IMG_3079(The girls are wide awake at 2am)

I know that for a lot of people the connotation of “recovery” involves sobriety, reflection, introspection and an attempt to make progress into a healthier and more rewarding lifestyle. For me, this annual day of Recovery starts with opening a bottle of wine at 2am, cooking up some mac n cheese (use half the mac, all the cheese powder, half and half and butter) and watching the first three episodes of Survivor, along with vague thoughts that I will progress into a healthier and more rewarding day. Then I drift back to sleep until 8 am, get up and I’m highly productive unpacking a winter’s worth of clothing, paper work, pantry and craft supplies, shoes and plants from the car. I find my vitamins, take a shower and go to the store to fill the empty frig. Mostly with impulse purchases that look good because I’m really really hungry again now that it’s 1030 am.

I come home and pet, play with, fondle and share my rotisserie chicken with the girls while admiring the amazing view, dumbstruck all over again. Then I decide it’s time for another glass of wine (or two.) Then, I start wandering around in a semi-aimless funk looking for the biotin because I’m worried that my hair is falling out from the stress of yesterday’s drive and wondering why it isn’t in the box with all the other vitamins. And then it’s time for a nap.

Frankly, I’m not sure that it’s smart at any age to drive 653 miles, non-stop,  in one day with two felines, one hanging on by ancient claws to your lap, helping you brake at every clusterfuck on I-95 and one- the heavier one at 14#- wrapped around your neck like an airline pillow. At 67, I think it’s probably stupid. Especially without stopping for food and only once for gas and to walk Sophie to the back of the Suburu to the litter box. But we made it, starting at 6 am, circumnavigating one accident and humming “Satisfaction” through the last. A mere 37 miles from home we sat at a dead stop for 40 minutes. So close, so far away. Home by 530 pm, unpacked by 6, showered and watching the news by 630, in bed by 830 and up at 2am to start my Recovery Day.

On the other hand, the rewards of leaving the house months ago as though I was going to die pay off. The sheets are clean, the dishwasher is empty, there’s a clean litter box waiting for the girls, the filter on the refrigerator ice dispenser is raring to go.

IMG_3080(Willow only got so far this morning before she realized that it was not 80 degrees and there were no lizards in sight.)

I woke up to fresh snow. What?!?!? It was supposed to be Spring! But still, there’s a hint of it, the view is spectacular and my calendar is full. I’m ready to make the transition to fiber artist and gardener for the year. And tonight is mahjong! More wine! Good friends! Hurray!IMG_3082

Tomorrow I’ll get seriously straight. In the meantime: GO #nationalwalkoutday!!

Happy Birthday, Bud

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Here’s a post-Rome adventure bit, because it occurs to me that tomorrow is-was-Bud’s birthday. He died in March of 2014. Growing up I had my father, Russell and then when I was a teenager I had Bud, my stepfather. When I first started blogging back in 2007 Bud was alive and kicking lots of important environmental issues in the far distant reaches of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the UP of Michigan, at Lost Loon Lodge, right on the edge of Lake Superior. He and my mother were the subject matter of many a blog post, often referred to as The Bud and Jan Show. Eventually, through the wonders of the internet, other bloggers followed their wilderness adventures and at one point a blogging buddy of mine from Salem, Oregon got on plane and flew up there, just to spend time with Bud, known only to him through my weblog. Two old codgers, total strangers, both recently widowed, hunkered down together for four days at Lost Loon Lodge. After my mother died, Bud stayed on in the Keweenaw until he had a stroke while hauling groceries and spent the night in a four foot deep snowbank outside the kitchen door. By happenstance a neighbor discovered him and he was flown to the hospital in Marquette, warmed back to life and sent to live in Oshkosh near his daughter (my sister) Laurel. He did well there, mostly thanks to Laurel and husband Ian and my sister, Betsy who lives in Michigan and the good people at his assisted living facility. Those kind folk put up with all sorts of shenanigans as Bud turned into your classic aging lech. He propositioned his PTs, groped the nurses and induced his demented girlfriend, Helen, to bare her bosoms in the dining hall because, “Look at those casabas! Aren’t they spectacular? Melons like those should be shared with the world!” And everyone at the residence loved him because he was funny and kind and smart.

