Archives for category: Italian

In the spirit of encouraging pursuits and the joy of achieving them, I wanted to share this lovely idea re-posted on one of my favorite blogs, the The plan is to make a list of 101 goals to complete in 1001 days and then actually do them (excusez moi?).

Here are the guidelines:

The Mission: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past — frequently simple goals such as new year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Goal Setting Tips

1. Be decisive. Know exactly what you want, why you want it, and how you plan to achieve it.
2. Stay focussed. Any goal requires sustained focus from beginning to end. Constantly evaluate your progress.
3. Welcome failure. Frequently, very little is learned from a venture that did not experience failure in some form. Failure presents the opportunity to learn and makes the success more worthy.
4. Write down your goals. It clarifies your thinking and reinforces your commitment.
5. Keep your goals in sight. Review them frequently, and ensure that they are always at the forefront of your thinking.

The most important element of this challenge is a concentration on specificity. I could say with all the wannabe Miss America’s of the world that a goal of mine is “world peace,” but how would I even begin to achieve that goal? Give everyone on this planet a puppy adorned with a collar of wild peonies? Instead, what this particular approach to pragmatic dream-catching offers is guidelines for success in realistically achievable goals, for actually achieving what we we would like to achieve.

So, I am going to offer my own list below. Since I absolutely adore categorizing and organizing copious amounts of information into manageable chunks, I am separating my list into four categories of 25 goals with 1 comprehensive “umbrella” goal as a garnish.

Category 1: Health/Lifestyle Goals

  1. Earn my 200 Hour RYT Yoga certification
  2. Master yoga pose: Ashtanga Jump-through
  3. Master yoga pose: King Pigeon
  4. Master yoga pose: Firefly
  5. Master yoga pose: Bird of Paradise
  6. Master yoga pose: Headstand
  7. Master yoga pose: Balancing Big Toe
  8. Take 15 Hot Yoga classes
  9. Walk my dogs every day
  10. Run a 9-minute mile
  11. Ride my bike for 5 miles 5 times
  12. Eat at least one serving of a green, leafy vegetable daily
  13. Take a B-12 vitamin daily
  14. Eliminate dairy and processed foods from meals at home
  15. Try 1 new vegetable/fruit a month
  16. Try 1 new raw, vegan recipe every 2 weeks
  17. Wear sunscreen every day
  18. Teach a full prenatal yoga class
  19. Teach a full seniors yoga class
  20. Teach a full kids yoga class
  21. Take a salsa dancing class
  22. Sail on a lake
  23. Sail on an ocean
  24. Listen to “I’m On a Boat” while sailing on a boat
  25. Drink a glass of Cliquot champagne whilst sailing

Category 2: Financial/Household Goals

  1. Write down every dollar I spend for 5 days every month
  2. Figure out our net worth once a month
  3. Avoid spending any money at all for 7 weekdays every month
  4. Avoid spending any money at all for 1 weekend every 6 weeks
  5. Earn $100 a month teaching yoga for 15 months
  6. Find one specific way to cut back monthly expenditures every month
  7. Put something in the offering plate every Sunday
  8. Pay off the 4-Runner
  9. Figure out how much my student loan debt equals every month
  10. Pay towards student loans every month (post-graduation)
  11. Review credit card statements to identify unnecessary purchase trends every 2 months
  12. Review credit card rewards every 2 months
  13. Find 1 standard grocery item a month to buy more cheaply/in bulk
  14. Organize 1 storage space every 3 months
  15. Make a home inventory complete with serial numbers and pictures
  16. Update home inventory every 3 months
  17. Organize photographs
  18. Scan all old photos to make digital copies
  19. Grow my own tomatoes
  20. Grow my own basil
  21. Grow my own rosemary
  22. Make my own body lotion 3 times
  23. Make my own candles 3 times
  24. Successfully cancel gym membership by end of current contract
  25. Avoid joining another gym

