Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time for Some New Shoes

“Don’t look fate can only find you

You can’t choose for something to surprise you

Set sail without a destination

Just see where the wind will take you”

--Lee DeWyze

No one said that the amount of time you spend in a place is what truly makes it worth your while. No one said that you had to live somewhere for three months, six months, or a year to really understand it, to really grasp it, to really endure it. All you really need is a mind and a heart for adventure. In the last week, after being met with several obstacles, I have made a decision on the next month of my Italian excursion…

….Drum roll….

…I have made a decision on what will be my FINAL month of my Italian excursion…

Yep that’s right—it’s time for a new pair of shoes—or in other words—another change. Instead of returning home in April, like my flight home was booked for, I will be returning home the first week of February, but not before going north, east, and south in Italy, not before getting a taste of every cappuccino on the compass, not before seeing Italy.

A year ago, I had saved up a piggy bank of money to return to Europe over the summer for a backpack trip that clearly never happened. Part of the reason it never happened was because I had never made the leap—taken the chance—and booked the flight. I was scared. Then, when I finally went to book the flight, a volcano erupted, (literally in Iceland), and my plans shifted again. I never jumped.

Then I did. And now here I am struggling to find a job in Italy, but is that what I ever truly wanted to do anyway?


I wanted to explore. I wanted to find new alleyways. I wanted to find cobblestone I had never walked on before. I wanted to go on an adventure.

Did I want to spend time working and worrying about money?


Did I think I’d cut my trip short.

Absolutely not.

Was I worrying about all the wrong things when I was debating cutting the trip short by three months?!


I was worried about what other people would think of my decision to come home. Like I was giving up or that I was running away. Like I had failed. It took a certain someone reminding me that people at home wouldn’t be disappointed in me—that I wouldn’t be failing—that I would be returning to people who loved and cared about me…that they wouldn’t suddenly hate me for making a choice to come home to them. And now I know where I want to be, and what I want to do and I think it took coming back here to realize it. I do want to continue traveling, and I want to continue writing, and I want to continue producing, and I want to get started on my company…my production company…My dream.

And under the circumstances that finances will eventually run short, that I will soon be an illegal “alien” (or a new-wave Italian) here in Italy, and that I will not have had the opportunity to see outside of the box I have squeezed myself into, I think it only seems right. They say that distance is what you make it. I think that goes for time too. You can live in a place for your whole life and never SEE it. There are people here who have been here their whole lives and who have never seen the Colosseum. There are people in New York City, who have lived there their whole life and have never made it north of 125th street because “It’s scary.” This is not the route I want to take. I don’t want to be scared. This is not the way I ever want to spend my life…I want to see everything. I want to take the route where I buy a train ticket and spend one month of my life seeing everything I never knew.

A friend asked me where I was looking to live in Rome, a few weeks ago, and I told her “Prati.”

“Didn’t you live there already?”

“Yah, but I loved it.”

“But you need to look at new places…you need to SEE new things.”

“Naw…I love Prati…”

And I love Rome—but my friend is right. Prati is not the place for me to return to, and I am starting to think settling down here isn’t for me either. I really am meant to run all the miles in my shoes at marathon runner pace—I really am meant to move around a bit. As much as change scares me—it’s the only thing I truly know.

Like I mentioned, I was worried that if I came home sooner than planned—that I had failed. But that’s not true. If I come home sooner than planned, and before then, I find a new world of exploration—a new world of cobblestone—a new world of cappuccino--a new world—then I will probably have exceeded my expectation of this trip—and I will probably be more content with the outcome. I will be happy to board a plane home with memories of fulfilling one of my main goals in coming back here: Discovery.

And discovery can take on so many meanings. It can be in the way that you travel to new places. Or it can be in the way that you discover new things about yourself. I like to think I got a taste of both—I am going home seeing my cappuccino cup (well over 150 cappuccino cups) as half full, not half empty.

