Summer Solace

Postcards and Prosecco

Venice, Italy

Edition 01  July 2017

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to travel.

As a small child, one of my favorite possessions was my suitcase. Delightfully adorned with lavender and blue hydrangeas in a seventies style tapestry, the single handle suitcase, held a place of honor in my childhood. When it wasn’t in use, I kept the suitcase by my bedroom door, in plain sight. I remember wistfully staring at it, dreaming of the places I would carry my suitcase and willing the adventures yet to come.

For more than a decade and a half I have been traveling with students, leading study abroad programs throughout the UK and Europe. I believe travel is essential for education, necessary for understanding, and good for the soul. Mark Twain explained beautifully that, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” I see his words ringing true each and every time I take a group of college students abroad. Their worlds change, history confronts them face to face, art overwhelms them, and modern day headlines and the ravages of war walk by them on the street.

University life is great work, meaningful, rewarding, and when done properly exhausting. At the end of my study abroad trips, I return to the same thought. I need some time to myself. To explore and to sit still. To think deeply and to wonder aimlessly. To return to old favorites and to find new adventures. And so nearly a year ago, I set to work planning my sojourn sans my students. In late Spring of this year, after completing my annual study abroad , I returned to Italy and settled in for a more authentic experience in a Venetian neighborhood know as Castello.

At times family and friends joined in the fun and at other times I travelled by myself. Along the way, I collected hundreds of photographs, drank the best coffee, wine, and prosecco of my life, and learned a great deal in the process. Now that I am back in Florida, and unpacking my bags, I’m ready to share my adventures with you. With Venice as my home base, join me as I travel both north and south, east and west to some of the most beautiful places on our planet.

Dear Venezia

Postcards and Prosecco

Venice, Italy

Edition 01  April  2017

 

Dear Venezia,

For many years, daydreams of you and your floating water colored castles sustained me, transported me, and carried me away. Still photographs frozen in time and artists’ renditions of you danced in my head, breathing life, and possibilities into my soul. You dear Venezia, delivered a much needed imaginary escape during a series of difficult and tragic times in my life.

Love at first sight

The poets echoing refrain and artists’ masterpieces made me love you, long before we met. For decades you graced my hallway, my desk, and my office, waiting for me to see you again. I heard you calling my name, but was too tired, too heartbroken to answer. Yet, you persisted. You remained in my every day, watching and waiting, decorating the backdrop of my life. And when death came to call a second time, leaving me standing yet again over a gloomy windswept grave, you waited no more. You came for me, rushing in, redirecting my plans, and willing me to your verdant marshes.

As the chimes ring and the pilot speaks I wake to see you from the air above. Still woozy with sleep, I stare silently in disbelief, at your verdantly green islands stretched beneath me. I fear my daydreams may be too lofty to sustain the weight of my expectations. Yet, the thought of you overwhelms my senses. I am equal parts excited and anxious. Curious questions cloud my thoughts.

With a mix of adrenaline and sea midst coursing through my veins, I taste the salt water spray on my lips as I travel from the east barrier island, the Lido. At long last, I make my way to you. Much like a bleary eyed child awakening on Christmas morn, I am astonished as I finally see you. I stare, scarcely breathing. In front of me, a kaleidoscope of improbable possibilities.  Technicolored moments long admired from across the Atlantic float majestically before me in sea of hypnotic Adriatic blue. Euphoria washes over me as my heart rate quickens. In this moment, I too am floating outside of myself, a soul set free leaving the terra firma in my wake.

IMG_0508
Parting is such sweet sorrow

Lessons in La Dolce Vita

Postcards and Prosecco

Italy

Edition 01 January 2017

During the Summer of 2016 I lead a group of Jacksonville University students on The Grand Tour of Italy. Following the trip, several of the students were so inspired  they continue to work with me through the fall semester, producing a video illustrating the lessons they learned on the journey. Their stunningly beautiful video and personal stories are featured here for you to enjoy.

