admitting what's real just shoves us ahead

I've been touched by my truth, but in a good way.  After my guru post, I thought I had really unofficially ended my blogging career, such as it was, through an official crash and burn.   I really don't have a clue what I'm doing half the time (that's in general) and tend to follow my gut. Which can be good or bad, it just depends.  I really didn't mean to make that big a deal out of that post, but the harder I worked on it, the more I realized that something was amiss inside of me that needed clarity . The minute I hit "publish"  I almost regretted it, thinking, oh, that one's going to come back to bite me, not because what I said was something other than what I thought, but because I wrote exactly what I thought.  And doing that is always a risk. But in the end, I offer Jonathan Fields an olive branch.  Because it's not really about him, but so so much more.

(left, olive leaf serving plates, set of three, €60 plus shipping, contact me through the contact form on the blog to purchase)

 

That article received some of the most interesting comments I could have imagined, and led to Marcus Sheridan writing a blog post about my post/the subject of having a guru which in itself received a slew of comments.  My friend Michelle Fabio reposted the part of the post she thought was the most important, the actual one I had written as a guest post. I think there was something in the post that we can all relate to - thinking that others intrinsically know more than we do, and coming to terms with the fact that they really don't, no matter how they're packaged and sold.

But in reality, admitting what's real just shoves us ahead.  And brings all kinds of revelations. People get honest right back, which is cool.  Truth is, I'm not always comfortable with the way the Internet functions and the way we all "juggle" for some kind of position here.  Having said that, it's my media of choice for expressing myself.  And I've decided to take it as that, and nothing more.  Because when you get what doesn't work in your life out of your system, it makes room for other things.

Joy is your truth in practice.  Your fears and insecurities, your power, your hard earned experience, your determination and drive - those thing compose your truth, my friends.  If you can't do something, you can't do it.  If a direction doesn't work for you, change it.  Trust your instincts.  Admit who you are to yourself.  And love that person, because she's the one that's going to be holding your hand for the rest of your life.

Last week, after admitting my blazing insecurity to my little blogging world, amazing things happened.

First of all, Jane Barefoot Rochelle, a beautiful woman, artist and healer, performed a healing touch session for me.  She sensed, through that blog post, that a connection could help me right now.  Remember, she's in North Carolina and I'm here in Italy.  I can just say this about the session:  I'm still unpacking its message and will be for some time to come.  It was stunning and something that I will not forget.  This is one amazing woman who has a gift to give.

I made contact with a woman named Mary Shafer.  After finishing the edits to my upcoming novel, True Vines, I thought I had put it to rest for good, sending the final manuscript back to my editor with a prayer.  Shortly thereafter, through a series of clicks, I found out that Mary had written a book that documented the actually history of an event in one of the critical chapters of my book.  Did I say she documented it?  Mary Shafer wrote the quintessential documentary of the 1955 flood on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania spawned by Hurricane Diane. This horrific flood was the "first billion dollar flood" in the United States and took over 184 lives as it raced up the Delaware River to New England.  I could historically fact-check my writing and will be eternally grateful for Mary's contribution to my own book's accuracy.

And I realized something important. All I did by writing my mind was follow my own truth.  Funny, that.

When you follow your own truth, and let the chips fall where they may, how does it make you feel?  Free? Scared?  A bit lonely? Do you worry what people will think of you?

I would like to announce the winners of three copies of Your Truth from this post:

Adreana

Hannah

Francesca

All of your comments were wonderful (I swear I get the most beautiful comments on my blog) and I thank you all.

 

 

 

so. how are you, really?

Europeans.

It's come to my attention over the last eighteen years that we Americans over here are viewed with careful bemusement.  My hypothesis is that it stems from the multitudes of impressione that people from other countries get about us without having asked or really caring - from two rubbery all-beef patties to ridiculously large (they really are humongous) refrigerators to our compelling, obsessive, completely awkward need to know how everyone is. 

Or at least our apparently awkward need to ask how everyone is.  Because genuinely listening to  how someone answers the question is not on the top of the European paradigm about how Americans really are.  Americans, it seems, are friendly.  Genuine? Not so much.

Two stories.

When I first moved to Germany and started to learn the language, I'd greet everyone I met  with, "Hallo, wie geht's?"  Hi, how are you?  This is expat lingo, this tossing out of a typically American question without wanting or expecting any kind of real response - and doing it in a foreign language.  Germans really only greet people they know, and know pretty well, with the how are you question.  Everyone else?  They get a polite Guten Tag.  Because, honestly, Germans are down with the fact that no one really wants to know how everyone else is.  It's too much information.  And they're ok with that.

My asking my American question in German would lead to all kinds of crazy conversations.  Because guess what?  Given the chance, Germans really will tell you how they really feel. Everything from their foot bunions to problems with their boss to when their next Urlaub to the sea in summer was taking place would come pouring out on the corner by Aldi in the pouring rain. Just because I asked.

Yes I did.  But did I want to know?  No.  Not really.  For me, transplant that I was, the only acceptable answer to the  wie geht's question was fine or eh (or so-so, or well...).  As an American, if you get the eh answer, you have to make a choice - dig further or ignore by sighing, making a sad smile and looking away.  Either is fine.  But to ask the question and get the laundry list of an answer and then sometimes not even getting a wie geht's back (because they are really and truly ok with not wanting to know your s--t) was at times disconcerting, at other times enough to make me want to jump into the North Sea and swim to England.

They'd ask how I was there, I was sure. They understand us, those Brits.  And I'd answer FINE. And not a word more.  Ever. 

Story number two.  After I had lived in Germany for maybe half a decade, I flew back to the states.  Day two on the other side of the pond brings my bad readjustment day, where I'm all zingy and crunchy and can't really speak after three in the afternoon because for me it's after dinner time and I just want to go to bed.  That's when its the most important to stay awake, of course, and so on this particular trip I made myself walk to the Rite Aid in my home town of Milford to pick up one of those monstrous American bottles of hair conditioner that I can barely get my hand around and I know I'll drop in the shower.  On the way uptown (that's what we call the main corner in Milford, it's uptown, baby) , I walked by a half a dozen people or so, every one of them asking how I was.

Hihowyadoing

Hihowyadoinggreatdayisn'tit

Hi,how'sitgoing

Hey,howareyoufallisreallyherehuh?

I almost couldn't breathe.  I had  lost, over five years, the ability to respond to what is really and truly the most basic non-question question in my own native culture!  My mouth went  slack, my eyes crazed, with something like "eehehehahagood" coming out with every person that walked by.

How am I?  How am I?  Well, one way I am is that I apparently now *suck* at saying hi in American, that's for sure.  I'm as cool with not wanting to know how anyone is as the entire Bundesrepubilik Deutschland. I look the same, but deep inside, I'm thinking, why is everyone asking me this damn question, and then not even taking a second's pace off their stride to see if I'm going to answer?  

Now that that's clear and out of the way, let me ask you...

How are you, really?

I ask that with all of the intent of a good German friend who really wants to hear the answer, and all of the sparkly dazzle of an American for whom the words bubble out as naturally as gas ( you know what I mean). 

Because I want to know.  And because I want to know, I'm going to start by telling you how I am, so you understand how much I want to know how you really are.

I'm ready to start working the B&B at full capacity again starting on Friday.  It's fine, it's what I do, but I won't be able to write as much, and that makes me sad.  Because I am loving writing this blog right now.

We've had 60 days straight with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and we are on drought watch.  It feels eerie, it's so dry.  I hope we get rain soon, and that you do too, if you have not had any lately. I have never looked so forward to fall in my entire life, and fall is my favorite season - so this year I will be really ready to put on that first sweater.

I'm happy that my book Your Truth is out there in the world and that you who have read it have found it worthwhile.  Thank you so much to everyone who has ordered it.  I've learned so much about the process of self publishing by putting this one out there, and I'll be working on a new ebook soon.

I am nervous, jittery, and adrenaline filled about the release of my new novel, True Vines, in October.  I've been working on the final edits; it's all polished up and gorgeous and now we're working on finalizing the cover.  It's all very exciting but I need to stay calm and focused, because before that happens, I have lots of guests to take good, loving care of and that is my priority for the next seven weeks.  But I really, really, really cannot believe that this book is almost out there.  It's crazy.  Just crazy.

