Monthly Archives: March 2012

Workout Friday

This blog is quickly devolving into my workout journal, and I will remedy that next week.

For now, please share my glee in the following products which arrived in the mail today!!!


That’s right! Brand new sports bra and two highly peer-recommended strengthening dvds. Yay!!!


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Granite and Brioche

Nothing indicates warm weather in Sicily more than granite and Brioche in the morning…


…and this delicious version features a rich dark chocolate granite topped with pistacchio granite, the Brioche was warmed through. The hot cold contrast mimicked the hot sun slicing through the cool spring breezes.

Granite is icier than gelato, but still manages to convey creaminess in the chocolate and pistacchio flavors. Rich, refreshing and right around the corner.


Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

Princess Poopy-pants

Tonight, we had dinner with a new couple and their daughter, who I hope become our friends – they are lovely, funny, and super-duper intelligent. A great combo.

The best exchange of the night went a little something like this.

Little T (4-year-old daughter): I wish I had a REAL magic wand.

Jill: What would you do with a REAL magic wand?

Little T: (with a knowingly devilish grin)

I would

(looks around to make sure everyone, including her parents, is listening)…

I would

(starts giggling to herself)

I wouldturnyouinto Princess Poopy-pants! (she squeaks out with a gleeful squeal)

I am not sure how I qualified to become Princess Poopy-pants, though I am honored to have earned it once the REAL magic wand appears. If I ever did become a princess, I really wouldn’t know where to start since The Princess Diaries made me barf whenever Julie Andrews was off screen (which was altogether too much). I am pretty sure this dazzling beauty with chola eyebrows could give me some great advice, I mean once she’s done working at the circus in Catania, of course.


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The Diary of a Young Girl

Finally sitting down after a busy day on the go. Doctor visited, work worked, run ran, pot luck salad prepared (though not fully assembled til tomorrow)…whew!

Now, just to finish the most recent version of Anne Frank’s diary before book club on Thursday.


I have read the book a few times. I spent time talking with young Ecuadoreans about the significance of the book after “que es El Holocaust” was part of a conversation. I have visited the museum in Amsterdam several times, including our most recent trip.


The story has always fascinated me, much for the typical thrill at the horror of the situation. However, after that thrill fades and the Frank family comes to life, I came to admire Anne’s spirit. I could identify with her in so many of her descriptions about not fitting in and trying to etch out a life of your own. Of course, she faced immeasurably different challenges than I did in the late 20th century Wisconsin. Yet, her prose was and is universal. I am looking forward to new revelations in this version…

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Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Frank Bruni is Rethinking His Religion, and you can too

It isn’t every day that we have the space and opportunity to put our minds to the task of deep thinking. Yet, so many wonderful changes in life come from the sparks of insight we gain when we stop to think things through from time to time.

The Cinquecento Project began as a multi-faceted attempt to inform friends and family about life in Sicily; to educate myself about my new culture – both military and Sicilian; to give me an excuse to order a new food, take another picture, or trek to Cefalu for gelato (no regrets!!!); to focus on the positive perks of daily life; and so much more.

Frank Bruni over at the New York Times shares a touching story about changing perspectives through deep thinking. Rethinking His Religion begins as a coming of age story. Immediately, Mr. Bruni encounters a deeply religious student, and Bruni is turned off.

This man attended Catholic services every Sunday in a jacket and tie, feeling that church deserved such respect. I kept a certain distance from him.

Over the years, they had some interactions, but nothing could have prepared Bruni for the turnaround achieved by his former classmate.

About two years ago, out of nowhere, he found me. His life, he wanted me to know, had taken interesting turns. He’d gone into medicine, just as he’d always planned. He’d married and had kids. But he’d also strayed from his onetime script. As a doctor, he has spent a part of his time providing abortions.

Bruni goes on to describe the journey his classmate underwent to reach the point where he reached out to Bruni. The classmate attributed college with opening his eyes to just how diverse and far-reaching this world is, to the injustices and prejudices practiced and coveted by those in power, to the constant fragility underlying even our most successful achievements.

Questioning his church’s position on homosexuality made him question more. He read the Bible “front to back and took notes of everything I liked and didn’t like,” he said.

“There’s a lot of wisdom there,” he added, “but it’s a real mistake not to think about it critically.

Then, Bruni highlights the crux of how this gentleman bridged his Catholic upbringing with his decision to perform abortions. For many in our nation, abortion is a touchstone issue prompting knee-jerk reactions. Bruni’s classmate had followed the beliefs preached to him only so far.

He has thought a lot about how customs, laws and religion do and don’t jibe with women’s actions and autonomy.

“In all centuries, through all history, women have ended pregnancies somehow,” he said. “They feel so strongly about this that they will attempt abortion even when it’s illegal, unsafe and often lethal.

