It was a year ago in April that I received the news of my cancer diagnosis and I did not pause for even a moment to mark the occasion. I have in some ways blocked out the exact date of my diagnosis and buried it deep in my subconscious. So, when April of 2019 came around, I quietly looked back on the year with sadness and recalled the emotions that rocked my world in utter silence. It’s complicated.
I understand that without rain there would not be flowers. Without extreme heat there would be no reflection in silver during the refinery process. Without years of pressure a lump a coal would never become a diamond.
So, is the woman staring back of me in the mirror better for the experience today?
I still see brokenness and my scars are still fresh on my heart. Some days I even struggle with depression. I beat myself up when I make mistakes and I am hard on myself when I don’t meet my own expectations. Recently I have read that delayed reactions are common for people who has suffered a great tragedy. My cancer treatment is over, and I am grateful for it, but my journey continues.
Despite what I feel the reality is that in God I am whole. I am beautiful and I am His daughter. I may be a broken vessel but the light shining through is still light. The love I have for life is still worth pursuing and the treasure within this jar of clay is as dear to God as the day I was born.
In 7 days, I will mark the one-year anniversary since I had surgery. This princess has come full circle.
One might assume that returning from a beautiful vacation is hard. The term “back to reality” is often used to describe the emptiness one feels at the end of a vacation. Returning to my reality was sweet.
Don’t misunderstand me. It was sad leaving Italy. Who wouldn’t miss the beauty of grabbing an espresso or cappuccino with a fresh croissant just steps from their door every morning? Or the beauty and history of the land? I loved everything Italy had to offer but I love my husband more.
So, when I saw him waiting for us at the airport after clearing immigration I ran and threw my arms around him. My daughter could not outrun me when she saw me make a mad dash towards him. If home is where your heart is, then surely this man has my heart in a million ways.
Far from perfect, home is exactly where God placed us. Enjoying the world outside of my home is a luxury I will always cherish. Vacations were never an escape from the life I love and the life I was called to live. That perspective makes coming back to reality the sweetest of pleasures.
We had a quiet morning in Vicenza. My son rented a small apartment in the heart of their old downtown district and it’s the quintessential Italian town bustling with coffee shops and small restaurants. Although upgraded with modern features the apartment still holds its old world charm.
On our last day we took a train ride to Verona to see Juliet’s home and fell in love with the city. Juliet’s wall was as magical as I had hoped. The city of love was the perfect ending to our trip.
After dinner in the village square we made our way back to the train station. That last walk proved to be to much for me and we flagged a taxi for the final leg of the trip.
It was a somber ride back to Vicenza and upon arrival we walked back to our apartment in the heart of town. Before calling it a night we stopped for gelato one last time.
Like Italy, our last gelato did not disappoint.
Could anything be more beautiful than a sunrise over the Colosseum in Rome? It was early and the view was spectacular. The weather was picture perfect. We spent hours enjoying the Colosseum and the Forum around the grounds.
The rest of the day was filled with local delicious eats, more gelato I care to admit to and a carefree day that found us exploring all of Rome. From sunrise to sunset we walked to our hearts content.
Mamertine Prison, also referred to as Tallianum was our first stop. In it we got to see where Paul and Peter were imprisoned according to historians. Sobering moment to imagine giants of the faith in this dark, cold place.
Pantheon was impressive. An open dome that allows the rain to enter the church that was once a Greek and Roman Temple.
The Spanish Steps was a romantic place right outside the Galleria de Bognesa. The one place that will remain on my bucket list until I return with my husband.
Too many stops along the way to write about but imagine an entire city with cobblestone streets and every alley leading to a courtyard that held their own unique treasures. The restaurants, coffee shops, bakery’s and shops were endless but so was the architecture that surrounds and fills every part of the city.
Magical…. Only in Rome could one entertain or dare dream that Pegasus, gargoyles, baby cherubs are real.
Back to my question could anything be more beautiful than a sunrise over the Colosseum in Roma? The sunset over the city.
