Juliet’s Courtyard

Today was a travel day. Our tour group boarded the bus early and headed north, leaving Tuscany behind. While I enjoyed that beautiful region, I was excited about our next stops on the tour…Verona and Venice. 

Juliet's Courtyard

There was a special destination we had in mind, as we exited the tour bus in Verona…Juliet’s Courtyard. Verona is the setting for Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers, forbidden to be together because their families are enemies, choose to die and be together eternally after death, rather than live apart from each other. 
We all know the classic lines, spoken by Juliet as she stands on her balcony:

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

This morning, we got to stand in Juliet’s Courtyard and gaze up at her balcony. 

Juliet's Courtyard
The story of Romeo and Juliet is fictional. The courtyard and balcony are tributes to the love story told, with Verona as the backdrop. However, there is no doubt that love is real, and oft times difficult or unrequited or painful. One only has to pass through the gate and stand in the courtyard to feel it. 

It has become a tradition for lovers or would be lovers to write notes on the walls of the courtyard and passageway. These surfaces are covered with notes in all languages. Tales are told, on scraps of paper or in a few sentences, about true love, or lost love, or the hope that love will arrive. 

Juliet's Courtyard
Juliet's Courtyard

Elissa, Dayan and I were feeling the love for each other as we watched the crowd of people in the small courtyard. Look at the love notes stuck on the wall behind us. People make a kind of pilgrimage to this sacred spot, leaving behind their tiny notes, testaments that love endures, even if a relationship fails. 

There is a movie that I love, Letters to Juliet, whose story revolves around this tradition of leaving notes on the walls. I recognized the gates to the courtyard because of that film. I highly recommend the movie. Its story is far reaching and powerful. 

There is another tradition that takes place in the courtyard. Visitors rub the right breast on the Juliet statue, in the hopes that love will find them. Dayan, Elissa and I passed on this ritual. But throngs of people surrounded the statue, reaching out to touch her, reaching out symbolically for love. 

Juliet's Courtyard
I am glad we stopped by Juliet’s Courtyard while in Verona. We didn’t stay long, however the impact was great and we had several discussions throughout the day about the experience and about that greatest of virtues, love. 

Late this afternoon, we arrived in Venice, a city I have wanted to see since I was a wee girl. We are already having adventures. And speaking of love, we have fallen for this amazing city. 

More about Venice….tomorrow!

Juliet's Courtyard

Meeting Michelangelo’s David

Today we explored the city of Florence, after checking into a hotel here last night. Our group met Andrea (which is a common man’s name in Italy) for a day of sightseeing and visiting museums. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David

We saw some amazing sights as we journeyed into the heart of Florence. The Cathedral of Florence was magnificent. The duomo (Italian for “house”) is huge, and took more than 140 years to complete. The ancient church, completed in 1536, still holds daily services. 

This afternoon we walked through the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the most impressive collections of Italian Renaissance art in the world. Our knowledgeable guide, Andrea, who has a deep passion for art, led us room by room, calling our attention to works of art by Michelangelo, Di Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael and Rembrandt. Andrea shared about the symbolism and history within those paintings, bringing deeper meaning to the works. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David      Cathedral of Florence

Meeting Michelangelo's David    Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo 1507

Andrea took us to another museum early in the day, the Galleria dell’Academia, where Michelangelo’s marble statue David is on display. I have been familiar with this 17 foot statue, representing the biblical figure, David, since childhood. To walk into that domed room, specially built around the statue, was surreal. This experience became the pinnacle of a day full of wonderful adventures. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David
However, before we got to meet David, Andrea introduced us to four unfinished sculptures, works that will forever remain incomplete after Michelangelo’s death at age 89. These pieces are called “slaves” because the figures are seen as  trying to free themselves from the marble. 

Michelangelo was unique among sculptors in that he purchased solid blocks of marble and using hand tools, created the sculptures by working from the front of the block to the back. He didn’t use models. He worked from his imagination and from sketches he drew. Michelangelo believed God gave him the gift of releasing the figure from the marble. 

He was incredibly gifted, that is evident. After studying his unfinished sculptures, we were taken into the next room to meet his David. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David

What an amazing sight. What an extraordinary work of art. Andrea is extremely passionate about this statue. As we quietly gazed upward, he told us that Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he began this sculpture, which was commissioned as a statue to be placed on the Florence Cathedral’s eastern roofline. 

