People far away

One thing that is so wonderful about visiting other countries is the people. There is something magical when you connect with others, especially those who seem so different. Here are the top ten ways we observed (while in Italy) that we have far more in common than we may realize:

  1. Babies on Airplanes. While this could be its own post, it was fun to watch the one in the seat ahead of me continually throw his stuff on the ground, and then to watch his grown-up pick it up repeatedly. I began counting this, kinda like sheep, but only got to twenty-seven before I drifted off.
  2. Young Lovers. When you’re young and in love, you are a lot less picky about where you’ll have a full blown make-out session. While Italy is quite romantic, sitting on a curb in the middle of town, in the middle of the day is not. Unless you’re young and in love, and it won’t matter in the slightest.
  3. Politically Averse Young Adults. We chatted with 2 friends from the UK (age 21) who were as irritated by their own government as we are with ours. We concluded that the best way to affect change is for their generation to step up and vote.
  4. Swimming In Cold Water. This may not apply everywhere (I’m talking to you, Canada). But it was fun watching kids enter the 72 degree water without flinching, and totally commiserating with the other sensible adults who could barely get in past our ankles.
  5. People Yelling at Seagulls. It’s not the least bit effective, but when a seagull snatches your wallet and flies off with it, the response is universal. This particular woman (not me, thanks be to God) chose to run after it screaming hysterically. When it landed in the harbor with its new treasure in its beak, the performance included the victim stripping off her clothes at the water’s edge and getting in after it. This may have worked if she had only stopped screaming first.
  6. Puppy Love. No, this is not the same as point number two. Penelope was a four month old, roly-poly Golden Retriever who belonged to one of the waiters. During dinner, the puppy-sitter decided to lounge on a stoop two feet from our table. Each and every person who saw this pup broke out in a smile and petted her cute little puppy head. Puppies for the win every time.
  7. Street Artists and Musicians. I have a rule that if someone is performing, I put money in their cup or guitar case or whatever it is. We heard an incredibly talented jazz band and saw chalk artists replicating fine works of art. We witnessed a man dressed like Michelangelo freaking people out when he actually moved. Art has a way of dissolving differences.
  8. Say Cheese. Okay, so everyone may not say this exactly, but taking photos is such a THING. Selfie sticks and timers have their place, but whenever my daughter offered to capture the entire group, people were thankful and reciprocated. Smile everyone – for real.
  9. Respect For Our Elders. No matter how rushed we are, the frailty of those a generation (or two) ahead of us, catches our attention. Whether it was boarding a train, plane or automobile, we consistently saw others express patience and assistance to the elderly travelers. This alone gives me so much hope for the future.
  10. Good Manners. In every language, there is something sweet to be found in a few basic phrases: Hello/Goodbye, Please /Thank You, You’re Welcome, Excuse Me, Good Morning, and Good Evening. It’s like the WD40 of humanity, it just keeps things moving and easy. Travelers Bonus: know these in the native tongue of the country in which you are visiting.
This was gigantic!
It was in the 90’s and humid. I’m not sure how he didn’t melt.

What are the things you observe about people when you travel? Does the amount of similarity cause you to feel connected? What is the thing you are most surprised about when you find yourself in a different space?

Ciao!

This concludes the Italy trip as it’s time for other topics now… Next week I’ll be posting about my experience (so far) with the Artist Way.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

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Everybody loves Raimondo

Let me take a moment to introduce you. Raimondo and his family own Torcibrencoli, a family vineyard and winery estate about 30 minutes outside Florence.

They take turns hosting the AirBnB Experience that we enjoyed on our last day in Italy. Once we found the bus station, we paid the fare and hopped on a very nice bus which took us to Greve, and from there we were driven to their estate.

The views were, well, see for yourself…

Olive trees in the background
Taking a stroll around the vineyard.
Tasting the Chianti Classico
Inside peek at the processing and storage facilities
Enjoying a moment of air conditioning
These lemons… you cannot understand
These are fun lawn ornaments, aren’t they?

As you can understand from these photos, the temptation to stay was real. I could have totally hidden in one of these barrels. When they found me a day or two later, I would have had the story all rehearsed.

