Welcome, folks. We're going backwards in time. Our house in Italy was on the outskirts of Valproto di Quinto Vicentino (so that's a hamlet of a hamlet). Valproto had one little grocery shop that shut down soon after we arrived, one neighborhood pizzeria/restaurant that seemed to have a cold heart toward gli Americani, and one delicious, wonderful place named Dai Gelosi whose name I couldn't remember for a few minutes and that scared me. (I think the "name" drawer in my brain is full, but that's a story for another day.) Valproto had no bar (read: cafe) and no gelateria. So it was a real backwater. We had frequent sheep/tractor-related traffic jams and the cloying scent of manure floated about all summer long. Via Muttona was one of those one-lane, two-way streets lined with deep irrigation ditches running along either side. In winter the brown fringes of corn were a few inches high and you could see forever, into the foothills and into the Dolomites. (When the fog wasn't so thick that I couldn't see the house next to ours.)
View off the back balcony of Quinto Vicentino.
View out the front from the kitchen. Biggest snow we got in 3 years.
In the summer the corn towered over my head and that Veneto smog slumbered heavily above and I couldn't see squat. Going for walks on our street felt like wandering through a corn maze in a fogged-up bathroom. Sometimes I spotted European house sparrows, rats, pygmy owls, skittish moorhens, spiders, sheep with donkeys to keep them sane, and the endemic large-rifled Italian hunter
Donkeys + sheep = calm sheep, apparently
We had some mean spiders. Back balcony.
I don't remember much about fall. I think that because of all the corn and few trees it wasn't anything special. But spring...oh, spring!
Tonino, our landlord, lived next door in the same complex--it was all fenced, with a tall black electric gate at the drive. He had a wife, two kids, and of course the nonna, who was the only Italian I ever recalls saying "Ciao bella!" to me (you've seen the ubiquitous shirts, right?).
Nathan chose our apartment before we were married, but I got there as quickly as I could to start nesting. We lived on the second floor with an empty mini-apartment underneath us; the other half of the building had a nice couple living up top with their adult son on the ground floor. Unfortunately that marriage ended soon after that, they all moved out, and I didn't really get to know the woman until many months later through chapel and Bible study--turns out she's awesome! That exodus added a slight tinge of sadness to our building, I think (rather, to me, the building's main inhabitant).
All of a sudden, it was just me. All three of the other apartments were empty, Nathan was in Afghanistan, and I was living alone for the first time in my life, afraid that the gypsies were going to gas me and steal my...my...my really old laptop? The government furniture? Anyway.
Stella, in case you've forgotten.
Stella joined the family 3 days before Nathan left, so at night I would follow advice I'd been given by my Italian teacher and literally lock us in my bedroom, close and lock the shutters, and listen.
No, silence. I've never experienced anything like the quiet of a night in the country in Italy. The house was made of concrete blocks and tile, the stairs were polished granite, the shutters and doors were real wood, and Via Muttona didn't get traffic. I grew up with four sleep-talking, snoring siblings, lived in dorms throughout college, learned to sleep through attic scratchings and a grandfather clock at my grandparents', and suddenly had to sleep in a vacuum. Not a creak, not a shudder, not another person in the building, not a rustle of leaves because the Veneto has hardly any wind, not a single drunken Italian shouting because we were in the country. It took about 2 months.
It wasn't always silent. About once a month, there would be sagra fireworks at midnight. On New Years' Eve once I could see 7 different fireworks displays on the plan from my balconies, so that gives you an idea of how many town sagras were within earshot. We also had the occasional nightingale, which is less pleasant than it sounds when it startles you awake before dawn. And our last year there, some neighbors built a beautiful white stuccoed, tile-roofed house with a deafening alarm that regularly went off at 3am. Once a gunshot right outside my window woke me up from a nap, but that's a story for another day. Via Muttona was feast or famine in the acoustic realm.
My biggest problem with the silence was knowing that if one of my crutches slipped in Stella's pee puddle and I fell down and hurt myself more than I was currently hurt, it might take days for someone to figure it out because you can't shout loud enough to be heard through 4 concrete walls and a lot of empty air.
It was a long, hard summer. Thankfully my sister-in-law visited for a few weeks. One family with a couple of small kids came to check out the other apartment and I practically begged them to move in. I think I scared them off. Finally, an awesome family with four tween & teenage girls moved in and I had some company. (Thank you, Tammy & Co!)
And that brings us here to Okinawa and our glorious piazza of brotherhood and equality.
By the way, Vicenza and other parts of northern Italy have experiences serious flooding recently. Please keep them in your prayers.
I know I'm being lazy in my egomaniacalness when I only post Friday photography thingies and nothing in between.
