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No Sugar Coated Answers: If you want to know the questions please read on (beyond the political campaigns and the front page news)

Journal Entry, Fano, Italy, June 14, 2016

I am lounging out at the pool. The girls are dipping their feet. It is chilly. There are clouds in the sky above. Yesterday was a fun, but hectic day.  My daughters (and a girlfriend) and I cooked dinner for my in-laws in our almost non-existent kitchen. The place literally heated up (think sauna) as we prepared homemade pizza, homemade sauce, homemade DSCN1015toppings…chickpea omlets with sauteed onions, pan roasted potatoes, two types of salad and homemade salad dressing… all with a hand mixer and a tiny stove top.

Talyor Swift and Ariana Grande playing on the stereo. Lots of bumping, spilling, mixing and laughing. Needless to say, we need the rest.  So here I am lounging. Housework done. Homework done. Breakfast: done. The girls finally stopped calling Mommy and are once again splashing around in the pool. The sun magically overpowering the clouds, an old Bryan Adams song soothing me from the speakers overhead. And then, just when I close my eyes… slow down my breath, without notice it hits me… shattered by the top of the hour news.

One minute of breathless horror.

I am in Italy so the speaker was obviously broadcasting in Italian. Translations are not required. Different countries, different languages, same messages all around the globe…  killer, terrorism, attack, war, stalker, suicide amplified at a unnatural speed. This is the universal language that we hear everywhere.

My first thought was that I was glad that my daughters were too immersed in play to hear it. My second thought was that it didn’t really matter whether they heard it or not, whether they see it on a screen, read it on the front page. They feel it just as much as I felt in it in that very second. How can we escape the fear of this reality show?

This morning I read the newspaper. I don’t remember the last time that I started my morning with my eyes focused so intensely on the black and white pages. I had chosen some time ago to abandon this practice when I realized that it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and my heart.DSCN1039

As I sit at a round, metal table and sip my coffee outside of a local cafe’, I watch my daughters play (really play) with a bunch of leaves, flowers and stones. This was their reality… Master Chef Junior was their game.  This morning I read the paper and as I did all those emotions of fear, anxiousnesss, sadness and confusion came in like a bomb of disillusion… polluting my air.

I flipped the page to one horrendous reality after another… Not Master Chef. Not America’s Got Talent. Not The Real Housewives of New Jersey… Amateur stuff.  

The stars of this show… the killer in Orlando, terrorism, attacks, wars, stalkers, suicide… Donald Trump, Hillary and their pathetically fake game with our future… local news: a man shooting his wife in front of her 5 year old son, someone’s son killing his girlfriend and then himself for jealousy, a 35 year old massage therapist found strangled in her fancy villa near Rome… overdose, theft, blood, blood and more blood… blood red in black and white. On the other side of the page, the In and Out section and glorified, old news about Chanel’s fashion show in Havana, Cuba. According to the newspaper this is what is ‘In.

Just another form of violence.

Ridiculously overpriced bags and shoes won’t make Cuba happier or freer. It will just make them us.  Gloria Estefan, the Cuban born singer was quoted for saying that this type of exposure is good. Can’t she see that exposure to the fancy clothes, models with their fake happiness, Vin Diesel and a bunch of other actors with their smiles and their selfies will change everything… and in no time at all the fun-loving Cuban culture (up until now they have lived a type of freedom that we can’t even dream about) will be replaced with McDonald’s, manicured front lawns and smartphones?  Of course she can’t. This untouched star still believes.

Instead, what I see is a population that clearly isn’t perfect (but not in war or starving to death either), but has never been depressed or distressed… always ready to dance the salsa (with or without shoes)… a country that will inevitably be transformed into US(A)democratic, free… depressed, distressed… violent, violent and more violent…

and once again it will go unrecognized until one day some people will realize how much they once had a little bit too late. They will have nice shoes, but no time to dance.

True for every individual and entire countries as well. 

Global commerce has thrown all of us to our knees. It tempts us with the bling and glamour. Politicians have become a laughingstock, a total disgrace. Social network has connected the world and literally unconnected us from the people that we live with… the people we love, even our own children.DSCN0611

I sip my coffee. I turn another page. With one eye I continue to read. With the other, I watch my girls turn daisies into truffles, leaves and grass and stones into crepe… I want to hope that the future will be as sweet and delectable as their innocent play.

A new friend on FB recently posted

We let Sam watch the news with us this morning and after 3 news stories we had to turn it off. The news is worst than a horror movie these days and it makes me so sad. The stories truly stay with me and the answers to Sams questions cannot be sugar coated.

Our daughters don’t go to school, they were raised without a television at home. We prefer cd’s and our playlists to the radio and we limit computer time. Our intention is not to keep them blindfolded. We aren’t even attempting to protect. However, we do want to show them the other side, another side. Give them a choice.

As I responded to a childhood friend the other day: Way too many kids acting out. They are cold and cruel because they reflect the society they live in. A way to defend their purity, a call for attention? I totally agree that it starts at home, but unfortunately most parents are victims of everything around them and all the negative ideas that they are fed every day. It is easier to console oneself with something new and pretty, an expensive vacation, tons of technological toys. At the end of the day, it is simpler to order in and turn on the TV.  But, the messages are constant and horrendously overwhelming…

Seriously scary. Often not visible to the tired or unexaming eye.

Definitely not normal, or is this what normal has become for us?

Once again I ask: What do we want to leave for our children?

Many people continue to claim that they have no time. Many are truly running out of energy. Others choose not to believe as they spend their days working and consumingrunning… and their nights in front of a reality show or a violently dramatic movie to remove themselves from the real reality, the real drama… the exact same kind of violence happening on the other side of the block. 

