31 December 2011

deadline met, let the new year roll in...

This morning (Alabama time) I emailed to Berlin an article I had been asked to write for a peace publication. The editor had asked for it "by the end of the year". I made it on time, but not without difficulty. I wasn't happy with what I had written, but then I am my own biggest critic.

Now, several hours later, I read it again. I like what I wrote. It's amazing what a little space can do to one's perception. No, I am not bragging, I am just breathing out a great big "Whew!"

A blog I follow, originally NZ based but now coming out of Melbourne, indicates that the new year has well and truly begun. At my house in Italy capodanno is still nearly three hours away. But here I must wait a little longer. In just under ten hours it will be time to celebrate to welcome in the new year.

I will be glad to say goodbye to 2011. It didn't turn out to be the year I had imagined it might be. I look forward to an exciting and rather different 2012. The things already on my calendar are exciting, things I haven't done before.

2012, you are already started or about to start in my two homes. Here in Alabama we await you patiently.

Today I am grateful for learning.

new year's eve

It's mid afternoon in New Zealand, new year's eve. Should I be making resolutions? Can I even remember the ones I made last year? Or am I right in thinking that I didn't make any last year?

mmmm... looks back to check... 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

Is it just another day, as birthdays are, or is it really a new start? I suspect that the new start is every day, and big events like a new year or a birthday are simply an excuse to put off doing what we know needs to be done.

But, for fun, let's pretend that we are going to keep our new year's resolutions. What might they be?

Lose weight?
Exercise more?
Keep up to date with paperwork?


My New Year's resolutions could well be:

To live every day as though there may not be another one.
To enjoy friends and family, above all else.

To not hurry.
To not stress.

To enjoy the freedom that I have.
To spend more time outdoors.

To work less and play more.
To buy myself a windsong, in minor key.

To continue to forge this path I am on.
To be me.

Today I am grateful for neighbours.

28 December 2011


This little fellow (or was he a she?) was determined to get through the window to play this morning.

Defeated, he left his calling card smeared widely by flapping wings just in case we wanted to get in touch with him later.
Was it a crested finch or a female red cardinal? On Christmas Eve the most impressive male red cardinal called, prompting many wishes, and (of course) the female is far less impressive in plume.

I am also enjoying the grey squirrels which scamper across the lawn and scramble nimbly up the trees. The large pecan tree guarantees plenty of mishcievous company these clear but chilly mornings.

Today I am grateful for the big outdoors.

my favourite photo

One of the more interesting photographs from the drive-through; click to enlarge, and let your imagination dance away...

something for everyone

if you are into Christmas lights, that is.

The photos above give a hint of what one family had put together for Christmas lights. The display covered three or four houses, and had a road running through it and along one side so there was good access without getting too cold.

Apparently this is an annual contribution to the spirit of Christmas, with messages to santa from the children of the family propped up alongside various displays.

Today I am grateful for crisp clear air.

27 December 2011

looking back




Today I am grateful for photographs.

24 December 2011

so santa was green?

This interesting history of Christmas tells it "Like it was".

Now to remember the nativity... buried somewhere under the cash registers of the modern world.

The Little Drummer Boy and Snoopy's Christmas have to be long time favourites!

The original Silent Night was written in German. Here it is sung by Nana Mouskouri.

Wishing you a blessed family time, Buon Natale, and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today I am grateful for baby Jesus.

'twas the night before

I avoid the shops at Christmas time. I don't enjoy stress or crowds. I am anti-consumerism and hate to see people over-spending to purchase things they don't need and ultimately wont want.

Give me some gentle Christmas music, the smell of home cooking, and peace on earth.

Yesterday a neighbour called, bringing a gift for our little man. He remembered me, chatted a while, then walked across the lawn to his home. There is no fence between us. I like that.