I'm mentoring a few select people through some momentous change and loving every minute of it.  I'll be writing more and more about coaching after the book comes out and I free up my energy for the new.

I'm preparing an upcoming interview with Tammy Strobel about her upcoming book You Can Buy Happiness and It's Cheap:  How One Woman Radically Simplified her Life and How You Can Too.  I love Tammy.  She's frank, she's fun, and she lives in just about the cutest teeny tiny house you have EVER seen.

I'll be announcing the winners of three copies of my ebook on for commenting on this blog post on Friday, August 24th.  So get over there and comment now!!! 

 It's been unfortunately too hot to do too many ceramics this summer, but I've gotten a couple of kiln loads done with some fun, colorful results.  I love this direction!  It's very free and fun.  

 

 So now, it's your turn.  How are you, really?  How is the walk along your path?  Tell us about it, let us know.  Remember.  Your path is what this blog is all about.

 

 

my garden of acceptance

A mini break!

After our guests checked out yesterday, we fell into a long, early summer slumber that took us most of the afternoon to wake up from.  A strong breeze was in the crisp, dry air.

I was too tired to think, to move, really.  All I could do was let the relaxation take over.

But deep inside I'm on the move, just about bubbling over with new ideas.  After my nap yesterday I outlined two potential books that I want to write (this is why napping is so important.  Let that brain rest a little and then watch out!), staked eighteen tomato plants, and sat in a field of clover. Yes, a field of clover. I planted one in the spring and it's beautiful and full. I sprinkled wildflower seeds all over it and now there are poppies and daisies and other things I can't identify coming up all over the place.  It's beautiful.

Being out in that field with my camera made me realize that living without  nature is out of the question for me.  Wherever we've lived, we've always had a bit of outside space, whether it was a postage-stamp balcony with four basil plants or a full yard with grass and shrubs.  But here, here in Italy, the connection with outside is so strong, so primordial, so basic.

My entire family came from Italy, and so many of them bought pieces of country land and now I completely understand why.  It's impossible to be Italian and not want to have your hands in the dirt and your face in the sun.

 

I have a vision of my grandfather, a large, boisterous Italian man who was quick to smile, tending his tomato plants on his balcony in Greenwich, Connecticut.  I wish I could tell him that I understand. I see my father, putting tubers of dahlias in every spring, dozens and dozens of them, because they were his favorite flower and in the late summer, passers-by would gasp in delight at the festival of color - the sunny faces in peach and magenta and yellow gracing the edge of his massive garden.

And I look up to the blue sky and tell my father yes, Daddy, I understand. I get it. I really do.

I used to be so frustrated with my gardening efforts.  It was never good enough, pretty enough.  Things never grew fast enough, in the right shape, and watering was just a drag at the end of a busy day.  But this year, all of that has changed radically. I've accepted that it doesn't all have to be perfect.  I've accepted that to enjoy my garden, I have to let it be however it's going to be. I can't believe the difference. I've cared for the garden, mind you, but more in a talking- loving - throw a little manure on the ground way rather than in a frustrated, angry, why-aren't-you-growing way.  I've also stopped using weed killer of any kind.  There are now green patches in the gravel. Why didn't I think of this earlier?  Pansy seeds took to the wind and came up where the cars should be parked.  In the vegetable patch, the cilantro, dill and parsley are exploding next to the romaine lettuce.

What's this shift all about? Why am I enjoying things that used to be a chore? Why am I simply letting nature take its course rather than trying to constrain it into some preconceived idea of pretty and acceptable? It seems to me that it's about accepting instead of  forcing things.  I keep getting that back when I ask for guidance.  Everything seems more beautiful, more heightened, more precious.

Can it be that the notion of acceptance shifts our consciousness closer to what we really want and who we really are?

PS: Don't forget to click and  subscribe here to download the free chapters of my upcoming Ebook, Your Truth - Changing the Path Back to Yourself, to be available July 15th- xoxo

your beautiful sacred voice

I have a sacred voice and so do you.

One of my favorite things about the beautiful, peaceful place I live is that in the mornings, I can wake up, walk outside while the sun's coming up, hear only birds singing, catch the dewy scent of the air and breath in.  The rest of humanity is busy elsewhere.  Here, it's like a small paradise, one that fills me up as I stretch my arms up to the sky and release.  After that, I'm ready to walk to the kitchen and start kneading the bread dough and slicing fruit.  Those few peaceful moments in the morning, when I'm alone, set my state of balance for the day.  I listen to myself during those moments, what my body is telling me, if I'll need to rest later on, if it might be a good day to write or make glazes or paint, or maybe handle the paperwork that tends to accumulate in a little basket next to my work table.

I love the peace so much that I put a chair in my kitchen garden where I can sit for short periods during the day and renew my energy.

I spent years, too many of them,  telling people what they wanted to hear and telling myself what I needed to be.  There's something very injuring, long term, about doing that.  Not understanding who we are or what we want and instead going along and taking on other people's ideas about us is like trying to fit into shoes that are a size too small. You can do it for awhile, but there'll come a point in time that you can't take one more step, no matter how much you want to or feel you have to.

Walking our own path is scary and full, FULL of resistance. Our heads are full of other people's voices, some well meaning, others not so much.  Even when we want to be creative and renewed, we hear all of those silly little scratches over and over.

Why would you want to do that?

Oh, heavens, everything's already been painted, sculpted, counter cross stitched, written.  Why bother?

Why would anyone ever want to have anything that you made anyway?

I'm here to say to you that you have a voice.  And that voice is clear, sacred and beautiful.  It's full of complex melodies, irony, sadness, hope, funniness, conflict and anger.  It's an individual rose so special and so unique that you are the only one that can give your voice the air it needs to be heard. Follow your voice, despite the fact that it's been drowned out by second guessing and other people's stuff.  It's your voice, after all, not theirs.

 my little house paintings with one of my french blue stoneware bowls

My voice has been telling me to rest.  I've worked hard the last few months, and I need to recuperate. Doing restoration work on the property, topped off with being fully booked for a straight month and finishing Your Truth, the Ebook have all taken their toll.   The need to rest comes at a time when I am full of ideas to the point of bursting.  But I know if I don't heed the voice, and step into a bit of relaxation,  I'll burn out.  And the cost of burning out creatively is way too high because it takes away from the future.

But I don't relax just by sitting in a chair in the garden, at least not always.  For me, painting has always been a tool of regeneration.  So last week, I started painting after taking a couple of years off from the craft.  I love to paint abstract images of houses - because home is one of the most important themes in my life.  Painting houses always leaves me feeling grounded, in a place where I can go deeper and explore my own sense of home and what it means to me personally.  I love to paint, and I forgot about that, until I listened to my own voice calling me away from my computer and into my studio.

My voice is always right. And so is yours.  We know everything we need to.  We just have to listen.

guidance: go f yourself

Hello, my friends.  What's growing in your garden this week?

Italy is a stellar place to take on all kinds of personal development.  I notice that when people arrive here, they'll dive into conversations about ten times deeper than the ones they might have elsewhere.  There's something about here that helps people let go. It's such a great thing to watch people let the worries of everyday life fall off their shoulders for a few days as they breathe in the air in the hills and let themselves relax, maybe for the first time in months, or even years.  It's quite a lovely thing to be the facilitator of relaxation, and to be able to give people that space.

I know that the sense of deep relaxation is something that comes from Italian energy, the Italian way of life. I once read that Italy is the land of old souls - that reincarnated souls come back here again and again to work in the vineyards, the connection with nature bringing the soul's development further each time. Life led us here to do this kind of work for a reason. The longing for Italy and its beautiful energy is something we see reflected in our guests' comments - and hearts - year after year.

At some point, I decided it was divine destiny that brought me here to cultivate this particular way of life.  For years, all I could see that we needed to work like dogs for years to get established and centered, and I couldn't even fathom why we needed to go through all of this - ahem- learning. But I've learned to view our work here as something greater than just having an inn and making breakfast.  It's really about the conversations, the interactions, the richness of what has been brought to us through having opened our home.

What a garden we've cultivated for ourselves.  I'm a very lucky girl.

