Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back In The Saddle

Finally getting back on the road after taking thirteen days off. We deadheaded home from California (872 miles round trip), spent a few days at home, saw the family and got a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner!

Our next trip takes us to Bangor, Maine. I LOVE Maine! The middle of the country is supposed to get a little snow and if I'm lucky, we'll get "stuck" in Maine for the weekend and I'll be able to eat seafood and enjoy the cold weather.

I love being back on the road after time off. I'm so used to my little space in the truck, with everything at my fingertips and all I need surrouding me. It's totally cozy and I really do miss it when I'm not there.

Christmas is not far off and I have to start my Christmas shopping. I already have some ideas (which is unusual - usually I'm tearing my hair out for ideas!) and think I might actually get everything done fairly far in advance. That may be wishful thinking, so we'll see!

Gotta go - it's either my turn to drive or my turn to sleep!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Logging Lots Of Miles
Apples, Fudge And Homemade Jam
Eddie Hick Runs Deep Friday
If You Can’t Make It To France
I’m Sleeping With Someone New

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gucci, Gucci, Gu

Last week when we visited Las Vegas, we saw the new a collection of hotels, residences, shops and restaurants at City Center. As is common in Las Vegas, everything was beautiful. Take this stair riser, for instance...

Set in the dark wood, it was just gorgeous.

As was the rest of the mall...

Check out their website here for a list of stores, restaurants and hotel amenities. And be sure to check out the photo gallery for some really great pictures of the complex.

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1 YEAR AGO: Big Trucks + TV = Big Truck TV
2 YEARS AGO: Insane In The Holiday Brain
Dress Code
And It Begins…

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rok New York

From our trip to Vegas last week. This photo cost me $500.00.

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South Dakota Sky
Nutty Friday
It’s Not So Much Fun To Roll Out Your Best Sales Schpiel On A Mute
Forced Happiness

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Keyed Up

These are what the keys to the hotel rooms in Italy looked like and I just loved them; heavy, brass and with real keys.

I was so tempted to take it home and use it as my keyring. At least I know I'd never lose it in the bottom of my purse!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Let The Crazy Begin

I don't get the whole Black Friday thing. I have no idea why someone would want to not only get up while it's still dark out, but then go stand in line just to get a few good deals on things you probably can't afford anyway.

Likely, most of those people who are standing in line, are putting those purchases on their credit cards. Which, if you think about it, by the time you're done paying for it, sort of defeats the whole purpose of saving money. I mean, all I hear about is how much money people don't have, how they're out of work or how they can't afford anything, yet you have all these people out shopping.

But what I hate most about it is the desperation. The sheer desperation to shop. When you're standing in line, so you can shop in Walmart, you have to know you're not getting anything original for anyone. Sure, there are toys for kids, but even that annoys me. Everything is so commercial and EVERY SINGLE THING is made in China. It disgusts me.

This year I'm seriously cutting down on the actual gifts I'm buying. In fact, if I can, I am buying NO gifts. Instead, I'm aiming to buy experiences. Something like
Cloud 9 Living sells. Or a cooking or pottery class. I do know one thing though...

I will NEVER be out there on Black Friday for any reason.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For Everything Thy Goodness Sends
A Look On The Inside
Free! Gratuito! Gratis! Ummm….No Charge!
Life Giver vs. Indian Giver
The Spaghetti Thanks You

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Waiting For The Good Stuff

We made it home for Thanksgiving, the table set and waiting for us. My mother made a great meal and I was able to give my brother and his family the gifts I bought for them from Italy. It was a nice, relaxing day and way better than sitting in the truck in a parking lot in California!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On The Way To Turkey Day

Not much to write about today, as the only thing happening will be the trek from California to Tucson for Thanksgiving.

I can tell you one thing though, that I'm thankful for already...

That I don't have to cook!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Winding Down For The Big Holiday
Pssst! The Fish Are In The Water. Check The Water.
Elphaba’s Long Lost Sister?
What Boys (And One Girl) Do On Thanksgiving
Cold Turkey

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waiting It Out

Today marks one week of sitting in Fontana, CA. We dropped a load last Tuesday morning and haven't found a load out yet.

There's not much here in Fontana. From what I can see, it's miles and miles of used truck lots, trailer sales locations and big truck repair. There's one truckstop that I noticed, off of Valley Boulevard, and a few miles away in Ontario, are two T/A's that straddle Milliken Avenue.

