Simple Joys Of An Archer

Archery

Lost in a breathless moment

The hand trembles holding the tension in the shoulder, eyes intently focused on a small round red pin top.

A warm breeze whispers: “Relax, keep your eyes center on where you want to go.”

Willing with heart and soul the straight path to be clear of obstacles and easily followed.

Soft elk leather brushes the skin of my cheek; the tip of my middle finger finds the corner of my lips letting me know my shot is anchored.

My body, bow, arrow and world stand ready.

All I need to do is have faith and trust in myself.

To not worry about the wind or anything else steering the waiting traveler I am holding off their course.

Finger tips slip loose releasing the dark twisted prisoner they restrained.

A soft hiss rapidly fills my ear as the lone adventurer is now thrust forward, hurtling through time and space, dancing in the wind and blue sky of a fall day.

Finally I am greeted with the soft percussion of steel finding its mark.

The voyage ends as quickly as it began.

I exhale straightening and lowering my arm to see if my aim was true.

Seeing the way the red coloring encircles the gold feathered shaft like the welcoming embrace of a lover.

The longed-for goal was achieved.

The sun seems to be warmer and the Fates congratulate me with another gently blown breeze ruffling my hair.

A triumphant smile slowly spreads across my face at the small victory gained…

Ahh… the simple joys of an archer.

Written for J.M. Guillen’s Alchemy Challenge last fall. J.M. writes some wonderful futuristic tales when he is not attempting to take over the world. Check out his site and work some time at http://www.irrationalworlds.com/

5 Things to Do Before Posting your Blog Post and other thoughts

Great tips and guidance on how to effectively leverage social media from Nicholas Rossis.

Nicholas C. Rossis

When I entered the social media world, I was pretty much clueless, just like everybody else, I guess.  Anyone who knows the difference between a Facebook page and profile and all those tiny but oh-so-perceptible differences between hashtags, @ signs and .@ signs on Twitter can now leave this post to get your afternoon tea or coffee, frolic in your garden, call your friends or do whatever it is you people do.

When_to_Post_to_Social_Media_Infographic - Infographic by fannit.com When to post to Social Media – Infographic by fannit.com

As for the rest of us, I had no idea how much work, effort and expertise were required to get your message across.  The amazing – and more than a little irritating – fact is that things change so fast that I constantly have to learn new marketing tips.  For example, did you know the best times to post? Apparently, 1pm to 4 pm for Facebook, 1 pm to 3 pm for Twitter, 7 am to…

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Dematurity Plan and 2014 Strategic Priorities

Fireworks DisplayWoohoo!  A fantastic year is ending and a new one that I hope will be just as remarkable is beginning.  The theme I’ve chosen for 2014 is “Taking Risks and Making Dreams Reality.”

This means that shortly, I will call together the board of me, (consisting of myself, a glass of vino, a pen and paper), and begin my annual strategic planning conference to determine 2014 Strategic Goals and review / update the Dematurity Plan.  I bet a bunch of you are wondering what a Dematurity plan is and why is  Caterina having a strategic planning conference with herself?

The Dematurity Plan is the easiest thing to explain.  It is similar to a bucket list, except it has a shorter period in which to execute.  I want to do these things while I am relatively young versus waiting until my golden years.  I set a goal of achieving all items within 5 years of adding them to the list.  They can be anything and everything.  They are whatever tickles your fancy!  They can be travel, random goals, and wild things you want to try.  It includes whatever you want to do, as long as they energize you and keep you young at heart.  Hence the name: Dematurity plan.

No doubt, you are thinking that the Dematurity Plan sounds fun. It’s dorky in a way, but fun.  Now, what about these strategic priorities?  It sounds a little too businessesque and not too much fun for a person.  Truthfully, that was my initial reaction as well.  After all, New Years resolutions were made to be broken, right?  I sure as hell couldn’t manage to keep mine for one reason or another.  Obviously, simply making a resolution doesn’t work for me.  I need to commit to whatever I state and see it in front of me to bring it to life.

