Life in Italy,  motherhood,  Suffering,  toddlers

Carpe this Diem

Latin isn’t Italian…but it built it’s linguistic basement.

Which is helpful as a Catholic who has been quietly absorbing root words and linguistic building blocks her whole life, unknowingly. So yes, maybe I sound really, really stupid when I surprise everyone at the market (myself included) by uttering the Latin word for ‘pepper’ when I’m hunting for jalapenos…but it gets the job done.

Anywho, I had a sort of mini-epiphany this morning, whilst hanging laundry on ye olde drying rack, the busy morning commute rushing by 4 stories below me, and St. Peter’s Basilica looming on the horizon, always in my peripheral when I’m out in our ‘yard.’

It occurred to me, perhaps not for the first time but kind of for the first time, if you know what I mean, that we live here.

Like, hot damn, we live in one of the world’s most beautiful, historic, epic, highly-trafficked and most sought-after travel destinations…and I have spent the past 5 months alternating between resenting it and enduring it.

I give myself 1,000 meters of slack (metric system, holler) because oh my gosh has it been hard living here with children. And the bureaucracy is insanity incarnate. And for an extremely type-A choleric who thrives on efficiency and competence…well, it’s a special kind of ugly.

But…but…we’re here. And for the foreseeable future, this is home.

Now, I don’t begrudge myself one single second of the grief or annoyance I’ve felt these past 5 months, because it has been hard. as. hell. I’ve essentially started over, at the tender age of 30, in a country whose language I don’t speak (well) and whose customs and machinations are ever so unfamiliar. And with a growing pack of mewling toddlers underfoot. So yes, props to me for surviving, no regrets, et cetera et cetera…but enough.

I’m done hating Italy.

Let me be clear, I’ve never truly hated it…but I have most definitely hated what it is not: convenient, orderly, predictable, fair and just, safe, and familiar.

Putting all that aside, there are a few things which my new land is: beautiful, chaotic, historic, mysterious, and filled with some of the most crazy-interesting people I will probably ever meet. Or at least observe from a safe distance.

So from today forward, (and allowing aaaaaaample room for regression, backtracking, pregnancy-induced sobfests over retail unavailability of this-or-that baby item) I’m all in.

I can’t control a single thing here except for my reaction to this life that has been assigned for me to live. I can’t even really control my children, as Mr. I’m-totally-potty-trained-nevermind-just-kidding-suckers has me convinced. But I am not a victim of living here. And I am not the insecure, timid, angry and overwhelmed woman I feel like a lot of the time here.

So I can’t speak the language well? Well, time to start putting in more hours with Miss Rosetta Stone in lieu of trolling the internet for scraps of familiar comfort. Especially considering how very much I’d like to be able to (convincingly) ask for an eventual epidural 6 months from now, and for my cervix to be left alone during all future pre-natal appointments. Despite feeling otherwise, I am not, in fact, an over-sized child at the mercy of Italian-speaking adults.


I have let so many things happen here which I would never have allowed back home. For one, I’ve become that annoying foreigner who is constantly mentally referring to life ‘back home,’ which a sweet friend and fellow ex-pat strictly warned me against when we were still in the starry-eyed planning stages of this adventure.

“Don’t be that girl who is always throwing around ‘well back home we do such-and-such,’ because nobody will want to be friends with that girl. She isn’t really ‘there,’ she’s just putting in her time until she gets back to her real life.”

I may not be doing this out loud, but I’m definitely doing it on the inside. It’s the reason I always sit by myself at the park. It’s the reason I’ve stopped accepting new invitations from mom friends or potential mom friends who come across the radar periodically. I don’t have time to invest in that relationship or that event, because I won’t be living here forever, or simply my Italian is so bad it isn’t worth trying to make a non-English speaking friend.

Well shame on me. Except I said I wouldn’t shame myself for my largely excuseable but no longer acceptable behavior here. So never mind.

The simple truth is, I’m here now, and for who knows how long. So I might as well be here. And not in a resigned, long-suffering way, but in a bright and engaged and, dammit, a cheerful sort of way. Pope Francis was totally not expecting to live in Rome, either, but I’d say he is handling it rather well.

And after all, it’s a blessing that we’re here. That any of us are wherever God happens to have us at the moment.

So I am going to carpe the shit out of the diem. (Mom, I promise I don’t swear this much in front of the grand kids in real life.) I am going to borrow a sort of detestable but applicable phrase from the effervescent Kelle Hampton and suck the marrow out of this experience. 

Because what else can I do? I’m here. Rome’s here. And all this pasta…well, thanks to a mild lifelong aversion to the stuff, I’m finally experiencing one of those magical, mythical ‘skinny pregnancies’ where the first trimester passes but the scale remains stationary.

So Rome, I’d  like to start fresh. I’m new in town, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve got to offer.

I’m all in.


