... then our annual pilgrimage to our most favorite of favorite places, Sant' Antonio in Montepulciano before heading to the final 4 weeks in "our" apartment in Greve in Chianti.

This year we are facing the emerging adolescent in Casey as he is having mixed emotions about leaving for so long--or at all. This child who has been nurtured on travel and has a wanderer's spirit is turning out to be a normal kid. The consolation is that as soon as he hits foreign soil, especially that of his loved Italy, he will be just fine. He belongs to two worlds and each has a powerful hold on him. This is good.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of Men and Iron--Sequel

If this leaves you puzzled, just read the previous post and all will be made clear.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Of Men and Irons

Sometimes all that can be done is laugh.

First, let it be known, I do not iron or do windows. Ironing ceased our first week of marriage when my new husband discovered I could not iron his shirts and began taking them to the laundry. Since then I have raised 4 kids without ironing. Well, truthfully, if something looked too bad, I have been known to pull the board out.

There was the day when the board was drug out of the closet and the iron was steaming, ready to get rid of pesky creases. Suddenly Ken came in the room shepherding four bewildered kids, having disrupted whatever they were up to at the moment. Lining them up in front of me, he instructed them with great pomposity, "Children, you need to watch this. You may never see it again." He laughed harder than I as I fought the impulse to let the iron fly--somewhere.

As far as windows go, I always figured that if I worked outside the home--which I did--part of my income was to be used to make my at-home life easier. This reasoning was also applied to whom would clean the house. I have viewed my responsibility as being to help sustain the employment level. That thought occurred to me the day I stepped out of the shower, faced the toilet and burst into tears thinking of how many years of toilet cleaning lay ahead. It was an overwhelming growth moment in my life--one of the milestones mentioned in my last post.

This brings me to this week's story. Casey is going to Vacation Bible School next week at a friend's church--his friend's father is the pastor there.

Last week we received a very complete package in preparation for the week--which starts Monday. The package included a CD of the songs they will sing, a handout explaining what mission project the children would focus on and offering envelopes. This is good as Casey saves "Jesus" money from any money he receives so that he can give from his own reserves.

Included in this package was a rather large latex decal to be ironed on the front of a yellow shirt which we were to buy--each grade level wears a different color. The decal came with detailed instructions as to how to iron it on the shirt.

Since I do not iron, Ken took on this detail. He carefully measured to make sure the decal would be straight on the shirt from side to side and top to bottom (his attention to minute detail drives me to distraction.) And then he started. The first sigh of displeasure I heard (from the other room) was when the decal slipped and destroyed his measuring. But he persevered and kept on going.

A few seconds later either the iron or the husband exploded. As I walked in the room, all I could see was the iron sporting a totally white, rather gooey bottom and an irate man whom sometimes I know. It seems that the wrong side of the decal was ironed. Definitely, it was not the time to laugh or even stick around. The last I knew the decal had sprouted wings and flew across the room.

I called my friend, the pastor's wife, and explained to the answer machine what had occurred and did she have another decal. Today when we came home from the fair, there was a new decal hanging on the door.

Now, I have no intention of taking over ironing this thing, but, do feel that marriage involves shared responsibility. So, I cleaned the bottom of the iron--figuring that would be too maddening for him to do.

Thank goodness for "GOOP"--you know that miracle substance that takes all goop off anything--store stickers on picture frames, cellophane which has burned on top of the toaster oven and irons that have sprouted goo.

Tomorrow, which unfortunately is Father's Day given this circumstance, the decal will be attached and Casey will not be humiliated at Bible School by being the only one with a bare yellow shirt. No wonder he loves his Papa.

Post-Script: I'll try to give an update with a visual of the completed shirt--decal and all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Life is made of certain, definitive, universal--well, universal in many cultures-- milestones. Most of us have passed through these and moved on and yet, even then, continue to mark them in new ways from time to time.

Many of my readers know that we raised 4 kids and shooed them out of the nest decades ago. We loved each of them but were not unhappy empty nesters--we had lifes to live and dreams to reach. For me some of these were professional--a chance to realize skills that hadn't been tested and yet were bubbling away inside. And then there was the need to explore cultures and countries that had only been known inside the pages of National Geographic and dreams. There was a need for freedom.