A wise woman once told me that resolutions weren’t actionable.  She actually said that same thing many times to me, along with the other leaders in the department I worked in, when building out goals and priorities for our teams.  When she was assigned as my professional mentor, she suggested I start applying the same principles to my personal goals since I backslid on them all of the time for a hundred and one different reasons.  I thought she was crazy!  Who in the hell does that with their personal life?!  That is really way too much work for personal goals.

Being the smart woman she is, she reminded me that I did this professionally every year and it had served me well.  Why not do it personally too?  If it didn’t work, I could walk away from it.  She also identified early that my work/life balance was way out of whack and I needed to put it back in balance if I was going to deliver every day at work and at home.  So I trusted her, bit the bullet, and dreamed about what I could accomplish for myself personally in a year.  None of what I am about to share is rocket science and many business minded folks do it every single day at work.  A handful will also do it at home.

My annual plan consists of 5-10 items depending on what is top of mind when I find a quiet moment to really think through what would be amazing to accomplish that year.  I pick 3-4 heavy hitters.  That way I can make them actionable and not take on more than I can really handle.  I have a tendency to do that.  I also have trouble saying “no” to myself and others if an interesting project surfaces.  After brainstorming the big goals, I pick a few lower priority items that I would like to do as well.  The world won’t end if I don’t finish them or merely make little progress.  These are also nice if you need to see something accomplished every now and then to stay motivated.  Lastly, I set rough target dates and outline actions I need to take each step of the way to move towards the end goal.

Every quarter, I schedule time to sit down and review the goals against my progress in achieving them, and adapt them as needed.  I celebrate each one I accomplish, especially the stretch goals.  Additionally, I celebrate my failures.  This is important as we learn from failing as much as we do from succeeding.  When I fail, I take the time to ask myself why and what I learned.  Is it something I want to attempt again now that I know where things went wrong?  Or is it better to walk away and fight another day or another battle?

For whatever reason, the above works for me.  If you find yourself wanting to set goals, but can’t seem to make progress towards achieving them, try a Dematurity or Strategic Priority plan.  Some folks, even non-OCD ones like me, need a little more structure to be successful.  Most of all, have fun!  The journey to completing the goal is where we really grow and triumph, not when we cross the finish line.

Oh, one more important thing!  Share the goals with someone who can help keep you on track or put them some place you can see them everyday.   I leverage both and have yet to miss a major goal in three years.

I would love to hear what you are striving to do in 2014 and what helps keep you on track with your goals and dreams!

Happy New Year to all of you!

Illusions of Unity

I wrote this piece for a class assignment when living in Italy earlier this year.  The class spent a great deal of time focusing on the Risorgimento and the unification of Italy.  I really enjoyed the course and the various assignments we completed for it.  The letter is that of a woman outlining her life and experiences of the times.  The assignment also required us to demonstrate some of the biases and divides within the country as it unified.   Happy reading!

For the pavecchio libro con stilograficast five years, I watched as our beloved Italia seems to be a ship lost at sea, riding out a perilous storm of political ideals and dreams. Now, at the full height and frenzy of the violent maelstrom that the rest of the world knows as the Risorgimento, I wonder what was the purpose of setting out on this cursed and deadly voyage. What drew us to this repetitive theme of nationalism? Are we just moths attracted to the flame of something that we can never truly have? Will we survive the night and find the sun breaking the darkness; birthing a new country of hope and equality? Or will the hull rupture; the masts crash down destroying the slippery, old wooden deck sending us to the depths of the Mediterranean to await final judgment by the Austrians and the aristocrats of the Old World? Is this dream of a united Italia as fickle as the seas our country lies between? Does God even look down and favor those fighting for what they believe is right when the Pope vehemently condemns all actions towards our end goal? I no longer have answers to these questions as I once believed I did. My faith in this cause is waning. So many newly formed doubts haunt me as I sit alone in my house that once felt warm and full of life. The house and I are just another floating remnant of a past that will soon not exist. Both of us lost in the shadows of a city that once was known for its culture, art and domination of the Eastern trade routes. I apprehensively await word of our fate. As I pine for that elusive bit of news to arrive from the South, where the owner of my heart now fights for the future of us all.