Oh, the lazy Sunday afternoon internetting. Nathan is at the gym and when he comes back I'm going to go try to find the pool at Foster. (Because of course here on Air Force Communist H-e-double hockey stick they would have 3 pools, none of which is open all the time, and none of which is heated in the winter. One thing the Marines are good at, the husband and I have decided, is doing things right.)
But I digress.
This week I learned that a beach towel is a great place to take pictures from. I just ended that sentence with a preposition, but I'm not sure of how to fix it. A beach towel is a great place whence to take pictures? (I almost put "from whence" but this convinced me otherwise--I think the "from" is already included.) There, this week we all learned some grammar. Anyway in the copy of this photo that I'm going to frame I am going to crop the empty space at the top, but here it is in its raw glory.
Thanks to the lovely lady of for the continuing edumacation. I used a lot of fake words today; it must be that granduccino I got on the way home from church.
Ooook I just realized that I took this picture on automatic. Blurg.
We live in them. There's no particular reason that it's on my mind (sorry, no juicy anti-neighbor stories--you'll have to ask them for stories about us if that's what you're after). It's just that last night, when I was walking the dog more or less in my pajamas and thinking about what a hausfrau I am, that I realized how amazingly packed in we are in our little squares, 12 families in what would be one suburban plot outside Atlanta. Hmm, maybe I'll call it a piazza, just for fun.
Actually, I rather like it. Our last two housing arrangements were either quite isolated or had periods of isolation. Our neighborhood in Arizona was perched on the edge of the mountains and slated for demolition. When we moved there it was about half empty, and as people moved away they weren't replaced. The low houses hunkered down like they were awaiting an Apache attack or trying to avoid the rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions that lived just across the street. (The tarantulas and coyotes had already infiltrated this side.) There was one unit, catty corner from our back yard, that had clearly been empty for months--the chain-link fence was holey, screens were perpetually falling off the windows, and the back screen door slapped and banged in the wind, always bouncing open instead of staying closed. Most other houses had a cement wall around their front porch, but this one had a tall wooden fence that had completely collapsed and been left there. Eventually the front door was permanently open.
(creepy catty corner casa)
It was super creepy. I worried a little about drug smugglers and psychos. But the husband was around almost every single night we lived there, so that was OK. It was also super annoying because it ended up in a lot of my pictures of the mountain sunsets and clouds that Arizona does so well.
Eventually they started clearing the empty houses of dishwashers, ovens, and other salvageables. And then they'd put a big check mark on the outside. What famous images does this remind you of?
There were upsides to these houses. My parents had lived in one with the floor plan reversed in 1983-84, a few streets over, so that was funny. Each one had a great big picture window in the living room, so thanks to Evangeline I got to see stunning sunrises. And the windows in the bedrooms were high up and narrow, so even if you never closed the blinds there was no awkward accidental neighbor-spying. The convenience sort of balanced out the insane-asylum feeling with the cinder block walls and windows you couldn't escape from. And the views were stunning.
Sometimes I looked for a fairy castle like in Saint George and the Dragon on that mountain.
We were the second-to-last people to move off of our street. They started putting up construction fences and even blocked off our road before we told the construction crew we still lived there. A couple of months later our friend told us the whole neighborhood had been razed. It's sort of a weird feeling knowing that everything you recognized about a spot is gone, but mostly I was happy. Someone else will get to live in that beautiful place, but in a better house. And I'm sure that they kept that nice playground with the sunshade (named in memory of a Lieutenant Pimple, whom I shall never forget).
I just realized that this is going to be too long, so I shall continue tomorrow. But I guess I'll show you our house:
That's my Christmas wreath. I made it. (Decorated, didn't weave the evergreens together.)
This week I learned that now that Evangeline has learned how to put the lens cap on the camera, it's all over. That's all she wants to do. As a result, it is very difficult to get a picture of her right now. Case in point:
I took the first picture in Interlaken, Switzerland. (ODR trip with Amber & Lisa!) The peak you can just barely see behind the tent thingy is Jungfrau. Most fabulously beautiful area in Europe, in my opinion, but I never made it to Monte Blanc and the Val d'Aosta. And I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Tre Cime. (view from the back side that you have to hike to unless you have horses or maybe a Hilux)
I'm obviously not really doing the photography post thing this week, just sort of rambling. So I'll continue with this:
Yesterday in the BX I bought some Duplos on a whim. As far as I know, Eva has shown little to no interest in them at other people's houses, but I figured that it's time for her to start learning about building stuff. The first thing that happened was that she was incredibly angry that she couldn't hold the box. The box was as big as her and she was sitting in the shopping cart seat--not really physically possible. She kept turning around to slap it. Then we got home and I opened the box, which had the Duplos divvied up into several plastic bags. I opened 2 or 3 and dumped them on the floor in front of Eva. She raised both arms above her head in preparation, then came down like Thor's hammer, violently shuffling them and throwing them around, cackling at the clacking sound. I started building things, and she went into full-on destruction mode, shrieking like a harpy and pouncing on whatever I had built, ripping it to shreds. I couldn't build fast enough for her to decimate. Then she got ahold of one of the bags of unopened Duplos and swung it back and forth, smacking herself in the stomach and the back. More cackling.
