Tag: Expatriating

11Feb

Miracle on Via Luigi Rizzo

Last week, I told Part 1 of our move to Italy—specifically, the part where I concluded that the whole thing had been a horrible cosmic prank designed to undo me. Part 2 has a decidedly different ending though, and I can’t think of a story I’d rather be sharing for my final post at A Deeper Story. 

Here be miracles, folks:

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

After a summer clinging to the kind of faith that leaps oceans, I had entered autumn and found that my grip was spent. I couldn’t buoy up my own trust anymore. I was weary and anxious and displaced, and I needed God to be the miracle-worker I saw on the pages of children’s Bibles, cloning loaves and fish for hungry crowds, calming the turbulent sea. I needed God to be Emmanuel in a very real way.

Instead, I found myself profoundly, terrifyingly alone.

The third morning after Dan flew back to the States to wrangle with bureaucracy, I woke up feeling like a puddle of my former self. Insomnia had done a number on me the night before, and two-year-old Natalie’s requests for me to get up! and make breakfast! and plaaaayyyy! ricocheted wildly against my veneer of sanity. I thought about our empty refrigerator, the dishes crusted into Seussical stacks around the sink, my husband’s absence, and the contractions squeezing into me and concluded that if I got out of bed that day, I would surely die. It was all too much.

I can’t do it, I told God, burying my face under the covers. I can’t go to the grocery store or take Natalie to the park or ANY of it. I just can’t. I don’t know wh—

The phone rang.

It was so unexpected, such a perfectly cued interruption to my woe, that curiosity pulled me out of bed. I choked back the panic I experienced every time I had to communicate in Italian and answered the phone. An acquaintance from our new church replied, speaking slowly enough that I could follow: “I was just calling to see if I could take Natalie out to the park this morning! Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, could you use any groceries?”

Now, by nature, I’m the kind of girl who’d turn down offers of help while lying semiconscious in the path of an oncoming bullet train because she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Something switched in me that morning though. Desperation had dissolved my pride in self-reliance enough that I could see God’s choreography in the moment, and I wasn’t about to turn my back on it.

“Grazie,” I told the caller. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When serendipity alights on your shoulder like that, you don’t expect it to stay. You marvel at its plume and the bright tilt of its head, knowing its attention is a rare and unforceable gift, and then you watch it leave with as much good grace as you can muster. I was amazed by the temporary relief I’d been given from my isolation and more grateful than I knew how to say in any language. However, exhaustion was pulling me under the surface of panic again by the next evening.

I don’t know how I’m going to cook dinner tonight. It feels like I just finished cleaning up from lunch, and I’m so weary, so utterly weary, and Natalie needs so much, and everything’s depending on me, and I just wish we had a pizz

The phone rang again. This time, it was a girl I’d met a few weeks earlier offering to bring over a hot pepperoni with olives.

The same thing happened every remaining day until Dan got home. I would start to crumble with fatigue and overwhelm at the sticky mess left on the floor after breakfast, and the phone would ring with someone asking to come mop for me. Someone else came to vacuum. Others washed dishes, cooked lunch, scrubbed the bathroom, played with Natalie, sent over care packages, and ran errands for me so I could rest, and each offer arrived at the precipice of my need. Serendipity was quickly becoming a regular at our house.

I’ve never made it all the way through The Brothers Karamazov (with due apologies to my World Lit. professor), but this quote from it still captures me:

“Miracles are never a stumbling-block to the realist… The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I realize that miracles are several centuries out of vogue, and I’m as predisposed to skepticism as a housecat. I have twitched while hearing about how God gave someone a front-row parking spot or made two hours of sleep as restful as eight or prevented some likely allergic reaction. I’ve imagined God shaking his head in amusement that his followers would see divine intervention where there was only coincidence.

I began to get a different picture of God during my week of small rescues though. I could have viewed those phone calls as “an act of nature,” I suppose, or explained them away as human kindness and nothing more. Maybe if I hadn’t felt so powerless against my circumstances, the realist in me would still be stepping over miracles as if they were part of the original landscape. As it was, however, I couldn’t help seeing the reflection of God’s smile in the steam coming off my pizza or in the just-scrubbed floor tiles. His presence filled that lonely little apartment every time someone stopped by to help, and the faith that had gotten me through the summer was still just sufficient enough for me to recognize myself in the presence of miracles.

