Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Contolini 2018 Advent message

Since we did not post much this year, below are 12 photos that try to summarize what has happened to us in 2018.

And for those of you that will not receive our Advent/Christmas letter via email (we apologize for not having your email address), here it is:

Dear Family and Friends:
We hope this letter finds you and all of your family well.
Christmas is an amazing season of comfort and restoration.  Christmas is a reminder that our desert time is over and that we are the “darlings whom God has chosen” (Isaiah 44:2). Salvation comes through our Infant Lord!

This year it’s Norine writing the Contolini Advent letter.  I am inspired because I have been learning about the Prophet Isaiah in year 3 of my Catholic Biblical School studies. I am experiencing such joy through scripture by learning that no matter how bad things get, or how bad we’ve been, Jesus always wants us to return to him. He gives us countless opportunities no matter how many times we refuse him. In our busy game of life, it’s like Jesus says to us, “Ready or not, here I come!”

This Advent season we are excited because our boys are enjoying soccer together and are starting a new endeavor, a basement band. Paolo is a drummer and Pietro a guitarist. Isabella and Emanuela are coming home from Scotland and the University of Mary respectively on the same day. We have missed them, but know they have joyful adventures to share with us all about how God has blessed them in the last few months away from home. Are you excited about something this Advent? 
We should all rejoice because "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). This is Christmas. This infinitely loving guest is coming to see us. How can we be ready for Him? As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta told her sisters, just enter in an adoration chapel this Advent season and say, "Here I am Lord, love me". Ask him to reveal himself to you, whatever your frame of mind might be!  Jesus is waiting.

Merry Christmas,

Norine, Enrico, Isabella, Emanuela, Pietro and Paolo.

Paolo's drums captured by Pietro's photography

Learning to fly
Prom together

Taking Emma to college

First day of college for Emma

Pietro rediscovers soccer
Enrico is still running (fast)

I can't believe college could be such a great place

Con i nonni e lo zio e i cugini a Londra

Isabella's quidditch team in Scotland

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the Catholic Chaplaincy
Have a Holy Advent and Christmas!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


We should use this word more often in our daily vocabulary. It adds kindness and peace to conversations and to an often too busy lifestyle. It helps me to stop and think and notice the small details.
The time in London with my Italian family and Isabella was short and intense but also lovely.
We spent time sightseeing, sitting and talking and eating good food, tasting an English tea and visiting a few pubs. We spent time to reconnect. Thank you mom and dad for making the trip. Thank you to my brother and his young family for coming as well. It was short, but I am glad we decided to do it.

I had not been in London for almost 20 years. I forgot how crowded and frenetic it is. I love the challenge of moving around the city on the Tube (the underground network of London). It is surely an amazing feat of engineering, but it is stressful to move around crowds of people and noisy cars and streets. Next time I want to visit this museum and learn more about its history:
And it's not easy to navigate a group of 10 people, ages 6 to 70+ up and down escalators, museums and crowded streets without getting lost.

I met a long time friend that hosted me in her house when I spent time in England learning the language during high school. We spent 3 hours together to tell each other about our last 30 years of life. 1 hour for 10 years. It felt like time had not passed. Her voice is gentle and slow. A kind and lovely reminder for this efficient engineer to listen more, to slow down, to appreciate listless time having tea and cookies... We walked and ate gelato and talked about past and future.

While in the UK, I was also introduced to the Netflix series "The Crown". It's fascinating, especially by using it as a tool for a history lesson of the British monarchy. Watch an episode and then check the facts. I am learning a lot that way. We don't have Netflix, but the DVDs can be found at the local Public Library.

The whole trip helped me remember why I fell in love with the UK when I first visited it a loooong time ago. It's a country with a fascinating history and culture and beautiful parks of which I hold lovely memories. But it's always the people that make a place special and I have more special memories to treasure of this place now.  Until the next time, God willing!

Hyde Park rest

Meeting friends after 30 years - truly lovely

Having fun

Fish and Chips

Early morning jog in Hyde Park - almost empty - a real treat

The Tube

A gigantic crucifix inside the incomplete London Catholic Cathedral

Virgin Trains - great travel option

Portobello Road on a week day. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Driving on the other side of the road

A blog is a valuable tool to share ideas, feelings and one's life in general, but only if I actually take the time to write it. I just realized I have not posted on this blog since last April... Wow!
Unfortunately our western life is often so busy and frenetic that, even with the latest tools for communication and efficiency, we feel overwhelmed and never have enough time to get to do many things we want to. Computers were supposed to render our life easier and give us more free time. In reality they have made it more stressful and less human. We walk or run past each other without noticing, without paying attention.
I get reminded of that often, especially when I get to fly somewhere and spend time at an airport. Airports are fascinating places. So many people standing in line next to each other for security and check-in, ordering food, all going to such different places for so many different reasons. While we are sharing very close spaces for a few moments, in just a few hours, we will be so many miles and time zones apart, living very different experiences. Someone will enjoy the sun on a beach, somebody will nervously be preparing for a job interview in a cold hotel room, somebody, after years of separation, will visit relatives in a far away country where customs, rules and way of lives are nothing like ours. For many years I have thought about spending a whole day at the airport, asking people about where they are going and why, and writing a book of short human, travel stories. Maybe now somebody reading this blog will decide to steal my idea.


