Sunday, January 25, 2015


I just learned that the Italian part of me died this morning.

No, Calabria didn't blow up. Naples is still thriving. And, yes, I still love pasta and vespas and golden afternoon light cast on red geranium-lined allies falling on cobblestone.

My grandfather died. 92 years old. A beautiful man.

He had the softest shirts and awkward hugs that always let me know how much he cared and was scared to. His hands were worn with years of calculating numbers and signing papers and woodworking and crossword-puzzling. He loved simple, clean lines and made an art out of communicating quiet order. Unlike stereotypical Italian men, my grandfather was gentle, reserved, and his words, though not many, were always well thought out and intentionally spoken. He had a lot of steady wisdom to offer his crazy, free-spirited family and I know that, had we listened well, we would have probably saved ourselves from a lot of unnecessary trial. I know he passionately, in his own grandpa way, wanted us to know that what we perceived to be his critical nature was really his attempt to save us and love us. I got it much later on. I think we all, more or less, did. He was very patient.

I loved my grandpa though I didn't always understand him. I loved him even though I felt like I was strange to him at times. He was not a storyteller, leaving that to my vivacious Mayrette, so it wasn't until I began to ask questions--until my own self was ready to recede into the background a bit-- that I learned a little about who this mystery man was; about who my ancestors were. I wish I'd written it all down. The bits I remember are like loose diamonds ready to be cast into various metals, waiting to become precious adornment. They sit in my mind, beautiful, but not completely connected. A fire in Romania, refugees to Italy, a jeweler, an artist, cousins marrying, Calabria, Naples, immigration to America, born in New Jersey, domineering great grandmother, passive great grandfather who took his own life, grand aunt and uncles I never met. He owned a restaurant where he met my grandmother. He worked for Hughes Helicopters and eventually worked his way up to Vice President. He was smart, diligent, loyal, faithful. Three immensely creative and passionate children. Grandma got sick and he took care of her until she died. He married her lovely younger sister not much later. I was 4 or 5. He had 4 grandkids, visiting several times a year, and 6 great grandkids. He made the best pesto in the universe. The middle finger on one of his hands was slightly different than the rest and I loved looking at it because it meant: him. I loved his firm grandpa kisses and his thick white wavy hair and his olive skin and deep set eyes and his scent-- I've only smelled it one other time in my life and it was in the last year, somewhere in the world and the minute I caught it, I cried with longing to hug my grandpa, knowing even then I probably never would again because I live across the world and he was sick and I couldn't visit.
The last time I saw him was right after he had a stroke over a year ago. We visited him at this rehabilitation place and he couldn't talk coherently, but I held his hand and he told me I was a wonderful person and that it was good to see me and I thanked him for everything and we looked each other in the eyes knowing it would be the last time. I heard his heart agree to say goodbye in love. Many times after that as I thought about him and prayed for him, I wanted to deny what I knew to be true that day. It really was the last time I'd see him on this earth.
But I had a dream. Many years ago now. I had a dream that I saw him in Heaven. So I know he is there. I will hug him again and his smell will be wonderful and it will be eternal and he will get to tell me about all kinds of things and I will know him again, but better.

Marcel Francis Gerardis. It is so good to be a part of you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Down in the Holl'r