I know that the mention of divine intervention opens up a can full of worms and questions and broken bits of people’s hearts. I don’t pretend to understand why God seems to alter some situations and leave others to run their courses. What I have learned, at least within the small scope of my experience, is that the existence of miracles in our day-to-day, twenty-first-century world has a lot to do with our ability to recognize them as such.

How we hear the ring of the phone when we’re drowning in loneliness… How we view the blooming of moonlight in the dark… How we interpret a front-row parking spot when our schedule’s turned urgent… How we mark the flutter of wings against our shoulders, serendipity alighting one too many times for us to keep mistaking it as chance. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” writes James, and sometimes faith simply means letting our exhausted, lonely hearts believe it’s true.

image source

30Jan

When God Brought Me to Italy to Perish

You may have seen the recent announcement that Deeper Story is closing its doors. It’s hard for me to imagine the upcoming year without it, both from a reader’s perspective and as one of its writers. That site has consistently swept my generalizations and misconceptions of Christianity off their feet. It’s answered the question of why we believe what we believe through the medium of story, and I’m going to miss it like I miss Blue Bell ice cream.

Before it closes though, I’m getting to share one last story. I wrote about it here on my blog back when the events were unfolding, but they’ve grown in significance and clarity since then, picking up new dimensions in their expanding context. This is the more complete story of our move to Italy. It’s also a study in modern-day miracles.

Part 1 of 2 is up today (Part 2 will go up in a few weeks before Deeper Story closes):

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

It’s not easy for me to think about the fall of 2007.

Actually, “not easy” is a wild understatement in this case. Opening pickle jars is “not easy.” Putting snow boots on a toddler is “not easy.” Willing my mind to revisit some of the most emotionally intense terrain of my life, on the other hand, is about two degrees this side of impossible. The anxiety is still there. So are the first discordant notes of depression. Upheaval, insecurity, a sense of displacement so strong I could drown in it—they’re all there, preserved museum-quality in the halls of my memory.

But then again, so are the miracles. And that’s why I’m here again, two degrees this side of impossible, willing myself never to forget.

/ / /

My husband Dan, our two-year-old daughter Natalie, and I spent the summer of 2007 in total life limbo. We’d moved out of our home in Delaware at the end of May, fully expecting to ship ourselves and all our possessions out on the next flight to Italy. It was all set. Dan had been offered his dream job in the country we had long hoped to adopt as our own, and our bags were packed. Every step of the process so far had been ridged with God’s fingerprints. But then the paperwork we needed the Italian government to send us for our move was “delayed.” (This, as we later learned, is bureaucracy speak for “never gonna happen.”)

The documents didn’t arrive by our move-out date, and they continued not arriving over the next two months as we camped out in friends’ guest rooms and stretched every dollar left in our checking account as far as it would go. We were surrounded by grace in those two months; our friends’ generosity kept us afloat, and we were led again and again to trust that God had our backs despite the maddening bureaucratic roadblock. My pregnant belly was stretching along with our disposable income though, and we had to make a decision: We could either scrap this new direction for our life, or we could book a flight to Italy without the right paperwork or any guarantees and try to work out the details once we got there.

We chose Option #2.

Looking back, I turn green around the gills thinking about all the risks we took with that decision. So much could have gone wrong, and the fact that we arrived without incident on the doorstep of our very own Italian apartment that August is its own category of grace.

This isn’t to say though that the worry and upheaval through which my mind had waded all summer evaporated. If anything, my anxiety grew thicker, muddled by the confusion of a new language and new cultural customs and new everything down to the way we told time. (Dinner at “twenty-one minus a quarter,” anyone?) This newness was a mental barrier as real and high to me as the historic walls of our adopted city. I was petrified by the enormity of what I didn’t know.