Celebrating My Cousin Suzy

Postcards and Prosecco

Maryland

Edition 01  September 2016

For as long as I can remember she has been there. My first friend, two years, eleven days my senior. My September, sapphire, Virgo cousin. Always beautiful, more kind than anyone else in the room, drawing a crowd with her contagious laugh and megawatt smile. I idolized her from the moment I arrived.

mar-21-2013-1-of-1
Me, my Dad, and my cousin, Suzy

For the first part of our childhood, we grew up next door, exactly one house away from each another. For decades we shared the same last name and the challenge of explaining how our Italian fathers have a very English last name. To this day, we look more alike than any of our other relatives or sisters. More than one person has told me they think my older daughter looks like her. A compliment that reminds me of the joy I felt as a child when people thought we were sisters.

img_3953
Suzy with my daughter Danielle
img_3952
First Communion Suzy with both of her Grandmother’s

Together, we learned how to make twelve-hour spaghetti sauce without a recipe, or gravy as Granny Liz would say. We make the same homemade meatballs that require three different types of meat, still long for the paper thin spinach ravioli only Gran could make (although Valerie does a pretty close second), and are transported back to our childhood with a glass bottle of coca-cola waiting for our arrival.

img_5964
Jenny and Sue making Gran’s famous sauce

We spent summers at the swim club, lounging in lawn chairs, listening to the music of the 80’s while the sun tea brewed in the back yard. We wore Ocean Pacific shorts, Sunshine House t-shirts, and flipped the collars on our Lacoste polo shirts. We had the same allergies and needed identical prescriptions. We had the same painful bones jetting out the back of our feet, requiring the same unusual surgery in our teens.

When it came time for high school, Sue made sure I was ready. Ready to make the cheerleading squad, parallel park, and still have time for a morning coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. I was a quick study learning how to expertly apply mascara, eyeliner, and bubblegum flavored Kissing Potion lip gloss. Sometimes on Friday nights, I would be invited out with her and her friends. Required to sit on two large phone books, designed to make me look taller, I remained in the back of the car and was strictly forbidden to speak to any boys. We cruised around Towson, like gilded queens on chariots, getting milkshakes, and ending the evening deliriously happy at the Rock and Bowl.

She is there, in nearly every corner of my blissfully happy childhood. Together sharing holidays and vacations, joy and laughter, coffee and conversation. When it was our turn to be a bride, we were one another’s bridesmaids. And as you may imagine she was there for me in the dark days of death. When I doubted both my will and ability to raise two young children as a widow, she championed me. Her familiar voice reassuring me, believing in me, encouraging me, in a way that only those with a shared history can do.

Today is cause for celebration as this wonderful woman, my cousin, celebrates her birthday. A special birthday that marks the passage of time, one I cannot quite fathom. Those of us blessed with the good fortune to call her family and friend are the ones that have been given the most glorious of gifts, having Suzanne in our lives.

img_1453
Valerie, Suzy, her Baby Hannah, and me

Happy Birthday Suzy! I No matter how much time passes, or miles come between us, I will always admire you, feel my heart swell with pride when people ask if we are sisters, and look forward to the next time we are together again. I love you as only a cousin can.

img_9341
The beautiful Suzanne and her wonderful husband Joe

Nineteen

Postcards & Prosecco

Oxford, Mississippi

Edition 01  August 2016

Year two arrived with her first apartment unlocking the promise and possibility that awaits the young. Nineteen and fearless, she does not look back. She is no longer mine. Although, I’m not certain any strong willed daughter every really belongs to her mother.  My heart bursts with equal parts pride and pain. Pride, as I see her making her way in the world and pain, saying goodbye with so many miles between us.

IMG_6372
Nineteen The promise and the possibility that awaits

He is a well-dressed, southern charmer, in the heart of Dixie. Skilled in the art of conversation, opening doors, and extending welcoming invitations. He has stolen her heart. Oxford, Mississippi and Ole Miss are impossible to resist.