When the statue was unveiled in 1504, the people saw how gifted and promising the young sculptor was. The powerful work of art was placed at the entrance to the Cathedral instead, where it remained until 1873. At that time, it was moved to its current location, to protect it from corrosion by the weather and from vandalism. A replica took its place. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David

We slowly walked around the statue. I have rarely seen a photo of David’s face. I was struck by the intense look in his eyes, the slight furrow on his brow. I could see the muscles of his chest and abdomen, see the ribs beneath. This wasn’t just a shepherd boy Michelangelo sculpted. This was a young warrior, naked to show his vulnerability and his complete trust in God…muscled to show his strength…confident that his simple weapon could take down a giant enemy, because he was not fighting alone. 

I stood with tears in my eyes, listening as Andrea spoke with strong emotion about this young man who became one of the most well known artists, ever, and his sculpture, David. It was a very moving experience, and one I will not forget. 

When asked how he created David, Michelangelo is reported to have said that he simply chipped away the stone that was not David. He revealed David, in all of his glory. I am so grateful that he did. And I can carry that lesson away from Florence, as we head to Venice tomorrow. I can let all that is not Cindy be chipped away, to reveal the masterpiece that already exists there. 

Like David, I am being freed. 

Meeting Michelangelo's David

A Day in Tuscany

Day 5 of our Italy trip was spent in Tuscany. I have loved every moment of my time in Italy. The people are gracious and funny and kind. The cities are bustling. And the landscapes are stunning. However, I have always felt drawn to the region known as Tuscany, and today I had the deep pleasure of being in the heart of Italy. 

A Day in Tuscany
Here are highlights from this magical day:

Our mornings begin early! As usual, we were on the bus and headed to our first destination at 7:45. We have a rotating seat schedule. Today Elissa, Dayan and I were the front of the bus “kids”. Elissa had the section on the right, behind our competent tour director Fabiola, to herself. Dayan and I sat behind our awesome bus driver, Luciano. 

It is the location everyone wants and all will have the chance to sit in those seats. From that vantage point, the views are amazing and Fabi chats and provides additional info. Today we happened to drive along many winding, hilly, one lane roads. I squeaked, gulped or looked away more than once. And vehicle drivers, especially those on scooters and motorcycles, squeeze through impossibly narrow gaps driving at high speeds. It was exhilarating and terrifying to ride up front, although Luciano handled the big bus with ease and calmness. 

My favorite part about sitting up front was listening to Luciano and Fabi talk to each other in Italian. Fabi has been teaching us words and phrases everyday in this lilting language. I listened for words I recognized as they chatted. I especially loved when they would laugh together.  

A Day in Tuscany
A Day in TuscanyMy clever way of taking a pic of our driver, in the blue shirt, and our tour director, using the rear view mirror. It seemed a better option than looming over them from above! I promise to post a better picture soon. 

Our first stop this morning was Siena, where we walked through narrow streets to the Piazza del Campo. Twice a year the square is the arena for the Palio, a medieval style horse race. From there we visited the spectacular Cathedral of Siena. These humongous ornate buildings literally make me gasp with surprise and often bring tears to my eyes. The architecture is incredible. And as a special treat, Dayan and Elissa (and several other members of our group) bought delicious candies and cookies from a little shop near our gathering spot. I was told the treats were the best thing ever! 

A Day in Tuscany
A Day in Tuscany
A Day in Tuscany
Next on our schedule was the medieval town of San Gimignano. This village of 7,000 citizens is ancient, and looks it, with its stone walls, arches and towers. The narrow streets are cobblestone and the buildings rise up from the lanes, shops and restaurants on the ground floor, living quarters above. These towns fascinate me. I could wander around in them for days. Elissa and Dayan climbed almost 300 steps to reach the top of a tower. I hung out with my new friend Judy, from New Zealand. I loved this village! 

A Day in Tuscany
A Day in Tuscany
A Day in Tuscany
Our last stop was at the Castello di Verrazzano, deep in wine and olive country. The drive, along those twisting roads, offered incredible views of vineyards, olive groves and villages perched on hilltops. The Tuscany I have always pictured in my head was outside the bus windows today. 

The highlight of our day was the stop at the castle, where we learned about wine making and viewed 16th century wine cellars with the charming Neri, and then enjoyed a wine tasting followed by a wonderful four course meal. Once again, the chef prepared special dishes for me, without gluten, meat, sugar or dairy products. It touches my heart that they so willingly see to my dietary needs, and do so earnestly and graciously. When I say “grazi”, they beam with pleasure. 