  • letlovebesincere

    okay, so i am a huge nerd and an avid ‘office’ watcher. At the end of the series finale, there was this quote I just can’t quit..and it was, ‘I wish there was a way to know you were in the good ol’ days, before you’ve actually left them’. I have spent entirely too many ‘seasons’ of my life totally missing the awesome because I was focused on the not awesome. Here’s hoping you can really Cease the Shit of the Diem you are experiencing, because it is freaking cool

  • Michele Chronister

    Oh, my goodness…I totally had a dream that I was living in Rome recently, and was soooo overwhelmed, haha. I have to hand it to you…you’re really taking it all in stride! And I love this attitude you’re adopting…can’t wait to see where Roma takes you 🙂

  • Colleen

    What a great new start! And that picture of you at the zoo/aquarium is SOOOOOO funny because of the old lady looking at your photographer in disgust.

  • Bonnie

    Good for you, Jenny.

    I have a German friend and a Mexican friend who both laugh at my inability to speak any foreign language (like while praying the Hail Mary with my Mexican friend I asked Mary to pray for us fishermen now and at the hour of our death.). But I am so proud of and grateful for our friendships all these years later. And I know they really like me for me because they’ve seen me be a complete fool. So all that to say: I really, strongly encourage you to befriend the locals – your neighbors.

    And maybe they’ll have tips for how to dry your clothes more quickly?

  • Christine

    This was a great post. Saying that you felt like an overgrown child dealing with Italian-peaking adults really helped capture your experience. I will probably never live in a foreign country, but this has given me some more perspective on what it would be like.

    Last weekend, I was talking with someone who mentioned that he could probably get my husband into a good job, working for the Church. I was all ears. Bu then he asked, “Well, would you be willing to move to Rome?”. I immediately thought of your experiences – and everything else I’ve ever heard about living outside the US – and answered very hesitantly, “ehhhh…..maybe?? temporarily???”. haha. Even while living in one of the most amazing cities in the world, I don’t know that I could ever get over the fact of not being “home”. But good for you!

  • Claudette

    good for you. i love it that you compare yourself to the pope as here we have a saying for someone who is living life in the lap of luxury. we call it “the life of a pope”. And that personal assistant he always has at his side in that photo, he’s Maltese (actually Gozitan). I wish you lots of good things and you know you can drop me a line anytime. And if you need any translating i’m just an email away. I grew up speaking italian and maltese before I learned english properly.


    I love this. I’ve spent some time in Germany and on two of my stays there, I made trips into Italy. Despite every American friend’s crush on Italy, I have to admit that I hated it. I’m an orderly-Germany kind of girl. So I think if I were in your position, I’d be having a similar struggle to yours: torn between wanting to absorb and appreciate the very special place I’m in, or wanting to escape its frustrations and unfamiliarity. Good for you for choosing the former. I wish you well in sticking to it!

  • Sean and Katie

    We currently live in Italia as well {American raised of course}!! It is very hard { we have been here for 3 years and are about to move back to the states. I have hated and enjoyed it! Now that we are leaving Im sad. Both of my girls were born here. Enjoy it as much as you can despite the inconveniences. {And I am sure you already know this} but epidurals are few and far between in Italian hospitals… So just be prepared 😉

  • Pam Cakes

    OMG! I just came by through Camp Patton and I feel so related to this post. So totally related! Though I have no kids, I married a Portuguese and came to live to Portugal five years ago. I am Peruvian and thought Portugal couldn’t be THAT different from my home country. I was totally WRONG. Before coming to Portugal I lived in the US and I really miss it. I’ve been here for five years and have even became Portuguese by now (legally Portuguese) but I still don’t want to live here and still hope and dream I’ll be out of here soon. And I’m also sure the day I leave I’ll be sad for leaving. Mixed feelings… The bureaucracy is crazy! And it seems that I will never ever fit in here, I have an accent, I am too tall, I am too “open minded”. Even my name is difficult for them to pronounce and they are constantly changing it! I frequently struggle with myself to be content and happy where I am but you know how hard it is. I have improved a lot in these years (at the beginning I was really miserable) and the fact of becoming Portuguese has also helped me a lot. I think it is also a learning process. Even if you don’t like it a 100% you have to learn to love them as they are. And this process takes some time. As a good friend of mine always repeats to me: “You don’t have to understand them, you have to accept them and love them as they are”.

  • Christie @ Everything to Someone

    I’m not even a type-A like you, and Italy started to get on my nerves during the last part of my four-month sojourn. Like, God help you if you run out of toilet paper on Saturday night. You better have some generous neighbors!

    On the other hand, everything I experienced and felt and saw outweighed that a hundred fold, and all that will stay with you afterwards is the joy and growth from those things, with just a hint of the discomfort like salt for flavor.

  • Angela Noelle of SK

    I’ve only spent a few days in Italy, but I imagine it’s a place that grows on you better than it wins you over with a bang. I think the drugged-up dude in the torn T hangin’ in the corner of hall at the backpackers I stayed at was my first clue. I’m glad it’s growin’ for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *