Tag: Gratitude


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ May 2010

May 1st – Spending the day at a soccer tournament then a dinner party we had forgotten about until the last minute, treasuring the friendships we’ve made since moving here.

May 2nd – Slipping out of a sermon that interested me not a bit to chat with other moms in our church’s unofficial nursery.

May 3rd – Rooting out the scary dust bunnies (and elephants) from under the girls’ bedroom furniture and discovering beloved lost toys in the process.

May 4th – Finding a quiet stretch of afternoon for yoga and jasmine green tea.

May 5th – Being ordered onto a tiny plastic chair by Sophie for an impromptu picnic of plastic pie doused in invisible milk and sixteen cups of pretend coffee, all of which were hers.

May 6th – Refilling my favorite pink vase with fresh-picked daisies from our little balcony garden.

Striped daisies 3

May 7th – Staying up two hours past bedtime for a round of Settlers with friends… then staying up another two hours for a second round because none of us was psychologically capable of stopping at one.

May 8th – Sleeping until noon and curing the subsequent daze with pancakes.

May 9th – Finding the breakfast table loaded with hand-drawn Mother’s Day cards and our new tent—a promise of camping adventures this summer with the dear little family that made me a mother.

May 10th – Being the first recipient of Natalie’s newly-invented “flower kiss” (patent pending).

May 11th – Easily revising an essay, usually my most hated job ever.

May 12th – Rocking my tired baby to sleep and forgetting for a few magical moments that she’s not actually a baby anymore.

Falling asleep on Mommy 1

May 13th – Attending a friend’s piano concert and being swept away by her thunderous interpretation of Chopin.

May 14th – Going through our photos from the last couple of years and savoring each sweet, silly moment captured.

May 15th – Helping the girls introduce their Uncle Michael to basketball… on the Wii!

May 16th – Biting into melt-in-your-mouth Snickerdoodles hot from the oven.

May 17th – Amusing myself throughout the day with the stupidity of a neighborhood bird who was overcome with the need to fly through our balcony door.

May 18th – Making a tough decision and shortly realizing it was unquestionably the right one.

May 19th – Trying out a new video game with Dan and losing track of time like we used to back in our Unreal days.

May 20th – Befriending another mom at Natalie’s English class’s open house and finding myself one step closer to belonging here.

May 21st – Honoring our viral mint with afternoon mojitos on the balcony.

Viral mint 2

May 22nd – Discovering that the Flower Show is less a floral display and more a place to watch Venus Flytraps in action, stock up on obscure spices, and chat with friends while pretending not to see our daughters eating a meal worth of piadina samples.

May 23rd – Glancing up from our gardening work to see skydivers like colorful butterflies parachuting into the stadium just below our house.

May 24th – Catching up on my correspondence, taking the time to connect with loved ones who may be out of sight but not out of mind.

May 25th – Spending a wonderful evening with friends we’ thought we’d lost.

May 26th – Launching Popsiquest 2010, a highly yummy research endeavor with the girls for the best popsicles in town.

May 27th – Sitting down to have six years’ worth of mysteries answered in the “LOST” finale. (The anticipation turned out to be more satisfying than the actual watching, unfortunately.)

May 28th – Using a wretched head cold as an excuse to spend the afternoon in bed listening to This American Life and looking through family photos.

May 29th – Beating sickness with a game night and my self-prescribed remedy of salted fudge brownies.

Salted fudge brownie 2

May 30th – Tucking a pair of apple-scented girls into their beds early, leaving a deliciously long evening to spend with their daddy.

May 31st – Flouting a [mistakenly] dire weather forecast by spending the afternoon in front of an open window, soaking up every sun-tinted breeze.


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ April 2010

April 1st – Sneaking up on two beautiful little ballerinas in a computer game trance.

Ballerina gamers 2

April 2nd – Throwing open the windows and letting spring come bounding inside.

April 3rd – Devouring Frito Pie and day-before-Easter chocolate in our new tent and feeling quite at home.

April 4th – Hiding eggs full of sugary treasures around our campsite for the girls to run and dance and climb and twirl and stumble upon throughout the morning.

April 5th – Ordering drinks at Natalie’s 2,000-year-old thermopolium in downtown Pompeii.

April 6th – Unloading a haul of bright, zesty Sorrento lemons and imagining the many ways we’ll enjoy them this spring.

Sophie inspecting the lemons 1

April 7th – All of us feeling more relieved that we realized to swing back into our weekday routines.