A Day in Tuscany

A Day in Tuscany
A Day in Tuscany
Today was a special day for me. Like my grandson, I have long held a dream that included visiting Tuscany. About 10 years ago, before Dayan decided to visit Italy, I wrote out that I intended to visit Tuscany, Scotland and England, for inspiration in creating a community called Rivendell.  

And look at this. 2017 is my year of Inspiration. I am in Italy now. This fall, I am traveling to Ireland, Scotland and England. I am visiting the  countries I wrote an intention about, all in the same year, and throwing in Ireland as well. I am creating memories with my daughter and grandson in a place that has pierced my heart with its beauty. I am so inspired. And so grateful. 

When I opened Facebook briefly this morning, after boarding the bus, this quote was the first thing I saw:

A Day in Tuscany
Fabiola had just told us, in English and Italian, “A good day begins with a good morning.” My morning started out great…and the good day followed. It was more than good…it was perfect! 

Five Italian Villages

When Dayan and I met with our travel agent in January, and discussed our Italy 2017 trip, Ken asked my grandson what cities and areas he wanted to see, as that would determine which tour we joined. Dayan shared a list of locations that were high priorities to him, “must sees” on this upcoming adventure. 

Near the top of his list was the coastal region in northwestern Italy called Cinque Terre. Dayan had been telling about these villages for years. The architecture stood out to him, along with the villages’ unique locations along mountains with nearly vertical drops into the Mediterranean Sea. 

Among all the tours available, only one included a stop in Cinque Terre. Called Italian Treasures, this 11 day tour is the one Dayan selected. 

Five Italian Villages
On Day 4, we spent a good portion of our day exploring Monterosso, the largest of the five villages in the region known as Cinque Terre (pronounced chink-a-terr-a, which literally means five villages). Dayan was excited that this long held dream was becoming reality. 

Here are highlights of our day:

Five Italian Villages
The villages are only accessible by boat or a train that chugs through the mountain. We traveled by bus to La Spezia where we boarded a boat with our local tour guide, Andrea. Our morning cruise took us down the coast, as Andrea told us about Cinque Terre’s history and shared interesting facts in a fun and playful way. 

Five Italian Villages

Andrea had an easy to listen to humorous delivery during our tour along the coast. 

Five Italian Villages

Leaving La Spezia. 

Five Italian Villages

Approaching Port Venere, which is not one of the five villages. Entering the sea, we turned to head up the coast. 

Five Italian Villages

Port Venere’s bay. The five villages, in order as they appear moving up the coast: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Cornigla, Vernazza and Monterosso, where we spent the day. The villages cling to rocky outcroppings or march up the mountain in miniature inlets. This area has become a National Park. The villagers grow and harvest grapes in terraced vineyards and supplement with other crops. Because the villages attract tourists from around the world, they also have shops and ristorantes for the visitors, bringing revenue into the area. 

Five Italian Villages

We explored the largest of the five villages today, Monterosso. This is the church, faced in stripes of local black and white marble. The colors for the houses and buildings are chosen to correspond with the colors of native flowers. 

Five Italian Villages

We had lunch at a little ristorante on Via Rome. I enjoyed gluten free pasta with pesto. Yum!

Five Italian Villages

After lunch we waded into the Mediterranean Sea, where I captured the moment. I’m changing my profile photo and cover photo daily on Facebook, using highlight pics from the day. This momentous snapshot became today’s profile pic. 

Five Italian Villages

I love this series of pics, taken as Dayan waded in the Mediterranean. 

Five Italian Villages

Looking across at Old Monterosso. The silver train crossing the bridge is similar to the one we took back to La Spezia. 

Five Italian Villages

The incredibly beautiful Monterosso Bay. 

Five Italian Villages

The new part of Monterosso with its stunning bay. The train station is located here. 

Five Italian Villages

These two are sharing such a grand adventure. I am grateful to be journeying with them. 

Five Italian Villages

We had such an amazing time exploring Monterosso. From boat ride to walking through the village to catching a train out, it was fun and educational and peaceful. The turquoise sea casts powerfully calming energy over this whole area. I was thoroughly enchanted. 

I could stay on Monterosso for a month, and I would enjoy every moment. Not this time though. Tomorrow we are off to Siena and San Gimignano. After exploring those villages, we will reach Florence by nightfall. So much more awaits us. 

