Five updated

Sorry, another post breaking up the line of Italy greatness. We went to dinner and a movie last night and had quite a bit of fun. It was the first time that we had gone out like that in quite a while. The one little blip in joyousness of the evening started as we were leaving and culminated right before the movie.

As we drove down to Victor to go to dinner, we hit a huge-mongous pothole in the road. We took stock of everything briefly, all was still in order, so we went on about our evening. We stopped and got tickets to the movie, and then went to dinner. It was great, I have a soft spot in my heart (and stomach) for P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps. After eating, we walked around doing some window shopping, and burning time waiting for the movie to start. We went out to the car and happily found the right rear tire flat as a pancake. Apparently, all was not well after the wheel was introduced to the pothole. Luckily, the weather was freezing, it was raining slightly with a fair amount of teeth-chatteringly cold wind. I don't know what we would have done had it been nice out. As I was enjoying the beauty of the evening and playing with the jack and getting the small tire on, Lisa was nice enough to snap some pics of me in my nice clothes, stretched out on the pavement. Check one of them out here.

We got to the movie just fine and then we got home fine. The car went to the doctor today and has been made better. All is well in the world now, thanks to Benjamin and his friends.



I apologize to my reading faithful who tuned in expecting to read more about the wondermicity and splendiferousnous of Italy. Come back tomorrow for an update on the next city in our fabulously fun and amazing tour.

This post is for Lisa. Today marks five years of marriage. To quote my lovely wife, "It seems like a whole lot longer than five years." I'll take that as a complement to mean that she can't possibly imagine living without me.

It is rather amazing to look back on the last five years and think of the growth (both physical and other, but mostly other) that I have gone through. Five years ago I was fairly naive in regards to my thoughts and views on marriage and what it takes to make it work. I have matured and learned in that time period, and hope to continue to do so. I feel that I am just now beginning to understand Lisa and who she is and what motivates her. I feel like when we got married, I knew absolutely nothing about women. Now I can proudly say that I know next to nothing, one step up from where I was.

With all of life's twists and turns that we go through, I'm glad I get to face them with Lisa.



Of the five days we spent staying in Florence, two were dedicated to traveling the Tuscan countryside enjoying some of the famous hill towns. We spent one leisure filled day soaking in the sights, sounds and of course, tastes of Siena. From Florence we took a train and then a bus to reach our destination, with the time and effort spent being very much worth while. The area through which we traveled is simply beautiful and the trip getting to Siena was quite enjoyable.

Once we arrived, we wandered narrow cobblestone streets until we came to the famous Piazza del Campo, where the Palio di Siena is held twice a year. The campo was a spectacular sight, with all of the shops, people, and the Torre del Mangia towering above everything.

We braved the heat, the lack of elevators and some rather narrow stairs, in order to climb to the top of the tower. After a little bit of sweat, we were rewarded for our efforts with unbelievable views of the surrounding countryside, town, and Duomo.

We also managed to throw in a little bit of shopping during our day in the medieval city. We picked up a few pictures, a hand-painted towel and a carved olive-wood spoon.


And of course, what would an Italian post of mine be without mention of food? We found a great little place to eat right off of the campo, in the basement of an old building. We were some of the only diners in there, and the food was simply divine. Lisa had gnocchi with eggplant and goat cheese, while I had pici noodles with arugula , tomatoes and spicy sausage. Yummy. . .

Fabulous food!

View to the top of the tower. Fun stairs.

Claustrophobia anyone?


The Campo as seen from the top of the Torre del Mangia. The fountain was designed by Michelangelo.

More of Siena/Tuscany

Lisa and I with a view of Tuscany from the top of the Torre del Mangia.



We found a nice B&B in Florence for a week right in the center of town that got us close to everything. Our time in the Renaissance city was split fairly evenly between shopping, eating, and museum visiting. All three activities were rather incredible. I thought Lisa was going to die when she had her first bite of real four cheese pasta. We did some antique shopping, leather shopping, shoe shopping, as well as shopping shopping. We arrived in Florence with two suitcases and left with four. We were good shoppers.
Chris in the market.

While we were in the fabled Tuscan city, we also went to the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Accademia di Belle Arti. It was pretty amazing to see such famous works by world renowned artists. The statue of the David was awe inspiring and remarkable. To think that someone actually carved that statue in such exquisite detail out of a piece of rock is somewhat mind-boggling. Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Botticelli and Da Vinci were inspired in the work that they did.

