Misunderstandings # Nablopomo

Life is full of little misunderstandings. Some are overlooked and short lived and others can be the source of life changing events. I never know where my path will lead and have learned that my future isn’t as sure as I’d imagined. Sometimes a simple spontaneous act though well intentioned can alter the direction my life forever. I’m learning that I don’t really control where i’m going. It’s more like being a rider in an automated vehicle that I think I’ve programmed for a particular destination but at times is redirected by an external intervention. My act seems to bounce off another and depending on many variables, that person’s point of view, state of mind, physical well-being, education, self confidence or many other possibilities their response can have a profound effect on me. Their reaction to my act can change the direction of my life or my view of the world or even myself.

To think my intentions will be understood and accepted is a mistake and to guess what the other person’s reaction will be is a gamble. We can’t get into each other’s heads or hearts but we can listen openly to their thoughts and reactions to our words and actions. When I ascribe certain characteristics or motivations to someone else I do them and myself a disservice. I cannot possibly know what their intentions are. As human beings we must be aware of our shortcomings in this endeavor and recognize the need for greater openminded listening. The more I look at the other person with appreciation for their individuality and respect for their person the better our chances of having a positive relationship becomes. I must approach others initially with optimism and belief in their basic goodness until they prove me wrong by their actions.  Even then I might consider the position they’re coming from and the possibility that their actions are really a cry for help and a need for understanding.

We are living in a very complicated world with many people of many cultures who speak different languages and have different world views and experiences. Our languages often don’t have words that are interchangeable and those differences can be a source of subtle disagreements. It is only through the belief in the basic goodness of humanity that we will be able to communicate and survive as a people.

Scary Times: No, not Halloween #Nablopomo

It isn’t goblins or Lizzie Borden, no not Richard Nixon or Attila the Hun but sixteen hundred souls in the tiny town of Columbus New Mexico are in shock or at least dismayed at the invasion of a rag tag, armed troop of middle aged men who have arrived in their peaceful community volunteering to protect them from the invasion from the south, the “caravan’.

“I told them we have a good relationship with Mexico, our little sister village of Palomas,” said Ezequiel Salas, the mayor, in the Albuquerque Journal. “A lot to people who never come here, they have a misunderstanding, They hear things that are not true,”

While passionate rhetoric runs rampant throughout America, little Columbus wants these intruders to go back where they came from. They’re caught in the middle, perplexed, roving bands of men from the Patriots of the Constitution scouting for a location to set up camp to wait for the caravan of migrants from Central America. While the numbers in the craravan have dwindled by 50% from approximately 7000 to 3500 men, women and children.

“They should not be patrolling the border if they’re not sent by the government,” said Martin Garcia, a Columbus resident as he watches over  the farmworkers picking chile in the field that borders Mexico. Both he and another farmer down the road have reported seeing old men with guns and a couple of twenty something men in pickup truck who said they were militia members.

At a hotel in Columbus the men wait for night fall to patrol the border. One sits on the balcony of a second floor room with binoculars trained of the horizon, as reported in the Albuquerque paper. A retired Detroit police officer, 71 years old, drove 1355 miles from Alabama to join in what he believed to be the protection of our borders while Columbus have lived in peace and cooperation with their Mexican neighbors for decades.

What are we doing as a country? What is our international goal? As a people, as individuals, what do we really want for our lives and the lives of our children?

Unexpected gifts #Nablopomo

It had been a rough year filled will financial and physical challenges. Susie wasn’t getting any younger, hair graying, belly sagging, well what did she expect after four kids? Luckily the weather matched her mood looking out at the steely gray sky and sooty clouds. Rain drops splattered on the window glass lending a softened image of the trees and wall that surrounded the yard, her yard like a nearsighted view portrayed by some impressionistic painter. Things had to get better, it just wasn’t fair, she’d spent most of her adult life eating healthy, reading labels, avoiding preservatives, food dyes, additives and spending at least an hour every day exercising. How could could she suddenly have a diagnosis that would keep her from her dream of being able to travel the world, live in a foreign country, become proficient in another language or two…it sucked. She wouldn’t tolerate it, she would find a way to be able to get to those dreams. Wasn’t anger how she’d finally quit smoking over 40 years ago? And wasn’t it how she had gotten through the loss of her husband and two of her boys? She’d tough it out like she always had like the tenacious way a coyote would chew its own leg off to get out of a trap.

She’d see what the ex rays showed and what the doctor had to say but she was going to beat this thing. After all, attitude was everything. Look at Job, he’d had it a lot worse in the Old Testament and his faith had gotten him through the worst the evil one could throw at him.

