Monday, January 31, 2011

conquering (sort of) more fears again

I can tell you're just dying to know what happened on the mountain over the weekend. So, I am going to tell you.

And since we've been talking about fears, I figure now's a good time to reveal another of mine to you. I am very afraid to ski down steep mountains. I do not like to go fast. I prefer lolly-gagging and enjoying the scenery.

The weather was much warmer on Saturday than on our previous ski experience, so Graham was hanging in much better. He got to the point where he could ski on his own, but he couldn't turn without crashing. He saw the gondola and said he wanted to go to the top. Tony studied the map and found there were easy runs the whole way down, so we decided to do it. We went to the top of a snowy mountain with our 3 year old who has only been skiing one other time in his life. Smart.

As we ascended the mountain, we started to notice more fog. It wasn't long before fog was all we could see. So, when we started our decent, we thought we were going on an easy run, but quickly discovered that it was a "black" track. "Black" on a mountain equals "scary" in my mind. Before I knew it, Tony had a hold of Graham and zoomed down the mountain so fast I didn't even see which direction he went. I looked and looked but could only see fog. Now, I've stated that I am afraid of going down steep mountains. Add complete blindness-due-to-fog, and some loneliness to this scenario and suddenly I am a paranoid freak. I panicked. I just started going down as slowly as possible cursing and trying to catch my breath until I came upon my two boys sitting on the mountain waiting for me. I threw my poles in the air and exclaimed to Tony that I DO NOT LIKE SKIING AND I WANT TO GO HOME!

After struggling all morning with Graham, I could see in Tony's eyes that he was at his wit's end, but he remained calm. I declared that I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO, because I was NOT GOING DOWN THE STEEP PART ANYMORE. All Tony could do was tell me to listen to his advice and get back up on my skis. I held my breath this time as I watched Tony zoom down with Graham in his arms and watched his short life flash before my eyes until suddenly we were at the bottom of the mountain. I don't remember how it happened because I blocked it out of my mind. I did not go to the top again that day, so it is hard for me to say that I actually conquered a fear. But, at least I am not still frozen up there on that mountain.

As you can see from the photo of the morning after, we were completely exhausted when we got home. We just threw our stuff on the floor and went to bed. The next day, when I asked Graham what his favorite part of skiing was, he said, "I liked going fast down the steep part."

Glad he didn't get all my traits.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

back to school

Well, after six months of researching and debating and thinking and dragging my feet, I finally got Graham into a good nursery school. He had his first day on Tuesday and his second day today. He's going on Tuesday and Thursday mornings while I attend Italian classes.

I guess I'm a bigger nerd than we thought, because I sure enjoy being back in a classroom with a notebook and pencil in hand. A crazy thought occurred to me as I was driving to class today. I don't have to get an "A." Grades don't matter. It's just for fun. I can't tell you how much this excites me!

See, told you I was a nerd...

In other news, we're heading to the mountains tomorrow afternoon to spend the night and then go skiing on Saturday. We rented some gear from the base here, and Graham really likes wearing the helmet.

Wish us luck for a better day on the slopes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

adventures with mama graham part 6

Some of you may have received this email a few-okay, 7- years ago while I was "studying" in the Caribbean. I wanted to share it with you again, because I thought of it as I took Graham to the Oceanarium in Lisbon.

It was a lovely, sunny day on the campus of The School for Field Studies located on South Caicos Island in the middle of the Caribbean.  There was much work to be done, but I just couldn't stand to be in front of a computer any longer.  I just had to go out and play in the water...

I convinced my friend, Nick, to come out in a kayak with me to the middle of theocean.  When I say middle of the ocean, I do mean the middle of nowhere.   It took some persuading, but he agreed.  We grabbed the two-person kayak and we were on our way! As we splashed over the giant waves in the crystal clear ocean, we discussed his habit of smoking weed and how he wanted to quit.  We were pretending that I was his psychologist since I told him that I want to open a psychology clinic on a lake where my clients and I can take out kayaks and talk.  He thought I should start practicing now, I guess.  So, he asked me for advice and I did what I could to help him. About half way through the kayak ride, we realized that we had forgotten to sign out and we had also forgotten to take a flag so boaters could see us.  So, we joked about the fact that if we died, nobody would know. They would just assume we were on the campus somewhere since our names were not on the "out" side of the board.