We also took time to wander around town and sample the variety of life around us. The Duomo was beautiful, and we walked to the top of the Campanile di Giotto which offered an amazing view of the city, Duomo and the surrounding hills. As we meandered about, we explored il Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio
which spans the Arno River and is known for it's gold and silver shops. We finished the our time off in Florence with a mouth watering meal at Trattoria la Burrasca. Ahhh, good food.
Lisa and I standing on Ponte Vecchio.





About a week ago, I really enjoyed going through some of our Italy photos and posting about a portion of our trip in Cinque Terre. Having said that, I think that I will spend the next several posts outlining our trip through the Italian countryside. So if you have an aversion to things Italian, stop reading and don't check back for a couple of weeks. And really, if you don't like Italy, we just might not be able to be friends.

So here is Rome, in Italian, Roma.

We flew in and took a train into the middle of Rome and started our adventure. It was fun for me to see Lisa so excited and amazed at everything. We raced around the city in just a few short days, seeing everything from the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill to the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. In between all of that, we also ate a lot of good food. That was a constant in our trip. Honestly, that's a constant in my life. Like one of those formula's you learned in high school or college that has a constant in it. If my life could be summed up in a formula, there would be a figure in there called Packer's Constant, where Packer's Constant = Good Food. Sorry for the tangent.

We also took a really fun night walk starting in Piazza Navona and wending our way past the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and finishing at the Spanish Steps. We ate some good gelato, bought a small water-color from a painter in Piazza Navona, and generally had a great time. It was an incredible introduction to Italy for Lisa, and a great way to re-acquaint myself with il bel paese.
Me outside the Colosseum.

Lisa inside the Colosseum.

Lisa and some other people at the Trevi Fountain.

Sunset seen from the Colosseum.

Lisa overlooking the Roman Forum.

Lisa in the Vatican City.

Lisa overlooking Rome with St. Peter's Basilica in the background.

Disclaimer: Lisa is in most of these photos, because she looks much better than I do.



In our search and efforts to become parents, I feel like I have traveled, or maybe better yet voyaged to a better understanding of myself. While this process of learning more about myself has been good overall, it has been disappointing and frustrating as well, to me and my wife. I think we all have a self image, a certain way in which we view ourselves, or the person that we think we are. When presented with a hypothetical situation, we like to think the best of ourselves, like, I would be the one to run back into the burning building to save someone else. That is an extreme example, but I don't think it's easy to admit to ourselves (that is three "ourselves" in a very short period of time, surely I could have written that better/differently) that maybe we're not as good or heroic or faithful as we think we are. Maybe we run screaming from the burning building. That has been my experience at least.

When we have challenges with which we are faced, it tends to be rather difficult, at least for me, to see beyond the challenge, and myself, to the world around me. I think it is a daily struggle for me not to be selfish and think that the world should concern itself with my troubles and worries and fears. Fortunately for everyone else, that isn't how it works. You all have your own struggles and worries and fears, why should you be bothered with mine. And I guess that is one of the aspects of the gospel that I appreciate the most. We can be bogged down with life's daily woes, but as we put our trials aside and seek to alleviate the burdens of those around us, we realize that our problems may not be nearly as bad as we thought. We gain perspective and understanding, that indeed we are not alone. We can be united in our trials, even though they may be individual and personal. I fear that too often I refuse the power of the atonement, because I make the same mistake as the Israelites of old. I stumble over the rock that was placed in front of me for stability, while looking for the expected miracle up ahead.

Going back to the parent thing. My struggle right now is about having enough faith to step into the darkness, to move forward not knowing the end from the beginning. I'd like to think of myself as a good, faithful person, but when faced with the reality of life, in this situation, I find myself lacking. I'm scared to go forward into the dark. I want assurances. We have been talking more and more about adoption vs. fertility and which direction to pursue at this point. I have conflicting emotions with regards to both topics. Add to that the fact that I have the capacity to think something to death and then think about it some more before making a decision and that is where I have been stuck. Lisa has accepted where we are much quicker than I. She is more willing to trust in a loving Heavenly Father's care that everything will work out. I know that it will work out, I just want to know what that "work out" ends up being. I do believe that things will be great. It is called the Plan of Happiness for a reason. But there is a difference between saying that and actually living that, and that difference is faith. The wonderful Italians have a great saying for this, "Fra il dire e il fare c’รจ di mezzo il mare."

Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.
Mark 9:24


Dreams of Italy

I was looking through some photos the other day that we had taken on our trip to Italy a few years ago, and started dreaming of going again. One of my favorite places in Italy is Cinque Terre (the five lands) on the Italian Riviera between La Spezia and Genova. I apologize upfront for the wordy story that I'm about to embark on. You've been warned.
As we were waiting out a train strike in the Florence train station, I made some calls to B&B's in Vernazza hoping to find some deals and get us a room for the next couple of days. The last person I spoke with was a gruff old Italian guy who said his wife, Barbara, was the one who ran the rooms and he didn't want to be bothered with it as she was out doing the shopping. He said he thought that they had a room available and that I should call back later. I told him to tell his wife that "Cristoforo" wanted a room for two for two nights, and that I would try and call back later. We soon boarded a train and headed out. During some of the stops, I tried more phone calls, but to no avail. I wasn't too worried however, as I thought that we would be able to get to Vernazza, a tiny town of about 500 and ask around for a room for a couple of nights. When we finally got there around 7pm, I had Lisa sit with our luggage on a bench just below the train station while I went in search of lodging. I asked several people about rooms and was directed all over the tiny town, but the only thing I found was a room for one night, and then we would have to renew the search the next day. As I trudged back up the road (it was only about 100 yards long, so there wasn't too much trudging that transpired) I saw that Lisa was surrounded by a group of the town gossips (older individuals) who were all talking to her. Before I could say anything about my failed attempt to get us a good deal, she said that one of the lady's there had a room that we could use! She thought it was pretty funny that I had run all over looking, but she was the one to find us a room just by sitting down. Go figure. So we walk with this nice lady through fabulously narrow streets to their apartment up a set of steep stairs.
After dragging our luggage up, she showed us around and it was quite nice. The location was fine, it was really clean and best of all it was private from the rest of her apartment with our own lock and key. We gladly said yes to the deal and set about signing her little contract and paying for the room. As we were winding down, I asked for a recommendation to eat that night and she sent us to an exquisite little place right up from the water. As we were walking down the stairs, she called out after us what our names were as we hadn't properly introduced ourselves. I said that my name was Cristoforo and my wife was Lisa. The lady let out a yelp and said, "I'm Barbara!!!" We confirmed that she was the same lady I had tried calling earlier and that her husband had indeed said that Cristoforo had called and wanted a room. She said that when she talked with my wife she was hesitant at first to give us the room because she felt that it was semi-reserved for Cristoforo, but since she hadn't heard anything else from him, she didn't want to lose out on a sure customer. As fate would have it, she was able to get the walk up customer, us, and fulfill the semi-reservation, also us. She called it destiny, we agreed, had a good laugh and walked out to dinner.

While in Vernazza, we did a lot of sitting on rocks looking out on the Mediterranean, eating gelato, focaccia, juicy peaches and hiking, all interspersed with picture taking. Our last night there, we went to another restaurant recommended by our destiny believing hostess, but they were full and so directed us to a sister restaurant the just happened to be situated in a tower on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, at the bottom of which, there were waves crashing conveniently for dramatic/romantic effect. At the top of the tower we were seated right in the middle, with absolutely no view of anything except the other diners. After taking our orders however, or waiter came over and asked if we could be bothered to move to one of the tables with a dazzling view of the ocean and waves and coastline, because the couple currently seated there were nervous about a seagull that was perched close by.
He also mentioned that they would be sure to compensate us for the inconvenience and again apologized for bothering us. Oh how dreadful to be moved closer to the beautiful scenery and smells and setting sun. We made the best of the situation however and suffered through it. Our compensation ended up being a free dish, the house specialty that we had originally wanted to get but didn't because of a desire to have money to eat for the next few days. It was a spaghetti dish with a very light sauce and covered with that morning's catch of clams, mussels, and shrimp. It was easily the best meal either of us has ever eaten and we still talk about it to this day with sighs and "...Oh wouldn't that be so good right now..." thoughts.
Our short time in Vernazza seemed touched with magic, and looking back was simply amazing. Incredible. I want to go back.

It's a little fuzzy, but I love this picture of Lisa our first night in Vernazza with all of the lights and the little harbor behind her.



Here is the Packer family in all of it's glory.