A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

Prayers for the Victims of L’Aquila, Italy April 6, 2009

Filed under: Italian Life,Italy — italicana kitchen @ 5:40 pm
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Today my heart goes out to the victims of the L’Aquila earthquake. In less than 3o seconds, a 6.3 quake left 92 people dead with the death toll still rising, over 1,500 injured, thousands homeless and historic buildings dating back to the 13th century crumbled into ruins. A devastating and horrific event, only proving that life is full of unexpected events that you can never predict.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the victims, families, friends and rescue teams.

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Nostalgia February 7, 2009

After hours of packing…unpacking…repacking…packing…unpacking..repacking…I finally squished a years worth of stuff into two bags and a carry on and walked out my parents door, not to return for another year…or longer. Looking back as the car pulled out of my driveway, I was overcome with mixed emotions. On one hand, I am ecstatic to return to my life in Italy, to be around the language, to live abroad and to be pursuing my passions. I am thankful and grateful for this opportunity, it is everything I have dreamed for and I am excited for this new adventure. On the other hand, knowing that I will miss out on the simple joys of waking up to my dad cooking breakfast, making lunch for my older brother Mark , or drinking a glass of wine with my mom makes me emotional. Sure these are just simple, ordinary things; yet, because I will be living thousands of miles away with an ocean between, I simply can’t do them, and this makes me sad.

My brother Mark is a globetrotter as well and is leaving with his girlfriend Lindy in three days for Guatemala for five weeks. I went into his room to see how his packing was going and after a big brotherly hug, I was in tears. Giant, wet, mascara running tears. Partly because, I’ve been so wrapped up in my on-line life (writing, blogging, facebook, emails etc.) that I’ve hardly hung out with him, one of my best friends, and partly because in a few days and I won’t see him for a year. I am mad at myself for wasting the past month of us actually being home together, because with life, you never know where you are going to end up. What if we never live in the same city again?

The  emotions are  the same for my parents, oldest brother, sister-in-law and nephew. I still fortunately don’t have to say goodbye to them for a few weeks, but I know when I do I will be in tears. You will know it is the day I am leaving if you see me with big, wet, mascara stained cheeks.

I know I am on the right track by following my dreams, but it still doesn’t make it any easier to leave the people I love. To know that I will be missing out on all of the little things, the simple pleasures of ordinary life with family is what makes it the hardest.

Yet, in the cloudy mist of my teary eyes, I know things always work out for a reason. If I was meant to stay, my heart would tell me not to leave. But, my heart is not ready to stay idle, yet anyways.  I have to keep moving forward, I still have so much terrene to explore, so many new things to experience.  This wonderlust heart is part of me. I can’t keep it caged, I have to let it roam free.

 

What it means to be Courageous January 29, 2009

My friend Linea is courageous; her story, inspirational. She is one of the millions of people who suffer from bipolar, yet so many of whom are too afraid to talk about there illness. Her mother, Cinda, teaches about mental health conditions, yet as a mother had to watch her daughter spiral into suicidal depression. Together they have written a book that broaches this topic from both angles, as a person afflicted with bipolar disorder, and a loved one’s family fighting to save a life. Together they share their experience in hopes to raise awareness and bring hope to those who are affected with bipolar.

Because of the current stigmas of bipolar in today’s society, many chose to remain silent, paralyzed by the fear of what others may think or how they would react if someone was to find out. Yet, this illness needs awareness. And, frankly–and this is just my opinion–I don’t like the word “illness” as most medical journals describe it. The word sounds cold and sterile, making you uneasy before you know what it means or understand what it is. The word “disorder” is a bit better. Imagine your  bedroom in disorder–clothes scattered on the floor, books strewn on the desk and the bed is unmade. Is a messy room scary? Is a messy room horrible? No. A messy room is life. Sometimes you just don’t have time to make your bed, or do your laundry. Sometimes things in your room are in disorder, just like, the emotions and thoughts in one’s head for people afflicted with bipolar. And, whereas you are responsible for your messy room, a person with bipolar gets the raw end of the deal–he/she didn’t chose to have  bipolar, it is a brain disorder that happens to them.