Five Italian Villages We made a stop on our way back to the hotel in Lucca. Elissa captured Dayan in a classic pose with the Leaning Tower of Pisa! 

Toscana Bella

Day 3 of the Italy trip found us heading north from Rome into the beautiful region known as Tuscany. Our first stop was the medieval town of Lucca with its defensive wall originally built to keep out the neighboring feuding village of Pisa. 

Toscana Bella
Although entirely different from Rome, we loved this ancient city with its warren of narrow streets. The original village was founded by the Romans in 180 BC. The 4 kilometer wall that encircles the city center was built during the Renaissance era and remains intact. No longer used for protection, the top of the wall is now covered in grass and planted with trees. It is a popular place to walk and ride bicycles. 

Our group dispersed as soon as we passed through the massive gates, everyone free to wander about, shop, and find lunch. Elissa, Dayan and I veered off to the left, in search of a cafĂ©. Dayan wanted to try an Italian pizza. We found a delightful ristorante that offered great choices for all three of us. 

Dayan’s assesment of Italian was that it was “interesting”. He declared it fresh tasting. And found it more difficult to eat than US pizzas. The crust was not crispy and he ended up folding the slices up to make less of a mess. 

Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
We were captivated by Lucca. Elissa and Dayan climbed one of the many towers within the city, the tallest one actually, with trees growing like wild hair on the flat roof. I remained below to take a pic. They had a great view of the town with its piazzas and cobblestone streets lined with three and four story buildings. Shops occupy much of the ground level spaces with living quarters above. 

In spite of the antiquity of Lucca, the little shops offer a wide assortment of goods for sale, including name brand clothing, electronic gaming systems and everything in between. We enjoyed our time in this town that offers a peek into the distant past, while providing everything its citizens need to continue living in a thriving community. 

Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
The highlight of our evening was visiting a Tuscan farm, with vineyards and groves of olive trees. Fattoria Il Poggio produces a dozen red and white wines and extra virgin olive oil. We toured a vineyard, inspected 50 year old olive trees that are considered young, and learned how olives are cold pressed to create the oil. 

We were then led to beautifully prepared tables set up outdoors in long rows beneath a protective roof, and served a five course dinner, made from fresh local ingredients, and accompanied by wine, olives and olive oil from the farm. We sat with our “family”, the 43 members of our tour group. 

Toscana Bella

Toscana Bella 

The night became magical. 

As the food was brought out, course by course, and the wine was consumed freely, shyness with each other disappeared and we chatted and laughed together, like family members reunited after scattering around the globe. Dayan tried his first glass of wine, a dry white, and wasn’t impressed. He decided wine takes getting used to. He sipped on a small amount. This young man doesn’t need alcohol to lose his inhibitions about talking to people. He is naturally good at that, and conversed easily with our table mates. 

However, some in the large group who have been extremely quiet or constrained opened up tonight and the meal was a merry event. And the food just kept coming. Our gracious tour director contacted the farm ahead of time and the chefs prepared the most extravagant five course plant based meal for me, offering gluten free bread and spaghetti and wonderfully flavorful veggies.While the others ended their meals with rich desserts and a sweet red wine, I had a delicious bowl of freshly chopped fruit. I was extremely grateful to Fattoria Il Poggio for the extra effort it took to make sure I dined healthily and well. 

Day 3 ended with a bus full of talkative people headed back to our hotel, discovering how we are different from one another, and what we all have in common. Our desire to tour this gorgeous country is what has brought us together, in time and space, and that shared interest is forging connections that feel familial. 

Tomorrow this newly forming family heads to Cinque Terre, five villages on the western coast most easily accessed by boat. It promises to be another glorious day in beautiful Tuscany…Toscana Bella. 

Toscana Bella

Toscana Bella

Conquer Your Own Space

Today, day 2 of our Italy trip, was full and so much fun. Although we arrived late last night, after travel delays and diversions, the only thing we missed on day 1 was a welcome dinner. We quickly got up to speed this morning, after a few hours of sleep, meeting our tour director and the rest of our tour group. At 7:30 am we were on the bus, headed to Vatican City.

Conquer Your Own Space
I didn’t know what to expect within the massive wall that surrounds the Vatican. A quiet, holy atmosphere? Religious artifacts? I was surprised by the museums, full of Roman statues, mosaics, tapestries and paintings. And by the number of people present. Crowds and throngs and masses of visitors milled about. Patricia, our Italian guest guide today, explained that 24,000 people a day visit the Vatican. Every day. 