Category 3: Learning/Academic Goals

  1. Memorize 10 poems
  2. Learn Italian (conversation and translation)
  3. Memorize 2 poems in Italian
  4. Read Dante’s Inferno in Italian
  5. Read War and Peace
  6. Read 5 financial books
  7. Read 5 biographies
  8. Write a short story
  9. Write 2 Jim the Turtle children’s books
  10. Write chapter 2 of my dissertation
  11. Write chapter 4 of my dissertation
  12. Write the conclusion to my dissertation
  13. Defend my dissertation
  14. Take at least one archery class
  15. Take a pottery class
  16. Take/audit an art history course
  17. Make an original piece of pottery by hand
  18. Paint a picture in watercolors or oils
  19. Memorize Psalm 123
  20. Memorize Hebrews 11
  21. Memorize one important 5-10 line passage from 8 Shakespeare plays
  22. Learn to play 5 songs on the guitar
  23. Learn to play 2 songs on the mandolin
  24. Learn to play 2 songs on the violin
  25. Learn to play 5 classical pieces on the piano

Category 4: Relationship/Philanthropic Goals

  1. Write a “just because” note by hand to one different person every month
  2. Give 1 article of clothing away every month
  3. Give 1 non-clothing item away a month
  4. Write a real, handwritten letter to 20 different people
  5. Write a letter to the pastor who married Ben and me to tell him thanks
  6. Write a thank-you note to each of my yoga instructors who motivated me to teach
  7. Have coffee with each of my siblings
  8. Have coffee with each of my sisters-in-law
  9. Have lunch with my parents
  10. Take Ethan and new nephew/niece on a day trip
  11. Float the Buffalo River with Ben reenacting our first anniversary
  12. Make a catch-up phone call to one long-distance friend a month
  13. Start a book club with friends
  14. Volunteer 3 times at a pregnancy clinic
  15. Volunteer 3 times at a humane society/animal shelter
  16. Volunteer 3 times at a nursing home
  17. Volunteer 2 times with Heifer International
  18. Volunteer 2 times with a literacy organization
  19. Volunteer 3 times with an English language learner conversation group
  20. Participate in a Walk for the Cure
  21. Offer 15 free yoga classes for homeshool moms
  22. Make 3 micro-loans through Kiva
  23. Give 2 Cups of Joe for a Joe every month
  24. Donate 3 times to CharityWater
  25. Plant a tree

Umbrella Goal 101: Enjoy at least 10 minutes of prayer/meditation every day

And to close, I really do want world peace.



By reading the first 30 pages or so of Brazier’s book, The Thrive Diet, then skipping ahead to the 12-week meal plan and recipes, I missed a very important section: adapting.

Apparently, and as Brazier so wisely advises, our full-of-junk bodies need time to transition to a diet of raw, whole foods. It seems that jumping into this brand of foodie with absolutely abandon is not so ideal. Our bodies get stressed from being forced out of a routine. We go into actual withdrawals for refined, processed foods and artificial stimulants and our internal parts may not respond kindly to an abrupt change in edible offerings. We need, he says, to give our bodies time. “When you adopt a new way of eating,” Brazier writes, “it takes time for your body to adapt” (86).


My failure to read this portion of the book, and my blind-folded swan-dive into raw foods over the past week, is undoubtedly the cause of some major mood swings and other issues that my husband and I both experienced. I am so accustomed to attributing such unfortunate happenings to non-edible uncomplementary stressors (dissertation, where will we be in four months, what am I going to do with my life, I need to change my sheets and vacuum, etc.) that I never imagined part of the problem may have come from inhaling soaked nuts, pureed seeds, and obscure veggies. From eating cocoa nibs, not chocolate, and using nutritional yeast blending with hulled sesame seeds as a “cheesy” topper instead of dairy cheese. From making my own cereal and pre-making almost 20 energy bars. My cupboards cannot physical contain the supply of straight-from-the-earth elements I purchased and immediately started to consume. The food, I surmised, could not be a factor.

It’s healthy, right?

Then, the other evening, my husband (who found himself turning to Chick-fil-A for a bit of relief) was reading the book and came across the very-necessary-to-read-early-on chapter on adapting. I flipped to that section and read, “The first few days of an optimal diet may not be pleasant.” Hmm. Brazier goes on to write that the worse one feels in the first few days of switching to a nutrient-rich diet, the more there is to gain. Despite being a vegetarian/almost-vegan for several years and already eating some pretty healthy fare, my response to the switch last week indicates that my lifestyle was not as healthy as I thought. Based on the precipitation from my tear ducts and rumblings in my midsection, it seems like I have quite a bit to gain form Brazier’s plan.