April 8th – Commencing Operation Limoncello 2010 with visions of sparkling Christmas gifts dancing in our heads.

April 9th – Falling asleep after a difficult day on my beloved mattress with my beloved husband and a new day waiting in the wings.

April 10th – Picking out the brightest, friendliest flowers we could find [on sale] to color in-between the lines on our balcony.

April 11th – Spying on the girls as they channeled their engineer dad and constructing amazing, imaginative worlds out of Duplos.

April 12th – While flipping television channels just before bed, stumbling onto an incredible burping rock duo and falling in love with Italian programming all over again.

April 13th – Being quite literally floored by a kiss attack from Sophie.

April 14th – Finally finding the words that had been eluding me all week and revising my position on life being over, etc.

April 15th – Saying good morning to the new flowers blooming and thriving and throwing wild tea parties in their planters.

Purple daisy close-up

April 16th – Hand-writing a letter in a pool of pure golden sunshine on the balcony.

April 17th – After breathing in clouds of fresh pollen all day long, realizing my eyes don’t itch and my sinuses haven’t closed and I’m not tempted to gouge out my skull with a salad fork; thank you, allergy vaccinations!

April 18th – Staying after church to eat gnocchi and lemon mousse and catch up with friends we haven’t seen in too long.

April 19th – Leaving the dishes to their own devices and playing a hilarious game of kickball in the backyard with the girls.

April 20th – Riding the essay submission high, like pot-laced caffeine with extra sprinkles.

April 21st – Butchering a favorite children’s song into a potty-time ditty to the girls’ utter amusement (and their father’s utter head-shaking).

April 22nd – Being treated like the customer of the decade by a sweet saleslady at the ritzy, glitzy profumeria while I rooted through the discount bin for their cheapest lime-grapefruit lotion.

April 23rd – Resurrecting a childhood favorite and playing Giddyup Little Horsey until the girls collapsed from laughter.

April 24th – Spending some quality time in the pages of The Princess Bride after far too long apart.

April 25th – Staying up half an hour too late and being rewarded with a Liberation Day fireworks show.

April 26th – Cheering on my timid Natalie as she rode her bicycle around and around the balcony, crashing and jumping back up with a grin of accomplishment.

Learning to ride a bike 4

April 27th – Getting a delightful letter in the mail from an old friend.

April 28th – Swinging at the otherwise empty playground with Sophie after early-morning errands.

April 29th – Wishing I had some fresh asparagus to fix with lunch and then being completely surprised by a friend who stopped by mid-morning simply to bring me a beautiful bouquet… of asparagus.

April 30th – Ending up €1.39 short at the grocery store but having a new friend unexpectedly show up in line behind me and pay before I realized what she was doing; closing out the month remembering to believe in little miracles.


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ March 2010

March 1st – Whiling away the first warm afternoon of the year at the playground, meeting new friends, and sharing a fabulous pinecone stew.

March 2nd – Catching up on This American Life while concocting a pink pudding birthday cake.

March 3rd – Introducing my brand new five-year-old to the cherished Ingalls family.

March 4th – Rocking out to “nerdy music”—They Might Be Giants—at Natalie’s request and catching her singing along to Meet the Elements, “Come on, come on, and meet the elephants!”

March 5th – Bundling up and baking cupcakes to keep warm as our heater completed union negotiations.

The caldaia is broken AGAIN

March 6th – Waking up to both girls in bed with us, discussing loudly and with giggles a-plenty which one of us was a king (Sophie), which one was a princess (Natalie), which one was a queen (Mommy), and which one was a mermaid (Sophie again). (After some debate, it was agreed Daddy could be co-king.)

March 7th – Sharing the hilariously traumatic family experience of making bracelets with Natalie’s new, über-cheap jewelry wand.

March 8th – Walking in on Sophie bouncing up and down and singing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on the potty.

March 9th – Submitting my first short story in over a year.

March 10th – Nibbling fresh strawberries, sipping tea, and giggling as the girls from Bible study launched into an in-depth discussion of boob jobs.

March 11th –Spotting a bed of exuberant daffodils blooming in a neighbor’s garden.

March 12th – Catching the look on Dan’s face when he heard me singing TMBG’s “Violin-lin-lin” to the girls.

March 13th – Sinking into the couch with my husband and the passengers of Oceanic 815 after a long day of cleaning.

