Lessons from Jax…

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He was here for only a short time but I learned so many lessons from him that I’ll keep forever. Maybe you can take a lesson from Jax too.

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Thursday night, Jax got really sick, and I knew it was time. His last days were fun for him, I stayed with him most of the time and played with him and fed him a lot! He was in my arms and the last words he heard were “Mommy’s here.” He is not in pain or suffering anymore which makes it all okay but it doesn’t get easier.

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When I got home right around midnight that night, I knew I wouldn’t sleep so I started collecting his things. I knew I wouldn’t want to come home and find a toy or a treat laying around. Of course, I missed a few so that’s exactly what is happening. I didn’t realize how many weird and random hiding places I had for things. I did what I could to get my house back in order and then I headed to my office very early. I know there is a lot to catch up on after spending so much time with Jax.

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I learned that people are understanding.

Then I ended up in a coffee shop and a field of flowers, literately. I stayed distracted until late afternoon when I had to accept it was time to go back home.

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I learned that a happy environment is the best place to be when you’re sad. I tend to hide out when I’m hurting but I think it actually prolongs the pain to stay isolated for too long.

I learned to be really friendly to people, especially children, when I’m sad. Their response to your friendliness in most cases will actually really cheer you up!

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I learned that I am completely inspired by pet owners. They are incredibly passionate, loving and protective of their pets and of other pet owners, and they are pets too! It amazes me how they will reach out, even if they’re strangers, some people you haven’t talked to in years and even people who you don’t get along with. Pet owners understand each other, and they step up to the plate when they know there is a problem.

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I learned about the Rainbow Bridge.

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I knew that going home was going to be hard. The first thing I saw was his empty cage. The house is quiet and empty and, for some reason, it seems bigger without him in it.

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As I walked up the steps, I still look down like he was going to be walking next to me. And I thought if only there was a way to erase everything from the last six weeks, I would do it. I thought the best thing to do would be to forget that any of this nightmare ever happened. That’s when I really stopped to think.

I learned exactly why I run from everything and everyone. When you would rather not take the risk of being hurt than just being without feeling, you really do miss out on a lot.
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It would be a mistake to forget my time with Jax. Some people would say, “he was just a dog,” but to me he was a lot more. You see, before Jax, I would have said that in my entire adult life, I never thought I was good at anything but my job. I learned a lot about Jax and his condition, but I also really learned a lot about me.

I’ve learned a lot about things I do and how I treat myself and people.

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I’d have never gotten attached to anything or anyone. I’ve always done that on purpose, I’m told it’s a defense mechanism. Except, in the last two years since I moved back home, I started to feel like that was a mistake, and being good at your job is not enough to make you happy. I knew that something had to change but I’ve struggled with feeling heartless and detached sometimes. My experiences in trying to open up we’re complete failures and I ended up hurt more than I started with so, again, I withdrew. Jax taught me though that it is worth the risk to have the attachment.

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I learned that I have a big heart and I am not selfish.

I learned that I can handle anything.

Jax got scared and cried a lot at night because he was sick and I would rock him to sleep. A lot of nights we were up every two hours. I was exhausted and I loved him anyway. It changed my life and how I spent my time and I loved him anyway. I would’ve done anything for him and I gave him all I had to give.

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I learned that I am capable of that, and even through a very tough and hurtful situation.

I learned that I believe, even more than I did, that God will never allow you to have more than you can handle. I operate in extremes, I always have, and sometimes I need extreme situations to learn from.

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The thing is, I’m actually kind of excited about exploring all of the new lessons I just learned. It’s interesting because I had a conversation this morning about how I have guarded myself so well and kept everyone out. It makes so much sense now. I just went through exactly what I’ve been hiding from all this time, in friendships, relationships and in life, not just in pet ownership. These are life lessons.