Also, I was now squarely (roundly!) in my third trimester of pregnancy. Any mama who has cared for a two-year-old while massively pregnant can tell you that staving off exhaustion in itself can be a full-time job. My body was as weary as my brain, and I felt like I was always skirting the edges of the preterm labor that had complicated my pregnancy with Natalie. I lay trapped awake by worry every night. If I’d had any illusions about being in control of my life before that autumn, they’d certainly hoofed it back to the land of make-believe by now.

Then two things happened simultaneously to kick the intensity notch of my world up to Level Orange. The first was that Dan left on an eight-day trip back to the States to take care of the paperwork we had been unable to file all summer. The second was a familiar tightening across my lower belly that started one evening while I was eating dinner. I was thirty-three weeks along, the exact point I’d been in my first pregnancy when I’d gone into preterm labor. I began to have contractions that were sporadic and harmless, but the timing was enough to send me spiraling imagination-first into worst case scenarios.

I couldn’t shake my fear that our baby was going to be born prematurely while Dan was out of the country. And what if things went horribly wrong for him and he was denied reentry? My terror was so acute that it spliced itself onto my sense of reality. I felt stranded in this place, so far from friends and family, unable to communicate in my own language, responsible for a two-year-old who needed more energy from me than I was able to give. I sympathized with the Israelites in Exodus who wailed that God had brought them into the wilderness to perish.

Hadn’t he just done the same to me?

Abandoned, abandoned, abandoned. The refrain began at the epicenter of my fear and was soon taken up by every cell in my body. I knew I was being dramatic. I knew that basing my understanding of God on my current circumstances was not only poor theology but straight-up idiotic. I had been so uprooted by the past few months though that my better judgment couldn’t find solid footing. As I saw it in those panic-stricken moments, God had lifted us over the stacked odds and deposited us safely in Italy only to pull that sense of safety right back out from under me. This was it then, the punch line of whatever cruel joke he was playing on our dreams.

I felt more alone than I had ever been in my life—relationally, culturally, and spiritually desolate—and I didn’t have the courage for whatever was coming next.

Only, what came next turned out to be as far from what I’d predicted as abandonment was from the truth.

/ / /

[Continue to Part 2.]

image source

 

8Dec

7 Years a Gentile

Come the first of December each year, our family calendar changes from a responsible and somewhat sickly matron into a party animal. There are get-togethers and game nights and recitals and celebrations, and we love winding down (up?) the year in the company of our friends and neighbors. Plus, holiday food here makes the herald angels sing. 

The holidays can be a mixed bag of emotions though (as everyone everywhere in the world knows from experience), and one particular source of mixed emotion for me is the fact that I’m so far from my own relatives and culture during a season devoted to both. December doesn’t so much pull me out of my element as remind me that I’ve been living out of it the past seven and a half years.

And I’m glad it does. The experience I have had and continue to have as a foreigner has changed me for the better, shifting my field of vision and even teaching me to read the Bible like a proper Gentile (that basically means Muggle in ancient Jewish context). More about this, including a vocabulary tip you can use to scandalize your Italian friends, over at A Deeper Story today:

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

I suspect that the only difference between an expat and an immigrant is the amount of money a person brings with her into her adopted country… and I’m not entirely sure which one this makes me.

In 2007, my husband and I moved to Italy for work, but not for lack of opportunities back in the US. Admittedly, my English degree is in far greater demand overseas, but Dan turned down several good engineering jobs so that we could follow the invisible strings tugging our hearts across the Atlantic. This is where folks tend to look at us with envy (if they’re American) or with incredulity (if they’re Italian). Everyone, regardless of nationality, thinks we’re at least 65% nuts. Invisible strings? Riiiiight…

The truth is that Dan and I are weird hybrids of travel enthusiast and missionary, and if you’ll pardon a quick detour into Christianese, we feel called to this life. We find ourselves rooted to Italian soil by something so strong and so inclusive of who we are that it covers a multitude of bureaucratic headaches. Daily life is daily life pretty much anywhere on the planet, but when we stop to absorb what we’re doing on a deeper level, we’re overcome by gratitude that we get to raise our girls in the culture that brought us both the Sistine Chapel and the double espresso. We love this place we’ve chosen to call home.

