Tag Archives: love

Uncle Bill Homage

Meet Uncle Bill

He has a big heart, a silly soul, and an infectious laugh.

Uncle Bill likes to convince friends and family to join him on adventures in Mexico. For several years, I accompanied him to his timeshare. It was a special way to spend time together near the water. My sister Jenni and I are pictured here with Bill. Along with my brother and cousins, we all grew up swimming and boating together, and Uncle Bill was at the heart of it all. I will always think of water when I think of Uncle Bill.

Shortly after my first trip to Italia in 2005, I was in Mexico with Bill when I met this sassy lady, Sue. She was one of the first to subscribe to the blog, and any thought of her brings a smile to my face.

Here, Bill is wheeling Sue’s husband Scott around on a dolly. Silly souls unite! Scott and Sue really get the compassionate aspect of our family vibe, and they are down-to-earth, easy-going, and ultimately non-judgmental; with qualities like that, you’d be shocked at how outrageously funny they also are.

Apart from the countless lake memories, the Mexico memories, the oodles of Bill’s friends memories, and such, I can easily rattle off connection points – The Golden Girls, struggling to make sense of Catholic dogma and practice (Bill is still fighting that good fight), politics, human rights, and more!

As Dave and I prepared the house for Bill’s visit, our family stories were up for discussion. Bill is one of twelve aunts and uncles I have, not counting spouses (that puts it around 22 aunts and uncles). Dave has one aunt.

Hence our varying approach to family issues, at times.

I grew up listening to the cacophony that comes from such a family, especially one who is relatively tight knit on both my mother’s and my father’s side. Happily, I have medium to strong adult relationships with many of my aunts and uncles. They are the village that raised me and that continues to influence me.

No matter the influence of individual aunts and uncles; I can say that no other aunt or uncle has ever crafted a personal theme song; only Uncle Bill did that. An avid sports fan, Uncle Bill made sure we knew the Minnesota Twins’ fight song. While Grandma Smith was busy encouraging us to learn “On Wisconsin!” Bill was whispering baseball ditties in the other ear.

Once we learned the Twins’ fight song, Bill began adapting the lyrics…

Minnesota Twins’ fight song 
Sing along to that tune:
Oh how I love you
Favorite Uncle Bill
Oh how I love you
Open up the till

Hit me with a ten-spot
Leave me in your will
Oh how I love you
Favorite Uncle Bill

Twins’ Fight Song
(We’re gonna win Twins)
(We’re gonna score)
(We’re gonna win Twins)
(Watch that baseball soar)

(Crack out a home run)
(Shout out hip-hooray!)
(Cheer for the Minnesota)
(Twins to-day)

Tonight, I pick Uncle Bill up from the airport – yippee!

Oh yea, and Go Twinkies! (Are they still in the running for the play-offs?)


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness, Travel

Congratulations T & D!

Our friends T & D celebrated their wedding while we were back in the states. In fact, their ceremony and reception were the anchor for our trip to the U.S. It was a beautifully planned and executed ceremony with a mid-size guest list (about 100). The guests were all close friends and family, which numbered many due to the witty, generous and compassionate people T and D are.

The location was a Carnegie Building, which they decorated with designs made from recycled materials and crafted by D’s sister. Each table was adorned with the usual red wine, white wine, tablecloth, etc; T & D included a bottle of cava at each table and a homemade pie. That’s right people, thirteen different varieties of pie were served.

Guests were encouraged to circulate and mingle while tasting the wide variety of pies. Strawberry rhubarb drew in our crowd of friends, and the mixed berry vegan pie was among my favorites; though I don’t typically get into creme pies, the chocolate creme pie was also divine.

It was a treat to create new memories with T & D, to meet their friends and family, and to touch base with friends we share in common.

In the end, however, the content of the ceremony touched me the most. The thoughtfulness that went into each word uttered was apparent as most speakers verged on tears at some point in his or her presentation. T & D gave solemn, caring, and intentional vows, perfectly accented with touches of humor. Love was in the air!

With T & D’s encouragement, we joined other guests in reclaiming bits of the decorations to take home with us. I put them up this week and look forward to enjoying the reminder of the love and friendship I experienced at the wedding.

*Windchime is mine.

Congratulations T & D! May your marriage be long, rewarding and loving!


