My Timex standard informs me today is July 24th.

Mum frequently would remind us on the 25th of each month that is was “_____ # of months until Christmas”, which was more like a not-so-subtle reminder to be good or else Santa might not show up. Even now, Mum will still bring up that countdown, a strange wonderment for a few moments would exist when looking out your window at a beautiful summer to know in ____ # of months it would be a snowy wintery Christmas outside.

From this sentiment also came our childhood favourite, Counting Sleeps. Counting sleeps (not sheeps, dear sister) would always occur in a backwards motion towards an exciting event.  ____ # number of sleeps until Grandma comes. ____ #  number of sleeps until Calaway Park. ____ # number of sleeps until family holiday. Even as an adult, I found myself adopting the countdown in many ways, some of them small, some big, ____ # of days until payday,  ____ # of days until my new bike comes, until I fly somewhere exotic, until I begin work, end work, etc. etc.

So as today is July 24th, I am facing a handful of countdowns that have been on the plate of pondering these last few weeks.

July 24th means one month (31 sleeps) until I return to Italy. The last time I was in Italy I was faced with a large number of challenges beginning with language barriers, bad FAM time, run ins with the local police department  and ending with tricky man trouble, a broken-out face and a personal defeat of the Euro ten pounds I'd gained (like the standard fresh 15 in undergrad, except in guides going overseas for the first time).

My feelings on the country remain tepid, and peoples romanticism of the country makes me feel aghast  and frusterated.  Visions of Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat Pray Love come to mind, as assumably I am prancing around vineyards barefooted, having personal revelations to the positive soul shining, life affirming, self -efficacy -increasing sort of way. These are occuring while drinking unlimited red wine and freshly scooped gelato.  Unsure where this pop culture overdose of la dolce vita got sprinkled over every piece of media that reaches North America, remembering my beautiful struggle in the fall of two years ago still makes my stomach tie up in sailors knots.

Not unlike knowing you are about to embark on a difficult bike ride; you're aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but damnit you're already dressed, watered up and clipped in, you'll be a monkeys uncle if you give up. Worrying about vomit, inclimate weather, high levels of stress, burning in your quads and the problems that occur leading in this country only makes your skin flare up and causes many nights of sleepless unrest where in your dreams you're driving the Fiat van in circles, lost, confused and very, very far away from home.

On the cusp of Summer Slaughter - the busy time where everything becomes about trip leading- heading out on two trips back to back, I am revisiting my Italian feelings. The dreams are still happening, the studying of the language is still going on. I might be fretting about my seven weeks in Italy, five big trips there, but I have to come back to my glass half filled with Aqua Frizzante. There was an amazing beauty in the country when Hillary, Thomas and I stepped into it five summers ago for the first time, there were some incredible moments laced inside the difficulty of my trip leading in Piedmont. All will be well, there is much to look forward to. My birthday. Days off. Bike Riding. Jon's visit. Returning home to Canada. Tucking away my own issues with what I refer to as "The Great Italian Illusion", I go back to that half full glass.

Or maybe it's half full of Chianti instead...