Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Real-Life Love Story

Since today is my 23rd wedding anniversary, I thought I share a little story about how I met my husband.

We were both naval officers stationed in Naples, Italy. I had recently graduated from the Naval Academy, so I was a newly minted ensign and this was my first duty station. It's difficult to describe what one experiences when first arriving in Bella Napoli. It's a beautiful city on the lovely Bay of Naples, situated across the bay from the active volcano, Vesuvius. One cannot help but notice the steam that constantly vents from the top of Vesuvius. When I first arrived in Naples, it was only four years after they experienced a devastating earthquake, and many of the buildings and homes were severely damaged by the quake. Some people took to living in make-shift tents in the city of Pozzuoli, where much of the damage occurred. The U.S. Navy didn't escape damage to its WWII-era buildings, which were conveniently unfortunately located in and around the edge of another active volcano: Sulfatara.

Sulfatara was just as the name implies: a sulfur volcano. If you've ever been to Yellowstone and seen (or smelled) the sulfur pots, you have an idea of what Sulfatara is like.

Evidently, the Italians decided to lease space along the outer rim of Sulfatara to the U.S. Navy sometime during WWII. The Navy quickly erected buildings and Quonset huts, (more about that shortly). I was staying in the American Hotel, which was perched on the outer rim of Sulfatara. I only remember being bothered by the rotten-egg stench the first morning I woke at the hotel. I suppose I got used to it like everyone else.

Anyway, back to my love story. I had recently arrived in Naples and was waiting for the shuttle bus after work one day, which would take me from the NATO base where I worked, to the US Navy base on the other side of Sulfatara, which was near my hotel. I was wearing my summer whites, with skirt and pumps, and probably looked very young and awkward and naive (at least that's how I felt). I was carrying a package which I had mailed to myself that contained some personal belongings I couldn't fit into my suitcase.

As I waited for the shuttle inside the NATO compound, I heard the sound of harmonica music. Not a recognizable tune, but more like someone just playing notes up and down the harmonica. I soon spotted the musician, who happened to be a young man, in bleach-stained jeans and flannel shirt with a knapsack slung over his shoulder. He proceeded to get on the shuttle and sit in the back of it, so I made sure to sit near the front, holding my package on my lap. He continued to play his random notes as we rode the short distance to the navy base.

I got off at the base and started walking up the steep dirt path to my hotel. (Yes, it was steep and it was a dirt path...and I was wearing white pumps). I heard the sound of running feet getting closer behind me and a voice called, "Miss! Excuse me Miss! Is your name Debbie Miller from the Naval Academy class of '85?" I froze in my spot and turned to see who could possibly know me. My fears intensified when I realized it was the harmonica man!

I cleared my throat and said nervously, "Yes?" (I thought to myself, he must've read my name on my package.)

He introduced himself as Joe and put me at ease when he said he'd been told of my arrival by a mutual friend whom I trusted. We chatted a bit and I thought maybe he wasn't so strange after all, but I didn't see him again for another month or so.

The next time I saw Joe was around Christmastime. He was working long shifts and barely had any time off. We worked on different bases, so I didn't see him much.

It wasn't until Valentine's Day, when our mutual friend made a rather strong-armed suggestion to Joe that he ask me out, that we had our first date. I won't bore you with the details of that first date, but let me just tell you that we sat at the table of that Italian restaurant (in Italy, of course!) until they pretty much had to throw us out because the staff wanted to go home. They were very nice about it, fortunately, and I think they felt bad about it because you could tell by the look in the head waiter's eyes that he was a romantic and could spot a blossoming romance a mile away.

The clincher for me occurred many months later when we were invited to the wedding of some American friends. The wedding and reception took place in a real palace in Naples, that happened to be owned by a real prince who needed money so he rented out his palace. Talk about romantic! And of course, any couple in love who goes to a wedding together is just asking for it.

At the reception, there was a wonderful jazz combo that was made up of some very talented musicians whose day jobs were being in the Sixth Fleet Band and who regularly played for heads of state throughout the Mediterranean. When they weren't playing for big shots, they would play private gigs. When the lovely bride and groom were leaving to go on their honeymoon and everyone went outside to throw rice, my beloved and I stayed inside the palace and he requested the band play a favorite song of his. They complied and we had the entire dance floor all to ourselves, with an incredible singer and jazz band to boot. It truly was like something out of a romantic movie. I had never heard the song before, but I knew as soon as I heard it that it was "our song."

Here it is, sung by the Manhattan Transfer. Their outfits are dated, but their version is still the best one out there (except, of course, the one we heard that night).