“Oh hi! I must have gotten lost. Maybe I could stay and work in the vineyards in exchange for food and wine. I would be no trouble. I could just sleep on a stone floor somewhere. Or in a hammock outside, whatever, I am not that picky.”

Surely Raimondo would have been okay with that, right?

We definitely had a connection.

After all, I am a farm girl at heart, and I am no stranger to working in fields. Okay, vineyards, fields, same same. I’d be willing to learn about grapes and olives and lemons. I am quite teachable.

The only reason this didn’t happen is because there’s a grand baby coming, and I cannot be THAT far away from the little nugget. On my return visit to Italy, in a year or two, we can further discuss the details of my indentured servitude. Is it indentured servitude if it’s voluntary? No matter, I’m sure we could work something out.

There is a staggering amount of tradition and family pride in this beautiful country. It is astonishing that outsiders would be invited to their property, to eat their food, drink their wine and limoncello, and tour their facilities. Hospitality is a huge part of their culture, and we were the gracious recipients. Okay, yes, we paid for the tour. And maybe as a smaller producer, this has become a necessity for them, but still! It was absolutely the most wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Our tour group. All 5 of these cuties were 21 and college students. They all hit it off, leaving Raimondo and I in each other’s company.
Pottery made by his grandmother, of course.
The REALLY good stuff. It was so delicious!

Another thing I learned is that having the name of Chianti Classico is a big deal. There are strict guidelines for production, as well as fees associated with this designation. I used to think that all wines were the same, but I have a greater respect and understanding now. They are not all the same, and I’m a little bit spoiled. Sorry, two buck chuck, I think I have to upgrade now.

Yes, you can purchase wine and olive oil directly from them. Yes, you can book your own tour with them should you be heading that way. Yes, you too can fantasize about running away to a vineyard in Tuscany with Raimondo…. Sorry, I digress.

Let’s just say I’m mentally preparing for my next trip, and savoring the memories of my first visit. Stay tuned for more musings about Italy.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

Dolce, per favore, molte grazie!

Of course, a primary interest one has when traveling in Italy is the FOOD. I don’t know why, but it’s magical and delightful and didn’t cause a single pound of weight gain.

We knew we were in for a fabulous culinary experience when our meal at the airport was delicious. For real.

Spaghetti pomodoro

Our first meal in Italy – 2 glasses of wine, 2 glasses of still water, 2 pasta dishes, total of €38 or about $43. Not bad at all. I’ve paid over $30 for nachos and a beer at US Airports. Also, did I mention this was FABULOUS?

Each venue had its own flair, but overall I observed the following themes while feeding my face in Italy:

  1. No one is in a hurry around meal time. If you think you’ll go to Italy and squeeze in a quick lunch between this tour and that site, think again. Dining is ceremonious.
  2. When you ask for water, be ready with your preference of sparkling or still, as both are available. Kind of like sweet or unsweet tea in the South.
  3. Trust your instincts. I have a friend who visits regularly and gave us a personal recommendation for dinner. When the staff greeted us with annoyance and stress, we decided to go elsewhere. Your experience is important, and reviews are subjective.
  4. The food is so delicious, you are actually glad about #1. You don’t want to gulp it down, trust me. You’ll want to slowly savor every single bite.
  5. Save a piece of bread to absorb the remaining sauce. The actual name for this is Fare la Scarpetta, and it made us feel less touristy. It’s just wrong to leave it on the plate, and I wasn’t sure if licking it clean was acceptable (though I was tempted more than once).
  6. Dessert is necessary. We enjoyed a caramel panna cotta at La Lampara in Riomaggiore that was basically a sexual experience (“I feel like I should be naked while I’m eating this”).
Giada knows what’s up

Our favorite pasta was at Casa del Vin Santo in Florence. The Penne Gamberi was quite possibly the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth. Sadly, there are no actual photos of this, but the memory will live forever.

The most memorable meal and hospitality we received was at the Torcibrencoli Vineyard (it deserves its very own post – stay tuned). Raimondo, the owner of the vineyard, shared his favorite pizza place with us, and he was absolutely right. After walking past 37 other pizzerias, dinner at Berbere on San Frediano was incredible! Their menu was impressive, as they are fanatical about locally and organically sourcing all of their ingredients. It’s quite likely that most of the Italian establishments share this practice, but someone at Berbere knows a thing or two about marketing.