The sun was beginning to blaze through the edge of the clouds and suddenly burst forth in brilliance forming the rain drops on the window pane into sparkling gems. It was going to be alright, she was sure of it.

Loss and Grief

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In my late forties my career was taking off and with my last child in high school life was delicious. There were few problems to dwell on and Monday mornings were an exciting, joyful experience. I had been blessed. My three older children were busy with their marriages and bourgeoning families. I was a proud grandmother of six beautiful grandchildren by then. A year earlier my daughter had lost twin boys at birth, her second pregnancy and a difficult one that had required her to be hospitalized to prevent an early delivery. It was heartbreaking for her and her husband. I ached for her loss and began thinking how fortunate I had been all these years. This was the first funeral I had been to in almost a half century of living. I had been blessed.

My baby brother Billy had died when I was six years old, but I never attended his funeral. I was devastated but my mother chose to keep my sister and I away from the normal process of life and death and we were not allowed to attend. All I remember was my father, a usually stoic, undemonstrative man, sitting on the sofa, in our tiny apartment in Naval base housing, head in hands, weeping. The smell of lilies, sickeningly sweet and pungent, permeating the air of our tiny home turned my stomach. My younger sister was two and oblivious to the change in our lives but I had come home from school each day and run in to see my baby brother and sing the little songs I’d learned to him. He laughed and cooed his delight. It filled my heart with overwhelming joy. His leaving had left a huge emptiness is my life and had taken the joy away from my childhood. There was a plaintive record my mother played over and over at that time with a refrain “Marquita I love you, I’m always thinking of you…” in such achingly sad tones that it allowed me to sit sobbing while listening. The tone resonated with my loss and pain that I had no outlet for. All through my childhood and teens I would think of Billy from time to time and I allowed myself to grieve alone in my room, wallowing in the melancholy of my first love, lost love.

Although my daughter’s babies were my first funeral it wasn’t my first introduction to loss or my second either. One dark cold February night in Roslindale, Massachusetts, I was visited by two Naval officers who would forever change my life. When I answered the door and saw them standing their steamy breath streaming from their mouths and nostrils, I couldn’t imagine who they were and why they were there.

” Mrs. Donato?” they queried.

“yes”

“We’re from the Providence Naval installation. May we come in?”

“OK,” I said hesitantly.

I pointed into the parlor and after being seated they introduced themselves. To this day their names have escaped me. They had come to tell me that my husband’s plane had be shot down by enemy ground fire in Southeast Asia. Paul and I had been married seven years when he had been sent to Thailand to assist with the Vietnam conflict. It was 1968. My life was changed forever. My loss and grief was to be delayed for 24 years before the Navy was able to do an excavation of the crash site of the plane. I had never lost hope in all those years that he would be found alive.

I’d had friends who had lost parents, other friends and relatives. Never anyone close enough for me to be involved in the grieving process or attend a funeral until now. Although my heart ached for my daughter, I couldn’t grieve grandsons I’d never known. I focused my emotional energy on her and supporting her little family. When my grandparents had died I felt a loss but it felt “normal”. They had been in a nursing home for several years and their physical health had been poor for sometime. I had made a trip to to visit with all the kids and  felt it was more important to have seen them while they were living and could enjoy our time together so decided not to travel the 1500 miles to attend their funerals.

It wasn’t until just shy of my 60th year that I was hit with my first devastating loss as an adult. My oldest son Nick’s second son drowned in the family pool while they were living in Costa Rica. Again my focus was on Nick and supporting him through this terrible loss. I loved Marc but the loss was primarily Nick’s.

Seven years later while I was busy getting my classroom ready for a day of middle school students, I got a call from Nick’s wife, Lana. She had just had a visit from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s department to notify her that Nick and been killed in a single car crash while he was working out of town in Iowa. I told her I would be there as soon as I could to help. I thought about Nick and all he had accomplished in the last  decade of his life. He was a recovering cocaine addict, had diabetes and hepatitis C and had been on disability. He hated it and worked hard to get his diseases under control and be able to go back to work. Three years earlier he and Lana had been able to buy their first home. He had recovered from the loss of his son Marc and his faith was strong. He and Lana had spent a couple of years in Costa Rica doing mission work with street children. All of this made it possible for me to focus on Lana and her loss. Nick was almost 50 when he died and although I couldn’t imagine life without his boisterous, booming voice and huge hugs, I was able to deliver his eulogy and believed that his life was a life well lived. He had reached all the goals he had dreamed of for himself and had seen his first three grandsons born. His satisfaction  and joy in life assuaged my pain and grief.