Now we have returned to celebrating milestones that were once ours, then our childrens and now Casey's. Because years seperate us from Casey, there are times when we need to remind ourselves that these are precious years for him and our job is to validate them, not minimize them--knowing, in our adult vantage point, that there are much bigger things to come. For Casey, these days are as big as they get, forming memories that will travel life with him.

So...yesterday was one of these times. Casey was promoted (he takes great pains to tell us NOT graduated--that happens at the end of high school!) from elementary school. Today he is a middle schooler--a 6th grader. He is ready to adopt a new maturity, begin the separation process. He is scared and, I must admit, so am I. He is afraid of independence. I am afraid of losing the boy who hugs in public and holds hands walking down the street.

Tomorrow he takes his first beach trip with the middle school department at church. They leave at 3 and won't be back until 9. It'll be a whole new type of interaction for him--a first step into adolescent relationships and independence. I have encouraged him in this but wonder where it leads and how fast it will take.

My biggest hope is that he takes us with him on this ride--that rather than growing apart new ways of sharing and bonding accompany us into the coming school years and finally into the magic transition called adulthood. In my depths, I do believe that is our future.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Little League and Me---Sequel

Meet the eleven members of the Orioles Minor Team of the Allied Gardens Little League.
Well, the party filled the day today and, in all honesty, I must admit it was a fun time. The weather cooperated--not hot but warm enough to be comfortable. The kids had a load of fun. The new basketball hoop was a hit and the newly completed "fort" provided the most perfect place for the team to dine in splendor.

Ken and Casey finished this hideaway yesterday. Casey's version of the tree house which every 10 year old boy dreams of having.

Summer childhood in So. Cal
I am so glad we were able to once again provide the "party" house--yes, that is what we have been over the years--the party house for the younger crowd. Of course, if things continue to mirror the past, we will be the party house for high schoolers in a few more year--always supervised with visible "old folks" hanging around. A place where kids can come for fun and parents will feel free of worry. It seems we have many years ahead of us.

Did I mention? I have a pact with God. He gave us Casey in our retirement and so His job is to keep us healthy and spry long enough to complete the job. I believe that's many more years.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Little League and Me--True Confession

We had four kids, well, we still have four children plus one now. Thirty some years ago we were in Little League hell--a marathon of practices, games, snack stand duty, parties, tournaments of champions and All-Stars. One thing I never did was agree to assume the onerous title of "team mom," but somehow there were a myriad of other duties.

More than one year we had kids on four different teams in three different leagues, totaling a minimum of 12 practices and games a week. I can not count the number of snack stand duties I filled. We were often the team party house for barbecues and swim festivities and end-of-season team ceremonies. You know, the ones where the coaches all get plaques and the kids get trophies. Between the four kids we could have built a special room to display all the trophies. If you played, you were rewarded. Of course, in time gaining a trophy was rather meaningless.

During all of this time I was a "working out side of the home" mom. Juggling hours and minutes became a matter of skill and determination. We speak now as if the concept of "multi-tasking" is new and somehow a discovery of the younger generation. Not so--women have multi-tasked since the beginning of time. Perhaps it's considered a new state of being because men have finally discovered it.

Anyway, my confession--I kept my fingers crossed at the end of every season, hoping against hope, that my kids' teams would not go too far in the Tournament of Champions and that none of the kids (I can't say boys as our daughter played, too) would make All-Stars. As I cheered and supported and told them how great they were, in my heart I was hoping for failure. And I didn't even feel guilty. I wanted a life where we could camp, vacation, have some family time.

So--it was with no nostalgia when the day came that it was all behind us. I left the ball fields with no regret and no turning back. That part of parenthood was over--or so I thought.

This Sunday we are hosting the Little League team end of the season, passing out trophies, swim, barbecue party. There will be 21 kids (brothers and sisters invited) and 22 adults. Yesterday we invested in a pool basketball set and new pool toys. Tomorrow we hit Costco to get hotdogs, hamburgers and buns. How did we ever get to this place we left so many years ago?

The answer, of course, is Casey who has begun his collection of trophies--baseball, football, soccer and basketball. He's only 10 and has two shelves full. Sadly, they carry no meaning.

His team did not go very far in the Tournament and so that is over for us for this year. I'm pretty sure he would have made the All-Star team except we had completed the form saying he would not be available. Summer is our time and Italy and France await.

So--de jévù. I'm glad the season's over and life can begin again. Of course, Casey is never to know this as he believes that our days at the field are treasured...and...in a way they are.

Look at that form!!