I’m not going out like The Fonz

Ciao Readers! And Happy Birthday Mom!

As some of you may remember (and others of you may have heard about from us elders), when I was a kid there was a very popular t.v. show called “Happy Days”  featuring “The Fonz” (or “Fonzie” to his friends).  To my 9 year-old self, the super cool Fonzie was all that and a bag of chips – I actually wanted to be The Fonz, mini jeans jacket and all (not leather at age 9).  So it is with a sad heart that I acknowledge that The Fonz is the unwitting father of the phrase “jumps the shark,” which Wikipedia defines as “indicating the moment when a brand, design, or creative effort’s evolution loses the essential qualities that initially defined its success and declines, ultimately, into irrelevance.”  Just in case you don’t know the actual genesis of the phrase, in an episode in 1977, The Fonz literally jumped a shark (on water-skis).  D’oh!

Which brings us to my blog.  I think we’ve had a good run, yes?  But now I feel like it’s time to end it, before it “devolves into irrelevance,” or “jumps the shark” as the saying goes.  I have actually downloaded a ton more pictures and have drafted several more posts, but they just don’t have the same enthusiastic tone as in the past (whether that be enthusiasm for delicious food or for complaining about lines at the post).  So, instead of forcing out more blog posts at this point, I think I’ll take a lesson from yet another t.v. character, George Costanza, and walk out on a high note.

I thank you, sincerely, dear Readers, for coming with me on this journey over the past year.  I have appreciated your comments, warm wishes, advice and thoughts, and I have enjoyed discovering many of your respective blogs (and getting to meet some of you in person!).  If you’d like to keep in touch and don’t already have my e-mail, post a comment and I’ll send you my e-mail (I can see your e-mail address when I get your comment).

(N.B. – For those of you who haven’t had enough, I am still mulling over the idea of turning this blog and other unpublished thoughts into a book, working title “To Italy and Back Again: An Expat’s Tale” ©.  And yes,  goal42, I am still up for a co-blog post!)

Arrivederci e buona fortuna!!!

A “Secret” Garden!

Ciao Readers!

Today I am taking you on a outing to the most peaceful place in Florence (which ironically enough is mere yards away from one of the more touristy) – The Rose Garden!

Now a friend of mine who I met here last summer told me about this wonderful place and I am sorry that I waited this long to follow her recommendation.  I guess part of me wondered how great can a garden right below the famous Piazzale Michelangelo lookout point be?  I mean the view from the piazza is great, but it’s also covered in tourists and hawkers (boxers depicting the bottom half of David anyone?).  Well, was I wrong!  Just by walking down some stairs off the piazza, you make your way into a beautiful and peaceful (and free!) garden.  It seems that from the lack of tourists and tranquil atmosphere that this garden must not be touted in/by many tour guides…

The garden was created in 1865 by Giuseppe Poggi, who also designed the piazzale.  In 1998 a small Japanese garden was added through a gift from Florence’s sister-city, Kyoto.  I’ve read that there are about 350 varieties of roses in the garden!  Unfortunately, the roses at this time are mere buds, so I’ll have to return in a month or so to see/photograph those (all of the green flowerless bushes you see in the photos are full of buds).  However, there were plenty of other wonderful plants in full bloom, including the pictured wisteria, as well as many varieties of fruit trees and more.  There are also 11 modern art statues by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.  And, maybe the best part of all is all of the benches scattered throughout so that you can sit and relax and take in the beautiful scenery and quiet from a variety of vantage points (or, as the man pictured, read a book).   Even the neighbors seem to be in the spirit – notice the house literally bathed in flowers you can see from the garden (below).  Overall, this garden is a wonderful oasis in a usually chaotic city!  Enjoy…  (sorry, I always seem to take photos when it’s overcast, and this past week it was actually mostly sunny for a change!)

Born to Run!

Ciao Readers!

So, today we’re going for a run.  Now that we’ve decided to go HOME (yes, I said it), it’s hard to keep a Buddhist mind on the present and not start thinking about the future – the people I’ll see, the food I’ll eat, what it will take to get a law office up and running….  But, one thing that does keep me in the here and now is running!