A year later I lost my dad. He and I spent most of my previous 58 years at odds with each other and many times not communicating at all. But the past seven years had been a blessing and we wiped away all the past hurts and animosity and spent at least one afternoon a week sharing thoughts on the world, politics, religion, and people in general over drinks and snacks consisting of Wisconsin cheeses, cashews and my dads favorite crackers, Wheat Thins and our favorite cocktails. His was Gin and I had my Canadian Mist. As I sat in the hospital while he drew his last breath, I was so grateful that we had that time together to know and cherish each other. His death was a loss but a blessing at the same time after years of breathing problems and pain.

Mom blowing out candles

From 2006-2012 My mom came to live with me suffering from Dementia and macular degeneration. She was, in her own words, a melancholy, private person and although she loved to play bridge with her buddies at the bridge club and senior center, she didn’t make friends easily and never would entertain the idea of a housemate as her needs became more apparent. I decided she would be devastated living in an assisted living facility. My siblings and I sat down with her over dinner one evening and gave her the choice of assisted living, getting a live in caregiver or moving in with me. It was a very difficult choice for her since we had never had congenial personalities but I was the lesser of the evils and in the summer of 2006 we got a house together and spent the last years of her life there. One morning when she hadn’t come to the kitchen for her usual breakfast of Grapenuts, half and half and orange juice, I went down the hall to check on her. I could hear her snoring as if in a deep sleep and decided to wait before waking her. It was still early. A while later it suddenly got quiet so I went in to check on her progress getting dressed and found she had left this realm. I was relieved. Mom had been tortured with the confusion of her mind and the limitations of not being able to see for several years. This was a blessing and a release from her suffering.

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Four weeks ago I suffered a truly devastating loss. After ten years of providing a home for my second son Tony who was suffering from mental illness and addiction I found him dead. During those ten years Tony struggled mightily to overcome his demons. He took classes and got certified to update his job skills and religiously looked for jobs. Whenever he’d get an interview, he’d be hired. He was a talented highly skilled IT systems admin before his disease kicked in and still had the knowledge and abilities required to be successful. I prayed mightily and daily that he would overcome this evil that possessed him. He was a loving and devoted father and grandfather but was unable to maintain those relationships because of his illness. His children lost the benefit of his love and nurturing nature. He was never able to hold a job for more than a few weeks before being unable to go in to work. We talked at length and he saw  therapist but he never could tell me why he couldn’t maintain his equilibrium. It seemed to plague him as much as it did me. I was grateful when three years ago I told him I thought it might help if he went to church with me. My spiritual base has always seen me through life’s challenges. I told him, no commitments, just give it a try and see if it helped. I was delighted when he took me up on it and then continued to attend mass every week except when the depression overwhelmed him and then he always expressed regret of being unable to go, for himself not for me. When I found Tony my heart broke. Such a beautiful man, so much talent, so much love to give, so kind and generous. This was my greatest loss. I felt so helpless and unable to do anything. I’m grateful again that his suffering is over but it breaks my heart that he couldn’t experience the joy and delight life has to offer. There are so many people we know who are suffering. Can’t we do something to make their life a little more tolerable? Can’t we be more forgiving, understanding and patient with those who suffer. Family members from across the country attended Tony’s funeral mass. Everyone who knew him told me they’d never known a kinder more generous man with so much talent who worked so hard. Being together and sharing his life was healing. Everyday I experience a reminder of him in the things he did and said, his hugs of peace in mass and his “Love you, Mom”. Good bye baby. I love you and wish you peace and joy.

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Peace and Understanding

I just finished reading a book titled Children of Paradise:The Struggle for the Soul of Iran written by Laura Secor. I found this book to be stunningly eyeopening. Frequently I am amazed at how poorly informed we are as American citizens but after reading this account51wi73entBL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ of the years from the revolution, overthrow of the Shah and the years of struggle and conflict that followed in Iran I feel like a mushroom kept in the dark and fed manure. Secor paints a picture of a significant number of the population of Iran  struggling mightily for a country that has a secular political base. According to Secor the Islamic Republic party has held control through fear, intimidation, censorship and election fraud during the years that followed. Their government style is an authoritarian theocracy.

Secor explains this government rules the country with their narrow, fundamental interpretation of Islam and rejects all opposition even from more moderate clerics. Anyone who opposes them has been imprisoned, threatened and tortured or their families threatened until they confess to trumped up charges designed to humiliate, discredit and dishonor them. They are certain that Western countries and the CIA are behind the opposition and this may very well be true since it seems we have a chronic need to meddle in the affairs of other countries in the name of human rights but only countries we have an economic interest in such as middle eastern oil.