They are merely trying to protect themselves, just like the kids.

We can try to walk ahead with the blindfolds on, make ourselves think that we still believe… but there is no fooling our hearts and our souls

We are suffering. Our kids are suffering. We are in the middle of a war and STARVING for something else…

We are extremely honest with our daughters (some say too much), but like all kids they are ALL HEART and know anyway. What are we trying to hide? Isn’t it is better to try to teach them how to deal with it and grow into more balanced, kinder human beings who know how to defend themselves in a positive way? Who know how to chose? Who can decide not to want to live in the center of so much wrong?

Chatting and tweeting and posting won’t get us anywhere. Just pretty words without substance. Donald vs. Hillary… as much as I don’t want him I truly can’t believe that she will be able to make the difference. The difference must start in the home: with us and our kids, our communities (throwing away the tube, the news, the realty shows and the elections…  and taking a walk or dancing around the living room could be a start!).DSCN0964

We must synthesize and really connect. Reconnect. We need to imagine a new way of producing and consuming and distributing the resources and also learn to give less importance to the material things. OMG! I am going to say it… Do without! We need to change our ideas about rich and poor. We need to spread love and help our children develop their emotional intelligence, starting with ourselves. Competition, high grades, and too much structure leads to frustration, cruelty and yes, violence.

Two of the most important words Muhammad Ali left us with were: me and we. He said them at the conclusion of a speech in which he urged the graduates to use their education to go out and change the world. At that point, a student shouted through the applause: “Give us a poem!”

As the crowd quieted, Ali said “ME…WE!”

So I say: Free the kids! They are our only present, they are their only possible future!

DSCN1055I scoop the foam from the bottom of the white, ceramic cup enjoying the last mix of bitter and sweet. My 8 year old daughter has just placed my crepe order on the table. The morning is almost over and so is the news. What was huge last week is already given in bits and pieces. What was all over the pages last month is already old and forgotten... I read a small insert about Harambe, the 17 year old, endangered gorilla and his tragic ending in a zoo in Cincinnati… about Bretagne, the last known living search dog who helped recover victims of 9/11. He recently died in a Houston suburb at age of 16…. A slight larger one about the black kid who grew up among racism in Kentucky and succeeded in changing the world anyway. I close the paper and place it in the magazine rack hanging on the wall of the cafe’. 

Harambe, Bretagne, Muhammad Ali, the woman in the villa near Rome, the life threatening virus of the moment… they will all inevitably be replaced with other news, events made normal, everyday tragedies and their victims put there for our curiosity… put out there to distract us from our reality. The unveiled truths. The hidden reasons. All that stuff that is really going on behind the scenes. You won’t find them on FOX or CNN.

We didn’t create this world and we didn’t create the reality show that we are currently living, but through our choices we are promoting it and as a result we are supporting all the things that our children see and hear on the news.

It is time to take off the blinders. It will hurt like the ripping off of a band-aid from a fresh cut. It will truly sting like a bee. But, whether we see it or not, whether we recognize it or not, people suffer and dye all over the world for unjustified reasons every single day. There is no sugar coating that. All we can do is ask ourselves: Is this what we really want, and then decide.

Which is worse Donald or Hillary?

trumphillaryBesides their dye jobs, it really won’t matter if we don’t decide to change. Either way, the future will be in the hands of people that don’t know the true meaning of happiness, honesty, trust or respect… people that are so displaced from reality that the only thing they can offer is the show.

Which is worse the killing in Orlando or Chanel’s fashion show in Havana…

the way I see it, they are one in the same.

xo, firma danniaka ANGO

 

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Daddy’s Poem

basketYesterday we were at our last festival… the last before we leave for our next trip…

the one that will bring me back to my parents’ arms after an entire year of absence.

Yesterday at the festival we saw the son of a friend. His name is Ascanio. He is 30 something. He is the middle child of 4 other brothers and sisters (the last of which suffers from severe autism). Yesterday we spoke with Ascanio about his mother, our dear friend, Fausta. Fausta passed away last November. She was a mother of 5 children. A pastor. A basket weaver. She was an icon, a diva of Nature and all its beauty. Fausta was tough and rough around the edges. She was one of those rare human beings that emanate greatness. Underneath her raggedy clothes and overworked skin she glowed of elegance and wisdom. She was real. Ascanio spoke, and with an unexplainable love in his eyes… with pride and devotion… joy and strength, he told us about his mother and all that she had left her children… and how on one Saturday evening in November she floated away in his arms. We spoke about what Fausta left every single person she touched, including us. This morning, as many times before, I meditated and felt Fausta all around me… telling me about my fears and defects. Reminding me what kind of mother I am and want to be…. what I want to leave my children… an unexplainable love, pride and devotion, joy and strength. I only saw Fausta a dozen or so times, yet I feel her because she is forever in me.

I am sharing this story to my fathers (I am lucky enough to have all three still) and the father of my daughters for Father’s Day. I am sharing it with my brother, David, an incredibly loving father… And, I am sharing it to all of you that no longer have your parents physically with you… these people pass away and it is up to us (those remaining) to keep them alive. I believe that there is an infinite number of souls out there… but they only exist if we allow them to.

I am also sharing this poem (sent to me by my first daddy)… hope you enjoy it and enjoy the day.

LOVE TO ALL,

firma danni

aka ANGO

 

Daddy’s Poem
Her hair was up in a pony tail,
her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy’s Day at school,
and she couldn’t wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,
that she probably should stay home;
why the kids might not understand,
if she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid;
she knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates
of why he wasn’t there today.

