Tag Archives: living in Italy

Death can be beautiful

For plants and trees, autumn means death, or at least hibernation. I don’t see autumn as death; I see it as a glorious transformation from one phase to the next.

 

 

 

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So now we’re criminals

Living abroad (away from the U.S.) is taking a nasty turn. What was once living our dream in Italy is turning into “1984” for us and for the banking institutions that serve us. In its infinite wisdom, the U.S. government (specifically the  Departments of Treasury and Justice, and lawmakers in both houses of Congress) has become the watchdog of anyone living abroad who has a bank account.

We all know that millionaires and billionaires and corporations have been hiding money overseas for years. Fine, it’s time to go after the major tax cheats. I’m all for that. But with the law called FACTA (Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act) going into effect, the U.S. government is insisting on two things: One, that all U.S. citizens living abroad must report all details of foreign bank accounts and get taxed on them even though we pay taxes on them here; and two, that the banking institutions must comply with some very serious U.S. regulations. Or else. Where the “or else” is heavy, heavy fines and criminal charges, not just to the bank, but to the employees!! Talk about blackmail.

Can you imagine what would happen if Germany or France or Norway or South Africa tried to do this to the American banking industry? They would laugh in their faces.

Let me repeat. I am all for wiping out corruption and getting gazillionaires to pay their taxes. But this law is not affecting only them. In fact, it probably won’t hurt them much at all; they’ll still find ways to hide their money. No, this law is affecting the 99% (sound familiar?) of us who live abroad and have to have a bank account in the town where we live.

This compliance regime is so serious that a number of banks have decided they won’t do it. Sounds brave, right? Nope. What it means is they’re simply telling their American citizen clients that they can no longer bank or invest with their institution, and they’re canceling accounts. How the hell can you live without having a bank account? Even an online one. They’re also subject to this, so please don’t comment with “Why don’t you just get an online account?”

I have nothing to hide and I dutifully report our foreign back accounts. What irks me is that this form used to be called FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report). Now they’ve changed the name to FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). Isn’t that sweet? We’re now potential financial criminals in the eyes of the U.S. government just for having a checking account in a local bank. Welcome to the 21st century of bullying, surveillance, paranoia and fear.

 

 

Daily Prompt: Ingredients

What’s the one ingredient I can’t do without and why?

Olive oil. Because it’s the essence—soul, spirit, nature, heart—of life.

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Dawn | Early bird

Dawn. 6:00 AM flight.

From my kitchen window, sipping a cappuccino. Glad I didn’t have to be on that early bird! For the daily prompt.

Early bird trail

Cat tales – the things we do for love

So much for crocheting that afghan. Recently, I discovered what Piero had been up to for the last few weeks. It’s not a pretty sight.

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When I carried him upstairs and asked him what he thought he was doing, he looked at me and ‘told me’ that he did it for love.

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Huh?

And then I melted when I saw what he meant.

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Morning ritual

A friend has been posting a painting a day. Such inspiration to get creative! Her theme this month is coffee and tea. So, as a little tribute to her theme, this is my morning ritual…how I love cappuccino!

The day after La Befana…remembering Vladimir

vlad_bench_wThe day after La Befana will always be the day we put down our beloved Vladimir, who had been gravely ill with intestinal cancer. Five years ago on a sunny January 7th, his time was up and my heart still cries a little.

Vladimir, “so dignified and pure of heart” as our brother-in-law, Eddie, wrote, will be forever etched into my life and soul. Our beginnings here in Italy were made all the more wonderful with his presence.

An excerpt from my book, The Field Stones of Umbria, describes his last two days with us:

He spent the last few days of his life resting in the gardens, in the sunshine. He had stopped eating again, and this time we knew it was the end. The day before we put him down, I sat with him in the Japanese garden for an hour. We listened to the horses in the field, the sheep and their bells in the hills, and he watched the birds with his usual intensity.

A large woodpecker landed near the bamboo, and he leaped off my lap. Even though he couldn’t eat and was down to nine pounds from twenty, his instinct as a great hunter flashed for another moment. He was poetry in motion and I momentarily forgot that he was about to die.

The next day, when it was time to go, I found him in the lower meadow near the stream. I picked him up, his poor skinny body weighing nothing, and he draped himself on my shoulder. We walked all around the grounds, and I talked to him about the fields, the stream, the olive trees, the meadow, the lavender and rosemary, the bamboo and Japanese maples. I told him that all of “his nature” would miss his beautiful presence. He touched his nose to my lips, our secret kiss that we’d coveted for 12 years.

It was time to go. Pavel and I didn’t talk on the way to the vet. What is there to say? You have to do this, and there’s no turning back.

I held him while he was going under, Pavel at my side, both of us crying. The roller coaster of emotion had taken its last uphill climb. Our vet was amazing. Vladimir didn’t feel anything. He died peacefully. She cried with us.

We remember all of his antics, his playing, his purrs in the night. He still kisses me in his secret way. But most of all, we see his beautiful eyes gazing directly at us—questioning, understanding, loving, and connecting as no other animal has ever done.

Vladimir. So dignified and pure of heart.

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I want to be in Italy when I’m 80

A caravan pulls up to our neighbor’s house and the music starts. Bells are ringing, people are singing and shouting joyous greetings. The house is lit up with all the outside lights (which is very special here since electricity is so expensive!) to welcome the local bandwagon of people, gifts, and good cheer.

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This Christmas Eve mission? To visit each and every house in this tiny valley where someone (or more) is at least 80 years old. And there are a lot of them! At least 20 people out of a population of 100 or so.

I stand on the terrace and watch and listen. My heart fills with joy, I smile. And I think to myself, I want to still be here when I’m 80.

Merry Christmas to all.

Late summer

As I wrote in “The Last Firefly”, the season continues to move on. And since both the lavender and fireflies are gone, I’ve said goodbye to that header photo and replaced it with a late summer one.

This summer has been beastly in Italy. Our hottest since 2003. We’re watching the crops dry up and die, animals that don’t normally come down this far into the valley are desperately searching for water, and we’re living like cave people inside our shuttered house every afternoon. I don’t dare venture out until early evening.

In spite of the intense heat this year, late summer brings its own beauty and gifts. Local garden ingredients for making Ratatouille and glazed apples for desert.

My basil looks like a forest this year as it laps up the sunlight and heat.

The fields are rolled, leaving tracks that look like waterfalls…I can’t get enough of this scene in our little valley.

The sunflowers enjoyed the heat a lot more than I did!

And the biggest gift of all: a second blooming of my white roses.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

This week’s photo challenge is about merging two diverse entities. This photo is not photoshopped. I took this photo through one of our wrought-iron gates looking out onto the morning light in the trees.

Through the portal