North of the Interstate, also off Milliken, are a bevy of stores and restaurants. Ontario Mills Mall is over there, but they don't allow any form of truck; straight truck, tractor or tractor-trailer combos in their parking lots, signs threatening they will be towed on every side of the property. That means no shopping for me. I did have Ed drop me off there so I could make some returns at Nordstrom Rack, but we couldn't stay so I had him circle the perimeter of the mall until I was ready for him to pick me up. Sad, indeed.

Usually around this time of year, we are gearing up to do the UPS run, but not this year. It seems they only have enough freight for their own drivers and a few contractors. On one hand I'm glad, because it's a brutal run, with only enough time to eat, sleep and pee. On the other hand, I'm disappointed because it's great money and the actual work part is minimal; drop and hook trailers, that's it.

We'll hang until tomorrow to see if anything pops up. If there's nothing by the end of the day, we'll pack it up and head home for Thanksgiving. It'll be at least 18 hours of deadhead, but I'll get to see the family and have a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. And that's gotta be worth it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My Life According To Sugarland
Eddie Full Of Turkey Friday
Crouching Poultry, Hidden Turkey
Is It Really A Sandwich?

Monday, November 22, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

In addition to my very best friend in the world, I have some other very good friends who reside in Nashville. Nikki, who is full of life and worth her weight in gold, and her girlfriend Kim. They've been together for about six years now and they're both pretty damn awesome.

Nikki (holding the lobster on the right), who I've known for about ten years, is a dog trainer and founder of a local Search and Rescue company. Nikki and her dog TBAA (an acronym for "Touched By An Angel" and pronounced "teebah") are inseperable. TBAA is a Rottweiler who has been highly trained to locate missing persons in wilderness, disaster, human remains and water search and rescue/recovery missions. Nikki has assisted local law enforcement on many cases and earlier this year, volunteered over 300 hours to help locate missing persons after the Nashville flood in May 2010. It was those 300 hours (and more) that made this story possible.

Let's fast forward...

A while back, Kim was trying to get tickets for her and her mother to go see the Oprah show. When she got to Oprah's website, she saw a "Be In The Audience" link for "local heroes." Intrigued by the title, she clicked. After reading, she decided to submit a letter about Nikki and all the work she did during those floods. That letter resulted in their getting tickets to Oprah's show to be part of 175 people involved in non-profits. But the show wasn't about non-profits.

It was the second part of Oprah's Favorite Things show!!!! The following is a list of all of the things they went home with. FREE things!!

Sophia Satchel by Coach: I know for a fact that Nikki doesn't carry a purse. Uhhh, Nik...don't you think you should share?

2. Magaschoni Hand-Beaded Silk and Cashmere Tunic: Originally custom made for Oprah, but she asked if the company could also make it available to everyone.

Magaschoni Black Silk Cashmere Leggings: For those with leggings-ready legs.

Hope In A Jar by Philosophy: Oprah's favorite moisturizer. If it can keep her dewy through Chicago winters, it's gotta be good!

iPad by Apple: OK, who doesn't want one of these??

Sequined Ugg Boots: Where does Oprah wear these boots?

7. Two $500 Nordstrom Gift Cards: These cards are to be used for a lingerie shopping spree, because as Oprah says, everyone needs a good bra! Although, I happen to know for a fact, that there is not ONE Nordstrom store in the ENTIRE STATE of Tennessee. Do you want me to take those off your hands for you?

Herb Saver by Prepara: Who’s Herb?

Centerville Pie Company’s Chicken Pie: Oprah and Gayle discovered this on their trip to Cape Cod, MA.

Garrett’s Gourmet Popcorn: Should I send you some movies to go with these?

Le Creuset 10-piece Cookware Set: Now these are beautiful. How can one possibly choose a color? OK, you twisted my arm. I like the orange one.

12. Miraclebody Jeans: Nikki already has a miracle body. They said these give you a butt - I want a butt!

Sophie Jewelry Box: From Pottery Barn. Looove Pottery Barn.

Jessica Leigh Diamond Earrings: These are worth $1900.00! She's going to be the fanciest dog trainer in Nashville! And Kim better not wear those to work...they'll think she's making too much money.
15. DonorsChoose.org gift card courtesy of Bing.com: Great charity idea. Check this website out - it might be a good way to give this holiday season.

Williams-Sonoma Mini Croissants: Oprah said the only croissants better than these were in Paris.

Talbott Teas Holiday Assortment Gift Box: The most amazing teas flavors I've ever heard of!