We would have Bud down here to St. Petersburg each February for as long as he could travel and so I found a couple of his 80th birthday party photos.IMG_1086

Also, as I was searching my hard drive for a photo of Bud just now I came across this letter I wrote him almost eight years ago. I miss you, Buddy, so much. Happy Birthday.

Dear Buddy                                                                                       March 15, 2010

Rich is in New York today so I thought that I would take a few minutes and write you a quick note. I tried to call you a couple times but I think you are out and about a lot of the time. I called Laurie and she said that they took you and Helen out to Chinese recently- I wish I could have been there for that.  I’d like to meet Helen and I love Chinese, and of course, there’s you. I miss you a lot and very often think of you, wish you were around so I could show you things. Florida is warming up- it’s perfect weather for Rich to play baseball but I’m starting to think about getting up to Asheville to plant a garden and get settled in.

They’ve started work on the Asheville kitchen remodel but they are running about 2 weeks behind because they had an unusually heavy and late winter with lots of ice on the mountain so it was hard to get dumpsters and equipment up there.  As of now, the kitchen is demolished and both bathrooms are out and they are starting to frame in the additional room so Rich can have a home office. I want to get up there soon to see the progress and also check to see if any owls have moved into the owl box we hung in a large tree near the house last fall.

I stay busy with my teaching and felting activities. Last month I sold a couple of large pieces at the local gallery and I also have some pieces in a show there right now, called the Artful Table. I’ve enjoyed this new form of art- felting- and I really have fun teaching it to others.

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I’ve also been very busy working with the birds down at Boyd Hill. Recently we lost our bald eagle, after she broke her leg, had surgery and then got an infection. It was very sad for me because I really loved her and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say she loved me, she certainly knew me (probably just as the white haired hand that brought fish and filled her bathtub, which she loved) and she greeted me every day.  We thought she was going to make a good recovery after the surgery- we even had an eagle specialist from Alaska assist via the internet-but then when everything was looking good and she was up and around, we found her one morning scrunched in the corner of her enclosure and it was downhill from there. There was a big article on the front page of the St. Pete Times about her so lots of people have been coming down to say how sorry they are that she isn’t there anymore. Then last week, we got a new baby wild eagle. This one won’t live at Boyd Hill- we put him in an already existing nest with a mother, father and two same age babies.  That involved having a tree guy climb way up, pulley up the baby in a duffle bag and put him in the nest with the parents circling anxiously. That whole episode reminded me of your nest on Gratiot Lake and also the time that we were there when the Fisheries and Wildlife guy came to band the babies.

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After we got the baby up there we had to monitor the nest through a telescope every minute of daylight during the first 4 days. That was a requirement from Fisheries and Wildlife when they decided to place him under our watch. His original nest was in a tree that came down in a storm upstate and he had a sister- she got put into another foster nest up there. I guess the original parents are just out of luck until next year when they will probably rebuild right near the old nest and try again.

Today when I put this in the mail, I’m also mailing my application to renew my therapist license. I laughed when it came and thought of you. I doubt I’ll be practicing again but I’m not ready to give up that lifelong professional identity so I’m going to renew it and still be a licensed psychotherapist.

The kids are good. Dan flew home from a tour in France yesterday and I haven’t talked to him yet but I know he was looking forward to coming off tour. They did a winter tour in the U.S. of 30 cities and then 10 in France so it’s been another long haul. Tours always exhaust him and now that he has Sarah as a girlfriend he misses her and wants to be back in Ann Arbor. I still haven’t met her but they are coming down here for Easter and I will be SO happy to see him- it’s been months! Abby is still doing the Hispanic version of the U.S. Census. She is so fluent that they have her recruiting and training Spanish speaking people. It’s funny that she and her Uncle Bruce have the same job. Mostly she is waiting to hear from Duke and they are waiting on funding. Because it is a doctoral program that is primarily research they don’t do much teaching to earn their keep so it’s a huge commitment for the university.  With tuition at 40,000 a year for 5 years plus living plus research travel it comes out to over a quarter million dollars per student over 5 years so the number they let in is limited to about 7-9 students. We hope she gets in but it would be a long shot- they had over 250 applicants. I’m not sure what her fall back plan is but I have confidence that she’ll figure it out.