The invasion by American troops of Iraq had a devastating impact on Iran which was also at war with Iraq. The population of Iran suffered tremendous human and economic losses.  Secor gives a detailed account of the horror and atrocities the people suffered. If the US was involved in the actions of the rebels we did nothing to protect and ease the suffering of the people. Our need to spread democracy around the world has created untold suffering of the populations of those countries we allegedly were helping. Thousands have been executed or have died in prisons. The situation is similar to life under Stalin or Hitler where a relatively small number of zealots determined to force their principles and values on a population come to power through fear and intimidation.

This book is a must read for all those concerned about the continuing middle eastern conflicts and the thousands of displaced people of these countries. A truth seeking for the cause or causes of the conflicts is called for from the people of the world and particularly in this country where we are so isolated and deprived of real factual information about world news.

 

Moving Forward in Hope and Gratitude

It’s been a month since this country was dealt a shocking blow. Over half of America was devastated and another number were celebrating. Within those devastated are a large number who are fearful for their lives, families, livelihood and civil rights. Another segment is afraid we will destroy our planet with detrimental development plans or destroy lives in an ill conceived war.

As a result of their fear students and others have been protesting the election results, marching in the streets and exercising their right to free speech. Whether this will be helpful or healthy is not mine to say.

Unfortunately there are a crop of less than gracious “winners” on the other side. They characterize the protesters as whiners sitting in bars to drown their sorrows. Even worse we have teachers who are telling their immigrant students they will be gone pretty soon.(AP Arizona Public School in Mesa) Facebook has been loaded with insults and ugly remarks on both sides. Social media has become a forum to vent and not always in a productive way.

This is a time for families to gather to celebrate our blessings in the most enjoyed holiday season of the year and many families are afraid they may not even be able to stay together after the inauguration.

Many Americans of non-white ethnicity have been verbally and physically assaulted . A Muslim woman had her hijab torn off on a subway in NYC, a Japanese American woman was called a “Chink” in an airport in a large metropolitan city and told to go home.

These behaviors are unacceptable in a civilized world and especially in a country that espouses equality under the law for all citizens regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual identity. We celebrate diversity. Is this a false persona?

It’s time for the “winners” to show some compassion and understanding of the pain and fear felt by many of their fellow citizens. And it’s time for the “losers” to seek constructive means  to voice their concerns and take action to insure the safety and protect the vulnerable among us who are being threatened. Real action must be taken to insure that illegal acts are not permitted such as a return to tortures that violate the Geneva conventions and discriminating against individuals who are protected by our constitution.

As we are inundated with information about the president-elect’s appointments with no ability to control them, anxiety has increased for those opposed to the issues supported by the appointees.  I have decided to refrain from reading the speculative articles in favor of my personal peace and mental health. That doesn’t mean Im giving up. On the contrary, I am determined to be more vigilant than ever and form close relationships with legislators who support my point of view.

My views were succinctly portrayed in an article in the Albuquerque Journal on November 28th in which Anne Miller clearly states:abq-journal-1128, (Click to read the entire article) We are a people of compassion and integrity. We accept our moral obligation to fight like hell for those who have not been as fortunate or privileged as we are.

Please be comforted and encouraged by my words or put on notice that we will be a formidable adversary over the next four years.

Gratitude

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” Max Planck

Sounds pretty simplistic doesn’t it? But would you rather live in a world full of positive attitudes or immerse yourself in negativity? Scientific studies done at the University of Texas and University of California Davis are showing that your attitude can have an impact on your health, either good or bad. Your attitude can change your behavior and your life. An organization affiliated with the University of California Berkley, Greater Good, the Science of a Meaningful Life, focuses its teaching and research on changing people and their lives, one at a time, to a more positive perspective. Their mission statement includes “The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.”

Our country and our world are full of conflict, violence, strife and stress today. Everywhere we look we see people in pain and acting out in reaction to their hurt. I want to make a change in myself and those I love. I want to live a joyful life and I want happiness for every person in the world. Sound Crazy? Well maybe, but no crazier than thinking another war will finally bring us world peace.

The research has shown that if I change my attitude and the way I look at my experiences my outlook will change and my health both mental and physical will improve.(www.greatergood.berkeley.edu) I decided to give it a try. My life was full of conflict and stress. It was the common ones of today, loved ones suffering from depression and addiction, loved ones in pain due to difficulties with finances, relationships, jobs and not knowing where to go with their lives. Fortunately my own life is in a pretty good space, I’m retired from my first career and can live comfortably but not lavishly on my income but it hasn’t always been that way.

