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The Other Side

I have to admit I was a little surprised by the wide range of response to my last post. I think there may have been some confusion . . . And maybe some didn’t read to the end.

Here’s the summary of what I was actually attempting to communicate:
  • Even though I’m on an amazing trip, we had an ugly encounter that caused us to miss a significant event. 
  • As I thought about how angry I was over the way it was handled, it caused a whole host of angry emotions to flood through. Many of them that had been held back for quite some time. 
  • Not the least of which is I have a callback visit scheduled in just a couple of days after I went and had a mammogram done at the beginning of March. 
I don’t plan on taking back any part of what I said in that post. It was the truth - maybe a little raw, maybe jaded, maybe even somewhat self-centered - but it was exactly how I felt in that moment.

However, it is not the whole truth about the trip we took, and I feel it is only fair to make sure all of the relevant information is put out there. 

Here is the other side of our trip:

We stayed in the coolest little bed and breakfast - the Hotel David - the first couple of nights we were in Florence and enjoyed it immensely. They were friendly, reasonably priced, their mini bar was free and restocked each evening AND it had the largest shower head I’ve ever seen which was actually a second shower head. Joey was so pleased he took a picture:

Even though I got worn out so much faster than normal, we walked and climbed an enormous amount over the course of the week.

We averaged over 5 miles a day (and since my phone routinely died at some point each day, that measurement is somewhat low) and we climbed three large structures:

 The Florence Duomo Cathedral Cupola which is 463 steps to the top.

The Duomo Bell Tower which was 414 steps to the top.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa which was a measly 284 steps by comparison. 

There really were a lot of things that we loved about this trip. For example, I bought this red Italian leather jacket - partially because I forgot a real jacket and partially because this part of Italy is known for its leather and all of Italy is known for its fashion.

Part of my concern about the trip not being the same as previous vacations and me not being at full strength was that it would keep my husband from enjoying himself. In the first few days we were there, I never seemed to know when I would be suddenly be “done” and need to stop for awhile. You can imagine from Joey’s perspective how jarring that was - I’m the planner. I’m the driver. If you asked him, he would say I am the one that makes it fun. So when I just melt into a puddle, that can’t be a fun experience for him. He certainly had his share of times where he came back to sit in a pretty luxurious hotel room while I laid in bed and read. {If he would just read, this problem would have been solved, right? 😉} 

But what’s really amazing about Joey is that he manages to have fun and make things fun right where we are . . . For example, when he ordered Pizza Bolognese at this restaurant he had heard raved about and it turned out to be pizza with whole pieces of bologna on top!

He was thoughtful and picked out a store that screamed the name of one of our best friends.


He posed in the doorway of an elevator that would have made my sister hyperventilate at even the suggestion of getting in.

He and I took pictures of a couple of things that reminded us of my mom so she would laugh and know we had thought of her.

Maybe the most to his credit, he kept his cool remarkably well when I deserted the excursion with no real concrete plan of how we were getting home. I think it helped that he truly had confidence in the fact that I would keep at it until I found a solution that would get us home. However, he did have to pretty much force me to not hitchhike back - there were two of us and we could have picked a car with a single driver who would have had to be busy driving. Logically, I still think it was a viable solution, but I can’t argue that what we did was not safer.

There are things from that day I am proud of - being assertive, holding someone to what they said they would do, fighting for what was right, not cowing to the pressure or opinions of others. The things that surprised me were how deep the anger in me ran when I had a legitimate reason to crack the door open to it. And I’m glad those emotions had a voice and a moment that day . . . ideally, though, I would wish for it to happen sooner in smaller increments where the anger could be dealt with in a healthy way and maybe even be used to change the dynamics of the situations as they occurred instead of staying bottled up for so long.

Towards the end of the week, we went to a cooking class together and were matched with another kind couple that was there for their 32nd wedding anniversary. The husband had never been out of the country before and was the one who signed up for the class. We worked side by side with them for a couple of hours as we learned to cook the recipes, then we sat across a table from them as we ate our dinner. In typically Italian style, the courses were long and drawn out between serving times so you can talk and enjoy yourselves. Except, I had said all I really had to say to these people. By the time dessert was served, I ate it and announced I was ready to go. Joey looked at me like I had just suggested playing strip poker with these strangers. He said something about the teacher coming out to say something and remained seated. I proceeded to stand up, begin saying goodbyes and telling Joey I was pretty sure the chef was upstairs and we could see him on our way out. Realizing it would make more of an issue if he didn’t get up and go with me, Joey finally followed me up the stairs, we gathered our stuff and said thank you to the chef. A few people trickled up behind us, and I leaned over to Joey and said, “Let’s hurry so we don’t get stuck walking with anyone else and having to talk to them.” My husband laughed, shook his head and replied, “You’re really not a people person, are you?” Going on 16 years together, buddy, hope that’s not NEW news to you. 😳

While that shouldn’t be news to him, some of you may not know that I have some fairly significant sensory issues that I don’t highlight or share with many people. One of my sons was diagnosed with some of the same issues within the last 12-18 months, and it’s led to a lot of researching and grappling to understand. One thing I know that has been pervasive for a long time in my own life is that I need a predictable pattern or schedule to work within. I remembered my best friend in college pointing that out to me and saying, “You don’t have to do the same things over and over, but you want to know the general order things will go in and what to expect. You struggle if something screws that up.” That hasn’t changed.

