carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

On the Queen Mary 2 (Part 1)

Right up front, I’ll just apologize to my friend Jules who has been waiting to see this post.  There will not be near as many pictures as she would like.  I’ll explain why in part 2.

So we went to sleep in our Southampton Airbnb.  ( Click on link if you want to see it.  I totally recommend it.  Good for someone in a wheel chair. Good for catching the QM2   Southampton rental air bnb. )   And look what we saw early the next morning

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The amazing thing was that we knew people from Monte San Savino, (the town we just moved from in Italy) Mark and Molly, who were getting off the QM2 after sailing over from New York City.  We were not able to catch up with them and I hope they had a good visit.   We had one last, fun pub lunch with Enzo and then he took us off to the dock.

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I was pretty excited and happy that things were going smoothly  until we got just inside the door and they said “You can’t have that trolley of carry on luggage.  You have to be able to carry it.”  We, of course had a trolley full, because Ben can not be separated from his computer, his drugs, his sleep machine, his change of clothes, his snacks…..  So I did what I tried to avoid having to do, stood in the lobby and repacked.  I managed to get it down to 2 bags that Ben had to hold (His crap, his lap) and three bags that I had to schlep.  My computer, my jewelry, my change of clothes and other things, all those went off to be checked.  And we took a big risk and sent the snacks too.  Anyway, we finally got on board.

Now I planned and booked this trip one year in advance.  In every communication I was very clear that we were moving and would have a lot of luggage and that Ben was in a wheel chair.  I communicated this with the booking agents and the on board staff more than one time.  In 2007, when we boarded to sail over with our 21 suitcases we were met with total shock that we had so many suitcases.  I wanted to avoid this.  In the summer I called to chat with a booking agent again about the amount of luggage that we would have.  She listened, put me on hold and came back and said “There is a sale going on.  Since there are two of you sailing,  your husband can stay in the handicapped room and you can be booked in another room for only $300 more.  Now if you want to sleep in the same room as your husband and the luggage wants to stay in your room.  Well, we can’t do anything about that.”  I said BOOK IT!  So our luggage traveled in its own room.

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Jules, this is what a normal, window (not balcony) stateroom looks like.  The bathroom and closet are to the left of the chair.  Some of the luggage is lounging on a love seat.  It really is fairly roomy.

But of course our cabin steward was totally baffled by all this luggage in one room.  No one had told him.  But there is a message.  “You have to go back to security.  There is a problem with your luggage.”   So I have to get Ben in the room, get him organized, make sure I can leave him alone.  Try to find a plan of the ship and figure out where I need to go.  Our steward arranges for the head of security to meet me at the elevator at the lowest floor.  The head of security takes me OFF the SHIP and back to where the two pieces of our luggage that I have carefully marked SECURITY have been stopped.  Several months earlier, I wrote to ask how to handle bringing on board  my knives that I cook with, the tools that were my father’s, other prohibited items.  “Pack it, label it, turn it over to security.”  That was the instruction I received from the QM2 on board services staff.  And that the staff that we were sailing with would be informed.  Suddenly, I find myself off the ship, Ben is alone, a good 15 minutes walk from where I am with no way to get in touch with me, I am surround by  five people, four of whom are looking at me like I have made up everything that I just explained.  I consider bursting into tears.  Realize that I need to keep my composure.  And stand there while everyone debates what to do.  The offending items are pulled out and divided into two bundles, my cooking knives and my father’s tools.  It is decided that AT MY OWN EXPENSE I can have these items shipped.  Without knowing shipping costs,  I have to make a very quick decision.  The knives are worth shipping, the used, important only to me hammers, screw drivers and other things can stay behind.  Finally back on the ship, I have to immediately get Ben and roll him through the ship for the safety drill.  Explaining what I have been doing and that is when my composure goes.  So once again, in a room full of people I am standing there with tears streaming down my face.  I am so upset and so furious and so sad that I had to give up my father’s tools and that I have to pay the shipping on my knives.  And that no one seems to know anything about all the emails that I have sent explaining our situation.

The safety drill over, we make our way back to the room.  There is a bright spot.

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Because we are returning guests, there is a bottle of bubbly waiting for us.  I immediately open it  and have a glass.  I have a few minutes to unpack and then it is time to start to get Ben dressed for dinner.  (Fortunately all of our luggage is in one room or the other.  And our change of clothes made it too)  Ben dressed.  Me dressed.  We set off for the dining room.  This is when it dawns on me that even though we are inside on a flat surface, it isn’t really flat.  There is a gradual elevation and decline where each section of the ship is joined.  Someone walking would probably not notice it.  Someone pushing a 250+ pound man in a wheel chair notices it.  We were at one end of the ship.  The dining room was almost at the other end.