She gave each of us a radio to wear around our necks and an earbud. That way we could hear what she was saying as she led us through the museums and cathedrals. Patricia also carried a multicolored flag so we could visually keep her in sight. She advised us to stay with her today at all times. Nevertheless, one member of our group had a tendency to wander off, and get lost, much to his wife’s chagrin. 

We toured the Sistine Chapel, with its paintings by Michelangelo. We were strictly prohibited from taking photos. The chapel is smaller than I imagined it to be. However, it was very moving to stand there quietly, and take it all in. I am familiar with those paintings on the chapel’s ceiling, but to stand beneath them carried such an emotional impact. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceWithin the Vatican museum. The architecture was stunning. 

Conquer Your Own Space            This is a tapestry! 

Conquer Your Own SpaceSt Peter’s Basilica, which is so huge and ornate that it boggles the mind. 

We had time for a quick lunch and then we were on to the colosseum. This was another familiar place that wowed me and carried an emotional charge. There was such strong, interesting energy there in that ancient place where entertainment was held…entertainment that often resulted in death. 

This monument is enormous as well. It gave me chills to see the labyrinth in the center of the colosseum, and the stone hallways that gladiators ran out of, uncertain of their fate. 

Conquer Your Own Space
Conquer Your Own Space
Conquer Your Own Space
After a two hour nap this afternoon, Elissa, Dayan and I headed back out into the city on foot, eager to explore during our free time. Dayan took the lead, guiding us to the Castel Sant’Angelo. Unfortunately it was closing as we arrived, however we enjoyed snapping a group selfie with the castel in the background. We strolled down cobblestone lanes, crossed over the Tiber River on ornate bridges, and found a delightful little street lined with charming ristorantes offering outdoor seating. 

I sampled roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, and grilled peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Elissa and Dayan both tried a short spaghetti dish with a cheese, egg and bacon sauce. All was delicious! After a leisurely dinner we walked down the street to a little cafe. Dayan tried a gelato. Elissa and I picked out sorbets made from fresh fruits without dairy products and I believe without added sugar. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceCastel Sant’Angelo as dusk fell

Conquer Your Own SpaceThese massive statues are everywhere. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceRome night life

It was a magnificent day, getting acquainted with Rome. I learned much about the history of this beautiful city and her architecture and culture. And walking this evening gave us an accurate view of her friendly people and bustling commerce. 

One phrase from the day really resonated with me and replayed in my mind. At the Vatican, Patricia was telling us how crowded it would be inside the museums and cathedrals. She didn’t want us to get lost. “Conquer your own space,” she advised us, in her lilting Italian accent. 

What powerful words. Conquer your own space. Surrounded by people and massive statues and ancient ruins and a multitude of cars, busses and scooters, attain and hold your space. Stand your ground. Occupy your space. Be you, confidently. Don’t be pushed and pulled by the energies around you. 

I love that. We honored those words as we walked around the city, learning to say “No” with a shake of the hand to sellers of cheap merchandise and beggars. I watched Dayan conquer his space as he immersed himself in Rome, from the moment he awoke and hung out the third story window to greet the day, to leading us  expertly through lanes and piazzas this evening. 

Conquer Your Own Space
I observed Elissa conquer her own space as she stepped out of her comfort zone, unafraid of trying new foods and experiences. She used the word “magical” several times to describe the day she was having. 

It was a magical day. It was a day to conquer our own spaces and be fully who we are. We all three love the quote, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” That is our mantra during our Italy trip. We are experiencing life, together. 

Tomorrow we are off to the medieval village of Lucca, in the Tuscany region. Our adventure continues. 

Conquer Your Own Space

Red Nose Day 2017

When Elissa, Dayan and I decided to pack our red noses, in honor of Red Nose Day this year, we thought we would be taking selfies of the experience in Rome. After storms yesterday diverted our plane and then greatly delayed our arrival in Charlotte, our travel itinerary changed. We missed our international flight from Charlotte to Rome. Thousands of other fliers missed their connecting flights as well. 

It was not a happy place last night at the Charlotte Airport as weary travelers struggled to find flights out. 

Through an incredible series of miraculous events, which I will write about when I am not so exhausted, we were placed on the “sold out” last flight out of Charlotte, bound for London. They even delayed the plane until we were onboard. Numb with fatigue but grateful, we arrived in London late this morning. This evening we will catch a connecting flight from London to Rome, arriving at last! 

