As I sit here, overlooking the valley below the medieval town of Spello, I’m amazed at what we’ve seen and experienced in the past week. 

We arrived in Italy a week ago today, just about this hour. Since then, we’ve dodged high tide on the streets of Venice, gazed in awe at massive mosaics dedicated to the Virgin Mary and (what seemed like) hundreds of saints, studied the evolution of glassmaking, dodged the people selling knock-off designer handbags, driven on tiny, twisty mountain roads that only barely fit two cars going in opposite directions, huffed up and scrambled down countless ancient cobblestone roads, enjoyed about 20 cappuccinos each, eaten far too many croissants stuffed with apricot jam and at least 12 types of pasta, squeezed REALLY ancient rocks through our toes on a fine sand beach along the Adriatic, stepped on paths crossed by knights and ladies of court, and seen views whose beauty can only truly be understood in person. 

A view of the Adriatic from Pesaro, the town we think is Husband’s family’s homeland.
our hotel in the beautiful city of San Marino, in the Republic of San Marino, the world’s first constitutional republic and currently its fifth-smallest nation
A painting by Cesare Gennari in the San Marino state museum. perhaps a relative of Husband??
Another day, another ridiculous pastry.
A view of the Adriatic from San Marino
San Marino is famous for its three towers, constructed between the 11th and 12th centuries. This is the courtyard view from the first tower.
The second tower of San Marino, as viewed from the first.
Taken while driving up Mt. Titano toward San Marino
St. Geremiah looking over Venice
A canal in the island of Murano near Venice. This is where glassmaking went from a science to an art.
The altar at the church of Saints Mary and Donato in Murano. Stunning mosaics !
Our evening virw of the Cannereggio neighborhood in Venice, looking over the Canale di Cannaregio

Today is October 6, 2016. Five years ago on this day, I was recovering from the physical trauma of pelvic radiation, preparing for my second surgery. This one, unlike the first exploratory procedure I’d had 5 months prior, would clear out all the uterine leiomyosarcoma that might yet be lingering in my body. Although this was based only on my surgeon’s hunch, there was a chance I’d wake up not only without my entire reproductive machinery, but also missing a piece of my rectum. The deal was, he’d check my rectum during the hysterectomy and bilateral salpingoophorectomy to see if it had any malignant tissue. If so, he planned to remove the cancerous section, leading to yet another procedure, an ileostomy, that would bypass my small intestine to allow the rectum to heal for about three months. 

Of course, we know how this story ends. He found cancer on the rectum, removed it, did the ileostomy, and saved my life. The next three months of my life–and  the lives of those closest to me–were hell. But we made it. 

We all lived this together, you and I, but it sometimes seems like a horrible movie I once watched. I can go hours without having any reason to think of this experience, even obliquely. But I can’t go a full day, because there are too many physical and emotional reminders. Still, the full trauma hits me only rarely these days. Thankfully. 

So, I return to this moment, in which I’m surrounded by physical, emotional, and although it’s not my thing, spiritual testaments to survival. The unparalleled gifts of prayers and a dream vacation from my cancer YaYas, our huge community of family and friends. A rich, fertile valley before me, filled with dark brown earth, verdant countryside, buildings in shades of tan to peach with salmon-colored clay roof tiles. An ancient building behind me constructed of hand-hewn rock. My love beside me, ready to protect me at all costs (regardless of what a PIA he can be in the course of that protection).  

I am bursting with gratitude. 

Me. Bursting.


Ode to a Wondrous World

Sorry, folks. I’ve been remiss in posting about The Big Trip, or TBT. It’s been quite action-packed thus far, and I’ll admit that I’ve been posting my pics on Facebook b/c it’s easier and gets more likes. What can I say? I’m a product of the times. 

So we started, of course, in Venice. The fair city of Venezia is, as I’ve lovingly taken to referring to it, “ridiculously f’ing charming.”  Pardon my French, but c’est vrai. 

To begin, there is something fascinating about a city on a small island, a place that gets 20 million visitors a year (!!), with many local (albeit small) dogs, that still manages to keep its streets clean. We were constantly amazed by this. I attribute this to the street sweepers who use brooms made of twigs. For real. I saw this happen. 

But also, the tiny vias, the countless shops where you could stroll in and order a scrumptious sandwich for 3euros, the shops selling UNBELIEVABLY gorgeous shoes (OMG, how I wanted those shoes), the Venetian masks, the gaggles of teenaged boys walking together in the evenings, arms around one another and singing the latest Italian pop hit. And, yes, even the pigeons. 

And, of course, the gondolas, the “front steps” leading into the water, and the truly awe-inspiring churches. 

Whew. It’s a lot to take in. 

But take it in, we have. 

Thank you, YaYas. Xoxo 

Ode to a Wondrous World