Live Abundantly

Climb the world and keep your eyes wide.

Parade the peaks and secure the seas

Open your mouth to wow

And your hands to understand

Even the pastures and ponds

Are made from the grandest matter

That form those far off lands

Taste the delight of here and there

Flat soil, tall rocks

Walking and hiking

Working and playing


Joy is in the earth

And in the earth




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Ghosts make life hardly living, and it’s not easy, hardly living,

With ghosts,

Life is hard, like living hardly, inside my home.

Ghost sit, stand, run, and roam inside my home, inside my head, inside my bed.

Always here, always there like a hollow and a soulless friend.

No heart to wish me well and send me on my way;

No way to send me and well wish me.

Only they find me and bind me in their presence where life is not,

And there I must to think of whence they came,

To think of whence they’ll go

And leave me in peace, alone.

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The Twenty-Ninth Dream

There was a boy who had a dream

For every year his heart still beat,

And every year another dream

He added to his chest to keep.

In his chest his dreams did swim

With hopes or satisfactory grins.

Every dream could make amends

For doubts that tried to creep within.

A new, strong, and handsome dream

Was outside, waiting for the key;

To be let in, to dive its depths,

To give the boy another year’s breath.

Anticipation flooded his chest,

Beating and dreaming the days till best,

Until best came—which is today—

When on this day the grant was made.

Dream twenty-nine took its place

As twenty-eight others bowed in grace.

The newest nine moved in proud,

The twenty-ninth dream had left the ground.

Happy Birthday to my husband.

January 22, 2015

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Bologna: Adventures with Cate

I was standing in the bathroom…the sun wasn’t quite awake yet, but I was; I was very awake and almost ready to leave the house–my dreams ended where my alarm began–I opened the window in my bathroom to feel the cool air and see the sleepy moon before he went to sleep for the day. While I stood there enjoying the quiet morning and preparing for the day, right outside my window I heard the ringing theme of all things Potter. I knew any minute now an owl was going to fly through my window with a letter from the headmaster, summoning my geeky genius and skills for some adventure.

Obviously, the death eaters’ interception is the only reasonable explanation for the absent owl.

I left the house and headed for the train station; Hogwarts Express’s Italian cousin was coming to pick up Cate and me for our adventures as first years, in Bologna! We had a cart to ourselves most of the ride, except when two students from Slytherin decided to crash our cart party and only speak sneeringly in parseltongue.

We arrived in excitement for the new knowledge and adventures that lay ahead of us. I pulled out my map to lead us to our hostel and we began walking. It was Saturday and there were lots of people wandering the alleys and shopping the streets full of stores. We walked to what we thought was the right street and found number 4, but our hostel wasn’t there.  Pulling pranks on first years are the best; somebody switched our map with one of Fred and George’s joke shop maps. We finally realized that we were on the wrong street, puzzling over the wrong number 4, so after walking in circles, we used some of our beginner’s magic to point us to the right alley. We read the numbers down the alley: 1…2…3…3/2…3/2a…3/2b…5…5a… As first years, we were a little confused that number 4 wasn’t there, but, of course, it must be hidden from the Muggles. Through the other side of the wall we went, to find number 4 right where it was supposed to be. We had arrived!

We roamed through the porticoes–lining the city–admiring the architecture and history of such a place. We found the great educational hall where many, now and long ago, studied to become great and powerful in the way of knowledge. Believed to be founded in 1088, it is the oldest existing University in Europe. Geniuses, inventors, and masterminds like Luigi Galvani and Guglielmo Marconi studied there and walked the streets where we were now walking.

Is this real life? Yes. Wow.

While we were roaming the city, we kept seeing large groups of police hiding behind buildings with their weapons and shields, ready for battle. We were starting to feel startled after we kept finding them blocking many streets and hiding, like Voldemort was about to apparate right there in the center of Bologna. We couldn’t avoid them for much longer; we crossed through the ready warriors and there they were: protesting deatheaters. They were marked with the sign and seeking change. We got a good look then snuck away, knowing the ministry of magic had this under control; there was no way Voldemort was going to show his ugly face tonight, but just in case, we wandered over to sit under the protection of the Patron Saint of Bologna: Saint Petronius. It was a cool evening and the piazza was full of smiles and giggles. We each bought a butterbeer, without the butter, and sat in contentment, sipping our beers and people watching, right there on Petronius’ steps.

Next morning, we traveled to the Two Towers–I have not confused my Harry Potter story with a Frodo Baggins story, but the world of fantasy is everywhere. The taller tower is called Asinelli and the shorter tower is called Garisenda. Garisenda Tower is leaning towards Asinelli, also causing them to be called the kissing towers. Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two and the tallest tower in the whole of Italy, reaching 97 meters high or about 318 feet high. We paid the tower master and climbed up the 498 steps to the top. It was cloudy so we couldn’t see to the foothills of the Alps in Veneto but we could see plenty of beauty all around. This tower is only one of a few left standing in the city today. There were thought to be around 180 towers standing in Bologna back in the 12th century when this one was built; it sounds towerrific to me!

It was time to go home; already finished a semester at Hogwarts: Bologna?…felt like two days to me.