We're guided toward a purpose.  That purpose is to  develop and take on change. This week has been one of going inside of myself and looking around a bit, at the same time reaching out to see where I want to go.  My garden's growing and growing - both my vegetable garden (full of baby tomatoes and basil and dill) and my soul-garden, where I take all the goodness that's bestowed on me by everyone I meet and try to understand what the guidance is behind the words I share with others.

We're receiving guidance all the time , as my friend Amy Oscar points out, we only have to look around and have an open mind and heart.  We are led spiritually into new ways of thinking, new ideas and new possibilities constantly.  There's nothing wrong and there's everything right with reaching out and pulling the guidance close to you so that you can come closer to yourself and what you are truly meant to do.

Guidance isn't based upon where you are professionally, or financially, but rather spiritually.  You don't need to build up walls of things around you and have your whole life in perfect order before you even start.  You just need one thing - a vision of where you want go.  And to get that vision, all you have to do is trust the guidance that you get, every moment of every day.  You know about listening to your gut, right?  It won't fail you.  You can get from here to wherever it is you want to be if you ask, listen, and do.   If you listen, you'll automatically be more connected to your guidance.

So, what I want to tell you this week, what I really want you to do, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, is I want you to listen to me and to go F yourself.  Really.  I do.

Go Free Yourself.  Make at least two pockets of time this week, a half hour each at least, to walk by yourself and free your mind from the tension that you carry around with you.  During your walk, keep your shoulders down and breathe from your stomach.  Don't think about anything but relaxing your neck, keeping your stomach in, your back straight and your shoulders down. And walk.  Alone.  Free your mind. Free yourself up to recognize guidance as it happens.

Go Flaunt Yourself.  Write down in  your journal (you have one of those, don't you?) ten things you do really really well.  And expand on them - go into detail.  Write what you like about each of those things.   Because if you do things well, it's because you love to do those things.  Take a look at your accomplishments, right there, in hard print, for you to look back to. Flaunt yourself so that you can be guided by your strengths rather than your fears.

Go Floralize Yourself.  It's the time of year when flowers are the least expensive. Buy a bunch of posies and put them in a place where YOU can see them (I like to keep mine on my desk next to my computer).  If you want, go into a field and pick flowers instead. Get some floral love going in your life.

Go Fragrance Yourself.  Wear your favorite scent every day, a little luxury that will make you feel lovely.

Go Fantasize Yourself.  Time to get out the journal again.  Draw either a verbal or decorative picture of how you would have your most perfect room. Get specific:  color, furnishings, lighting, views from the windows.  Understand your own space desires. Guidance works hard through our fantasies, and if we wake up to what we would love to have in our lives, we'll be guided on how to get the ideal space for ourselves.

Go Fortify Yourself.  With good food that works for your body and not against it.  With knowledge about the things you want to improve yourself in. With the words of supportive friends who exist in your life for the purpose of mutual enrichment. It's when you're rested and healthy that you are best able to put guidance into action.

Go Flourish Yourself.  Give your garden what it needs to grow and thrive. Listen for guidance, stay open, and trust your gut.

I wish you a beautiful, healthy, prosperous week cultivating your garden from Bella Piemonte.

diana

PS... Have you downloaded the free chapters yet?  Click here if you haven't.....

dive in

 

Life has so many opportunities that we can embrace.  They're hidden behind our interactions with people, in our daily routines, waiting for us to take notice.  To notice opportunities, we have to be aware of their existence, and be ready to embrace them. Embracing opportunities also means embracing change.  And change is the thing about opportunities that can redefine us as people.

Being in-between who you were and who you will become lies change.  Change that will move you, stretch you, ground you to a pulp at times but leave enough of you there that you will be resilient enough to pick up and keep going.  I've often thought of life change as having a backpack full of building blocks.  One day, you spill them out onto the floor and realize you don't even recognize the pieces.  But then you decide to pick them up, one by one and put them back in the backpack...until they are all in there... but in a different order than when you started.   We are a confused, muddled, exquisite puzzle, and we're left to our own devices to see exactly what it is we're capable of.

But we don't truly know until we dive in. 

When we do, when we stop planning and thinking and second guessing and just dive in to change, in whatever form it takes, we're hit with learning from the very first moment.  We realize how vulnerable we are, how much we define ourselves through things that don't matter like jobs and degrees and money and cars.  All of that washes away and we can see, maybe for the first time:  who are we?  What do we want?  What do we need?

Change, real meaningful change, simplifies our lives immensely because we learn, unequivocally, who we really are.  And who we're not.  We don't get to know those things without having dived into risk.  For some reason, the Universe has it set up that way.  She shake her cosmic finger in our face and says, "You really want to know what your life's all about?  Put yourself out on a limb.  Everything will become crystal clear."

My life is changing in oh, so many ways.  I'm swept up in the dance of Italian inn keeping, cooking up a storm, baking focaccia dredged in Umbrian olive oil for breakfast, teaching how to make cannelloni stuffed with spinach and pork,  washing sheets and welcoming new people every few days into our peaceful world on a Piemontese hill.  But I'm writing and learning new glaze formulas for plates and continuing to unravel the mystery of me.  New energy is blowing all around; new opportunities are in the air.  I can feel it as I breathe to stay open to whatever comes my way. Nothing is standing still.

How is your life changing?  What new processes are you embracing that are moving you forward in your unraveling?  Leave a comment and let us all hear what you have going on and how it's impacting your life...even if it's all still in the planning phase...

A thank you is overdue. 

For all of you who subscribed and downloaded the free chapters to my new ebook, YOUR TRUTH, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  To those of you who wrote me personal emails, I am touched beyond words.  I am trying to get back to each of you this week.  Thank you especially to those who took time to write out the typos to me (I MEAN IT, THANK YOU!!!).  All of your notes have been - um, noted and will be corrected for the epublication version.

Your kindness and patience is overwhelming and confirmed what I've known for a very long time.  I have some of the most wonderful people visiting my world here at A Certain Simplicity.

Writing this ebook has had a profound impact on me.  I'm much clearer since giving these ideas dimension on a page.  We're in the "fine tuning" phase of the re-write now and I can't wait to have this ready for you very soon.

And a word about design...

I'm taking a fresh approach here at ACS and am starting to make the blog look more how I feel it should look.  I hope you enjoy the changes (change IS good!)....

Wishing you joy,

Diana

 

 

the elements

Earth between my fingers, as I coax it to grow my precious seeds.  Earth in my wheel wells as spring rains softens the road in front of me.  Earth going round and round on a pottery wheel as I gaze into it, hoping for something magical, something practical, something beautiful and meaningful.

Water in my dreams, hoping that the season won't bring another break in the ancient main up the road, as I check to make sure the pressure is full every morning during the sweltering days. Water on my hill, threatening the back of my old stone house and washing away my new grass seed.  Water in the rain collector, feeding the pool and the garden, the old pump dropped in and shooting the precious liquid in every direction.  Water sprinkling from my fingers onto the earth on the pottery wheel, softening it, making it pliable and elastic and supple so that it can be a cup, or a bowl, or simply a vase for flowers.

Air through the window, signaling the oncoming storm, causing me to hope the agricoli won't have any hail this time around that can hurt the baby grapes. Air as the scirocco, blowing my papers all over the room, slamming the shutters and scaring the dog. Air in my lungs, as I expand to take in the extraordinary beauty of the place I find myself.  Air expanding the bread that sits in the warm window, preparing to take its place at the daily breakfast ritual. Air swooping in and sucking the water out of the earth, turning the pot from soft to hard as it sits and waits for its alchemy.

Fire on the hillside, as the excess vine branches turn to smoke in later winter.  Fire in my throat from a peperoncino too spicy to actually eat. Fire in my voice as I curse yet another mosquito bite on my leg, enviously looking over to my husband, who the mosquitos hate.  Fire in the kiln, hissing and melting and bending the earth into an object to serve and desire.

I sit and listen to what the elements have to teach me today.  I feel desperate from the rain;  I need to work in the garden - but maybe I don't.  Maybe I should be sitting here writing instead, as the water streams down my window pane and my tea cools unexpectedly on this unseasonably chilly day. One day soon,  the fire of the mid-day sun will tell me to stop hanging sheets and go find a chair in the shade and close my eyes.  I'll sit on my favorite wall - the little one, next to my barn, the one that gets the full impact of the sunset - and I'll breathe deeply, taking the air right down to my belly, telling myself that it's OK to just sit and do nothing even if it's just for a couple of minutes as my hand scrapes the Earth next to me, looking for flowers and ladybugs and a hint of cool moisture.