I started the practice of thinking about one thing I was grateful for as soon as I woke up in the morning a few IMG_0036months after I got the news that my husband was MIA. It was a survival mechanism in order to get myself out of bed and moving each day.  At first I focused on the easy ones. I was grateful for my children and the beautiful world we live in. I thought about them, what beautiful human beings they were and how many positive things they have contributed to the lives around them, then I would have to fight thoughts of the things they were struggling with like the loss of their dad and gently move my thoughts back to the good in their lives. Pretty soon it started becoming a habit. I’d wake up and with out any effort, my mind would flood with all the beautiful things I had to be grateful for in my life. Over time I noticed I was more enthusiastic about my day, not every day, I’m just like everyone else,  some days I just wanted to pull the covers over my head but I’d force myself to think of something good to get up for. It wasn’t easy but it definitely had a positive impact on my day.

My mantra had always been Attitude is Everything throughout my work life. I started out with a high school education and a family to look out for. This first thing I tackled was going back to school and getting a degree.  Juggling the family and classes not to mention homework was challenging. I soon learned that I had to keep positive and focus on the goal not the day to day pitfalls. When I finished I started my work life teaching Language Arts and Social Studies at the secondary level but soon realized it wasn’t going to work over the long haul. The schedule was great but the pay just didn’t cut it. I started my search the summer after my first year.

Life has been a steady progression of two steps forward and one back but the movement has always been forward. I credit my successes to my positivity. It isn’t always easy to keep looking up but it beats the alternative. It’s kept me healthy and happy most of the time.

This year has been one of the most difficult I’ve faced. The future is looking pretty grim. There is so much fear and violence generated by that fear. In this country we are still able to focus or propensity toward worry on purity of our food air and water and the protection of the environment. In other places people worry about their homes still being there in the morning and their loved ones still being among the living.

We are being besieged with rhetoric in the various media and by public personalities that increases our fear in order to gain our support for their agenda. As brothers and sisters in humanity we must see and embrace our sameness and not our differences. We cannot ignore evil but we also cannot paint all people of any group who are different from ourselves as being less human, less loving, less needy, less hungry than ourselves. We are on the verges of self destruction unless we change our mindset. Wars have never gained peace. Wars have created more division and mistrust. Wake up America and find the beautiful generous soul of this country that I believe is at our core.

Italy, the Agony and Ecstasy

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Last fall my thirteen year old grandson surprised me with a reminder that I had given his sister a trip anywhere she wanted to go with a friend for an eighth grade graduation gift before she started high school in the fall. Alexis and her friend Haley had chosen a trip to Ft Lauderdale for the week before school started in August. Giuliano would graduate from eighth grade the next May and join his sister in high school so it was his turn.

“Oh that’s right,” I said,  never dreaming what would come next. “Where would you like to go ?”

“Italy,” he quickly replied.IMG_3621

I was stunned. My mind awhirl, I swallowed hard. As the shock began to wear off I warmed to the idea. I had been thinking about another Italy trip for the last couple of years since mom had died. Why not one with the kids?

“Sounds great!” I said , “but we’ll have to include your sister.”  I had told her about her trip gift in June when she graduated and she never thought of anything outside the US. Neither did I. It would only be fair to include her now.

“Sure,” he said. He and his sister had always been as close as a brother and sister could be.

So it began. I had seven months to put it together. I knew I wanted the trip to be long enough to make it worthwhile and allow them to truly experience the beauty and depth of Italy.

A few weeks later I was talking with, Joan, my sister in law and told her what I was planning. She was excited and wanted all the details. The more I told her about my tentative itinerary, the more involved she became.

“Would you like to go with us.” I asked, “how long could you be away from your work?”

“I’d love to, I could probably be gone for three weeks,” She said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Padova. You know St Anthony  is from there and has been my patron saint for a long time. I remembered how over the years Joan had always called on St. Anthony whenever she needed or lost something. “Have you been to Venezia or Roma,” I asked. “No, neither one, but I’d like to.” I cautioned her and asked her to give it some serious thought on what it would be like traveling with a 14 and 16 year old. She had always been great with my kids and grandkids one on one but this would be an intense three weeks living intimately together. “That will be okay,” she said. “We can share some of the expenses and it will be fun.”

It was settled, we would leave as soon as the kids got out of school in May 2016.  I dug out all my old Italy travel books and took them to the kids to peruse and choose things they wanted to be sure and see.