We loaded up on the train with one last beer, no butter, to celebrate this experience.

Until next time.

*This is a true story based on real events. I have only fictionalized this story by using terms such as: Hogwarts, death-eaters, Slytherin, parseltongue, Muggles, Voldemort, Ministry of Magic, and my reference to Fred and George’s joke shop map, which are all part of a copyrighted story by J.K. Rowling–you go girl!


On the train




University of Bologna




St. Petronius’ Church


Tower of Asinelli


Some of the 498 steps in the Tower of Asinelli


View from the top of the Tower


Ride home: it’s not over until it’s over!

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Italy: Week 1

Hello Family and Friends,

I’ve been in Italy a little over a week now and let me say I have experienced a sea of emotions: from Rome’s incredible, mind-blowing historical sights to Santa Maria Apparente Elementary School’s energetic children who don’t understand me when I tell them to sit down, be quiet, and work on activity 8. Yes, it’s been an amazing yet sometimes difficult ride so far, like I’m riding a roller coaster blindfolded. Sometimes, I toss my hands up and enjoy the thrill while other times I think I might throw up at the unexpected turns, but it’s all part of the experience that I am so thankful to have.

The sights in Italy have been like scenes from an extraordinarily illustrated storybook. I can’t even believe my eyes sometimes. If you’ve seen my pictures on Facebook then you have an idea of the sights I’ve experienced firsthand. The rolling hills topped with villages and hillsides adorned with vineyards are my favorite. It is all very real, not just beautifully painted ideas. I have not time to go into everything I’ve seen, I’ll save my stories for a relaxing night over a big meal and good wine, when we have all night to eat and talk, like the Italians.

Teaching English has been a difficult yet rewarding experience. I’m in the elementary school so these kids don’t understand too much. They know how to pick out words when I (slowly) explain something to them, for example: “Open your books to page 10.” I mimic what I want them to do and then they hear “book”, “page”, and “10” and they can infer what they are supposed to do. Some classes have English speaking teachers to help explain the lessons while other classes I’m left to do it all myself. In those classes with no English speaking teacher, I repeat the instructions a lot, write an example on the board, and try to mimic (while using the English terms) what they need to do for the activity. Sometimes I hear, “Ahhhhh, Si.” and sometimes I hear, “Teacher, non capisco.” Most of the time at least a few students understand and I have them explain to their other classmates in Italian. I love seeing the kids smile so big when they are able to speak in English or when they complete their English activity and know they have learned something new. I also love seeing them smile when they teach me how to say something in Italian; everybody learns something in the classroom.

I want to thank everybody who helped me get here today. I have always loved to learn, and through this experience I am not short of learning. I love and miss you all, especially my husband, thanks for your love and support.

Until next time,


Our lesson today! Write a postcard using our vocabulary and draw a picture of your holiday.


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With each grave of death, I felt alive with more breath.

Their graves I saw with my own eyes

And touched with my own hands

Yet still my mind does doubt the truth

That beside them I did stand.

St. Paul's Grave

St. Paul’s Grave

John Keats' Grave

John Keats’ Grave


Percy Shelley's Grave

Percy Shelley’s Grave

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About A Mother

A little girl of thirteen years came in the court unto the King. She boldly walked before the throne to ask him of a need.

“My mother is the kindest soul that you should ever meet. She lives in virtue like a Saint though she would never say. She knows her weakness and her need and reminds me everyday. But that’s what makes my mother strong, and no one could oppose. Her humble heart, it leads us on and teaches us to grow.”

The King looked down upon the girl and shared a tender smile, but doubt arose within his voice as he responded to the child. “What is left, then, that you could need? Is your heart that full of greed? You say your mother none can compare, so what of life is still not fair?

The King knew well but set to test the truth within her heart. He watched her bow her sighing eyes and open mouth to start.

“That I should ask of something more for all my mother is, would deem me base and shame my heart, and call my life amiss. I come to you with a greater need that goes beyond myself. Please hear my words and when I’m done then you will see yourself. I seek not riches or material goods, for all too soon they fade. Nor do I want in all the town, men to know my name. I stand before you because I need the wisdom of my King. So, tell me Sir, what can I do, to show my mother thanks, to celebrate her love and life, what to her, can I take?”

The King was silent, deep in thought, wringing her words anew. How glad he was to hear her speak, a daughter honest and true. He said, “A mother’s love is like the sea, it rocks you where you need to be. And wide and vast its unknown depths, boundless cares to love you best. Do you pet the sea or wrap it gifts? Do you take one day to praises lift? Never the sea disappears, or drain its heart, it’s always there…even when you’re nowhere near. So heed her well and return her love, have kind a spirit like a dove. There is no one thing you can do, to match your mother’s love for you. But every minute, day to day, live your life in peace and thanks. Bestow on her a hug and kiss, write her words of beauty’s bliss. All of this will bless her great and show her how you celebrate. For mother’s cherish greatly when, their children grow in love not sin. So take these words and go your way, remember always live in grace.”

The young girl hugged the King and left, went to her mother and both were blest.


Happy Mother’s Day to an amazing mother, Andrea Ripple!

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