Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This blog is dedicated to the wildflowers that I see each day, unlike any I've ever seen before. I don't think we have these kinds of wildflowers in Ohio...

Italy is truly one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. And one of the best things about it is that the Italians appreciate its beauty. Actually, Italians appreciate beauty in general. Beautiful people, beautiful scenery, beautiful clothes, even beautiful food. You could consider it a culture that is too easily stimulated by aesthetics, but it's understandable since they are surrounded by it.

Growing up in the Midwest there was plenty of nature all around. Flat nature, but pretty nature nonetheless. When I was young my mom would always point out different flowers, trees, farmlands, etc. and explain what they were. It pretty much went in one ear and out the other. I had more important things to think about, like Scooby Doo, My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite. I mean really, who cared about Oak trees or tulips? Certainly not me. Well, Italian children must have listened to their moms, because they all seem to know every type of fauna growing along road, in their gardens, and around the coast. Paolo probably even more than most because of his biology degree. Taking a walk with Paolo is like going to a class--a very interactive class in which the teacher says, as he's taking a bite of a leaf he just picked from the tree, "And Maggie, you can eat this one, try it." Yes, we eat berries, fruits and leaves straight off the trees. Most are actually pretty good, but some I think he just has us try simply because we can, not necessarily because they are tasty...

As an adult, I'm totally digging learning about the trees, flowers and plants that surround me. And in Italy I find myself paying so much more attention to it. I wondered if it was just because I've become so accustomed to what nature looks like at home so I don't see it as much? Or if it's because the culture as a whole places so much emphasis on nature that I can't help but notice. Other Americans living here have said the same thing, so I guess it's not just me.

Anyway, to give you an idea of what I am talking about when I say wildflowers here are a few photos I've taken in the last couple of weeks. They really are everywhere.

A mix of poppies and yellow wildflowers

Some purple flowers along the coast (this is in Otranto, where we walk a lot)

A poppy field and a traditional stone wall near Paolo's town, Sternatia (this photo does not do justice to the reds of the poppies, it is such a deep, deep brilliant red, like really ripe strawberries)

Close-up of a purple flower with poppies and grasses blowing in the wind

Beautiful isn't it? Can you see why I'm more enthralled by them? They are everywhere you turn. I could not imagine a more beautiful primavera (spring) if I tried.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Hello! It's been a while since I've written a 'realtime' post. I do have some legitimate excuses. My parents came to visit from March 30-April 14. Before their arrival I had to finish two huge papers and was still in school every morning from 9 till 1 for Italian. While my parents were here we packed everyday so full of Italian wonders that there was very little time to write. We had such a good time. We also had some nasty colds. Mine persisted after they left (this thing lasted about 3 weeks) until I finally caved and went to the doctor. I decided I needed some drugs to help me through my finals. They worked, and I finished my finals on April 23rd. Whoo-hoo! That night two of my friends from home arrived. They stayed until Saturday evening. Again, so much fun! I love being able to show other people all of the beautiful things I've been seeing everyday. So, these are my reasons for the writing drought. But have no fear. I'm back with a vengence.

I've decided since I no longer have Italian school or regular school and I don't have a job, for this last week I will write a blog each day to pay hommage to this country I've called home for the last 4 months. There are so many things that I've seen and done over the past month that are worth writing about, and since the only other things I plan on doing are laying in the sun on the roof studying Italian, hanging with Mr. Paolo as much as I possibly can, walking the coast everyday, and eating at all of my favorite places one last time, I figured that I can fit a blog in each day. I'm even going to attempt to post pictures directly into the blog so you can see what I am talking about.

So the first of my Italian series is about a town called Alberobello (which means "pretty tree"). I have never seen anything like this town before in my life. It was like you step straight into a fantasy novel as you begin to travel toward the town.

We drove down a narrow, narrow road and on both sides there were fields of wildflowers, olive trees, fruit trees, old stone walls and trulli. Now what is a trullo you ask? (trullo=singular, trulli=plural)

These are trulli.

In the middle of the fields there would be these little houses, that couldn't possibly be real...but they were. It was like leprechaun land or something. The were so cute, set in the most picturesque background and it made you feel like little men were about to pop out singing "we represent the lollipop guild..."

When driving the trulli were few and far between and we got excited when there would be a "spotting" but when we reached the actual town of Alberobello, the entire city was trulli-land. Some factoids about trulli themselves:

The trulli are limestone dwellings found only in the southern region of Puglia, and are examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, which is a prehistoric building technique still used in this region today. (Can you imagine prehistoric techniques still being used in the US? We are lucky to see techniques from the 70's...or, maybe not so lucky. The 70's were a bit strange architecturally). The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighboring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. The slabs in the roof are not held together by any type of adhesive, instead the way they are stacked allows the rain to flow right down the sides.


Italian cavemen knew what they were doing...

Women outside a shop

On the roofs of the trulli there were often magical, religious or primitive symbols, and in each symbol you can discover origins tied to pre-Christian, solar, Jewish or pagan cults.

Alberobello is part of the World Heritage List, which was created by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). And, not suprising, Italy has the most sights of any country on the list.

Even the church is a trullo.

Alberobello is becoming more of a tourist area, but unlike the big cities, it's still rather unknown to foreign travellers. Puglia in general has remained a treasure to foreign travellers because it's still relatively cheap, it's beyond beautiful, the people are more friendly than you can imagine. It's only slightly more difficult to move around this region because you have to rent a car. But if you are adventurous enough to drive with the Italians, then taking a trip to Puglia should be a major consideration if you are planning a trip to Italy. And if you need a travel guide, you know who to call...

We'd be happy to help!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Me's

Authors Note: I wrote this post over almost 2 months and published it, to find out later that day that it really wasn't yet public knowledge. Although the news had a major effect on me, I did not feel like it was my news to share. So I removed the post and waited for a more appropriate time to post it. I've since talked to Leslie and he told me that he was planning on telling me the news himself, but did not want to do it through email. So I've made some additional edits, and looking back now, I think this news has helped me to continue closing the door of my past and opening more and more to the life that is in front of me. Which certainly isn't half bad! I am also posting this because I truly do not have time to write about my parent's visit, my mugging, and the beautiful town of Alberobello that I am planning because I have two finals due by April 24th. So I thought in the meantime, I could use this post which was one of my hardest to write, and meant so much to me...

Last Thursday I got some shocking news. My ex-husband is going to be a father. Upon hearing this, my hands started shaking and I kept thinking "what do I do? what do I do??" Lucky for me Jenn was online and I told her what I had just found out. Her calmer head prevailed and she said "Don't react right now Maggie, just sit with it for a bit." And really, what could I do anyway? She knows me well enough to know that my mind had already reacted in a thousand different ways in a matter of a few seconds and she was warning me about acting on any of those initial reactions. She was right of course. Nothing good would come of acting on any of my feelings. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a hold of them. Here's a breakdown of my mental functioning at that time and over the course of that week:

Shocked Me was thinking: "What? This can't be right. Did I understand him correctly? (And by him, I do not mean Leslie). I found out by accident from a friend of a friend over instant messenger. This friend assumed I already knew. I didn't.

Sad Me was thinking: "Why her? Why now? We were together for almost 6 year. Married for 4. Why not me?"

Angry Me was thinking: "Jesus man, couldn't you at least let the f*cking ink dry on the divorce papers?"

Indifferent Me was thinking: "Not my problem anymore."

Ex-wife Me was thinking: "How is he going to support a child? Is he going to marry her? What about soccer?"

Mature Me was thinking: "I wish him all the best. He's great with kids."

And for the following few days the different "Me's" fought with each other about which feeling was the "right" one--the justified one. Sad Me would replay our times together and think about how we had our favorite name picked out for a girl. We did for a boy too, but our friends had a baby first and got to it before us. So we were still thinking about a boy. At the beginning of our marriage he used to joke that we had to start soon because he wanted 11 kids so he could have his very own soccer team. I'd remind him that it might not be the greatest team seeing that there would be a pretty big age disparity between the oldest and youngest. He said he could work around it. Sad Me would then envision him with a new family, new little soccer players, and a life where I am nothing but a distant memory.

Then out of the blue Angry Me would come in, slap Sad Me silly and start thinking "He couldn't even tell you himself? You had to hear it from someone twice removed? Has nothing changed?? (this was before Leslie and I spoke. He has since told me that he wanted to tell me over the phone or in person...which would be difficult, considering we haven't seen each other in a year and a half). But, I know the thought of telling me was really hard for him. Angry Me was also ranting: "The baby is due in June. Our divorce was final in December. I can do the math..." (this shouldn't have bothered me seeing that I had clearly moved on too, but it did). Leslie and I have not talked about "us" or what happened between us for a long time. He's told me that he doesn't think about the breakdown of our marriage much because it's too hard. Sometimes I wish could do that more; have the ability to compartmentalize. But I guess at some point you have to deal with it. Otherwise I suspect it will keep coming back in one form or another until you do, as though your life is on 'repeat.' When Angry Me would get fired up she would start to drudge up all of the unpleasant memories of the past, namely the last 2 years of our marriage and get pissed about history all over again. Angry Me can be pretty vocal. But I've been careful not to air anything but the laundry "blowing-in-the-Italian-wind-on-a-clothespin" on this blog. I've done my best to keep it about me and what I am experiencing. But, for the record, Angry Me could be a super-mega bitch. I needed that from her, or else Sad Me would have been a soppy mess all too often.

When Angry Me was about to explode was usually when Indifferent Me would come strolling in. "Hey Angry Me, relax. That is your past. None of this is your concern anymore. It's no longer something you have to worry about. Focus on today instead. No point in killing yourself over something you have absolutely no control. Plus, are you being fair? You've certainly moved on too..."

And over Indifferent Me's shoulder Ex-Wife Me would be chirping "How is this possible? Where are they going to live? What if he makes a team in the US? Is he still going to keep trying with soccer? Doesn't she have another child? Is he going to be a dad to TWO kids? Maybe I know someone who could help him to....I hope he's ready for this.... "

Indifferent Me would look at Ex-Wife me with a mixture of sympathy and annoyance and say "Can't you hear me? This is no longer your problem. He is not your husband, and it's not your responsibility to make sure he is ok. In fact, back when you were Wife Me, instead of Ex-Wife Me maybe that was part of your problem. You can't fix everything. Other people have to figure things out for themselves. Just like you have."