Finally, we reached our destination of the mooring ball that is located in a little spot we call "Shark Alley."  This is where we tied up our kayak, strapped on our snorkeling gear, and jumped in the refreshing water.  It was really deep, but we could see the bottom.  We noticed that at a certain point, there was nolonger a bottom.  The drop off!  I just couldn't resist swimming right over it. I felt so free knowing that the bottom of the ocean was a million miles below me.  All I could see were the rays from the sun shining through the deep blue water.  I was just having a hay day swimming around when I noticed that Nick was not joining me. 

"No way," he said, "that shit scares me!"  

"Oh, Nick," I teased, "what is there to be afraid of?  This is great!"  

"Well, what if a big shark just comes out of nowhere?" he asked.  

"Whatever," I said and continued to go about my merry way.  

Eventually, he started to swim back to where he could see the bottom.  I felt that I should probably not stray too far from him, so I began my swim toward him... I wasn't quite ready to leave the endless blue water, so I turned around to get one more look and what I saw will forever be imprinted on my mind.  

A shark.  

A big, huge, scary shark about 5 feet away from my face. 

His face was staring and swimming right at mine.  Our eyes met and he had a big smile that seemed to say "I'm going to eat you!"  Right then, I took a deep breath and I panicked.  I cannot remember a time in my life where I have been scared to the point of panicking.  I flipped my little flippers as fast as I could in the direction of Nick, screaming to him the whole time.  As I was frantically swimming to him, I was thinking, "I'm trying to out-swim a shark!  Yeah, right!"  Once Nick became aware of the situation, he grabbed my hand and said, "Okay, stop.  We will get through this together."  Apparently, the shark had been following me, and hewas still on my tail.  Nick did not let go of my hand and he continued to watchthe shark.  I couldn't bring myself to turn around and look at it.  I was just too frightened.  Nick told me to just swim slowly in the opposite direction of the shark.  This was where I realized that we were just two young kids in the absolute middle of nowhere and our lives were about to end and nobody would know it.  Yep, my whole life flashed before my eyes, folks.  I'm telling you, I was terrified! Eventually, after what seemed like years, Nick told me the shark swam away and all was clear.  At this point, I found the courage to turn around and look at him swimming away.  He was huge!  He could have murdered the both of us if he had wanted to.  And, he was not alone.  Nope, he had about 3 buddies with him, but they were a safe distance from us, so we just admired them for awhile.  This is when Nick proceeded to tell me that while I was too scared to look, the shark was coming up extremely close to us, then backed away, then came close to us again, then backed away.  I guess he was just checking us out.  Just as a side note for those of you who don't know, this was my very first encounter with a shark.  I had never seen one, not even in an aquarium, until him. Now, I feel very up close and personal to sharks.

Nick and I were both pretty shook up about it, but all we could do was laugh!  We laughed and laughed for quite awile and I said, "Okay, let's get back in thekayak."  "No," he said, "I want to see if we can find a turtle."  "Okay," I agreed since that was the sole purpose of us going to this particular location. We were hoping to find turtles and a plane crash.  We had heard rumors that there was a plane crash out there, but we never saw it.  We also never saw any turtles... 

As soon as I put my face back in the water, I turned to look behind me to makesure there was no shark, and Nick started yelling something.  I tell you what, it scared me half to death!  "Dolphins!" He exclaimed, and pointed to them. Yep, 4 big, and 3 little dolphins swam right beneath me.  They rolled around on the bottom and put on a little show for us.  This was most certainly a grace from the gods, because it immediately calmed me down and I could here a voice saying, "It's going to be okay." 

We swam around some more and then decided to call it a day.  Once we made it back here to the center, we were in no mood to converse with people, so we just chilled on the kayak for another half hour.  Of course, now, every member of the School for Field Studies on South Caicos knows what happened, because we just could not keep that near-death experience inside.  We had to share it. So, now I am sharing it with you.  I will certainly be going to bed tonight thanking God for my life...
Have a wonderful day!