I have, once again, woken far too early. It gives me wonderful meditation time. This is what I have been contemplating just now. Tali, once more, provides clear thinking in her blog. Agree or disagree, it is your choice. In fact, to read it or not is also your choice. Perhaps, because it is Christmas Eve, you are too busy.

It will soon be Christmas morning in the land where I was born. just this one last sleep to go. Three and a half hours to wrap the last presents, go to church, sing some carols, check that the fridge door is still safely closed. To my friends and family on the other side of the world, may your days be merry and bright, and may you stay sun-safe from morn till night.

Today I am grateful for learning.

22 December 2011

and the rain came down

It seems more like Noah's Arc weather than Christmas!

Why is it that when there is so much to be done it is easier to do nothing? Resting is important, I say!

My great discovery of the day is that the "far too sweet" chocolate fudge is the perfect foil for too many pieces of ginger (interspersed with cashew nuts).

Take one cube of crystallised ginger and half a slice of soft fudge. Wrap the fudge around the ginger. Enjoy with a cup of wildberry tea.


Perhaps it is nearly Christmas after all!

Today I am grateful for a warm, dry house.

21 December 2011

and on the other side of the ocean...

Christmas has a very different feel outdoors in the USA.

And in one particular shop, if you were of a mind to go a huntin' or a fishin', this would be shopping paradise!

(Welcome fishermen, hunters, and other liars)

(And yes, I bought two Christmas decorations in there somewhere!)click to enlarge

Today I am grateful for diversity.

20 December 2011

six (or is it five?) sleeps till Christmas...

This blue star is outside my house, a beautiful and simple reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

In the lead up to Christmas there is plenty of excitement. On the other side of the Atlantic Santa has just delivered an "Elf on the Shelf" so we are going to be extra good until Santa arrives... although as far as I can see we are very good anyway!

In my in-box was the Christmas greeting from the International Medical Corps, and this link will take you to their website . Christmas donations to them go to a very humanitarian cause.

Today I am grateful for
good food.

14 December 2011


Life in Italy is a constant contradiction, and I suspect that this paradox is part of the magic of Italy for me. For every potential frustration (see the renovation programmes) there is a positive delight!

This year was supposed to be census year in New Zealand, but because of the Christchurch earthquake it was cancelled, despite the huge amount of money already thrown at it. That was only the second cancellation ever, the other being during the war years. Here in Italy it is also census year.

The date of the Italian census was 9 October. I was here that day, with my papers - all in Italian of course - anxious to do the right thing. Every time I mentioned filling them in my neighbours warned me how much information it asked for, how long it would take me to fill them in, how I would need to do one for my house as well, how much help I would need... and so I delayed, and delayed. I had the occasional peek inside the thick envelope, and seemed to understand most of it, but the fear had been established, I would need help.

Well, time, as it does, marched on. The final date (as far as I remember) for filling in and submitting the forms is 23 December. If they were not submitted by a certain date then the local comune (council) would send someone house to house to assist. I didn't like the sound of that, so yesterday I set myself down at a friend's table and began the task while she did her housework around me. In the end there were only two points I needed to clarify, and all (there really wasn't so much) was done.

But that's not all...

Here you may also submit online. This has to be Italy's very elegant joke against itself... the queues at the post offices are legendary. There were stories of people standing in the long queues to post their forms only to be sent away to re-package because the envelope provided hadn't been used correctly. I opted for the internet. Last night, sitting in bed with my glasses perched on the end of my Efudix nose, I tried to to submit my census paper.

It pays to read the instructions first.

After trying all three numbers at the top of my paper, having located the password at the bottom, no result. Mildly panicking at the thought that after three attempts it might be "Go straight to Jail and do not pass Go" I read the instructions. Oooops! I needed my codice fiscale to complete this. Whew! No problem, or so I thought.

By now it was late and I was a little tired. I tried unsuccessfully yet again (more than three times, this round). Was this just a cruel joke? Time to sleep, not fret or stress.