But still her mother worried,
for her to face this day alone.
And that was why, once again,
she tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school ,
eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees, a dad
who never calls.

There were daddies along the wall in
back, for everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently,
anxious in their seat.

One by one the teacher called
on a student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
as seconds slowly passed.

At last the teacher called her name,
every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
a man who wasn’t there.

“Where’s her daddy at?”
she heard a boy call out.
“She probably doesn’t have one,”
another student dared to shout.

And from somewhere near the back,
she heard a daddy say,
“Looks like another deadbeat dad,
too busy to waste his day.”

The words did not offend her,
as she smiled up at her Mom.
And looked back at her teacher, who
told her to go on..

And with hands behind her back,
slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
came words incredibly unique.

“My Daddy couldn’t be here,
because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know
all about my daddy,
and how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories,
he taught me to ride my bike;
he surprised me with pink roses,
and taught me to fly a kite.

We used to share fudge sundaes,
and ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him.
I’m not standing here alone.

‘Cause my daddy’s always with me,
even though we are apart;
I know because he told me,
he’ll forever be in my heart”

With that, her little hand reached up,
and lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
beneath her favorite dress.

And from somewhere there in the crowd of dads,
her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
who was wise beyond her years.

For she stood up for the love
of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
doing what was a right.

And when she dropped her hand back
down, staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
but its message clear and loud.

“I love my daddy very much,
he’s my shining star.
And if he could, he’d be here,
but heaven’s just too far.

You see he is an American Soldier
and he died just this past year, ,
when a roadside bomb hit his convoy
and taught Americans to fear.

But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it’s like he never went away.”
And then she closed her eyes,
and saw him there that day.

And to her mother’s amazement,
she witnessed with surprise,
a room full of daddies and children,
all starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them;
who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
they saw him at her side.

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MY TOP 5 DETOX SECRETS FOR SUMMER (and why I learned to say THANK YOU. I’M SORRY. I LOVE YOU.)

DSCN0863MY TOP 5 DETOX SECRETS for SUMMER (and why I learned to say THANK YOU. I’M SORRY. I LOVE YOU)

The conversation went like this:

Me: We will be in Florida in how many – 69 days? The pool will be opening even before that!

Kenia: Get out the bathing suits for this weekend mom. Dad said that when we go to Rome for the festival we can go to Saturnia Thermal Springs between weekends!

Me: Maybe I should buy a one piece.

Havana: Why mamma?

Me: I don’t know. I am getting older and I haven’t been able to really workout in ages.

Kenia: Are you crazy?!! You look great!!! Everyone says how much younger you look!!!!

Me: Yeah, but…I don’t know…

Kenia: I do! You could get one of those sexy one piece suits where there is one piece of NOTHING!

Havana: Daddy would like that!!!!!SEEEEEXXXXY MAMMA mommy!

beach bridgeThe summer is coming. Or has it already arrived? If you are like most other females on the planet the annual inauguration of the bathing suit is one of the scariest days of the year… even if you waxed, pre-tanned and exfoliated. Even if you have been working out all winter long.

Three-six months of overseas travelling a year, four-five days a week during the remaining months in a RV which sometimes turns into three-four weeks straight. When we are at home we are in 200sq. feet.  Different beds, irregular hours, small spaces, almost zero privacy (most of the time). Little to say, life on the road has made working out challenging. It is one of the downfalls of this free lifestyle. It takes lots of energy to keep up the pace and common issues involve eating properly, being active, getting enough rest and increasing energy!  Just like most other people I know my life has a way of getting in the way. Much of my health is due to my total acceptance. I accept when I cannot exercise and give thanks when I can. I accept not having time and space. I give thanks for 5 or 10 minutes of ME time. A positive attitude goes a long way!

I usually write about kids and family and all our daily joys and dilemmas of being so free. What you may not know is that I am an ex- exercise addict. It all started when I was 15 and working out with Jane Fonda (loved those leg warmers) or to the rhythm of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album on the cherry red carpet of my living room floor in our (tiny) apartment on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. I remember running around the track in Albany during the summer between my Sophmore and Junior years, getting up early to be the first at the gym while attending law school, the last one in the gym while working as a receptionist at a hair salon, spending hours learning the trade from my personal trainer, Stewie from ‘94-‘97 . Twelve of my eighteen years in Italy was spent in my own gym passing on my passion and vegetarian diet with a mix of spirituality to lots and lots of clients turned confidantes and close friends. My philosophy (along with my lifestyle) has changed since then. Local, organic, macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, raw. Smoothies, green smoothies, green juices, mono diets, detox, water fasts. Done them all.  Evolved and improved every time. Still evolving. My pace and workouts have slowed down. Health over heaping muscles. Stripping toxins from my body over six packed abs. Aging with grace over grazing over meals all day long. No chemicals. No Botox. Lots of imperfections. No regrets (so far!) Reading, research, and trial and error have taught me so much. Whereas I used to be incredibly healthy looking, now I can honestly say that I am truly healthy inside and out.