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo: For those of you who need to be awakened.

Let It Be Me by Johnny Mathis: Johnny Mathis sang on the show. I grew up listening to Johnny Mathis and he sounded the same as he did the first time I ever heard him.

Illusions by Josh Grobin: Josh Grobin also performed. What a rich voice.

And then the final gift...the one we were all waiting for but had no idea was coming...the grandest gift EVER given on ANY of Oprah's "Favorite Things" shows in 25 years.

The gift that catapulted the audience into pandemonium...

21. A brand new, totally redesigned
2012 Volkswagen Beetle!!!!

This is only the second time in history the Beetle has been totally redesigned, inside and out, and on the show they explained that the new Beetle project is so top secret that the ONLY prototype of its kind had to be flown from Volkswagen in Germany to Oprah’s studios in Chicago for Oprah to take a peek at it (they only allowed her to show all of us a silhouette). It will not be revealed to the public until May 2011, and when it is, these audience members will be the first people in the WORLD to own one of these cars!

I watched the show three times today; once all the way through and the other two times to see the moment they gave away the car and my friend's faces. I actually took a picture of my TV screen so I could share that moment with all of you. Look at them...

Not that this even compares to being on Oprah, but they were also in their local paper. I'm over the moon for them and it really couldn't have happened to nicer people. Well, unless it happened to me, of course. My best friend and I texted back and forth all day over this. We were so in shock.

You did read that list, right? It's insane!!

OK, I only have one more thing to say...


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’m Interested In Breasts
What Price Fun?
True Blue
The Borscht Belt

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How Do You Spell Relaxation? B.V.I.

We haven't even been back a month yet and we're already talking about our next vacation. Actually, we started talking about it before we even left for Italy, but now we're getting into the preliminary details.

We're planning to go with another couple, also truckers, who we met through my blog and have become friends with. They weren't always truckers; in their former lives, they were both in creative, artistic fields. In fact, they still dabble a bit in that area. They are well traveled, intelligent, interesting to talk to, chock FULL of knowledge (about almost everything), like minded in so many ways and from one of my favorite foreign countries!

We have been talking about chartering a sailboat and we've been considering the British Virgin Islands. M is very familiar with the sailing world; when she was younger, she worked on chartered sailboats and has been around the BVI's enough to be able to name the good coves and hideaways.

Because G has always wanted to sail, Ed also likes sailing and I've only been in a sailboat once, M thought this area would be a good first experience for us. What she actually said was, "I think the first sailing experience for all you neophytes (LOL) should be the British Virgin Islands, warm, great winds, little sails and longer sails (longer meaning six hours), a few interesting things to see, good topography, great places to anchor, lots of cheap rum." Sounds good to me.

The flight won't be long and it's not far from home. You all know I'm not in love with the heat but it'll be cold here when we go, and I've been told the winds will keep me cool. And this is the first charter boat we've looked at. Hmmm...I think I might possibly be sold on this idea.

Check out this
slideshow for more beautiful images of these islands.

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Green Velvet
Eddie Lost In Space Friday
Have A Happy Thanksgiving And Choke On A Turkey Bone For Us
When You Can’t See The View Because The Hooters Are In The Way
Stealth Monday

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Get Fresh With Me...Please!

I can probably count the things I like about California on one hand; one of those things is the selection of fruits and vegetables available in their grocery stores.

They always have the best variety and carry a lot of exotic fruits, often including things I've never heard of. Aren't these just beautiful?

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In The Blink Of An Eye
Duck, Duck, Drake
The Lady And Sons
The Department Of Mindless Vegetables
Ooo Rah Johnny Cash!

Friday, November 19, 2010

There's No Better Place On Earth

My seven year old nephew loves to go to my mother's house. Sometimes he even begs, "Can't I go to Nana's house? Pleeeaaaassse?"

He doesn't really care what he does when he's there. Oh, his favorite thing is to just be outside digging in the dirt, but he's also pretty fond of computer time, sweeping, making tea, flipping pancakes, deep frying chicken fingers, baking cookies, drawing in the art room, watching TV with Papa (mostly, he likes the commercials), playing cards or just petting the cat.

One day my mother said, prompted by the look of sheer content on his face, "So, do you like coming to Nana's house?"

He looked at her like she was crazy, furrowing his brow. "Do I like it? Uh, yeaaaahh."

"Really?" asked my mother.

"Nana," he said, training his golden eyes directly on hers, careful not to break eye contact. And when he was certain he had her attention he said, "When I come to your house...it is the best time of my life."

My mother said it was as if he were ninety years old, and of all the things he'd experienced in his life, being at her house was the best one. Can't get a better endorsement than that!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Getting Tanked In Al-Nahar
Bracing For A World Of Mouse Ears
At Least He’s Up Front About It
Aten HUT!!
Be The Player

Thursday, November 18, 2010

10 Things I Learned On My Vacation In Italy

1. Comfortable Shoes Are Paramount
I did not have good shoes. I thought I had good shoes, but I was proven wrong in the first cobblestoned village I came to. I bought flats; cute, fashionable flats. I was going to Italy after all, and people look at your shoes in Italy. I didn’t want to be the American in jeans and white sneakers. Boy, was I wrong. EVERYONE in Italy was in sneakers. Many I saw were a brand named Hogan, which are in the
$300.00 range, but they are sneakers nonetheless. Let me just tell you how foolish I was not to listen to the advice of others that have gone before me. FOOL. ISH.

2. Don’t Plan Too Much
I think I over-planned. I had an itinerary. A beautiful itinerary, if I do say so myself, but it wasn’t really needed. My intention with the itinerary was to organize our days so we’d have an idea of where we were going and what there was to see at each location. I pulled my information from several sources; travel websites, books by Fodors, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves. I read magazines and reviews by travel “experts”. I knew where the hole in the wall chocolate shop in Rome was and I knew how to count on my fingers Italian style (they start with the thumb to indicate one, pointer finger to indicate two, and so on). I thought I had it all. My travel mate only came equipped with one Rick Steves book and one Lonely Planet book. Who was she kidding? Me, I guess, since hers were the books I kept asking to read. Lesson? Do not scoff at simplicity.

3. People Don’t Hate Americans
This sentiment has been around for years. Everyone hears it on the news and I guess they just believe it. Even if they’ve never been outside of America. Prior to going to Italy, we’d only been to Canada and Mexico, and although those are also foreign countries, they don't seem to "count" in some people's eyes. The “real” hate for Americans is further away than that; Europe, Asia, the Middle East. In fact, when we went to get our International Driving Permit at the Automobile Association of America (AAA) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, we got some unsolicited travel advice. As the women who processed our permits handed them to us, she said, “Make sure if you get pulled over you don’t give them your real driver’s license. They hate Americans over there and they might not give it back.” This coming from a woman who probably hadn’t been fifty miles from the spot she stood in. Clearly uneducated and obviously biased against a group of people she’d never even been among.

But we were among those people. And everywhere we went, people treated us kindly. I attempted to speak in Italian during every interaction, be it ordering coffee or asking for a book in the bookstore I went to in Arezzo. I told several people I was American. I met many Germans, Australians, Irish and even a young Hungarian teenager who spoke excellent English. Not one of them made me feel hated. In fact, the Hungarian teenager, who was on holiday with his parents, told us that he was going to college to become an electrical engineer and then planned on moving to the United States. When we asked him why he wanted to come to America, he said he wanted to use his engineering degree to get a job working with our military. Not one bit of anti-Americanism. None. Nowhere to be found.

4. Pack Less
I think I took too much to Italy. Too many clothes, too many shoes, too many earrings. Less is more when traveling. Lugging bags, even when you’ve got a big strong man to do it for you, makes you reconsider which outfits are essential. Even though bringing less means having to do laundry, it might just be worth it. For the most part, you never see the same person twice and mixing and matching can work out just fine if you stay in the same color family or wear neutrals. My next trip will be a single bag event. And I will bring exactly two pairs of shoes. Anything I discover I need, I’ll buy. And like one of my travelmates did on the Italy trip…I might just leave clothing behind to make room for souvenirs when I depart.

5. Food Is Better In Italy
It really is. Fresher. Tastier. Simpler. We ate a lot of bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil, a lot of
mozzarella di bufala, bread that makes you want to learn the art of baking and pasta to die for. We had delicate veal cutlets, steak you can cut with a fork, vegetables that tasted as if they were just plucked from the garden and pastries with dough so flaky, they melted on your tongue. And don’t even get me started on the coffee. I didn’t have a bad cup of coffee anywhere. And because of that, I was not only spoiled, but am now suffering severe withdrawal symptoms.