The first thing I discovered was that airfares went up dramatically after May 15th. The prices started over $2300 apiece. I was shocked. I hadn’t dreamed it would be that expensive. When I had gone the last time it was $8-900. roundtrip to Milano. I’d definitely have to work on my budget with three tickets to buy. I had always traveled off season in the past.  I started checking all the angles including fares from major cities. I could save a couple of hundred per ticket going from NYC, Phoenix or even Denver. Phoenix would be the most practical since it was only a 6 hour drive and I wouldn’t have the second airfare leg. These flights were all on foreign airlines and I checked their safety ratings online but install left me feeling a little nervous. I decided to wait to book anything until we got closer to May. We still had six months.

I started thinking about an itinerary and accommodations. I wanted to move as infrequently a possible. Packing and unpacking are my least favorite activities when I travel. Joan agreed and I began looking for central locations to areas we wanted to visit. If we stayed in Padova we could do day trips to Venezia, Verona and. Bologna.

My previous trips in Italy with my youngest son when he had graduated from high school and later with my daughter when she finished her Masters degree  had been road trips. Thanks to my son who was adamant that he wouldn’t go on an organized tour I learned how to plan and organize  an itinerary that suited our interests and allowed for flexibility for when we wanted to linger and when we wanted to move on quickly.

Hotels were costly and only included breakfast. With two teenagers meals would be my biggest expense after airfare. I started looking for timeshare trades through RCI, a timeshare organization I am a member of through my timeshare ownership. Although I’d had friends who had done these types of trades I had no luck. Then I thought of extended stay apartments like we have here that include a small  kitchen and living area. I found a website, http://www.Booking.com  that had a filter for apartments and quickly found just what I was looking for. There were numerous ratings to read from other travelers that were very helpful. I searched for ones that had no complaints about the things really important to us. For the grand teens WIFI was number one since they wouldn’t be able to use their cell data while we were gone. We had to have parking for a rental car and I was also hoping for availability to laundry facilities at our later locations. We would be packing light in order to fit the four of us and luggage into a reasonable sized rental car and a laundry would be essential at least once in three weeks and preferably twice.

I checked the school calendar and saw the last day would be May 25th. My airfare searches revealed that the cheapest day to leave would be Sunday, May 29th and that would give everyone a chance to get packed and see friends after school let out without unnecessary pressure.

The first accommodations I booked was Apartmento Rosa in Padova for May 30-June 4.  It was a two bedroom with a kitchen. I was a little nervous but the website advertised no charges in advance and no cancellation fees if cancelled a week before our scheduled arrival. I scheduled it for five nights since we had several places we wanted to visit nearby.

At this point I decided to check in with the kids to see if they had found any “must see” places. It was like pulling teeth. The only thing I could get out of them was that they wanted to attend an opera and they wanted to see the leaning tower in Pisa. My work was cut out for me.

I started checking opera seasons near the areas we would be visiting and  places to stay. It looked like Rome would be our best bet and we would be there the longest since there was so much to see in the vicinity. The next challenge was to find a place close enough for a day trip to both Pisa and Firenze.

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Our trip would begin at Malpensa Airport near Milano. Most flights I’d found would arrive in the morning so we’d have plenty of time to pick up a rental car and head to our first stop in Padova. From there in the days that followed we’d be able to take a day trip to Venezia after exploring Padova and Verona nearby.

With our first stay booked and the next stop near Pisa and Firenze planned I chose a wonderful location on the west coast in Castiglioncello. It was a short walk to the beach and had a swimming pool. The kids will love this. I thought. Villagio Mietta was a complex of duplex style apartments and we found out when we arrived, it even included a garage for the car! It was a two bedroom like Apartmento Rosa and, of course, wifi was included.

I was on a roll and decided to move ahead and make the reservation for  our stay in Roma. There was a lovely apartment building near the transportation terminal that looked , in the pictures online, like a great location and included parking. This was a real premium since parking could be as much as $25+ a day in Roma and of course,it had wifi. With the the booking completed I decided to email their office and ask about proximity to the opera theater. Laura replied “you’re so fortunate, La Traviata is being performed NOW! I’m sending the online ticket link.” I jumped on it and immediately went to the site. There were some excellent seats still available in the sixth row from the orchestra at a great price. June 5th was the last performance until July and I snapped them up. This was going to be such an incredible trip. I sent the confirmations and opera ticket news to Joan in California.

The tickets were sent UPS and arrived in THREE DAYS. I was blown away and re-ignited to finish up all the reservations. I wanted to make a stop in Ravenna to see the Mosaics again. I remembered how amazing they were when my son and I had visited twenty years earlier. When I went online to research what else was in that area that we might like to see and do I discovered that the Ferrari Museum, track and factory  was less than a hour away. The kids would love that. There was even a driving simulator available!  One of the resorts was a short drive outside Ravenna on east side of the peninsula on the beach. After a week in Roma it would be great to get away from city life and be near a beach again. This stay would be at Lido Adriano, Aurora Residences,  also a nice two bedroom, kitchen, parking, laundry facilities and wifi.