So, today I want to share with you 5 of my secrets to a more youthful appearance and confident, positive state of mind… how I DETOX and how my body and mind manage to survive all those days on the move:

  1. GO RAW: Replace as many meals as you can with fresh, raw fruit and vegetables. Make colorful salads, blend up green smoothies, juice your produce, chomp like a bunny. Don’t worry about where you will get your protein or fat or carbs. No calorie counting either. Everything you need is in seasonal fruit and vegetables. Add raw nuts and seeds and eat (true) organic when possible. If you don’t believe me read this:  http://www.fullyraw.com/be-fullyraw/what-does-it-mean-to-be-fullyraw. And to get you started read this: http://kriscarr.com/blog/choosing-raw-food-recipes When I eat RAW I sleep better, have more energy and crave sweets less. The more RAW you eat the more RAW you want to eat because it makes you feel so amazingly fantastic.
  2. FAST and REST: Dedicate one day a week to a water or juice fast. I usually choose Monday or Tuesday because I work long, tiring hours (often in noisy, unhealthy environments) all weekend long (we sell books at festivals which sometimes last as much as 4-5 days in a row). My body and mind are wiped out when we get home. A one or two day fast gets me ready to pick up and go once again. Stay in bed, read, take a stroll, feel the sun on your face. REST (and don’t feel guilty about it either) ! It is the best gift you can give to yourself. Your body and mind will thank you. If you don’t have a day to yourself, skip a meal (if you get into the habit of skipping dinner you will enjoy your dreams and wake up feeling like a raving princess!)climbing stairs
  3. MOVE YOUR BODY, STRETCH IT AND GET IT SOME AIR: If you can’t get to the gym or you don’t feel like it, make sure to take a long walk. If the weather is dreary, a 10 minute mini workout is always possible. All you need is a mat. When I am travelling for work, all I need are my sneakers and a road. If I don’t have time I make sure to do yoga, pilates or at least stretch, 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes before going to bed… a genuine back, neck and stress reliever.
  4. MEDITATE: Meditation doesn’t mean sitting in some position and repeating OM over and over again. You don’t have to wear flowers in your hair, eat tofu, or walk barefoot either!!!! Meditation means being present, being aware of the present moment. Accepting that your thoughts will float from thought to thought, but then bringing them back to where you are and what you are doing in that very moment. You can do it anytime and anywhere. While washing dishes, folding laundry, driving to work, playing with your children (which means that you are actually playing with your children!) mowing the lawn. When you get good enough you will even be able to remain present in the middle of a noisy crowd. It will leave you feeling joyful, balanced and relaxed.
  5. GIVE THANKS: Instead of concentrating on the physical traits that we wish we had, concentrate on all the things that we do have. Regularly give thanks for your eyes and ears, your arms and legs, your health, your family and friends. I like thanking my eyes when I am putting on my mascara in the morning. Start the day with a smile in the mirror. Every day I find a moment to sit silently (especially when I have mistreated myself a bit) and breathe…and repeat to myself THANK YOU (I am thanking my body and my mind for showing up every day). I AM SORRY (I am apologizing for treating myself badly by eating unhealthy things, not providing myself sufficient physical activity, not exposing myself to fresh air, criticizing myself too much.) I LOVE YOU (I am reminding myself that I am wonderful just the way I am).

keniamompoolThanks to these healthy habits and a few more minutes a day dedicated to my core, I have decided to trust my daughters and keep the bikini this year. It takes 21 days to break old habits and start better ones. Try one of these secrets or all 5 and in 3 weeks you will feel stronger, better, happier with being you!

Happy Summer!

firma danni

 

(aka ANGO)

 

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WHY ARE YOU LIMITING LIFE? (set your lotus flower free)

DSCN0886Kenia sat in full lotus pose for the first time this morning. She twisted her body to the left, elongated her spine, allowed her gaze to follow her shoulder. I watched her breathe (really breathe), a smile of satisfaction on her pretty face. She repeated it on the other side. The new morning light beaming in from outside shone all over her and her bright pink tank top.

I practice yoga all the time: while washing dishes, combing hair, trying to calmly fight off a fight. And, I practice physical yoga when I can, or rather when time and space permits. Before they can even remember, my daughters have seen me doing it in all types of places… the attic of our RV (in motion) being the most challenging of all. I have never pushed it on them. They are free to join me or not. Most of the time it is ‘not’. And then, every once in a while I am given a tiny gift in the form of a hand touching mine as I meditate or smooth flesh rubbing up against me on my mat as I go from upward to downward dog.

This morning I wasn’t practicing. This morning, my 11 year old daughter who has always been the less flexible sister (see Havana (the more flexible sister) in her ‘show off whenever and wherever’ move right here!)… DSCN0890who has never been able to touch her toes with straight engaged legs or a relaxed expression (hint: the relaxed expression comes first!)…

the daughter who all this time seemed to cringe in pain with every twist, curve or bend… finally emptied her mind of her limits

this is the BREAKING NEWS that I wish to share!

She showed herself love and kindness, patience… threw away all the I will never be able tos I can’ts… I don’t know hows… I will always bes... and became limitless in an instant of time… She jumped one step beyond what she thought she could see, who she thought she was and would always be… and she actually became the lotus flower.DSCN0885

Some seeds blossom. Some don’t. This is what my favorite zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, says. It is all up to us. The responsibility is all ours. This is a very important lesson in our house.

I remember seeing a photograph of an extra large woman several months ago. She was twisted like a pretzel in some easy looking yoga pose… she was eloquence, grace, radiance. All my excuses of having legs that are too short or not slender enough seemed ridiculous. All my ideas of a perfect yoga type body gone.twistedmama2

I have never sat in full lotus pose. Perhaps I never will. I have accepted a half way version as my form of perfection. I don’t dwell on it any longer. I don’t judge my yoga practice on the sophistication of the positions I can do, the length of time I can maintain them.  I have become Ango, comfortable in my own skin, my own peaceful dwelling. But, I know that ultimately it is not my short, sometimes too stiff legs getting in my way. It isn’t my aching back or lack of balance. It is my mind…

Our number one, super doper, ‘extra large’ limit!

Water the limit and the limit shall grow. Stretch the mind and the mind will take you to unimaginable places…

because when we decide to use our total capacity, our body and our entire essence follows no matter what our size, age or once believed level of skill.