So this time, imagine that instead of you making the mess in your room, a stranger comes into your room and starts trashing it–clothes are ripped from the hangers, the sheets torn off the bed, and someone (that bastard!) ripped all of the pages from your favorite book and chucked them across the floor. Now, further imagine that this happens everyday. Or, maybe not even every day, but maybe on a day that you were really really really happy, and then you came home to find your room in disarray. I would be angry at life. I would be depressed. And, depression and feelings of hopelessness are two of the biggest symptoms common with bipolar which can often spiral to more harmful moods or actions:

“As I moved through depression, mania, suicidal ideation, drugs, alcohol, an overdose, self-mutilation, and bulimia I knew I needed to make a difference for others struggling with the same demons. Hospitalized with a 24 hour one-on-one hospital aide I could not help but cry for those less fortunate than me. I cried for those unable to get the help they needed due to financial needs and many other issues.”–Linea Johnson

Fortunately for Linea, she had a loving family and supportive friends that were able to get her through her worst of times–she survived to tell her story. Unfortunately, however, many people afflicted with bipolar don’t tell anyone and they become suicidal before they can get help. If you have any of these symptoms, I encourage you to talk to someone. You are not alone. If you know someone with these symptoms, I encourage you to offer your support–and, if that is not enough, then help them get treatment or seek a doctor for medication.

Don’t be afraid to speak about this condition, there are millions dealing with bipolar everyday. It’s life, just like a messy room.  Things in life happen, but it’s our reaction to the situation that marks who really are. Be strong. Be courageous. Talk to someone, and get help if you need it. And, as Linea puts it, “bipolar is not an illness, but added wisdom.”

To find out more on bipolar, and to follow Linea and Cinda’s book go to their website

To learn about Linea’s struggle with bipolar and read words of inspiration, check out her blog.

To learn about Cinda’s role as a professor in special education and her experience as a mother of child with bipolar, refer to her blog

 

A Message by George Carlin January 15, 2009

My friend Jamie sent me the email below, and since it touched me when I read it, I thought I would share it with you as well. George Carlin was a comedian from the 70’s and 80’s, and although I hardly knew who he was (besides the ending quote that I more often remember as just the quote from the movie Hitch), his words are powerful and his message is strong. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower
viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and  smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We  drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

Remember: spend some time  with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember: say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember: to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember: to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember: to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

 

WWW…what? January 13, 2009

I love discovering useful websites. Below are some new websites I’ve become addicted to as well as a few oldies that I have been using for awhile but am still surprised people don’t know about–like Pandora, seriously the BEST music device ever! Hope you enjoy…and don’t forget to leave a post with a few of your favorite sites!

Trip Filma: http://www.tripfilms.com/
My brother just introduced me to this. It’s like you tube, but travel specific, and if you submit a video you get the added perk of earning points and rewards the more times people view your videos! Plus, the site promotes cool promotions like free trips or meals. LOVE IT. And, yes…when I buy my camera…you will see a lot of Cindy Swain travel videos!

Pandora: http://pandora.com/
The best music player I’ve found on the web. You pick an artist or song and the player will generate similar music. It’s perfect for dinner parties as you don’t have to create playlists, you learn about new artists and it’s free! What are my top stations I’m listening to right now: Joshua Radin, Louis Armstrong, Snow Patrol, Leona Lewis and Chris Brown

Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/
Free streaming movie and television shows. Endless entertainment at your fingertips.

Coupon Cabin: http://www.couponcabin.com/index.htm?ref=pandora1208_2
I haven’t used this site yet, but it has promise if it does work. Who wants to pay full price for items when you can get a discount?

Skype: http://skype.com/welcomeback/
I used this site all throughout my travels to make cheap phone calls home. The best part, however, is that if both people have Skype then the call is FREE! You heard me. Free. Plus, you can talk on videochat with a click of a button (You’ll need a webcam and mic though. For mac users and new pc’s you probably have this built in.) I’m also signed up for videochat on Gmail as well, which is pretty much the same. Videochat is how I am going to see my nephew grow and talk, have dinner with my parents a thousand miles away (they can just set the laptop on the counter!) and feel connected to the places and people I love.

Photofunia: http://www.photofunia.com
A fun site that let’s you easily get creative with your photos–perfect for those of us who don’t have photoshop!