I formally met Vincenzo, my husband, on a sunny winter day in the shipyards as I stood waiting for my father’s ship to make port. Our paths had briefly crossed a few times prior to that day. I had seen the mast of my father’s ship and the family flag flying with that of the Veneto as it sailed into the turquoise water of the lagoon after being gone two months picking up produce from the North African coastline. I pretended not to notice him as he and his friends from the University of Venice walked past. Those days Vincenzo was dashing and charming with a devil’s grin, black, short curly hair and eyes the color of the sea that danced whenever he laughed. He was from the Bourbon South, which made him almost exotic and irresistible to a woman who only journeyed to Sicily and Naples one time previously. The smile on my face betrayed me as he nodded in my direction and remarked to one of his friends about the beauty of the morning and the allure the mistress of the sea offered him. The gown I wore that morning matched both the Adriatic and those eyes that would haunt me from that day forward. I fully comprehended that his colorful metaphor referenced myself as his eyes never left mine.

Many on the piers and docks knew me including Vincenzo. I was the only child of Don Anafesto. The blood in my veins was that of the original Doge of Venezia. After the Middle Ages my family fell out of grace with the ruling powers and lost much of our wealth. However, my father and grandfather worked diligently to restore the family name and titles. For generations we were masters of the sea and remained so even under Austrian rule. The reigning Austrian and Venetian families looked down on us in disdain for our middle class ranking. We were now the despicable nouveau ricci. Those same disdainful looks contained tinges of jealousy for the ability of the Anafestos to rise from the ashes of a disgraced past to fly once again towards the sun.

“The sea is a cruel mistress for those that do not know her well.” I couldn’t resist accepting the invitation he extended as he now walked my way.

“Then I shall have to make her acquaintance. Will the sea not share her true name with a lonely sailor who desires to learn her secrets?” he smiled taking my hand and bringing it to his lips.

“Why is there a need for me to share it? I believe you already know my name signor just as I know yours.” I scoffed making that Cheshire cat smile even bigger.

“Oriana, you are as unpredictable as the Adriatic your father sails. Today you are Salacia made flesh. Your gown is the water and sky on a calm day. Your black curls the starts of the storm clouds that suddenly fall upon unsuspecting sailors. Those rich green eyes the final maelstrom that submerges us poor men so happily and willingly to its depths.” He remarked making me laugh. “So tell me siren, how do you know my name?”

“My father offered you his hand when you fell into the Rio Dell’Albero. I believe you were trying to attract the attention of Maria Visconti after a matinée of La Traviata if I recall correctly. Only an African would manage to fall into a canal.” He turned a light shade of pink as I took the wind out of his sails reminding him of when we met last.

“I blocked that afternoon out of my memory signora. You are again like the sea in your cruelty with your crass reference to my southern heritage and to remind me of such a traumatic event. Being from Naples hardly makes me African. My blood is more aristocratic and Italian than yours. Apparently, I was also raised with better manners than are taught in Venezia.”, he flippantly remarked; his pride and temper momentarily pricked. Deciding to let go of my offensive words, he offered me his arm and an escort to my father’s ship as we watched the quartermaster drop the gangplank in place. When I slipped my hand into that L shaped curve and placed my fingers on that strong bicep, he became my guide to a strange and foreign world known as adulthood.