DSCN0529Work the groundthe one you are standing on at this very moment – as my second favorite zen master, Karen Maezen Miller, says… prepare it and nurture it, eliminate the weeds and all the other predators and see your seeds blossom into your very own lotus flower.

This is true for yoga. And, this my dear friends is true for life.

love and more love,

firma danni(aka ANGO)

 

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Never Too Late for Mother’s Day (the day a postman asked me ‘what do you have?’)

DSCN0758The other day while visiting Rome, we stopped to listen to a street band that was performing not far from the Colusseum. It was a perfect, spring day: sun, blue sky, slight breeze. Among the tourists (and their selfies) there they were: the vendors… men, young and old, that have come from distant lands to sell bottles of water, silly puddy figures and the indispensable SELFIE STICK.

Last year the choice was black or black. This year there is an entire range of shades and models to choose from.

‘Selfie’, ‘Selfie’, we heard between one song and another.

The poor guy approached us. Of course he did. We were tourists…DSCN0756

He didn’t know that he didn’t stand a chance.

‘SELFIE?’, he optimistically shouted over the soothing sound of the sax. 

‘How much does it cost’, my husband asked out of curiosity.

‘Solamente dieci euro’ (only 10 euro), the tall, 20 something guy from Senegal responded.

‘No, grazie’, Andrea said.

‘How much do you want to pay? 8,6,5?’, he asked.

‘No, we aren’t interested. Thanks anyway’.

‘You do selfies, you need stick’, he continued.DSCN0759

(We could use it as a back scratcher I kiddingly whispered to Kenia.)

‘No, we don’t do selfies and anyway we don’t have those kind of phones’… as he pulled his ancient Samsung out of the side pocket of his backpack and waved it in the air to the rhythm of Louie Prima’s Angelina.

The guy was literally amazed. He shook his head. ‘No smartphone. INCREDIBILE’, he said, laughing as he went on his way singing his little song…selfie, selfie, selfie… a Bublè tune accompanying him in the background.

We took out our small camera, turned to the woman sitting next to us and asked her if she could take our photo. A CLICK and…

Two days later…

toscany roadI entered a 2×2 post office in an itty bitty town on the road towards Saturnia Thermal Springs*. My daughters’ homemade Mother’s day cards were already pretty much destined to be late so I needed to get them into Grandma’s and Maw’s hands the quickest way possible. As I requested information about the cheapest way to get our loving wishes overseas by Sunday, the sixty something gentleman behind the glass window kindly suggested that I could save money and time by downloading an App on my cellphone.

‘Mille grazie, but I don’t have that type of phone’, I replied.

You don’t have a SMART phone’, he asked with a somewhat shocked look on his face.

‘Nope, I responded’, as I pulled out my ancient Nokia from my bag and showed it to him.

‘Well, you must have an Ipad you can download it on’, he confidently said as he continued to explain in detail what I needed to do while pointing to the square-shaped bar code on the back of the postal slip.

I shook my head.

He paused for a second. I smiled back and waited.

‘Well’, he said… ‘WHAT DO YOU HAVE?’.

Before a blink of an eye, I started to give him the response one may expect. It regarded my possession of what was once considered the basics: a laptop, an email address, etc…

and then, I cut myself short and slowly began to list all the things that I actually have…

A satisfying 20 year marriage with an incredible human being, 2 beautiful, happy daughters, my health, their health… a camper, a used, station wagon that is worth almost nothing, but gets us where we need to go… a job that doesn’t feel like work, lots of months to travel, a piece of land in Costa Rica, another in Argentina, a home in an ecovillage in Upstate New York that I rent out… DSCN0053family in Italy, family in the US, close friends around the globe, a day alone once in a while, time not spent checking my emails, tweets, FB posts or the weather, almost 46 years of life… 7 favorite books that I consider my Bibles**, 4 favorite cds loaded on my Apple  Ipod shuffle, my running sneakers, my yoga mat, a set of 5lb weights and a collapsible hula hoop that travels everywhere I go… a stuffed monkey named Beeper that my brother gave me when we were kids (he travels with me too!), an old, reliable pair of jeans (that still fit) and…  three amazing mothers, two of which who will surely have a cheek to cheek smile on their faces when they eventually cardreceive our specially prepared wishes… whether received on Mother’s Day Sunday or a few days later.

I was breathless and thinking he must think I am nuts

but he smiled at me in sheer acknowledgement as he gladly proceeded to mail my envelopes the old fashioned way.

For Mother’s Day (and my birthday) I want to acknowledge all that I do have (how often have we caught ourselves dwelling on what we lack? Even worse, how many times has this habitual practice gone completely unnoticed?)…

I want to give thanks for the love and the health, all the things that remain invisible, yet matter the most, and also for all the material possessions that I could ever need or want…

I want to give thanks for my forgiveness and my gratitude, for my dad’s sense of humility and humor…  

I want to give thanks to everyone that has touched my life – good and bad, for a mere second or for many, many years – have made my world a richer place to be or have taught me important lessons of acceptance…

I want to thank my husband, my daughters, my family and friends, the people that have inspired me meandhim2through an indirect encounter or a few eloquently written words on a page …

And, I want to thank the three incredible mothers in my life

the one that gave birth to my other half, that accepted me as her second daughter before we even met and that has raised me for the past two decades,

the one that arrived 30 years ago (destined to be my mom and guardian angel) when I was already half-way grown and when my dad and I needed her most… and continues to stand by me no matter what every single day, near or far,

the one that gave birth to me 46 Mother Days ago, gave me everything she ever had, and despite our growing pains loves me more than anyone or anything in this entire world.