6. Americans Suck At Embracing Other Languages
As I said in #3, I tried very hard to speak Italian with people I was interacting with. I had my phrase book and my English-Italian dictionary with me everywhere I went. I learned how to say “one moment” so I could look up the word I needed. I made an effort. But most Americans put absolutely NO effort into learning another language. We don’t care, because people here think everyone else should learn English because it’s what we speak. That's just crap. While in Italy, I overheard several people speaking more than one language; German to their travel partner, but Italian to the storekeeper, Spanish to the folks they were dining with, but Italian to the waiter. It was cool. And I was envious. I may just have to seriously study my Italian now, so I’ll be ready for my next visit.

7. The Internet May BE Everywhere, But It Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get Online
Coupled with the fact that I was sick with brochitis for a week upon my return from Italy, the main reason I have been so behind in my blogging is because I had intended to do it daily while I was in Italy. Well, that just didn’t happen. As the owner of the villa said, “Atta night, the eeenternet isn’t always available. Sometimes ita works, sometimes no worka.” OK, greeeeat. So I paid you to get part-time internet? And the only time it’s working is during the day, when I’m out exploring Italy? Might have been a good idea to tell me that when I handed you my 30,00 euro for the week of usage.

8. You Must Push Beyond Your Comfort Zone
If I listened to my brain telling me how out of shape I was or how much my feet hurt, I wouldn’t have climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa or walked the foot bridge to Civita di Bagnoregio. Or saw any other village for that matter, since all of them were perched on hilltops and the ones that weren’t were paved with unforgiving cobblestones. Not only did my feet hurt, but when I got off the plane, my ankles were the size of Sequoias. Why that happened, I can’t really say, as I’ve never been plagued with swollen ankles before, but gee body, thanks for puffing up on me now.

All ailments aside, I still pushed waaaay beyond my comfort zone in order to take in everything I did. I’m not a walker/hiker/outdoorsy type of person. I don’t like climbing and would really rather just sit on my ass and eat a croissant (called a cornetto in Italy). But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see these sites. Who knew when, or if, I would ever be back. So I pushed. And in some cases, was pushed. And in the end, I’m glad.

9. The Old World Is More Modern Than You Think
Traveling through old villages in Italy, I was expecting rustic farmhouses, tiny roads and locals who hung out in the piazzas because everyone knew everyone in the town. And in some cases, that was true. There were rustic farmhouses, tiny roads and many, many piazzas. But there were also laptops, cell phones and McDonalds in places I didn’t think they’d exist. I know that sounds lame, because of course I know they have these things but in my mind, in my vision of Italy, the hillsides in Tuscany are dotted with vineyards and people are walking behind oxen as they till the fields. And although there’s modernity, I will remember only the rustic. That is my Italy.

10. Travel With Like Minded People
In our group of seven, there was a clear disconnect in what the majority of the group wanted to do and what we actually did. There was a clear 4/3 split on almost everything. One group wanted to get up early to pack the most into a day; the other group had trouble getting out the door. One group wanted to see the sights and talk about the history, art and culture; the other group wanted to shop. The communication was poor and it was impossible to come to an agreement on what was going to happen during the day. When plans are made but everyone can't seem to manage their time to adhere to them, day after day, it's not only frustrating, it's a problem.

So if you’re going on vacation with a group of people, be certain you have the same idea of what that vacation should be. If it’s going to be a sightseeing trip, make sure you include everyone's top must-sees. If you are a foodie and want to hit all the recommended restaurants, make sure your travel partners aren’t satisfied just eating at a food cart. And if you don’t want to spend your time in and out of every shop that sells cheap trinkets from third world countries, make sure your counterparts feel the same way. When the flow of the group is the same, it's easier to move about smoothly, even through rocky seas. And who doesn't like smooth sailing?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: A Beautiful Deep Fried Pocket Of Cornmeal Dough. Or, My Mom.
A Foxy Furry Little Friend
The One That Got Away
Don’t We All?
Miss Singular

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ella Ella Eh Eh Eh

I love these mash-ups on Glee. This one, a cool combination of Gene Kelly's Singing In The Rain and Rihanna's Umbrella was just fantastic.