Red Nose Day 2017
And London happens to be the perfect place to take a Red Nose Day selfie, and wear our wrist bands. We popped on the noses just long enough to take a pic. It is really the donation made to purchase the red noses that is important. 

Because Red Nose Day isn’t just about sporting a clown nose. Begun in England in 1988, Red Nose Day raises funds to help impoverished children around the world. The US joined the yearly event in 2015. Billions of dollars have been raised to date, to keep kids safe, healthy and educated. 

Celebrities and the entertainment industry have supported Red Nose Day for years, using their influence to bring in donations. We certainly aren’t famous, me, my daughter and grandson…however, we believe in this cause, and improving the lives of children globally. 

In a couple of hours we will board a plane for Italy. The tour officially starts in the morning. I am grateful we have made it this far, and we will arrive only a bit behind schedule. I am grateful to wear a red nose once a year too, to donate funds and raise awareness about a worthy cause. 

My next blog post will be from Rome…minus the bright red nose!

Red Nose Day 2017

Italy Bound

I’m posting quickly while I have an opportunity to do so! The journey began today, to Italy, a journey that actually began more than five years ago. Today, we are experiencing the reality of the vision we cast years ago.

Italy Bound
For the next 11 days, I will be posting from Italy. For these posts I’ve joined together the two phrases I’ve built my  inspirational year around, phrases borrowed from an Alan Rickman quote. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.”  Life is a little more robust right now and we are savoring it!

We have been diverted to Chattanooga, TN, due to severe weather in Charlotte, where our connecting flight awaits. With tornado warnings there, we are content to wait it out in Tennessee! 

I trust we will get to Rome exactly on time, according to Divine scheduling. We are excited. We are having fun. It is all part of the journey. 

We are Italy bound. 

Italy Bound

The TARDIS Doghouse

As the school year is completing, I visited each of my four younger grandchildren at their respective schools and brought lunch. Today it was Jonathan’s turn. His last day of school is Thursday. 

As soon as we were seated in the cafeteria, this bright and creative boy informed me that he had gotten a low grade on a project he had just finished. He seemed genuinely surprised by his teacher’s assessment. As he shared his story, I was deeply touched, more than a little dismayed…and so glad that I chose this day to have lunch with Jonathan. 

The TARDIS Doghouse
The assignment was to build a doghouse out of foam board and paint it. In my family we have many Whovians…fans of the long running British TV show, Doctor Who. Jonathan came up with the clever idea of creating a TARDIS doghouse, making his project taller, and thinner, and painting it the bright blue that is characteristic of the Doctor’s traveling time and space machine. 

Jonathan’s doghouse hints that it just might be bigger on the inside…a classic Doctor Who reference…and he even added the light atop the roof. 

The TARDIS Doghouse
Listening to Jonathan as he described his project, I was impressed. However, his teacher was not. He is not familiar with Doctor Who, or the TARDIS. Giving Jonathan low marks, he said this 5th grade boy didn’t do the project in the right way, that he didn’t measure and cut correctly. In short, he told Jonathan he messed up, made a mistake, failed. 

I understand that Jonathan might not have followed directions exactly. And his project didn’t look like everyone else’s. However, he chose to think outside the box and create something unique…and meaningful to him. He expressed creativity when perhaps following directions was the real assignment. 

I am so proud of my grandson! 

The TARDIS Doghouse
We spent the rest of lunchtime discussing creativity and expressing ideas and chatting about Doctor Who. I shared with Jonathan that sometimes people don’t understand those who think creatively but that doesn’t mean we have to conform. I’m not trying to turn my grandson into a rebel. However I wanted him to know it is okay to be different, create something different, and have a vision. I love his ideas. 

Fortunately, another teacher, a Whovian, recognized his project for what it was and expressed delight with it. Jonathan’s teacher raised the creativity score, but did not change the overall grade. My heart felt this boy’s pain at not being recognized for his work. When he invited me to pop up to his classroom after lunch to see the TARDIS doghouse, I was thrilled. 

The TARDIS Doghouse

In the empty classroom, a row of doghouses lined a shelf. They all looked exactly the same…square boxes with peaked roofs…except for one bright blue taller thinner doghouse that really stood out. What an extraordinary project, from an original thinker. 