This, kind Mr. Post Office Man, is all that I have. Hope from the bottom of my heart that you can say the same.

Happy Mother’s Day!

This is for all of you:

I searched for kindness,

But, I didn’t find it.

I searched for my soul,

But, it escaped me.

I searched for my mother

And I found all three.

And thanks mom, but once again… I do not want a smartphone for my birthday!

love, joy, gratitude

firma danni

aka ANGO

 

*Saturnia Thermal Springs: See http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/aroundtuscany/hot-springs-tuscany-saturnia/

**My six favorite books:

The Gift of An Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison (Magical Journey comes to a close second)

Paradise in Plain Sight by Karen Maezen Miller

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

Quando Bevi Il Te Stai Bevendo Le Nuvole by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Complete Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Mrs. March was Zen before being Zen was in fashion!)

plus my three favorite cookbooks:

Chloe’s Italian Vegan Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

The Blender Girl by Tess Masters

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

 

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Saying Goodbye to Yesterdays (and Argentina)

SIX WEEKS: LEARNING THAT NOTHING IS EVERYTHING (part fourteen, final part)DSCN0670

It is our last day. Tomorrow at this time we will be on a flight headed for Chile and then Madrid and then our final destination, Bologna, Italy. After a 33 hour trip, my father-in-law will be there. He will waiting for us at the airport with his huge smile and hug to pick us up and bring us back home… And, today will already be yesterday…

This morning we are in Mendoza. We just dropped off our bags in a small room at friendly Hospedaje DSCN0307Zamora, a modestly priced hostel with clean accommodations, a colorfully tiled open patio to relax in, and an all you can eat breakfast. While every other kid is in school planted in a chair with a teacher teaching at the head of the classroom, my daughers, Kenia (11) and Havana (8), are spending their last hours in Argentina with their mom and dad

DSCN0319DSCN0607 eating ice cream for breakfast, marching with strikers, observing bicycle vendors as they artfully pour coffee and serve breakfast to a line full of people waiting endlessly to enter a bank or money exchange, listening to the tunes of street musicians with their amazing forks, spoons and butter knives… 

breathing in LIFE and learning every inhale and exhale of the way…DSCN0444

and already missing the place we left behind just this morning way before the break of dawn…

‘I like travelling’, Kenia suddenly stopped to say between lunch at the market and a stroll around San Martin park. ‘Maybe we could skip the house… keep travelling’…

We could get a bigger camper’, Havana suggested…

‘and the dog’, Kenia reminded us…. ‘a smaller dog!’.

I understood them completely… Just this morning…

early this morning, as I dozed in and out of my thoughts while riding on the bus, the jumbo sized seat, completely reclined, legs and view stretched out before me on the top floor of the double decker…

DSCN0596I saw the sun coming up, the sky suddenly splashed with pink and orange and baby blue… I saw the mountains with their snow-capped peaks, the world on a new dimension… a world on the other side of my world. .. and I thought what an amazing place to be.

I wasn’t referring to Argentina.

I felt incredibly blessed… No complaints about closet space, tiny bathrooms or lack of privacy in my mind…. I also thought of a bigger camper, other places to see, this drug called Freedom… I thought of my restless search for Ango, a peaceful dwelling and realized that this peaceful dwelling already lies inside of Me.

The place I was referring to was my life, our life… on the road.

Journal Entry, Hospedaje Zamora, March 1, 2016, 12:30am

DSCN0296Here I am once again awake. I have just closed my book. Tonight we are in actual beds with fresh, floral printed sheets and old fashioned quilts. A small light illuminates my space and theirs. There aren’t any insects flying around my head or my reading lamp. A ceiling fan on low is making a slight humming sound. I hear voices of a soccer game on the television coming from the reception area. I smell fried meat cooking in the kitchen. The sounds and the smells are coming in from a tiny window that separates our room from the long corridor. It is after midnight. Today was super fun and now today is already a yesterday. It is time to shut the light and say goodnight… and also goodbye…

About a month ago a friend of mine posted this on her timeline. I have read similar words countless times in the past: books, articles, songs, poems. However, her words touched me as if being heard for the very first time. We tend to forget this fundamental concept so each time actually is the first. I immediately thought, this says it all… and, it truly does:

When Anna was two, she asked me one night, when she was beginning to understand about time, “When will it be yesterday?” And I had to tell her–it won’t ever be yesterday again. She cried, then, for a long time, and then she slept beside me, a small girl snuggled close. And now, eleven years and many yesterdays later, I am blown away by it. Yesterday and yesterday and yesterday…all gone. These photos are from just a few days ago and already those moments–those children exactly as they were–are gone, and I will never be able to hold them quite the same way again. So this is what love is. Impermanence, a flower, a child on the sand at the beach. And no matter how many times I remind myself, I will forget this over and over, but may I always come back to this, to now, to today, the precious moment which is all there is.

In two yesterdays from now we will be in Italy… going back home always feels strange… Sweetly bitter

I could feel sad, already nostalgic, even displaced… we could all feel like crying for a long time… having to say goodbye to Argentina, the horses, the pigs, other new friends… the blue skies, the mountains, the long, leisurely walks, the silent nights….DSCN0476

the experience, the space, six wonderfully-lived weeks:

OVER!…

Besides for the memories, yesterday is gone… yesterday and yesterday and yesterday too…

Six weeks of yesterdays in Nowhere’s land… leaving behind all that we can remember and everything that we hope to have learned:

Nothing is Everything…

an everything that lasts only as long as you remember to live it in this very moment.