Italian soccer game 2

That said, these last seven years here have stretched us. (That’s missionary code for “This shizzle is HARD.”) The fascist dictator Mussolini is quoted as having said, “Governing Italians is not impossible, merely useless,” and I’m convinced that he must have said that after going to his local DMV and seeing what passed for a line. Those bureaucratic headaches I mentioned earlier are no joke, not only because the odds of receiving the correct documents in a timely fashion are slightly worse than those of winning the Powerball but because “standing” in “line” is a contact sport here. My Type A soul needs a solid week to recover from each institutional errand.

And then there’s the language. Dan grew up in Italy, but my foreign language skills before moving here were pretty much limited to ordering from a Mexican restaurant. I learned Italian the sink-or-swim way, by diving into the deep end of dinner parties and doctor’s appointments and trying to keep my splutters on the dignified side. For an introverted perfectionist whose childhood dream was to blend in, immersion-style language learning was like running an emotional triathlon every time I stepped out of the house. It can still feel like that if I’m tired or in a new environment or if I’ve recently slipped and said “ano” (anus) instead of “anno” (year) to a new acquaintance. Why yes, my child does have seven anuses! How many does yours have? Goes over great in the pediatrician’s waiting room.

One of the hardest aspects of living here, however, has been adjusting to the idea of being a foreigner. We generally refer to ourselves as expats on social media, but it’s not the Expat Office we go to when we need to renew our sojourner’s permits; it’s Immigration. We shuffle along in a crowd of elbows and body odor, men in turbans and women in headscarves vying with us for the chance to hand paperwork over to the dispassionate officials on the other side of a Plexiglas window. We are the “stranieri”—the strangers. The strange.

And we are strange, no doubt about it. Dan and I share a sarcastic sense of humor that is zero percent funny to most Italians. We observe weird customs like fist bumping and putting ice in our water. He and I have the same last name, which confuses everyone and prompts fun getting-to-know-you questions like, “So you’re also brother and sister?” We have been known to wear flip-flops outside the home, and once I went out with wet hair to the enduring horror of every single person I encountered. Sometimes I even put butter on my pasta (shhhhhh). We’re odd and American, and that’s okay.

Foreigner has been a hard label for me to get used to though. It’s not that it doesn’t fit; it’s just that I’ve always thought of it as belonging to a whole category of “other.” Much like when I tried on my wedding dress for the first time, I’ve had to stare long at my foreigner status to absorb the fact that I am the one draped in it now. I’m the “other” now, the stranger, the splutterer, the one being stretched to fit a new context. If my life these last seven years were a game of Which One Doesn’t Belong?, the answer would be me.

Whether I count as an expat or an immigrant, the disconnect can hit close to home sometimes. Italian culture rests on a foundation of family, with people’s grandparents and uncles and fifth cousins twice removed usually living in close proximity and woven throughout each other’s lives like interlacing doilies. Someone’s always around to babysit or cook dinner or help fix what needs fixing. Granted, families themselves are sometimes what need fixing, but in a society built on interconnectedness, our stand-alone status is an additional spotlight on our other-ness.

This sense of cultural loneliness hasn’t been easy to bear. I’m grateful for it though because it’s shifted my field of view. I have at least a small idea now of what the immigrants I once regarded with indifference must go through in acclimating to a new home—every aspect of life suddenly different and they themselves considered the most different of all.

I’ve also started reading the New Testament like a proper Gentile. It’s not that I’d thought of myself as a Jew before, but I did grow up Southern Baptist, so I found myself identifying with God’s Chosen People more often than not. It was easy to imagine that the Bible was written for me, directly to my culture and worldview. Before becoming an outsider myself, I’d never considered what it would be to look in on this big happy religious family with VIP access to God and a stockpile of “Visa Denied” stamps for anyone else trying to get in. I’d never given the Gentile experience a second thought (or a first, for that matter).