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I learned not to be afraid to ask for support and not to be guarded with friendships. I have always been so worried about being independent and saying “I can handle it,” I would never ask for help. When it hurt so bad and I couldn’t do it alone anymore, my entire world stepped up to support me. People were amazing. I even cried in front of people, often. I am so glad I let great friends in to help me when I needed it. People are not perfect, some friends will disappoint you, but you’ll never have an opportunity to know great friendships if you let a fear of bad ones keep you away.

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I learned that we’re not meant to go through life alone.

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In another conversation, we talked about how I’ve let myself get consumed with only men who would never treat me right and would hurt me because it would be shallow and easier to detach from. Now though, I know that men who don’t care about me enough don’t deserve to have me caring about them.

I learned that I have so much to offer people, pets, family, friends, co-workers, etc, that I deserve to surround myself with people and things that care, support and treat me like I treat them.

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I learned that I am a good friend and a lot of people thought I deserved good friendship in return.

What I have just learned, is that my job is not the only thing I am good at.

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I learned that I can be an amazing wife, and a wonderful mother and with a family I will find the perfect new puppy to raise in my house. There is a man out there who will be amazing enough to get through to me, and to put up with me, and I will give him everything I have just like I did for Jax. I don’t know him yet, and I know God’s timing is always right but the next time I get a puppy, it will be because we will raise him or her with our children. Although I know it makes some of you sad, I will not get another puppy before that. I know what you’re thinking… I know that the chances of this happening again would be unheard of, that is not the reason.

I learned that something like this, that is so close to your heart, is incredibly difficult to handle alone. Not only because he was sick, but even the bottom line care he deserved, the love and training he needed and the heartache when something was wrong.

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I have learned that being independent does not have to mean being isolated or alone.

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I have learned that it is okay to be sad, that I can give myself compassion and that crying is not bad.

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I learned that, at the end of the day, it would have been easy for me to shut down and never realize any of this, and at another time in my life, I probably would have. Today though, I am happy and proud to have gone through every moment and challenge with Jax. I remember being in the pet store and saying, “this puppy is sick, I can’t afford to take him home and risk him not getting better. I can’t handle that.” I literally said that, and more than once. There was never a chance that I was going to leave there without him though.

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He was meant to be with me, to teach both of us about the beauty of life that we both would have missed without each other…

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-L
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CUTE AS A BUTTON, SICK AS A DOG…

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On Friday, August 29, I excitedly called my brother because I saw an 11 month Female German Shepherd ready to be rescued. I didn’t think much about it, because I didn’t have to, she would be perfect. He said, “Let’s go!” So, I packed my office up and went to get her. When we got there, it was clear I couldn’t have her. She could not be around kids, didn’t even like people and was aggressive. Of course, I was disappointed.

I asked Billy if we should go play with puppies and the puppy store to make me feel better. It sounded like a good idea because there’s not really ever purebred German Shepherds in the pet stores and I knew that is what I wanted. So, we did.

We walked in the door, and in the first window there he was. I don’t even remember it but when Billy thinks back he tells me that I just said, “that’s my dog! Can someone please get me my puppy!” I instantly fell in love with him. We took him out and played with him and we both basically knew there was no going back. There was just one little thing, he was very thin. At the time, I was told that he had stopped eating and his muzzle swelled so they had to take him to the vet to have an abscess tooth pulled. He had been put on a very strong antibiotic and he was only halfway through and that was causing him to get sick.

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Of course, me being me, I knew that I can fix that. I will get a special food, I will wean him off the medicine and I will love him so much he won’t even know that he was ever sick! Well, that was the plan anyway….

He stopped taking the medicine, but continued to get sick. I took him to vet after vet and no one could tell me what was wrong with him, only that he was too thin. Most mornings, he would wake up getting sick starting at 3 AM so we sat on the floor and cried together because we were both so tired. He would get sick often through the day, I would do anything I could think of to get him to keep his food down. I tried changing his food, I tried giving him special organic food, I tried blending his food and most recently I started cooking for him. If you can imagine this, I cook chicken and then put it through the garlic press and cut it up really small to make it soupy for him to drink.

