Living with Michael — Part 3

“Where’d you get the flowers?” Michael asked, noting the vase on the kitchen island.

“I bought them for myself.”

“Aw. It’s too bad you don’t have a boyfriend who buys you flowers.”

“Eh — he does a lot of other wonderful things, so I don’t mind,” I said with a smile.

In the past few weeks, I’ve come home to: IMG_4388

  • Homemade bread, still warm from the oven.
  • A man singing, “Our Love is Here to Stay.”
  • My laundry not only washed and dried, but folded. And the things that I don’t put in the dryer? Dutifully placed on hangers and hanging from the shower rod.
  • A homemade garden bed, filled with all the proper rocks and soil. The next day? Tomatoes and peppers planted. The next week? Trellises built.

So yes, random flowers are nice sometimes. But I’d take Michael’s other qualities over those any day.

Living With Michael — Part 2

“Have you talked to your mother lately?” I asked Michael this morning.

“I called her yesterday.”

“And did you talk to her?”

“No, she wasn’t home.”

“Did you leave a message?”

“Oh my God!” Michael said. “Someone please help me.”

“If you’d just give me a detailed answer the first time, I wouldn’t have to ask you any more questions,” I explained. “Like you could have just said, ‘I called my mother yesterday and she wasn’t home, so I left a message.'”

“Why does it matter if I left a message?” he asked.

“Because I want to know if she gets to hear your voice when she comes home, or if she’ll just have no idea that you called. I’m naturally curious.”

“A pain-in-the-ass. That’s what you naturally are,” he said with a smile.

Living with Michael: Part 1

Michael usually wakes up an hour or two before me. He slips out of bed, tiptoes out the door and slowly pulls it closed behind him. I rarely hear him leave.

When I wake up, I text him. Seconds later he bursts through the bedroom door and jumps back into bed, smothering my neck with kisses.

Yes. Really.

Every morning.

“You know,” I said to him on one such morning,”every woman should have the chance to wake up to this.”

“They can,” he said. “If you just give me permission.”

An EU Passport? Yes, please.

When my boyfriend Michael first proposed we go live in Europe for a while, he wanted to go for a year. “But there’s one thing stopping us from doing that,” he said. “What’s that?” I asked. “You like your family too much to be away from them for that long.”

I looked at him incredulously. While this very well may be true, we were just three months into our relationship and I didn’t think he knew me well enough to draw such a conclusion. But no matter. I knew another reason we couldn’t live in Europe for a year: the Schengen Agreement.

“We can only stay for 90 days,” I said to Michael. “Then, we have to be out for three months before we can go back.” He didn’t believe me. So he went home to do his research, and found I was right. I won’t get into the details, but technically, you can’t just show up in Europe and stay for longer than three months.

For most Americans, with the oh-so-generous vacation days we get, this is never a problem. But for people like me, whose only regret is not spending a year in Europe during my college days, this is a problem.

There are ways to stay longer in Europe. I could buy a place there. But readers of this blog know home ownership is not part of this American’s dream anytime soon. I could decide to study over there, and thereby get a student visa. But I already have enough degrees, thank you very much. I could marry a European. But I kind of like the boyfriend I have.

I’ve researched those and other options and determined the best way for me to make my dream of living in Europe come true is to become an Italian citizen.

Not anyone can do this. In many European countries, you only have a right to citizenship if you were born there. Or if one of your parents was born there. But in two countries (Italy and Ireland), you can go further back. What I needed was an Italian descendent (as far back as a great-grandfather) who never renounced their rights to Italian citizenship.

All of the great-grandparents on my father’s side were born in Italy. Three of them became American citizens before my grandparents were born and, in so doing, gave up their rights to Italian citizenship. But the fourth I wasn’t sure of. Luigi Gallo, my great-grandfather, and my father’s namesake, arrived in America in 1909 with twelve dollars in his pocket (about one week’s wages at that time). This isn’t family lore. It’s documented on the passenger manifest for the SS Nord America. As is the fact that he was just 4′ 11″ and had paid for his passage himself. He was headed to the home of an uncle who lived in Poughkeepsie.

Less than ten years later, he was dead. He left behind a wife, Anna, and three sons–the eldest was just three years old and would grow up to become my Grandpa Gallo. In the space of Luigi’s ten years in America, he lived at four different addresses. All within a mile of each other. I have yet to find him on any census.

I gathered up all this information and submitted it to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who, after five months, finally sent me a letter indicating they have no record of him becoming naturalized. Which means he never denounced his rights to Italian citizenship. Which means, according to the Italian government, I am an Italian. Now I just had to prove it.