Recently I was able to visit my husband's homeland, the great state of Virginia.
To be honest, I had been reluctant to go even though I've known great and wonderful people from Virginia. But not everyone I know from Virginia comes from the same area where Clint grew up. You see, my husband is a geographically certified hillbilly. I did not know I had prejudices against hillbillies until I met Clint and they continued to stew for the better part of the last year and a half. Whenever he'd reminisce about the good ol' days back home in Appalachia (for the rest of you who are not from that area, it's pronounced Apple-atcha by natives), I would secretly cringe inside, knowing that one day I'd actually have to go and encounter these people who speak weird and like wood paneling and bad wood carvings and fake flowers. Only to Clint it wasn't actually a secret that I dreaded going. It wasn't a secret that I was a snobby Californian who judged his people.
Despite myself, I loved Virginia. We started up near our nation's capital in Fairfax, VA where Clint's mom, dad and sister live. His mom had to work for most of our trip, but we got to take her to work a couple of times and I got to see where she spent a lot of her time (and subsequently where Clint spent 5 years of his life working the same job-- contract delivery driving for the postal service). His sister played tour guide and we cruised around D.C. I am a lame traveller in the sense that I could care less about seeing monuments. They thought I'd want to walk around the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, stare at the White House, visit the Smithsonian, etc. I told them I was content doing a drive-by...I'd rather discover the cool parts of the city where we'd find a good hole-in-the-wall Greek diner. We found one called The Greek Spot. It was pretty decent.
Our second day was spent exploring a cute town called Lucketts and going antiquing. Then we ventured into Maryland once I found out how close we were. It wasn't too long before we were in West Virginia, yes, eating dinner and playing slots at Hollywood Casino. Clint was mortified as his sister and I went from nickel slots to penny slots and back again. We didn't lose ALL of it.
The next 5 days were spent down in Clint's hometown, Stickleyville. It was a 7 hour drive to get there, through endless groves of deciduous trees in full fall array. Breathtaking.
A good amount of Clint's extended family, on both sides, still live in Stickleyville. I do not know what the population of this tiny farm community is, but it's TINY. And most of the residents are related to Clint in one way or another. To be honest, the place spooked me at first. And, by spook, I mean creeped me out in its ability to fulfill all stereotypes I'd had. While I did not see children running around shirtless in bib overalls and barefoot, I did see my share of double wide trailers with rocking chairs on the front porch and dogs chained to barrels outside. There were also quite a few barns with what looked like drying leather or some sort of thick herbs hanging in the doorways. Clint let me know it's what's called "hangin' 'baccer" (hanging tobacco). I couldn't snort-laugh when I heard this because I didn't want to shame his niece Verity, who was sitting in the back seat and who still lives in that area.
Like I thought, every house we entered had wood paneling, fake flowers and even his sweet Mamaw Rasnic (grandma)-- who lives on Rasnic Hollow Road, had two wood carvings of hillbillies toting jugs of moonshine-- yes, Clint's ancestors were Moonshiners. And, as I expected, every place we went, we were served up biscuits, ham and bottomless cups of sweet tea. Everyone was 'just as nice as they could be' and I immediately picked up the accent. We were able to experience a church service at Wallens Creek Covenant Church where Clint attended many services growing up and whose Camp he worked at for several summers. He hadn't been back in about 10 years and everyone there was SO excited to see him and to meet this curious Californian bride they'd all heard about. I shook many hands and heard many voices lifted in hymnal song, harmonizing in that ol' bluegrassy kind of way. It was totally surreal to me. I loved it.
We got to stand on the place in the Cumberland Gap where Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky meet. We went antiquing around those areas, visited various relatives, played rounds of Hand and Foot and had the most marvelous time.
We headed back up north to spend the last couple days of our trip with friends of Clint's and with his mama (who we talked into getting a new 'do' and does she look sassy!). Clint's friends Adam (the best man at our wedding) and Nikki are awesome... they are the type who stand by you through thick and thin, always encouraging and praying for you. They have 2 adorable children, Jacob and Lily. I was so thankful we got to spend time with them, albeit brief. We also got to spend an afternoon with a woman Clint has known his whole life, Wendy. I'd heard many stories about this world-traveling woman from England who, upon seeing Stickleyville, decided with her husband to settle there. They built a house not far from Clint's homestead and their little daughter was Clint's sister's best friend. Wendy recently relocated up near D.C. to live with family and we had a beautiful time of sharing. She even gave Clint a children's book about sharks that he used to look at all the time at her house growing up. Tears flowed abundantly.
What I learned while in Virginia is that prejudices are stupid and they trap us. My heart is still warm with the homefires I got to partake of, both spiritual and literal, while visiting friends and family in Appalachia. I think my husband is really fortunate to have grown up with such caring, servant-hearted, hard-working, family-oriented people. I reap the benefits daily.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nothing in Particular