Watch out New York City…I am coming home.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Libs and emotions sitting in a tree -- M-I-S-S-I-N-G

"If you ever said you missed me, then don't say you never lied."--Brand New

There are certain words, that when placed together, take on an incredible strength in meaning--and incredible strength in disappointment if said at false moments. "I love you" can often be thrown around, said too early in a relationship, or not said enough. It can turn a beginning relationship into a real relationship. It can be the last words someone says to a loved one before they pass. And it can be the final words someone says to someone before they let them go from their life due to personal decisions. Everyone analyzes these three words "I Love You." But there is one word that you can replace "love" with to create a phrase that becomes just as or even more strong than the first combination of eight letters.

I miss you.

I am not sure I knew the meaning of missing something or someone until only recently. I realized this week that "I miss you" is painfully thrown around similar to the way "I love you" can often times be thrown around.

A night before I left for Italy, a good friend of mine told me that she wouldn't miss me two weeks into my voyage to Italy. She said she probably wouldn't miss me one month into my trip either. I didn't understand, and I was actually extremely saddened by her remarks. That was until Christmas day, when I realized what she meant. Missing someone is a physical feeling--almost like an illness--something that eats at your stomach and your heart and your mind. It is not solely a mental condition--no missing someone is a real emotion, driven by moments that cause us to remember some time, with some person (or on our own) that we really wish we could have at a certain and specific time.

I painfully missed having my family for Christmas. Some days, as of recently, I painfully miss having my friends from New York City and from Pennsylvania to just call on a bad day or sit with and enjoy the silence. When I miss something, as I have learned, I PAINFULLY miss it. It's really simple to get in touch with someone and say "I miss you," because it feels like the right thing to say, but it not always is. "I miss you," like "I love you" could move mountains. It means things are difficult without you here...It means there is a void that I wish you could fill back up.

Missing people is a feeling that you have when there is something you want to share with
someone, so badly, but who most likely is still asleep due to a time difference. Missing someone is wishing they were online to drop a quickly hello to. Missing someone is in the moments that you are walking around and you just wish you could sit down with that person and share a cup of coffee, a window to people watch through, and a fantastically epic long conversation. Missing someone is in moments that you truly feel an emptiness within you. Missing someone or something can actually be debilitating.

To say "I miss you" could have such a strong meaning that it could very well combust the world. When said without truly meaning it, it could actually become more painful to a person than the actual feeling of missing something. To say "I miss you" is to let someone know there is an empty void without that person--that a part of you is incomplete, a part of you is actually...missing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

B.I.N.G.hOme. A Very Merry Christmas

Waking up to an empty apartment on Christmas morning is not something I have ever wished to do, nor after doing it this Christmas, do I ever wish to do it again. I believe that it was just last Christmas that my mom said to me that she wished she would never have to wake up alone on Christmas day, and now, I completely understand.

But that doesn’t mean you have to go the whole day on your own—alone—without “home,” without family. You can turn that lonely morning into a day full of happiness and community, a day full of spirit and surprise, a day full of love. And that’s just what I did this Christmas.

Knowing that Christmas was coming up, and that I had no plans set in stone, I made arrangements to work at a soup kitchen, in Rome, with a few friends from the class I just finished taking in Florence. Each of us, without family, thought that giving back to the community and helping those who don’t have a true home here either, would be a good way to spend Christmas. And while our expectations were quite off from what we would actually be doing, the experience was not dull or disappointing in any way , shape, or form.

In fact, I think spending Christmas in this way, at the soup kitchen, was even more rewarding than other soup kitchen experiences that I have had. I think that this Christmas experience was a true eye opener to just how many people are risk takers, leapers, and go-getters.

Walking into the church at 10:15 AM to begin set up, the head of the program asked us to begin cutting the dessert cake for the meal. After piecing thirteen plates of cake together, we had some extra time to chat with some of the others who were working. We met a man from Ethiopia, a woman from Brazil, and a few people from the Phillipines. Struck by the fact that we were from America, and almost in awe, they talked to us and welcomed us. Soon after, we met a family who lives in Texas and who came to Rome for the holidays. Thinking that we would be working with all italians, I was suddenly intrigued by the diversity of this group.

