it is monday nite
the eve before the first day of december
25 days before christmas
and i find myself exactly where i don't want to be.

- coming home to the dirty dishes, dirty laundry and dirty bathrooms i didn't get to before we left for the weekend.......

- sitting at a table covered with school papers i set aside "to look at later".........and realizing "later" is right now

- staring at a datebook filled with upcoming practices, games, volunteering, shows, parties, scouting events.........

- noticing a home that has yet to be decorated for any holiday so far this autumn.....

- unable to focus - on gifts, recipients, menus.......

- wondering how we'll pay for it all.............

- saddened by the thought that i will blink and once again christmas will be gone......

instead of stressing over it all
i am turning off my mind
and listening to my heart
i am deciding what is important to me this holiday season and making the choice to take it day by day. if i get to the *musts* - great.........if i don't - even better.
i am finishing my tea
and going to bed
tomorrow i will regroup
i will slow down

i will unthink about


helping those in need

about 3 years ago i got involved with preparing food for a local organization that provides meals for ex patients of our local state hospital. the year i joined they needed someone to take over the planning of the meal. i stepped up and was instantly hooked. my sil helped me that nite and together we have been doing this 2x a year....once in november and another one during the late summer.

from the beginning our children have been involved. they don't get a chance to do much of the actual food prep (it gets pretty crazy in the kitchen!) but they really enjoy serving the meals. the older ones handle the food - the younger ones hand out the plates and napkins. they both walk around together passing out hot cocoa and dessert.

i will admit - i was nervous at first to see if they would be scared of the guests. they are all poor and unkempt. their clothes are worn and dirty. some are loud...some overly friendly. but our children never seemed to mind.

this year my son asked if he could announce to his class that we were hosting dinner tonite - and see if anyone wanted to help. one of his friends came out and helped us.

i was so proud of my son tonite...not only of his compassion and eagerness to serve those less fortunate...but also of HIS pride in what we do - and how he wanted to share it with his peers and include them in the event.

last week my husband lost his job - again. tonite was the first time he could join us from start to finish. usually he swings by after work - just in time to finish serving. tonite he helped us cook, serve, clean up. it sucks being laid off right before the holidays. it happened to us last year too. but serving our guests tonite really puts things into perspective. we leave every time feeling happy. its such a wonderful time for all involved.

in fact - i'm not sure who appreciates these events more - the guests........or us.



during this time of the year,
beautiful days are a gift

when you find yourself in the midst of one...
embrace it

call your sister-in-law,
grab your niece and nephew

and instead of heading home right after school

take a detour to a local park.....

(side note: i am having serious camera issues! i'd love to upgrade to a slr. any recs?)


working hard.........

or hardly working............

just one of the many perks of working for your dad


italian belief - part 1: Mal occhio (the evil eye)

there are headaches - and then there are HEADACHES...the ones that just don't seem to go away regardless of what you do or what otc med you take. whenever we have one of those that don't go away - we ask mom mom to do "the mal occhio".

for as long as i can remember - i have believed in the mal occhio. i knew it was a really strong headache that you would get because someone was envious of you or admired you or just thought you looked so darn pretty that day. my mother would do her thing and poof it was gone. it wasn't strange at all - it was what it was. in fact - if you happened to think someone looked really pretty you would often say "i don't want to give you the mal occhio - but you look soo beautiful today!".

as i grew up and friends came over - i would get a kick out of them witnessing this ritual. it wasn't scary - maybe because we were so non chalant about it - but it was weird. i remember how surprised i was when one of my boyfriends not only believed it (he wasn't 1st generation american like i was) but practiced it in his family - and in english! i wanted to learn how to remove the mal occhio but he told me you could only learn on christmas eve at midnight......you know i have no idea whether that is true or not and come to think of it - i actually never even asked my mother if that was right! i guess b/c she is still around to do it i didn't feel the urgency to learn. we haven't done it a lot recently because there has been no need (maybe we get uglier as we age LOL) and if i do have it i just tell my mom - matter of factly - to remove it and its gone.

anyway - the other day my son was complaining about his headache - one that didn't seem to go away. because he has been sick i just assumed it was that or possibly dehydration...but then it occured to me maybe it was the mal occhio. we happened to be at mom mom's so i figured it would be great for the kids (my niece and nephew were there too) to finally witness this huge part of our italian culture.

first pull out the biggest knife in the house. i wish i had my camera to capture the look of shock on his face when mom mom first went towards him with it! she says her little mantra - makes the sign of the cross 3x and repeats that - i think 7 x. if she yawns while she says her mantra - that is a sure sign of the mal occhio. i used to love to wait for the yawn!

next she pulls out a plate of water and repeats the process over it.

now she grabs some olive oil and drops 3 drops over the water. the first one just explodes and vanishes. the other 2 stay put and form the "eyes" that have supposedly given you the headache.

finally she takes the water - rubs some across your lips then yanks your bangs. i'm not sure if that is a necessary part of the ritual but it was funny to hear the person yelp from the yanking! as a child i'd squeeze my lips shut so i couldn't taste the olive oil and brace myself for the bang pull - such a fun memory!
this morning i decided to do a little research on this custom so see what it was about. it was interesting to see the slight difference between what my mother does and what the universal belief is. i assume each region of italy had its variations. the part about the amulet stood out the most for me because i remember once - at around 9 years old - i was helping my mom make the bed and we had to flip the mattress. when we flipped mine there was little red pouch pinned underneath mine. when i asked her about it she said that when i was a little baby i cried constantly...so much so that my mother asked her mother what to do. my grandmother had her send my onesie to italy where my grandmother brought it too the local "witch" who made this amulet for me. my mom swears that once she pinned it to my bed i stopped crying............
so - do i believe in the mal occhio?
as an educated adult i can see the science/psychology behind why it would work. if you believe your headache will go away - it will. the first drop of olive oil that hits the water spreads and forms a skin over the water that prevents the other drops from spreading too - causing them to stay put and form eyes.............
yet - when i have a headache that just won't go away - or just feels different - i go right to my mom to remove it. so do my non-italian family members.
but mainly i don't want to give this up. like i mentioned in this post i love being part of a family the is still so deeply immersed in its traditions and beliefs. as each generation passes the richness of the culture will become watered down versions of what they once were. i feel a strong responsibility to keep some of these traditions alive for my boys and their future families....and it is easy for me to keep the traditions alive because i am still deeply surrounded by it myself! but what happens once i am gone?
who knows that will happen then - but i know that until that time comes i am going to make sure i do whatever i can to make sure the boys are fully immersed in those beliefs and traditions. as for me? like the secret language i cherish - i am going to remain fully present and appreciative of the gift i've been given - the gift of a rich culture and a family still deeply rooted in its beauty.



i'm out of focus.

it wasn't until recently that i started to notice. there were little signs all around me...hinting at something brewing - warning me to stop and pay attention.........complaining became the norm. energy waned. tempers flared. patience lessened. everything was a blur.

but intertwined within those moments were glimmers too - tiny moments of clarity reminding me that my lens can be adjusted - and the fuzzy can once again become clear.

my camera however is my journal....using pen on paper - not a keyboard. when i need to regroup i need to be unplugged....to focus on the glimmers and forget the rest. even though it seems these times are bad - i actually enjoy them. they are a gift. a second (or third or fourth!) chance to change attitudes and situations.....a time to refocus.