In those early days of romance and young love, we believed anything was possible. He dispelled many myths I had of Naples and the southern states. Or perhaps part of me believed, he was a rare exception seldom found in the wild southern states of the Peninsula. Either way we were living proof that the North and South could coexist as one entity. If we complimented each other so perfectly, surely the people of both sections of Italy could do so. The South could bring its rich agriculture, flavorful wines and old Middle Eastern heritage into the North. In return, we could infuse the South with our industry, classical education, music and true art.

We often read the news of the escalating violence and the maturing fight for independence while we ate dinner or lay lazily in bed each morning. We even discussed the concept of Italia frequently. As the tricolor flag flew over more and more freed regions, the idea of being a free country of our own appealed to our young hearts and minds. Though it was treason to think such a thing or openly discuss such matters.
Being young and full of aspirations we could see this new “Italia” as easily as we saw our own reflections in the mirror. What an inspirational and inviting vision! To be free of the Austrian influence and foreign powers controlling the once powerful center of the Roman Empire. Truly free to set our own course in the world.

A year into our marriage, Vincenzo would disappear in the evenings without a trace. This distressed me a great deal. I begin to believe he had taken a lover on the side.
When I asked where he was going he always advised it was better I do not know, but he would be home soon. One evening I hung my cloak near the door determined to discover where my new husband disappeared to three nights a week. Nerves on edge, I waited for the tender kiss good night and the whispered words of, “I will return as soon as I can cara. Do not wait up as I may be late. Ti amo sirena.” Without fail Vincenzo repeated his nightly farewell then disappeared down the dark alleyways of Venice.

Waiting only a few seconds, I pulled on my cloak and followed behind him. He only paused to look over his shoulder once. I pressed myself into a doorway praying he did not see that I shadowed him. Finally we stopped at Palazzo Albrizzi. The door to the large home opened after his knock. Had he taken an aristocratic lover? Was my family’s old name along with his ties to the nobility of Naples not enough for him? My heart in my throat I wrapped on the door as he had. The butler answered clearly stunned to see a woman standing before him. The master of the house had instructed him not to make inquiries of anyone who knocked on the door in that fashion. His directions were clear, lead whoever banged out that secret rhythm to the library. Neither of us spoke a word as he led me down a frescoed hall to the room tucked away on the rear of the house. As the large oak door swung open the men inside stopped speaking and glanced towards it to see who entered.

“Oriana.”, Vincenzo spoke my name in disbelief as he recognized me standing on the threshold. Other men stared and whispered as he stood and crossed the room to me. One or two made off-handed remarks about controlling one’s wife as I almost wept from the relief I felt that I found him deep in conversation with several men from Venice’s most promising families versus a rich mistress. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to explain my sudden appearance as he took both my forearms in firm hands, “You should not be here cara.”

“I thought… I believed…”, I stammered as I stared into the blue pools that immediately knew the originally well concealed reason that compelled me to follow him that night.

He smiled understandingly and embraced me, reinforcing the vow of fidelity he took when we married. “Tesoro, you will never find another in my arms. I am here for a much more noble cause.”

When he turned to excuse the two of us from the room he was halted by Senatore Cappello. Vincenzo grew concerned as Cappello requested my assistance with stirring the fires of the revolution in the Veneto. After all who would tie a woman to the

resistance or order? The Austrians were too arrogant to do so. Fear resurfaced for both of us inside me.

“You are a carbonari?” I asked in a voice just above a whisper. Part of me wished he had taken a lover. There would be less risk involved in an affair.

“We will discuss this more later. Do you not dream of seeing Venezia free or Italia regain it’s glory from the days of old?” he denied me an answer for the moment. He straightened and smiled turning to address Cappello. “If there is no need of my services tonight, I wish to discuss this at length privately with my lovely wife after I see her safely home. Her decision to abstain or support our cause will be communicated tomorrow.”