And then as people started filtering into the church for the four course meal, it dawned on me that this was not your every day soup kitchen that serves people who don’t have any food or shelter. This was something much more different, something uniquely diverse, and something I would have never imagined experiencing before this day. The people walking in were not struggling—and if they were—they hid it well—instead they were people who were either alone for Christmas, like I was when I woke up, or they were people who were traveling with no where else to go on Christmas. We leaned a lot of this as a priest began to make the first toast of the Christmas lunch by saying that he was glad to have the visitors and the travelers in attendance.

Suddenly, I felt less like a helper,, and more like an insider. Less like I was doing good, and more like I was getting to have a Christmas. And while I really wanted to spend the Christmas by giving back to the community on a day where I couldn’t give my friends or family at home anything under their tree, I found this to be a pleasant surprise.

Not before long, I got to talking to a student from Rome who told me about how much she loved Europe and all of her favorite places to go. Then it was on to three people from the Ukraine, and a couple from the Philippines, all who expressed great interest in talking and learning about the American culture while I attempted to learn about each of their own.

Wearing my Santa hat, I became the prime target for helping to hand out gifts with the true man that they dressed up as Santa. Seeing smiles on strangers faces over presents with big green bows made me smile. Seeing smiles on so many people from so many different places, all together, in one place, made me smile. Experiencing this first Christmas, away, like this, made me smile.

And as one of the organizers opened up a box of bingo cards to be played in the closing of the day at the church, all I could think about was how I felt like I had already won, like all five numbers across the center of my board had been called, how I had found h”o”me in a day when I felt like home was impossible to have. And as I studied the people’s faces around me, I began to think that they were feeling the same way, as if the organizer had just called all our numbers in perfect order…as if we had each just gotten B.I.N.G.hOme.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why we keep in touch--Happy Holidays

A week ago, walking around Rome, I said to myself, “Thank goodness I have kept in touch with so many people in my life…For if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have had a place to live in Rome for the month of December, I wouldn’t have made the connections here that I have made, and I wouldn’t have followed through with making a leap to another country.”

And then last night I received the two most wonderful Christmas gifts that were wrapped up in words as a Facebook notification. “Sam Ojih tagged you in a video” “Hannah Brencher posted a video on your wall.” Sam and Hannah are friends that I have made only recently—and when I say recently, I mean not within a year, but within the last six months. They are two people that I have shared passions and hopes and dreams with. They are people who aspired to go to New York City. They are people who I have come to love dearly, and they are the two people who have made my Christmas away from home even extra special this year…they are the two people who this week have made me realize why keeping in touch is so important, even if you haven’t known people for all that long.

They both left me words of encouragement, words of thankfulness, words of love for the holidays, words of memories, words of what I can only call gratefulness and wonderfulness. They left me messages that I will carry with me this holiday season and that I will be able to go back to endlessly. Their words won’t be taped up to the wall above my pillow—but rather taped to the wall of my Facebook for me to return to again and again. Their gifts are timeless.

And I think that’s what the holiday season is about—giving people something timeless, something they can go back to, something they can read or watch or see over and over again that will make them smile—or cry (tears of joy in this case). The holiday season may be built up in every place in the world around the chaos of Christmas festivals and gift exchanges, but I think it is about much more than that—much more than bows and ribbons—much more than candy canes and Old St. Nick—much more than the physical things that we can hold in our hands. It’s about what we can hold in our hearts and what we can put in the hearts of others. It’s about reaching out to someone whose hand we may not physically be able to curl our fingers between but who we can touch in some other way.

Maybe we haven’t spoken to a good friend in a year…two years…or five years. Maybe a sibling has gone astray—or we have lost the ability to get along with our parents, our exes, or our childhood enemies. But I can assure you that keeping in touch—or—getting back in touch—could be one of the best gifts you wrap up with your heart this year…It could get someone through a holiday…It could get someone through it all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moo Moo's Guide to Compromise

A good friend of mine, Tony, pointed out a book to me, just a few weeks before I journeyed to Italy. The book was called, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.”