Okay, I’m going to print this and pop it in the mail to you. Are you taking good care of yourself, eating well and enjoying your time with Helen?  I certainly hope so. I also hope the weather is good enough that you can get out a bit- maybe a short walk down to the little pond to enjoy some Spring days.  I love you lots, Vicki

IMG_1066.jpg(the younger, the better.)

Between there and here

IMG_2905.jpg(up and down in the elevator- a never ending source of fascination.)

It’s snowing in Rome today but I’m here at Home home. At least one of them. Soon I will head back to Asheville. I’m done with jet lag, taking care of annual appts (both Sophie and I go to the dermatologist down here, although not the same. Hers also clips her claws, a service that certainly isn’t covered by medicare.) and most importantly, getting my schedule related to my fiber arts life organized for the coming year. I’m late with that! IMG_2888.jpg(One solo bus ride across Rome to the finest fabric store. Like most, a tiny storefront door but then it opened into a 3 story fantasyland for me. This is the same store that provides the fabrics for all of the Vatican’s ecclesiastical clothing. Toweling, table cloth fabric and on the bottom, yards of the most beautiful Italian light weight wool for printing with botanicals- this purchase put me over my luggage weight limit.)

I’m on the fence about sliding this blog forward as just a, you know, general blog and I’ll figure that out over the next few days but I did want to wrap up with a few final images of my time in Rome with Arleigh, Abby and Misha. Those weeks will always stand out in my mind as the best time imaginable spent with Arleigh: so much more than just a simple Ama visit and now, of course, I miss her all the more. Also, it was the saddest of times for Misha and that added a layer of emotion for us all that was unexpected and heart-breaking. And then there was just the business of being strangers in a strange land. The kids adapt quickly and well in new countries but I found I had to work to keep pace with so many unfamiliar things that were essential to day-to-day living and the energy of a mighty frisky two year old. Despite walking numerous circles around the same streets in total confusion, I will say that I always found my way in time, never missed a scheduled pick-up at daycare and found all the places we needed for daily meals and oddities like crib sheets.  Here are a few images of my time there before moving onward.

IMG_2959.jpg(I’m having withdrawal pains from the fresh produce, especially the blood oranges from Sicily.)

IMG_2931.jpg(on a walk about the neighborhood)

IMG_2954 2.jpg(The Pope sits here sometimes. It’s his chair in any case.)

IMG_2958 2.jpg(no place to park? No problem! Leave it in the middle of the street for the entire day. Traffic was the single most terrifying aspect, especially once we witnessed the dead pedestrian)

IMG_2889.jpg(A quiet and delicious lunch for one at the Trattoria Etruria across the street. Homemade fettuccine carbonara .)

IMG_2802 2.jpg(It’s never to early to learn about tomatoes.)

IMG_2860.jpg(Going out in the dark for gelato was very exciting. Arleigh announced that it made her “wild”.)

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raison d’etre


(FAO-UN. And in the right hand corner, the smallest building, in a tiny part of the bottom level,  is Arleigh’s asilo nido (day care.)

I’ve just been a tagalong on this trip. The reason I came is to offer a bit of support while they get settled in and today, with Arleigh’s first full day of officially going and coming with mommy, it’s time for me to fly Home Home. At daycare she’s been working up to an hour longer each day and today is her first full day. Yesterday she made a new friend, “Tia” – or maybe it’s “Pia”- who comes from Paris but speaks English and has a parent also working across the street at FAO/UN. Apparently they hit it off, no doubt because Arleigh can understand her. (Still, Arleigh is clearly picking up far more Italian than I have and she jibbers away in it all the way home from daycare on the bus. She definitely knows “Come ti chiami?” because she answered the corner shopkeeper yesterday.)

IMG_2826.jpg(The view from the bus.)