Running, especially running in races, was/will be a huge part of my existence.  Do you have something like that?  Maybe art or music or a hobby – something that you’d be adrift at sea without?  Well, that’s running to me.  If you would have told me that 20 years ago I would have laughed in your face (seriously).  So, for those of you who haven’t already heard the tale, let’s go back a  bit…

I am not naturally athletic.  That’s an understatement.  I was so not-athletic that in gym class in jr. high I would be the one left on the track, trying unsuccessfully to finish my laps when everyone was already in the locker room – usually resulting in being late to my next class and getting detention.  Up until age 31 I had never run a mile in my entire life.  Then came law school and the accompanying stress (law school stressful – who would have thunk?).  The lawyer I was extern-ing for was an avid runner and suggested I give it a try (lawyers are over-achievers; I know several that do ultra marathons [50/100 miles]).  Ha! (that’s what I said) – but then I thought “might as well….”…and the rest is history.  Well, a long, drawn out history.  I bought a book about how to run and followed its advice – starting with running as long as I could (about 30 seconds), then walking, and so on.  After many months I completed my first mile ever – if you would have seen me and my excitement you would have thought I just won the Boston Marathon!  I was shocked, but I loved it – it felt great, gave me time to clear my head every morning, and opened up an entire part of me that I didn’t know existed.  By my last year in law school I ran my first 5k, and then at age 40 I ran my first 1/2 marathon (with dozens of 5k’s, 10k’s and sprint triathlons in-between).  When I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon it was the most amazing feeling.  I kept thinking that I would have bet a million dollars that was something I would never do in my life had someone bet my younger self….my first half marathon

(me at the finish line)

As you may recall, my attempts to participate in organized runs here have been less than fruitful.  Couple that with my recent broken toe, and running has fallen to the wayside for several months.  Until recently.  My toe can now take some light jogging, and with the knowledge that we’ll be back in time I’ve already signed up for the Duke City Half Marathon in October (and have a 10k in September).  Something about having an organized run – complete with a goal, an energetic crowd and a cool t-shirt (my Pop’s entire wardrobe is practically made up of my running shirts) makes a world of difference – I just can’t seem to get the same feeling from running on my own with no specific goal in sight.  Now that I’ve signed up for a couple, I have something to work on here in the here and now – getting back to being able to run the distance in time!

I have participated in so many runs I’ve lost count – everything from a 5k on the Vegas Strip with my sis-in-law in the rain on my 38th birthday to down a mountain in Colorado and around a lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Japan.   Here are my top 4:

Run for the Zoo – I wrote about this run in a previous post, so won’t repeat myself.  It was the first organized run I ever did and remains my favorite as the energy, t-shirts, organization and camaraderie are as good as it gets.

run for the zoo 2012

Saiko – A 10k around lake Saiko which is at the base of mount Fuji.  I ran this in 2008 with an international running group – folks from all over including the U.S., Japan and Argentina.  (We ran around the lake I’m standing in front of.)  Most amazing scenery for a run yet! (Can you pick me out of the crowd, Waldo style?)

saiko race3snyhope mt fuji sny

Slacker Half Marathon – I learned about this run from someone at a race in Albuquerque.  She was wearing the “slacker” t-shirt from the race and it piqued my curiosity (and desire to own a similar shirt); I signed up for the race and we, along with my parents, went to Georgetown, Colorado the following June where the race is held.  It’s called the “slacker” because you run down a mountain – from the top of the Loveland ski slope at 12,000 ft. into the town at about 8,000 ft. (it’s not as easy as the name implies!). (That’s me about to cross the finish line, turquoise shirt – I never said I was fast!)

slacker half   before...

The Lobster 10k – this run is part of the festivities that go with Rockland Maine’s Lobster Festival held the beginning of August every year.  It was a great run, partly because you got to dress like a lobster (okay, I didn’t realize I had accidentally bought a crab, not a lobster hat), but also because you can pig out on 3/$25 lobsters when you’re done!!!yum! (My Pop’s doing just that….)

Organized runs, here I come!!!

A “Dear John” Letter to Italy

Hello Readers!  And Happy Spring!

Well, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t blogged in a bit.  That’s because I’ve been composing this “Dear John” letter to Italy (okay, in all honesty I wrote it in about 10 minutes and have been mulling it over).  I was trying to remember if I’d ever actually written a “Dear John” letter before and I don’t think I have.  I prefer face-to-face when it comes to serious subjects.  However, in this case, this is as close as I think I can get.


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