Every feeding takes about an hour and a half to be fed 8 to 12 times a day. That was okay though, because I could handle it and we would find what was wrong and he would be okay. We signed up for puppy classes and went every weekend. He listens so well and is very well-trained. He was already sitting and laying down after only a week or two. I have to give Billy some credit for that too. He is so attached to me, we didn’t even have to teach him the “come” command in class. When the teacher held him and I walked across the room, he ran to me immediately as she let go before I even said to come. We did a lot of training at home too!

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He was only 12 pounds, playing and going after my brothers 115 pound German Shepherd, Chopper! Watching them play was so much fun.

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He made so many friends in the neighborhood. It was like Cheers, but only…. everyone knew HIS name, not mine!

He hates his cage!

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He loves going for walks, especially at Valley Forge..

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He loves car rides…

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He even loves the beach!

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Anyone with access to my social media pages saw happy pictures and outings with my puppy. I took him everywhere. He even spent plenty of time in my office with me. See, he requires special care so I have to pay special attention to him and spend more time with him than normal. In addition, because he is sick, he is so cuddly. When you think of the new puppy, you think of them running around like crazy and chewing on things and being terrors. My Jax doesn’t get to be a normal puppy. He doesn’t feel good most of the time, so I spend a lot of time just holding him. He takes his naps in my arms, he sleeps at night on my chest so I can make sure his heart is still beating and he sure has become my family.

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Two weeks ago, a vet told me that I should think about getting another puppy. I was appalled. After thinking about it though, I appreciated his honesty. He pointed out that sometimes there are sick puppies and they just should not be sold. After going through this process I started hearing a lot of stories about sick puppies coming from pet stores. Now, I am not ready to get into that but I can tell you this, my Jax is a sick puppy.

He has seen five different vets. He has gone through emergency services, he has had bloodwork, X-rays and ultrasounds. None of which were conclusive. Yesterday, however, we found someone who could find the answer and it was not good. I had myself convinced that he had a condition called megaesophagus. Even though the symptoms didn’t match exactly, they were very close and I researched all night and decided that is what he had. I started taking the advice of the Internet on how to feed them and work through it in a different way. This new vet told me immediately that he did not have this condition. Actually, he did a barium dye test which showed a congenital defect which explains part of the problem, but there’s more.

To make a long story short, Jax is starving to death while we look for answers and he is not even healthy enough to have a surgery. I am stopped on the street by people telling me he is too skinny. He is going to be five months old and he is a large breed dog and he is barely 14 pounds. I have really run out of options and it is clear that he is suffering.

As I write this, my little Jax is laying on my chest, snoring just a little bit, completely oblivious to all the problems of the world. I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around why this happened but I know that he has had love and happiness through his struggle. I gave him a good home and did all I could for him. I also know he would not have had that if he would have been left in the pet store that day….

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CAR ACCIDENTS FOR DUMMIES

… Does the book exist?

Car accidents are no joke. It’s hard to know what will happen, or plan for something you don’t know will happen. My luck, I was on my way to get my hair done at the salon for my brothers wedding. I took a specific route so I would pass the Dunkin’ Donuts and be able to get a cup of coffee. Coffee addictions are no joke either.

There were two cars turning in front of me and the 7-Eleven and I heard a loud noise behind me. I quickly realized that I was about to be part of a car accident. Two guys driving up the street weren’t paying attention and hit a car, who hit a car, who hit me.

There were people with injuries, so I helped as much as I could, and then waited to see what happens next without really paying attention to the discomfort in my back. Honestly, I was really concerned about missing my hair appointment, horrendous, I know!

