Monday, May 17, 2010

Work in Process....

This is my first blog. I agree that it is visually boring right now, apologies, I hope to get creative as soon as I first figure out what I'm doing!

This 1st blog is quite long as it covers about 3-4 days! Be patient. I doubt I will be so long-winded afterwards.

This name, Humble Beginnings, came to me in a dream a very long time ago; maybe 15-20 years. Please be clear, not for a moment do I believe this phrase is profound, or unique; but I have held it with me for a long time never knowing if it was to lead someplace. Always, my thought was that it was a cook book solely of peasant foods, and I use “peasant’ with the most respect and admiration. The cook book (and of course, cable-network cooking show --- hint, hint), were to focus on peasant foods from all over the world as from my perspective, these foods represent health, naturalmente, organic, whole and inexpensive meals (using foods that are available and fresh and not shipped from someplace you can’t pronounce); basically, the way I want to eat. Okay, so although this blog is not about the idea of a cook book/show, allow me to indulge further in this idea (just in case someone out there wants to fund me to actually move forward with this!). I’ll use my heritage as an example (which is Italian): Polenta (simply corn meal) has become a rather “chi chi” food in the states but I grew up with it in the most traditional way. My grandmother, who I missed knowing, passed down a rectangle wooden board to my mother. My mom used this board not only to kneed the dough and make home-made ravioli, pasta, etc. (yes, I grew up with a Mom who made these from scratch, as easily and spontaneously as I make a cup of tea!) but also to literally ‘pour’ the polenta on the board in a somewhat oval shape casting itself across the length and width of the board. Once all the polenta was poured onto this board (it was thick), then the meat from the tomato sauce (meatballs, brasiola, pork, sausage) was piled in the middle (on top of the polenta) so all those around the table could easily reach. The tomato sauce was also spread lightly onto the glistening surface of the polenta. We each took our seat and carved in front of us our very own “half moon” of polenta, cutting it into patchwork bite size pieces and pulling into our half moon our own pieces of meat. Of course, one could/would add more sauce, formaggio (cheese), etc. within your own half moon. So, you see, what today is a chi chi food has an artistic, humble yet beautiful beginning at the peasant level that one does not see in a 4 star restaurant. Okay, that’s the end of my Humble Beginnings as a cook book/show, now onto what I think this dream phase means to me today.

Although today is Sunday, May 16, 2010, I will go back only to Thursday evening, May 13 when Michael (soon to be ex-husband) dropped me off at the Grand Airport hotel in Albuquerque, NM. This drop off was also symbolic of our mutual decision to divorce after 12 years of marriage, 11 of which I was also a full-time stepmom. It was a bitter sweet experience as I both turned away from being a wife and mom to a single, 55 year old woman heading to Italy for one month. In our goodbye, my body both wanted to hold on to the comfort and love of Michael as well as let go and move into my new form of being; hold on, let go, hold on, let go…

The knot was there; I was experiencing grief. But there was no confusion, which I am grateful for. This feeling will return many times during the next few days as I prepare to write this blog and I am committed to lean into it as this love deserves to be grieved.

This is not a blog about the past but rather the present, which will become the future without any effort and so I feel compelled to record this sad yet magnificent reality of mine.

So, without further hesitation, let me bring this blog up to date with today.

Once I broke free of Michael (psychically and physically), I made my way up to my hotel room. This evening was uneventful and so I won’t spend too much time on it. I simply went down to the restaurant, had myself a big old Rib eye steak, prepared medium, a few skinny asparagus and dined quietly and comfortably. When I refused bread and butter, my waitress complimented me on my complexion and said she “could see that I was healthy as my skin was smooth and beautiful”. I sucked in this compliment like it was the last one I would hear forever…you see, although at this moment in time, I do feel healthy and attractive, that evening, I felt quite vulnerable – almost to the point of wanting to actually ask her how old she thought I was! Fortunately, I regained my composure, accepted the compliment and continued eating my steak. Once to my room, I reviewed my plans for the morning, watched my last episode of Private Practice and went to bed.

The wake up call came at 5:30am I prepared for the airport.

It’s now Friday, May 14 and my flight from Albuquerque to DC takes off at 8:00am. When I left my home in Santa Fe (which, by the way, I decided not to return to once this trip is complete, but rather leased myself a short-term furnished rental walking distance to the Plaza), I realized I had packed way too much. I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I could pack. I see now, that was a bunch of bull crap.

At check in, the crude awakening was that not only is my luggage too heavy but it’s also costly! $200.00 overweight baggage fee! because it’s an international fight! I was shocked! Obviously, I plan to do something for my return, as I am not spending another $200 on this piece of luggage! So, that was my first over budget expenditure!

My flight from Alb to DC was superb! As my companions were a couple (Maria and Shastro) and we three spoke the entire time! They live in Hawaii, they are tango instructors and she’s of Italian heritage, he’s from Venice, which was where they were flying too! I was invited to meet up with them. We all had so much in common…traded numbers and email. They plan to visit Santa Fe in November and I feel quite sure we will continue our friendship…. In fact, their description of Tango dancing has turned me on…they both really view it as a form of meditation. Meanwhile a good buddy of Michael’s (Greg) is also passionate about the dance and so I feel like I must try it. My new friends say there is a really good teacher in Santa Fe and so when I return, I plan to check her out. Her name is Liz Haight and here's a link.

Fortunato…Life is already opening up! We part at the DC airport, give each other hugs and I begin to find my gate for a 4 hour layover. DC airport is not exactly stimulating but I am fascinated in my people-watching mood. That morning I just had a breve latte and so now I’m a bit hungry….airport dining is challenging and so I opt for a turkey sandwich at Subway. I eat 1/2 of a 6” with gusto, save my other ½ for the flight.