I need to adapt, and maybe a bit more slowly that I have been.

I am learning in yoga that you never jump immediately from pose to pose. Instead, you transition between poses, even between the same pose of different sides of the body, with small steps designed to help one achieve the desired asana with ease and without much discomfort. I also know that fluency in a new language, Italian, for example, does not simply happen with a few days of intense study, that first you must tackle basic grammar and greetings. Indeed, learning to sail does not even begin on a boat; it begins in the classroom with lessons on safety, procedure, and tying knots. In fact, in most everything we attempt, the end goal is achieved through a usually slow and methodical process…

…even, and perhaps especially, when it comes to health.

Brazier advocates an eventual and progressive transition into a raw food lifestyle to avoid unnecessary stress. He recommends approaching this diet as a process, not as an extreme sport. So, I’m recognizing now that my body will take time to adapt. I’m still working in as many raw foods as possible (had a sunflower and beet “pizza” for lunch,in fact), but I am not totally disregarding cravings or changes in mood; I’m just spending more time assessing if the craving or mood swing is food-related (and, if so, what food) or related to some other stressor.

All that said, though, I can attest to already seeing and feeling beneficial results from this lifestyle change. While last week was difficult as my body whined for salt and refined, prepackaged sustenance, I started this week with some unexpected little victories. My jeans are already a little bit looser. I not only don’t have as many cravings, but when presented with an opportunity the other day to eat French fries without judgement, I didn’t want them. My appetite is smaller, and I feel satisfied faster while eating raw food meals. I couldn’t finish my walnut hemp burger topped with black bean salsa. I was full.


Ciao amici!!! Come va?

Unfortunately, I am not in Tuscany. If I were, I would be sipping Chianti or Sangiovese at a family-owned winery and enjoying the best practices of language learning, immersion. Since my current situation involves sipping inexpensive Syrah from the rustic aisles of the local Kroger, full immersion is not an option. So, per the advice of my fluent-in-French sister and mother, I am creating scenes of pseudo-immersion in the hopes of increasing my exposure to Italian, la bella lingua, as much as possible sans real Italians.

To commence these efforts, I changed my language settings on WordPress. My Dashboard, or Bacheca, is awash in technical Italian. This post, or articoli, is a aggiungi nuovo, and my current conteggio parole, or word count, is 126. My newly bi-lingual iPhone instructs me to inserisci il codice to unlock it, and I send messagi to my amici. There’s been a small learning curve, but nothing more than a couple of unintentional text messages and subsequent apologies to the receivers.

I’m also opting for Italian entertainment when possible. In addition to my previously discussed obsession with Puccini’s operas, I’m starting to seek out more modern Italian music, such as “Sospesa” by Malika Ayane, and Fred Buscaglione’s “Guarda che luna.” My Berlitz language tracks are a constant play while I drive about, and Roberto Benigni’s films have taken many of my hours. Of course, La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) is an absolute must-see. My sister also suggested I find the Italian versions to Disney films on youtube, so I have plans to look for Lady and the Tramp in mio nuono amore.

But my new, immediate favorite is La tigre e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow). Benigni is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors, and the dialogue in La tigre e la neve is incredibly charming. Benigni plays a lovesick poetry professor whose own life is like a magically real string of dreamlike verses. Attilio, Benigni’s character, makes beautiful speeches about love and poetry that are as emotive as they are humorous as recited in Benigni’s jaunty, whimsical manner. (It does help, though, that the main love interest’s name in the film is Vittoria, the Italian equivalent of my own.) If you love words, you must see this film. Trust me.

I haven’t come to the point of post-it-noting articles in my house with their Italian linguistic equivalents, but I am perhaps not far off from this method. I am still stuck at basic greetings, but I refuse to be discouraged by my lack of opportunity to study. As I said before, this pursuit is not to be contained in the academic calendar. For now, I can greet in Italian and I’m learning to love the culture through as many vehicles as I can without actually being there, and that is not bad for a month’s work.