Confession: this was a daily occurrence.

My suspicion? All of the air and soil is infused with such love, that pure divinity is the obvious result. The vegetables and herbs and olive oil and grapes and all things landing on a plate and in a glass were produced with love. Not stress, not rushing, just an enjoyable satisfaction that was clearly ordained from above by the angels themselves.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

How not to spend an hour in Florence.

You know how to make God laugh? Tell her/him your plans. This is one of the best scenes in Evan Almighty. Plus Morgan Freeman plays a very dapper God, don’t you agree?

Photo courtesy of https://www.imdb.com.

I love making and executing a well thought plan. It’s a little neurotic, but not quite to the point where I’m seeking meds (ask me next week though). When the trip I had been dreaming of for years changed with take-off in less than 2 weeks, I scrambled. Luckily, the major components fell into place, such as, where to sleep for example. But the rest? Ah, the rest was figured out on the fly.

Not my favorite way to operate.

I was completely out of my comfort zone. Not only was I in a foreign country, I didn’t speak the language, and I didn’t really have a plan. And the ones I kind of had, did not exactly work out.

There are so many stories of adventures, left turns, missed trains and the like. I’m not sure what value it would hold for you, my sweet reader, but I know what it holds for me.

Lots and lots of lessons about letting go.

Control is just an illusion anyway, like holding onto running water.

Some of the most beautiful moments of this trip were totally unplanned. Some of the most frustrating moments of this trip taught me the biggest lessons.

Missing the Uffizi Gallery was not something I planned at all. In fact I spent money so that I would NOT miss this. But here’s the story, which now is funny, but at the time was most assuredly not.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

We left Riomaggiore a little later than expected. I naively thought that we could get to Florence in just a couple of hours. We had pre-purchased tickets to the Uffize online for a 3:45pm entrance. By the time we made our 4th transfer of the day, we knew it would be close.

If we could just get to Florence, check in to our hotel, dump our luggage, we might just make it. Also, it was unbelievably hot and we had our share of cars lacking air conditioning. A shower was calling, but would risk doing without one if necessary.

Lesson #1. Pay attention to the train schedules, stops and maps.

The train came to a stop, but we did not see any signs. So we waited patiently for the train to resume. People got off, and more got on. The cleaning crew actually passed through with a cute little vacuum. After 30 minutes of sitting still, we came to accept that we were going to miss the museum.

Then much to our horror, the train began moving. Backwards.

We were going back – away from the city center. You know, the stop where we were supposed to have gotten off. And could have, like 30 minutes ago.

We ended up traveling back, getting off, going back around on the next train, and kicking ourselves the entire way. Had we realized where we were, we probably could have made it.

Lesson #2. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive.

The entrance lines for these major attractions are excruciatingly long, and there were no other available times to purchase online. Uffizi, you’ll have to wait until next time.

Um, no. Just no.

There were several times where Lesson #2 came into play. We learned as we went along. And isn’t that the hope? Not to avoid failure entirely, but to learn, and then perhaps we won’t have to repeat it.

Stay tuned for more lessons from Italy. Thanks for reading!
Sherri

Italy or bust

MANY years ago, I recognized how much I love all things Italian. Food, wine and shoes. I mean, what’s not to love?

So I set a goal and decided I would go to Italy for my 50th birthday (which was exactly one year ago today)!

Last year, as I was approaching the big day, I realized I would not have the time nor the funds to make that trip. I also realized that turning 50 was really not that much of an accomplishment. Okay, so I didn’t step in front of a moving bus, or take a tumble out of a giant tree, but otherwise, I managed to keep myself alive.

Graduating college after grinding it out for over six years of classes? Now there’s an accomplishment. So I began dreaming and planning, and in March, I booked the tickets. Prince Charming and I would celebrate this momentous milestone in Florence.

Then, there was a little snag two weeks prior to boarding. Prince Charming and I parted ways, and rather than sobbing my way through my dream trip, we worked it out for my daughter to be my traveling companion.

This required some rearranging, but we did it. It’s no longer a romantic bed and breakfast in the Chianti hill country. It is now 2 nights in Riomaggiore after hiking Cinque Terre and then 3 nights in Florence visiting museums and taking in the sights.

