Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Fresh Starts

So, today we had a hard rain. You know the kind. There weren't thunderstorms, but it was a hard, driving rain nonetheless. The kind of rain where water is flowing in the streets. Light rain merely opens up new smells (usually not good ones) that have been trapped under dried substances. However hard rains provide a cleansing. Of the streets. Of the sidewalks. Cars. Buildings. And some people.

The rain only lasted about thirty minutes, but it was more than enough to cause change. It was more than fitting that it happened today, August 31st. The last day of Summer. I know, I know, Summer officially lasts until September 21st, having to do with soltices and equinoxes. That in and of itself doesn't make sense to me, because I am much more likely to go swimming before the first day of Summer (June 21st) and so much less likely to go swimming after August 31st. Read about the "End of Summer" in Italy here. In that last item I noted how the weather had turned cooler before the end of the month, however it heated back up the last few days. Tomorrow should be different however. After all, the first day in September is always cool in Italy. The rain seemed to be ushering in a fresh start into the fall weather.

Fresh starts are what the August/September "time-between-the-times" is all about. The country of Italy will almost shut down in August. Businesses close down for weeks or even the whole month. Last week I saw many who were transitioning into a fresh start. One man was repainting his fruit stand. New paint=Fresh Start. Several other businesses take August to renovate their shops. New shelves=Fresh Start. I saw the owner of a small store which is the equivalence of a convenience store in America (minus fuel). He has had his stored closed for several weeks now. He is bronze like the third place medals handed out at the Olympics last week. His appearance betrayed that he had spent much of his time at the beach or at the very least, in the sun. I asked him if he was ready to open tomorrow. He answered "Domani sono prontissimi!" Which means 'Tomorrow I am more than ready!' Time off=Fresh Start.

As the Casey's return to Italy this month (in less than two weeks in fact) our team will be having a fresh start. We have a growing church, that had four visitors to Life Group this last Sunday, making the attendance in our home fifteen. We have much to do in the upcoming weeks and we know that God continually gives us 'fresh starts'. In fact that is why we are here in Italy. There are many people who need a 'fresh start.' Not with paint or shelves or time off, but rather an internal cleansing of the soul. We want to share about the fresh starts God has given us and is more than ready to give others, if they only accept His offer. In this life we can be more than thankful for fresh starts.

Friday, August 27, 2004

At the End of Summer

Well, it is Friday, August 27, 2004, which leaves only four more days of summer. Here in Ancona the cool weather has already prematurely hit. Usually on the first day of September it becomes noticeably cooler, however, we were surprised yesterday as the temperature began to fall near 70 degrees. Last night it even felt a little chilly. It was great. Today, we awakened to a cool morning with the hint of the coming Fall weather in the air. Fall is my favorite time of year, wherever we are in the world. I love the temperature, football (I can listen live online to my favorite team - go sooners!), the smells of food at outdoor fairs in the cool breeze and the need for jackets. Jackets just make you feel a little more prepared. So, I guess we'll see if yesterday and today are flukes of weather or if Autumn has indeed arrived a few days earlier.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Read The Back Page First

I discovered something recently that I have a particular habit of perusing when I get a new magazine. Frequently, people send us magazines from the states. Mostly, technology magazines for me and home, family and cooking ones for Angie. Almost exclusively after mentally digesting the cover, I head to the back inside page first. Don't ask me why. I think it has something to do with the way I think. When filling out forms, I often jump all around the page, I guess it makes it more interesting for me to fill out. However with magazines there is a system. Usually, in a magazine there is a fairly interesting article on the last page. I am not sure why that is. You can't do that with a book. I mean, I suppose you can, if you don't have much time or you don't like to read and you only want to find out what happens at the ending. I assume with magazines, since most people like to read them from front to back, they are deliberately leaving people with a good remembrance of their magazine. Whereas I am left with the sparse and often uninteresting ads that I leave for myself last, more on that later.