It's 9:38 pm. I just finished eating a plate of spaghetti and the best thing about it were the artichoke hearts I cooked into the sauce. In about an hour and half, Clint will get home from work. This was the afternoon I was supposed to spend doing art of some kind. Not homework -related art, as the semester has ended, but just the anything-I-want kind. We even took apart my dining-room studio yesterday, cleaned it out and rearranged it so that I could have a fresh start today. Instead, a handful of people called this afternoon and then some of them came over. It's now late and all I've sketched today are some tree skeletons. At least it's something.
I am in a funny place in life. Now that I don't have school telling me what I should draw or paint or sculpt and how I should do it, I have to try and figure out what it is I actually like to do. Paint? Draw? Definitely not sculpt, I know that much. What do I feel like communicating through image? Do I just want to lay medium down on paper and let my soul and arms do the work or do I want to really plan out what I want to show? Gah! It's odd to have the freedom I need to have in order to do what I want to do and instead am sitting at the computer typing about what I wanted to do earlier. I am nervous, intimidated, daunted by my options. I thought I might want to draw some barren trees in charcoal on watercolor paper. I started to and I don't like it. I have to go back to it, study it, figure out if I want it to look more realistic or impressionistic or representational or... do I do it all in charcoal? add paint? add oil pastel? all of the above?
I have decided to discontinue going to art school. The cost is too overwhelming. Clint and I want to buy a house, travel around visiting people we love and miss, raise some kiddos (no, I'm not pregnant, yet, but still trying). It's one of those frustrating things in life, facing the letting go of come-lately dreams. I love the Academy of Art University. But, I will never be an artist for Pixar or Disney. I'll probably never show in a hip New York Gallery. Other than glorifying God with the talents He's given me, these are reasons for continuing toward a degree. An education can be garnered anywhere you seek learning and so I've decided to continue my education by hanging out with other artists in town, by checking out dvd's from the library, by attending cool workshops whenever we can afford it. Over time, I will grow as an artist as long as I continue to practice, observe, record and play. A degree guarantees me an overwhelming debt load, not a career. I go back and forth on this, but mostly I'm convinced that if I continue to offer this talent up to God, He will make a path for it. I will miss taking classes at such a cool University and getting incredible feedback and instruction from seasoned instructors. But, it's time to move on to other wonderful things in life. Like, going to bed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Debt of Love

"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

Clint and I are taking Crown Financial Ministries to help us get on the same page regarding our finances and how we manage our money as a couple. We were asked to look up this verse today (and two others) and then answer a question: Why is debt discouraged in Scripture? After thinking on this for a while, I answered the question and then moved on to other things. About an hour later, I got to thinking about this particular verse again.

Like many couples, Clint and I have very different habits regarding how we handle money and our attitudes toward it. Without going into detail about our differences, let's just say it is THE area of conflict in our young marriage. Not shocking. As I evaluate my part in the conflict and how my attitudes and actions add strain, I am forced to look at the things I value and what I cling so tightly to. Today I realized at a deeper level that the things we cling to are what we become indebted to, what we become slaves to. I am not Buddhist, but Siddartha had it right when he said that the reason we suffer is due to clinging to the impermanent. Now, Buddha did not believe in God, so I will now turn to Christ who said that we cannot serve both God and money, for we will love one and hate the other. Hatred is suffering. When I cling to money, things, and the 'security' I believe they give me, I am not clinging to God, the Giver of all things. When I rely on stuff, when I cling to the impermanent, I become a slave to it because I live in constant fear of my security being taken away. When another human being comes to use, take away, borrow, etc my stuff, i.e. source of security, I feel hate and I suffer. Now, clinging to stuff doesn't necessarily have to do with financial debt, except that the desire for unnecessary stuff can get us into debt. But any kind of slavery leads us to hatred and loathing. It leads us away from love.
According to God, he wants me to be free from all kind of debt, all kinds of slavery. The only thing I should be captured by is love. To truly love God and to truly love my husband, I need to not put things and money before either of them. I owe them love, not hate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Charles Clinton Parsons

He's the reason I haven't blogged since July.
Technically, that's a lie, but I blame it on him because a new relationship can be all-consuming. Or rather, since most of what I have been processing since July has been related to Sir Parsons, I have chosen to not blog in order to process things with him. It has been a wise choice. I've opened my heart to him, he's opened his heart to me and we've decided that we mutually adore each others' hearts enough to keep adoring them until 'death do we part'.

