Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thirty is the new twenty

I can't believe that in just three more sleeps I will be thirty years old.
I remember being at school and thinking that thirty was so old and by then my life would be just about over. I would wear daggy tracksuits and stay at home and bake biscuits all day.

I definetely did not imagine this sweet turn of events where I would be spending my thirtieth birthday in Florence, Italy.

The good news (apart from the above fact that I'm in one of the most enchanting cities in the world) is that I know I don't look thirty. I constantly get told I look a lot younger. If only they knew how much I spend on moisurisers and how much make up is under my eyes!

But the bad news is that sometimes I'm so tired that I don't feel thirty at all. I feel more like sixty! I remember going out wearing stilleto's and partying until wee hours of the morning. I would quite happily wake up the next morning and attend a university lecture at 8am. These days, if I don't get to bed at a reasonable hour, my husband tells me how cranky I get the next day. I hate it when he's right. And as for the stilleto's? Well I am a girly girl so I still wear them and complain bitterly about my sore back to anyone that will listen.

As women, I don't think we give ourselves enough credit for what we have achieved in our lives, no matter what age we are. Certainly in this stage of my life where I keep getting jokes about being a 'kept woman' and not having a job or children to look after, I sometimes doubt myself in what I have achieved to date. So, I've decided to write a list of some of the things that I have achieved in my life and also what I hope to achieve.

This is by no means meant to be a vain exercise but just a reassurance to myself that I've had a wonderful thirty years thus far. Here's hoping the next thirty are just as good, because even if I don't get one more blessing in my life, I feel I've been blessed far more than most. And I challenge every woman (and man) reading this to think up of their own list. I have to admit that initially I wrote down three points, got stuck and was about to delete this blog.

So, here it is. Things I've achieved and things I hope to achieve in the next thirty years. Most importantly though, I acknowledge that I couldn't have achieved anything in my life without God and without so many different people at various crossroads in my life.

1. I'm alive and healthy. Having survived a major car accident when I was five (the others in the car were not so lucky), I consider it a privilege to be in this world. And having the opportunity to see a lot of the world, I especially value becoming an Australian citizen.

2. I worked three jobs to support myself through university and finished a marketing degree (and still found time to party as mentioned above!)and then managed to find a wonderful job.

3. I found the most sincere, loyal husband in the world and kept him (so far so good)for 9 years...although he tells me he is only here for my Polish cooking. Did I mention he's extremely handsome too!? Please don't hate me!

4. I have survived six months of not working. This statement is not a joke. In fact, for me, following my husband on this Europe assignment was a big adjustment as I very much liked my career and still struggle with not having a "proper job".

5. I have kept my body healthy and exercised at least four times a week for seven years now. Before then I did no exercise and a friend of mine who hadn't seen me for a while told me I had put on weight (he was unfortunately right). I decided to exercise from that very day and whilst some days it's a challenge, I do it for the health and well being of my body. And to fit into my favourite pair of jeans but that part is vanity!

6. We worked our butts off in our first years of mariage to buy our first home. Mind you, we both saw very little of each other as we were always at work, our TV sat on the carpet as we couldn't afford a TV table and this was in the times when houses were actually affordable in Perth unlike now.

7. I found God and the comfort of praying daily. This actually should have been my first point as without Him I feel like none of my achievements would have occurred.

8. I was hoping to have ten points but I'm now out of ideas. I thought that surely I I could list more than just seven points...have I really only achieved one thing every four years?

Ok, so I didn't make my ten points. But here are some things I hope to achieve:

1. Become a better person and a better wife for I feel like we can always improve and grow in our lives

2. Become a mother. But not just any mother, a great mother. My friends with children really inspire me.

3. Finish writing my autobiography. I've dreamt of writing a book since I was a young girl and my primary school teacher told me she enjoyed my story writing.

4. Curb my chocolate addiction. I eat more chocolate daily than most people do every week and it is my one big weakness that I seem to have no control over.

5. I hope to read the Bible from start to finish one day. So far I've been unsuccessful.

6. And last but not least, I hope to someday willingly eat vegetables every day. I just don't enjoy them unless they are deep fried, covered in mushroom sauce or pickled (Polish gherkins, now there is a good vegetable).

So, there you have it. I can honestly say this has been a very hard blog to write. It's much easier to write about visiting a cathedral in Florence or enjoying the Tuscan sun. It's always harder to delve into one's soul, especially your own, as you may not always like what you see.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lean on me / He ain't heavy, he's my brother

This morning I opened the curtains in the hope that the Tuscan sun would be smiling back at me. I was very sad to see the rain and dark clouds above as my brother-in-law and his wife had just arrived from Australia to visit us and we were hoping to take them to Cinque Terre. We quickly changed our plans and decided to go to visit La Torre di Pisa (The Leaning Tower of Pisa).

Jason had been wanting to see this famous tower for so long but for some reason I wasn't as excited as him. My feelings changed and my mouth dropped open as soon as I saw it. It looked so unreal and unlike anything I have ever seen before. I simply couldn't help but wonder why it doesn't fall over which is really not the best thought to have when you are just about to climb it.

After buying our tickets, we proceeded to climb the 294 steps to the top. I was proud of my pregnant sister-in-law who seemed to have more energy than the rest of us.

Being scared of heights coupled with the angle of the tower making making me feel like I was walking half-drunk, my legs started to shake and I felt sick. But the view from the top was spectacular and we were disappointed that our alloted viewing time was over so quickly.