After living with a four and five year old for nearly a month now, I have discovered how true that statement is. While we learn a lot of lessons: Like sharing, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, the one that stands out to me most is the idea of compromise.

I have learned from these kids that we learn compromise VERY early, but we learn about a deeper kind of compromise…we learn about bargaining.

Kids are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They know when you are trying to trick them, they know when their parents have left and who they can try and get away with things with, and they know where the chocolate is hidden in the kitchen. They know how to scream, how to fight, and how to hustle. Their compromise is bargaining—their compromise is hustling.

Walking through the door on the coldest day in December, I tell the kids that their snack will be yogurt and that their mom has chosen it. I go to the kitchen, I take out two yogurts, I put them on the table, and I say snack time!

The kids come running in, and the young boy says—"No not that one, I look in the fridge." He spots the one and only MooMoo vanilla and chocolate pudding—the equivalent to a Trix Yogurt that would have been sitting in my fridge when I was five. The young boy turns to me and says, “Can I have that one?” Untrained, I say, "Of course"…But as soon as the young boy puts it on the table, the young girl’s eyes light up. “I WANT” she yells. And then the gaping wallows of tears begin to stream as I take it away and say we must not eat it, if it is the only one left. Thankfully, within moments the mom has walked through the door and begins to take care of business.

Just a few days later, I am faced with the same challenge. Yogurt for snack time.

I sit the two yogurts on the table. The kids sit down. The young boy eats his diligently saying “It was good…chocolate now?” I say “Maybe.” The young girl sits defiantly at the other end of the table, shaking her head with her arms across her chest. “I WANT MOO MOO.” I tell her no. So she goes and sits in another chair, still arms crossed, and a smug look on her face.

I tell the boy that he can have ONE chocolate. He and I sit down and play Eenie Meeni Miny Moe to decide which chocolate it should be. The little girl says, “Moo Moo,” and “I don’t like this one.” I know it’s not true as I have seen her eat it with her mom. She knows I am easier to get away with things with, because I can’t tell her no—and because I can’t tell her why not in her native language. All I can do is pretend to cry when she cries too, and see if she gets the point. But this time, I try something new. I start opening the yogurt and say it’s either this or nothing. She still carries the smug face. She sees the chocolate again in the boy’s hands and her eyes are bright.

“If you eat this yogurt, you will get ONE chocolate.”

Smiling, she grabs the yogurt and asks me to help her open it. I help her and she starts taking big bites.



This is not compromise. This is the most important lesson we learn when we grow up…How to bargain our way to get what we truly want. I am starting to think the show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” should be transformed into, “Have you been hustled by a 5 year old?”

Sunday, December 12, 2010


In fifth grade, my mom bought me the perfect pair of new sneakers. They were white, with a little bit of navy blue. I was such a tomboy at the time that I had to buy the little boy shoes. I was so excited to sport them to school and show them off on the playground. When I went to play kickball that day, I was extra-excited because I thought they would make me kick the ball a little bit farther. When it was finally my turn to kick, I sent a shot to the far outfield (which was probably actually not that far to big people), and I ran the bases. When I got to the third base, I continued past by accident and right into a mud pile. Everyone started laughing at me, and I cried because my new shoes were ruined. I was so humiliated.

Humiliation comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be in ruining a new pair of shoes in a mud pile at recess, or it can be in being left on your wedding day (see Carrie Sex and the City 1). It had been some time since I considered myself truly humiliated, since my eyes shedded tears due to feeling entirely embarrassed for trying something I should have never tried, since I regretted trying one thing over another. But today, I felt it…and the tears that bubbled behind my eyes were hard to hold back as the man behind the bookstore counter made me feel like I was about one inch tall in this giant city that I consider more home than a place I spent four years at for college. “Don’t try to speak Italian,” he told me as I asked him if they took credit card or not… “We don’t like it.”