And then just for a second Mature Me would grace everyone with her presence. "Me's, listen to ME. Remember, despite all you've been through you love this man. You don't want to see him struggle, you want to see him happy. But Indifferent Me is right, if he is to struggle, his struggles are now his own. All you can do is pray that he is learning as much as you are by going through this."

Usually about this time is when Shocked Me would come rolling in loud and unexpected "WHAT? He's having a BABY???" And the cycle begins all over again.

This is all part of the beauty of divorce--you find yourself with temporary Multiple Personality Disorder. You question all you feel. You aren't sure if your feelings are justified anymore. You don't know what you are "allowed" to say. Your feelings change at such a rapid fire pace that sometimes you think "Am I happy? I know I was a second ago..."

And, to be completely honest, I'm not totally shocked by the news. I can recall a conversation that Leslie and I had about a year ago, shortly after we split. He was in the airport having just arrived back in the US after being on a tryout in China. I could tell he was in a rough place emotionally by the dullness in his voice. He said something along these lines: "I felt so alone when I was in China. It was the first time I realized that I really want a child. A child loves you no matter what. You never have to worry about them not being in your life, because they will be in your life forever. The relationship never ends, no matter what." I was shocked, and for once, had very little to say. I could have pulled out the "that would have been nice for you to decide WHEN WE WERE TOGETHER." But it wasn't the time for sarcasm. He was serious. And it was at that moment that I first thought to myself, "He's going to have a baby soon." I also had a dream a few months ago that he was pregnant (yeah, like he, himself had a baby growing in him). The feelings were so real that I asked his sister if it was true (not him being know what I mean). At that time it wasn't. But, I knew it was coming. (It's not the first time I've had a 'real' dream, right Amy?) But despite being a little bit prepared, it still knocked the wind out of me. It's like knowing your dog is eventually going to die, but when it happens that knowledge doesn't make it any easier.

What I've learned from this situation is: 1) Maybe I wasn't as far along as I thought. I felt like I was moving forward pretty well and... WHAM! this hit like a Mack truck. 2) I'd been holding on to Leslie. Not in a way in which I want to be with him. I don't. At all. Let me give an example to hopefully explain better. I'd been really hesitant about writing this blog out of fear it might upset him (I know, I KNOW). I had to ask myself why I cared so much if he was upset. He's no longer a part of my everyday life; I don't have to worry about coming home to him being pissed at me. It's as though this way of thinking has been so programmed in me-- trying NOT to upset him (in fear of losing him) that I still function in that way, forgetting that it's no longer possible for me to lose him. The relationship still had a hold on part of me, and by extension, part of my life. After being with someone for so long, I would imagine it is pretty normal to still feel a connection. But, for my own sake, I had to work on letting go of that because somehow, subconsciously, I've allowed that hold to continue. 3) There is no way I would want to trade places with Leslie or the mother of his child. 4) Paolo is most understanding man I've ever met. The day after I found out, I was about ready to crawl out of my skin. I needed to be alone, to sort out "The Me's." My brain was functioning on all circuits and nothing was making sense. Trying to think about the current relationship in front of me was damn near impossible. Instead of that hurting him and him taking it personally, he asks me if I needed to take a weekend away, if I needed some space from him and some time to myself. He gets it. I don't know how, but he does.

That day I went for a long walk on the beach by myself. I climbed up a large sand dune and sat down. I leaned back on my elbows and tried to force myself to think. "Ok, you are alone now, think. THINK! Figure this out. Land on a feeling. Make sense of it." But my mind was blank. All I could see was the vast turquoise sea and the never ending sky.

It was then I began to realize it was all ok. All I felt. All of it was ok, justified. My feelings were my feelings. I don't have to apologize for them, I don't have to stifle or hide them, and I don't have to act on them. I just have to accept them, and keep plugging away at my new life. It's all any of us can do. As I sat there in the setting Italian sun I realized there was really nothing left for me to figure out.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Don't have a lot of time because my parents are here. Yes, here in Italy. Hence my being MIA. Anyway a quick rundown, and I'll write a proper blog when they leave (on the 13th).

Went to Rome, Florence, Venice. Loved all of them (I've been to Rome and Florence before, but my parents have never been to Italy. And I will never tire of these cities). Got my wallet stolen out of my purse on the subway in Rome. Drivers license, credit cards, SS card (dummie, I know, I never carry it) but no cash. That escapade will get a blog all to itself.

We are now back in Otranto, all nursing colds, but are still having a great time. Had the official meeting of the parents today, and aside from them not being able to speak to each other it seemed to go very well. Any six course homemade meal would be able to win my dad over. So it was pretty easy. Going to spend the next week exploring the beautiful area I've made home for the past few months. And Tuesday is my mom's birthday, so we'll be celebrating Puglian style.

So that's the scoop. More to come...

a dopo. (later).