This trip to Rome is about Abby, and the business of her work related to the world’s fisheries. She doesn’t like me to call attention to her, she never has. She’s a fairly private woman and while I try to respect that I can be known to trespass boundaries out of pride or vicarious pleasure or just plain parental enthusiasm. She did allow as how she would love to show me her office but a) it requires security clearance and b) it’s in a literal warren of offices that even she has trouble navigating. The building itself is huge, massive and sits cheek to jowl with the Colosseum and Circus Maximus. How odd to go to work everyday with such juxtaposed architecture!

image1170x530cropped.jpgApparently the Pope has security clearance; he’s been in that building to talk about world hunger and uniting global efforts to fight it. I would have liked to see the Pope but that didn’t happen this trip. I did go see one of his chairs today. The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is an astonishing place; it’s actually the mother church of the Catholic faith. The popes only moved over to St Peter’s a few centuries ago. (my friend Ken refers to all of this as OS; think a moment and you can figure that out. Rome is one giant mass of OS.) After about an hour in there I felt as though I had had sufficient brush with religious art and I was ready to move on. The big move tomorrow is going to be much harder. I miss this little one even when she is at school for a half day or taking a nap…Also, being here with her has made me even more painfully aware of something I think about often: I miss that Sebi boy so so much. I hate that I can’t see him more often and that there is such a physical distance. I’ll plan a trip north within the month. IMG_0017.jpg

It makes me feel good that Abby says it would be nice if I could stay and that she is sad that I’m going. We’re all going to be sad tomorrow morning but Grandpa Reech and Wiyow and Sophie call, as does my own need to refocus on felting and dyeing and teaching.

The Lady in Gold

IMG_2923.jpgThe Klimt Experience

I had noticed a billboard for this, where else but from the window of #673 coming home from daycare. One day it wasn’t there and the next day it was and whoa! lucky me! The exhibit opened February 10 about a mile from the apartment and so today, a day without Arleigh, I went. Although Arleigh would have loved it too! What a great, great exhibit. I have the free version of wordpress here that doesn’t allow for videos so I’ll post one over on FB, but wowser, it was great. And because I had read The Lady in Gold (and then saw the film) I was even more bowled over. Everything about it- sound, image, movement, documentation- brought Klimt to life for me.

IMG_2924.jpg“The life, the figures and landscapes of Klimt are the absolute protagonists of this immersive multimedia representation, dedicated to the founding father of the Viennese Secession. Works like Il Bacio, L’Albero della vita, or Giuditta, have become part of popular culture, yet Klimt remains an artist to be discovered and told. 
Klimt Experience offers the visitor unique emotions, a total immersion in a symbolic, enigmatic and sensual world, where the triumph of a timeless art and boundaries takes shape.
The evocative power of the soundtrack is unmatched by a latest generation Dolby Surround system; exceptional the visual impact of the 700 images of the exhibition and of the 3D reconstructions of the Vienna of the early ‘900. All images are reproduced, with a definition greater than Full HD from the laser projectors of the Matrix X-Dimension system. 
The introductory teaching area is set up with physical scenographic supports and stations for an immersive experience of virtual reality in Klimt’s most famous masterpieces …” 

IMG_2928.jpg(the fabric in these dresses! The colors and prints!)

And the really cool thing? The exhibition is housed in a building that was formerly the first women’s hospital in Rome, c. 1520.

Stopped in our tracks


When last I checked in it was Friday and both the weekend and Daddy were coming so the three of us girls were in a pretty good space. On Saturday morning, I suggested that I take us all out to breakfast at a sweet little sidewalk trattoria I’d seen in the old town area and then we could check out a park on the way back that looked great for children. And then Arleigh could nap and Abby could work and I could figure out dinner while we waited for Misha, who was due back right about meal time. Off we went on the bus and then, not sure quite where to get off, we over shot our stop by a couple and ended up in a part of town that had absolutely nothing to offer us except a nightmare maze of confusion: the Termini. Arleigh was getting very antsy on an empty tummy and we were all frustrated. You would think that by now the bus system would be clear and easy, or perhaps that I am a total idiot in figuring it out. But you would also think that buses run on their posted schedules to the places they claim to be going without odd little detour jaunts around an area that is totally unfamiliar. We ate overpriced not good food and found another bus stop, after a lot of wandering, that would take us to the park. We stopped there at the Victor Emmanuel playground and Arleigh enjoyed the small children’s amusement park area (it’s really quite nice) but by then we were tired so we again hopped on the bus to head home- and within a few stops realized we were headed in the wrong direction, right back to Termini where every train, metro, tram and bus in the entire Western world come and go. Off the bus, cross the street, wait for the next one. Both Abby and I were very much on edge and we were riding along trying to keep Arleigh awake so she would actually eat some lunch and take a proper nap. Then the bus came to a stop as numerous police cars were actively cordoning off the area. There was a dead body in the middle of the street. The bus was no more than 15ft and it was all in our direct and close line of vision. Fortunately Arleigh was down in her stroller. It was a shocking thing, apparently a pedestrian hit by a car. The bus didn’t move for a while and we just stood there, along with all the other passengers in stunned silence.