March 14th – Hosting the kind of long, social lunch that I’ve so often enjoyed in Italian homes.

March 15th – Starting my daily to-do list with “Write HGTV back” and feeling a brief celebrity glow.

March 16th – Taking a big bite of New Orleans’ style banana pudding and tasting the stars align.

March 17th – Saluting the Irish American spirit with homemade shamrock shakes.

Homemade Shamrock Shakes

March 18th – Filling our day with the fairy-tale scent of baking cookies.

March 19th – Zipping up the last suitcase with plenty of time left for drinks and an early bedtime—miraculous, this!

March 20th – Winding through breathtakingly beautiful mountain passes on our way to the ski resort.

March 21st – Watching the girls’ heads spiral into the stratosphere from the joy of snow (and, one hour later, plunge into the depths of despair over wet socks and imminent naptime).

Sledding sisters 1

March 22nd – Playing Taboo with friends once we were all so tired that cry-laughing hilarity was guaranteed.

March 23rd – Hearing the girls crack up over old Tom & Jerry cartoons like I did as a child.

March 24th – Flying down the mountainside on fresh snow glittering in the early morning sunshine.

March 25th – Braving a foggy mountainside journey on my board for the second time in a week and reveling in the superhero rush when I made it.

March 26th – Getting several hours of guilt-free reading time out of my otherwise undesirable back seat station during our drive back to Perugia.

March 27th – Watching a perfect double rainbow arch across the valley below our house.

March 28th – Fashioning a sweet Mommy-Natalie date out of a routine trip to the grocery store.

March 29th – Catching the backyard trees in the act of blooming.

March 30th – Inviting Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles to breakfast. (We should do this every day.)

March 31st – Glimpsing bedtime stories in the late-evening clouds and their vivid incantations of blue.

Bluest of blues


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ February 2010

February 1st – Waking up just before dawn to a snow-sprinkled fairyland.

February 2nd – Watching Sophie’s baby videos with her and adoring her smallness—then and now.

Watching Sophie's baby videos

February 3rd – Taking a five-minute family walk around the neighborhood and being stopped by one, two, three cars of friends saying hi and offering a ride.

February 4th – Giving up delusions of a productive sick day and snuggling into bed with Sophie to nap the morning away.

February 5th – Discovering a wonderful e-mail from an old friend hidden away in my Junk folder.

February 6th – Listening to Natalie spin elaborate stories about the princesses she was coloring all afternoon.

February 7th – Spotting four perfect new buds on my red daisy plant.

February 8th – Braving a couple of Old Testament chapters and finding only goodness inside.

February 9th – Having a lovely, long conversation with a friend who’s taken years to open up.

February 10th – Reliving the joy of marker on my hands and glitter in my hair as I helped the girls make valentines.

Natalie ready to glitterfy her hearts

February 11th – Hearing from two different long-lost friends out of the serendipitous blue.

February 12th – Tasting snowflakes with the girls and getting caught up in their excitement. (S: “Hooray! Hooray! Sophie excited!” N: ::bubbles over with laughter:: S: “Sophie thinking about Missmas trees!” N: ::jumps up and down for joy::)

February 13th – Getting treated to a twenty minute concert about tenniiissss, we should play tennniiiissss, but be caarrefuulllll when you play tennniiissss because of the bad bugs who like to plaaaaayyyyyy TEEEENNNNNIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSS!

February 14th – Playing LIFE as a family to wind up Valentine’s Day and giggling over the girls’ name choices. (Sophie christened her husband, three sons, and four daughters each “Sophie Bassett!”; Natalie chose “Prunes” for her husband and “Creams” for their son.)

February 15th – Listening to thousands of birds chirp and giggle as they spun in circles outside, punch-drunk on sunshine.

February 16th – Having a hug for dessert.

February 17th – Starting the day with a family snuggle in bed.

February 18th – Being in our ailing car with the girls as it breathed its last… right in front of our house… the same day we were finally able to get a bank account to buy a new car… and realizing God might have had a hand in all the timing.

February 19th – Despite all our Valentine’s plans being derailed, having one of the best dates ever at the living room bar with Dan.

February 20th – Enjoying every minute our family car-shopping day. (The girls’ favorite part? Careening around the biggest car lot in a golf cart. The parents’ favorite part? Finding the perfect car for the perfect price.)

February 21st – Wondering over our future and feeling peace despite the uncertainty.

February 22nd – Getting in and out of the post office in under a minute – a miracle!