Clint and I 'met' online.
It's all the rage you know.
Prior to signing up for a dating website, I had scoffed at them. That is until I started meeting the awesome people close friends and family members of mine had met and started dating online. I fought the act of submitting a profile for a long time, wanting to hold out for that supernatural fairy-tale story of meeting my husband on a bumped flight or reaching for the same book at a hole- in- the- wall bookshop thousands of miles from home. I waited a long time for something super cool and movie-like to happen. Then I hit my thirties and I was over it.
After reading the story of how Abraham's servant 'found' Rebekah for his master's son, Isaac, God loudly pointed out the obvious: "Amy, she was out in the open. She was on her way to water camels. She wasn't sitting in her room pining and waiting. You have to be 'out there'. The guy needs to be able to see you and know you're there!"
Made sense.
So, I put myself 'out there'. Being a missionary in a foreign country where few single eligible men in my age group dared to venture made it difficult to meet someone. Living in a tiny coastal California town and being the only single Christian woman in my age range made it difficult to meet someone. I even moved to Denver, a city where I knew my prospects would grow exponentially. And then I couldn't find a church where I connected. Until the very end of my time there. Until I had already 'met' Clint online.
So, Charles Clinton Parsons.
His profile picture on the website is what immediately caught my attention. He was making an 'Amy face' (wide-eyed, mouth in the shape of an 'o', eyebrows looking surprised). Plus, he was cute. Plus, his profile wasn't a literary paint-by-number which the majority of guys' profiles are. I had decided early on that I wasn't going to contact any of the men on there. I would let them pursue me. After deleting a couple of emails from some guys in foreign countries looking for a green card, I saw Clint's email. By some of the questions he asked, it was obvious he had actually read my profile, so I wrote him back. Then he wrote me back, etc until after several times we decided to video chat. I purposely made my hair messy and put my glasses on so that he could see the 'real me'. According to him, I was the cutest thing he'd ever seen, and so began our odd, but God-directed journey together.
Clint is 38, is from Stickleyville, Virginia (in the western-most county of VA that butts up against Tennessee), has a bachelor's degree in Youth Ministry and has the most golden heart of any man I've ever met. He's my height, still has most of his hair, has gorgeous green/hazel eyes and nice straight teeth. He's intelligent, is well-written and has a great sense of humor that I completely don't find funny. But other people do, so it's okay. He's never been married and has no kiddos. He loves his family. He is totally servant-hearted. He has a deep, abiding passion for Jesus and wants everyone to know the freedom that is available through Him. He's never been out of the country and I can't wait to take him somewhere. He plays bass, guitar, clarinet, tuba... I think there are more, but I can't remember. He is super handy and can fix just about anything. He loves me like Jesus does and it continually blows my mind. He had been planning on moving to Denver to attend seminary there, which is another reason he contacted me. So, he moved out to Denver from Virginia early August. I was in Cambria for my brother's wedding while while he was driving out to Denver. Our first meeting was at the airport when he came to pick me up. He showed up with a huge bouquet of flowers in all my favorite colors. I sort of gave him the cold shoulder. I was being very guarded. That lasted about a day and a half and then my heart couldn't hold back anymore. He was too wonderful.
Clint and I both had planned on being in Denver for a while. However, circumstances for me changed when I was given 3 weeks to find a new place to live. He also, after touring Denver Seminary, decided he actually didn't want to go. And then he was told he had to move out of the place he was staying due to issues going on with the family he was staying with. I wasn't able to find a place and neither was he, so we decided to come out to Cambria. It was a quick decision, but we both knew God was pushing us out here. It's been rough ever since. Clint has been sleeping on couches, in laundry rooms, on floors for the last 4 months. It took him 2 months to find steady work. I have been working part time and going through my second grueling semester of art school. We have been battling everything from our pasts, from our present, from the enemy, from ourselves. It has been a relationship forged in fire. How could I not love a man who would continue to stand through it all?
Clint has been my support, my emotional punching bag, my best friend, my enemy, my brother, my father, my boyfriend. He is everything God ever promised me in a mate and so much more than I ever even knew to ask for. And I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with him, discovering more of Jesus together.
And, I can't wait for him to meet all of you!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