The discord between the ideal and the real is apparent to all of us. Every time we wish for another hour in the day, we are recognizing the limitations that prevent us from reaching our ideals. Not only in finishing the dishes in time to enjoy 30 pages of your book before bed, but limitations that prevent us from flying across the country to tend a fragile friendship, or the limitations that lead to the choice between a time with your kids or a second job to fund their college dreams. On the ways religion falls short, Bruni speaks through his classmates thoughts:

And in too many religious people he sees inconsistencies. They speak of life’s preciousness when railing against abortion but fail to acknowledge how they let other values override that concern when they support war, the death penalty or governments that do nothing for people in perilous need.

He has not raised his young children in any church, or told them that God exists, because he no longer believes that. But he wants them to have the community-minded values and altruism that he indeed credits many religions with fostering. He wants them to be soulful, philosophical.

While this article touched on many areas worthy of deep thought, what especially touched a chord with me is the emphasis on “community-minded values and altruism.” As a non-religious person, I have faced the question about what role I have in our overwhelmingly religious society. How much credibility do I have in the eyes of a strict Catholic, a Mormon, or evangelical (of any religion)? Would they trust me to doctor, guide or legislate for their community?

These deep thoughts are the stuff of mind wanderings on a still evening, and they are also the questions that pull me along. I look forward to finding time in my day to think about crunchy problems like how do I justify disagreeing with policies that are paying for my life (military)? How much have I changed my opinions as I have learned more about the mission of the military, particularly in this overseas station?

Turning over the events of the day in my mind and selecting five highlights was skimming the surface of the ever churning thoughts, questions and doubts swirling within me. I am re-entering engagement with these thoughts, it is a little scary, but like Bruni’s classmate – I hope I have the courage and wisdom to continue on the journey.


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Run Week: Seabee

The end of run week brings a familiar image that marks the end of my go-to running route on base – a Seabee sculpture (statue?). When I see this statue I am either stopping or my cool down or pushing for my last surge.


The statue’s inspiration is clear when you know that the technical term “Seabee” arose from the command’s title “Construction Battalion” (CB). This command is full of up and coming mechanics, engineers and all around smart and handy women and men. They also have the best mascot in the entire history of military mascots.

Yesterday, with my love of running abuzz from Run Week, I achieved my fastest repeats ever! There’s nothing better than reaching for a previously unthinkable goal, struggling along the way and finding yourself capable of even more than you had hoped for.

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Run Week

Here are some more photos from the Base 2 Base race on Sigonella last Saturday. It was a little over 7.6 miles, with little elevation, lots of sunshine and camaraderie, and green beer at the finish line (for cash – MWR can’t give away beer!).


Several colleagues from my office and from Dave’s office were also running the race. Here is a legalmen running alongside Dave as we make our start!


The luck of the Irish was well represented, even by the artwork of this runner’s child.


Mt. Etna looked down benevolently on the runners.


All’s well that ends well.


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Filed under 5-100, Running

Run Week Hump Day

The mist hung thickly in the air as the bright sunlight struggled to break through the clouds. My morning drowsiness hung about me much the same as I struggled with thoughts of snuggling back into bed.

“Get up and run,” a voice whispered in my ear.

Buzz off, I thought.

“Jill, that is the second snooze,” Dave said, in a voice just above a whisper, this time.

Groaning, I reached out to pull the covers in closer, just as they were gently yanked out from under my hands; Dave had just thrown his side of the covers back in order to get up and flick on the overhead light. The sudden gust of chilled air accompanied by the bright flash of light pulled me fully from my semi-sleep state.

One more deep sigh and I, too, threw back the covers and firmly set my feet on the floor, ready to face the day.

A quick kitty-hug-huddle, packing my lunch, and brush-my-teeth later, and we were heading out the door towards the commute to base. Recently the autostrada has a section knocked down to a single lane, compromising the morning rush-hour traffic. If we do not stick to our morning workout routine, we face thirty to sixty minute delays of traffic.

Thus, running spirit or no, I was anxious to get out the door after I dragged myself out of bed.

Once we passed through the security check point onto base, I faced the ultimate late winter decision: brave the elements or embrace the treadmill. After months of finding the treadmill a welcome companion, I had recently been running outside more and more often.

Weather conditions are always relative. Two weeks ago I would have called 41 degrees Fahrenheit a heat wave at 6:30am, yet yesterday I was wracking my brain to recall the winter running gear I had packed in my gym bag.

Fuzzy headband? Check! Stretchy gloves? Nope…but I have a sweatshirt long enough to tuck around my fists as I get going. Running tights? Nope, but after the first few minutes, I should warm up. Thermal shirt? Nope, but I have three layers; tank top, t-shirt, sweatshirt. Oh goodness, I guess I’ll run outside.

I’m not going to lie, the first half-mile, I was pretty frigid. However, this is the secret magic of the change-of-season run; your body works hard enough to warm you from the inside out.

As my blood started flowing, my heart and soul warmed and I settled into the rhythm of my feet springing up from the pavement. Bounce, bounce, breath, in, bounce, bounce, breath, out, bounce, bounce, big, lungs, bounce, bounce, push-it, out

The crisp air whizzed in through my nose and slightly burned my throat as it warmed on its path to my lungs. Ahhh. Something special happens as my body responds to the work I am putting it through. Skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts will understand how that hot-cold mix equals pure magic on certain mornings. Heck, it is the biggest reason we head out into that cold morning time and again.