February 23rd – Beating the winter blahs with a personal concert by Natalie and super-speed Giro Giro Tondo* until we all collapsed laughing on the rug. (* Italy’s “Ring Around the Rosie”)

February 24th – Grooving to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while hanging laundry outside for the first time this year.

February 25th – Posing the girls on top of our old car for goodbye pictures just as the next-door-neighbor, who already thinks we’re crazy, walked outside.

Goodbye old car 2

February 26th – Trying to teach “Jesus Loves Me” to Sophie, who very sweetly (and wildly out-of-tune) crooned, “Yeeeessss, Jesus loves you! Yeeeessss, Jesus love you!”

February 27th – Taking our new car for a spin around Lago Trasimeno with the windows down and the stereo thumping.

February 28th – Giggling our goodnights with two small girls who still love to be tickled.


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ January 2010

January 1st – Just after midnight, giving the girls a glow stick each and watching their faces light up in neon green and pink smiles.

The girls welcoming New Year's with glow sticks

January 2nd – Grabbing a single pair of jeans off the sale rack and trying them on just as a formality because I already knew they were The Ones.

January 3rd – Going to see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” in a nearly empty theater and sharing the magic of 3D glasses as a family. (Natalie: “Mommy, did you see that cat that came too close to me?” Sophie: “Sophie has glasses on! Mommy has glasses on! Daddy has glasses on! Natalie has glasses on! Wow, meatballs!”)

January 4th – [Censored… ::grin::]

January 5th – Seeing genuine smiles on the faces of our overworked friends as we played Perudo together into the late hours.

January 6th – Sinking down into our soft bed after eleven days away from home.

January 7th – Unpacking my baking supplies with a chatterbox Sophie who frequently stopped talking to give me pretend cupcakes and real kisses.

January 8th – Doing an obstacle course on Wii Fit with Natalie who mostly ran in circles around me giggling and cheering “You can do it! Go! Go! Oh man, try again!”

January 9th – Winning the Wii Olympic Winter Games championship with Dan and finding out the agonizing truth that we are great at curling.

January 10th – Making myself a better-than-Starbucks caramel coffee, lighting a gingerbread candle, and plopping onto a pile of pillows to write.

Caramel cappuccino

January 11th – Sitting down as a family to homemade sundried-tomato risotto and four-way conversation.

January 12th – Being greeted by all the cashiers as Sophie and I walked into our neighborhood grocery store.

January 13th – Crowding around the living room window with the girls to watch the sunset glow pink and orange on surrounding hilltops.


January 14th – Realizing that I haven’t changed a diaper in over a week. (!!!)

January 15th – Walking home from the bakery in the breezy, blissed-out morning sunshine—more April than January.

January 16th – Hearing the entire theater cheer around me when beauty and wonder won over evil in “Avatar.”

3D is the new black

January 17th – Triumphing over the gloomy weather with a silly family Lego session involving swimming pants, noseless sharks stealing fried chicken, and the girls’ quirky imaginations at their best.

January 18th – Flirting with Dan like newlyweds after the small ones went to bed.

January 19th – Bouncing, sliding, climbing, crawling, diving, tickling, and giggling with my girls for three straight hours at our neighbor’s amazing indoor play place.

January 20th – Filling the house with the magical scent of baking banana-orange-pecan bread.

January 21st – Snuggling a sleepy-eyed Sophie in the rocking chair at nap time.

January 22nd – Ploofing homemade marshmallows into powdered sugar with Natalie and licking our fingers with a delicious, guilty thrill.

Maple-vanilla marshmallows

January 23rd – Indulging in an old-fashioned pancake brunch after a hopeful suggestion by Sophie.

January 24th – Reading Winnie-the-Pooh in a dog pile on our bed with Sophie occasionally dive-bombing everyone and Natalie adding “tiddely pom” to the end of each sentence.

January 25th – Watching Natalie fall over from laughing so hard when we all died in Super Mario Bros.

January 26th – Sitting at my desk by 7 a.m. with coffee, candles, and a yummy burst of writing mojo.

January 27th – Spying on my sexy husband as he rocked an apron and cooked dinner (an expat ode to Taco Bell!) for our in-home date night.

January 28th – Joking with my ESL students entirely in English and feeling that warm sense of teacherly accomplishment.

January 29th – Remembering at the end of a long, hard, poo-intensive day that I really do love these daughters of mine with every scrap of my heart.