I carry the elements with me - more consciously today than ever before. They dictate my routine and my life in the unrelentingly harsh, magnificent Piemontese countryside. They tell me to accept when I want to resist, to realize that change is coming even when today just feels like a muddy mess, to revel in the magic of the alchemy that is this moment.

Here's a lovely piece of piano music called Delight by Michael Jones for you to enjoy, with love from my hill to you. 

This post is for Gloria, Rebecca, Melanie, Alexandra, and Jessica, the ladies of the Italy Blogging Roundtable.

your time

What do you do with your time?  Is there enough of it?  Do you feel like you need more time to do what it is you were truly meant to do, because commitments and work and family and friends and pets and just keeping up take up every single waking moment of your day?

 

So much is asked of us in the average day.  Not  just the tasking, but also the comprehending.  The amount of information available to us borders on infinite as we  cope with making sense of it.  We try not to overwhelm.  We do the best we can with the time we're given.  And at the end of the day, we see, with great clarity, all the things we've pushed off for another day.  Those things fall into a bucket - a bucket of things to do when we have time.  One day.

And we wonder, really wonder if there will be the time, or the resources, or the freedom and support from those around us to fly.  Ever.  

Because flying means taking steps and falling and recovering.  Can we really do that in between everything else we have to do?  Can we really try and allow ourselves the luxury of obstacles and failure and new starts that flying really requires, all the while keeping up the metronomic tact of our everyday existence?

Of course we can.  But it means looking at time in new ways, to try to get what we want out of it, instead of letting it get what it wants out of us.

Once we've decided that something is worth sacrifice, we have to sacrifice something.  Time online.  Television time.  Wine drinking time.  Pasting together pockets of time, small ones, to dedicate to something meaningful can change everything. Because once we dedicate ourselves to exploring our interests in a way that's unencumbered and free, we will be propelled forward until the entire activity starts to take on a life of its own.  I've seen it happen again and again.  It always amazes me, synchronicity, because it  incorporates a strong spiritual aspect, one where if we push ourselves in the right direction, we'll brought to a completely different place, through doors where the keys fit and unlock treasures without as much as a sound.  That kind of spirituality - the kind the moves us just because we're open to it  moving us.

I'm finishing up my ebook, Your Truth.  The first few chapters will be available soon here as a free download.  If you like it, the rest will be available for purchase on Amazon.  We're starting our B&B season shortly and are finishing major landscaping work.  And I'm working on the publicity plan for the release of my upcoming novel.  My pottery studio is full of pieces to glaze and finish in the next week or two. Overwhelm is hitting me in the night and the early hours of the morning.  But I look at all of these activities - every single one of them  - and I realize that they are a result of taking chances and flying.  So I'm accepting the overwhelm right now as a part of where I am.  I remember to step back and not think.  To allow my spirit to breathe and take in the moment as it presents itself.  It's not always easy to do this but I know I must.  And that every day is beautiful, even the ones fraught with challenge and trepidation.

That life is lovely.

Speaking of loveliness, if you would like to seek more treasures about your own life, your own time and how to get what you want from both, take a look at my friends Courtney Carver and Tammy Strobel's project, your lovely life.  They're offering the perfect online course for just this subject called your lovely lessons.   

For those of you who are not familiar with these two ladies, their blogs are a trove of inspiration about simple living and making time for what you really want.  They're two experts on the subject.  I've known them both for years, and return to their blogs again and again to center myself. They interviewed me recently for the Lovely Life project - it was an honor to be part of it.

our wandering paths

Northern Italy is a symphony in the spring.

  

The colors and textures change daily, making for a complete creative assault on my senses.  I discover elderly ladies in the lower fields of our property collecting mysterious wild greens.  They smile demurely and close their bags post-haste, not wanting to give up the secrets of the booty their mothers and grandmothers came here to pick over the last hundred years.  It used to salt me but good that they would come on my property to take something without asking, but the years in Italy have mellowed me. I want them to come, to hold on to the traditions, to bring their daughters and their granddaughters to do the same.  It's not really just my property at all, and the greens, by squatter's rights, are theirs.

Their path crosses mine in the lower fields.  I came to Italy to find myself;  their path was always here. They know who they are.  When I mention that we came here to put down down roots, no complicated words are necessary.  They understand almost immediately what I'm trying to say.  They cannot imagine a life without roots, firmly grafted to a specific place.

The change in season morphs our property from an ugly duckling of grey earth and soaked bare branches to an elegant swan of flowering trees and neon green grass. I want to grasp each day and not let any of them go.  Spring renews my sense of my own journey, fills me with purpose. Our hands are dried and split from too much time in the earth planting lavender and rosemary and not enough time at the salon.   But it doesn't matter.  It won't be completely done by the time the first cars full of guests come rumbling up the quarter mile drive, but it will be enough.  Enough for them to be able to shed their worries for a few days, pour themselves a glass of wine, and sit on the veranda to breathe.  Which is what's the most important, anyway.

 

 

The interactions, the ones with the ladies in the field or with the guests that drive up, feed my soul and give me new direction in my creative work. I'm amazed and awed by what we all go through to survive and thrive. People's stories, stories that at one time might have bored me or made me roll my eyes, fascinate me now. Each person with whom we cross paths has something to tell us, something to share. If we allow their field of energy to enter ours, we can't help but grow and change.  Because as much as our external path - the places we live, the things we do - tells of one part of our journey, it's our internal path - the one of self awareness - that leads us to the deepest sense of who we are.

I'm taking the colors around me and I'm going into the pottery studio to try and develop glazes that reflect nature.  Soft whites and creams, maybe a touch of green. My new pieces are more organic than ever, more natural.  I like this direction - it suits me on the path I find myself on presently. Here are some new pieces in the raw.

What path do you find yourself on?  What do you pick up on conversations with those around you that are signs as to how you should continue?  What is it that moves you as you remain open to events in your life?

I wish you peace on this beautiful spring day from the bel paese.

 

get out of your own way

What is it you really want to do?  And what is it that you're doing to sabotage it? Because it's one thing to want it.  It's a whole other thing to get it, ascertain it, own it, rock it. I've sat politely, here on my hill, and listened to people tell me why they can't do what they want to do.  The reasons vary, but they  always the same group of things.  Money. Time. But I'm here to tell you what I won't tell my paying guests because I'm too busy being a polite hostess.  Outside of being physically unable to do something, there is no excuse for not moving in the direction of what you really want.

FEAR is the emotion that contracts us into cramped, judgmental shadows of who we really are - and all that judgement?  It's against ourselves, which is the most poisonous, illness-creating type of judgement that there is.  It's like taking life's potential, rolling it up into a ball, and hitting ourselves over the head with it until we can't stand anymore.

You may be accustomed to using fear as silly putty, molding into excuses like "I don't have time, plus I don't have the funds."  But if you've got time to twitter and Facebook for an hour, or look at those soaps or  if you have enough money to get your hair cut every month, you have time and money.  I'm sorry, but you do. You can get your hair cut every six months, or cut it yourself, if you want something bad enough. You can stop buying clothes for a whole year, maybe even more.  There are so many things you can do to scrape together what you need to move foreword in your life towards the goal that lies within who you really are. But first you have to get out of your own way.  You can simplify your eating habits, your TV habits, your expenditure habits. You have to stop listening to advertising and neighbors and well-meaning family and friends and spouses who validate choices that don't help you with your goals. You can believe your own voice before you believe anyone else's.  You can start realizing that you have what it takes to do that thing to which you're drawn.   Because you know everything already about who you really are if you'd only quiet down enough to listen. And when you've finally gotten out of your own way, you will find your soul poking out from behind all of that mental clutter, revealing to you every little thing you already know to be true.

Nothing's easy and everything's easy.