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Photo Montage, Sicilian Natural Beauty

Part II of this five part series reflects my quick romance with Mt. Etna and a couple of beautiful views taken while visiting touristy Taormina. These views hint at the beauty one can find on many an Italian coastline, here in Sicily or further north.

When I visited Sicily in 2005, I spend a day exploring Taormina with my friend Ashley and her uncle Mario. Upon our arrival in August 2011, the first place we were escorted by Dave’s colleague was the same Taormina. However, the Jill was a completely different person and I experienced Taormina differently. One aspect that didn’t change was my appreciation of the views.

This photo shows the toll booths that line the autostrade from Acireale north to Milazzo (at least), as well as the beautiful blue water. The toll booths are in the lower left quadrant, the white archways along the highway.

This second photo from Taormina shows mainland Italy to the east (right) – an immediate delight for me was announcing “Oh! There’s Italy!” whenever we could see the mainland. I see it nearly every day now, and I am still pretty delighted, I have to admit.

My heart was missing the Olympics, Cascades, and Mt. Rainier from Seattle, and the solitary soul Mt. Etna immediately welcomed me to Sicily. With long shadows, deep greens, and gorgeous sunsets, my crush on Mt. Etna was formed. Before long, her volcanic activity drew me into a deeper, more abiding relationship.

This is from the first eruption we saw from our balcony in Acireale.

Then, autumn brought cooler weather and eventually Mt. Etna was snow covered. Like seeing a beau with a new haircut, or all dressed up, Etna charmed me anew.

Mornings like this make me catch my breath and be thankful for all the special quiet moments that make me glad to be alive. Etna and I have history together now, she will always have a special place in my heart.

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Cinquecento-of for Nick Kristof

My longtime admiration for Nick Kristof is often equal to the concern and doubt I have about the ways he deftly infiltrates mainstream media with a tantalizing array of social media tweaks. He is as savvy as they come, and he can post a headline that draws crowds. Overall, I developed a trust of his journalism, even during the times when I am skeptical about his methods – something along the lines of stepping too close to the bait-and-switch tactics used by all the infotainment channels (Fox, MSNBC, CNN). Yet, even when a headline sensationalizes an issue, Kristof always has oodles of worthwhile content and research to back up his humanitarian arguments. He is not fighting to promote profit-seekers, he is fighting to enrich our world.

Join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday – along with Sree Sreenivasan. If you click on Sree’s name, you will gain access to an article that gives directions for celebrating Kristof on Twitter and Facebook. Or, you could buy the book Kristof wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn about the plight of women around the world to eke out a dignified existence, “Half the Sky.”

If none of this information excited you, maybe you’ll like Kristof because he hails from rural Oregon, or that he loves his family to a goofy extent and includes anecdotes about his kids, or finally, that he is exposing the sex trade within U.S. borders. Drat, I’m dragging you back to his op-ed content. Here’s his info page, check him out…


Filed under 5-100

The White Idiot…

…looks a lot like Panther.

Thanks Dave & Jac!

Check out Jac’s blog by clicking on the link – she recently explored Istanbul and is an artist living in Sicilia.


Filed under 5-100, Kitties

Movie Review: “Gates of Heaven” Errol Morris 1978


Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):

Errol Morris made a huge impression on me when I watched “Fog of War” in the former theater at Midvale (Mall?) in Madison Wisconsin. The theater has since been torn down, but the memory lives on.

I have always been sensitive to animals. My mom grew up on a farm, so she was very sensible about animals, though perhaps more matter-of-fact that appealed to me. Though my allergies limited my pet access as I muddled through undergrad, traveled and domineered law school, I shortly thereafter indulged in pet ownership and have never looked back. Maki and Panther are a part of the family, and though I prefer cremation or another natural form of decomposition (as opposed to internment), they will be honored in death as they have been in life. I am grateful that I live in a time and society afforded such luxury.

When I met my husband, Dave, he loved Errol Morris and has been introducing me to his other work over time. The subject matter, a pet cemetery, intrigued me – more or less because I love my pets and because of my 80s fascination with Pet Semetary (remember the little boy, Gage?).  This movie is amazingly brilliant, with a simple and direct display of human understanding, emotion and complexity…ah, but now I’m slipping into review-mode. On we go!


