Thursday, November 30, 2006

A reason to celebrate

I'm in the mood to dress up.
Of course, in a LBD.

I'm coming home for Christmas!!

They are lights hanging in the streets.
All the window displays have changed,
and Mariah is singing on my computer.

This calls for a celebration.

Coco Chanel once said,
"A woman should be two things: classy and fabulous."

And I totally agree.

But when its Christmas time she should also be....

with friends,
and wearing hats.

I'm positve Coco loved hats.

That's all I need.

1) Weather that calls for hats

2) Friends who make my sides hurt.

(no matter what the weather is like)

I want to celebrate with my knee-slapping friends and my hat collection.
Scratch that, I NEED to.

So crank up the Amy Grant chirstmas album,
and get ready to party,
because I love that I am getting to spend this time of year in Texas.

And I am so glad, once again, that the little black dress is appropriate for all occasions.
And with all accessories: including hats.

Fabulous and classy---and warm!!

Mom, this is the time to bust out the nutcracker sweater.
I'm coming home and its time to party!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I am thankful for...


Have you really ever thought about it?

I don't think I really had.
I never totally realized that its an American holiday. Only American.

There is something about sharing your culture with other people that makes you appreciate even more what its all about.

Giving thanks.


The food.

When you think about it, Thanksgiving is really amazing.

We had about 25 really curious Italians come to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.

We had all the trimmings to do it up right--just like we would in the USA.

One massive turkey.

Too many casseroles to count.

And the most beautiful assortment of pies I have ever seen.

(Every family has their traditional foods, so when you combine 5 backgrounds--there are no compromises, you just get lots of food!)

We had to teach the Italians how to pile up their plate with everything all at once.
They didn't get to separate it into courses, uh huh, not today.
Its not really Thanksgiving unless all those casseroles get to combine on your plate.

Many of them really loved seeing the turkey.
They had seen so many movies and tv shows depicting American Thanksgiving and turkey is the common denominator-- always.

During dessert, we explained why we celebrate Thanksgiving. (history lesson, anyone?)
And then we described the tradition of going around and saying what we were thankful for.
It was so cool to really share that with them.
We had believers and non-believers, old friends and new friends, and it really felt like family.

I love them all so much!

So imagine yourself in an apartment that overlooks the street leading to the Duomo,
getting so excited to eat some authentic American food,
trying desperately to communicate in Italian,
and loving that you are in Florence.
Oh, and obviously, so thrilled to be with me!!

So, come on, grab your plate, I want to introduce you to my friends!

This is Lea Anne, Maria Giovanna, Paola and me.
They are in our English conversation class and we have so much fun with them!
Two whole hours in English!! We love it and they are amazing at it!!

This is Andrea and Marina! They have been dating for 15 years.
Yea, beat that.
Andrea is a fireman in Arezzo and Marina is almost done with her Architecture degree.

I want you to meet Maria Cecilia (our Italian intern), my roommate Katie, and one super sweet girl named Palma.
Palma became a Christian this summer and is now going through follow up with Lea Anne and Katie.
She practically shared her testimony during our "I am thankful for" time.
Real life change behind those cute glasses!
Oh, and Palma is probably not even 5 foot. Super cute.

This is Pier Francesco, or as us Americans call him, PF.
He is really talented on the guitar and he performed a song he wrote for all of us at the party.
He is passionate, loud, and searching very hard for truth.
We love him at Bible Study, he's our wild card. Always suprising!

For those of you who got to see the documentary from last year, you might remember Matteo. This is his girlfriend Ilaria.
She taught me how to make tiramisu when I was here before.
They are both so fun, love American culture, and are going to take me shopping soon!

This is Daniella, Regina and Nico.
Katie and I met Nico at the Architecture faculty.
Actually, he introduced himself to us.
He claims we looked lost. Ha, never!
He's a very outgoing freshman from Sardinia and loves sentences that call for the use of "awesome," "rad," or any other American slang phrase.