By “prove” I mean that I have to acquire certified copies of the birth, marriage, and death records of every descendent in the direct line from my great-grandfather to me. And get them all translated to Italian. And then show up at the Italian Consulate. With 300 Euros. And hope I’m approved.

Acquiring the aforementioned documents could take a while. But that’s okay. Because, in May, 2015, once I learned I qualified, I called to make an appointment with my Consulate. The next available: February 13, 2017.






A Surprise. “For Us.”

Michael stretched a measuring tape from one corner of the television to the other, then extended it a little further. “See, hon? This is what a fifty inch would look like.” “Mm-hmm,” I said without looking up from my crossword puzzle. “And this is how big a fifty-five inch would be.” Now I had to look up, before this got out of hand. “But I think that’s too big,” he continued. “What do you think?”

“I don’t think we need a new television,” I said.

This same conversation, with the same props, happened twice more before I left for my writing retreat.

The day before I was due to return he told me he bought something. A surprise. “Is this a surprise for me, or is it something both of us will use?” I asked.

“It’s for both of us,” he assured me. Which meant,  “I bought something I wanted that you don’t think we need.” This was how he told me about the rice cooker. And the Vitamix. And the Kitchen-Aid. Convinced that once I used them, I would wonder how we ever lived without them. This has yet to be the case.

So the night before I was due to return home, I told the women at the writing retreat, “I think I’m going home to a new television.”

When I arrived, Michael said, “Uh-oh. You didn’t get my text message.”

“Nope. What did it say?”

“I asked if you could come home 45 minutes later,” he said.

“So do you want me to turn around and leave?” I asked. “No,” he said. “You just can’t come in the bathroom.” And with that he closed the door to the master suite.

I flopped onto the couch to watch some television. Michael came out to fetch tools from the tool box. Twice. There was a lot of loud banging. I wondered why he was putting a television together in the bathroom. To keep me from seeing it? Then it occurred to me that there is nothing to put together when one purchases a television.

An hour later, he swung the door open wide. “Ready?” he said, an eager smile on his face.

“I have to come into the bathroom to see this thing?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. I walked in and he pointed to the toilet, which now sported a new toilet seat. I stood, mouth agape. “You’re kidding me,” I said.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked me. I was stunned into silence, then laughter took over.  I knew exactly what it was. I’d visited friends the previous week who had one: our toilet now doubled as a bidet. I couldn’t speak I was laughing so hard.

“So you know how it works, then?” he asked. “No, I just saw it,” I said, gasping for breath. “They don’t use it.”

“Well, it’s plugged in here,” he said, pointing to an outlet by the toilet.

“Wait–it requires a plug?”

“Yeah–the electrician just left before you got home.”

“The electrician?” I asked.

“Yeah, he had to put the outlet in.”

“Michael, we’re renting this house. And you hired an electrician. To add a new outlet. For a bidet?

“Let me show you how it works,” he said, pointing to the wall beside the toilet. “Here’s the control panel–” I doubled over laughing. “A control panel?”


I could hardly focus. I put my hand on the counter to hold myself up. I heard Michael say, “massage” and “heated seat.”  I sunk to the floor, hysterical. I could hardly breathe. “Why is this so funny?” he asked.

“Because I thought we were getting a new television.”


Entertaining Meg

“So what are you going to do with  your sister when she comes to visit?” Michael asked me many weeks before she was due to arrive.

“Not sure,” I said.

“Well, you might want to start thinking about it. You don’t want her here with nothing to do.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Asheville. There’s plenty to do here.”

“Are you going to take her to Biltmore?” he asked.

“No, she’s already been there.”

“Then what will you do?”

“I’ll show her downtown, we’ll go people-watching at 5 Walnut . . . one day we’ll walk up to Haywood, Mom and Dad said I should take her to Sierra Nevada.”

“You can do all that in one day. What about the rest of the time?”

You could do all of that in one day. Meg and I like to stroll, look in the shops, see where the day takes us.”

“Okay. So two days,” he said. I named off a few other things, but Michael still wasn’t convinced. He told me he was talking to his best friend earlier in the day, and they were discussing the fact that most visitors to Asheville only stay for a weekend. Or maybe a long weekend. “But your sister is coming for four days. I don’t think there’s enough to do here for four days.”

“I don’t think you understand,” I said. “She’s my sister. We could camp out in the living room watching movies for four days and we’d be happy.”

“She’s not coming down here to watch movies,” he replied.