*This is a pretty long review for the relative amount of content in the documentary. However, the bits I’ve included are just a small part of what makes this documentary amazing. For the best results, just rent it /buy it and watch it for yourself. If you still need further persuading, re what I’ve said below.

Errol Morris portrays opposing sides, a rendering company against a simple farmer animal-loving sensitive soul, Floyd “Mac” McClure.

But don’t be mistaken that Floyd is so animal friendly as to be vegetarian, or vegan. In one scene he bitterly describes how the fumes from the rendering company interfered in his dinner;

Then, we slowly watch the plans for McClure’s ideal pet cemetery disintegrate as the financial interests conflict with the sentimental ones. We also see the tensions arising between pet-owners in the community over the status of their pet graves.

One of the most interesting parts of watching this documentary is the way the characters bare their souls, largely without agenda. It is easy to see that even the businessmen are operating without an agenda, especially when the manager of the rendering plant admits they lie about rendering zoo animals. In this day and age of reality TV, it is refreshing to watch these characters. Don’t worry, there are still the eye-roll-inducing characters – like the sons of the California pet cemetery owners. Maybe it was less pathetic back then? Or maybe just less awareness of the way entitled children sound so pathetic? (btw, I actually adore the younger son, he is so earnest.)

Best Lines & Watch for’s:

Floyd “Mac” McClure:  North Dakota guy (with suspenders and red pen in his lapel, scales of justice visible behind him on his right side and the bronzed shoes behind him on the other side) “[That]…was the most beautiful piece of land, as far as I was concerned, in the whole valley. And boy, I knew what to do with it. Make it into a pet cemetary.”

Watch for: Guy with the Coors can and ashtray in front of him every time he’s featured in the documentary.

Rendering Industry Man: “Rendering is one of the oldest industries. It dates back to the time of the Egyptians.  They can trace it back this far. Rendering. In the bible, ya know, way back in the old testament, the guy cut off the sheep skin, right? And put it over’im. Put the lamb fat on’im ta keep ‘im warm. It could be the oldest industry in the world. It could be. It’s possible.” [Jill says: keep an ear out for this guy, all of his words are gems. Probably because of his sunglasses on his desk, his matter-of-fact demeanor, and the amused look on his face. Genius play, Mr. Morris.]

“I want my mama!” (Woman holding dog on lap, singing to prompt dog’s response).

“And the next day you go out, take flowers,  maybe meditate a little bit, think of how often, maybe, you cried into her fur. ” (Woman in green and white, with poodle portrait displayed behind her).

Watch for: Artistic depiction of putting one’s heart over the dollars in a project.

Floyd: “I was not only broke, but broken-hearted.”

Woman in pink apron over blue/brown print housedress: “But you know he (her son) should help me more, he’s all I got. He’s the one who brought me up here. And then put me here by myself among strangers. It’s terrible when you stop ‘n think about it.” [Watch this entire segment! Amazing.]

Successful pet cemetery owner, (Bubbling Well Church of Universal Love, Inc. 1977), in straw hat and blue button-up shirt: ” “I would say that the pill is largely more responsible for the pet explosion than any other factor…It’s very simple…today the husband and wife both work…when the young mother comes home, she has to have something to fondle, something to mother, something to love.”

Watch for: The “R2A2” formula and it’s red-phone poolside inventor.

There are so many other rich characters and moments that I have to pause now and recommend that, if you are hooked by now, you should just go ahead and rent the movie.

Wait! The Eagle trophy guy just said “People never really get negative and they never really get positive.” GEMS, people! I tell you, gems.

Watch for: Prickly pear cacti behind the yellow-shirted and orange-tank topped couple – just like in Sicily!

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077598/

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Filed under Movie Review

Enter Panther


  1. After our 5am wake-up call, I got to return to bed from 7:30-9:30am. Something about this rest was reminiscent of home, of Shell Lake, and of Wisconsin, all in one semi-sleepy-but-not-dreamy moment.
  2. Got a great relaxing run in today.
  3. Confronted some mild fears about having too much unscheduled time ahead of me (and scheduled some stuff for the coming days).
  4. Attacked my blogging to-do list.
  5. Loved and cherished my kitties. Our kitties. Yes, our kitties.