~Ciao, ciao! Arrivederci!

This post will probably be rather short. It’s fairly late, and I don’t have much energy left to write the way I usually do, with incessant revision. My apologies to anyone who may read this, and to La Bella Lingua. Please, know that tu sei il sole del mio giorno.

I went to an Italian conversation hour this afternoon, l’ora Italiana, Of course, I was incredibly early and sat in a corner studying my Berlitz Beginner Italian textbook and listening to dialogues in Italian on my iPod. Consummate student.I’m not exactly sure what I thought this hour would entail, but I suppose I had romantic notions of listening to avid learners of this tongue converse about the beauty of the language. Perhaps, even, offering a phrase or two and being coaxed into proper pronunciation by practitioners and experts.

Instead, I played Scopa, a traditional Italian card game, with a few undergrads for 45 minutes. The most Italian I heard was the professor encouraging everyone to get something to eat and drink. The new professor who originally hails from the exotic Ohio (she was very nice, and it is not her fault that she is not really Italian). The students were mostly in their first year of study, with two or three at the intermediate level. They politely greeted with a “ciao” upon arrival, but immediately fell into speaking in English. Even the professor spoke almost entirely in our native tongue. Although everyone was pleasant, I quickly assessed that the students attended more for extra credit than a desire to improve their knowledge, and the professor very wisely opted for a relaxed atmosphere with the occasional Italian phrase sprinkled in the conversations rather than a formal moment.

I suppose I forgot that the Italian Club’s roster would be made up almost entirely by the students I have taught for six years. That most students take foreign language courses because they have to complete two semesters of study in order to complete the liberal arts core curriculum. That, aside from the one or two students this afternoon who obviously enjoyed learning Italian, the majority of those present would sign the roll sheet for a few months and do enough work to pass.

Please do not misunderstand my sentiment. My point is not that undergrads are not serious. Quite the opposite. I was a fabulous undergrad student who could rally up enough bonus points and study specifically to ace individual exams that I graduated with a very high GPA and conveniently forgetting much of the information I had to learn in classes I was more required to take than wanted to. Undergrads have to be incredibly selfish with their study time and must privilege the courses that “matter” for their chosen fields. For most students, these courses will not be Italian 101 and 102. Studying and learning are not romantic pursuits for most undergrads; they are the means to employment. I have no problem with that. It’s practical. I fully expect to work for one of my former students one day, hopefully one that did well in my class.

My very muddled point is that I had a bit of a reminder today that the vast majority of studying that I have done has been for particular scholastic purposes, not for enjoyment. I have always studied in the context of school. Indeed, I took a year of Spanish to fulfill my core requirements, and I remember very little Spanish. I cannot fault the students I met today, or the professor. If I am honest, I believe I was looking for accountability for studying Italian in the context I am most familiar with, school. I can study for almost any professor and do well, but when I am accountable only to myself, I flounder. I don’t know how to color-code my notes and annotate for myself. Maybe I would do better to write myself a syllabus and schedule. I could even make an attendance policy…

But, no. Part of my goal with Italian is that it will become a lifelong pursuit, not some subject I learn between August and May with a break in the middle. At some point, hopefully soon, I will not live only according to the academic calendar. As one of my very good friends and I once discussed, at some point we veteran students will have to become comfortable and effective at learning just to learn. No midterms. No finals. No summer to forget. Now I just have to figure out how one goes about not living in semesters.




A few years ago I started listening to opera. I first exhausted a Three Tenors album, then gradually expanded my “collection” primarily with famous arias from renowned Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. From the first time I experienced Pavarotti’s beautiful voice engulf me in “Nessun Dorma” I was hooked. Opera, and especially Puccini’s works, became a solace. After long days at school I would come home, sit in the middle of my living room floor, a glass of Chianti or Cabernet in hand, and crank my favorite arias to 11. Puccini expressed through Pavarotti was a constant comfort and pleasant distraction during my doctoral comprehensive examinations. I found myself rapidly transforming from feeling dejected to alive and, even, passionate about feeling alive from the first few sonorous notes. I suppose Puccini had me at Turandot.