January 30th – Catching hail on our balcony for the girls to taste and marveling at the wild beauty of storms.

January 31st – Closing out January with a family storytime, little fingers wrapped around big ones, big hearts bonding to little ones over Dr. Seuss.



When I’m 85, the smell of Bath & Body Works’s peach nectar lotion will remind me of that unsettling coaster ride of an autumn with my first boyfriend. The smell of carpet shampoo will remind me of walking into my college dorm room with an armful of books and giddy expectations. The smell of hand sanitizer will take me back to the NICU where infant Natalie recovered from surgery, and the smell of lemons will remind me of this spring.

The lemon trees and perfume and homemade limoncello and lemonade (more on that soon) have swirled deep into my perception of life this spring, and I have to tell you: I am infatuated. With lemons… AND life. Remember how crap-coated existence looked in January? And in February? And in March? Man, March was a doozy. I didn’t share most of the horror that was my brain this last winter out of embarrassment and pride and a respect for your collective wills to live, but my personal journal entries are like something out of Mordor.

But then… One afternoon toward the end of March, I was researching psychiatry in Italy in preparation for the next day when I was going to beg my skeptical doctor on my hands and knees for antidepressants. If I was going to grovel, I at least wanted to be prepared. I learned that “antidepressant” is “antidepressivo” and that “panic attack” is “attacco di panico” and that around 75% of women taking Yasmin end up on depression medication. Huh, I thought. Could this be as easy as going off the Pill?

It was. Only seven weeks later, I am a completely different person. Actually, I was a different person within seven days. I can hardly believe how easy it is to get out of bed each morning now that homicidal hormones are no longer running around chewing holes through all my happy thoughts. That endocrinologist who assured me I certainly did not have a hormonal imbalance owes me one year of lost happiness and a delivery truck of Lindt chocolates, at least as I see it.

I figured I owed you all an update now that I’m on the outside of the cage. So many of you have encouraged and supported me through a truly crap-filled (and -coated and -battered and -fried and -garnished) time. You’ve sent me e-mails and earrings and reminded me that I have some worth as a human being after all, and I am a thousand kinds of thankful. The future holds promise again. The world is habitable again. My creativity is waking out of its coma, and when I look inside my brain, I finally see myself. And when I’m 85, the smell of fresh lemons will remind me all over again how lovely it is to be.



It’s that month again. A cough here, a drippy nose there, and then increasingly miserable viruses playing arpeggios on our lungs until spring. Poor Dan and Natalie always get the worst of it… bronchitis… ear infections… antibiotics and nebulizers and mountains of damp tissues. I usually weather through the mess with the special dispensation granted to mothers, but this past weekend knocked me flat. My personal cold settled in with a sonic-boom headache, and at first, I felt pretty trendy—finally joining the ranks of migraine sufferers and all—but spending the whole day in bed is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Especially when your own head is staging a coup d’état.

After a rush of writing productivity last week, I’ve been melting into the couch… playing a lot of Lego Indiana Jones, watching a lot of “Alias” re-runs, and pretending I don’t notice November sneaking by. Thanksgiving #1 is this coming weekend, and I am not ready for it. In the States, we always invited over college students and friends with no where to go for a feast and games; it was always a special and relaxing day. Even last year, for our first Thanksgiving in Italy, I cooked the traditional meal for a large extended family who had taken us in, and we had a fantastic time. However, I’m dragging my feet this year… maybe because of lingering sickness, but more probably because I’m reluctant to face the stark reality of a whole year gone. Time moves quite a bit faster than I do now.

Blah, blah. I’m sorry, it must the head cold talking. Have I told you about my new dishwasher yet? (Love.) Or that all-from-scratch pumpkin pie with dark caramel sauce and swirly whipped cream is on the menu for Saturday? Or how Sophie travels the house all day long finding books and toiletries and DVDs and dishes and laundry and dust bunnies to bestow on me? (With creation’s cutest smile, of course.) Or that I found strawberry-mango tea and Southern Comfort in the same grocery trip? Or how my sweet husband cooked for me all weekend, including a scrumptious Greek dinner? Or about the possibility of a girls’ night out next week (the first I have taken in… um, two years? for reasons entirely my own fault). Or about Natalie’s hugs?

So many things to be thankful for… even head colds, which help me slow down and inspire Greek cuisine and draw our dear little family together under blankets and heaps of love.

Handy considering it’s that month again!

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