Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bringing Freedom Home (literally)
Today we brought Freedom home from the hospital. 


Stanley looks a bit like Sidney Poitier, no?

the obstetrics tree

you know you've made it in Italy, when the administrative lady boss behind this door kisses you on both cheeks!

Freedom is so much tinier than I remembered from when he emerged in real time.

He weighs just about 5.5 pounds.

His feet are ridiculously long.

super long feet!

I am still trying to mind plant that Stanley and Mamma Freedom should move into Job and Mamma Peace's old house and that Emmanuel should move out with Peace, but I am not that powerful. Although I did help to bring Freedom into the world. Not bragging, but bragging.

Let it be known, that, despite everything, Freedom was born in 2016.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Squad Goals
For my birthday we watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and I discovered that my very favorite thing is Oreos buried in whipped cream

Our mission today was to make a construction team out of my Romanian angel man Eltion (remember when I went around calling him Elpion? Well, that was wrong) and Ezekiel. If you don't remember Ezekiel he is a guy who went to prison for begging on the streets when his permesso di soggiorno was expired. Since then he has had the good fortune to marry an Italian woman named Alessia and they are expecting a baby in March. He is a very sweet guy. And he knows how to fix stuff. My idea is that because Eltion has his own team, including this sweet little Sicilian guy named Nino, a truck, a certificate, and tools, he could team up with Ezekiel who has access to all the African people's houses in Montecatini. It worked wonderfully. 

new livingroom

new kitchen

new bathroom

We took Job and Ezekiel in our car to Job's new house that was paid for with the donation my mom left for them. It is actually a beautiful space. It just needs a little work. We got an estimate from Eltion and Nino, figured out that the current landlord is not going to fix anything that she promised to fix -- although when I spoke to her again just now she was quite lovely and pleased that we were going to take care of it -- and then we make a plan. The plan involved F and I going to the Home Depot of Italy which is called, for some weird reason, Leroy Merlin and buying the materials. To make sure Ezekiel didn't get cut out we left all the materials with him, which will also ensure him a ride to the work site next week. They should be able to get the house ready in less than two days. We also priced the cheapest oven to be delivered and sent Job to open up all the accounts for the new house's gas, water, and electricity. I had a long talk with Emmanuel, in which I tried again to convince him to move to this new house. I, personally, think that Stanley and Momma Freedom should move in as soon as Job and Mamma Peace move out.

Ezekiel taking it all in

Eltion and Nino

this happened.

bilingual wizard championship

In the midst of everything, I had to explain to the owner of Job and Tina's old house that I could not meet her this morning. She missed us by one hour and I had the excuse of F's return to America to soften the blow. She came with a present for baby Peace and a newly amenable attitude, but I don't want to have to deal with her anymore because she is a lot of work. I will just stay on top of Job to pay his rent at this new house so we won't have that kind of unpleasantness again. 

Mamma Peace was running a fever, so we had to run to the pharmacy for her, where we had to buy diaper cream for Peace in any event. 

just chillin . . brrrr

I was very stressed that Cool reported that there is no heat or hot water at his house. I asked Eltion if he would kindly talk to Cool's landlord to explain why he needs to pay for a new hot water heater, but the landlord is not picking up the phone for them. Tomorrow we need to take baby Freedom home to that house from the hospital. When I called an hour ago, Jennifer reported that the heat was back on. I doubt I have a black hair left on my head. Worrying as a tool for preparedness seems to only work half the time and the rest of the time it is useless, but I can't for the life of me figure out when it pays off so I continue to annoy myself. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