Already I am emailing from my Blackberry, which I love, and it continues to be my gateway to friends and family back home. The idea that I would not engage my "life back home" was naive; I'm lonely and miss my friends.

I board the fight and find my seat and settle into my next 8 hours. I opted to spend a little extra for the more legroom seat; it’s worth it.

My travel companion, a woman in her 60s joins me and although originally quite content to sit quietly and get grounded, she and I begin to talk and, here we go again! another enjoyable experience. Later, though, I think I should try to sleep (impossible) or at least calm down before arriving in Rome at 8:30am the next morning (Saturday). I brought my bag of sleep enhancers and none of them work! I'm awake!

During our flight I engage some other travelers who are Italian and they confirm to me that I most definitely should take the metro from the airport to the Termina Statione (main bus station in Rome) where I am to catch the bus to Ascoli Piceno. They also confirm that my humungous luggage will be fine. No one, including myself, really comprehends what dragging a 70# piece of luggage is really like. Yes, 70#s (I purposely have been hesitating to mention that)…don’t bother asking me what was in the bag…basically, everything I thought I would need for 1 month in Italy!

De-board, immediately recruit a healthy, young male to help drag my piece of luggage off the conveyor belt, change some money (not the best place but I needed Euros and I was arriving in Italy on the weekend) and follow the icon for the metro.

At the ticket counter I ask about the bus station which is actually one stop past the Termina Statione and I would have to change trains to get close to the station….I had also read that it was a 5-10 minute walk. I buy the ticket and decide once I disembark at the Statione, I will figure out how to walk to the Bus station. I had plenty of time as I arrived at 8:30am and my bus did not depart until 1:50pm.

It was both the right and wrong decision. The train was packed; it was up 3 stairs (yes, totally needed help to lift the luggage), short train ride on surface tracks to the main station, which then exposed me to the fact that it was raining! I had no umbrella, no hat and so I just accepted that my 5-10 minute walk to the bus station was part of my experience and ‘lesson learned’.

Recruited help to disembark, had already consulted my map (which I got off the web before I left), got my bearings by finding a café in the terminal for some water and bundled up (had placed my cute, little, white rain jacket in the outside pocket of my suitcase (smart) and began to walk.

My map was precise and it was easy to find; however, at various times I was walking through large puddles, it would move from pouring to drizzle back to pouring and my arm that pulled the luggage would be numb after only a few minutes and I would have to switch. By the way, on my shoulder were my camera bag and laptop bag and my backpack as my purse. I was a walking coat rack! Very much resembling an obvious, American tourist!

I was so relieved to find the bus station (small office space), escape from the rain, warm my wet, cold feet and confirm that Daniella had made a seat reservation on the bus. I had about 2 hours to spare.

Leaving the gorilla of a bag (that will be it’s new nickname) at the station was practically an orgasmic experience!

Made my way around the corner to stumble upon a lovely block of residential buildings and there was my 1st Italian restaurant beckoning me, the weary traveler.

As I climbed down a flight of stairs (it was subterranean), I was welcomed by one of the waiters fumbling while changing his clothes! When he (and the other waiters) heard my foot steps, they all began to apologize for their stupido waiter as he quickly pulled his shirt on…this was a very good entrance for me as I was the first customer of the day and they then paid lots of attention to me. I tell you, woman are simply appreciated in Italy, no matter what age! I am enjoying this attention. A bottle of natural water, a heavenly salad and a ‘quartro formaggio” pizza later, my dining was methodical and relaxing. As I wrote my first email from Rome, I tasted my first real tomato again! We all know how tragic tomatoes taste in the States even organic ones! You know you’ve reached Italy once you taste a tomato.

Board a very comfortable bus and prepare myself for a 3 hour ride crossing the Appenines. It is now 5pm on Saturday and I have no idea how long I've been awake.

Once out of Rome, the drive was beautiful. Lush hills and immaculate roads and properties. Drousy, I find myself closing my eyes to this stunning scenery but I can’t help myself. It’s a long enough drive that we stop mid-way for a pit stop, I use il bano, purchase some water and board. Driving into this region is nothing short of spectacular…it’s still raining though which, is a bit disappointing but I don’t care, I’m in Italy!

Entering this magical town I know I will be happy. Daniella had promised to pick me up at the bus station but we arrive a little early. I take a spot under an awning, it’s now 5pm (I’ve been awake for a very long time; I’ve yet to actually calculate) and within minutes a car pulls up and Georgio jumps out and introduces himself. He is one of the teachers at the school. Sorry, no, he’s not a potential anything…but a friendly, lovely, warm young man who seems genuinely in love with his Italian language and his town of Ascoli. He treats me to a drive around town, he begins teaching me Italian and discouraging English. I’m on my way!

After about 20 yawns, he gets the hint that I need to go home! We park, he leads me through a iron gate of the main road and I meet my housemate Daniella and the Director of the School, Antonella. We are all happy to finally meet in person. We’ve been getting to know each other a bit over the telephone and via email for a few months now.

Okay, I'm going to post this and then continue with another post to attempt to capture Saturday night, Sunday and today! Thanks all!


  1. wonderful blog, Natalia! keep on writing...

    sending you lots of travelin' love from back here in Santa Fe...


  2. Natalie, I just logged on, I will read the blog tonight!
    I am with you all the way, follow your energy and let it take you somewhere special, Love, Linda

  3. Hey Nat,
    I just read this and am laughing my ass off (so hard that I'm crying!)

    You are on your way to your LIFE, girl..go for the GUSTO!!!


  4. missing you, nat and things are good here. the training is great. david signed the contract for the new house!!!!! and i am happy. lots to share when you get home but have fun!!!!! love, r