Nico is also the one that gave me the hardest time after my first major language blunder.

I made a beautiful chess pie for the dessert table.
And Cecilia was describing all the pies that we had for the Italians.

I had told her that mine had butter, sugar and eggs in it. (yummy.)
So she said that and then in front of everyone asked what it was called.

I proudly announced that it was called Chess pie.

All the Italians gasped and made a strange face.
Cecilia just started to laugh.

Knowing that I was just walking into it, I asked,
"What? What's the problem?"

Nico had no problem explaining to me and to everyone that
"chess" is slang for toilet.

Who knew?

I made toilet pie.

And then announced it to everyone.

But they ate it!
And they liked it!

So even though I won't be living that one down anytime soon,
at least I felt somewhat vindicated.

Monday, November 20, 2006

When in Rome

I went to Rome this weekend.
Its kind of like going from College Station to Houston.
You always love the small city when you have battled through the big one.

I was gonna give you a detailed account of my trip, and make some jokes about Mary Kate and Ashley, but since only Claire would get those and I wanted to write about something else anyways, I thought a recap would suffice.

I saw the Colosseum.

I threw a coin in the Trevi fountain.

And I saw the Pope.
(yep, that's him in the window.)

Not bad for a two day adventure.

We also ate American food at the Hard Rock cafe (refills--yes!), people watched on the Spanish steps, and became masters of the metro system.

So, if you ever need a tour guide, you know who to call.

Now here is what I wanted to post.
My dad gave me this little book called Valley of Vision for Christmas a few years ago.
It is a little book of wonder.
Every page is magnificent.
Its old Puritan prayers, and for some reason they hit home every time.

I have read this one before, but it is exactly where I am and what I need right now, so I wanted to pass it along.

Morning Dedication

Almighty God,
As I cross the threshold of this day
I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends, to thy care;
Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me.
Incline my heart to thy ways;
Mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay;
May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound thy praise;
Let those around see me living by thy Spirit,
trampling the world underfoot,
unconformed to lying vanities,
transformed by a renewed mind,
clad in the entire armour of God,
shining as a never-dimmed light,
showing holiness in all my doings.

Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands.
May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.
In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven,
and my love soar upwards in flames of fire,
my gaze fixed on unseen things,
my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility,
mockery of earth and its vanities.

May I view all things in the mirror of eternity,
waiting for the coming of the Lord,
listening for the last trumpet call,
hastening unto the new heaven and earth.

Order this day all my communications according to thy wisdom,
and to the gain of mutual good.

Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.
May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one.

If my life should end today, let this be my best day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Autumn is in the air

Italians are very in tune with the seasons.
It dictates how they dress, what they eat, and basically the cycle of the year.
You may be saying, "yea, yea we know seasons."
But, I'm telling you--you don't.

Take for example the weather right now.
In Florence, maybe its getting to the high 50's these days.
It is unusually hot for this time of year, but since it's autumn and we are in November, that means you must wear a puffy coat down to your knees and a scarf at all times.
Katie wore short sleeves the other day and I thought she was going to get beat up.
You just don't wear your summer clothes in the fall.
Don't try it.
Forget your American thoughts.
If you are hot, suck it up.
This is scarf season.

So, needless to say, we need some cultural coaching.
One of the women on staff here is in charge of teaching us about culture.
She and her family have been here for five years and she seems more Italian than American.
And she inherited the Italian passion for seasons.
Meet Shandra:

So to catch us up to speed, we had a "taste of autumn" party on Saturday.

Autumn is very important because it is when the new oil and the new wine come out.
Olive oil and wine are like bread and milk in the States.
THE staples of life.

Its a big celebration when the new stuff arrives.
So our party focused on sampling two new oils and two new wines.

But before we could feast on the fall foods, we learned how to make them.
Shandra gave us cooking lessons.
I learned how to make Ribollita, which is a very Tuscan soup, only served in the fall.

And we made bread called stracciata or something.
Yea, that's right, we made bread.
Yeast and everything.
I was totally in awe.

