Clean Slate

I woke up this morning and didn’t even know where I was.  I looked around at the white walls and thought, did it finally happen?  Am I institutionalized?  I wouldn’t have been surprised but I was far from it.  I was sleeping in the guest room at my brother’s house.  I will be bringing them some wall art to prevent future confusion but it was an interesting exercise for my brain.  My recent emotional state has allowed for new and deeper thoughts and this morning, that white wall seemed to be a clean slate.  I thought about it over and over again.

The reason I am sleeping at my brother’s is because I do not want to be alone and I have finally allowed myself to admit it.  My brother and his fiance have been completely understanding and supportive and have taken me in like I belong there.  I don’t belong there though, in my mind I keep wondering how much of an inconvenience it is to them or, even worse, an annoyance.

People who are important know how to make you belong. Last night, I cooked dinner, we looked at pictures, we went out for ice cream and I never felt like a burden. It was exactly what I needed and I felt like that is exactly where I belonged at the time. Interesting how that happens when you give up on the thoughts and beliefs you have always held. The alternative was sitting alone in my empty house dreading each minute to come and the thoughts that haunt my brain when I am in that place. That is exactly where I would have been at a different time.

Today, I find myself thinking of that clean slate, thinking about how that small adjustment in my willingness to admit a need helped me. Now, I’m thinking of what else I can do.

I know, I can find productive things to fill my time that I now find empty. It’s fall in Pennsylvania! It’s my favorite season and it’s beautiful out. Time to find new happy places!

Here are some things to do, and places I found to visit:

     Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

     Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

     Valley Forge National Park (my fav)

     Horseback riding

I may have some new picture blogs this weekend! =)

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It is Friday and this is the first time we have eaten at a restaurant. Carmella is an incredible cook and the whole family helps her in the kitchen. It is great to watch (we can only watch because they do not let us help since we are guests). They are great Hosts!

The family, fellowship and laughter we shared around the table in this restaurant will be remembered by all of us. I will also remember that I cannot handle that much pizza! I was trying to translate “my pants are tight” as we finished up!

People have been asking for more food pictures so, as requested:









Yes, that was all one dinner!! Dio Mio!La pizza in Italia è magnifico!

Some of my favorite meals were at home, mostly because they were delicious but also because I could watch them prepare and cook. They did so with love and pride, in their kitchen, for their American family:





Tomorrow morning, I will leave the family and you can be sure there will be a sappy, emotional blog that will follow.




I am going to save most of the beautiful pictures, scenery and experiences from today for another blog. I want to focus on the incredible family time we had this evening.

Tonight, I was introduced to Elvira Di Renzo. She is our cousin’s mother and is 76 years old, living in Palmoli, Italy. Palmoli is 727 meters (ps. I don’t know how to convert the meters to feet but it is 2,385 feet says the internet) above sea level. It is up in the Appenine Mountains, but also only 15 miles from the Adriatic Sea, and is an incredibly beautiful town with views that I cannot describe with words. The drive up the hills was absolutely beautiful. It is about 20 degrees colder up there but when we saw a Shepard with his flock, we had to stop. I got some great pictures but we got ambitious and starting running toward them and they went running. The only thought going through that man’s mind was “who are these dumb Americans running after my sheep?” We just said Ciao and walked away with our heads down.

Elvira called me little Margie immediately (Margie is my mother and my grandmother’s name) and told me that she was already familiar from my Aunt Betty, who she was very close to also) talking about me. Although I hardly understood her, it was so special to me. Aunt Betty has been gone for over 10 years but she was definitely not forgettable for any of us.

She came with us to tour some Palmoli sites. We first visited the Castello di Palmoli and the garden was so simple but had the most amazing flowers. I took several pictures of them, of course. The funny part about this is that the castle was closed and locked but with one phone call and 10 minutes, the Mayor was there to open it for us. We got a tour of the castle (built in 1095) which was absolutely amazing. For some reason, I love old doors and windows and architectural detail and my pictures will show that. The castle provided so many opportunities to photograph but, of course, my phone died as soon as we climbed to the top of the tower. Yes, sadly that means no more pictures. The view from the top was unbelievable (I feel like I am running out of original descriptive words to use that mean amazing).

Next we walked to the church, surprisingly, we walked in right in time for mass. So, we stayed. I prayed for growing faith for myself and those special to me. Why did I feel like I was closer to heaven in this place? Italy has so much religious history, especially in the Catholic Church, it was nice to attend a mass.

After, I noticed that I could make a donation and light a candle in this beautiful, Italian church. My mother would have loved this place and I know she would so appreciate a special prayer from her daughter in the city where her Grandfather, Dominico, was born. So, I made a donation and started my special prayer and asked Elvira to join me to light the candle for my mother. The picture you see is of that happy moment for my mom, Margie (don’t cry Mom).

We walked through the cobblestone streets of Palmoli in the rain to return to the car to head to Elvira’s for dinner. Of course, she cooked for us. We sat around the table and talked about our family and ate cutlets and potatoes and peas! Everything was delicioso! She brought out Italian doughnuts after the meal.