After all of the paperwork was done, and ambulances left, I went on my way to get my hair and nails done. As the day went on it got harder and harder to walk. I started to have pain all through my back and my leg. I thought, “surely, this can’t be happening right now.” Injuries do not wait for it to be convenient, that is for sure. I ended up with with and having to get pain medicine to get through the flight to California… and the wedding.

Now, I had contacted my insurance company after the accident and I assumed that all of my bills as a result of the accident would be taken care of. As the pain got worse and the tests required started multiplying, I checked on my insurance and my rights.

Limited tort is a very important designation on your insurance policy. It is because I have limited tort on my insurance, I cannot bring a claim against the insurance company for not only pain and suffering but the expenses that I have incurred since the accident. Because of injury to my ankle, I was not allowed to drive for two weeks and I continue to have pain. I have been in physical therapy for two months. I lose two hours of my day every other day to do so. In addition, I have had to pay people to take care of simple things that I can no longer do.

After dealing with the pain and the restriction that it caused for sometime, it became very frustrating. I met with Lawyers, which was an interesting experience, but there was not much they could do because I had limited tort. In addition, my insurance policy only covered up to $5000 in medical bills. If you know anything about the medical field, you know that will not get me anywhere. I have been in chiropractic care, had x-rays on my neck and back, seen a general practitioner, had x-rays on my ankle, been to orthopedic specialists multiple times and had two MRIs. Those costs alone, before physical therapy, far exceed $5000. So what happens to those costs?

Well, in my case they turned over to my personal insurance company, who denied them. The amount of hassle and stress that this accident has caused has been incredible. I now know that life will not be the same, as I am restricted by my injuries. I have back pain that prevents me from doing things that I have always done. I cannot wear heels, and I love heels, and I can’t even blow dry my hair. The mental and emotional ramifications of the injuries and the restrictions are serious.

There is, pretty much, nothing I can do about it, because I chose limited tort. Apparently, limited tort is cheaper in your monthly payment. Insurance companies want you to have limited tort, I’m sure, so they do not get sued. Limited tort exists to eliminate your ability to make a claim against the insurance company, for expenses and/or pain and suffering.

I never pay attention when I sign something, so an insurance policy is an insurance policy. I never would have thought twice about limited tort, because I’m not the lawsuit type. I never really thought about what would happen in a car accident where I had injuries. Now, I know. I’ve change my insurance policy to full tort, and a much higher financial consideration for health and injury. Unfortunately, it took me living through it, to really know or understand it. Things that we take for granted every day, like walking, driving, wearing the shoes you want, are no longer luxuries for me. I walk into a physical therapy office in the morning in professional work clothes on…and sneakers! All ready to start my day in a way I never knew I would have to.

I don’t like it, no one would, however I know I have to do what is required to get better. I’ve always been the type to revolt against what a doctor would say or instruct me to do. This is different. I want to be able to walk.

If you are ever in a car accident, my advice to you:

Go to the doctor or hospital immediately. Even if you do not feel like you are seriously injured at the time, injuries take on new forms as time goes by. It is better to get checked out and be safe, and have it documented that you have injuries and you’ve been seen by a doctor. The insurance companies will not take your word for it if it comes down to it. Unfortunately, you have to protect yourself against greed and big corporate thinking.

Make sure you get all drivers information, the police report and the names and contact information of the police officers on site. Of course, be sure that the police are present, no matter how severe the accident.

Call your insurance company right now, and get full tort insurance.

Do not talk on the phone to the insurance companies, especially when they are recording the phone call. You want to be careful about what you say, because anything you say can and will be used against you. Again it is unfortunate, but it is reality.

Don’t assume because your car does not have much damage, that you are not injured. What I learned in this process is that in some cases the vehicle is not damaged at all but your body actually takes a more significant impact. It is better to be safe than sorry in this case.

If you need a lawyer, find a good one. Do not sign paperwork with the first person you meet, without regard for the terms and conditions. Personal injury can be an opportunity for corruption, so you want to be sure you trust your lawyer.