None of the change will get you what you want.  It will put you in the direction; it will start the Universe's scheming on your behalf. But it's not going to give you the thing that you want.  Because, see, it's never really about the end result.  It's about opening yourself up to possibilities. And you won't ever even see the possibilities while you're standing in your own way, blocking the light, the air, and the energy.  Allow yourself to experience the possible.  Walk towards that which you want - and you will walk toward a thousand doors ready to open on your behalf.  The goal may change.  In fact, you might forget, in the end, what the goal even was. And it doesn't matter.  Because the path is your saving grace; it's your hymn, your mantra.

Awakening the sound of your own soul will make everything easy, because you'll know what's right for you. Check your gut. Follow what you know to be your truth.  I promise you, you will never, ever go wrong. Ever.

 

 

 

let go

There are times when we feel the overwhelming need to break out of our current circumstance.  It's not about our circumstance; it's about ourselves and our place at the time. This leads to complications.  If we are unhappy, we can change our circumstance.  But more often than not, it won't make us any happier.  The thing we have to change is ourselves, and to do that, we have to come to grips with who we really are. People ask me all the time about starting over and change.  It's a topic that seems to capture everyone, as though change, in and of itself, was the means to an end. As though a goal that sits at the end of a long series of circumstantial changes will result in a burst of happiness and fulfillment.

I'm somewhat of an expert at circumstantial change, as I've lived in three countries and have moved thirteen times in thirty years.  I used to say I was something of a nomad, but I think it goes further than that.  The human energy required to reroot thirteen times explains a lot to me about who I am. There's been a great deal of searching going on. It wasn't, though, until I moved to Italy that I had the time to really process the whirlwind of my life. I've actually lived in this place longer than I've lived anywhere in my adult life.  In December, we will be here nine years.

We came here with almost a maniacal need to put down roots, and to build something meaningful and somewhat permanent that we could lean on to let us breathe.   We were willing to do whatever it took to make this project work.  But what it would really take, in retrospect, to succeed at this lifestyle, was something that I wasn't ready to reckon with.  I was willing to change my circumstance, my income level, the square footage of my residence, my car, my wardrobe, my diet.  I was flexible to the point of being self-defeating. Whatever it takes, I thought, through the blurred tears and aching bones.

People who knew me couldn't really understand why I was so fragile, scared and defeated.  After all I wanted all of this change.  We  brought it on ourselves.  What was the problem?

The problem was that I hadn't yet reckoned with the greatest change to be made of all. I was ready to change this place with the goal of making it the most beautiful little inn on a hill ever, no matter what it took for me to get there. But I was blinded to the fact that even if that grand goal were to happen, I would still be fragile and hurt and unhappy with all that I had accomplished. Because the real problem was that I could not see, through all of this, my own goodness.  I could not embrace the fact that everything I did, every day, was enough.  Everything was good. In fact, everything was better than good. If you would have heard the guests speak of our place, you would say, Diana, what on earth are you talking about?  The guests love your B&B.  But all I could see, all I ever could see, was what wasn't done. And I viewed each and every one of those undone things as a momentous personal failure.

This was nothing new. Being satisfied with accomplishments has always escaped me.  As I would tick off the things that I had managed to do or learn, I would immediately keep those things in check with the list of what I had left to learn, left to accomplish - a list that was always so much longer and more difficult.  On the days of my biggest accomplishments - landing the best job ever, getting a raise,  learning how to conjugate the past perfect in German, making the prettiest bowl I had ever made - I would crawl under the covers and cry because I would have to raise the stakes again.  Nothing was ever enough.

 

Looking back, all the need for circumstantial change was just my pushing my aching self further. I created new yardsticks with which to judge my accomplishments.  New languages, new professions, new creative ventures.  When I'd master one thing, I'd move on to the next, and then the one after that.  It's just now, now at this very critical time in my life, that I am becoming aware of something very important.

It's enough.

Whatever we put forth, however we do it, it's enough and it's good on its own.  We don't have to take what we've done and pulverize it by creating another new goal out of it. we can just let the good be there. There is no need, none whatsoever, to take all the good we do and  minimizing it by looking beyond it as soon as it's in the past.  We can expand into ourselves and take in the goodness of all we do.  We can enjoy and revel in our own amazingness.  We can relax.

We can let go.  Nothing bad is going to happen if we let go and allow ourselves the pleasure of just being.

 

*

I have had the most amazing week.

I communicated Amy Oscar about what's going on and just touching in the same vibration with her made me feel calmer. If you don't know who Amy is, then I urge you not only to visit her site, but to join Twitter on Sunday mornings at 10 am Eastern time under the hash tag #soulcall .  It has become a regular stop of spiritual awareness for me.  Also, you might want to download her book about angels. 

I caught up with simplicity expert Courtney Carver about what's happening and about the wonderful new project she is working on with the amazing  Tammy Strobel  called Your Lovely Life , a chapter by chapter course for finding the beauty in our lives. I'll be talking more about this in the next weeks.

Through my friend Cristina Colli, author of the clean, lovely, and soothing lifestyle blog Positively Beauty, I learned of  Anita Moorjani, an amazing woman who has written a book called Dying to be Me, a beautiful account of her near death experience at the final phase of Stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma and her choice to come back and live the life she was about to leave forever.

I went back and forth with my friend Gina DePalma, executive pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Restaurant in Manhattan.  She's in the throes of writing her next amazing cookbook after Dolce Italiano, and I am trying to see if I can possibly create a special plate in my kiln that can even begin to do her beautiful desserts justice.  It's a real challenge, but one that I love, because creating plates for special people and events is a labor of love.

I feel blessed and reassured that everything is exactly as it should be as I go into myself, let go of the doing and embrace the being.

I wish you, my trusted readers, a week full of promise and light.  Thank you for being there.

 

Italy and its lessons: stuck on a hill

We've had easier months. We've been blocked from driving the 1/4 mile uphill road from a monstrous snowstorm that brought with it Siberian temperatures. Our days have been dictated by bringing pellets up the hill (by hand) and groceries up the hill (by hand).  It's been sixteen days since we could get up here with a car. Our propane is running out, and it'll be weeks before the road's in good enough shape for the big delivery truck to fill our two hungry tanks. Our wood supply is dwinding. We're trying to stretch our supplies of everything with space heaters, cringing to think of what the electricity bills will look like.

It's getting old, this extreme cold, and we're very tired on a physical level.

But enough complaining.

The flip side of extreme isolation is interesting.It's like I spiritually needed to pull back and go deep.  I cannot remember a time when I have felt more in touch with who I really am. Maybe it's the silence and the complete lack of outside activity that has brought a new level of realization.

I've been writing, throwing pots, cooking and learning. Daily activities are reduced to the essential. In the undisturbed hours of the afternoon, I've listened to my own inner voice, finding the answers to questions that are simply not there when there's too much noise around me.  The brilliant Arctic-like sun sets in the back window of my studio, and my plates, unfinished and raw, glow a golden light as if illuminated from within.

I see  the direction to move towards creatively. I've had time to scan websites full of creative ceramics and have been inspired again and again.  Your comments here on my blog show me what to write for you, what ideas might help you to move toward your own creativity.

I've had an abundance of intense silence to focus on Your Truth,  and I see the ebook coming together in a way that exceeds my own expectations. I don't know if that would have happened had I not had this quiet time. And in these ice-and-fire filled days, I've come closer to being able to  share with you very exciting news about my upcoming novel.  It's been an amazing time.

Every day is such a treasure, and while being stuck on a hill for weeks might not be anyone's idea of a good time, it's given me so much to be able to be with myself in an intense, quiet way.

Italy, once more, gives me what I need, right when I need it.

your truth

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It's there.

Hiding behind the noise, interactions and social negotiations that take place daily, it lingers, waiting sometimes months, sometimes decades to come out and and embrace you.

Oh, the subtle ways we compromise our lives away.  Behind statements like "it's not worth it" or "yeah, you're right", a type of paralysis sets in, the kind that alienates you from who you really are. Because at some level or another, we're all harmony junkies.  And harmony, the beautiful sound of complimentary notes, is so seductive that we don't even know what we're buying into to keep the music going until one day we wake up and and we get a big bill, the kind that  comes in the form of realization - that what we're putting out to people isn't truly representative of who we really are, that we're wasting our precious time on things that are not advancing our own causes, that we've missed the point that harmony inside of ourselves has to come before harmony outside ourselves.  You know what harmony that's based upon us shutting ourselves up is?  It's a myth, that's what it is.