And Gwyneth Paltrow ROCKED her role on this week's episode.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What’s All The Glee About?
Connecting Over The Mystic River
Randomly Weird
Eddie Acts Like A Five Year Old Friday
From Earth To Heaven

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Town I Was Dying To See

Civita di Bagnoregio was probably one of my favorite towns to visit in Italy. According to Rick Steves, it's a dying town. Dying because the long-time residents have either moved or passed on and there are only a year round residents left. Also dying because year after year, the wind and weather erodes the land on which it stands.
After you hike (and it's definitely a hike) up the very long foot bridge to the village, you enter it through a 2,500 year old Etruscan arch. I have never been this close to something that was 2,500 years old. It's a little hard to wrap your head around.
After passing through the arch, there was a small bottega (shop) where I bought the most delicious chocolate covered figs I'd ever eaten. It's also where I bought a few postcards showing the village when it had the original stone footbridge; at a time where donkeys were used to bring in supplies for the villagers.
The village was extremely quiet but beautifully tended. Homes and shops had flowers in clay pots outside doorways and on stairs, and the leaves on the vines were changing, a gorgeous mix of green and deep red.
We visited several shops, strolled through Maria's Garden and Ed even walked under the village through a tunnel that was carved over a thousand years ago. This village was on the top of my list of things to see, primarily because I wanted to visit it before it disappeared.

It wound up being a quick stop-off on our way to Rome. I wish we were able to spend more time and have lunch in one of the small restaurants that were open. One more thing to add to my "next time I go to Italy" list.

Read more about this fascinating village in
this New York Times article.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gleaming Curve
Color Me Casual
Eddie Goes Running Friday
Forever Yours
Home Away From Home

Monday, November 15, 2010

Everyone Is NOT A Winner

I don't know if this is necessarily a new thing, but I do know that for some reason, I've become acutely aware of it.

"It" being the "everyone is a winner" phenomenon. What is that?

On occassion, I have attended games, recitals and school events of my nephews and my friend's children. I'm tired of hearing "Everyone did a great job!" and "You're all winners!". No, you didn't and no, you're not. There are winners and there are losers. If you didn't do a good job, you shouldn't be told you're doing a good job. Even if you're seven.

I don't have kids so of course I'll probably get hammered by even bringing up this subject, but I don't need to have kids to know what's right. I was also once a kid. And I didn't get praised for shit I didn't do. I'm not saying I was belittled or criticized, but I certainly wasn't lied to.

And that's what you're doing when you tell your kid they did a good job when they did not. You're LYING to them. Boldy. Competitions, sports, elections, races; they all have winners and losers. Why would you teach your child differently? What you need to teach them is that sometimes they will lose, and when they do, the appropriate thing to do is act graciously toward the winner and then learn what they need to in order to do better next time. Children (and people in general, really) should be rewarded for being outstanding, not mediocre.

Rewarding mediocrity doesn't prepare them for the real world (although the way things are in the world today, I might be wrong about that). It gives them a false sense of self. They think they're good at something when in actuality, they're not. No matter how hard you try, you don't always get what you want. You might not get into the college you applied to, you may not snag the job you desire, you might not catch the eye of the mate you want, and maybe you won't even complete the goals you have set for yourself. That doesn't mean you're a failure, and it doesn't mean you won't be a success. It's not negative thinking. It's just a fact.

If "everyone is a winner", what incentive does your child have to do better? It's sort of like when I worked at a restaurant which pooled tips. It was unfair. Why would a crappy waitress improve if she were getting the same cut of the pot as everyone else? That's right, she wouldn't. If your child thinks they're a winner without really exhibiting the characteristics of a winner, what motivation do they have to do better and achieve more? When someone is rewarded for not even achieving the bare minimum, what does that tell them?

It tells them they can do the bare minimum and get by, because nothing more is expected of them. They'll get the award or the trophy or the praise because they always have. Even when they didn't deserve it. Why is everyone so afraid of the truth? Are parents concerned that their children will crumble if told they aren't doing well? Maybe so. But who's at fault for that? Who made them think their shit doesn't stink? Likely, those parents did.

If your child is good at something, by all means encourage them, support them, and praise them. Let them pursue what makes them happy. Don't push them into sports or music or arts or whatever it is you think they should be doing. And don't jump on the "everyone is a winner" bandwagon. Have the courage to stand up to your peers by letting them know that you will not participate in a lie. All children, even if they're not yours, deserve that.

It's likely your child does have a special talent, something they'll excel at if they know they will be honestly praised and rewarded for it; because even kids know when they're not deserving of a trophy or an award or praise.

And you're doing them a great disservice by encouraging them to accept it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Text Me
Going The Way Of Astatine*
Picture Perfect Pilot
Not Falling For Winter Yet
I Miss You Already

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Birthday From Agerola!