That left one last booking. I wanted to be close to the airport to keep our last day as stress free as possible. In searching Booking.com I found an Agriturismo site just 15 minutes from the Malpensa airport.

Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, small scale farming in Italy became less profitable, and, as one might predict, farmers abandoned many farms to search for work in larger towns. But Italians value highly the traditions and produce of small scale production of food, and by 1985 a law defined Agriturismo, and many abandoned buildings and estates were restored, some for vacation homes, and many for agritourismo.  These aren’t just B&B’s or rural restored accommodations. They are active farms of many varieties. The one I booked near Oleggio, Cascina Aguzza, is a working farm that grows all sorts of berries and other produce as well as chickens for fresh eggs. It had wonderful reviews and I decided to book it for two nights and allow for a possible day visit to Milano before our trip home.IMG_5563

The snow covered Alps could be seen in the north in photos of the farm. It looked like the perfect end to our trip that would allow us to relax and breathe before the long plane trip home.

About two months before the trip I finally booked our air reservations. It totally took me by surprise when I discovered the ticket prices had dropped to just under $1400 apiece on American Airlines. No need to drive to Phoenix or fly with a little foreign airline. I was really delighted and relieved with the news and immediately booked our flight for May 29th returning on June 21st. I also booked the car on rentalcars.com and chose one that was advertised to hold 5 passengers and one large and one small bag. It was $357 for the three weeks and a day including  unlimited miles. For four of us that was a bargain as opposed to train fares. Of course we’d have to add gas to that.

The anticipation was delicious over the next two months. Finally the day came for us to go. We had an early morning flight to Dallas, a connection to Miami and then the flight to Milano to arrive at 9:30 AM on the 30th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pacific Northwest by Trains, Planes and Automobiles

After a short one hour flight San Diego complete with a free drink on Southwest Airlines due to the St. Parrick’s Day holiday, I changes planes to a flight to Seattle. All was going very well, I was pleased. With a 20 minute layover the gate for the second leg was half of a city block away. There was time for a pit stop in the ladies room and a few minutes before the boarding call. As I stood there waiting to board I considered my drink options. You’d think I was a real boozer but the truth of the matter is I’m a frugal bargain hunter working to get the biggest bang for my buck.
I decided on a Rum-Rita, a delicious concoction of Rum and margarita mix the had a nice kick and a delicious tango citrus. After the drink, some peanuts and a cracker/pretzel snack pack I stretched back as much as the tight seating afforded and took a short nap. I’d been up since 5:30 AM in order to get my almost 4 mile daily walk in, finish up the last minute prep for the trip and await my youngest son’s arrival to ferry me to the airport. I was definitely due for some z’s before landing and the 140+ mile drive to Vancouver BC.

I had booked a rental car so I’d have transportation available to do some sight seeing while there and the care and air fare to Seattle were a better bargain that air to Vancouver.
We landed to a brilliant sunny day, blue skies unheard of in March on the coast of BC. I was really lucking out. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The car pick up went smoothly. They gave me “pick of the litter” in my price category after trying to talk me into an upgrade and adding additional insurance. I chose a nice shiny black, freshly washed Nissan Sentra and headed out toward I5 North to Vancouver. After two hours on the road I had only traveled as far as Burlington . Traffic had been bumper to bumper on I-5 at no more than 25 mph. I could’t imagine where all the traffic was going or where it was coming from and by then it was after 4 PM. The GPS was predicting another two and a half hours to Vancouver. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to move the seat back into a less than perpendicular position and my hip joints and back were screaming in protest. I couldn’t pull over due to the heavy traffic and difficulty with making a lane change.IMG_4132
Finally traffic thinned out and I kicked it up to 65 or 100 kpm as the sign indicated once I crossed over into Canada.
I finally arrived at the apartment I’d be staying in for the week and after unpacking and a few moments to regroup I set out to a grocery for some provisions for the evening and breakfast. After a day of nothing but airline peanuts, crackers and a hard boiled egg and cheese stick I’d packed I was famished.