If we do the things that align ourselves with our own truth, it will set wheels in motion that will alter the course of every relationship we have with other people. Being true to ourselves requires bravery, but it won't feel that way. It will feel like we're just awful, like everyone around us thinks we've become self-absorbed, combative, hormonal, disagreeable, just well, different, and not in a good way. But a funny thing happens.  If you stay with who you are, hold onto it, walk with your truth even if it's not the most pleasant companion at times, relationships start to shift seismically, and the people that really understand, who have always really understood, will celebrate you.

The others?  Well, that's where the myth part comes in.

Because when harmony is based upon concepts that are out of whack with who we really are, like putting other people's comfort level with us ahead of our own comfort level with us, it's not harmony at all.  It's a self destructive, bad thing to do.  And sometimes, we do it for years, not even giving it a second thought. Aren't you kind of tired of keeping the peace for peace's sake? I sure am. I mean I can be social. After all, I'm in the hospitality business, right? So I'm not going to whip out my "I respectfully disagree with what you're saying there," while I'm touring people around the pool.But in our core relationships, it's my contention that we do all of them  - and ourselves- a huge favor if they know who we are and where we stand.  Like that they know who they are loving.  And so do we.  We're loving our truth.

Taking this a notch further, I'd like to share some things I've been doing. First of all, I've completed my first novel, whose working title is True Vines. The manuscript is now out in the Universe chasing down its destiny as I try to become a published writer. The journey of writing True Vines was a steep, rugged path on several fronts. The book tells of a woman who at upper-midlife finds herself alone and starting again in the midst of radical geographical and emotional change. It's a story about collecting the mosaic pieces of past experiences and setting them into some kind of pattern that speaks to a greater truth for the future.

Writing a 115,00o word novel was a reckoning of sorts. Before starting True Vines, I was about fifty percent through writing my memoir about opening our bed and breakfast. But something stopped me, blocked me from moving forward with that project. I just wasn't feeling it: I had been through too much the last eight years with making this project happen and no words I was capable of into my Mac could adequately express the palate of emotions I had been through. Instead of fighting, I gave in to the message, and soon thereafter, out poured True Vines, like it had been waiting there the whole time behind my egotistical need to write memoir, hoping that I would at some point be ready to hear the voices of characters from which, during the course of writing the book, I  learned so much. It's a novel that searches for the truth inside each character's flawed, pained, fragile stories. Writing it brought me so much, and I am so thankful to have been given the chance to take first steps in becoming an empathetic story teller.

Now that the novel is finished and on its path finding a way to you, I'm on to other things.

Pottery is one of them, of course, as it always will be.  The yang to my writing yin.

Trying to get as healthy as possible for the 2012 season of arriving B&B guests is another. And a third is writing a new book, this time an Ebook, one that will be available to you directly from me, about finding your own personal truth, and taking occupancy of it. About coping with the consequences of shifting others' paradigms of who we are by standing true to ourselves and about how to take that new found confidence and manifest new creations - creations based upon the things that are important to us as a soul level and making them happen because we can no longer stop our own truth from pouring out.

Does that sound like an exciting journey? It is, you know.

And since I work better under pressure, a fact that is a basic truth about who I am, I am putting the commitment to this new Ebook out to you now. I've started it, framed it, and I'll be self publishing it - and keeping you informed about the process along the way.

The title? Your Truth. What else? It will be your book about the things that are tucked behind and hidden inside of your soul, waiting to come out and embrace you and change everything.

 

go do: sixteen moves out of yourself and into the world of action

Originally published on January 10th, 2012

 

New beginnings?  The world is full of them.  Just look at opportunities that today presents. It's really not that hard to embrace the possibilities that this day offers. Cultivating habits that move you forward and into the world around you are fundamental if you want to maximize your creative energy, create a new direction for yourself, and enjoy yourself in the process.

Get out of your own mind and off your butt.  It is time to go do. Go do your dream, go do your work out routine, go do the things that will set you on a course that you want to be on, instead of the one you feel powerless to change.

Go do!

Wake up to a quick meditation.  Prayer, a moment of silent observation, a chance to give thanks.  Call it what you want. Even if things aren't going your way, be grateful that you get to wake up again and give it another shot.  Because I promise you, time is the biggest gift you will ever be given, and each of us has only a finite amount of it.

Down a glass of hot water as soon you get up.  I take mine with a squeeze of lemon.  It gets your metabolism going, cleans out the organs, gets things moving.

Stretch.  Get blood moving through your muscles.  Work out the kinks. It's easier to be positive  if you're as pain free as possible.

Open a window, stick your head outside and breathe in some very fresh oxygen, even if it's freezing cold outside.  Let some of that fresh air into your bedroom (do this again before you go to sleep, getting fresh air into your bedroom before retiring) and the rest of your abode.  Changing up the air is good for you.

Check your emails and respond only to what you must.  Then get away from the surfing capability of your computer. It's passive entertainment, just like watching TV, and will only serve to make you isolate more from people around you and not hear them.

Forget TV for the most part. If there's something great you don't want to miss, make note of it and leave it off the rest of the time.  It will kill your brain, and make you a slave.

Limit your on-line work time.  If you work on line, make sure you break every 50 minutes and take ten minutes off. Step outside.  Breathe fresh air.

Stay open to energy coming your way.  Don't block new ideas or criticism or things that you can't seem to understand.  Instead, let those things flow through you, to you  Keep what works, let the rest go.

Look for connections.  Timing is everything, it's truer than you think. But if we don't pay attention to the signs that are around us all the time, we can miss golden opportunities that present themselves to us. Look for things that hook into facts that you already know.  Be aware of chains of events that might seem coincidental but are new possibilities, presenting themselves in costume.

Be observant. Notice what's going on around you, what people are saying to you.  Don't discredit things out of hand.  Be thoughtful with regard to your daily transactions. Don't create unnecessary hurdles.  Seek out the easiest way to get things done.  Listen to people who make sense.  Be willing to learn.

Don't be a cynic. Don't be sarcastic. Sarcasm just sucks when it becomes a lifestyle choice.  It makes you  an energy suck. And don't talk about your friends or family or coworkers as if they each have a million teeny faults that drive you nuts. None of that makes you seem smarter or snappier or more interesting, believe me. I mean, do you want people droning on about how you never seem to have a nice word for anyone?  No?  Then cut the sarcasm.

Be nice, and mean it.  It's a habit, just like being scared or being mean or being impatient.  And it's a good habit.   Get used to it.  Nice people are fun to be around, and don't suck other people's energy.

Get off of the complaining bandwagon.  There is nothing more addictive than bitching about things.  Here's a word of advice:  do with bitching what most of us did with smoking cigarettes.  Just quit it.  If there are problems you need to talk out with someone, you know who you can trust to listen.  Go to that person.  That's not the kind of complaining I'm talking about.  I mean the kind of complaining that spins perfectly normal activities into daily pains in the butt.  Leave it.  Everyone has stuff.  No one needs to hear yours.

LISTEN. Stop talking so much, and stop thinking you know everything.  You will be shocked to find out what you still have to learn, and the best knowledge often comes from people you would least expect it from.

Smile.  It's free and lets people know you're approachable - unless you prefer to be thought of as cut off from the world and unfriendly.  Then by all means, don't smile.

Even creative work requires frequent breaks.  As a potter and artist, I have to take care of my body because the work is very taxing on my neck and shoulders. Plus, walking away from creative work periodically, whether it be writing or artistic endeavors, gives you a much better perspective when you return and see what you've done.

Take a moment of silence before going to bed and give thanks again.  It's not such a big deal.  Just look at your day, the moments you've had, and be grateful. You are immensely lucky to have had the day today, even if things didn't go gangbusters  You can learn from what went wrong, and take tomorrow on a wiser person.

Wake up, rinse and repeat.

Now go do, would you please?

 

gifts

So many gifts have been extolled on me in the past year.  I don't have to look very far to see blessings all around me, in so many shapes and sizes. A fun, interesting, and very busy season.  We had so many great guests this year, and spent so much time laughing and talking.  I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for adding another dimension to this adventure we started seven years ago.  The conversations, the philosophizing, the copious bottles of wine poured at sunset...it was a pleasure to have the privilege to host you during your days in this indescribably beautiful country.