I am sad that the Italian man (remember my earlier mention of loving all things Italian?) and I weren’t able to do this together, but I am so very grateful that this trip is still happening. If there are melancholy moments, my girl is sure to pull me right out of them. (Her sister is 21 weeks along in her first pregnancy or she would have figured out a way to join us. Both daughters are bringing such joy to their momma this year!)

What happens when life totally throws us a curve ball? How do we proceed when we feel like we’ve been punched in the gut? Of course I can use the lemons and lemonade analogy, but that’s so overused.

We must find this!

Maybe when life hands you sour grapes, you let them ferment while you go on a wine tour in Italy. Stay tuned for the post-trip blogs that are sure to come.

Thanks for reading, until next time!
Sherri

Fair well, Prince Charming

This is the story of how fairy tales don’t always end the way you think they will.

Once upon a time, the lovely lady was enchanted with the man Prince Charming. Her life was rich and full and she was very happy before they connected. He only brought more joy and delight. The lovely lady had a big goal in front of her, and she worked very hard. He was very patient and understanding, and she was glad for that.

And then after many months, the lovely lady reached her goal! She suddenly had a lot more time to spend with Prince Charming. This was so wonderful as she dreamed of how they might live happily ever after.

And then the Prince gave the lovely lady some sad news. He no longer wanted to spend time with the lovely lady. There were logical reasons of course.

But love is not always logical.

The lovely lady was sad, because she loved the Prince so much. And yet she saw that he was unhappy, and tearfully accepted his farewell.

Her sadness faded a bit more each day, as did his. They agreed to remain friendly which was important because of their work together.

Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps not a moral for others, but certainly there is a lesson there for the Prince and the lovely lady.

Each experience, each season brings new things and new understandings. As we grow, we learn. And as we learn, we grow. Sometimes a couple grows together, and sometimes each grows their own way.

And either way, when their paths are intentional, they will both live happily ever after.

The End

I’m grounded.

These were dreadful words when I was a teen. I didn’t understand how this was a punishment. Wouldn’t keeping me at home only torture my parents? Nope, they knew it was much more devastating to me. Alienation from the entire outside world. No parties, no hanging out with friends, no movies or dates or fun of any sort.

Nope, you’re not going. Not even for the AC/DC concert tickets you bought six months ago. You, young lady, or going nowhere. You are grounded.

Fast forward to the past week, or month, or year, or even ten or twenty years. I have not grounded myself as an adult, but I am about to.

It’s been lots of beach and sunshine and social time and friends and lounging. It was completely necessary and all very essential to my mental well being. My social life needed a little resuscitating after the substantial neglect that school work had caused. I was playing catch up, and I discovered that all of this is too much. I need to rest a bit.

I looked at my calendar from last week and said, “Who is this crazy person writing all this stuff in here?” And then, well, it was me of course. Too many things all at once. I need to prioritize.

It’s difficult though, because I’ve put so many things on hold for when I finished school. And now here is the ridiculous back log of things I want to do.

I am remembering to be grateful though. I do not dare for one second complain about the things on my list. Among these items are practice Italian for my upcoming trip and research some writer stuff. And some entrepreneurial stuff that has my attention. ALL of it is so very very delicious and fun and I’m here for it.

Isn’t it funny that as an adult, I want to be grounded. The way the yogis mean it, like, solid, centered, stable, peaceful. Grounded, like in a good way. It feels like an escape. A retreat of sorts. It isn’t a punishment at all. It’s actually more like a reward for being wise enough to stay put.

I have a comfy couch, Netflix, and the wonderful gift of time. As my favorite yogi Adriene says, “Rest, and absorb the nutrients of your practice.

So the previously overused excuse of ,”I can’t, I have homework,” is now, “I can’t, I’m grounded.” I’ll come out to play when I get back from Italy. I promise!

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

17 ways to be a kick-ass professor

There’s this great moment at the end of each semester for course evaluations. Students get to freely voice their opinions of each class, and each professor (it’s anonymous). I’m uncertain as to the actual impact these answers create, but it’s nice to applaud a great professor (or in some cases, not).