Cappello bid us good night. The walk home was tense and seemed to last for eternity as we dared not discuss such matters where we could be overheard. Our heated conversation that night was a mix of fear versus courage, patriotism versus criminality and concluded with both of us surrendering to the passion it aroused in our hearts for one another. I watched the sunrise from our bedroom window. The sky was flame red as the orange ball ascended the heights to its resting place. A red dawn signaled those of us that lived on the sea to take warning as a storm was brewing.

“I wonder if the rain today will be a down pour with the melee in your eyes this morning mia serina.” Vincenzo wrapped his arms around me from behind and kissed my temple before wishing me good morning.

Accepting the red sky as a sign of our fates, I surrendered to the change dancing on the sea breeze. I asked Vincenzo to accept the invitation to join the secret society supporting the revolution on my behalf when he met with Cappello that afternoon. For the next several months, I helped raise money and smuggle messages between towns. I mingled with conspirators that secretly hid in the city. We lived and breathed the dream that was Italia. If one were to slice our wrists they would bleed green, white and red. We risked everything for a new world our children could be raised in. Exile or death would be our sentence if Vincenzo and I were caught.

Garibaldi called for men to come south and support the fight in Sicily. Vincenzo answered that call feeling a moral duty to take up arms to defend a place so near his family’s home. Sicily and Naples were once united under one kingdom. At first I was tempted to plead with him to stay and fight against the Austrians. That way I could see him regularly and have knowledge of his wellbeing. When I saw the look in his eye, I knew it would be futile to do so. He was already envisioning a victory against Bourbon Napoli as another piece of Italia fell into place. He promised to write frequently if time permitted. He swore to return to his beloved wife and Venezia soon.

“Soon” slipped from days into months and months into a year. His letters religiously arrived every other Friday. They found their way to me through Garibaldi’s officers, strangers passing through Venice and our family ships that ported in Palermo. He wrote of the greatness of the country being boring. He dreamed of equality for all and

for a better life for the poor throughout what would become Italy. He especially felt for the peasants in Sicily. Their strife was greater than any other in the region. Often living in dirt floor hovels while the Southern aristocrats enjoyed the luxury of their massive plantation homes whose floors were covered in swirling marbles and Persian rugs. In the new Italy, the peasants’ standard of living would certainly be improved as they would receive a small parcel of land to farm. Wealth could be redistributed in the region as needed per the nationalists.

Having visited the region once in my youth, I did not share Vincenzo’s optimism. The lands were harsh and unwelcoming; the people deceptively warm. The first morning I spent in Sicilia, a boy with big brown eyes and olive skin playfully greeted me on the streets of Palermo. When he invited me to bounce the small ball in his hands he seemed friendly enough. As I tried to speak with him the little monster ripped the locket I wore from my neck then disappeared into the maze of streets never to be seen again. At eight this ordeal was traumatizing and left a sour taste in my mouth for the citizens of the south. If the children were conniving thieves, the adults had to be a hundred times worse. I doubted life would improve in the new country of Italia. For centuries the poor remained poor with only a few ever climbing into the middle class. The rich, well, they always remained rich. Part of me resented Northern men fighting for Sicilia. She was hardly a country who could appreciate the sacrifice made for her. In my mind savages would always be savages. I dared not write my thoughts, which turned bitter with being separated by a war that lost its luster when my husband was pulled from my side. It no longer seemed a glorious cause as more women were advised their husbands or sons died or if they were lucky were merely taking prisoner and exiled.

Finally in August word reached us of Garibaldi’s victory in the South. Our men would return home for much needed rest and celebration as Piedmontese troops carried on the fight in other parts of the country. I longed to see Vincenzo. He could bring me relief from the burden I carried in a now war torn Venice. Erase the new doubts and spiteful views I developed. The Austrians cracked down harshly on the Venetians and Italians in the city. Curfews were enforced and spies lurked around every corner. The white Austrian uniforms that used to bring a comforting sense of security now only brought unease as they filled the city streets at night. My father urged me to flee to Verona or Milan but I refused. I would leave as soon as Vincenzo appeared at my door. He was due any day now.