Lots of pots.   I made and sold more pots this year than ever before.  They flew out as soon as they came out of the kiln, making me feel very good about the direction of my work. Thank you for making me feel that my work is worth owning and having in your homes.  I'll be getting busy shortly, stocking the coffers for the new season and to re-stock my on-line shop, which went down to empty as a result of guests buying up my inventory.

The gift of writing.  I am so happy I had the chance, in 2012, to complete the first, second and twentith draft of my first novel.  It's now out to a few choice readers for some direct critique before I dedicate myself to getting it published.  I've been soaking up all kind of information about publishing, such as listening to this conversation between Leo Babauta and Seth Godin, reading everything I can by Noah Lukeman, and in general making sure that by the last day of 2012, this book is solid, print worthy and something that people will enjoy reading.  Disciplining myself to write a novel from start to finish was one of the best things I've ever done for so many reasons.  Now I really look forward to getting it out there.

You, you, and you.  My beloved blog followers and readers.  It is with both arms that I hug each and every one of you.  I am sorry that I am inconsistent at responding to comments, because each one means so much to me.  You've given me so much more than I could ever give you.  All I can say is thank you for taking time and for being exactly who you are, a diverse, warm, open-hearted group of people with dreams and desires and creativity at such a deep level.  It's my firm desire to take this blog to a new level in 2012, to make it shine and shimmer and give each of you more inspiration every single time it lands in your inbox.

The health of my family and friends.  My mother and my brother-in-law have remained cancer free this year.  My friend Gina DePalma fought back ovarian cancer once again and has been declared cancer free. Micha walked away uninjured from a serious head-on collision in June.  All in all, not a bad record.  I stopped eating gluten in July, lost weight and picked up some much needed energy.  Life, indeed, is good.

To my circle of friends: thank you for listening, caring, and being my strength, for your endless empathy, understanding and love.

Und Micha, ohne Dich geht es überhaupt nicht. Du bist mein ein und alles.

I join, a little too late, a group of wonderful bloggers in Italy in expressing gratitude for the gifts we've received:Letizia from   Madonna del Piatto, Rebecca at Brigolante, Gloria from At Home in Tuscany, Melanie of Italophile and Jessica from Why Go Italy.  These bloggers make up a group called the Italy Blogging Roundtable. Sorry that I'm so late with this, ladies, but better late than never when it comes to gifts!

For this, my last post of 2011, I want to wish each of you a beautiful holiday, celebrated just the way you want to, quiet days with friends and loved ones, and joy, joy, joy.  I'll see you back here in the first week of 2012 with more inspiration, more simplicity, and more creativity! Be well.

Love,

Diana

december's simple glow

Whether it's snowy or simply chilly, December is a welcome arrival.  With its hearty foods and layered sweaters, it's a chance for us to experience nature in a way that we simply can't any other time. It's the month of the solstice, the short days of the year, when the flickers of candles glow against walls and we allow ourselves to indulge in a bit more food than we actually should. We welcome visitors with cinnamon and nutmeg laced teas and cookies.

December days are not days to be muddled through, although if you turn on the TV and allow your brain to get wracked with manic advertising about all the things you're lacking, you might very well think so. The commercialism will do nothing but exhaust you and make you feel like you need to buy more to be "ready".

But the fact is, you're ready already. Giving comes from a completely different place than Target. Make some cookies for your neighbor. Stop at a local artisan shop and pick up some hand-rolled beeswax candles for your best friend.  Give your mom a special family photo framed in something pretty.  A special roll of yarn in a shade you know your cousin would love to crochet a scarf from would bring her great joy.

Honor the Winter Solstice.  Open you heart to friends and family.  Let bygones be bygones and pledge to love and not to judge one another.  Shut off, as my mother would say, the idiot box and go out for a walk and look at the beauty available to you simply by stepping outside.

Sing.  Play the piano, if you can.  Light candles.  Wrap yourself in a blanket and write your cards. Remember, with great clarity, the nice things people did for you this year and be grateful for their love. Don't complain how early the darkness comes.  Light your life with a glow from inside.  Invite friends in for a cocktail.  Stock the freezer for the first snow.

Here is my December gift to you.  The amazing George Winston and his rendition of Johann Pachelbel's Canon and Variations.

How to be an expat inspiration: Michelle Fabio

After seventeen years at this expat game, I've had my share of friend requests. Not Facebook, mind you.  I'm talking Americans, Brits, other native English speakers who believe that they and I might really have something in common simply by nature of a shared common language. This has always baffled me.  I mean, turn around and look at the person next to you on the bus. Do you really want to go have tea with her, let her into your life, show her pictures of your childhood only because you can conjugate the same verbs as she? This has, at times, given me a not-great local reputation as a curmudgeon who doesn't like to socialize. Nothing could further from the truth. I'm just picky.

Truth is, I've never been very good at being a participating expat. I make friends with people I have stuff in common with. Their passports just don't matter to me. I don't seek out Americans or Canadians or Brits. I need to have basic philosphical things in common with people I make the effort of befriending at this point in my illustrious expat experience, regardless where they were born. It's sort of a prerequisite.

Chemistry, friendship, respect, just liking one another grows over time regardless where you live, and with on-line cultivated relationships, it's even tricker and requires more of a sense of really understanding who in fact you are tangling it up with.

Back in 2005, I was trying to get my brain around internet marketing and how to get my little B&B on the map when I came across a blog called Bleeding Espresso. Back then, it was revolutionary, at least for me, since it was written by a clearly brilliant woman who was American but living in Italy, and incorporated so many different jewels of life in Italy that I kept going back, a little intimidated at first, to read more and understand how reading her words somehow reflected what I was feeling myself.

Between then and now, Michelle Fabio and I have become friends in the most natural and organic of ways - over time - out of a common viewpoint and outlook towards this experience we call the expat lifestyle. We've shared hundreds of emails, have sat at the same table together. I have come to view Michelle as someone I trust, someone with whom I share much more than a common language. We're two Pennsylvania girls hell-bent on living life on our own terms. Having said that, we are completely different (for example I'm old enough to be her mother, not that there's ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT and she also raises goats, which I love to pet as long as they belong to somone else) and it is those differences that make me value her insights even more.

Over the years, Michelle has brought Calabria alive for me. Its scents, its scenery, its flavors. I've watched Michelle's writing change and grow and meander into areas that her conscious, simple, focused lifestyle has brought her, full of love for where she is and respect for all she is surrounded with, but always steeped in reality and a sense of pragmatism that makes her writing completely accessible for me. She is my anchor in the southern part of this beautiful boot we call Italy. Without her writing and her friendship my own expat experience would not be complete.

But it doesn't end there.  She's carved out a niche for herself as an expert freelance writer in so many different genres (including the law, that Esquire after her name isn't for nothing) that it's safe to say that Michelle is constantly stretching and exercising stimulating her mental and intellectual palate while immersing in a pristine, simple, nature-based life in the hills of Southern Italy.

I asked Michelle a few questions that I thought my readers (and hers) might be interested in having answered. So here you are, our beloved Michelle Fabio deconstructed.

I remember seeing Bleeding Espresso for the first time years ago and being in complete awe at how sophisticated it was.  You were one of the first expats in Italy to have a polished, professional blog that blew everyone else's away.  tell us a little about how BE came to be, where it started, where it is now and where you see it going.

Thanks so much for the kind words! *cyberblushing* Now, walk with me. I moved to Italy in August 2003 but didn't have the Internet at home until the summer/early fall of 2005. All of a sudden, two years into my life here, I had a direct, instant connection with other expats that just hadn't been possible during my limited Internet sessions before that, which were mainly focused on catching up on emails from family and friends back in the States and finding and sending work assignments.With the extra Internet time, though, I started reading blogs and then emailed some of the writers (one of the first of those was Sara at Ms Adventures in Italy). It didn't take me long to realize I wanted to join the club, so to speak. I also wanted to build a platform for myself to boost my freelance writing career, and a blog seemed like a great way to do that as well. Another plus was that I could share my thoughts and experiences with family and friends back home -- this was before Facebook really hit it big.Turns out the blog was an awesome way to develop a freelance writing platform (I've gotten several job offers just based on my blog), and it's also connected me to an amazing network of people going through similar experiences not only in Italy but all over the world -- and not only as expats, but just as human beings. It's turned out to be less of a vehicle to keep in touch with family and friends than I thought, and has gradually become more of a place where I can dig more deeply into how I ended up here, what I'm doing here, why I'm still here, etc.