After taking 40 courses in the last 6 years, I’ve made some keen observations regarding professors and their MO’s. With graduation behind me, I feel like it’s safe to make some non-anonymous comments (although I haven’t technically received the diploma yet!?)

For any would-be professors (or current ones brave enough to read), here are the points that stand out.

SO RUDE. See #4.
See #16.
See #1.
So true. See #9.

A Kick-Ass Professor Must:

  1. Possess a passion for teaching. Leave your ego at home, and remember you’re in the classroom to teach (if that is not your reason, please do something else). Being a genius in your field may be impressive, but not always helpful.
  2. Check your own work first. Review your material each semester, don’t just copy it and change the due dates. Keep it fresh and relevant. Are you clinging to an outdated text book? Are you using long-gone technology? The syllabus you wrote 12 years ago could use a refresh. Students need to be on their game, and the same goes for you.
  3. Post the syllabus on time. It’s important to start off on the right foot, and respect is a two-way street. Students appreciate knowing what is expected. We’ve got one very short week before we commit our time, energy and money to your course.
  4. Communicate! Answer emails in a timely fashion. Give solid instructions and a clear rubric for big projects. No need to leave us guessing. Not even your best student can hit an undefined target.
  5. Let go of the busy work. Students are often juggling work and family responsibilities. Having a ton of small assignments is just plain unnecessary and even more, it’s annoying. College students are not third graders. Why create more work? Just don’t.
  6. Give reasonable due dates. Post assignments well ahead of time, especially when it’s an online class. It’s unreasonable to put tight schedule demands on adults. Posting an assignment on Monday with a due date of Wednesday sets students up for frustration, and maybe even failure. Jobs will likely provide this insanity soon enough, if they don’t already. We don’t need to practice dealing with stress.
  7. Make it fun! On the first day (or night) of class, plan an activity that allows everyone to connect with each other. One of the best things about college is meeting others. You can help this process and make your classroom way less awkward.
  8. Be happy to be there. Obviously we all have days where we’d rather be lounging on the beach (no? just me?). The energy you bring to the class makes all the difference. No one really wants to be anywhere for three hours in the evening, I promise. If you’re only there for the paycheck, please teach online classes only.
  9. Pass on the Group Projects. These should be assigned only under the following circumstances: a) you allow time in class for the group to work together, b) there is a reason for the project to be done in a group (teaching us how to work together is not reason enough), and c) you allow the group to grade their fellow members as a portion of the grade. The only students who like group projects are the slackers and the control freaks, so skip it if you can.
  10. Award cash and prizes. I’m not kidding. Some of my favorite professors were known to throw out a $20 or a bag of candy for some friendly competition. Yes, we’re adults, but a little incentive goes a long way. *Disclaimer: we only swore not to tell the professor’s wife about the $20. I never promised not to blog about it.
  11. Use the text book – if you require the textbook. Enough spent and said.
  12. Give me a break. Allow a short break at least every hour. I will get up and walk out if I have to use the bathroom or get a drink. We all should not be sitting for hours on end (remember, you are probably standing, it’s much more tiring to sit).
  13. Bring in experts. One of the best experiences you can provide is the connection to the “real world”. If you’ve got a dynamic connection in your field, bring them in as a guest lecturer. They may not have “professor credentials”, but can provide valuable insight to students.
  14. Let us out early. If class is scheduled until 8:45pm, the latest you should EVER go is 8:30pm. Start on time, but finish early for the win.
  15. Don’t be a jerk about grades. Drop the lowest quiz score. Offer extra credit bonuses. Grade on a curve. Round up! That score of 89.5 is its own kind of awful. We all have rough seasons, and life doesn’t care about the rubric. Students are people trying to improve themselves. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
  16. Grade homework, papers, posts and quizzes as soon as possible. Better yet, make it multiple choice and it will grade itself. We work hard and like to know how we’re doing. Keeping it all a mystery doesn’t help anyone.
  17. Show genuine interest in your students. Be accessible if we need you. Give out your cell. Have coffee together. If you want to make a positive impact (along with your decent wage), then open up. Sharing your time and energy only enhances the wisdom you share. And keeps your ratings high, your feedback positive, and your job secure (hopefully!).