and now I've seen ..EVERYTHING  
Remember that time when I was a burnt out social worker for the homeless and I decided to stay at home full time with my daughter, but then I learned how to teach fitness when she was five years old so that I could go back to work part-time. But remember how we were growing every less enchanted with the discrepency between rich and poor people in New York and we thought we should change our lives by moving to Italy where our daughter could receive a first rate education? But then remember how two years ago we started finding all of these desperate migrants at our doorstep, and we decided to take a group of them and try to help them to better their lives in Italy?
Well, cut to Christmas when we brought presents to as many of the 150 people living in the tents of the Red Cross as we possibly could and made Christmas happen for the people that we adopted over the past year. The group is supposed to be six people strong, but, of course, they have family members who are in need and who they sometimes shelter and care for, which means we help them, too. One of the first African immigrants I met was Tina, who this year became Stanley's wife. Stanley is the super annoying brother of Cool, who is in the group, and who is baby Wisdom's father. Tina is fully pregnant and had a due date of January first. On Christmas day we got the call that instead of going to the hospital immediately after her water broke like I had told her to, Tina went to church. I found out six hours later that she was still not at the hospital so I yelled at everyone until they got her an ambulance. I never had the chance to get her file opened at the best hospital, so there was some doubt they would receive her. Luckily, no good catholic is going to say no to a pregnant woman on Christmas day so they took her in anyway. The other two hospitals nearby are not as clean or professional looking. 
I spoke to Stanley on the phone. He insisted that she was not going to give birth until next month and that the hospital wanted to keep her anyway. I spoke to the nurse who said that Tina needed to get the baby out as soon as possible to not risk infection. I told Stanley this, but he insisted that he understood Italian and decided to go home and eat African food for dinner and have his bath. I yelled at him and Cool and Jennifer and Mamma Peace, the other Tina, and told them to talk some sense into him. Last night I did not sleep a wink. Today I woke up and called Tina herself. She told me that she was in tremendous pain. That is when I found out at that Stanley had not been with her for the last nine hours. I called Cool and told him that when I got to the hospital he better have Stanley stay clear of me because I was planning to beat his ass into pulp. 
While we were in the car, I came up with the plan to storm into the maternity ward, complaining about how Caritas had called me on my holiday, December 26th is the holiday of San Stefano in Italy, and forced me to come translate for a Nigerian woman. It worked! F could not believe. I marched around like I owned the place. I told him that had I been Trump, I could have grabbed every .. well, you get the idea.
I got to her room and got to work. I taught her how to get through her contractions through breathing and massage. She asked me to teach Stanley, too. It was then I realized that Stanley still believed they had a month before the baby would come out. I broke it down for him. He looked pretty shocked. She was two centimeters dialated. Her contractions on the pitocin they gave her were 90 seconds a part for the next two hours. I did not even get a sip of water or the chance to scratch my nose. Then we moved into the delivery room.
I bumped into some of the nurses I had given cookies to when baby Peace was born. We hugged briefly. I saw the M&M nurse (hard candy outside, soft inside) from last time inside the delivery room. She was in a pissy mood. She yelled at Stanley because he made her mess up the birth certificate form with his pretend Italian skills and his uncertainty about how to spell the baby's name in Nigerian. I mediated.
delivery room
The bad news was that Tina did not understand that she was going to have to work to push the baby out and she just lay their passively doing nothing. There were hardly any nurses or doctors on duty. Another woman started to scream in the room next door. The obstetrics nurse and janitor? lady took turns running back and forth between the rooms. The doctor never appeared. I explained the directions from Italian that the nurse was giving Tina. Her contractions had slowed down when they took out the pitocin patch and she only had three in the last half hour of the delivery. She wasted the first one, the other two times we coached the hell out of her. I asked Stanley, just for safety how he felt about blood. It turns out he is not a fan. And that is how I saw everything. And the baby was born. His name is FREEDOM. 
Freedom! (all other photos are too graphic)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Babbo Natale went Crazy  
Today I gave presents to Glory who was back in Lucca for the day. We gave Paul his presents and found out that he does not have heat or hot water, and that he is about to lose his current apartment anyway. He is not too bummed about it because things are going well at the restaurant, and he was paid very well this month. We bumped into the kitchen manager who has been out of work with a broken hand, and asked him if he would kindly make sure that Paul gets a renewed contract, which he needs to get a new apartment. Then I begged the heater repair guy to fix Cool, since they also didn't have hot water ... again, and left money for him to come on Christmas eve. It turned out that he needs a part and thinks the whole thing needs to be replaced. Then I ran to bring the outdoor florists their cupcakes.
We had a full car/sleigh on our way to Montecatini:
F drove like this!
T traveled like this!
I had these sad guys on my lap!
We had bags of gifts and donations for the whole group like make-up kits for the women, and wrist bands for the men, and plenty of wonderful things for the babies, like a car shaped play seat and walker for Wisdom. Last night a lady answered Tina's wish for a special stroller/car seat that is called an ovetto here because it cradles the baby like a little egg, so we had that with us, as well. 
ovetto approved!
I sent out thank you photos to all the people who I could remember who had donated money or items. We took Jennifer shopping for baby food and diapers, and got some diapers for her sister-in-law, as well. It does not look like they are ever going to make up, so the atmosphere was pretty tense at their house. I was pretty stressed in the car because Wisdom had blisters on his hands from when he had a fever last week, which made me think that he has fifth disease.  But I'm not sure. I used hand sanitizer every fifteen seconds. We did get the baby who is due next week a carrier and a donated mobile, too, along with tons of pajamas and onesies. 
Wisdom is crawling now and has five teeth!