So here I sit, as summer begins its transition to fall in 1860. Waiting for a glimpse of his face or another letter to tell me the lost sailor was finally on course to come home. Could I not speed him on his way with the gift of fair winds and following seas? I sip my wine dreaming of our reunion when a knock forces me from my fantasies. I rise and my feet seem to move across the floor driven by a will all their own. Was my beloved Vincenzo finally home? As I opened the door one of Garibaldi’s Colonels stood before me. My voice shakes as I bid him to enter and gesture to a seat nearest the door. Cappello is with him. Both men advise I should be the one to sit. Obediently and silently I sink to the chair not wanting to hear whatever they come to tell me. For them both to appear the news cannot be good.

I doubt their words as they share that my patriotic and heroic husband was killed in the final barricade uprising in Sicily. My world is spinning as I fight to stifle the wail longing to escape my lips. He couldn’t be gone. This flimsy illusion known as national unity that failed previously was not worth his life. After they offered words of sympathy and assurances that I would be compensated for my loss under Emmanuel’s new regime. Both men then left my home. They departed as if they only stopped by for a routine afternoon chat. I found myself sliding down the closed door to the cold stone floor. Alone, I scream and cry grieving for the loss. Wanting the angel of death to tear my heart from my chest and reunite me with the sailor awaiting me on the shores in the afterlife. I resign myself to the idea that just as my time with Vincenzo did not last, the world we both lived in just a year ago was gone. The future that loomed seemed dark and unpredictable. I pray his life was not given vainly for a false prophecy as I now believe “Italia” to be. What is unity worth if one finds themselves alone in the new world? Just as the boy impulsively stole my locket, Sicily heartlessly claimed the one thing I now valued most.

My first book cover!

The Language of Zombies: Latin, Dead or Alive?

Fun read on Latin written by one of my classmates. Hope you enjoy it!

Rowdy Writers

When I enrolled in my first Latin class, I received mixed emotions from my friends. “Latin? Why would you take that as your foreign language? Nobody speaks it anymore. IT’S A DEAD LANGUAGE!”  I can understand that initial reaction. One might assume learning Spanish or French would be more practical to use in a professional field. However, I have to disagree.  Latin is often referred to as a “dead language” because it is not spoken on a daily basis… or is it?

Doctors, Lawyers, and Scientists: 

As many of you may know, Latin terminology is highly notable in legal jargon, medical terms, and scientific classifications. New discoveries in these fields are made all the time. When a new species is discovered, how do they decide what to name it? When a new disease is found, what is it going to be called? The names of these new discoveries will be Latin.

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Aspirations and Inspiration if you need some…

Finally finding a few minutes to write! I’ve been mulling over decisions and choices for the future the past couple of weeks. I am constantly weighing the dark reality of a dismal economy and disappointing job projections against my future goals and dreams of pursuing one of those supposed “worthless, high risk” PhD’s, (per the media, fellow academics and just about every expert out there). Who in their right mind could possibly want to be a historian with specialties in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Middle East? A person who will learn dead languages serving no value in the business or technology sectors along with a complicated modern language spoken in a high risk region to compliment their Italian? The one writing this very entry is that person. I just hope I can find a program that will take me. 🙂

What can I say? I hate math. I hate science. I can do them well, but my heart simply isn’t in them. Numbers make me cringe unless we are talking money. Instead, I love languages, history, mythology, epic tales and music. I enjoy writing and peeling back layer after layer of cultural onions to learn how that onion truly formed and what its heart looks like. When I got my first degree, I was told it was a dead-end path to follow. Boy, the people who told me that were so wrong. While I didn’t end up a world-famous opera singer or ruling Sony records as a powerful industry exec pushing the label and talent to new heights, I became, in my mind anyways, a pretty nice success story in the Insurance industry. I climbed up from entry-level adjuster to Director over 10 years. The skills I acquired from my Music Management degree were invaluable and served me well. Soft skills just aren’t taught in math, science or accounting classes. They are learned in the Arts and in real life. Don’t get me wrong. We desperately need highly skilled technicians. But we also need dreamers and innovators. We need those that can communicate and create strategic vision and goals for people.