We arrive at the dining room, about 10 minutes late.  Goodness knows what I looked like.  I was just happy that I no longer felt like I was going to have a heart attack.  I gave our names.  The extra snooty maitre d’ took one look and said “No one told me he was in a wheelchair.”  I could have lost it, fortunately my earlier glass of wine just made me laugh about it.  Ahhhh, yes.  Our table was up 3 levels.  With a nice long ramp up to it.

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We entered on the level with the lights hanging on,  our table was at the very top level.   I just looked at Mr. Extra Snooty and said “there is no way I can push him up there.”  By this time, some of the staff, many of whom are from the Philippines had seen a fellow country man in need and were pushing Ben up the long, long ramp.  (I really thought that man might have a heart attack.)  Mr. Extra Snooty is lecturing me “that is the table that you requested Madam.”  Excuse me,  I asked for a table with 8 to 10 other people.  How am I supposed to know that it is up 3 levels and can only be accessed by this long, long ramp?  But I don’t say that.  I agree that I will come back the day and change our table.  We manage to have a fun dinner with two very enjoyable sisters.

The next day I am back to arrange to change tables.  I am assigned a new table number.  Several hours later after an hour spent dressing because it is ‘formal night’  we show up again at the dining room.  Late of course.  This time it is my clothes.  Evidently packing and moving 40 + suitcases and pushing a large man around in a wheel chair has caused me to lose weight.  My beautiful dressy pants won’t stay up and I am tripping on them.  So travel takes longer since I have to stop every 30 feet or so and pull my pants up.

Anyway, we are seated.  At a table for two.  A table that sits over the top of an engine or something and vibrates,  no SHAKES!  It is very noisy too.  I am so irritated.  I do manage to get a staff member to take a picture of us.

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Jules, this is the picture of me in my fancy outfit.

Next day I am back with Mr. Extra Snooty, explaining that I love my husband but we are together ALL THE TIME and part of the fun of being on a cruise is to meet other folks and maybe have a chance to talk with them.  Could we please sit at a table with other people?  He gives us a new table assignment.  This time a table for 10 people on the same level as a restaurant entrance.

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We are seated with Stan (from the Bronx) and his wife and a father and daughter from Maryland.  Stan is one of those people who you ask a question and it just opens the flood gates.  You could tell from his wife’s eye rolls that she had heard these stories sooooo many times.  He was pretty interesting.  And I said I wanted conversation.

To wrap this very long post up, we ate dinner with this group several nights, missing one when Ben was ill.  At other times during the day we had encountered the charming sisters that we had dinner with the first night.  On the last night they had decided to hell with Mr. Extra Snooty (They were the ones to give him that nick name.)  and were inviting guests to join them at ‘their’ table.  So we abandonded Stan from the Bronx and his long suffering wife to join them again.  We had a very enjoyable meal.

The head of security had been back in touch with me and agreed upon reading the email from the onboard service staff that I was mislead.  He started the wheels turning to have me reimbursed for the cost of shipping my knives.  He went above and beyond in customer service and could not have been more professional or nice.  He saved the trip.

More in another post about food, what to do on the QM2 and other pics for Jules.

 

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Returning to the move

Hard to believe that it has been since December that I wrote about our move.  Not because it was an awful experience but because I have not had time to write.  We have had a little cold spell here and sometimes I just  refuse to go out.  That makes time to write.

My last bit about the move was on my previous blog, about the first part of our trip through France.  (click here if you want to read it  first part of trip )   We did make it to Calais.  Had a great hotel across from this HUGE shopping area.  I walked over and had to practice great restraint.  There was a CarreFour.  Ohhhh, it was hard.  I made a farewell tour of the rose wine aisle.  Picked up some croissants and cheese for our trip.  Walked back to the hotel.  That is when I decided to pull out the paperwork about how to use the Eurotunnel so that we could talk about it with Enzo at dinner.  That is when it all went downhill.  I realized that I had booked the wrong day!!!!!!  The Eurotunnel folks had expected us there that morning and now we were going to show up 24 hours late!  I immediately burst in to tears.  Nothing to do but get Ben organized, get him in to the restaurant, collect Enzo and while eating dinner, explain to him what I have done.  I can only imagine how this looked.  Two men and one woman in tears at a table in a restaurant. With the woman doing all the talking first in English, then Italian, then explaining the French menu in English and then in Italian, in between sobs.   I had some wine and calmed down a little.  We decided that after dinner Enzo and I would go to the Eurotunnel terminal and chat with them.

Well, the Eurotunnel folks could not have been nicer.  Maybe this happens to others.  For 40 Euros we were able to get re-booked.    The next morning everything went well.  We managed to get on an earlier train.  To cross the channel you board a train made up of modified  freight cars and passenger cars.  We were going in a vehicle so we went into the modified freight car.

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Just like the ambulance in front of us.  Having a wheel chair person in the vehicle allowed us to board first, in the first car.