This might lead you to believe that the sharks were the scariest part of our adventure, but you would be wrong. I have absolutely no fear of sharks, and Graham kept insisting that they were "nice" sharks. 

It was the crowds and public transportation that scared me...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lisbon through my five senses

To me, Lisbon tasted like delicious fish, chocolate, and pastries.

It sounded like passing trollies and fado music.

It felt sacred. Especially in Fatima, where it is believed by many that Mary appeared to three small shepherd children. We even got to see the homes where these kids lived.

It smelled like burning prayer candles and ocean breezes.

It looked like a place proud of its heritage and committed to holding onto its ancient roots.



You wanna know a fun fact about Lisbon? You do? Okay.
It was spared in World War II. It was not even scratched by a bomb. Around 1950 or so, the Catholic Bishops wanted to find a way to thank God for this fortune. So, they did what Lisboners seem to do best. They erected a statue. Apparently, one of the bishops saw the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) down in Brazil and decided he really liked it, so they made a copy.

 Enjoy your day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

conquering fears

P1060297, originally uploaded by akblaine.

More than likely, it has to do with the fact that I grew up in a small town with one main street. It was impossible to get lost, and if, for some reason, you did, all you had to do was look up and see the Twin Peaks and know you were looking East and you could find your way from there. This is the only logical explanation I can conjure for why I am terrified of getting lost in big cities, especially when I have to use public transportation without my trusty navigator Tony by my side. I worry that I am going to get swallowed by a swarm of people, or get stuck on some street and have no idea which way to turn, or get on the wrong train and end up in a completely different town and then have to stay there forever and start a new life because I'll never be able to find my way back home. Fear can make your mind do crazy things. It is because of these fears that I avoid being in cities all by myself.

That is, until this last week in Lisbon.

My James Bond husband did all the planning for this trip. When he approached me with the itinerary involving Graham and me taking a bus from the airport, getting dropped in the middle of the city, and finding our apartment (not a labeled and easy-to-find hotel), and then taking a train from Rome to Naples and getting on a bus in Naples for our return trip, I crawled under a blanket and said. "No. I'm not doing that. I'm not going."

You see, 007 had to take a special flight to Lisbon since he would be working there. His flight involved wining and dining and arrived at a different time than ours...


After much convincing and coaching on google maps, I decided it was time to conquer my fear. I, along with my 3 1/2 year old son who asks endless distracting questions, got on a plane, then another plane, landed in Lisbon, found the bus, and got off at the correct stop. It was dark, and as I went around the corner to the street I was supposed to take, it got darker and scarier. I let my fears take over my brain for a bit and started imaging the worst, but then something happened. I got really terrified of a group of guys huddled around smoking together. They definitely had their eyes on me as I must have been quite the sight pushing my jogging stroller up a very steep hill, sweating like crazy and trying not to cry. But they all just said, "Boa tarde" and let me go about my way. Not even a heckle. And certainly no reason to be afraid.

After we found the apartment, except for all the sweat, I felt good. Very good. Good enough to take some trips involving more trains and buses during the week with just Graham.

You know what I learned this week? That cities are not so scary after all. You know why? Because they have these wonderful things called signs. And maps. And goodhearted people willing to help me lift my giant stroller when needed and point me in the right direction.

We are home safe and sound, now. I have lots of exciting things to tell you about Lisbon. I missed ya'll last week. It was too long without writing. I hope that won't happen again.

For now, though, you'll have to excuse me, because writing about all this got me scared again,so I am going to go crawl under that blanket and talk to my mommy for awhile.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

push and pull

No matter who you are or where you live, life involves a little push and pull. It has ups and downs and backs and forths and thises and thats. Sometimes you go against the wind and sometimes you go down-stream. You get the idea.

Contrast. It's beautiful. And annoying. 

Being unemployed in Italy is no different. Sometimes it's great. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it's just so-so. For example. Yesterday, I had another melt down while mopping the mold off my ceiling. Have you ever tried mopping a ceiling? It is not easy. I just kept thinking that counseling a person with depression or schizophrenia would be much easier than cleaning mold. Then I got sad because I can't get a job in the counseling field over here, which made me cry. This is one of the pulls, the downs, the backs, the that's.