Through the years of having the blog, I've connected with so many people who have either made a similar life change or would like to, and I hope that by working through my process in writing, I can provide comfort, support, and guidance so readers know they're not the only ones struggling with certain issues and that nothing worth having is attained overnight or easily.

So yes, the blog has grown with me, and I expect it will continue to do that.

How does a nice young lawyer from the coal mining region of Pennsylvania end up with a life changing passion for Italy slash Goats slash writing slash living a self determined life begin?  In two hundred words or less. Ok, two fifty.   HA.

You know, it's funny but if I go back to the things I really enjoyed as a child, writing and animals would be right at the top of the list. In a strange way, I kind of feel like I'm coming full circle, having taken a rather large detour to law school. But I've always been a person of wide interests, curious by nature, so dipping my hands in so many pots along the way (and continuing to do so) makes perfect sense to me even if it maybe looks a bit odd from the outside looking in.Some things have just grabbed me more than others, and I continue with those. Writing was certainly the first from when I wrote short stories as a kid, then genealogy research was a big deal for me for quite a while -- which is how I ended up here in southern Italy. I had found all the hard, cold documents I was going to find on my Italian side, and I was ready to see things in person.As for living a self-determined life, I've always been introspective and curious about how the mind works, why we do the things we do, how our experiences affect our decisions, nature versus nurture, all that good stuff, and there's no better subject than oneself -- we have constant access!

So this process has been as much of an intellectual journey for me as anything else as I continue to place myself in the middle of some pretty strange experiments. Not that I'm calling my goats strange, mind you. How did I wind up adoring goats? A little kid named Pasqualina tugged at my heart strings from the moment I finally got her to take a bottle; I'm a goat girl for life now. Can't help it.

You literally dreamed up Personal Statement Artist one night after which you and I engaged in a lengthy chat session.  You've since turned into into a reality.  How is it going with your first clients and have you had any other interesting dreams that lead to an immediate domain name search?

I'm taking a break from domain registration and site-building for a while -- she says tempting the fates to throw another idea her way. But PSA is going pretty well, definitely better than I anticipated for getting into the game just as law school application season was starting. I've really enjoyed working with my clients, and I look forward to expanding the site by next year's cycle with an e-book dedicated to writing law school personal statements; at that point, I envision the consulting services will be the compliment to the book as opposed to the other way around.

You've recently written a bang-on post about living deliberately when your loved ones don't get it that stresses how critical unconditional love and non-judgement is in all of our lives. How do you think expat life has changed you or how you view things?

For me, choosing to be an expat was the impetus for my understanding that some people aren't going to support you (me) if they don't agree with your decisions. It's my own fault, really, as up until that decision, I had always done the "right" thing -- did well in every level of school along the way like a smart girl should, made Law Review in law school, passed two bar exams the first time, snagged a prestigious clerkship with an appellate judge, blahblahblah. But then I jumped off the track before I got to the house in the suburbs/SUV in the driveway part, and some people didn't get that -- and still don't get it. Or care to get it. Thus that post.

My experience of losing support because of other people's closed minds has, in turn, made me much less judgmental about how people choose to live their lives. I also feel like I've become more empathetic; I think once you're faced with situations you could never have imagined facing in a million years, you begin to realize that you never *really* know what someone else is going through, what's going on in their heads and hearts, what influences their decisions, etc. I've always been a fairly empathetic person and a good listener, but because of this experience, I think my ability to connect with other people emotionally and spiritually has gone even deeper and onto another level. And I think my personal relationships, the ones I've been able to build on, have benefited greatly from it. Added bonus is that I'm just a calmer person all around since I'm not worried about what everyone else is doing and how I can "fix" them.

 

spread joy

We exist on this planet for such a short time but are given so many opportunities, despite pain, sickness and suffering, to do good and help with the happiness of others. This should give us hope. Even if we are mired with personal setback, we have the capability, and maybe even the responsibility, to make others happy. It's part of being human.

I see this when I look at photos of people who I know to be beset with suffering, but they still smile, as if in smiling we hold personal stock in the knowledge that everything will be OK.

I see this when I look at my beautiful mother, who at eighty-five has a good word for everyone and how everyone, in return, has a good word for her.

I see this in the intentions of kind-hearted people whose ability to forgive and move on seems to border on the saintly.

And I see this in myself and my (relatively) new found desire to recognize goodness for what it is - the ability to infuse joy into the lives of others, or at least to try.

There is enough pain, suffering, sickness, dissatisfaction and hurt in this world to last us through eternity. In short, our desire to break through and help the suffering of others, with whatever means we have available to us, needs to be greater.

On this very special holiday that Americans call Thanksgiving, make it your personal quest to bring happiness, or joy, or a smile to someone you know who is in need.

Spread optimism. Eschew sarcasm. Rebuke cynicism. Embrace naive joy. Tell someone you love them when it's hard to say, not easy. Pray for someone you know doesn't like you - for their health and well being -  in a way that has nothing to do with their feelings for you.

And be thankful that you are in a position to do so - that your health, your spirit, your heart are big and well enough to be open for people who need so to be blanketed by someone with a big heart, a big spirit, and vibrant health.

And don't do it because you think you are selfless and important. There's nothing that makes us feel better than making others happy, so consider it a wonderful, selfish act. And do it because you know that everyone out there is just as important as you are. Because without each other, it would be a very lonely planet.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends, buona giornata di ringraziamento, with all of my love from my peaceful hill in the Italian wine country.

my truth

We all have different sides to our lives. We carry them around inside of us, trying to reconcile them to each other, a task that challenges us. But we keep trying to bring who we are together with who we were, and with who we want to be.

Sometimes it's hard to find the continuum. It was for me. Living in so many places and doing so many interesting things often left me feeling fragmented about where I came from. I'd wake in the night fretful without knowing the reason.  But in retrospect it was because I was too separated from where I came from, and too unsure of where this project that we took on would lead us.

I felt like I had to have answers when I didn't, that I needed to understand everything about myself when I couldn't.

But then it dawned on me.

We live our lives like strands of yarn,  each chapter a different color, a different texture.  Sometimes when we are living one chapter, we forget how it was to live the others.  This protects us, in a way, from  being too overwhelmed.  We'd like to believe that life is one path - that one event leads to another and that somehow they are all connected.  But that's doesn't seem to be the case.  Some experiences are so diametrically opposed to others that we can't make sense of any connectivity.  If we're too much in the thick of change, of uncertainty, we grasp at trying to find the lesson, the meaning, the Truth.

But the Truth is tucked inside of small events, it hides behind trees and in the whisper of the wind.

 

The Truth is what we know to be right for ourselves.  It's absent of agenda and guile.  It's the thing that makes us feel connected. For me it is the view from my home, overlooking the mountains and the vineyards in the most perfect composition. And it's on the banks of this river, this beautiful river, where I walked in my childhood and stood and wondered what would be. The water flows down today, as it did then, and when I look at it I feel the most complete sense of myself.

And in that complete sense of myself is also the most complete sense of Spirit that I can imagine.

 

 

When I look downstream, and I think of where my life is centered now, in Italy, I realize that somehow the yarns, the chapters of my life, have woven into a tapestry, a colorful, uneven, poignant story that is only mine. And it seems to me to be wholly fitting that it began on this river and, after a complicated labyrinth of a path, has led me to beautiful endless rows of grapes on hills that run into each other, positively infinite.

 

When we look at where we come from and where we are, all of the events and experience that happened in between - however painful, however difficult - act as small conduits to move us on.  And the circumstance in which we find ourselves today, at this moment, is no more than one of these yarns, pulling us forward, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully, reminding us that nothing ever stays the same and we never arrive.

The journey is your Truth.

Embrace it for whatever it can offer you, even if it seems terrifying and lonely. Embrace it for where it will bring you, and for all the things that led you here.

This is not the end of the road, you'll move forward from here.  It's in the grand design of things.