Catch a glimpse of it before it becomes forever gone. DSCN0598

Today we are going home…

and tomorrow, well tomorrow is just another extraordinary, unpredictable day of life… just another inevitable yesterday to come.

 love and xxxx,

firma danni

aka ANGO

ps: A huge hug to my dear friend, Courtney. To all those yesterdays, past and yet to come. Thanks for reminding me. Love to all.

Here are some of our favorite photos from our 45 Yesterdays in Argentina: DSCN0636DSCN0624DSCN0659DSCN0565DSCN0490DSCN0457DSCN0428DSCN0129

DSCN0452DSCN0451DSCN0173DSCN0424DSCN0086100_5010100_5026

DSCN0392DSCN0384DSCN0431DSCN0433DSCN0321DSCN0274DSCN0568DSCN0506DSCN0510DSCN0442100_1229100_1228DSCN0390DSCN0499DSCN0616DSCN0277DSCN0486DSCN0302

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Marriage, Kids and the Sacred Stick (sacred choices, sacred sacrifices)

DSCN0474

SIX WEEKS: LEARNING THAT NOTHING IS EVERYTHING (part thirteen)

Journal Entry, Uspallata, Argentina, February 22, 2016, a little after midnight

It is Tuesday. There is a full moon tonight. In a week from now I will be lying on my mother-in-law’s couch trying to fall asleep. The light flowing in is like headlights on a dark road illuminating my husband’s face as he restfully sleeps. My 8 year old daughter’s warm hand is still reached out towards mine; she has gotten into the habit of holding my hand now that our sleeping bags lie side by side each night. I am awake between the two. Kenia sleeps soundly one bag over. It has become familiar like walking back and forth from town 3 times a week, waking up with a child’s pose and down dog, turning my head to the left to see the orange tinted mountains glowing as if on fire… DSCN0423like the sound of the water boiling from the kettle and pouring a scoop of instant coffee into my mug… like taking our food scraps to the pig pen, greeting Slatco, our neighbor’s dog, each morning, writing 10 minutes a day in my journal… like admiring the clouds and the colors of the sky transform themselves into magic every evening… like losing myself in everything.

Intruso, the cream colored pony, is still grazing outside my window; he has been eating all day, moving around the dojo with his long legs and new born coat; smooth and shiny on one side, scruffy and wild on the other. I think about the texture of my life… too flat, too scruffy, anything but silky smooth. In a week from now I will be writing from another angle… happy to be there, yet dearly DSCN0186missing the one I have left behind… and my dear, this is only side of the story of our life…

Reading my blog it may appear as if my free family is almost always in turmoil. ‘What freedom?‘, many may think. The past weeks (or years, for that matter) I have spoken about choices, indecision, doubt and frustration… once again… what freedom? We talk too much, but we actually communicate. We fight and we do this real big… but we also make up, and fortunately we do this even bigger! We make decisions and then we doubt, we make mistakes, we say lots of sorrys and then we try to learn and correct. We do some things very right and some things quite wrong. We never, ever REGRET!

Last year we made a promise.

We all love our life on the road – even my daughters (Kenia, 11, Havana, 8) – however the female portion of the family (a 3/4 majority) also thinks about a place… a homebase to come back to. Andrea and I made a promise, THE PROMISE: by the end of 2016 we would have a place (at least a base) and also a dog. Our clock is ticking and the girls are not likely to let us forget it.

Journal Entry, February 27, 2016, Uspallata, Argentina100_1229

We are still in Nowhere’s Land enjoying our last days and beginning the process of purchasing a piece of land in an ecovillage that turns out to be anything but. I’ve said this too many times before – the place is amazing. In theory, it could be the one… but, the project is a flop, the people estranged (and a few a bit strange) and the country in a turmoil of its own, economically speaking. Last week a banana cost 15 pesos per kilo. This week it is up to 25.

DSCN0368Andrea and I find ourselves in the center of nothing, loving everything except the colossal sized decisions that we need to make.

Our clock is ticking as February will roll into March, March into summer and summer will roll right past the falling leaves into the New Year – BAM! – 2016 will already be gone!…

if we haven’t got the place… the dog and the promise will explode into broken pieces right along with the dream of it all…

so we talk (communicate), fight (make up). I no longer sleep (soundly). I spend my last nights in paradise thinking, breathing, listening to an overabundance of silence, observing the horses (and all their elegantly lived freedom), praying on an entire universe of stars outside my window… this is one amazing place (there, I said it again!)… it is magical and all its pureness is capable of bringing ghosts out in the day, and all night long… in this unique silence I search… I encounter myself many times over, get intimate… with myself, my fears, my flaws… my marriage, my family, my choices, my life. I see things that would be easier not to see. While other families are sitting in front of several tv screens, playing games and chatting on tablets and smartphones, filling up their time (or lack of it) with PTA meetings and soccer games, dressing up fancy for some special event… living their real lives… here we are living ours.DSCN0565

Some may say that we are in constant search for something. Friends and family included. No peace for the free at heart, right? Too many choices to make… leaving Andrea a frustrated soul, Dannielle a meditating fool..