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Driving to the front end of the train.  Keep in mind this is a modified freight car.  So no frills.  I never got back to the walk-on passenger section which is most likely very nice.  Anyway the train starts.

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There are only windows on the side of the train car that we were in so it was just like sitting in the back seat of a car when it goes through a tunnel.  You saw sky, then you saw artificial lights and then you saw sky again.   Didn’t take long.  Very efficient loading and unloading.  And then we were in England.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I owned stock in Eurotunnel.  Since then I have always wanted to go on it.  I was really tickled that I got to do it.

Without too much trouble we found our Air bnb rental in Southampton.  It was very well located near the dock where the Queen Mary 2 moors.  We had a lovely pub lunch

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Got settled in and watched the sun set.

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I had scheduled us to arrive two days before our sailing on the QM2.  Since we were traveling in December there could have been weather disruptions or vehicle problems.  The extra day allowed for that.  We had a quiet day and then we got to see our friends Howard and Margaret.  They drove quite a ways to visit with us.  We had a drink and dinner pulled together from the carry away options at Tesco.  So nice that we were staying in an apartment rather than a hotel.  We had glasses and china and were able to have a nice celebratory feast.

It was so thoughtful of them to come and that really meant a lot to both Ben and I.  They were off.  We all went to sleep.  Look for the next entry…..our trip on the Queen Mary 2.

 

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How to

dress a large man with balance issues on cruise ship in rough seas?

 

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make him stand somewhere and HOLD ON!  It was not easy.  And we got through the whole trip with out Ben falling.  In a large part to thanks to the Queen Mary 2 for having one of the best designed handicapped bath rooms that we have ever used.

 

 

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Condo Work

How is it progressing?  Well it has gone from this

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to this

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Actually it is more ripped out than this now.  Most of the side walls and the ceiling are gone now too.  The plumber has roughed in for the new fixtures as has the electrician.  The deck is done.

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The deck, ramp and  planter (big box at far left)

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The planter, almost 6′ long and 2′ wide.  Last week I was out there happily filling it with drainage rock when the electrician walked out and reminded me that he needed to run wiring through there and it would need to be inspected, so maybe I didn’t want to fill it up with rocks and soil just yet.  So I stopped.  But waiting is not a bad thing.   There are two big trees back there that still need to leaf out.  I need to see how much sun I will have.  I don’t think a lot.    Plant searching has started.

I am also waiting to see if I can stain a ‘rug’ on the deck.  I need permission from the home owners association.  We’ll see.

Anyway, 2 months from today (3/15) we should be ready to move in.  Who wants to come help us move, yet again?

 

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Our New Ride

As part of our move, we had to buy a car.  If we had more money than sense we would have moved our Fiat Multipla.  We loved that car.  It was very comfortable and ran well.

Anyway, we don’t have more money than sense.  So when we first arrived we rented a car for a month.  As that rental period came to an end we started thinking of buying a car.  But we hope that Ben will get a motorized wheel chair.  (He will be evaluated for one next week and told which type is best for him.)  It occurred to us that maybe we should wait on buying a ‘forever’ car until we have the wheelchair in place.  After all it is easier to get the car to fit the chair than to get the chair to fit the car.  So when our friend BK offered to sell us one of her cars, we snapped.   (This is the odd thing about our friend BK.  She has a thing about cars.  She is a PHD.  Was a university professor.  This sweet diminutive, little southern lady who has a thing about cars.  She once had a classic Mustang convertible.  She has had other cars that I would never had bought.  So when I write ‘one of her cars’, if you know her, you know that is not unusual)

And here it is….

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A 1998 limited edition (Cartier) Lincoln Continental, Champagne Color, of course.  The irony  is that for a period of time in the early 90s while still living here in Raleigh, I drove a baby blue Lincoln Town car.  So I seemed to have completely returned to my old life.

This land yacht has leather seats, easy for Ben to slide on.  Room behind the drivers seat for Ben’s collapsible wheel chair.  No lifting it up to get it in and out of a trunk.  Everything in it works including the AC which we used a good bit in February.  And now we have a trade in when we are finally ready to buy a ‘forever’ car.

Given the age of the car and our age I decided to embrace it.  This is the license plate

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Give us a wave if you see us cruising around Raleigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March 1, 1878 March 1, 2017

Look what I forgot to do this year.  Honor my Grandparents.  The folks who made our lives in Italy possible.  I feel badly that this has happened.  I think it is because I feel so far removed from our life in Italy.  Most of my time is consumed with caring for the two of us and the very minor role of making decisions about our condo being remodeled.   (Basketball might have consumed some time too)  Perhaps when we are in our own place, with all our things out and about I will think more often about living there.  Anyway, here is the story.