So, for dinner we had: yummy soup, bread with new oil, fresh pecorino cheese, grilled sausage,
and to top it all off for dessert...

chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
no lie.
this phenomena exists.

At this point, I was just beside myself.
That Christmas song is no longer a mystery to me.

(that's what they look like)

I walked away stuffed, educated, and feeling more Italian.
One successful night.

Here in Italy we work hard (no joke), but we have also learned from this country how to take time to play hard.
Italians enjoy life.
Definitely my favorite cultural lesson so far.

So, don that puffy monstrosity in the 60 degree weather,
eat your salad after the other courses,
set a national date for when heaters can be turned on,
and enjoy!
Life is good.

We love autumn!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Life on the Run

I've been running in the mornings lately.

Now, this might not be big news to you.
You might be thinking, "good for her. She probably needs to work off some of that pasta/pizza/gelato/etc."

And you would be right.
But that's not the problem.

When I run I think.
Ah, yes, the pensive jogger.
That would be me.

I like to think that I run slow because my brain is working overtime.
I also like to making myself feel better about my turtle-like pace.

So, during these chilly mornings in the Cascine (park pictured above), as every possible stereotype of Italian culture passes my way, I think.

I think not only about the little old ladies that hook arms and stroll, or the pumped up jock who's shorts are way to tight, or the scores of people riding bikes and talking on their cellphones at the same time, or the adorable families pushing their "prams" and looking totally Euro, I think about me and the fact that I'm in Italy.

Sometimes it doesn't sink in the first time.
Let's try again.

I'm in Italy.

What the heck?!

Life is so weird.

I ride trains. I pay with colorful Euros.
I exist between two languages.
I have a bus pass, a winnie-the-pooh phone charm, and I wear boots all the time.
I see the Duomo every day. I make fun of tourists.
I have been proposed to twice. (I refused both times.)
I drink coffee at least three times a day.
I use clothes pins for their intended purpose.
I use a plastic glove to pick out my produce and I pay for my grocery bags.
I don't have air conditioning or a microwave or a dryer--and I'm fine.
My apartment is older than the United States.
My morning run is along the Arno.

It's a lot to take in.

Not to mention trying to share the Gospel in a different language.

Sometimes this living in Italy stuff is really hard.
I walk away from campus most days totally defeated.

Where are you Lord?
Are you at these impossible faculties?

Why can't I speak Italian?
Are my hand motions and expressive noises making any difference?

Use me Lord. Use the weak things to shame the wise.

Jesus, reclaim these hearts. These lives.

Not every tourist makes a point to see the Cascine.
But I highly recommend it to anyone who needs space to think, to listen, and to hear.
In the middle of this city, in the middle of this darkness,
it's my oasis.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And for the next challenge...

I have broken yet another computer.
I don't know how it happens.
I know nothing about computers
And therein probably lies the problem.

I killed my macbook.
That's like Lauren killing the mercedes.
It takes talent to ruin such good things.

So now begins a very fun game.
It's called "Fix your computer in Italy."
Think Amazing Race.

That's right.
Even though its Claire and Jess' dream, I'm going to live it for them.
I'd much rather be on Project Runway or America's Next Top Model, but oh well.

I have hunted down Apple stores in Florence, all to no avail.
But I did find one in Rome.
So now I have to book tickets to Rome on a train,
get off and try to find a store I've never been to,
and attempt to explain the problem despite my ignorance of computers and of Italian.

Maybe that cool "check point" guy will show up and tell me how fast I accomplished my tasks.

I've been thinking...
Since this is my second computer to lose,
Maybe after this year I will become a hermitess who does not depend on technology.
I could live in a cool grass hut.
Wear a hula skirt.
Have someone mail me VHS' of Gilmore Girls.
(VHS does so not count as technology...)

Who's with me?
I want to be a hermitess with friends.

(claire & jess-- don't worry, i will train you in my skills for a small fee.)