I checked with the front desk and found an IGA grocery only four blocks away. It felt good to get out and stretch my legs and breathe the moist crisp air. The sidewalk was filled with other walkers and I noticed there was a true bicycle lane with separating curbing from the motorized traffic. Many cyclists passed by as I strode toward my destination. I opened the door to a complete deli and produce department with a great variety of fruits and vegetables. Prices were a bit steep but I had to do a quick mental gyration to convert Canadian dollars to US currency. The exchanges rate was about $1.28 Canadian to $1.00 US. I selected some berries, avocado, romaine and zucchini. They had an extensive baked goods area that included multigrain breads and rolls of all kinds as well as muffins and pastries. I chose a lovely warm loaf of seeded multigrain bread. Across from the breads I discovered an escalator to an upper level where there were all sorts of dairy, meat and canned offerings. I decided on a box of linguini and a jar of sauce, a container of Greek yogurt, some butter for the bread, a nice dark roast, fair-trade coffee and some lemon curd for a treat.

After paying for my choices, I headed back to our room. The day had been a sunny one. The sidewalks were dry and there was still a slight bit of sunlight peeping through the clouds at the horizon. I loved the room we had gotten. It was on the 21st floor and on the southeast corner of the building with a view down the street to the waterfront. The dining table sat in an alcove with floor to ceiling windows on two sides and breathtaking views of the city lights.

View at dinner

View at dinner

My companion on the trip had a full itinerary of things she wanted to do and see. Since I had been to Vancouver before I was willing to have chose our activities for each day. I’d met her about three years earlier but had only seen her on an occasional basis. I felt confident that we would travel well together.

When I got back I started a supper of sautéed zucchini in marinara sauce over the linguini. Delizioso! We sampled some of the bread toasted and it was outstanding too. It was a perfect end to the day. We decided to light the gas fireplace and curl up on the cozy chairs to read and listen to music for a little while before retiring.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny and we headed out to the University of British Columbia camp to visit the Anthropology Museum and the Nitobe Japanese tea gardens.

The museum was amazing. I highly recommend the docent tour. It was rich with information about the Pacific Northwest native peoples, their art and culture.

Traveling to new places can be very relaxing and mind expanding at the same time. I’ve always loved to travel and see new places and people. When I’m away I can really let go of all the day to day responsibilities. When I’m home I can’t sit still. There’s always some chore calling me. This trip will be just what I needed.

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Indigenous Peoples Map

Fathers

It was Christmas eve and I knelt in the pew facing the candle lit wreath behind the altar. There was a warm glow surrounding everything and the nativity display was in place. The church was filled for the first time since Easter.
The warmth of families and love radiated from every direction. After the infant Jesus was placed in the manger we all stood for the opening prayer. There was a family of four in front of me, soon to be five from the looks of the mom.
The mass proceeded on track and after listening intently to the readings, there was a beautiful homily about family. My mind started to drift to my own family and the tremendous gratitude I felt for this blessing in my life. The ritual of the mass allowed me to drift into thoughts of the years of small children filling our home and many past Christmases.
The young boy in front of me snuggled up to his father and reached his small arm across his back, barely reaching halfway. All of a sudden I as filled with the awareness of the comfort and love this boy felt for his dad. There was a sense of security and constancy in his gesture.

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I reflected on my four children’s childhood without a father and what that loss had meant in their lives. I could only be aware of the outer manifestations and not how their inner thoughts and feelings were affected. They had said very little even when I brought it up. My own father had been emotionally absent and that absence gave me some idea of that lack in the lives of Nicky, Arlynn, Tony and Eddie.
A sense of grief and longing filled my heart with pain and my eyes with tears for what that absence had meant in my own life. Never feeling loved unconditionally or good enough as a person, not being worthwhile.
My relationship with my faith and Jesus grew in my early teens and gave me the comfort and security that had been lacking in my heart. Later I was blessed with a husband who gave me the total acceptance I had longed for that filled me and allowed me to find my gift and the confidence to become all I was intended to be.
Soon I would become a single parent after my beloved husband was lost in the war in Vietnam and our beautiful children would experience life without a father.
No matter how much I wanted to fill that emptiness for them, it just wasn’t possible. I was the mom and that was all there was to it. I had my own personality and character traits and their dad had his. We were a good balance of introvert and extrovert, quiet and noisy. My children needed that balance and difference of characteristics to bounce off. They also needed an emotionally present parent full time. I couldn’t always be there for them with a home and job to manage. The many responsibilities of parenting are too much for one person and the perspective of a dad is critical to forming a well rounded child.
Sometimes this void can be filled by grandfather, uncle or other caring male family member but that isn’t always possible. Somehow my boys knew internally what was needed and are wonderful fathers to their children. It gives me great joy to watch the play and spend learning and quiet times with their children, both boys and girls.
Fathers are a blessing to their children that we must always recognize and value.