So, my car was broken into night before last. Whoever did it completely busted my driver's side window, ripped apart my console, stole my stereo and my entire CD collection. Thank goodness I did not have any thing else of 'value' in the car. After fretting for a bit, I knew I needed to pray and ask my Father to help me restore those things, inexpensively. I saw that damage as I was walking to work, so I had little time to really deal with the issue since I had to work a full day. I filed a police report, called my insurance company (only to find I don't have the coverage that would cover the loss) and had my roommate drop me off at work. I was definitely stirred up. As I stressed over the thought of having to figure out where I was going to get the best deal on auto glass and installation, one of my co-workers suggested calling a salvage yard. I called my roommate and asked if she would do that for me since I was working. Half and hour later she called me back letting me know that she found a yard that had a window for me. I could pull it myself for $35 or have them do it for $50. I don't make/have a lot of money and $15 right now is more than I can just throw around. I pondered what I might do as I washed dishes and it occurred to me to ask my friend Jeff who was sitting in the coffeeshop doing some work on his computer. I ran out there, let him know what had happened and asked if he had any clue how or any willingness to extract a window from a vehicle. He said he could probably do it and would be happy to help me the next day (today).
Jeff not only spent almost two hours trying to get this window out of the junked car, but then offered to install it into mine! He spent his entire morning and afternoon in the hot sun laboring on my behalf and all he wanted as payment was a ride to the grocery store.
In all, I spent $35 for a new window and the owner of the salvage yard threw in a new console for free!
When God challenges us to ask-- of Him and of others-- we can expect that when we do, we will receive.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coffee Shop

All this week thoughts of blogging have been flitting through my brain. What to blog about? Why do I even still keep a blog? I think it's because I love to write and every so often a moment has a multi-dimensional, vibrant quality to it that causes me to want to capture it, look at it from different angles and make it completely my own. I haven't had too many of those moments lately. Unless you count the few seconds interval on my walk to the gym the other day where I passed a woman's black pleather belt which looked as though it had been used as a weapon the night before and then passed by a men's once-white crew sock limpily hanging off the curb, looking very much like the victim of belt war tactics. I chuckled and then sighed to myself seeing these two elements as symbolic representations of some broken male-female relating. I quickly concluded that it wouldn't make a very interesting blog article on its own, but I just had to stick it in one anyway.
This morning I awoke with a strong desire to sit in a random coffee shop and blog. I had a Groupon (coolest thing EVER-- every morning I get a coupon emailed to me for some kind of service offered at a crazy discount price) for an oil change on my car and needed to take it in. I just dropped off my car and started walking toward the King Soopers shopping center out this way, having been told by the car place guy that he thought there might be an Einstein Bagels in that general area. Halfway there, I glimpsed a sign 'COFFEE SHOP'. Random coffee shop. Way better.
So, I'm sitting here, drinking an iced coffee, listening to Roy Orbison on the radio and just writing because it feels good. I still love my new church-- starting our first single women's small group tomorrow night. I love being in on the ground floor of things. And, I just need to meet more regularly with people who are trying to know more and more what it means to love and be loved by Jesus in America. I am keen to know how these girls see their faith, how they choose to live it out in the world around them. I crave to hear their personal struggles, to listen as they share what Scriptures they might hold onto when they feel lost. My soul just needs to know: how real IS Jesus in the lives of people around me who claim to know Him?
I have realized that I am desperate to hear these faith confessions because I feel like my own walk of faith has taken on a completely new life, that sometimes feels like death. I was reading in Matthew the other morning, 'You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?' Ugh. I used to feel so dang salty. To be honest, I used to be a total spice cabinet. Today I am just begging God to not let me become completely flavorless. It freaks me out that I'm questioning things I once wholeheartedly knew-- and not out of cynicism, either. Not even out of doubt. More out of: how in the world did I go from being an MVP to one standing in line outside the park staring at the corn dog seller? How did I go from seeing the Kingdom of God all around me to being one who listens to others talking about it? I can imagine the Israelites during the 3 and a half year drought during Ahab's reign commenting to each other: 'Remember the rain? Remember how when it rained it would cool down for a while and then get insanely hot right after? Remember when we could go down to the brook and stick our feet in the water?' I feel like I'm having to constantly remind myself: remember when you used to pray for people and they would be set free? remember that time in Indonesia when... remember that time in Nigeria when...
But then Elijah prayed and the deluge came. "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.' James 5:17,18
Keep praying for rain, Amy. It will come again.