“No. She’s coming to spend time with me. It doesn’t matter what we do.”  He still didn’t get it. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “She’ll be fine.” We had the same conversation twice more before I forbid him to ask me about it again.

A few weeks later, I picked Meg up at the airport. As we drove to the Sierra Nevada Brewery for dinner I relayed Michael’s concern–and the number of times he expressed it. “So is there something in particular you really want to do while you’re down here?” I asked.

She laughed. “Nope. I really don’t care what we do. We could just watch movies all day if you want . . .”

Meg at Sierra Nevada

Meg at Sierra Nevada

What the Psychic Said

“The first thing I’m going to talk about is your birth chart,” the woman said to me. We weren’t in the same room, nor even the same state. It was November, 2014, and my friend Lois had gifted me with an astrology reading–my first ever.  The astrologer, Sue Lovett, lives in Ohio, so she recorded her reading and sent it to me in New York, along with my “birth chart.”


“Your birth chart doesn’t change,” Sue continued. I look at the piece of paper: concentric circles divided into twelve sections, some dotted with hieroglyphic-looking symbols. I felt like I’d need a PhD in ancient Egyptian history to decipher the thing. Thankfully, I had Sue. Or her voice, at least.

“You could have a reading done years from now, and would be exactly the same. Now, based on this chart, there are two things that are very significant in your life. The first is travel. I’m not sure if that’s literally or not, or what it looks like in your life. All I know is that it’s part of who you are.” Part of who I am? So THAT’S what it is! For years I thought my abundant amount of traveling was just a phase–that thing lots of people do in their twenties before settling into their “real” life. Then I kept doing it in my thirties. And now, at nearly forty, I had long since figured out that travel was part of my “real” life. But not until Sue told me her insights did I finally feel relief. I understood why: it’s simply who I am.

You can believe whatever you want about astrology. Lois and I both love hearing other people’s thoughts, ideas, and insights. We certainly don’t agree with them all, but love that we live in a country where people can speak their mind, and we can choose to believe whatever we want. So when Lois first heard about Sue, she thought she’d give it a try. At a writing retreat soon after, Lois shared her amazement at what insights this woman had for her and offered to gift each of us a reading. All we had to do was provide the date, time, and location of our birth.

Most of us know when and where we were born. But the exact time usually takes some research. Unless you’re me. On the wall in my childhood bedroom was a ceramic stork holding a baby in a blanket on which was listed all my stats–including the exact moment I came into this world, which has stuck with me ever since. I gave all the info to Lois, and a month later there I was, listening to my reading.

Sue continued. “The second thing that’s significant in your life is education. I don’t know if that means you are highly educated, or if you’re a teacher, or you like learning . . . ” Um. All of the above, I thought. At that very moment I had one Bachelor’s degree, two Master’s degrees, and was in the midst of getting certified to teach English abroad. I’d taught everything from algebra and anatomy to crochet and computer systems. And two years earlier, I spent four months in a work-exchange program taking  fifteen classes in everything from wooodcarving and blacksmithing to Scottish cooking and genealogy.

Stunned, I paused the CD. I needed to write this down. Or did I? Slowly it sunk in. No wonder I flit around the country and the world. It’s not because I haven’t found a place to settle. It’s not because I’m trying to escape something. It’s simply because it’s who I am. And that education piece? It’s one of the things I love most about travel: learning about a place, its people, and its culture.

Sure, any reader of this blog might be able to tell me the same things Sue did. But all Sue had were my stats. “You’ve always been good at saving money,” she said, “but it looks like you also spend a lot of money.” This mystified her, but made perfect sense to me. I save so I can spend. On travel. She went on to tell me what my next six months would entail, and I can now report from the other side that she was exactly right.

All of this came to mind recently when, just two days after ending a blog post talking about nesting for a bit here in Asheville, I learned that:

  • A friend was headed to Cambodia. (Angkor Wat, located in Cambodia, is on the short list of places I still want to go.)
  • My mother, whose only travel experience to third-world countries has been via a cruise ship, said in her Christmas letter that not only is she raising $250,000 to build a village in Haiti (yes, a whole village), but that she and my father intend to go to Haiti this time next year. How did I, their itinerant daughter, not know of this?

I’m not taking off anytime soon. But when the bug hit this time, I didn’t find myself pining for another trip. I’m always excited to hear about other people’s travels. And I know I’ll be traveling. For the rest of my life. After all, it’s written in the stars.


P.S. For those of you who want to learn more about and/or support my mother’s work in Haiti, click here.