After we  got home we couldn’t even mention it to each other until hours later. During that time and since then I’ve thought a lot about how we all communicate about terrible and shocking events. Privately, publicly and through the media. I’ve thought about public grief and the advantages and disadvantages to us as we try to cope with these things. I’ve wondered if we dilute our own personal ability to organize and mend ourselves emotionally and if “public” noisy mourning in some way substitutes for more centered strength, insight and resiliency.  I don’t know. During my time here in Rome I’ve watched America reacting to another mass murder of youth. We saw this accident. And there is personal grief. Every where, looking for solace.

This is my last full day here and I have lots of other interesting bits and pieces and sweet little interludes, photos and good times so I’ll add those later on today and tomorrow during travel time. This time spent with this little part of my family has been time I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s been the very best place for me to be.

Right now I’m headed off for an art exhibition about Klimt I’ve been eager to see.

Time out!

7E602A16-9A13-45E8-8CCF-9D24EBD0B33B.jpg(provocative little thing. Nothing like her mommy.)

The surest way to get “time out” is to stand on a chair in the middle of the kitchen. “Arleigh! Danger! Ama’s trying to cook dinner!” Unfortunately there is an attractive quality to time outs because Arleigh loves to count to 10. So, sitting on the bed while Ama yells “1! 2! 3!…” is a lark. If I drag it out, hoping to get one more pepper prepped, I’ll hear: “FOUR! Ama say FOUR!”  And so on.  This is a lot like riding a bike. It all comes flooding back.

This week has been a painful sort of time out from what we expected. Daddy is in Russia and we think of him all the time. Arleigh was sweet on FaceTime with him and her gentle grandmother last evening. Abby sends photos every day. Tomorrow, late in the day, Daddy will be back to Rome Home and we will continue on until I leave for Home Home later next week.IMG_2817.jpg(Areligh modeling her hat and mittens with her “smile!” face in a photo for Daddy.)

The buses here in Rome take frequent “time outs.” If you are recent to bus life in Rome you might think that no one really buys or uses a ticket and it’s secretly free for the residents. Everyone gets on, gets off, no one goes near the ticket validating machine. So you start to feel foolish about scrounging around the neighborhood for a tabacci shop to buy tickets. I mean, why should I pay? (Of course, they don’t sell them on the bus. And the bus driver is completely encased in a dark phone booth type thing and totally inaccessible.) And then you find out that every once in a while the bus makes an unexpected stop and the bus police come aboard and fine people, including nuns, 50 euros if they don’t have a time-stamped ticket.

I am totally deranged when it comes to the bus schedules and my daily routines depend on them. The Montessori themed daycare would like me to collect Arleigh at precisely 330 but not 334 or 314. I am constantly  using the Moovit app to calculate arrivals and subsequent departures and how long it will take to put on boots and coat and get a brief rundown of the day and load her into the stroller with all 5 points buckled because, god forbid, she should lurch out of it…and then, as I huff to the stop with heart pumping and Arleigh shrieking with delight, “Go fast!” the bus sails on by. We’ve missed it by 15 seconds and stand in the chill wind for another twenty-four minutes. Or, it just doesn’t come at all. Probably diverted by the bus police.

IMG_2826.jpgToday when I picked up Arleigh, I snatched her away from her teacher with a clearly odiferous diaper because I didn’t want to be delayed by a change and we rode home with cleared seats all around us, no problem. Arleigh munched her raisins, calling out “Colosseum! Guys on church! (the statues atop St. John Lateran) Raven!” She can only see things that are up high from her low seat in the stroller but Ama is already teaching her her bird IDs. I studiously avoided the critical eyes of all the Ama- aged ladies on the bus.