“We don’t like it,” I repeated in my head… ‘You don’t like me speaking your language,’ I thought to myself. And so I responded, “But I try to speak the language.” And he said, “It humiliates us…Don’t do it.” With a stern look on my face he said “Basta” told me the amount that had been put on my card and rushed me out of line.

As I walked away from the counter, lost from my two good friends, the tears started to stream down my face. The lady to the right of the mean man didn’t stand up for me, and neither did the people around me. I was just a silly American who was now banned from trying to speak the native language of Italy…I was now just the silly American who felt humiliated for trying.

It was the first time I had truly missed home since I had been here. In America, we would applaud someone for trying to speak English to us even if their language was Spanish, German, or Italian. I would help them spit the words out and let them give it a try, probably happy that they tried. And if they spoke Spanish or Italian, I would make an honest effort to try to communicate back with them since I speak broken Spanish and Italian. But I would never tell them not to try—not to want to learn. Isn’t that part of what is so grand about a new culture? Learning the language—learning the way.

As I returned home to my house family for the month, I explained what had happened. They were appalled that someone would even act that way, and they almost seemed humiliated that an Italian would be so rude to someone trying to learn the language. They reminded me that learning the language and using it is not looked down upon in this way by all Italians and to keep trying…not to let this get to me and to move on to the next opportunity to speak the language. Like the little engine that could, I continue on…without returning to that bookstore.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rubber Ducky--You're the One

You were tiny! Very cute w/long hair. Very opinionated, even then! You liked playing with small toys--legos, Fisher price Little people, Barbies--you built villages. You liked to sing in the tub--to your amazing collection of bath toys--I called your songs your operas. You liked to go outside, no matter the season. You were fearless.” -My mom on me.

Waving around a Christmas ornament that I have just purchased him, a young boy has a big smile on his face. The ornament, which has a bell inside of it has become less of an ornament, and more of a toy. Suddenly the string comes loose from his hand, the ornament crashes to the ground, and the decoration becomes one less accessory to the tree, and one more worry for the broom. Tears from the boy start to shed, and sorry’s start wailing out of his mouth. “It’s okay,” I say, not angry, “It happens…don’t cry, it will be okay.” He runs to the other room and watches television with sadness in his eyes. One day he’ll remember this and think “My gosh, it was just a bell.” But for now—it’s the only thing he can find real sadness for in his life. And I envy that.

Only recently, maybe two years ago, have I started to truly love children—and I don’t mean in that creepy SVU kind of way. I mean I really love children. I love that they have this 6th sense for the world, that they seem to know everything that is happening, and that they seem to know how to get what they want. They have magical powers (maybe it’s their ability to be adorable), but they really do. They have an ability to know when we are having a bad day and when we need a hand to hold. They have the ability to draw a picture that looks nothing like us but makes us feel wonderful just the same. And of course they have the ability to make us remember that life can be as simple as bruises on our knees, cuts on our elbows, and shattered bells on the kitchen floor.

They don’t cry about money, the economic crisis, or the rumors of the end of the world in 2012. They don’t question how green the population of the world is or how terrible the government is. They just live.

During my babysitting escapades, here in Italy, I have gotten to know two adorable children very quickly. As I learn about them, I also have been learning from them. Not only is their English better than mine was when I was 4 and 5, but their knack of knowing things about the world is simply superb. Full of energy, they are completely aware of their surroundings, how to get their way, and how to push the right buttons. They are fearless in speaking to me, asking me questions, and waiting for my response—even if half the time I can’t give them one (as I can’t understand too much of their Italian). The little girl and I even have a routine set in stone… “Question in Italian…” ‘Blank Stare from me.’ “Question again in Italian.” ‘Blank stare again…’ “Libby!” “Non lo so (I don’t know)” “Question again in Italian…” “No capisco. Parlo Inglese! (I don’t understand, I speak English)” “Ugh. No capisco”—Little Girl. Sometimes it works the other way around. “What did you eat today?”-Me “Yes.” But somehow it doesn’t matter, we get eachother---and we laugh and we play and we forget these moments have even happened. And then, not long later, we play the same Italian-English game again with the same questions and answers. Sometimes, I can ask the boy for help—and sometimes it’s just easier to let it go—something kids are lucky to have the ability to do.