About half-way through my run I glanced down, my legs were glowing a warm pink hue, and my hands were just starting to peek through the makeshift mittens of my sweatshirt cuffs. Unlike some mornings when I pull my fuzzy headband down to my neck, that morning I adjusted the headband to more fully cover my ears. This brisk air was staying firmly in lower 40s.

Yet, the beauty of the run had already won me over. A broad grin spread across my face as I looked out on the misty fields around me. Besides my own breath and footfall, I could hardly hear the morning birds chirping. On the fuzzy horizon, I saw sailors out for a morning PT jog, and surprisingly a plane was taking off overhead.

I knew a long day of typing, analyzing, time managing, and avoiding my deepest misgivings about my reality lay ahead of me. I knew that this moment of unadulterated bliss was just a glimpse of the joy. I knew that I could taste this flavor again the next morning only if I endured the day ahead of me.

I pitter-pattered on back to the gym and resumed my regular life. I let the joy show on my face as long as it burned in my heart, and even after the flames died down, I knew they were smoldering; waiting for the moment the next morning when I would take that first chilly step of my morning run.


Filed under 5-100, Running

Run Week Post 2: Post-race bliss

From last weekend’s post-Base2Base run:


The Base 2 Base run was amazing! I am posing here with my amazing colleague who is not only beautiful and talented in the office, she is fun and active outside the office. Ciao bella!

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Run Week Post 1 – The Art of Running: Camaraderie

The theme this week is Running!

I know it is everyone’s favorite activity, that’s why you’re reading a blog about Sicily, right? Well, as it so happens, running is the most inspirational activity of my life, and thus, I just have to write about it from time to time. I will weave Sicily into each day’s story, in small ways, in humorous ways, in ways you’ve not thought of Sicily before.

Today, I was inspired to run by this article from Runner’s World online. The writer, Gerard Pescatore, talks about camaraderie and running and it got my mind grapes thinking back on some great running memories. Also, I read this article while sitting on my couch in Sicily. (Small way today)

One particular set of memories is from the days of the Lombardino’s running club. We were a motley crew and really just making it up as we went along. None of us had been on a cross country team, and few of us had run more than some panting laps around the block. Yet, over the months we spent developing and extending our running histories, we morphed into a regular running club – complete with some club traditions, like personalized “nods” and practicing keeping things “in the vault.”

“In the vault” – Because we all worked together and most of us were friends, we had a pile of common acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. Hence, we had a lot of gossip to dish, a lot of complaints to air, and a lot of blame to pass around. Yet, it is hard to be edgy and cynical when you get up an hour and a half earlier than normal in order to put yourself through physical discomfort. Let’s face it, you’re optimistic about something if you agree to those terms.

Instead of getting down with the gossip, we often ended up talking about ourselves. Fears came to light as we shared insights about our own flaws. Insecurities tumbled out during a lull in a tempo run, and more than one admission spilled forth as we sweated through a long run. Each time we made ourselves vulnerable to each other the group strengthened and the resultant mutual trust bonded us to one another.

Initially, we were all a bit wary that our revelations might come to light after the runs – during the light-hearted bantering that is part and parcel of working in the restaurant industry. In the early days, a personal moment might end with a runner asking to keep the information private. Eventually, someone assured the divulger that the info was “in the vault.” From that point forward, “in the vault” indicated instantly that the information was private. In my experience, we all kept those secrets safely in our vaults and in the collective vault.

Instead of this group dynamic, Gerard Pescatore wrote about the unspoken, or limited-time camaraderies that infuse the running culture. Our group dabbled in those, as well. In particular, we each adopted a signature “nod.” Mr. Pescatore wrote of the camaraderie that warmed his heart from sharing a nod as he passed another runner. The nod acknowledges the effort, sacrifice, passion, excitement, and slew of other emotions and determinations that drive us to lace up our shoes and head out the door.

In the Lombo’s running club, we experimented with what signature style we could add to the “nod” to make it our own. The simple “hiya” hand wave – a quick flip of the wrist to show the oncoming runner the underside of your palm. The “big smile” – where the runner affixes a comically large grin to her face as a runner approaches, almost daring the oncoming runner not to laugh or react. The “gotcha” point – sorta like that annoying uncle who points and nods as he sees you from across the room at grandma’s house, but done to an oncoming runner.

Whatever style we each developed, we would faithfully employ it as we came upon other runners or groups. Silence would descend on the group, and we would maintain our adopted profile until the runner was (hopefully) out of earshot. Then, we would all bust up a bit as we described the reaction we were able to get, or the thoughts we imagined passing through a stranger’s head.

While the running club expanded, shrunk, and eventually petered out, I continue to carry the camaraderies of that time in a special place of my runner’s heart. I bonded with my colleagues, with other runners and with myself as I fell deeper in love with the art of running.


Filed under 5-100, Running