Then we went by and made sure Emmanuel had his monthly payment to send back to his son Precious in Nigeria  and we delivered the exersaucer for Peace. We left them the rest of the cupcakes, although they were a bit melted because fondant is just not my friend.
Happy Holidays to our readers!
Ten seconds flat  
Several things about giving the Christmas presents to the refugees who are staying the tents of the Red Cross in Lucca were very emotional for us tonight. First of all, Moro, who moved out of the tents to a group home today, is the sweetest man. We met him that day when we were giving out shoes and he had none. He traveled a chilometer with his friend to come back to the tents to help us. He didn't take anything for himself. And he broke up several fights during the crazy, grab for all, which F assures me is inevitable and happened even at the NY Cares Coat drive every year. After it was all said and done, I wanted to give him a ride home. He had brought his bike, but I hadn't realized it was parked right there, so I had him get into the car and took advantage of the fact that he was in close proximity to shake his hand while all the other men surrounded the car and watched us in the back seat. Little did they know that I am a real New Yorker, so it thrilled me to see his eyes widen when he realized that I had a twenty euro note concealed inside my palm.
full car
wheeling and dealing
a scarf for everyone
Moro (on the right)
nice guys
Ecco fatto!
Despite a few arguments and a few moments where I had to put my body in between people to stop them from getting physical with one another, the whole crowd got silent when I explained that the scarves -- of which, Thank God, there was enough for everybody -- had been made by little children in Italy who were wishing them well. 
The women were quite fashion conscious and rejected the same shit that you or I would have rejected and that was totally cool; we just put the rejected stuff in the yellow collection bins on the way home. 
It is a great relief to have this done. Also we can walk through our house now. They made us promise to come back and said that next time we should force the crowd to make an orderly line .. but, of course, that would only work if you have equally good stuff for everyone, so that has to be our goal. Happy Holidays and God Bless Everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Santa Plus  
Even though our main focus this year is making life a little easier for some of the refugees in Lucca, we still went around to the ortofrutta, the paneficeria, the farmacia, the parrucchiere, the edicola and to a few of our friends' houses to spread a little cheer in the form of polar bear cupcakes. Oh polar bears, we know how you feel buddies, and we're sorry.
We also received the sad news that F's mother Anna had passed. She was 88. He will return to California right after Christmas to be with his sister.
The donation distribution business is no joke. We have been going around picking up old coats and gently used baby clothes from one house after another. In Italy, it is rare to find a stoop sale or a garage sale or any other trade around used items, apart from the two mercatini, which mostly sell antique furniture, but have started to sell some clothing mostly in the winter time. Therefore, the pickings are good. Our house is overrun with shopping bags, and I can admit that I will be happy to get most of them out tonight when we go to the tents and tomorrow when we go to the families in Montecatini. 
My guy on the inside, Moro, wrote me with the good news that he is getting transferred today from the tents to a group home. He was sweet enough to say that he would still help us distribute tonight since he knows everyone and speaks all five dialects that are spoken there. The problem is that he doesn't know where his new home is, especially in relation to the tents. So that should be a challenge. 
Stanley is coming around today for money because he swears that he can bribe his way into a job in Sweden at a tie company that pays really well if he gets 150 euros by tomorrow. His pregnant wife is pretty miserable these days, sharing a house with her in-laws, who already have a baby, so we decided it was worth a shot. I talked to Cool and Jennifer about the situation because with F gone, I won't be able to take her to the hospital and she is going to need for them to come together as a family for the baby's sake. I feel for all of them because it is a lot of pressure to live all together in a small space in those conditions. On the other hand, based on the videos in The New York Times this week, they are better off than the majority of refugees in Italy at the moment.
A nice lady from the piccoli aiutanti tells me she might have found a stroller for baby Peace so that she can get to church on Sundays in Florence.
My work at Fabio Perini is going pretty well except for a few hiccups like the time I guessed whose name belonged to whom in one class despite my menopausal memory issues and the fact that I teach five hour and a half lessons back to back for people who are all named either Fabio, Fabrizio, Massimo, Giacomo, Giovanni, or Francesca. The punchline is that in a room of six students, I did not get even one of them right. Then there was the class where three students reported that they had the flu and one choked so hard that he turned redder than a peperoncino on fire. Also the women from human resources have given up on even pretending to want to spend time with me, which, trust me, is all for the best. We all gave it a college try, and it just did not work out because I am not enthused by the cafeteria food due to early childhood cafeteria trauma. Any of my ex therapists who might be reading this -- just know that I did try and also that I am so okay with myself at this point that I honestly don't care how pathetic this sounds.
The highlight of the week up until now has to be giving my friend Patrizia, who just adopted three kittens along with her daughter and son-in-law, a cat apartment/scratchpost/activity center. Just look at these pics:
kitty joy to the third power
hee hee

Monday, December 19, 2016

Starting small  
Today I went to the Senza Zaino school with my friend Elisabetta Nannizzi whose third grade students made scarves and cards for the African refugees in Lucca. She had me give a little speech about why what they did was so special. . . in Italian! I was really moved by the fact that even though they were going crazy when we first entered the room, they really paid attention when it came to this subject. The teacher who was in charge when we walked in said that she was so fed up that she was about to go out of her mind. Thank goodness that her vacation is coming up just around the corner. Elisabetta brought her little son Umberto who was home with a stomach ache that had miraculously passed once he got to stay home. He is the class pet. Many moms also helped to prepare the scarves for this project. The people who helped were really good hearted, but they told me that there are still some families who do not view the refugees in a good light and that, therefore, they felt it was important to reach out to the kids at this age. 

The classroom when I first entered ..

super cuties

the scarves!

Umberto! (He is adorable and he told his mother he had fallen in love with me!)

class photo