Maki “Macchiato” W was a feral kitten abandoned in our Bremerton shed. As we tended him, we fell in love. My understanding and compassionate husband deferred to me the decision of keeping our castaway, for I am allergic to cats. Maki’s tiny mews and ferocious spirit endeared him beyond daily allergy pills, chronic-tho-mild wheezing, and the cat-fur-everywhere effect. Maki soon needed a companion; enter Panther. Panther hails from Tacoma; he was a purrrr-ful shelter kitty from IBKC, who was warmly adopted into our Seattle home. His feisty spirit and agility quickly addressed any bug concerns, and merely raised rooster-imitation concerns.


Maki greets me with the morning sun at his back, and uh, yea, that’s Panther at his side.

Panther is so precious.

It is easy to forgive the early morning rooster cries of such a cute kitty.

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Filed under 5-100, Kitties

Dalle Milazzo alle Lipari



1. Bufalino panino at autostrada stop.
2. Watership Down continues to pull me along.
3. Productive communication with loved one.
4. The delightful ferry ride from Milazzo to Lipari.
5. Tasty Italian wine.

From time to time, we get to a point in our relationships when we need to raise an idea. Perhaps it is a complaint, perhaps a suggestion for change, maybe even a proposal of sorts. Even when we predict a positive response, the anticipation of such conversations can be stressful. I like to outline my idea ahead of time and then feel ready when an opening presents itself. This way, I feel that I included all relevant information and I can wait for the moment and refrain from forcing the conversation. How do you approach important conversations with loved ones?



Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

Summer Morning Breezes


  1. Scrumptious breakfast omelette, by Dave, of pistacchios, havarti, and egg whites; he griddled slices of olive bread, too; finally a glass of carrot & orange juice.
  2. Meandering our way, “sensa” (without) the GPS, to Lido Azzurro.
  3. Explaining in mangled Italian that I wanted sun beds “lontano” (far) away from the DJ (too much bass disturbs me).
  4. Delightful sunsoaking and floating in the Ionian Sea.
  5. Watching first a French, and then a German crime show dubbed into Italian, and listening intently for comprehension.

A difficult aspect of living abroad is missing out on special moments with family. My dad celebrated his birthday this weekend and I left him a message, but it wasn’t the same. I’ve lived away from home since I was 18, so I’ve been reaching out creatively for a long time. Then, when I married, I came into a warm fold of 14 more people to get to know (and who get to know me). It’s been great. In honor of family connections, I’m linking to my brother’s blog (http://dontbeafraidtobeawesome.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/balance/). And, cheers to my immediate family: Mom, Dad, Jenni & Jim!

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Filed under 5-100, Adjusting

Food, glorious food.


  1. Basil pesto. Yummy. We had some pesto left over from pasta and I spread it on my sandwich with dinner.
  2. Caramelized onions. I made these at home tonight from onions we bought at the market. As they were room temperature when I started cutting, the air was ripe with the onion acid and even the kitties could not escape red-rimmed eyes (see Panther’s photo below). The deliciously sweet result made it all worth it.
  3. Back to Nature Nantucket Blend: Almonds, Raisins, Cranberries, Cherries, Pistacchios. 50 years of deliciousness and it all started in Madison, Wisconsin! How did Back to Nature escape my notice for the 10 years I lived in Madison?!!
  4. Post-run Gatorade I drank while skyping with my dear friend Z, thanks for getting up early to chat, Z! (Run was 1st training run: 1 mile warm-up, 4 x 250 repeats at 7.5 (8:00/mile), 1 mile warm-down.)
  5. Carrot & orange juice combo I sipped on while watching Evita last night. What a fun musical, and it was fun to watch Madonna in a movie when she’s not messing things up trying to act. Stick to singing and sing-acting, you are awesome at those!

Warning: More iphone love ahead!!! I promise I am not receiving any endorsements from Apple or iphone, it is just that I am really innamorata (enamored) with my smartphone. (Note: Steve Jobs resigned.) Specifically, yesterday I saved six articles, and then when I had a free moment, there they were in my pocket, just waiting for me to read them. Additionally, I bought Adele’s new album “21” yesterday and enjoyed the simplicity of ipod and phone in one! While I could have had these luxuries in the states, these discoveries are even more fun abroad. Now to start adding apps…

Panther recovering…

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Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo., Kitties