We realized the day after the excursion debacle that a big part of my struggles with the week was not only trying to adjust to being in a different country and culture, but attending a Jones’ [work] sponsored trip which I’ve never attended before and don’t know the true expectations for. All the way around, I wasn’t quite sure what was required of me or when. There was a lot of interacting with people I don’t know and don’t really care to spend a great deal of time with . . . and then it’s not my bed, not my routine, not the kind of food I normally eat, not the hours I keep. But we did figure out eventually that if we got up around 9 am, most other people were already through with breakfast and out and about. We could pick the thing that was the most important to us to do that day and go there first. Once that was done, I usually had enough energy to make it to about 2 pm before I needed to take a shower, lie down, and have some quiet time before we did whatever our evening plans were. After establishing that rhythm, the rest of the trip days were better and better. But it was a learning curve we didn’t know would be there and one we had to discover a solution for on our own.

While missing the Castle Dinner was disappointing and a little concerning - since I didn’t know how the hosts would respond - we were pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of wine waiting for us back in our hotel room that night addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle - Hope you enjoy your trip to Florence. -Nate” Super sweet . . . except neither Joey nor I know anyone who goes by Nate in our personal lives or through work. And you wouldn’t imagine someone who knows you well would address the card to “Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle” anyway. Going through the printed roster of all the Jones people who attended on the trip, the only person named Nathan or Nathaniel was a guy who sat next to us the first night at dinner. He and his wife were very kind. Something seemed a little different about the man, but it’s not unusual for me to have that reaction for one reason or another to someone new so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. But none of our interactions made me expect him to have sent a bottle of wine to our room.

On the last night, we got dressed up for a fancy banquet - this one we actually made - and one of the open spots was next to Nathan and his wife. We sat down and the first thing I said was, “Hey! Did you send us a bottle of wine to our room the other night?” You could tell by the confused look on his face that the answer was negative. I explained the situation to him, and we all laughed. As we continued to chat, he said something not terribly unusual in my book, but his wife looked over at us and said, “Did I mention Nathan has Asbergers?”

I told a friend about this and her response was, “Is that when your tail started wagging?” 🤣 

I don’t know if that is the most flattering way to explain the situation for either party involved, but it’s so true in other ways that I had to share it. There is nothing like finding someone who can identify with the unique way you see the world and having an opportunity to spend time with them asking questions about everything from job approach to employee handling to interpersonal relationships in their own family. I ate up every minute of that conversation.

Recently, my mom mentioned to me that guys use about 5,000 words a day and women using more like 20,000. If that’s accurate, I probably use 50,000 - 90,000 words a day. I literally think through most issues out loud with the people around me . . . and I ask “Why” about everything. It takes a great group of people around me to make that work if you can imagine. Even my own husband doesn’t use all of his 5,000 words on me and certainly no one else can. I try not to be a part of conversations where I majorly dominate the communication which means it takes regular interaction with a team of “my people.”

Being halfway around the world makes that difficult, we spoke to the kids and the grandparents minimally. I had a few short text conversations with others because of birthdays or what not . . .

But this girl - who’s going to shoot me for posting this picture she sent as a joke - was such a huge help. We talk a ton at home - in the morning, in the evenings, and anytime there is a need in between. While I was in Italy, we managed to pare it down to just about once a day but it was enough that both Devin and Joey agreed on the last day that it felt a bit as if she had been on the trip with us. I know Joey is glad when he is at the end of his 5000 words that there is someone else to pick up the baton and keep me from going stir crazy with all the ideas bouncing around in my mind.

I think the biggest lesson in all of this for me is taking a step back to look at the overall approach of how I’m going about things ahead of time. I know the things that trip me up . . . just like I joked that Joey should know really well by now that I am NOT a people person. I need to take those things I know all too well about myself and use them ahead of time to set myself up to succeed in any given situation. Heaven knows, gutting my way through it never seems to work out well.


Our trip ended on some high notes - we saw the David. We learned how to cook an authentic Italian meal, noodles and all. We took a train to Pisa and climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We shopped and attended one of the fanciest dinners I’ve ever been to.

I still have to go home to a doctor’s appointment I would rather avoid. I still don’t like the way a lot of things have gone over the last year, but I actually feel a lot better after leaving the tears . . . and apparently some of the anger . . . along the side of the road in that little Italian city.

Clearly Italy had much to teach me in this visit.


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