 

Finding Serenity… January 10, 2009

Hotel Deca

Right now I am sitting on a purple velvet sofa in front of warm fire. A skinny sugar-free Carmel latte’ in hand, I am warm on both the inside and out.  The walls are decorated with large pieces of art–oil on canvas–my favorite. There is a tall dark wooden book shelf to my right lined with colorful glass vases that reflect the dim light given off by the frosted glass lamps lining each of the two columns in the entrance way which are jutting upwards like tulips glistening in the yellow sun, constantly reaching for that warm ray of light. Instrumental music is playing from the speakers overhead, it is a combination of jazz and spa-like melodies enhancing my surrounding like smooth whip cream on top of a steaming hot chocolate–it just wouldn’t be complete with out it.

My leather bound journal is lying open next to me, lusting for attention like a women lying naked on her back in bed.  Black ink covers the page, words for my book are staring back at me as I type them into a Google document. Words I wrote while in the airport coming back from California, on my brother’s couch in Kenmore, during a traffic jam in Bellevue–materializing on paper when I finally get the opportunity to isolate myself and write, which has been infrequent since I have been back in Seattle.

Writing has become a drug: I want to write all the time, and the cravings only intensify when I can’t get my fix. I have become an addict. I’ll be out with friends, watching my nephew, hanging out with my family–all of things I want to do, but with an addiction, you have no control over the feelings affecting your mind and body. My fingers beat the table, yearning for my keyboard–I want to feel the keys under my fingertips, I ache to see the words fill the wall of whiteness in front of me, I lust after the emotions that fill my insides as I write, overwhelming me like a storm in the sea, rising and falling, thrashing ferociously and then suddenly–everything becomes calm.  A feeling of tranquility rushes through me.  I am in my zen. I have found serenity.

 

A Wonderful White Washington Christmas December 29, 2008

It definitely was a white Christmas this year in Washington. The first snowfall was beautiful as I curled up on the couch with a steaming hot cup of tea, reading a book and watching snowflakes fall from the sky covering the ground like a soft down blanket.  And, you would think that as the snow continued to fall, leaving me snowed in at my brother’s house for over a week I would have had ample time to write on my blog, but what can I say….my nephew is a great distraction!

So, to catch you up with how life back in the States here is just a snapshot of favorite moments over this past week:

–Catching up with all of my childhood neighborhood friends at the Davenport Neighborhood Christmas Party my brother hosted at his house. He even creatively decorated the front entrance with old High School year books and Davenport memorabilia, it was quite the night!

–Bonding with my brother Mark’s girlfriend Lindy (of all names!) and discovering in our drunken state that

Cindy + Lindy no Whiskey= Vodka

Needless to say, we (and especially me) had quite the hangover the following morning.

–Reuniting with Suzanne, a.k.a. Sister Zesma, after 2 months of separation!

–Jordan and Cliff’s delicious home cooked dinners paired with soothing Jazz music

–Mark and Cliff re-teaching me how to properly snap a kitchen towel. Gotta love big bros!

–Spending the night at my friend Marie’s house during a winter storm. We cozied up with drinks inside as the snow fell listening to Steve, Brian and JB play music and around midnight we all piled on our snow gear and did penguin dives down the city street hills, socialized with people sledding, played a game of football in the park, made snow angels and constructed a  jungle gym obstacle course.

–Watching the Seahawks game at the Schrecks and learning how to play Apples to Apples, one of the funnest board games out on the market right now!

–The whole Swain Gang driving back to Davenport listening to Christmas music–my brother Mark and I sitting in the back seat entertaining Thomas with goofy faces, books, and cheerios.

–Walking through the front door of my parents house for the first time in over 10 months. They had redecorated many of the rooms, so although the house look different, it still invoked in me that same sense and feelings of “home”.

–Seeing Thomas in his adorable little suit and tie for Christmas church service

–Opening presents with the fam and watching their faces light up with smiles when they opened my gifts

–Spending Christmas day with the Rambos, Olsons and Hergerts–my second family.

–Driving back to Seattle with my good friend Micheal and catching up on the past 10 months

–Making incredible memories at the Annual Christmas Party! About 20 of us get together each year, cook up a Christmas dinner feast, play a white elephant gift exchange and go crazy until the early rays of the morning sun peak it’s way into the windows of the house. This is an event that I look forward to all year, knowing that for one night all of my closest friends who are now spread out all over the U.S. are together for one night of new memories and laughter. Although we may not see each other as frequently as we use to, in the first greeting and hug–we are back to where we left off  like nothing has changed. Good friends are hard to come by and I feel truly blessed to this group of intellectual, funny and amazing people in my life!

–Hanging out at the Shay’s house after the Christmas party. It’s so great to relax in comfort of good friends.