Tonight, I am packing to leave for a one-week trip to Lisbon, Portugal. If I had a job, I would not be able to take time off and follow my James Bond husband to the places where he has to work. This is a push, an up, a forth... I think you get what I mean.

That said, I may not have internet access for a week. Heartbreaking for my faithful readers, I know (hi Dad, and Grandma). Don't you worry, though. I'll be back in full force as soon as possible.

Oh, and please don't judge me for having mold on the ceiling. It is unavoidable here. It has to do with the climate and the way the houses are built. Another down... Viva l'Napoli!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"you'll shoot your eye out"

Every pacifist mother dreads the day her child starts playing with guns. I've heard several stories about parents who try very hard not to introduce guns to their home and hope their kids never see the things. Inevitably, these stories end with the parents finding their kids pointing sticks and saying, "Bang!"

At first, I avoided the topic with Graham. I called the squirt guns he encountered, "squirters" and didn't answer his questions when he saw one on TV or at the store. I wanted to wait and approach the topic with knowledge and sensitivity.

Especially in light of the recent tragedy in Arizona.



I'm afraid the time to stop avoiding it is drawing nearer. Last night, Graham pointed a long stick toy thing at me and said, "Bang! I'm going to shoot you and kill you!" Ah, music to my ears. Not really. So, I said to him, "Do not shoot people. Guns are not for shooting people." Of course, his response was, "Then what are guns for?" Out of nowhere came Papa Tony who exclaimed, "They're for hunting!"

Hunting? Good answer, but, I mean, well, I don't exactly love the idea of shooting animals, either. I even sort of put a curse on one of my friends back in middle school when he got his first hunting license. He stated his opinion on hunting: that he liked hiking and being outside, that it made him feel one with nature, and that the animal population needs to be thinned out from time to time, that it's natural. I stated my opinion: killing is killing is killing and I don't like it and I could never do it and I just like to look at deer, not shoot them. I said some sort of mumbo jumbo to him like, "I am going to hope and pray that you never, ever have to go through the experience of killing anything." We stayed friends, and all through high school he hunted like crazy and never did kill anything. He blamed the curse.

I haven't talked to him in awhile, now. I wonder if he ever did catch a deer...

"What's hunting?"

"It's when people go out in the wilderness and shoot animals, like deer, and then eat them. Sometimes the people camp, too."

"Oh! Let's go hunting and roast some marshmallows!"

The rest of the evening I listened to my boys pretend to shoot animals.

Perhaps I need to whip out my magical cursing powers once again?

And no, you don't need to point it out to me that I successfully avoided talking about guns with Graham, yet again. I realize this. Right now, he is young. His main prerogative in life is to play and to pretend and sometimes that involves pretending to play with guns. The time will come when he will want a bb gun and Tony will have to reveal his top secret experience with bb guns and I will have to ramble something about shooting his eye out.

For now, we'll just pretend to hunt.

Just one more thing to add to the list of things I never thought I'd do as a parent.

Monday, January 10, 2011

healed by the sands

This is the island of Ischia. It is in our magnificent view from our home. I've looked at her every day since we moved here and wondered just what she has to offer.
So, we loaded up a ferry boat and set off to discover her treasures.
 For years and years-like 2,000 or so-, people have come to this island in search of her healing powers. Since the island was once a part of a volcanic crater, there are many natural thermal pools as well as some natural hot spots in the sands. There is a spot on one of her beaches where the sand is so hot that you can bury food and cook it. Or, you can just find a place to relax and let the send warm and heal your bones.
This is one of the natural thermal pools. It is very small, but fascinating. The hot water mixes with the cool water from the sea to form the perfect mixture for relaxing and healing. We enjoyed a dip while watching the sun go down.

 Apparently, there are many wonderful spas and resorts on the island, but we didn't go to them. Most of them are closed in the winter, which is weird, because warm water and sand feel really good in the winter. But that's not why we didn't go to them. We didn't go because we wanted to scope out the free pools. They were a bit difficult to get to, but that made them more fun.

And so, once again, the point of my story is that you need to get yourself to Naples as soon as possible. It will heal all your aches and pains.