Coming into the real world with a fine arts background, I knew how to relate to people. I knew the type of discipline it took to train for the impossible and strive to reach for the next level. I could look at the obstacles and walls one would encounter working towards impossible goals and not be intimidated. I knew enough about the business world to navigate it and the performer in me knew how to inspire others to achieve. I had the pleasure of holding a coveted leadership position on a management team for the number one customer service leader in the world for consecutive years. I had job security, great employees, supportive mentors and opportunity. I made a salary I certainly would not complain about. However, I traded my family, my health, and the passions I really have in life for that. Is the path I found myself on back then worth it? My honest answer is I don’t know. Some days I would tell you yes, others I would firmly say no. Is the dream most folks have in the corporate world the right one? Guess it all depends on what your priorities are.

I can tell you, I no longer need to be rich, live in a mansion or drive a Ferrari. Well, I haven’t given up on the Ferrari. We all need long-term stretch goals to stay motivated. However, my world won’t end if I never get to set my hands on the leather steering wheel and drive at mind-blowing speeds in my dream car. I also believe more than ever that we can all find what we are meant to do and be successful at it, even with the odds stacked against us. I can hear the cynics reading this scoffing at my words and see them rolling their eyes.

Need proof that it is possible to find your way to be one in a million or find your way out of the darkness? Need help believing that the smallest or greatest dream can be achieved? That the average joe can become greater than that guy dressed in blue with an “S” on his chest?

Here are some real life examples to inspire you:

A once chubby, unknown boy from Jersey, (an island off the English coast, not the state below New York), is now conquering Hollywood, (over 2,000 miles from where he called home), is one of the most in-demand actors and is now being called one of the sexiest men on earth. Give you a hint as to who he is. He portrays the guy with an “S” on his chest described above and his initials are Henry Cavill.

A college drop-out built a computer company from scratch and became one of the most innovative minds the technology world will ever know. His story is hitting the big screen this month.

Too unrealistic to inspire you as you think only 1 in 10 million can do what these two did? Maybe success can be defined at a less extreme level. How about just having food to eat, a roof overhead in a nice neighborhood, a little spending cash and driving a car not on the verge of breakdown? Try this less glamorous example on for size if the two above failed to motivate you and you are striving for just the preceding.

My mother was a divorced, single parent with a partially completed nursing degree. She had two young kids to raise on her own and wondered how she would do it. She went back to school. We struggled at times, but we grew stronger as a family. My mother went on to join the military after completing her degree, retired an US Naval Commander with a distinguished career including a deployment to the Middle East as a field nurse. Was it hard on all involved? Hell yes it was!! Was the journey worth it in the end? She would tell anyone who asked “Definitely!” so would my brother and I.

While we aren’t all destined for fame and fortune as Jobs and Cavill were, we are all still destined to do great things in life. We all have the potential to achieve whatever we really, truly dream of doing if we never give up on it and work through those dark times. That dream or goal will evolve with us as we grow. It also may not play out exactly as planned, but you will find a way to incorporate it into your life. In those moments you are alone and ready to quit, find the inner strength to climb to your feet again. When a helping hand is extended, have faith in its owner and grasp it tightly; allowing them to help you over the wall. Sometimes we don’t see those hands in front of our face or are so lost in our own battles we bite it as it is just reaching out for us.