The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were an absolute dream. I was able to photograph everything but the Sistine Chapel due to copyright laws but nevertheless I was so grateful for the experience to walk in the church. I couldn’t help the tears as we looked up to behold Michelangelo’s work. The “Hand of God” never felt more real in my life and as everyone observed the rule of silence in the church it magnified the moment.
On the other hand getting inside was a bit of a problem. I had purchased tickets online but we fell to a local scam. Every 10-20 feet were local guides portraying themselves as Vatican staff and we fell for the “you should upgrade your tickets to skip the lines with a tour guide” in all the confusion.
AImagine St. Petersburg Square with thousands of people. I questioned it at first because I thought I paid for a guided tour but according to them it was an audio tour without a guide. In fact, three separate employees of the same agency lied to me. Imagine my surprise when we were finally inside and the ticket agent told us we missed our tour with the Vatican guide. I was offered a refund on the guided tour portion I had originally paid but we were out the money spent on the new tour guide which was double the price and with almost 60 people. Way to big for what originally should of been a group of 13-15 people.
The agent was sympathetic and called the agency to complain. I got the impression it wasn’t the first time and I’m sure the practice will continue. Upon leaving I couldn’t help but notice all the independent tour guides pulling the wool over peoples eyes everywhere. It kind of made me sad. For the Catholic Church this was a holy place. I am not a catholic but I hold dear our commonality; the gospel message. This goes against everything Jesus taught.
I couldn’t help but think of our Savior. This was exactly why Jesus upturned all the tables at the temple in Jerusalem. Man had turned Gods holy temple into a den of thieves. Here I was at the Vatican and I was lied to on 3 separate occasions. Scammed for money.
Admittedly I was upset and it took me a moment to rise above it. Once inside I was able to finally let it go and by the time we walked into the Sistine Chapel I had all but forgiven. Life is to precious and our time is to short to spend it brewing over injustices.
I was blessed with the opportunity to see the Hand of God with my kids. What can possibly tarnish that? Absolutely nothing.
After our train ride to Rome we checked into our flat (AKA as an apartment) after a taxi ride with a driver than fancied himself as a race car driver. The streets of Rome are as busy as New York and we weren’t prepared for it. We held onto our seats for dear life.
Our flat was on the 3rd floor and had no elevator. I thought running was bad… Mamma Mia. I may have inadvertently started an exercise plan in Italy but it was so worth it. The flat has an old world charm. I’m intrigued with the history of the apartment. I feel as if I just walked back in time. It is exactly what I had envisioned and it is around the corner from the Vatican. As if on cue, the bells at the Vatican rang upon our arrival.
I have a fascination with church bells. We always knew it was time to get ready for church growing up in New York because of church bells.
After dinner, we took a late walk to the Vatican. It was so quiet you could hear birds flying overhead. I am not a fan of birds but even I have to admit they added to the majestic scene of the night. We were standing in the middle of history.
After Venice we traveled to Rome on the Frecciarossa train. Not that riding a train is a big deal but running for it twice is a pretty big deal for me.
I can’t get over how normal it must be to live here for the locals while I’m in a constant “somebody please pinch me” state of mind. I think it’s all pretty amazing living in Italy. I guess that’s how others viewed my life in New York.
Almost four hours to get to Rome and while my kids find it easy to sleep I’m soaking up life. My son, would make any mother proud. He is my pride and joy. Does he even know how much taller I stand in life because of him? He elevates my coolness. And as I watch my beautiful daughter sleep I can’t help but marvel at her. She’s extremely excited to see Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel but even more amazing is how I see the fingerprint of God in her. Even with her head back, mouth open in a deep sleep she’s just gorgeous. My kids, my masterpieces molded by God.
But enough of my kids… not present is my beloved husband. I’ve been missing him more than I can explain. My unsung hero makes the world go round for us and at times sacrifices way to much for me. That makes him my person. Forever.
It’s incredible how four hours on a train allows you to appreciate the little things. Not that family is a little thing. They are in fact my everything.
Now about that running… I’ve never felt more out of shape and unhealthy in all my life. Big changes will be made upon our return home.