Keep a file. No matter who is involved, be sure to keep copies of all of your paperwork and documentation. You never know what will come up or happen. Things will be questioned along the way and you have to be sure you know what is documented so that you can be sure you are properly represented.

For me, I’m going to continue with my physical therapy, I am going to be determined to improve every day, week and month. I’m going to do everything the doctors tell me to ensure that bulging disc and vertebrae and tendons don’t bother me for the long-term. As much as I would love to have a little talk with the driver who caused this accident, I forgive him. He has changed my life. But it could’ve been much worse.

Cooking Italian

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Have you ever missed something so much, you could almost taste it???

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This week, I called in reinforcements to bring me back to the place that I love. He is a dear friend and was born in Italy and he showed me how to make an authentic, homemade Italian pasta dish.

One thing I realized when I was in Italy is that I have been cooking Americanized Italian food. It was quite devastating actually. I bought several cookbooks while I was there but nothing beats being taught in person.

That morning, I was in the grocery store with my list that he provided. All of the ingredients for this meal were different from what I would have used in the past. I found all of the ingredients I needed and then thought to get some extras to have a nice little tasting of some of the things I brought back.

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He started off making the sauce. He used his hands with the tomatoes. The Italian cook is not afraid to get their hands dirty, that is for sure. He told me I should buy a food mill… I have never heard of a food mill before but I will be sure to purchase one. As he combined the ingredients in the sauce, and it started to boil, I smelled it immediately. This kind of Italian cooking smells different from the Americanized versions.

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Then came the pasta…. The flour is made into a ring on the countertop an the eggs go inside the ring. So, as it mixes (again, with your hands), the flour is added very slowly and you can keep track of the texture.

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When the dough was finished, we wrapped it and let it sit, stirred the sauce and then sat at the table for tasting!

First, I made a Caprese salad with tomato, mozzarella and basil. We split it into two on our plates to try two different versions of balsamic, one an 8 year and one a 30 year. This brought me right back to the vineyard in Italy where I first tasted both of these. I know that I’m here in my home , in my dining room, in Pennsylvania… But my mind is back in Tuscany with every bite. I remember waking up the morning that we found that vineyard and looking out the window thinking that it looked like a painting on the wall, like that view could not be real but something created only in someone’s beautiful mind and translated with a brushstroke. I remember that view creating a calm in me that I’ve never before felt. The fact that I had the opportunity to see that view with my own eyes is still amazing to me. A struggling, lost, poor, 21 year old girl with a dream of what life would be like at 30 created this opportunity. Today, I thank that young girl… I think my 21 year old self knew that at 30, Italy would be the beginning of my future beyond the challenge and hurt of my 20’s.

Next, I got the rosemary focaccia and two kinds of olive oil from two different vineyards we visited. I poured two bowls and we dipped. I remember the smooth taste of the bottle from the Casanova winery. This olive oil is wonderful and what we are using for the pasta and sauce too. The next one brought back the familiar, unique spicy accent in the oil. I really enjoyed this one but I remember Karrie didn’t care for it. I went back for more.

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So, now it’s time to make the pasta. These tools belonged to my grandmother. I clearly remember rolling pasta in these tools when I was a little kid. My mom’s kitchen was full of women including my mother, grandmother and great aunts. The island had a removable countertop and it became a huge wooden block to be used for pasta making on those days. It was loud and full of personalities. Today, there are just two of us and I am so excited as the pasta comes out. You have to bunch it but spread it out so it doesn’t stick. Each piece of dough is a process. Then, it goes in the boiling water. Pasta made from scratch does not take long at all to cook, which is nice because at this point, your mouth is watering.

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The pasta gets tossed with the sauce, you grate fresh Parmesan over it and get ready to enjoy!!!!

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What a great reminder of my trip, I could smell and taste it in my kitchen and I went right back to that special place!

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Happy Places

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Do you have one?