I have a slim idea of it now though, which is why I can only read about Jesus’s inclusion policy from precarious footing on the brink of tears. When Jesus offers living water to a foreign woman whose culture and lifestyle put her lower than low on the Jewish totem pole, when Peter announces that God’s door is open to crowds of outsiders longing to be included, and when Paul writes to a primarily non-Jewish church in Ephesus, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” God meets me smack-dab in the center of my insecurity and isolation. He reminds me of the very real family that we have here in our church. He exchanges our displacement on the map with a borderless home base. He steps right over definitions like expat and immigrant and alien and poor and stranger and disconnected and “other”… and turns the whole system outside-in.

image source

31Oct

What to Expect When You’re Expatriating

The Internet is a horror story playbook when you’re trying to put together your expat birth plan. It’s not even a birth plan really; you just want to know what to expect when the contractions start, when you’re wheeled or walked or whisked into the maternity ward by people who speak a language other than your own. You’ve heard rumors that hospital patients in Italy have to bring their own toilet paper, their own bandages, even their own night nurses. Your obstetrician only tells you that you’ll need to bring “tamponi,” which means exactly what you think it does… but could also translate as any kind of absorbent swab or pad. Even an inkpad. You’re overwhelmed by the unknowing. It feels like you’ve been cast to star in a play but haven’t been given the script, and Opening Day is ticking closer and closer and closer.

So you do what any 21st century deer-in-the-headlights would do: You turn to Dr. Google.

The problem with public forums, however, is that people don’t generally use them to share their Kodak Moments. According to the Internet of 2007, no American or British expat has ever had a birth in Italy go well. An image grows in your mind of doctors with sauce-stained mustachios operating on you with pizza cutters in the hallway of a former Fascist bunker. You pack your hospital bag with gowns and eating utensils and towels and diapers and Tylenol and your best guess at “tamponi” and so much worry that your whole heart goes numb from it. How are you going to get through this?

/ / /

Your baby is too large. The 38-week ultrasound shows her to weigh nearly 4½ kg. (over 10 lbs.), and at your 39-week checkup, the doctor determines that based on the baby’s head size and your internal structure, you will be unable to deliver naturally. This explains why the contractions you’ve been having for weeks now haven’t gotten you anywhere. You don’t know exactly how to feel about this, but you’ve already had one C-section; at least tomorrow’s delivery will be familiar territory.

You return to the hospital that evening to settle in so you’ll be ready to go first thing in the morning. The nurse who checks you in is annoyed that you don’t speak the language well, that you don’t know your weight in kilograms or your height in centimeters or the words for all the health conditions she chants off her clipboard. You want to explain that you’ve been in the country less than three months, but you’re afraid of planting yourself deeper in the immigrant stereotype in her mind. You feel like an unprepared student on test day. You’re sorry to be a bother.

That night, you don’t sleep. Your hospital roommate has just had a C-section herself, and her moans coupled with the whimpers of her newborn boy mark the hours like a pair of restless chimes. You wouldn’t be getting much rest anyway; your contractions have amped up, making a clenched fist of your belly every few minutes, squeezing the air out of your lungs and shooting electricity down through your hips. You get out the final Harry Potter book, the treat you’ve been saving for just this occasion, but it’s small comfort. You’re terrified of the next day, of surgery in a foreign context, of the potential complications of birth, of not knowing how to love your new baby. (After all, how could you have any mamalove left to give when the whole sum is already curled up in a toddler bed back at home?)

/ / /

You’re prepped for surgery at 9:00 in the morning, but then every pregnant woman in the city seems to need an emergency C-section. You lie on a gurney with an IV for the next 4½ hours waiting for your turn and wondering if you’re now in the thick of your own forum-worthy horror story. The anesthesiologist has had to eyeball your height and weight because you still don’t know them in the damn metric system, and what if he gets the dosage wrong? What if your doctor is worn out from the gauntlet of unscheduled surgeries? What if you don’t understand what the obstetrics team is telling you to do? Your husband isn’t allowed in the operating room, and Dr. Google’s is the loudest voice you can hear as you’re finally escorted in to lie beneath a cluster of jewel-toned lights.