AFD497DB-4CE9-4573-A5C6-19EB62B1CAD1.jpgBut before I picked her up, I took a little Ama time out and headed off to a small artist boutique in the old quarter of town where the owner is a felt maker. This involved a lot of additional bus schedule planning last night and also, when my phone navigation app says, “go NE for 30 meters and then turn W at Via Della Penitenza”- really? I mean, really? Still, it was a spectacularly beautiful day, the sky was the bluest blue, the sight-seeing was grand and the shop was quite nice. Not great, and I left feeling better about my own work as a felt maker, with my fingers itching for wool. Soon. First, I have to figure out how I can possibly say “Time’s Up” to this lovely child and her parents.


The Lonely Hearts Club…


(yes, that would be St. Valentine’s head in a box)

in the home of St. Valentine. Everywhere we turned today, the city was awash in romance. Abby texted early in the day from the UN wondering why people were dropping chocolates here and there. It’s common to have flower stands on every street corner here and I love that almost more than I love the food. I make it a habit to have  flowers all the time in the house at home, mostly your grocery store garden variety. But here? The flowers are always fresh, brilliant, very affordable and today, each corner flower stand had expanded by easily three times the usual space. Men on buses, in the apartment complex, around the cafes all had large elaborately wrapped and bowed floral arrangements. Are those for their wives?!? Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.36.00 PM.png(on our near corner)

Rich knows how much I like flowers and he’s gotten so much better over the past couple years (2) about bringing flowers (after numerous episodes of sniveling and whining on my part) and this year I had something special planned. In St. Petersburg, there is a prize-winning floral shop that holds “floral therapy” workshops- so clever and I’m certain, profitable for the shop designer. Her store is next to the best Italian market in all of south Florida (Mazzaro’s) and she has them cater a simple buffet dinner, wine and dessert and then everyone makes a floral arrangement, always with some theme and they all turn out beautifully. My good friend across the street (Other Vicki) and I signed up six months ago for today’s floral therapy session, themed for Valentines Day. It wasn’t cheap and it filled instantly and we were all excited about taking our respective loutish guys to flower arranging class. Then Rome came up and Rich had no date, which made us both sad. Then the neighbor’s husband died and Rich invited the newly widowed and she was pleased, but she came down with a sore throat today. So Rich got booted because it was for couples only.  Crum. Really- crum! Next year we’ll do it but now he’s there and I’m here. Crum.

Misha is in Russia with his family and sadness abounds and we three girls are living in the moment. Things are going okay, although Valentines Day in a city awash in flowers and candy is not so much at the front of our minds right now. But we’re doing okay for ourselves.

Arleigh had her best day yet at daycare, taking a full-on nap and creating a glittery, gluey, gloppy card for mommy. We took her primary teacher, Ms P., a fragrant white hyacinth. Arleigh loves her because as far as I can tell, she is a constant source of comfort to Arleigh as she moves forth in the play room making friends, in the dining area eating pasta and today in the slumber room. And she is very fond of Arleigh.

IMG_2815.jpgI went to the best chocolate and tiramisu establishment in all of Rome, bought both and a nice card for Abby, Misha and Arleigh. We will refrain from breaking into them until Misha gets back on Sunday. I bought Arleigh a new red hat because it has been unseasonably cold and I haven’t had a chance to knit her one. She loves it. I also stopped at the corner market where I am madly, truly, completely smitten with the owner (love the one you’re with?) AND his wife. It’s an amazing little establishment and today we bought hand cut potato gnocchi and a fine bottle of wine ( 6 euros for a regular size as opposed to Simply’s 3 euros for a half gallon jug of quite palatable red). He always comes from behind the counter to offer Arleigh a treat- a tiny fresh pizza, tissue-y thin dough with powdered sugar. She is hopelessly shy and coy with him but once we leave the store and get about 100 m away she calls out, “Ciao! Ciao!” (I’ll get a photo of this man at some point and you’ll see what I mean.CE7E8FD4-85D4-4E63-B2A7-FD47F34F7624

(Arleigh’s new Valentine’s Day hat. And her expression when you say “happy face!” to take a picture.)