Ole Miss
Fulton Chapel University of Mississippi

Together they are rod iron roof tops, Etta James singing sweetly in the background, and the sun kissing the sky goodnight. It is sorority row, hands held in public prayers, and a canopy of trees lining the Grove. It is yes ma’am, no sir, cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes, and SEC football. It’s a pickle martini in the manicured yet frazzled hand of a mother remembering what it felt like to be nineteen.

This is the place she loves and now calls home. She is the happiest she has ever been. And that fact alone fills me with gratitude for you Ole Miss. She is my treasure, and the living legacy of a father that left this world too soon. I have poured my heart and soul into this child, and now entrust her to you.

IMG_2775
Bid Day at Ole Miss Delta Gamma

I have a request of you Dear Oxford. Teach her well. Be kind. Fill her up, with all that is wonderful about this little corner of the world. So that someday, when it is time for her to venture out of the velvet ditch, she may sing your song of the south. I pray she will be better because of her time with you, made stronger in body, mind, and spirit and empowered to share her gifts with the rest of the world.

IMG_8973

The Colors of My Soul

Postcards and Prosecco

Rome, Italy

Edition 01  August 2016

To say Italia left me inspired this summer, does not begin to describe what happened. Here’s my take on a quote by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the last of the five good Emperors.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” as Marcus Aurelius said,

I shall make mine red with the poppies of Roma,

IMG_6704

terra cotta from the rooftops of Firenze ,

lIMG_6459

lemon scented yellow from Capri

 

Capri
Capri

and float in a sea of Venezia blue.

IMG_0406

Love and Friendship

Postcards & Prosecco

Tiger Mountain, Georgia

Edition 01  July 2016

 

Laura & Eric
Laura & Eric

There’s not much that could persuade me to cut my Italy trip short and return to the states. But when my dear friend of nearly twenty years finally said yes to one of the best men I know, I happily rearranged my summer travel plans to attend their wedding.

Mr. and Mrs.
At last.

In my life, I have been blessed with the gift of great friendships and count Laura among that treasured list.

IMG_7016
Kathy, Annmarie, Laura, & Courtney

If you know Laura and Eric, you know that individually they are each brilliantly smart, thoughtfully kind, wonderfully witty, and fearlessly adventuresome. Yet, together they are even more extraordinary. A sum far greater than its parts. Together their brightly shining stars align, enriching the lives of those they love, and reminding us all of how powerful and beautiful love and life can truly be.
Congratulations Laura and Eric!

Meet Annmarie

Hi there! I am Annmarie, the professor, writer, and photographer behind The Professor’s Diary. When I’m not at the university , there’s a good chance I’m off on an adventure of some sort, looking, listening, and learning from the shared experiences of others and their authentic stories.  Before I became a professor, I was a broadcast journalist and came to understand and adore the power and beauty of storytelling through images and words.

As a storyteller, I view the world with a love of the literary and a flare for the visual. Communications remains my passion, my craft, and my expertise. When done well, the ability to effectively communicate embodies art, draws us together, and empowers change. And leaving the world a little better, is something I think we are all called to do.

You’re welcome to take a look around and read my diary.  Here I’ll share the stories of my life in pictures and words and look for the lessons in it all. Journey with me as I navigate my way through the adventures of this beautifully imperfect life.

IMG_1369
Delphi Dreaming

 

 

 

My Blue Heaven

Postcards & Prosecco

Mykonos, Greece

Edition 01  July 2011
Shrine on
Shrine on

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by water. The grand lady of them all, the Chesapeake Bay is the first body of water I’ve ever loved. She’s captured legendary explorers that have written far more eloquently than I about her beauty, wealth, and substance. To treasure the Chesapeake is a birth right of sorts coursing throughout the veins of the children of the fair state of Maryland. And for those like me, scattered throughout the world, the Chesapeake remains the measure of maritime beauty. Ask any Marylander, and I am confident they can wax poetically about the bay, summer days of their childhood shuffling through the mucky water, waiting impatiently on a splintered wooden dock for a sign of life in a rusty old crab trap. I am certain one of the reasons I love living in northeast Florida is because of the two great bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Johns River, that encircle my everyday. Yet, it the Chesapeake who will forever hold a special place in my heart.