This is an updated version that some of you might have read before.  We were able to  ‘live the dream of Italy’ full time because of my grandparents. On my grandfather’s birthday, I like to remind others of him and all the folks, who either by choice or not, immigrated to America and helped to make it into a strong country.  If you are interested in more than my story I urge you to watch the series on PBS  http://video.pbs.org/program/italian-americans/.  While I don’t think that my grandparents had the same type of experience that happened in big American cities I think they had some of those experiences.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 139 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. Besides my grandfather, I know they also had 2 daughters, one, Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno and another that I never met, Josephine who lived in Connecticut.

In 2003 I began researching my grandparents’ lives so that I could apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to my nonno who I never met. He died before I was born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.

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I have found this house because very dear friends, Tonino and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time.  Only the Romano’s  tenacity helped me to find this place.

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far, I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseilles, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.

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He did not always leave from Naples. Meta, the town south of Naples, where he lived was at the time a fairly large port and had a ship building facility. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.

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Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. Before that, a large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know, that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. And I have a very cooperative and loving husband. After I finally got my Italian citizenship he didn’t mind when I packed us up and moved us to Italy.

Recently, I was part of a conversation about ‘how many folks knew the name of a cousin of one of the their grandparents.’  On my mother’s side of the family I could say that I knew the name and I have a picture of the woman, sitting with my great grandmother (and her chickens!).  On my father’s side, I don’t even know the names of all his brothers and sisters.  And as his children die that information will be lost or much harder to find.  The point that I took from this discussion was that in a very short period of time this knowledge of family is lost.

Now I am climbing on my soapbox.  The story of my grandparents’ migration is because of choices that they made, a story of a fairly easy journey with a very happy outcome.  Everyday, here in Europe, we see stories of families being forced to flee because of war.  Their journey is not easy.  Their greeting is not with open arms.  Time will tell how their migrations will end.  Time will tell how many of them will remember or know the name of their own cousin, much less the names of previous generations.  I urge everyone of you reading this to examine your attitudes and thoughts about the current migrant crisis.  Do some research and remember how America was built on the backs of immigrants.  Immigrants who just might have been your relatives.  Remember the ‘Golden Rule’ that many of us learned as a child.  Wonder that if your ancestor had not have made a migration you might be not be enjoying the freedoms and comforts that you have now.

I’m off my soapbox now.  Little by little, with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Wednesday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. If you have any interest in your own background you should try it.  You learn about the past and look what it led to for us.

Buon Compleanno Nonno!  And thank you from all of my heart!

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The Grandparents in the late 1940s.

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Thinking about death

Well, that’s a cheery subject for Spring, huh?   I think it is because I am reading obituaries again.

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The News and Observer has obituaries every day.  At least a full page, sometimes more.  In Italy, when someone died a notice was plastered up on a wall somewhere in town, usually at an entrance  into town.  Always in the same place.  Many times we would pass by and see an older person standing and reading the notice.

Here, this news arrives at my door step every day.  And I do give it a quick glance.  Sometimes more than a quick glance.   You know, it is up to a family member or someone who knew the deceased to write the obituary.  These are very  interesting to read when the writer has really struggled to come up with things to write  that are at least half way nice.   It turns out that my cousin Bonnie is very good at writing obituaries.  (Recently she has had to do it far too often)  She and I were talking about writing obituaries and I was reminded of this woman’s book.  Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer by  Heather Lende.  And then Heather Lende was here in Raleigh to speak at a book store.  (this was back in January or February)  I didn’t want to go out in the weather to hear her.  But for someone from Alaska our Raleigh winter must have seemed like Spring.  Anyway, I still wonder what she spoke about.  

And then there is this

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It’s the little hand written notes of addresses that I keep in my card box along with stamps.  I still send cards (actual mail) to people.  I have a number of older relatives and friends that aren’t (for one reason or the other) able to read this blog.  So they get a card or postcard every now and then.  Anyway, when I leaf through this list, which I started when we first moved to Italy, it is sad to see all the names I no longer send cards to because they are dead.

And then there was the discussion I had in the doctor’s office with the nurse.  She was entering info from Ben’s records into the computer and just started humming away.  So I just had to ask about her humming.  (You might remember my earlier post about singing when we entered France during our move. I will also burst into song or hum or whistle when I am happy or relaxed)  And this young woman agreed that her humming was when she was happy or relaxed.  She did not have a relative that did this.  Whereas I have my Uncle John.  I remember as a child that he would sing and whistle.     And then I saw this in an obituary

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In about the middle of the page ” The neighbors enjoyed Bob’s presence, especially listening to his whistling skills while doing yardwork.”    And I wondered will someone write something like that about me?   Maybe I should set to work writing my obituary or at least making some notes of what I want included…..

Anyway, a picture of something living, green and vibrate from a recent plant nursery tour to end these thoughts.

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