Puccini, finalmente ci siamo incontrati (finally we have met)! Dove sei stato per tutta la mia vita (where have you been all my life)?

Not wanting to be selfish, I offered my Three Tenors album to a friend and told him to start with “Nessun Dorma.” I wanted to share my newest addiction. A week or so later he returned the offering, shrugged, and said he listened but “didn’t get it.”

“Didn’t get it?” I gasped. “What is there to ‘get'”? You just experience it!”

Never before had I encountered a moment that begged more for  fluency in Italian. Only an impassioned retort in the language of Puccini himself could defend the arias. I encounter a similar need for Italian to “speak for itself” when I teach Dante’s Divine Comedy. While English translations let us taste Dante’s genius, only readings in Italian would satisfy the intricacies of the text. This is perhaps partly why the wonderful artist Roberto Benigni has enjoyed much success with his one-man show Tutto Dante, a performance that ends with Benigni simply reciting cantos from Dante’s masterpiece.

Even some of our greatest works in English can sound better in Italian. One of my favorite set of lines of Shakespeare benefits from Italian cadence (of course, Shakespeare is often claimed as “a great Italian writer” by Italians):

Dubita che le stelle siano fuoco…(Doubt thou the stars are fire,)

dubita che il sole si muova…(Doubt the sun doth move,)

dubita che la verità sia mentitrice…(Doubt truth to be a liar)

ma non dubitare mai del mio amore. (but never doubt my love. Hamlet 2.2)

Recently I’ve relished in a dream of punishing the finished pages of my dissertation by pounding the leaves soaked in cheap red wine into the ground and lording over the beast with a speech of Machiavellian proportions in perfect Italian that condemns the dissertation for taking over the last few years of my life and ultimately hurling the monster deep into the ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno to join its wicked kin…

But I digress…

Through these moments I began to understand that every language has an essence and emotion that cannot be translated. And this is the origin of my present lingual pursuit. I want to speak what Puccini and Pavarotti make me feel. I want to recite cantos from Paradiso.

Language learning should be in my blood. Both of my parents are multi-lingual. My dad has a Masters of Biblical Languages and can converse fairly well in French and probably a couple of other tongues if necessary. (His favorite language, though, happens to be Italian, although he hasn’t had as much study in la bella lingua). My mom is fluent enough in French and Latin to teach these languages to others. She can also keep up in conversations in Spanish and German to some degree. My only sister is earning her Bachelor’s degree in French and studied near Paris this last spring semester. (My mom and sister have a tendency to interrupt their English with lovely French phrases). One of my brother’s is earning a Masters in Spanish, and most of my other brothers are fairly conversational in Spanish as well. My youngest two brothers even know a bit of sign language. (As you can probably tell, I have a lot of siblings, and they are all fabulous). My husband, also, can carry on a conversation in Spanish, learned mostly through working many years in restaurants.

But the language my family is desperately missing is Italian.

Thankfully, if not prophetically, every language I have tried to speak (French and Spanish) comes out with a suspiciously Italian accent. It simply makes sense to learn the words that match the sounds. I was also mistaken for coming from strong Italian ancestry when I was young because my darker features contrasted so strongly to my blonde and fair siblings. (Thankfully two of my youngest brothers share my features, and my youngest brother in particular was born with a full head of dark hair, which assuaged any suspicions of scandal as to my parentage). Destiny seems to be in my favor.

So, with the purchase of Berlitz Basic Italian, a grammar exercise workbook, and a book of the most common verbs and their conjugations, I’m committing. I loaded my Netflix queue with Italian films (favorite so far is Benigni’s amazing The Tiger and the Snow). I contacted the Italian professors at my university about events on campus; my first conversation hour (l’ora Italiano) is a week away. I starting reading Diane Hales’ La Bella Lingua. And, of course, I commemorated this journey with a glass of Chianti raised to a hope of success.

I very much look forward to offering stories of this pursuit for all of you. It will be a celebration, indeed, when I can weave Italian into my posts without the use of an online translator or similar resources.

To la bella lingua…

Ho scritto una storia d’amore senza inizio e senza fine…per scriverla con te. (I have written a love story without a beginning or ending…so that we may write it together).