To your intense relief, the anesthesia takes. The medical team is upbeat and kind. They chat lightheartedly while you try not to think about the zipper-like tugs coming from your abdomen or the little spirals of smoke drifting up into view. Despite how disconcerting surgery can be to experience, everything is actually going okay. You are okay. The forum threads begin to fade from view as the present comes ever into focus. The tugs on your lower body grow more insistent. A sense of collective breath-holding takes over the room.

And then…

She’s born. You feel her weight leave your body just as the obstetrician cheers, “Eccola! Here she is!” Mother instinct floods your mind so quickly that it knocks common sense straight out; all you can think of is her, and you spring forward on the operating table, oblivious to the gaping incision across your abdomen. “NO!” ten doctors yell in unison pulling you back down. You laugh, partly from embarrassment but mostly from delight. Your daughter is here.

 Sophie's birth - Newborn

Someone brings your tiny-huge baby over for you to kiss, and your heart swells, filling the space she so recently vacated. Mamalove is a multiplication table, you realize. This new babe has your whole heart as surely as her older sister does. The details you’ve been worrying about up until now no longer matter. Not significantly, at any rate. Not enough to overshadow the big picture that is filling in with color and dimension at every breath.

She’s the star of the show. She was always going to be. If you could have written the script for her birth, it would have looked much different; you don’t mean to discount yours or any other mother’s longing for a familiar setting or a peaceful natural delivery. You’re baby’s out safely though, and all your earlier fears are eclipsed by the warmth of her cheek against your lips, the grip of her little fingers on yours, the sweet murmuring noises she makes as she gets used to the taste of air. She’s the outcome of all expectations, and in this moment, Kodak’s got nothing on you.

Sophie's birth - Mom

Happy seventh birthday, Sophie Ruth! I’m so very, very glad you were born.

Sophie's seventh birthday
(Photo by Dan)

24Oct

Our Ordinary (One Day 2014)

I am not an avid Instagrammer. I wish I were, but my days get busy, and I forget to be noticeful, and even when I do snap a picture, nine times out of ten I put off posting it because writing on my phone still feels to me like eating with chopsticks once did. (My fingers are creatures of habit on par with aging hobbits.) Perhaps this is why I was so eager to participate in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day project this week, documenting my ordinary, unembellished Wednesday on Instagram. The concept grabbed me both because I love being able to look back at the daily life of our family in its various stages and because I imagine some of you are at least a smidgen curious about what passes for “normal” here in expat-entrepreneurland.

Wednesday morning, therefore, I woke up and started snapping photos (not necessarily in that order) aaaannnnddd… did not manage to Instagram a one. In fact, I didn’t even have a chance to follow friends’ #OneDayHH streams, so full did my day become. However, I still have the photos, and if you’ll forgive the fact that these are coming a few days late and without any fancy filters, I’d love to share what passes for an average Wednesday around here.

Read More »

1Oct

An Expat Shops for Candy Corn

While the expat life in Italy has presented me with its fair share of struggles—bureaucracy, language barriers, and… well, bureaucracy being the top three—food is not one of them. Italian cuisine is why dinners here can last six hours. It’s why some of our Italian friends bring suitcases full of food when they travel internationally. It’s why Dean Martin could get away with mentioning bean soup in a love song. It’s why pizza IS. No, I am certainly not suffering here.

Every now and then though, I find myself craving some processed and preservative-laden treat from across the sea, something that tastes of America! and also corn syrup! This happens every October as the leaves begin to change and their bright orange and yellow hues inevitably turn my mind to the magic of candy corn. Do you remember that scene in Elf where Will Ferrell lists the four main food groups as “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup”? I totally agree. The whole-wheat flour and broccoli I feed my family are just for health show.

The problem is that one cannot buy candy corn here, at least not anywhere I’ve found so far in our smallish city. World-class chocolate, yes. Stripey fangs of compressed sugar-plastic that look and taste nothing like corn but are somehow still symbolic of harvest season in the United States, no. Today, however, I had the brilliant idea to search on Amazon.it. We can buy Yankee Candles and American flags through it, so why not candy corn?