I will leave everyone with this note. When I look back, my regrets only fall on the times I feared taking risk when an opportunity was extended and my gut told me to jump on it. I also wouldn’t value half of what I have if I hadn’t struggled. If I hadn’t had those breakdowns and heart wrenching moments of incredible doubt, screaming my frustration, hurt and discouragement up at the heavens on my knees. While I hate going back to that place, if it is required to teach me, mold me and thrust me forward by giving me drive that only those who have stood in those places can have, I will dive into the darkness head first praying I come out of it stronger and successful. As I define success versus the world’s definition. And if fate happens to drop a Ferrari in my lap . . . you’re damn right I will find out exactly how loud that engine can rev and how fast that car can really go!

Italian Ice … And we are not talking diamonds or desserts

blUrbino: Culture and Lifestyle Features From the Heart of Europe

IMG_0599The rolling Italian countryside surrounding the medieval walls of Urbino and the historic streets just inside the red-brown brick perimeter, are blanketed in white from fresh fallen snow. The pristine environment conjures images of innocence in one’s mind. Depending on who you are the winter wonderland could be the rebirth of a world made new by its sparkling winter cloak or a reminder of childhood fun, making snow angels and catching snowflakes on your tongue. As you dream of times gone by, hidden under the soft powder a sinister predator lurks silently. Just waiting for that one misstep by its next unsuspecting victim.  Fate chooses you to be the longed for prey. Your feet find the hidden trap of a glass like surface that doesn’t play nice with the sole of your shoes. Your foot suddenly slips forward becoming airborne.  You find yourself suddenly falling towards the earth with the…

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The Romance of Train Travel Across Europe

There is somethIMG_1837ing romantic about riding a train across the Italian countryside.  I love train travel in Europe.  Some of my favorite images of England were the trees, ponds, country homes, flowered walls, gardens and ancient cottages/flats on the train ride from Stratford to Windsor. Train travel is so much easier than flying. No security checks, reasonable lines, friendly faces of conductors who are happy to help you even if you butcher their native tongue when asking which track your train is on. No extra bag charges, no weight limits as you pack whatever you can lift.

I love watching the countryside with its lush green fields, little yellow stucco farm houses with red-brown tile roofs and sleeping vineyards as we are on the cusp of spring waking the vines. When you ride south you run into business travelers, tourist and southern Italians with warm personalities. Go North towards Milan and you can see the fashion capitol’s influence over the country as clothes change from average Joe to men in well cut business suits or designer jeans.  The women dress in tights, sweater dresses, boots or stilettos with big sunglasses and beautiful London fog style trench coats.

Snow on the way to Urbino from Milan

Snow on the way to Urbino from Milan

The soft clack of the wheels hums a soothing lullaby that summons daydreams or a nap.  You put in your earphones, play your favorite music and you’re off to a world uniquely your own.  Sometimes I think about the beauty of whatever place I am in. Other times my mind wanders to times gone by or sharing the train ride with a special someone who appreciates it as much as I do.  Even though my special someone is not ever sitting beside me on my journeys. At least not yet. Perhaps one day.

The longer rides allow for good conversations with friends or when I feel brave a chance to practice what little Italian I have learned so far with a fellow passenger.  That is one thing I love about the Italians.  Many of them are more than happy to help you learn what is in my opinion the most beautiful language in the world.  Though Arabic is a close second.  I am also going to offend the French as I believe Italian is the true language of amore. The only thing that comes close to making my heart race at the thought of a honey dipped, inviting masculine voice tinged with its own unique diction whispering in my ear is a British accent or the easy lilt of the Cajun/Creole tongue. Anyways, I digress. Back to the trains.

If you ever travel by train you definitely have to experience the dinning/snack car at least once.  There is a strange joy that comes from wandering through the cars to reach it.  The cappuccino, snack or whatever you choose to seek out in the car is a satisfying reward for braving the journey through narrow aisles and bumping into fellow passengers as the train rocks around curves.  You can sip your beverage in the car while chatting with the bartender. I guess that’s what we can call him or watch the scenery from a large rectangle window.  I have yet to run into a female server in the dining car in Italy.  I wonder why that is as there are many women conductors? A new subject to explore another day.