We were married in a Quonset hut on March 27, 1987. The Navy chapel was in a WWII-era Quonset hut that was supposed to be a temporary building, but it was still there in 1987. I heard they've since torn it down. It wasn't as romantic as a palace, but it makes for a good story, nonetheless. The day before our "church" wedding, we had to get married in a civil ceremony by the Italian mayor of Bagnoli because that's what the Italian law required. The mayor's office was situated across the street from an old steel mill and above an auto mechanics shop. We had to climb over piles of garbage on the street to get inside the building. Yep, that's the Naples I know and love.

At least our reception was in a nice place. We had it at the Allied Officer's club on the NATO base. We were fortunate to have another Sixth Fleet combo play at our reception. The guy who sang for us that starry night in the palace was unable to come. He was singing for the king of Saudi Arabia that night.

After our honeymoon in Ireland, we flew back to Italy via London and made a visit to Berkeley Square. No nightingales were heard, but we made sure the square was still there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photos: Spring Blizzard in Colorado

We got about 20 or so inches of new, wet spring snow on Tuesday night. These pictures were taken on Wednesday afternoon. The temperatures soared up to 50 degrees F, but it felt warmer since the Colorado sun at a mile high in elevation on a cloudless day with no wind feels nice and hot! 
 Peeking through a snow cave

Outside in shirt sleeves!

Spring is just around the corner

Spring snow is the best kind for making snowmen.

Nature's beauty

He's supposed to be shoveling the driveway.

Colorado sun melts snow quickly

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tasha Tudor's Garden and the Joy of Beauty

Tasha Tudor's Garden Tasha Tudor's Garden by Tovah Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. I sometimes fantasize about living in a hand-hewn cozy cottage with a wood-fired cooking stove apart from the noise and congestion of city life. I would love to bake my own bread, raise my own laying hens, milk my own nanny goats and make yogurt and cheese. I would love to rely solely on my hardy pioneer stock and bypass technology (save for the ease with which I could obtain the basic necessities of life…and probably indoor plumbing…and central heating). Hey, it’s my fantasy world.

Yet, here I am, blogging mommy; a Twittering, Facebooking, Linkedin technology embracing 21st century inhabitant.

There are some modern pleasures to which I haven’t succumbed. We don’t have cable or satellite television or a flat-screened TV. I don’t have an iPhone, iPod, Blackberry or a space-aged looking device permanently stuck to my ear.

I do bake my own bread from time to time with grain that I grind myself (in a modern, convenient and easy-to-use electric grinder). I make my own yogurt occasionally and I have sour dough starter on my kitchen counter. I grow an excessively huge vegetable garden each summer, with varying degrees of success and I like to make jams, jellies, pickles and preserves with the abundance. I sew, knit, quilt, cut my kids' hair and in general try to make the world a more beautiful place. (I said try.)

I sometimes feel torn between the two worlds—my fantasy world, which I would love to inhabit, and the real world that I actually do inhabit.

My recent musings were brought on because I just finished reading
Tasha Tudor's Garden, by Tovah Martin, which is profusely illustrated with stunning photographs of Tudor’s Vermont hilltop home and her 250-acre botanical heaven-on-earth. (An aside for those of you who are ignorant of Tasha Tudor, as was my husband. His response when I told him I was reading a book about Tasha Tudor was, “Who’s Tasha Tudor?” This from the man with whom you never, ever want to play Trivial Pursuit. He’s got places, dates and geographic locations permanently etched in his brain. Need to know the capital of Burkina Faso? The capital is Ouagadougou. It used to be called Upper Volta, he tells me. Anyway, Tasha Tudor was a prolific illustrator whose illustrations transport you to another time and place. She was born in 1915 and died just recently, in June 2008. Although she lived in the 20th century, her lifestyle, dress, home and garden were deeply rooted in the 19th century, if not earlier).

This is a visually stunning book that transports the reader to another time and place. I would liked to have read more about Tasha Tudor, but this book really isn’t about her, it’s about her garden, and ultimately about beauty. The pictures transported me to a time and place that is so different from my own, which perhaps is why I find it so appealing. My Colorado garden could never compare to her Vermont hilltop garden. She has moisture and rich soil whereas I have dry clay and rock. She evidently relies on nature to water her garden most of the time, whereas I pay double for Arvada water since I live outside city limits. Because of this, if you come see my garden in late July or August, you’ll usually find my grass a dull green, if not brown-tinged because I’ve diverted all the precious water to the vegetables.