IMG_3251

But now, I must confess, I have a new love. He is unlike anything I have ever seen before. With a rocky coastline and a white washed façade, this Greek is an epically stunning beauty. In all fairness, I have experienced bodies of water that have brought me great joy. Childhood summers in the fierce surf of the Atlantic Ocean venturing into the swift and dangerous undertow of Rehoboth Beach, the pale salty turquoise of the Gulf of Mexico as an overly confident bikini clad co-ed, the powerful, cold, and daunting Pacific Ocean while traveling on a motorcycle through the hills of Santa Barbara. And while it has happened in the past, I wasn’t prepared this.

Mykonos Blue
Mykonos Blue

He is different. And I did not expect to fall so suddenly for this diminutive little Greek. Just the sound of his name, Mykonos brings a smile to my lips. I am defenseless against his beauty. His body of water is the bluest blue I have every seen. Somewhere between midnight and cobalt with a glimmer of  sapphire, he reigns supreme. Yet he remains completely transparent, refracting sunlight as hypnotically as a stained glass window. This hue, Mykonos Blue, as I’ve come to call it, is mesmerizing and making it nearly  impossible to turn away.

Stairway to heaven. Close enough it's Mykonos, Greece.
Stairway to heaven. Close enough it’s Mykonos, Greece.

I know I am not the first to fall for this charmer. The entire city is designed to enhance his beauty. The white washed buildings stand in simple contrast to his regal blue elegance. The turquoise trim on the shutters and railings throughout the town emphasize his brilliantly deep dark shade. And while Ulysses had his Sirens beckoning him back, I suspect it will be Mykonos that calls my name to return yet again and again.

 

Thirteen Firsts

Postcards & Prosecco

Florida

Edition 01  August 2014
DKW first day of school
First day of kindergarten

I remember the frantic pace of the morning as if it were yesterday. The backpack and breakfast, the box-pleated jumper and bike shorts, and the navy and white saddle shoes to carry her through kindergarten.

The shoes were special, an early indicator that this raven haired child was a product of the verdant greens of northeast Florida. The shoes she insisted upon having, and grew frustrated when I couldn’t make sense of her request. With the dramatic flare of a first-born self -assured daughter, she let out a sigh and exclaimed, “Mom, you know. The shoes the golfers wear.” Ah yes, the shoes the golfers wear. And that small exchange, at the tender age of five was one of the many ways Danielle let me know she had her own ideas about the world.

On this morning it was time to wear the saddles. With great pride she laced up her shoes and walked out of her room ready for her big day. As for me, no matter how early the morning begins, I always fall prey to the last minute rush. The hurried mix of adrenalin and panic coupled with disbelieving glances at a clock that seemed a friend but a moment ago. And this morning was no different. The rush out the door with my camera, and a very sullen little sister, upset because she was too young to attend “the big school.” And yet I captured this sweet moment of excitement and confidence on film. With the morning sunshine lighting her way, she climbed into the car, smiled a glorious grin, and was off to school.

And now here it is, twelve short Augusts later. The saddles have long been retired, the uniform a detail of the past. But the same fevered and frantic pace returned again this morn. This time with black coffee and bag lunches, blow dryers and mascara, and another pair of new shoes, silver and blue Jack Rodgers, to christen the start of her final year of high school. This time it’s not the clock but the calendar I look at with disbelief. And again this morning, for what will be the last time, I captured the sunshine and smile, with a lump in my throat, as my beautiful daughter walks into the promise and possibility of this her senior year of high school.