So I don't think she'll be building anything anytime soon, but we're having fun nonetheless.
I had a surprise visit to the park with a friend today and ended up with some pictures! So I am submitting to
This week I learned that a water fountain that stays on is the best thing ever to get a couple of 1-year-olds to stay in the frame. Unfortunately none of the ones with them in focus turned out quite as well as this one. (Well, to us mothers they are fabulous.) I think it's a little boring because of all the concrete in front. Critiques welcome!
OK I know we're only supposed to do one picture but this one is just for fun because I accidentally learned how to do this:
That's a gray-faced buzzard on a light pole in my neighborhood. I saw him when I drove by and whipped out my camera, thinking it was on automatic but it was still on my indoor settings. It's a little cooler when it's bigger.
Since most of my blogging is about Click It Up a Notch these days (not even about photography...specifically about that site!) I thought I'd continue the trend. Courtney is giving away a $50-off coupon for a Kelly Moore bag. Don't go join the drawing. I don't want any more competition. I'd never heard of these bags, but of course now I'm drooling over them. I can't decide between the great big mama-bag or the quick trip one-diaper-2-wipes bag. I won't be needing the bigger bag for my camera stuff, because my bird lens and my regular lens would both easily fit in the smaller bag. And I love the smaller bag. But I know myself and that tells me I would fit more comfortably into (id est not explode out of) the bigger bag.
Here's me in Arizona last winter (I'm guessing you could tell from the brown, the partially dry riverbed, and the general bleakness) with my usual diaper bag, actually a Hurley laptop bag from PacSun. I'm not comfortable putting the camera in it, probably because I think there are things living in there despite many washings and vaccumings-out.
I think these sorts of lists and usually stupid and annoying. This one probably is too. Feel free to add your own (good ones ;-)
You might be an Army wife if...
-you can hang any decoration on any type of wall surface. In the world.
-the word "palletize" is part of your lexicon.
-you refer to the Italy house or the Germany house or the Hawaii house etc., but you're not a millionaire, and you've never even owned a house.
-you've ever held your baby on your lap while she tries to touch her dad through the computer screen.
-you wish every theater in America played the national anthem before movies.
-you impulse-shop because it's good for your family. (For those of you who don't know, shopping in an overseas BX is pretty much like Lord of the Flies).
-you think moldy produce in a store is totally normal. (Had to have a 1-2 BX-commissary punch!)
-you instinctively call two places or more "home".
-you have lots of friends, just...none here. Yet.
-your husband wears a colorful hat to work. Every day. And he pays more attention to it than you sometimes. And he runs the risk of other wives making fun of how he wears said hat. And he blames the French for all of this, but apparently he should really be blaming the Basques. So once again we can blame the Spanish...
~touching foreheads with your baby and sharing a secret joke. You don't know exactly what it is, but it sure is funny!
~overhearing her dad reading to her on the baby monitor and it sounds like there are bears growling, people screaming, things crashing and maybe burning...and she definitely has no books that match that description.
The last couple of weeks have been all over the place. I've gotten some very sad news of death, disappointment, and sickness, but also news of new life (3 friends with new babies! what beauty!), good family time with Nathan, and, finally, a relief from the oppressive heat of this place. Even the small things matter sometimes.
I've never been one to ask "Why?". It's my blessing/personality flaw. "Why?" is so often unanswerable in specifics. When the question does occur to me, usually when my body or someone else's body seems to have failed, Romans 8 tends to pop into mind.
...but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we are saved.
For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There's another kind of "why" though. Why was I given such a wonderful, joyful child? Why was I given a husband who cheerfully earns all the money and has never begrudged a single cent that I have spent? (Even when he should have!) Why do I get to travel the world and be friends with such amazing people? I don't deserve any of these things, and I'd do well to remember that. So I find myself thanking God for what He's given.
ISO 200, ss 1/160, f/5.6 Yes, this is the best picture I took this week...
This picture now open for critiques ;-)
Things that I would fix: the underexposure and her lack of hands. I'm pretty happy with the way it's focused. I cut off the top of her head on purpose because I feel like pictures look blank when they have grass framing her head (as they so often do!) Would you change that?
I think I should have raised my ISO and lowered the shutter speed. I'm still struggling to understand all the technical aspects of photography and mostly just mess around with different settings and see how it turns out!
I'm also wondering something about aperture size...when my camera's on manual mode, I can only get it to f/5.6. Once I got it to go to f/4.0 but just that once. Shouldn't I have control over this? What is my camera trying to tell me? I should really read the instruction manual.