Hannah, who I often reference in my blog, wrote a post that asked how the little girl she was in the past would feel about her now. My gosh, if only we could sit down with our little selves and have a conversation, what would that little self say.

While I can’t say how the conversation would go exactly, I think that our little selves would remain the same. They would look at us…hold our hand, tell us they drew us a picture of us together—(that of course looked nothing like either of us—ears coming out of our chins—pants with two different size legs—and a non existent nose)—and say “Smile!” They would know we were upset—but they probably wouldn’t know why we were upset so they would just smile in their adorableness, and make us want to go back.

My little self would probably build me a lego fort to sit in, and then sing to me from the bathtub. She would probably have a million bath toys surrounding her and would go on to ask me to jump right in… And I probably would… and I’d look at her and smile and I’d think to myself, “Gosh, I really always was a goof…” and then I’d probably pick up a rubber yellow ducky and sing right along—putting all my worries behind. For once, in my grown-up life time, I’d be the 4 year old who was fearless…the 4 year old who didn’t stop to wonder why the sky was blue or why the grass was green—the 4 year old who just lived with the magical power of adorableness...

okay well…I guess I still have that power.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"For me, I like"

I’ve mentioned this before. I tend to move around as often as I change my shoes, and since I bought new boots just three days ago, it seems only fitting that I have moved on to Rome as of this morning.

It’s nearly been one month since I have arrived in Italy. It has nearly been one month since I have had a Dunkin Donuts coffee, since I have driven a car, and since I have had the convenience of things like Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens. It has nearly been one month since I embarked on my new adventure. It has nearly been one month since I made the best decision of my life, in getting on the plane to return to Italy--my home. The other day our teachers sat us down and said. “Let’s talk about what you will take with you as life skills from this course…How have you changed?”

I looked around the room as one of my peers began to speak. He spoke of many of the things that we discussed at our Thanksgiving Feast—how family can be anywhere, how home can be anywhere. I then raised my hand and spoke from a personal level… "Every experience is a new one.”

I may be putting myself out there a bit in this entry, but I think sometimes it’s really important that we do that, that we let people know our past, and how that has effected our present.

I told the class that I had learned that we could experience a place we have lived in, breathed in, and loved in before, in a totally and completely different way a second time around, that no two experiences are the same, and that there is always something new worth exploring in a place that you truly believed you have conquered.

I didn’t dive into too much more with the class time, but I think it’s important that we go into each new experience with an open heart and an open mind. A problem that I have had since I was a kid is that I often try too hard and become a bit overwhelming at times. My mom will tell you that when I get an idea in my head, she’ll have to shhsh me and tell me to take a minute to fixate on something else. It is something I have never been able to shake.

So when I first returned to Florence four weeks ago, I had this idea in my head that I knew Florence and everything that had to be done again and how to do everything and how to really be the queen of Florence. God, was I wrong. But I am glad I was. Because if I had experienced Florence the way I had before—if I had experienced Florence and had overwhelmingly been able to have others experience Florence in the ways that I did before, I wouldn’t have fallen head over heals with all the parts of the city that did this time, I wouldn’t have really experienced Florence, now two years later, in it’s whole. I wouldn’t have truly made the best of every moment.

As I finished up my short speel on my experiences to the class and explained how I had never taken the opportunity to go to the Bobali Gardens or Piazzale Michelangelo before, my teacher looked at me with a confused look, “What the hell did you do here before,” is what she was really asking me. And while I used the excuse that I had only been in Florence three weeks before—for orientation of a semester in Rome—I thought to myself, “My gosh, what the hell did I do here before…” And suddenly it didn’t matter, because I had just experienced one of the two best Novembers of my life without reservation, without hesitation, without regret. I had just lived in the present…I suddenly didn’t need the past to be my reason for my returning. Just being here and having new experiences was now my reason…Just living in the moment was now my reason—and it was now the perfect reason.