Finally, in the light of morning, all was revealed. My codice fiscale has a letter at the end of it. My particular letter looks like a number. The password I was given had F4N in it, and in the night light I was reading that as FAN. For every attempt I had got a letter or a number wrong. When I did put in the correct combination (first attempt in the morning I might add) all was well. (Ironically, one of the answers I submitted was that I had no trouble seeing with my glasses on...)

Answering the questions on line was a breeze. If the answer I gave ruled out other sections, they simply faded and I moved quickly through the pages, saving and clicking "avanti" every page. It was much faster than my paper version I had completed yesterday.

When finally saved, downloaded onto my computer and submitted electronically I clicked for the receipt and it arrived instantly, ready to print.

Now why couldn't New Zealand do that, and simply add a section (and extension of time) for folks affected by the earthquake, to be answered whereever in the country they ended up? This has to be a far more cost effective way of assessing the needs of the country.

Today I am grateful for the vagaries of my adopted country.

13 December 2011

sharing wise words...

Ok, so at 4.44am on a Tuesday morning I should be asleep, but I woke at 3am with things I wanted to do. One of my life changes is to go with sleeping when I feel the need, and meditating/writing/reading when that feels right too, no matter what the hour.

This morning, just as the cooler air was beginning to register on my skin, I turned the electric blanket on, thinking of a few more hours rest... and in came a blog post to read. It was such a wise posting that I want to share it with you, and for a few minutes completely forgot that I was on my way back to bed.

Reflection time is one of the real advantages of living alone, or if you don't live alone is something to timetable into your day. You read of people making time for good deeds, for projects, for family. But it is also important to make time to reflect, and from that reflection, if the moment is approached with empathy and care alongside objectivity, positive change will come.

Thanks to Tali Landsman who once again shares words of wisdom with an honesty to be admired and emulated. Tali's post is called "Exploring Your Regrets". Enjoy her wisdom and frankness.

I choose to look at events that I "regret" as learning curves. When things upset me or go "wrong" in my life I ask myself "What did I learn from this?" or "Where is the lesson in this for me?" Often the lessons are hard, but when properly considered become launching pads for positive change. Remember that the only thing you can really change in life is your attitude, how you choose to react to things, but if you can do that in times that are not so good then other things will change for the better all around you.

Being honest with yourself is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. It is well worth the effort and the pain to come out the other side a stronger and more developed person.

Today I am grateful for thoughtful writers.

12 December 2011

and i'm back...

I have tried not to blog or use the computer much for a month. It was hard. My notebooks took on new meaning, and are full of ... notes!

I locked my computer away and had very little email for a while. It was frustrating, then a kind of liberation. Then it was frustrating again.

The best part was finding that my wrist problem is not related to the computer. Today I retrieved the key from the friend who was holding it to protect me from myself, unlocked the cupboard and took out the computer...

YAY! I can blog again!

Today I am grateful for
my heater.

5 December 2011

a little bit excited

Ideas are filling my notebook. I am more than a little excited, although I am not sure that excited is the right word.

I am sorting in my head what I intend doing, and how I want to go about doing it.

Today I have had long conversations with someone who shares my values and understands my passion for making a difference. Life is exciting!

Today I am grateful for clear thinking.

4 December 2011

yes i am here

I was trying to go without internet for three to four weeks. I guess you could say it has been a bit of a revelation for me.

Things that I thought were important in my daily life are not, really. I will be cancelling some online subscriptions.

After about three days of withdrawal I (almost) didn't even want to check my emails or know about the rest of the world. I now understand some of my non-communicative friends a lot better.

I missed blogging a lot, and had to train my mind to meditate rather than "write in my head".

When I needed to use the internet and couldn't it was not only frustrating but quite stressful until I talked myself through it.

I would love to write something deep and meaningful here, but I am limiting myself to simply let you know that I am still alive and well and simply being antisocial (web-wise) for a month.

Today I am grateful for
good health.