All that is reliably known of the saint commemorated on February 14 is his name and that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. He was beheaded for marrying Christian couples.  Apparently, prior to about 100 AD ALL Christians were supposed to be celibate. That didn’t occur again in a religious sect until the Shakers got shaking in the early 1800s and we all know what happened there: social services came into being and then you couldn’t just dump your surplus children on the nearest Shaker community so they died out.

cropped-43dc2c89b81da3de548086ba3de193ee5.jpg  Here’s a part that I like: Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy, among many other things. Saints are certainly expected to keep busy in the afterlife. Their holy duties include interceding in earthly affairs and entertaining petitions from living souls. In this respect, St. Valentine has wide-ranging spiritual responsibilities. People call on him to watch over the lives of lovers, of course, but also for interventions regarding beekeeping (hey! he no doubt helped the Shakers who were miracle workers when it came to agriculture and animal husbandry) and epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting and traveling. And you know how I am fascinated by all things plague plus we are indeed traveling. (No one has started fainting yet and in fact, on the upside, my bowels have gotten with the program.) And, as you might expect, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages. The flower-adorned skull of St. Valentine is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. That’s not on our list of must-see attractions.

And then Mommy came home from work and brought us flowers.

Non capisco


There are so many things that I don’t:  STEM stuff in general tops the list and although I truly wish to know more about science and technology, I fear that ship has sailed, that horse is out of the barn. I have a fair amount of hands on experience, especially of the natural science kind, but back in the days of my formal education I was your basic liberal arts learner.  I guess that is still pretty much true, although in the last few years I’ve taken to reading a lot of books about great expeditions and scientific explorations as well as literature about plagues and germs. Fascinating stuff. While language and arts remain my strong suits, here in Rome I am completely overwhelmed by the magnitude and far too short on time and attention to understand a fraction of what this eternal city has to offer.


Today I was riding the bus to pick up Arleigh- Abby had dropped her off early so it was the first time I was alone. It was the first time I wasn’t scrounging around for dropped items, capturing a rolling stroller or scouting for the hand sanitizer. I was able to take a close and attentive look at our immediate neighborhood, which houses among other things, the Archbasilica of Rome, ( Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista in Laterano) Most of us think of St. Peter’s as the be all and end all, but in actual fact the Basilica of St. John Lateran sort of has it hands down as the mother church of the Catholics. This is a church that has more inner beauty; beyond the front portico it’s kind of drab and block-y. It is enormous, I’ll give it that. And it is the oldest public church in Rome.italy-oct-08-147.jpg

I am quite certain that when it comes to acquiring religion, that ship has also sailed for me. I don’t understand much about Catholicism, beyond the obvious and what you pick up going to episcopal churches off and on, sort of “Catholic light.” There are a lot of nuns around here. I think Lent, which starts tomorrow, is a pretty big deal here, following on the heels of Carnevale (think Fat Tuesday and paczki). On the other hand, when it comes to faith, I’m still a work in progress and being in this particular city can’t help but make me ponder that part of humanity that is more than dust to dust. I went so far as to look up the schedule for pope sightings and this coming Sunday is a good possibility. I very much like the current pope and I think a child with the name Arleigh Francis deserves a glimpse. Especially since she was so impressed with the Pantheon. She’s still talking about the open hole in the ceiling and the grandma holding the baby (an enormous statue of Mother and Child but I appreciate her perspective.)

IMG_2799.jpg(she was trying to get me to understand that she would like to trade in the stroller for this Hello Kitty scooter.)

Arleigh is very reflective for a two year old and for the most part takes things she doesn’t comprehend in stride, including the work of acclimating to a new school where no one really speaks much English (or Russian) other than her primary teacher. Quite comically, several times a day she’ll come up to me and say very earnestly, “AMA! glopityoianknf gjoskah daklghmns ncuipwncoim! Poop! djinosnmps qwuryeo! I want raisins!” It’s not all light-hearted though; as we got off the bus at our stop today she teared up and said, “No Rome Home! HOME!”  I understood that quite clearly.

A very sad time

Misha has flown to Russia to be with his mother and family while Abby carries on here with her new work and Arleigh, with assistance from Ama. My sadness can’t begin to touch theirs but my heart aches for them and for Arleigh, to lose her grandfather so suddenly and far too soon. (please no comments on FB- thanks.)IMG_0455.jpg