I received this message about a month ago:

Hey dannielle… read some of your recent blogs. U definitely live an alternative lifestyle but I wonder if u r missing out on what others have. Its great to be close w ur daughters n husband but what about all the other ppl in ur life? Friends…parents…brother…don’t u miss that? It seems u r always on the move… and I am starting to wonder why… whatever ur issues… they will always be there no matter where u r. U have to find happiness in yourself first. Life is about life experiences alone n experiences w others. Being somewhat closer to where others live, allow u the chance to see them more. Too much isolation is not good for anyone. It can be a nice break, but eventually its time to come back to reality… When r u coming back to new York? Miss u n wish u were here… love, a truly caring friend. Feb 24th, 7:00pm

This is my response to her (and to all those other loving people in my life that think we may be doing it all wrong and trying to escape real life). Thank you sweet friend. Miss you too. Sorry the response took a while:

We all have choices of how to live our lives, how to raise our children, how we want to work, how much time to dedicate to the people we love, to ourselves. As everybody else, my choices in the past have brought me to where I am today (one of the biggest was falling deeply in love with an Italian boy over 20 years ago). I doubt only long enough to remember how wise we are to be making our own choices (which inevitably includes not having all the stuff that we have not chosen)… choices that bring me away from family, but makes it so much more special when we do reunite, that allow us to create profound relationships with friends and family (which are often one in the same) all around this great, big world of ours… choices that have enrichened all of us and that we have made with our daughters’ wellbeing on the top of our list

with these choices have also come SACRIFICES (Sacrifice gets a really bad rap these days, but did you know that the word sacrifice comes from the word sacred which was once considered a very noble and necessary act of love and survival? Put it this way, sacred choice sounds so much better, doesn’t it!?), however without this adventure – our life, all these sacred choices and sacrifices my daughters surely wouldn’t have grown up thusfar seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling… feeling so very much. They wouldn’t know what it is to become best friends with a little girl that has absolutely NOTHING or sleep on the floor of a stranger’s home… be comfortable with having lots of complete strangers sleep on ours. DSCN0339They wouldn’t have learned three languages or how to create play for 6 weeks without anything but a couple of dolls and their creativity (especially at the age of 11 in this era of techno everything!)… they wouldn’t have learned to trust or to trust in themselves if there weren’t times when we needed them to do the laundry, cook, clean, move heavy boxes, or wash their own hair… eat bananas an entire day to avoid throwing them away… havanaif there weren’t times that we required them to do without, to adapt and re-adapt… to make their own choices… 

if we would have made other choices (which may be absolutely perfect for others) like living in the same house, in the same place, with the same people… shopping in the same stores, going back and forth to the same school and job… watching the same news at dinner every evening with the same images and messages of fear, perhaps texting and posting in between forkfuls. Less uncertainty, less fighting, less isolation… maybe or maybe not. These too are choices. They are all choices… even the choice not to choose for one’s self and follow what is considered ‘not alternative’. Right, wrong… somewhere in between? This is left for each one of us to decide for our families and for ourselves.

DSCN0475We fight and we make peace. We communicate about just about everything, and ’til we feel like ripping our hair from our heads. We demand and we make sacrifices. And, once in a while we sit in a circle and pass around our sacred stick.

This is what we say… 

The Dojo, Uspallata, Argentina: February 28, 2016: The stick is passed around for the first time. (we ask the girls to express something that they feel):

Havana: I feel hurt when you fight. It makes me sad. I love that we are always together.

Kenia: I miss my friends and family in America and Italy. But, I am so happy to have made new friends everywhere and I really like to see new places and move around. I know we can’t have both all the time.

Daddy: I am happy with this family. We are crazy, but we are real and really living. We have things to work on, but so does everyone.

Mommy: I miss having space, especially in the bathroom (as I am thinking, what mom doesn’t?). Two sinks are nice (we actually have six here). I miss having my own space to workout, and time too. I am sorry when I get uptight about these things. In these moments I am unable to see clearly. Besides these times, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. (Havana: mom, you’re not a girl. Kenia: yes, she is!)

The stick gets passed around one more time (say whatever you want or nothing at all):

Havana: I would like to go to Cuba next year for some ice cream.

Kenia: I really want the dog.

Daddy: Thank you family! (he gets up to kiss and hug us all)

Mommy: I want to thank Daddy for having the idea of the sacred stick.

Some say that we are searching… six weeks here in Argentina has taught me that I am searching for Nothing… it has left me with a feeling that completes the pureness of the human soul … no cravings – none that go beyond the basic… no thoughts that aren’t entirely your own, no escaping oneself or anyone else… There are no walls here in Nowhere’s land. Just tons of space. Nothing to hide behind… don’t count on those mountains… 

Tears of gratitude fill my eyes (this place brings on lots of these as well) as I type away these last wordssome may say that I ask too many questions, search too much to understand… too much for what?, for whom?… we only have one life

and, as the full moon that I no longer see right outside my window, this too will pass us by… no asking, no searching, no knowing…. leading to lives flatter than our flat screen tvs…Our life is certainly not flat; our lives like the world we live on were never destined to be as smooth as newborn, pony fur… man continues to create the walls, the boundaries, the lines… use phrases like ‘hope all is going smoothly’, ‘let’s get out of this one neat and clean’, ‘stay in line, young man’, ‘my little one is a straight A student’.

We, my darling friends are in it for the entire messy trip. I have said it so many times in the past. I never asked for the easier road. DSCN0179The pigs enjoy their mud. My life is teaching me that so do I!…

I met a really cool guy named Pierce a few days ago in Mendoza… He was from the US and travelling with no limit. We only spoke for about a half an hour during breakfast, but he told me that he was taking some time off from a successful career to search for his Best Self…  I LOVED THIS… I am right along with him, stopping for Nothing… every uncomfortable, filthy mile of the way… and wishing all of you sweet friends to do the very same!

Thank you Pierce and thanks to everyone that read this post. Writing is for me. But, it is so much better when shared.

Happy Birthday to Andrea, the most wonderful and biggest Sacred Sacrifice of my life!

All my love to him and love to you all,

Danni

ps Looking forward to hearing from you. Write or message me on FB (Dannielle Levy) or on my blog: http://www.freefamilyontheroad.wordpress.com.