I was disappointed the book didn’t have pictures of her heated greenhouse. It made mention of its lovely camellias which brighten her home in the winter, but no pictures. I can only suspect the greenhouse doesn’t follow the proscriptions of imitating 19th century. It’s probably the technological reason for the stunning beauty of her flowers.

Really, the book is about beauty and not about living a certain lifestyle. Her eccentric dress and lack of 21st century technology may be about her own quirkiness, but they are also beautiful in themselves. Because she spent so much time nurturing her garden by hand, collecting and arranging lovely vases of flowers and painting the exquisite scenes before her, we, the readers, get to enjoy the many images of beauty.

Technology (like this blog I’m writing right now) has done much to spread ideas and information. But we can’t live authentic lives if we don’t allow ourselves to be nurtured by beauty. It easy to be distracted by the technology itself: flashy images, surround sound, instant access. But without beauty in our lives, we are only half-human. If I learned one thing from this charming book, it is that I need to be more mindful of the beauty around me; to nurture and protect it like Tasha nurtured and protected her lilies, roses, peonies, poppies and even the lowly pansies. She cared deeply about each of her botanicals, often calling them by name and always ready to give a history of their planting and heritage. When a frost was predicted, she’d hasten outside to cover the vines of her Concord grapes with laundry, or she’d lay a deep layer of mulch around a tender plant like a mother covers her sleeping child with a blanket at night. Tasha Tudor understood beauty and our human need for it.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, March 22, 2010

That Sordid Stupak Affair

picture from Facebook "Stand with Stupak" fanpage by Peter John Resweber

Pro-lifers across the country are disheartened today after last night's eleventh hour cave-in by Michigan Democratic Representative Bart Stupak. Many of us had looked to him as a courageous pro-life Democrat who would stand up to the liberal pro-abortion politics of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and the vast majority of the Democratic party. At 3 pm local time in Washington DC yesterday, it looked like Bart Stupak was going to be the hero of the moment, but by 4 pm, pro-life lobbyists saw all their hard work melt away as one by one, Stupak and his coalition succumbed to the charms of Pelosi and the Prez. (Not to mention political favors and kickbacks, of which I'm sure we'll be hearing more about in the coming weeks).

I couldn't stand to watch the coverage, but at the same time I couldn't keep from sneaking a peek at Twitter, to see what others were saying about the vote. My heart sank when I read that the health care bill had passed by a landslide tiny margin. Not a single Republican voted for this sweeping bill that gives the government control over one-sixth of the US economy. And thirty-four Democrats voted against it. Not a single Republican!

This bill, as The Wall Street Journal calls it, is the Democrat's baby. They made it. They own it. They'll pay for it come November.

If you want to read a great synopsis of the political shenanigans that took place to get this bill rammed through Congress, read Inside the Pelosi Sausage Factory by Kimberley A. Strassel in today's Wall Street Journal.

Here's an excerpt:

Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and yesterday the same machinations pushed it across the finish line.

So much for transparancy, bipartisanship and all the other empty promises of Obama. It will be interesting to see if he holds his end of the bargain with his Executive Order. Not that it matters, according to Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion Colorado representative Diana DeGette.

I guess I should stop pretending there's such a thing as a pro-life Democrat. That's now gone the way of childhood fantasies just like the tooth fairy. I don't believe the Democrats have room in their inclusive, tolerant party for those who believe the unborn are entitled to human rights.

At least I can take solace in the fact that we pro-lifers are having more babies, we're homeschooling our kids and teaching them about the history of the United States and our Constitution; something I don't believe kids in the Democratic-controlled public education monopoly are getting.

They may be Goliath, but we're David. And we all know who won that battle.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Colorado Dems destroy 5,000 jobs with the stroke of a pen

And I'm one of them.

Those supposed friends of the common folk, the Democrats, have blundered big time and angered at least 5,000 of us common folk in Colorado by their passage of House Bill 1193, which requires online retailers like to collect information on purchasers and provide that information to Colorado so that the government can then collect sales tax on those purchases.

Amazon made a business decision to cut ties with all Colorado Associates (of which I was one) rather than comply with the burdensome mess which Colorado Dems have imposed.

Colorado Senate Majority Leader John Morse has gone so far as to pledge to get rid of his beloved Kindle, once he saves enough money. He can send it to me to make up for the business he cost me.

If only I were savvy enough to figure out how to incorporate in Wyoming...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My son's last spring tour with the Beatitudes

is going on now in the DC/Northern Virginia area. He's a senior now and this will be his last tour with his men's acapella group. I'd love to hear from anyone who was able to go to one of their shows this week!

When all the world seems to be falling apart

...remember He loves you.

Better sound on this one but no video.