We won't make you hike to the free pools. We'll take you to the resorts if that's what you like.

Friday, January 7, 2011

the loot

Back in Oklahoma, I did a little reading about how local, organic produce can solve all the world's problems and decided that I wanted to become a supporter. I did my best to attend farmer's markets during summer weekends, only to find that some of the items there had stickers claiming they were a "product of Mexico." Hmm.

Here in Naples, there are produce stands galore. At first, I thought, "Yay! Now, I am equipped and ready to start saving the world by purchasing local produce!"

Then, something happened. I went to grocery markets and always bought produce there. It was right there. So convenient! But, more costly. Today, after living here for nearly six months, I finally stopped at a stand I've had my eye on. It's right on the side of the road on our way home, but there is nowhere to park. Nowhere to even stop. So, every time I've driven past it over the last couples of months, I've slowed down to plot my plan of attack. I found a tiny road thing where I stopped the car, threw on the flashers, grabbed the kid, dodged the oncoming traffic, and grabbed my loot. Unfortunately, my plan of attack did not involve a plan for getting out of my makeshift parking spot, so I daringly had to back out into that oncoming traffic and zoom away. It was scary.

But, oh, was it worth it. I got apples, pears, eggplant, lettuce, onion, mushrooms, broccoli, and fresh basil for only 5 Euro. And, who knows, maybe one less trace of carbon is in the air since my apples didn't have to get shipped all the way from Mexico!

We just won't talk about all the exhaust from the cars going by, the trash on the street, and the harmful chemicals that are supposedly in the soil here...

Nor will we talk about the fact that I paid for the food, which technically means it is not a loot. Just an expression. Sorry of any confusion.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

three fun facts

Fact number 1: Yesterday, Tony and I realized that not only is it a new decade, but that it was 10 years ago to the day-we think-that we first kissed on a couch in our friend's (hi Meghan!) basement. 10 years we've been hanging out with each other. Here's hoping for another great 10 years!

Fact number 2: Our kid took that picture, and he always asks us to "make a funny face."

Fact number 3: This is officially my 100'th post. Thanks for reading and here's hoping for another great 100 posts!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

you had to be there

If ever there were something you had to see to believe, it would be the fireworks on New Year's Eve in Naples, Italy. Cow! Everyone, and I mean everyone, including us, came together at midnight and shot off fireworks and other explosives. Things I'm pretty sure you need a license to purchase in the US, you can find guys selling on the street here. It was, well, indescribable. You simply had to be there. Especially since I can be a dunce with the camera sometimes and completely failed at taking pictures or video of the event. You know how when you take a picture of something beautiful or amazing and then you look at it and say, "The picture doesn't do it justice?" Well, my friends, my pictures truly did not do those fireworks justice. You'll just have to come on over next year and see it for yourselves.

I did, however, manage to take a couple of shots of my hors d'oeurves display. As an unemployed stay at home mom with a kid who is really good at entertaining himself, I find myself reading food blogs more than I care to admit. And I really don't care to admit how often I drool over recipes at How Sweet It Is, which is where all these tasty treats came from. If you do nothing else in 2011, please try the cookie dough dip. You won't regret it.

Before this story can end, I also must tell you about the supper we had on New Year's Day with our landlord's family. I don't know why I was only expecting one plate of food. I should have known better. They served antipasti, primi, secondi, secondi, dolce, dolce, and cafe (Translation: a plate of appetizers big enough to be a meal followed by a plate of pasta, then a plate of meat and eggplant parmesan, then a plate of lamb, potatoes, and peas, then a plate of fruit, then a plate of cake with a shot of espresso). Think five times the amount of food you eat at Thanksgiving. All of it rich and delicious. I kept telling myself to just take one bite to taste everything so I didn't explode. As soon as the taste hit my tongue, though, I would reach for my next bite, and before I knew it, my plate was cleared. We sat for three and a half hours just eating and eating, watching a Naples concert on TV and trying to converse with each other. Apparently, it is something a lot of families do every Sunday over here.  Again, you had to be there to believe it.

Moral of the story? Come to Naples, Italy as soon as you possibly can.

You won't leave hungry.