After much praise and many hugs, I left Jonathan with his teacher. Had the teacher not been in the presence of children when Jonathan joined his classmates, I would have had a few words with him. Nothing raises my ire like unfairness toward children. My words would have been civil, however, I would have loved to have asked him some questions. 

Like…

Why is it more important to teach kids to always follow the rules rather than express creativity? Why not encourage, rather than condemn? And why not acknowledge that there are many ways to create a doghouse, other than making them all identical? Jonathan did measure. And his measurements were exactly right for the creation he had in mind. 

I hope Jonathan will keep being his shining, creative, unique self. He will always be graded on his performances, by someone. I want him to know there is so much more to life and living joyfully and freely, beyond receiving marks, or grades, or scores on a piece of paper. 

I think his TARDIS doghouse is beautiful and amazing, just like him. And I know a certain faithful Doctor Who companion who would absolutely love it…just as I do. 

The TARDIS Doghouse

The Real Deal

A month or so ago, I tried out several packing techniques, to see if I could get 11 days of clothes and toiletries into a carry on bag. I was successful, however I discovered that the carry on luggage I owned was 1/2″ too tall to meet the guidelines for international flights. 

I ordered a new, slightly smaller carry on. When it arrived, I was a bit concerned! The bag looked so small. When I compared the two pieces of luggage, side by side, I could only see a slight difference. Perhaps it would be okay. 

With less than 48 hours before Elissa, Dayan and I board a plane bound for Rome, I decided to do another practice pack tonight, using exactly what will go with me. 

The Real Deal

In the last month, people have questioned me about the feasibility of packing for 11 days in a carry on. I felt determined to try. And I am not the only one. My daughter and grandson are attempting to do the same. And this fall, four other family members will see if it is possible as five of us travel to Ireland, Scotland and England.

I like the idea of  traveling light, with a suitcase I can easily manage. The Italian tour we are joining in Rome only allows one piece of luggage per person. And there is less chance of losing my luggage with a carry on, plus I can by pass waiting for my suitcase to appear at the airport pick up area. 

But could I do it, for real? I was about to find out. 

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
My new plum colored carry on has a collapsible handle that tucks into a zippered pouch, making the suitcase an inch shorter than my previous bag. With soft sides, rather than rigid ones, and a more streamlined shape, this carry on looked smaller than the older bag. Doubt was trying to crowd in. 

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
All of those clothes needed to fit in a 21″x14″x9″ carry on. I also had travel sized toiletries, makeup and miscellaneous items such as electrical adapters and supplements. 

My first HUGE concern was discovering that all liquids and gels must fit within a quart sized (6″x9″) clear ziplock bag. I was thinking I’d have a gallon sized bag to use, but no. I thought I had  accomplished that near impossible feat until I remembered contact lens solution. I hope the Italian hotels have shower soap! I had to swap out my Bath & Body soap. 

The Real Deal
I created my own travel hack. All of my socks, that I’ll wear with my walking shoes, tucked into my sandals, making use of wasted space. Looks dorky but it works! 

The Real Deal
First layer, which includes capris, sock stuffed sandals, pjs, a lightweight wrap and eight tops. Rolling each piece of clothing tightly makes an amazing difference. 

The Real Deal
The next layer added four more tops, a lightweight sweater, two bras and 11 pairs of undies. I rolled those tightly too. I’ve found they tuck in easily among the rolled clothes. I also packed my nose and several wrist bands for Red Nose Day, which is Thursday, May 25. 

Hey, it is looking doable!

The Real Deal
Lastly, I added travel documents, the tiny baggie with liquids, a clear make up bag with non liquid toiletries and the four supplements I’ve chosen to take along. 

And you know what?

It all fit! I’ll carry a journal, a phone charger and earbuds in my purse, but there was room to spare in my suitcase. I zipped it closed without a problem and popped the whole thing on the scales. 14.8 pounds. 

I’m packed. In a carry on. For an 11 day trip. I am so glad I tried it this evening instead of waiting until tomorrow night. It is one less thing to think about.

I have a full day tomorrow. And then Wednesday, a dream literally takes flight. My year of inspiration blog will become a travel blog while I explore Italy with my daughter and grandson. And yet, I know inspiration will find me, invite me, tap me on the shoulder, no matter where I am. 

I am open and ready to receive. 

The Real Deal

You can order a carry on bag below:

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn a commission on purchases, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of this product, or any other items, through my Amazon link!