I love finding happy places. I can go to these places when I’m stressed out and immediately feel calmer.

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These days, it is Valley Forge park. Today was one of the days I needed a happy place and it worked. I took a long walk and found a spot under a tree again. There was hardly anyone in the park because the afternoon wasn’t quite over so it was just about silent.

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It is one of my most peaceful happy places.

When I lived in Birmingham, my happy place was Vulcan. It’s a big statue overlooking the city with a viewing tower at the top. I remember sitting up there and feeling like I was above everything. I liked being on top of the world. It has been some time since I got to go to my Birmingham happy place, but I do have it hanging in my house.

I love that place so much that my friend got me a big picture of the view from the viewing tower at dusk as a housewarming gift. It was such an amazing gift.

I had my staff Christmas party there last year. That was a great memory! I also took my little cousin there last year and went through the museum.

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I’m known to do a Laura twirl in happy places! The next happy place was somewhere in Oklahoma that I’ll never know how to find again.

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We just wanted somewhere to watch the sunset. I asked a Park Ranger. As soon as I got out of the car, I fell in love with it. I spun! I watched the sunset and I truly enjoyed every minute of it.

Of course, I was in my happy place all through Italy… But it was Venice that got the twirl.

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My next one is Niagara Falls.

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Of course I enjoy my time there as I’m always in good company with these two incredibly special men. Something else too though, it is larger than life. I just stand there and watch the water falling over that drop in the horseshoe falls and I am in awe. It has always made me happy and is one place I keep saying I need to go to more often!

I think everyone should have a happy place… For me, it is somewhere I go to escape reality. It is a swing set in a park or a bench on a hill or a boat!!!! I love boats!!!

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Sometimes it is just as simple as a place that holds a good memory, or a place where you catch a scent of
something you like, or a place where you can escape from the world.
No matter what it is, I think everyone should have one!

SUMMER TRAVEL

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It’s coming very fast….

The flights are booked.  So far, it looks like I will be staying in Philly until June 27.  First stop is Las Vegas to celebrate my almost-new sister in law.  There is a set itinerary that the girls set up and it looks like it will be a nice weekend getaway for us.  From there, I will head to Denver to work for a few days and then return to Philly.

I will spend the month of July gearing up for my August travels.  This is the plan so far:

July 30 – Flight to LAX in time for dinners and rehearsals for my brother’s wedding.  August 1 is the big day and then I will spend the weekend with family in Malibu.  From there I will hit San Diego, Costa Mesa, Los Angeles and then I will work my way up the state (by car), ending in the San Francisco area.  I will fly from there to Portland, OR and then Denver, CO.  I will return to Philly after 16 days of city hopping!

This should make for some interesting blogging…

Relevance?

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There are some people who can live life fairly care-free, can go with the flow and make me completely jealous.

Until recently, I was a complete over-analyzing, head spinning, over-thinking, anxiety ball most of the time.  I think I am learning to be a better balance of these two types of people.  However, when it comes to writing, the latter has haunted me.  Over the weekend, I went for a jog at Valley Forge park, when I say “go for a jog,” I mean run for two minutes and walk for 58.  Anyway, I found a tree.  The tree looked good.  The view from the tree looked even better.  So, I sat.   I am not sure I can say that I ever would have spent an hour of my life under a tree in the park, staring into space, but it happened and I loved it. 

I had a phone call with my brother who challenged me to keep writing the blog.  He was not the first one to say something about it but he was the first one to really challenge me on why I wasn’t already doing it.  The conversation was good.  I was able to talk about why and why not and really think about it after.   The result of that was a recent tweet saying this: 

     Never think you are irrelevant, or you will be… 

That is what I learned from this time exploring my thoughts about writing.   I just kept asking myself who would care about what I write now that Italy is over.  Why would I keep writing or why would people care what I think.  Well, since that time under the tree, I have had so many people say or write about ways that I have inspired them.  They all think I am relevant. Why don’t I?  Writing is about personal joy and release anyway, why would it matter if it is relevant to others?  There is always going to exist a part of my brain that will tell me I can’t, or I shouldn’t but this time, I just don’t think I am going to let it work. 