Search bar

Alas. It turns out that Italian Amazon does not stock actual candy corn. However, you’d be happy to know that with a single click, one can purchase any of the following substitute items:

The most dynamic cross-stitch pattern ever, in English! (“This title not available in your country.”)

Cross stitch pattern.png

This genius smartphone game, which the product description calls both “beautiful” and “eye-popping.” (Is it just me, or does Man Boobs here appear to be lactating golf balls?)

Man boobs.png

Candy Corn Duck Tape, for repairing your HVAC systems, restraining your hyperactive children, and sealing up your man boobs in the full spirit of the season:

Duck Tape.png

Candy corn-themed crochet patterns so that you too can blend in among the European chic…

Scarf pattern.png

 …AND be the envy of your local poncho club…

Poncho pattern.png

…AND add an extra element of class to your Halloween soirée:

Wine bottle cozy pattern.png

Rarelove Sterling Silver Halloween pumpkin corn candy Heart Photo Charm Beads… which might be something you smoke for all the sense I can make out of that description, but hey—it’s on sale!

Sterling Silver pumpkin corn candy Heart Photo Charm Beads.png

Some fun tunes for your neighborhood trick-or-treat party:

Music - explicit.png

What’s that, you say? You’d prefer something less psychotic suicide clown skull fun and more happy fun? Not to worry, this super non-creepy hand-goose is here to help:

Music - happy fun songs.png
(I just listened to this song’s MP3 sample in the name of journalistic integrity, and I can now confirm with 97% certainty that it was indeed played by a goose.)

Back to literal candy corn now, on which this delicious and exclamation-point-worthy party game is based! (Please note: Game pieces neither included nor available for sale anywhere things are sold.)

Bingo - Just add candy corn.png

A candle made expressly to taunt expats with the scent of wishful thinking:

Yankee Candles.png

And last but not least, this yarn, which appears to have been thrown up on by a Dreamsicle with tuberculosis:


Yarn.png
(Who’s up for a parfait?)

So no luck buying my favorite Octoberly vice off Amazon. However, the internet is full of recipes for homemade candy corn; all I have to do is track down some powdered milk, and we’ll be in business!

Search bar - powdered milk.png

Powdered milk.png

Uh…

 

image source

25Jun

The Real World: Italy

I know we’re no longer partying like it’s 1999 here, but I still cringe every time I catch myself saying the words “We met online.”

Others try to assure me that there’s no stigma to this anymore, that everybody and his uncle these days have a tribe of friends they’ve never seen in person. Even the fact that we now say “in person” instead of “in real life” should be a comfort. But whether it’s because I’ve never been to a bloggers conference or because I have truly cringe-worthy memories of defending my chat room “ministry” 15 years ago, I feel the need to hem and haw and issue disclaimers in triplicate before I admit that any of my friends started out as a URL to me.

The fact is that I have connected with some dear, dear people online, soul-siblings whose words and photos have integrated themselves into my own story. I count every one of these connections as a treasure, and I wouldn’t take it well if anyone implied that they were less valid for having been forged over screens instead of tabletops. (I owe it to humanity to admit here that no one has ever implied such a thing since… well, 1999. Clearly my defense tactics are aimed at the wrong decade.)

The most wonderful outcome, of course, is when screen-friendship becomes table-friendship. I live on the wrong continent to take advantage of that very often, but this last weekend came with a triple dose of magic, beginning with the arrival of this pair:

Erika and Austin on the gondola 1

Erika is one of my favorite people on God’s green interwebs, and now I can confirm that she really is that rad in person too. She and Austin made an otherwise ordinary day in Venice (said with tongue firmly in cheek) a feast, a party, and a pilgrimage all at once. Dan dusted off his tour guide badge, and the four of us wandered some of the most mesmerizing architecture on earth with no agenda except to be there—reverently, giddily, exuberantly there. If you’ll forgive my deviating into photoblog format for a while, I’d love to show you some of the trillion (give or take a few) pictures we snapped on Saturday. Because, Venice:

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