So there’s my list. Fortunately, I enjoyed several such professors who possessed many of these very traits. When you boil it down, it’s simply being passionate about the work. Students may be younger and less educated, but we know it when someone cares.

Maybe I’ll offer a practical “how-to” course in the Doctoral program for those wanting to become professors. I can get paid for that, right?

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

Commencement!!

This could very well be my new favorite word. It really means “beginning”, and that is exactly how I am choosing to view this momentous time.

The dorkiest hat – but oh so happy to be wearing it

Buh-bye school. Hello LIFE!

Of course, there has been plenty of life during my season of attending school. And I know the sacrifice of time, and the discipline of learning and studying has been worth it. But now it is time for other things.

What am I going to do with all of the time and energy that has been sucked up by school? That’s easy. Whatever I want.

Actually I have some catching up to do. With myself. With friends. With this very blog. And my studio. But it can all be done at a normal person’s pace, instead of the insanity that I have been practicing these many months.

Rabbit trail: One day last summer my friend Nadia said she was “pulling a Sherri”. She had booked like 6 major things into 2 days and had zero time to eat or change or rest in between. It was not a compliment.

Sure, I like efficiency. I like to cross items off my to-do list (and yes, I will write down things AFTER I do them just so I can cross them off). I like the feeling I get when I’ve accomplished things. But I also like to lay in my hammock, and stroll on the beach, and doodle. I like to read for the sheer pleasure of it. I like to take my time, and not rush so much.

I like taking care of myself, and this could mean cooking more than twice a month. It could mean taking yoga classes more often. And running again. It may mean sleeping better because my brain won’t have so much to process.

Hey there Life-After-School! You’re looking might fine. You’re right here, waiting for me. Thanks for showing me how to live well. I’m grateful for so much, and the degree is just a small part of that.

The most important thing is the people in my life, especially the ones who cheered me on, understood when I was studying, and listened to me whine when it was hard. There will be much less whining (and more wine-ing) I promise!

My beautiful daughters (and a baby bump!)
Prince Charming, one of my biggest supporters.
I’m not sure who is happier!

We’re headed out to a beach house for the next few days. This girl knows how to take a well deserved break and just where to park her beloved beach chair!

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri


Nearing the end

I am a great starter. I absolutely LOVE the beginning of new projects, like a freshly unwrapped canvas, or a new journal. Even the blinking cursor on a new page.

Life Is A Blank Canvas Quote The Canvas Lovely Famous Quotes About Blank Canvas Sualci Quotes – QUOTES BY PEOPLE

And then the place in the middle gets mucky for me. Slugging through it. Keeping my eye on the prize, and persevering through the not-so-fun places of the journey. The middle is my least favorite. It’s where I usually second guess my goal, get discouraged, and have often been known to just quit.

I may be exaggerating..

Finishing? Ahhh. That is the sweetest thing ever, especially when I’m satisfied with the result. How did the thing turn out? Can I stand back and give it a final look and be proud?

When I was running last summer, I enlisted the support of a couple of my more athletic runner friends. They each shared with me how important the finish is. To pour it on when you see the finish line. To always sprint at the end, even though you’re tired and just want to lay down and die.

There are TWO finals standing between me and graduation. And I have already checked my “what if” grade to see what happens if I bomb either of them. As it turns out, I’ll be just fine, and my grade will also be just fine.

Oh Ryan, stop distracting me.

But I am not going to bomb them. My version of “sprinting” to the finish is to forego an afternoon at the beach. Instead, I am reviewing 16 weeks of notes. It’s the worst part, but also the very best part. It’s the last time I’ll have to do this.

Sure, I’ll continue exploring and learning new things, but on my own timetable. I will certainly have more trips to the beach, more time with friends, and more time for just any ol’ thing I feel like doing. When I’m done with this.

My favorite thing. Sunset on Siesta Key Beach.

Homework and tests and papers and finals – I’m not gonna miss you. It’s been a VERY long middle, over 6 years!! I’m not the same person I was when I began, but I’m so very glad I persevered. Besides, Game of Thrones will still be there waiting.

In just one week, I’ll be an official college graduate. I could just cry at the thought. I can see the finish line. It’s right there, and I’m going to sail across it like a champ.

Thanks for cheering me on! Until next time,
Sherri