Interestingly, I recently joined a football team.  Now, I am no good at football, I am out of shape and I have horrible asthma and bad eye-hand coordination, so what am I thinking?  Well, it’s time to just go for it and that is what came up.  So, in the store buying cleats and I hear a mother asking her child (about 10) if there was room in her cleats for her foot to grow. I remember that… the time when I had to worry about my foot growing.. That is when you should be buying cleats!  I thought, I will never be that young again… is this how this feels, am I old?  I literally had to do brain exercises in the store to prevent myself from saying nevermind, leaving without cleats and quitting before I started.  I guess we have to fight our brains sometimes, especially when they are so used to working a certain way.   My first game is tomorrow, and I AM playing!

Overall, I think the lesson goes back to what I said on twitter… If I convince myself that I am irrelevant, I will be. 

I am not okay with that!

Life Goes On

I was interviewed for a radio show this week and was asked what I learned from my trip in Italy…

Well, first, I learned to stop and smell the roses.  This is about so much more than a flower.  It is about the little things that I know I like, the things I know will make me smile and the things that I constantly miss.  The anxiety and chaos of life kept me from enjoying the little things like the scent of a rose for years.   I want to say that I am going to keep fresh cut flowers in my house at all times from now on, but I think we all know that is unrealistic.  However, I can have them as much as possible and I can notice them where they are, outside of my home.   Today, I went to the cemetery to visit my Aunt and stayed on my knees until I no longer had any circulation working in my legs. As I talked to her, I noticed the overwhelming number of flowers around me. I have been there hundreds of times and I was just always so focused on getting to her grave, talking to her, saying my prayer and moving on to the next task of the day.  First of all, the thought of that is just sad to me now, but second, I just never noticed all the beautiful flowers.  I guess that was a good example. 

Next, I learned that I should sit and enjoy my coffee.  This was one of the top things that stood out to me while on my trip.   That girl at the winery said something like, why get coffee if you aren’t going to sit and enjoy it? Although she was speaking English, this was like a foreign language to me.  I have to say, I have not really enforced this in my coffee grabbing trips.  However, there have been a few coffee visits from someone special since I returned that have reiterated the point that she made while I was sitting in that winery in Chianti. Happy interactions in the morning make me chipper!  This is one of the things I missed when I moved back to Pennsylvania from Alabama.  I had to train myself to stop talking to people and saying, “good morning,” when I went into the store. In Alabama, everyone talked to me, everyone was pleasant and everyone was smiling.   The East Coast is very different. Everyone is in a rush, most are looking down at their phones and if you try to talk to people, they look at you like you are crazy.  Anyway, I have this hope that the smile will be contagious and people will be more happy and encouraging to strangers in the morning.  I’ve seen crazier things happen!

Last, I learned to listen when the birds are chirping.  This could fall into the concept of stopping to smell the roses too.  It is a little thing that most times we overlook and ignore.  Last week, I had the hardest time getting back to Pennsylvania’s time zone so I was waking up around 3:00am and starting my day.  So, one morning, I was sitting at my dining room table trying to get ahead of the day’s work and at some point, the birds started chirping.  I literally stopped working, closed the computer, grabbed my coffee and went and sat next to the door and just listened for about 20 minutes.   I’ve never actually appreciated the birds chirping before Italy. While doing that radio interview, they said that a study was done that showed that the sound of birds chirping makes people happy.  Well, yeah, it does!

Life after Italy has been so interesting.  It is almost like my body came back but my brain is still in Italy mode.  I think that is a good thing but we have a joke lately about my head being in the clouds.   I think I like it.   There is no anxiety and stress, there is no lingering frustration, there is just life… and it goes on.  So, things that would normally bother me, just don’t.  That is not to say I have not run into challenges, I will always have challenges. I just have a new perspective.  I just go with it.  We only have one life and we are meant to live it and love it!  I plan on doing just that.