She sat next to me, squeezed my arm and told me about working with my Aunt Emma, sewing clothes for my Grandmother and living with my Aunt Betty for three years (1966-1969) in Norristown. She talked about my mom being the energetic one (likely where I get it from) and my Aunt Donna being calmer. We saw a fantastic picture of them when they were younger and she told me to be sure to talk to them for her, including my mom, my aunt and my uncle. She had such a great memory and did well with English for having only lived in America for three years. She even remembered my mom’s little dog Pedro. There is something so amazing about sitting around the table with this family, understanding without speaking and feeling connected without ever knowing each other.

I practiced saying “I loved seeing you” in Italian over and over before it was my turn to hug her goodbye. Everyone left but me and my cousin and as she embraced me again, she said something I could not understand. She told her granddaughter to translate but she was obviously reluctant. Finally, she said “You should get married!”

Dio Mio, sempre in famiglia Italiana (my mother, sitting at home reading this, just said THANK YOU ELVIRA!).

On the way home, my cousin Lucia told me about my great grandparents. Dominico moved from Palmoli to America in 1902 and stayed for about four years. He returned to Italy to find a wife around 1912. He met Giovina and was married in Italy but he returned to America to find them a home. However, before Giovina could join him, the First World War broke out and no one could travel. For 10 years, she remained in Italy without her husband because of the war and the chaos that ensued. She lived miserably but was finally able to return to America and join her husband. By that time, she was late-30’s, but had three children (including my Grandfather, my great Uncle Anthony and my great Aunt Betty).

She is described as being very independent. Although she was illiterate, she worked and supported the family. For most of their children’s lives, their father was disabled so Giovina worked in an asbestos factory. She was driven and free spirited and had no fear. I feel so completely connected to my great Grandmother Giovina from these stories because it sounds like I take after her.

Conoscere la mia famiglia è incredibile. Grazie a Lucia per aiutare!

Pictures included: Domenico, Aunt Betty and Elvira when they were young, a picture of my mom’s generation when they were younger (mom- top left) and of course Elvira and I lighting the candle.




Perfect Morning

I had the most amazing morning. For everyone here, it is probably just a simple morning, nothing special or different at all, except for the funny little American girl who wants them to keep pouring more espresso sitting in the kitchen. I knew when I went downstairs that I would be the only one who spoke English. It was more than a little intimidating but I did it anyway.

Our cousin made me espresso and brought out all different kinds of cakes and cookies and bread (making me try all of them). I told him I want to try everything they eat and drink! There’s no shortage of food here and you must eat everything on your plate. I am not sure if it is my rule or theirs though because everything is delicious!! My cousin and I sat and talked and even though neither of us spoke each other’s language we can understand each other for the most part. You can almost get what someone is trying to say without the words if it’s kept simple. He showed me pictures on the Internet of places we will go today and tomorrow. Needless to say, I am so excited because everything looks amazing.

I had such a fantastic time just sitting at the table with my café and use my translator app to have conversations with my cousins. We talked about my aunt who I was very close with. I think it is amazing that they knew her well too. She always told me she wanted to teach me Italian and bring me here to meet them so it is very special to sit here and talk with them about her. They show affection so simply too. A squeeze on the arm while talking about Aunt Betty is so simple, yet very special.

You can see in the picture how I translate. She told me that the cake I ate was her mother’s recipe. I understood what she said but did not know how to respond. She was happy to hear I use my mother’s recipes (my future husband will be too– mmm spaghetti). I love this translator app!

I am now standing on the balcony that overlooks the lemon tree and amazing backyard. The view is beautiful and green, with a lot of trees. There is a tree in the backyard that I have never seen before, it is green but has these red tips of the branches that look like porcupine needles coming out of it. It is right next to the lemon tree which I know is used to make lemoncello often (Yes, I may have tried some already). In the distance there more trees, why is it that every tree in Italy looks beautiful? Each one has a different shape and looks so unique. I think the trees in America seem so straight and boring in comparison.

Off to the grocery store! This should be fun!





Post cards

Everything in Italy looks like it is from a post card. I didn’t believe that it would actually be as beautiful as it looks in the movies.

We were greeted at the airport by two family members to start our three hour drive to San Salvo. We had to make one stop for gelato, of course!!! It was absolutely wonderful. I quickly grew frustrated with the language barrier but our cousin knows English so she is translating for us (poor thing).

A large pasta lunch was waiting for us which was delicious. I felt so full, although little did I know, that was only part one. The food is wonderful, by the way. I accidentally fell asleep shortly after eating for a long nap. Then we walked to the beach to experience the Adriatic Sea. Of course I had to put my feet in.

I really should have learned Italian, by the way. We used a translator app to talk through their wedding album and old pictures. This is such a wonderful and personal memory.

Pre-dinner was great (yes I said pre-dinner) and then cutlets with lemons from the backyard. We all get along well and I am so happy that I am spending time with family.

Today was filled with things and places I wouldn’t have experienced in one of the big cities with a Tourist’s agenda. I could go on forever but I am exhausted.