Today is my step-father's 89th birthday. This is a picture of him (R) with his father (L). In honor of his birthday, I'm going to post about our visit to Agerola, the town in Italy where his father was born.
Agerola is located in the mountains, about 12km from the Amalfi Coast. We approached Agerola from Sorrento, which took us 35km over the mountains, through you guessed it, more winding hairpin turns (what is it with this country??) until we happened upon the sign that told us we made it.
Since it wasn't the height of tourist season, every restaurant along the way was closed. We were starving. But then we came upon a small pizzeria that looked as if it might be open. Eddie went to investigate and came back out with a thumbs up, so we all spilled out of the mini-van and into the restaurant.

The name of the place is Ristorante da Nicola, located at Viale della Vittoria 26. We were greeted with a friendly "Salve!" by Salvatore (2nd from the left) and after determining they were open and serving food, made our way into the dining room. In the photo, from left to right is Gilda, Salvatore, Rita and Alfonso; the family who owns the restaurant.
Gilda took over as soon as we were seated and once we told her we were "molto fame", she worked her magic. We ordered without a menu. She made suggestions, we said yes to all of them. Before we knew it, enough food to feed an army was being brought to our table.

This is the picture Gilda took of us (she stood on a chair!). Salvatore was holding up the "Benvenuti!" sign in the background. When we told Gilda that our family was from Agerola, her face lit up and she said, "Noooooo!" in disbelief. We gave her the brief version of the story, told her who the family member was (the local priest) only to find out that she knew him!
Her English was very good and between the Italian I knew, my dictionary and my cousin's mother Mary (sitting next to Ed), we had a great conversation. But let's get back to the food. First she brought out these beautiful plates...roasted peppers, mozzarella di bufala with fresh tomato (this is my cousin Ro's platter - the rest of us had our mozzarella wrapped in the thinnest slice of prosciutto - Ro doesn't eat pig) and risotto with mushroom. It was amaaaaazing.
She then brought out a small pizza (which we watched her make), smoked mozzarella served on lemon leaves (the oil from the leaves added a slight lemon flavor to the mozzarella), potato croquettes al forno (these were outrageous! potato with pieces of prosciutto and mozzarella inside, egg shaped, rolled in a very fine breadcrumb and baked in the oven), fresh bread and then our entrees...my all-time favorite, homemade gnocchi!
After dinner, we realized it was getting later and we still had to see the church where one of our family members is a priest, so we decided to head over there before it got dark. The church is located in the Frazione of Bomerano (still in Agerola), so we knew we'd be able to buzz down there and then come back to the restaurant in time for cappuccino before we left. Gilda offered to call her cousin, who was a friend of the priest, to see if she could wake him to meet us, but since the man was old and it was late, we declined. We just wanted to go take a quick picture and see the area. So that's what we did.

After a few minutes there and a quick drive through the town, we made our way back to Ristorante da Nicola for cappuccino. After we ordered, we sat at the table and talked more about where we were from and all gathered around the laptop as Alfonso asked for our address to bring up our homes on Google Earth. Everyone in our group lives in New York, but when he saw our house in Arizona, he seemed intrigued by the desert landscape.

I showed him pictures of our truck on my iPod and watched as he passed it around to his family (and a few friends), telling them that I was a truck driver. It wasn't as interesting to them that Ed was also a truck driver though; again, it seemed as if the female truck driver thing was the big point of interest.

These people were so gracious, kind, loving and generous (they gave us each a small gift before we left), that they felt like family. They hugged us goodbye and posed for photos. They really made the visit to Agerola a memorable success. Next time we go, we'll be sure to stop by again and hopefully on the next visit, we'll be able to dig a little more into the history of the family.

My step-father was thrilled to hear of our experience in the town of his father's birth and he was happy that we were able to take the time to visit there while we were in the area. I have to say, having that little "connection" to the area, made the visit that much more exciting.

Agerola was definitely a highlight during the trip and I'd go back in a heartbeat...even if it's only for the food!

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You Gotta Be A Good Fighter To Make It 88 Rounds
Eddie Working In Paradise Friday
86 Going On 8
A Fine Cargo Of Experiences And Memories

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sheltered Madonna And Child

I don't remember where I took this picture, but I love it. I know it was somewhere in Tuscany, but I'm not sure which village.

Friday, November 12, 2010

These Sure Would Look Snazzy On The Feet Of A Trucker

I saw these shoes outside a shop in the town of Radda in Chianti. I think this is taking the colors of Italy a little too far. If you don't agree, order your own pair here.