I love the moss in the center of the road

Back in mid October, I was one of those lucky people getting to fly away for a while. I visited Isabella who is studying for a semester in Glasgow, Scotland. When I was young, I spent many months in the southern part of England, but never visited Scotland before. What a blessing to share with Isabella a short moment of her life as she is growing into a beautiful young woman.
We drove a rented BMW on the other side of the road and learned the historical reasons why our British friends do that.   Do you know why?
We visited the only pumpkin patch in Scotland and learned how people there carved (and still carve) turnips.
We jogged together through the busy streets of an old European city.
We spent time with the Catholic community of the University of Glasgow, enjoying a simple meal together in a large, unpretentious room and listened to a splendid talk about Chapter 6 of Gospel of St. John. It is the Gospel about the bread of life and the Eucharist, that so many felt scandalized by and left Jesus because of it.  Will you leave as well?    There were local students and many others from countries all over Europe and beyond. All together receiving the body of Christ. A truly Catholic, universal, church.


with Isabella and Judy

XI century chapel in Edinburgh's Castle.

Mary Stuart - Queen of Scots

Modern Glasgow at sunrise (8AM)

students apartments

jogging together

When I visit a new place I always try to imagine life there. What would it be like to live here? What would I miss the most, what would I enjoy the most? Would I be able to adapt to the differences? I am reminded that I am adaptable, and realize I don't need the security of all the things I hold so dear at home and I am so scared to leave. Being with those I love, experiencing life and learning together is what I treasure. It helps me get out of myself and open up to others more. I wish Norine had been there with me.
I could live in Scotland. I love the slow and narrow country roads, the stone walls dividing properties, erected by hand who knows when and I particularly love the ever-present sheep, lazily grazing. It was nice to enjoy clouds and some gentle rain as well.

After a few days in Glasgow we took the train to London to meet with the Italian part of the family, but I will keep that for another post, hopefully very soon.

Monday, April 23, 2018

24 hours with Justice for All (JFA)

I have not posted for such a long time, but this is a great opportunity to start again.

Our family spent the last 24 hours with our missionary friends of Justice for All, who travel the country ministering on college campuses. They engage students and the general public about one of the most controversial human rights issues of today.
But what is different about JFA is their approach, which is based on listening, patience, finding common ground and loving those they converse with.
Not many people truly listen to others anymore and even fewer listen with love.  Thank you for your example Steve, Jon, Rebecca, Susanna, Grace and the whole team.

           If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal … Love is patient, love is kind … it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.   -   1 Corinthians 13 (excerpts)

We had some very interesting encounters today, but I would like to leave you with a touching story from a JFA event held in 2017.

Our small display, side 1

Side 2

Isabella, Anna and Norine

More listening

fellowship at our house

what do you think?

Monday, January 8, 2018

1500m indoor running race --> 5:07:14

What a way to start 2018. A friend, who is a very fast runner, invited me to an indoor track 1500m running race at the Air Force Academy. How could I say no. I feel so blessed. I am 46 and after a couple of years of some back problems, I have been able to come back to running and doing it somewhat competitively as well. Thank you Lord for this gift and, as somebody once said, "To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift". Yes, I did my best and will continue to do that.
I also have some other good reasons to continue running in 2018. A few months ago I signed up with LifeRunners ( and I feel it is an honor to wear their shirt and run as a testimony that every life is precious, no matter how small.   Age has also brought some regular physical pain that I did not experience when I was young. So running also becomes a way to feel in communion with and to think about those who suffer daily. 
As for the race:
Well, my friend ended up sick so I went alone. I was hoping to run the 1500m in 5:05 and I did almost that (5:07:14, which equates to a 5:32 mile pace). The AFA (Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs) indoor track is 274m (or so) long, so it is hard to keep track of your pace during the run and the GPS does not work in the facility. 
I ended up as the only master athlete in the 1500m race. All the other runners were teenagers. So, I felt a little intimidated. Yet, they were nice to me.  I ran in the first, faster heat and finished last. Kids went out way too fast. That threw pacing completely off.  I could have probably battled for victory in the second, slower heat, as their winning time was around 5:02.
Overall, I am satisfied and I think I can soon get to a 5:00 with proper pacing. Here the video shot from a phone. The last 10 seconds are missing as the phone rang... Bummer.  I am in a blue shirt if you are wondering.
My two comments:
I had never been filmed before and I have to say that I look really slow from this angle. Yet, 5:07 is a good pace....
I also like Norine and Isabella's comments. Thank you for your support ladies. I love you.