After reading the last page, I then start skimming the entire magazine, this time from front to back. I stop only on the most interesting articles or snippets that truly capture my attention. Once I have made it to the end (again), I start at either the front or the back working my way towards the middle of the magazine stopping at the less interesting articles along the way. Afterwards it may sit for a time. From that point, I begin shotgun reading. This is when it becomes less organized and more like 'pot shots' of reading throughout the magazine. Usually I while just open the magazine lawlessly. Opening at any point in the magazine, like cutting a deck of cards. As soon as I open it, I am faced with a decision, read one of the least interesting articles left, or if it is one I have already read, determine if it was worthy of a reread (which is the case with some of those early articles) or flip to another section altogether. This goes on for some time, until which time I have either read the entire magazine or kept it out long enough to have forgotten if I have.

The last thing I read in a magazine is the ads. I do love to read. I don't read as many books as I did in the past, but I read all the time. Either magazines, news online, countless informative websites and even comics. I guess this is why I will even check out the advertisements in a magazine. I don't want to waste anything. So next time you pick up a magazine to read, think about how you go about it. And maybe, just maybe, you'll start reading the back page first too!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Star Spangled Banner in Italy

So we went on a vacation finally. This summer has been really hectic and so it was great for us to get away for a few days. We stayed in a hotel in Rimini (about an hour North of Ancona) that had a large swimming pool. We spent each afternoon at the pool, enjoying the cool clear water. Hotels in Italy work a little different, especially in the high vacation season. They have many activities for you to be involved in, such as water aerobics and game night. They have organized kids' games at the pool everyday and beach volleyball is available a few days of the week, among many other things. We were at the pool one day when they came around asking about volleyball one day and as the lady in charge was asking people she yelled over to me across the pool and said,"hey, you should come play volleyball with us, you're white!" I assume this latter statement had to do with my lack of tan rather than anything racist. However, I did have a tan, I was just not dark brown like she was. I declined gratefully, so I could stay relaxing in the pool. On the last day of our four day vacation, we went to a small theme park called "Italia in Miniatura," which means (you guessed it), 'Italy in Miniatures.' Basically it is a huge walking path on a mini island in the shape of Italy on a big cement pond. It had recreated famous buildings and locations on the island in the spots where they are in Italy. You can check out the park at www.italiainminiatura.com. They also had one of those simulators that you can choose virtual roller coasters, time travel, ice caves, etc... We went to do that and as we were paying the ticket guy asked where we were from (not an uncommon question for us). We told him and we talked for a bit about what we were doing in Italy and how we liked it. We went to sit on a bench and wait for our turn on the simulator. All of a sudden over the simulator guy's loudspeaker we heard him say (in English), "and now an American song." We laughed as we looked and caught his eye. Then we smiled as we heard the "Star Spangled Banner" start. At first it was funny that we were there in Italy listening to that song. And it almost felt a little embarrassing, since it felt like all eyes were on us...THE AMERICANS. However, as we listened to the words about the country we love, we became aware of the fact that we were the only ones that it meant anything towards. At that moment we were at the same time a little lonely, very patriotic, thankful and homesick. Lots to feel in a short time. At the end of the song, we felt a little sheepish about the tears in our eyes, but then he broke our serious state by announcing it was now time for "the Scottish song." Bagpipes started blaring and we were jolted out of our somberness. Afterwards, we rode the ride, but it was the song we'll remember.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Mmmm Fresh Bread

As the dawn broke this morning, I smelled bread cooking wafting in from the new pastry shop and bakery that just opened. Ok, well that isn't exactly how it happened (I mean, I am not usually up at dawn anyway and if I was...it is a small shop a block from the house). If you remember me writing about this shop you'll know what I am talking about (read the previous story here http://www.thecrossers.com/blog/2004/07/mmmmfresh-baked-bread.html)
Angie came home this afternoon and asked if I saw the new shop was open. I hadn't yet. We had seen them starting to do more like bringing in a cash register....that is usually a sign that something is getting ready to happen. So about an hour later we down to see their grand opening. When any shop opens in Italy it is a BIG deal. I mean there is always some kind of grand opening with snacks and refreshments. We went in and bought a few pastries to take home. I wished the woman behind the cash register well and she asked us to take some of the snacks on our way out. So I grabbed what tasted like a minipastry roll with raisins. It was deeeelicious. Once we got outside, I snapped a shot of the front of it, which is seen in the picture below.

Mmmmm Fresh Bread