Arrivederci Italy

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It is over…

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But it is not.

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It has just started…

As I rode in the car to the airport and we passed the Colosseum, I decided that I would watch as many Roman Gladiator movies as I can find. It is so big…. just larger than life. I want to know more. I want to study. I want to learn. I am told to start with Spartacus.

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While looking at the art in Florence, they mentioned a painting being returned and others that were still missing from when they were stolen. There is so much that I really don’t know. Now, I want to know more. This made me think of that movie that was out recently, The Monuments Men. I thought I should watch it. So, I just did, it was available on the plane. I wonder if everything portrayed in the movie was true. Part of me wishes I saw the movie before hearing about it in the tour but I know I would not have appreciated it.

I want to know more about Hitler in Italy, the art that was lost, the unification of Italy, the Roman Empire and more about how to enjoy life as much as I did in Italy. I want to sit and drink cappuccino, I want to watch the sunset, I want to stop and smell the roses, I want to spin and sing around the curves on country roads and I want to do so much more. I do not want to be ordinary. I know, I know, I already have that covered. However, I do want extraordinary! So, that may take some effort. It is a shame that we have to remind ourselves to stop and smell the roses.

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Sometimes, it just takes a little perspective to learn to appreciate things.

I have learned that beautiful places make me emotional. Apparently, after a tough decade, I needed that. I feel like my journey is just beginning and I feel like I understand and appreciate myself enough to start it now.

It is not really about Italy. In my case, Italy provided the landscape and environment for me to figure it out. Every stop provided something new. Palmoli was family and bonding, Verona was charming and magical, Venice was romantic and beautiful, Florence was fun and active, Tuscany was peaceful and magnificent, Chianti was delicious and insightful, Sienna was creative and full of life and Rome was a combination of old and new, chaos and calm, war and peace. I loved every minute of it. There were times of chaos and fears but I didn’t allow them to change my mood. It amazed me. Italy amazed me… and me in Italy amazed me….

Roma

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Rome was so different from everywhere else. I was also being stubborn. It’s so busy and the hustle and bustle of a big city always intimidates me.

We went out to dinner Saturday night and it ended with dancing and singing in this random restaurant with their staff. I couldn’t stop laughing as Karrie took over the dance floor! They loved her and we got to laugh. It was quite an experience.

Sunday night, I had dinner with my cousin’s Uncle and his daughter and her boyfriend. This was a nice surprise. He lives in Rome but I wasn’t planning to meet him. I am glad I did. He gave me a local’s perspective on Rome and took me to places I never would have found on my own.

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These were taken above the Spanish embassy. It was a beautiful view from above the chaos.

He made Rome interesting though and his English was great. Over dinner, I learned about the economy and politics in Italy and the challenges they are facing. I learned about them and their family and I tried amazing food. They ordered all the Roman dishes so I could get a taste of culture. We were in Trevestere (I think that is it) and it was a wonderful town that I really enjoyed. It started raining on our way out and his daughter put her umbrella up over both of us. I have felt so accepted by everyone in Italy, especially those who are related.

My last day in Rome, I was all alone again. Karrie and her mom took the early flight Sunday morning and I went to explore. I saw all of the main sights.

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I knew the food on my last night was important. I found a hidden Italian gem, open since 1930 I think and run by the most charming Italian gentlemen.

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The food was simply magnificent and I savored every bite. The vino was wonderful, they kept me company and insisted on dessert. Tiramisu was homemade, like everything else and I just ate it so slowly hoping it would last longer. They laughed with me, talked about my trip and asked me to return soon. They brought me lemoncello on the house and thanked me for being there. I told them it was the perfect meal to end my trip and I thanked them many times.