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There’s No Whey In The Way Of This Delicious Treat
O Canada!
Ladies Night (And Day) Out
The Queen Is Bleak
Literacy In The South

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amphitheatrum Flavium

During our short time in Rome (just a day and a half), we made sure to make it to the Colosseum. Ed really wanted to see it and among the many symbols of Rome, this was a biggie. We took the train from our hotel to the stop for the Colosseum. When we came up out of the subway and exited to the street, this was our first view.

We were surprised; we didn't expect it to be right there. Another reason I really wanted to see it is because I just had to take a picture. I wanted to show it to my step-father, so he could see that it looked the same as when he was there in 1944.

Here are a few interior shots...
I think I saw Russell Crowe down there somewhere...
And between the Colosseum and Palantine Hill, stands the Arch of Constantine...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We flew in and out of JFK when we went to Italy. We found a place about two hours from the city to store our truck at while we were gone. It was ideal - a gated RV storage facility with security cameras and covered parking for the truck; we were even able to plug it in!

I have to admit, I was really happy to be home. The wide open roads were a glorious change. The best part was that I didn't miss any of the fall colors. There were some when we left, but when we came back, they were fully ablaze.
In fact, even the traffic was beautiful.

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You Build It, We’ll Haul It
The Canadian MJ II
Eddie In The Half Moon Hall Friday
The Italian Death March
How You Doin’?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Accentuate The Positive

Time to take a little break from the Italy travelogue; let's talk about our recent mid-term election!

All I've heard since the election, both from family members and the media, is how much Obama didn't do. What they never seem to remember or report on, is what he DID do. Let's take a gander, shall we? And remember...this is the short list:

Added 4.6 billion USD to the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals

Significantly increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act

Lifted restrictions granting Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island

Eliminated subsidies to private lender middlemen of student loans and protect student borrowers

Increased funding for national parks and forests by 10%

Significantly expanded Pell grants, which help low-income students pay for college

Expanded hate crime law in the US to include sexual orientation through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Provided stimulus funding to boost private sector spaceflight programs

Appointed nation's first Chief Technology Officer

Signed financial reform law establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans

Signed financial reform law requiring lenders to verify applicants' credit history, income, and employment status

Signed financial reform law prohibiting banks from engaging in proprietary trading (trading the bank's own money to turn a profit, often in conflict with their customers' interests)

Signed financial reform law allowing shareholders of publicly traded companies to vote on executive pay

Cut prescription drug cost for medicare recipients by 50%

Provided $12.2 Billion in new funding for Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

Extended Benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees

Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009: a $789 billion economic stimulus plan

Created more private sector jobs in 2010 than during entire Bush years

Voluntary disclosure of White House visitors for the first time in US history

Appointed first Latina to the US Supreme Court

Promoted social responsibility through creation of serve.gov, a national database of volunteer opportunities

Reversed 'global gag rule', allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions

Signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco for the first time

Signed New START Treaty - nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia

Increased average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg, starting in 2016

Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers

Provided travel expenses to families of fallen soldiers to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

Reversed the policy of barring media coverage during the return of fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base

Launched recovery.gov to track spending from the Recovery Act, providing transparency and allowing the public to report fraud, waste, or abuse

Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America's Veterans

Signed the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care to 11 million kids -- 4 million of whom were previously uninsured

Issued executive order to repeal Bush era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research

Signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis

Developed stimulus package, which includes approx. $18 billion for nondefense scientific research and development

Signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop fraud and wasteful spending in the defense procurement and contracting system

Issued executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay

Ended Bush administration's CIA program of 'enhanced interrogation methods' by requiring that the Army field manual be used as the guide for terrorism interrogations

Increased minority access to capital

Established Credit Card Bill of Rights, preventing credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases on customers

Health Care Reform Bill, preventing insurance companies from denying insurance because of a pre-existing condition

Health Care Reform Bill, allowing children to remain covered by their parents' insurance until the age of 26

Tax cuts for up to 3.5 million small businesses to help pay for employee health care coverage

Tax credits for up to 29 million individuals to help pay for health insurance

Expansion of Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level

Require health insurance plans to disclose how much of the premium actually goes to patient care

And that's just the beginning...

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How The Train Derails
Good Thing He Didn’t PAINT This On His Truck
Red Snap
Convexly Jackson
Marriage Criterion