I was interested to learn that from 1990 to 2004 the tower was actually closed to the public due to safety concerns. But now you can walk up there just as soon as you get past the hundreds of market sellers asking you to buy a half tilted coffee mug or a random poster of Bart Simpson leaning on the tower.

When we were driving home, the GPS took us the wrong way around Florence and we accidentally stumbled across the Piazzale Michelangiolo with a huge (replica) statue of David overlooking the whole of Florence. This was a sweet accident as we quickly realised that we were looking at the best view of Florence one can ever hope to see. Once we got our bearings of where we actually were, we realised that our new apartment is only a short walk from this beautiful spot and we can walk up to this view every day for our exercise. It was a beautiful surprise.

I imagine the lookout is usually full of tourists and locals serenly looking at the breathtaking view. But on Sunday the lookout hosted what looked like a huge street party. It started when we drove towards the lookout and all we could hear were beeping horns. It was so loud and constant that we couldn't hear the GPS telling us where to drive next.

We are still slightly nervous driving around Italy so we immediately thought we had cut someone off. But then a car completely draped in purple drove by and from there all we could see were scooters waving purple flags, people screaming and banners flying in the air. We found out the Florence soccer team Fiorentina, had made it into the next round of championships. It was fun to see not only Italian youth but old grandmothers loudly and frantically cheering in support of their beloved soccer team.

The weekend with our first lot of visitors was wonderful as we got to spend time with our family and experience sights which none of us had ever seen before. However for me, it was also exciting as I purchased my first two pairs of shoes in Italy. Beautiful high wedges to wear in the daytime when that sun returns. Hey, I didn't say they were practical, but they are very karina (cute).

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Madrina

This weekend I left the hustle and bustle of Florence in tourist season and headed to one of my very favourite cities in the world, Cologne in Germany.

Not only did I get to see my favourite cathedral again, the truly breathtaking Koln Dom, I also had the privilege of becoming godmother to my cousin's new baby Victoria Monika.

This was to be my second time as a madrina (godmother) in the last couple of months because my best friend Gina's son, Daniel, also became my godchild a few weeks ago. I may be biased but I think I easily have the cutest boy and prettiest girl as godchildren.

When I got off the plane in Cologne, it was a stark contrast to my new home town Florence. Everything was spotlessly clean, trees and flowers stood proudly manicured to an inch of their lives and the country runs like an efficient Swiss watch. But it lacked the Italian hospitality and vibe that I have now grown to love.

When I arrived back in Florence, I was walking to our apartment amongst food wrappers, cars beeping and homeless people begging for money on each corner. But no fewer than three people yelled out 'ciao' and one sang out 'welcome to Florence Senora!' (I guess the suitcase gave it away). Unlike in Germany, the city was alive with colour and excitement from both locals and tourists alike.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Arriverderci Jessie, the best companion in the world.

When our plane touched down in Australia two weeks ago, we were literally jumping with excitement to see our beautiful dog Jessie. Readers of my last entry will know she was slightly sick and off her food.

Never did I think that two days ago we would be looking into her beautiful brown eyes while our vet sent her to doggy heaven because her body gave in to a very bad case of bowel disease. It was the day that I hoped would never come.

Jessie had been with us from the time we were newly engaged to five years on in our marriage and was truly a part of our family. Jess' vet told us that a lot of dogs will wait for their owner's return before their body finally gives in to their sickness. I love that she waited for us to return from overseas.

Jason and I have been truly overwhelmed by not only our friends with their compassion towards us, but also of stories of how many people can relate to such a sad time with memories of their own pets passing on. Thank you to all our beautiful friends and to our wonderful in-laws who looked after her for the last six months.

As the plane touched down in Venezia yesterday and I boarded a water taxi, I took off my jumper and enjoyed the beautiful Italian sun on my skin and felt the wind through my hair. I finally smiled because I know Jess would have wanted me to. She was our greatest companion that brought a smile to our face each day. She knew exactly when you needed one.

I hear they only serve t-bone steaks in doggy heaven Jess and belly rubs are very strongly encouraged.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I still call Australia Home but I miss the pizza

Ten days ago, we found out we would need to fly to Perth Australia, our home town, to finalise the last bit of necessary paperwork to obtain our visa. Whilst this was a big disruption to my husband's work, I was excited as for me a free trip home meant a holiday and a wonderfully unexpected chance to catch up with family, friends and our beloved dog Jess.

Unfortunately, this year seems to be proving to have many obstacles for us and hasn't gone as we thought it would. Our trip home was no different.

My wonderful in-laws look after our dog (think home cooked meals, a bedroom with a sofa of her own and twice daily walks) and had warned us that she was off her food and wasn't her usual energetic 'I'll stare at you until you take me for a walk' self. Despite my in-laws spending a fortune at the local vet, I just had to take one look at her and realised just how sick she was. So, my intended week of shopping and coffee dates with girlfriends turned into spending the whole week taking Jess to the vet and finally visiting her in intensive care at the doggy hospital. I was so touched by all my family and friends that have been sending their well wishes as they all know how much our dog means to us.

Jess is being treated by a wonderful vet, Dr. Fleur James at the Murdoch University hospital. So, I have been visiting the university every day and really experiencing a 'blast from the past.' I graduated from the same university in 1999 and I can't believe (with my 30th birthday looming by), how old I feel when i see all the young students around me busily typing away their assignments at computers next to me.

It got me thinking that I had never dreamt 'big' whilst I was at university. I had never imagined I would even get a chance to visit Italy let alone live in Firenze and wake up to some of the most beautiful places in the world. And now that our visa issues have finally been resolved after six long months, I look forward to returning to Italy (once Jess is treated) and continuing our rocky but amazing year.