40 Days of Social Distancing

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We have been practicing social distancing for 40 days now. Today we are also celebrating our wedding anniversary quietly at home. It is a very different world we live in, and it might last longer than we had all hoped … Continue reading

Happy Holidays: A Year in Review 2018

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As the holiday season is in full swing, and we are getting ready to go on vacation, we wanted to put together a note to let all our friends and family know what we have been up to in 2018.

We continue to build and grow our lives in Houston. It has been a bit of a struggle to grow accustomed to life back in the States after living in Italy for a few years, but we feel that we are finally adjusting.

Earlier this year, Sarah left her position at a local public library to become a Grants Administrator at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. After nine months at this position, she is thriving and really enjoying her work. MD Anderson has been named the top cancer hospital in the United States and, as of this year, can also boast of having a Nobel laureate as one of the faculty members. The work that MD Anderson does is very important in caring for patients with cancer and researching a cure for all cancer. This summer, Sarah realized first hand how important this work is, as her aunt passed away from lymphoma cancer.

Aunt JoAnn meant a lot to us. We have been fortunate enough to have spent quality time with her in Arizona, Texas and when she visited us in Italy. We shared many wonderful moments and laughs with her. We admired her love of life, family and friends. We love her and miss her every day.

Greg had a lot of traveling this year to exciting locations like Paris France (see pictures below) over the summer (the absolute best time to get out of the Houston heat) and Sao Paolo Brazil, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.  He also had a trip to Cincinnati, so not all of the travel is to somewhere exotic.  Fall 2018 was his first semester teaching undergraduates, and he had 130 students in an intro to physics course.  It went well overall, and every week was able to get a laugh during class (which means the students were awake).  The reviews aren’t back yet, but the students probably learned something!  He’s been doing research with two really good students on neuroscience and the physics of the cytoskeleton as well.

While Greg did travel a lot for work this year, we didn’t travel collectively for fun that much, mostly because of Sarah’s new job. We did visit Greg’s brother and sister-in-law in Ohio for a weekend, but that was our only real travel adventure this year. As we are big adventurers, we had to rectify this, so after spending time with Sarah’s family on Christmas, we will be heading on a Caribbean cruise. We are looking forward to island-exploring, basking in sun, and lots of rest and relaxation.

I hope you all have an enjoyable holiday season! Feel free to drop us a line below to let us know how you are doing. We love you all!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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Weekend in Columbus, OH – October 2018

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I have not had a lot of adventures this year, but I was fortunate to visit some family for a weekend getaway in Columbus, OH this Fall. We were blessed with some sun and warmish temperatures. Also, the trees were turning colors, which added to the beauty.

As a booklover, I had to visit a local independent bookstore called The Book Loft in the German Village. The charm of the outside is matched by the extensive collection in the inside. If you are looking for something specific, I would highly recommend picking up a map at the front register – yep…that is how big it is!

If you have amazing weather like we did, I would recommend a nice walk along the Scioto River (see picture at the top of the page). The Scioto Mile was developed just a few years ago with beautiful walking paths lined with trees and flowers. If you want to take a break from your walk along the river, you can stop in the COSI – Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry museum.


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Ohio is rich with Native American history. If you find yourself in Dublin, Ohio, make a stop at the Leatherlips Monument (pictured on the right). Leatherlips was a Wyandot Native American leader that was executed in the early 1800s.

There are so many great places to eat and have a few drinks in the Columbus area. A great place to get a drink and have some fun with friends is the Pins Mechanical Co. There are three locations in the Columbus area. Here you have a lot of drink choices, including a20181018_102740 large selection of draft beers, while you play a round of duck pin bowling or some pinball or other fun bar games. Some of the places we ate include Valter’s at the Maennerchor (German restaurant in the German village), which serves a nice weekend brunch, and Cap City Fine Diner, which is a wonderful diner with fantastic food and service. If you are from the Midwest or have a love of frozen custard like I do, you must stop and have some frozen custard at Whit’s Frozen Custard (see picture on the right). So amazing!

I am very fortunate to have family in Columbus now. It is a fun town with lots to do and lots of places to eat. If you are there and confused by the sea of red and white, Columbus is most well known as the home of the Buckeyes of THE Ohio State University. Don’t forget that Columbus is also the capital of Ohio (see picture of the capital building below). If you have any suggestions of things to do or places to eat in or around Columbus, feel free to let me know via the comment section below, as we hope to go back for another visit there soon.

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20 Years of Travel #15: USA Road Trip

In Memory of my Aunt JoAnn – thank you for housing me at the beginning of this trek around the US and for being a great travel buddy and friend!

The 20 Years of Travel series continues with a road trip in the USA with two of my college girlfriends. During freshman year of undergraduate school in Wisconsin, I became good friends with two girls, one of which was leaving Wisconsin to spend summer break at home in California. My other friend and I had an idea to come and join her in California, and then we would take turns driving back to Wisconsin for the fall term. That idea led to one month of exploring the USA (all places I had never seen before) in the summer of 2000. Here is our crazy and adventurous itinerary (with some old scanned pictures from my film camera):

Arizona

My Wisconsin friend and I flew from Midway in Chicago (sketchiest airport area – don’t get lost) to Phoenix, Arizona to spend time with family members that we had there. I got to spend a week with my Aunt JoAnn. It was the first time I really got to hang out with her just the two of us, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Even though she was working at the time, she did take me around Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix. We also took a day trip to Sedona and Jerome. It was in the 100s, but we didn’t mind walking around a bit. There is something to be said about dry heat.

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After a week’s time, I met back up with my girlfriend and her dad offered to drive us to our friend’s house in California – with a few stops along the way. Our first night, we went camping at the Grand Canyon. I was 18 and had never been camping before. It was dark when we got our campsite set up – I was no help as I had no idea what I was doing. My friend’s dad decided that we should go on a little walk (in the middle of the night) to find the canyon. It was so dark and foggy, that I couldn’t see much more than a few feet in front of me. Eventually I realized that there was no ground a few feet ahead and that we were actually at the canyon’s edge. I freaked as I am really scared of heights – mostly the falling part, so I didn’t hang out on the edge long before returning to the campsite. I didn’t sleep well that first night. I’ve always been a city girl, so the noises of the wild – coyotes and such – kept me awake for hours. It took me almost 20 years, but I’m a much better camper now. The next morning we drove around the canyon, took lots of pictures, and even walked down a bit before I freaked again (it was terrifying!), and we walked back up. It’s not like we were going to walk the many hours down the whole canyon anyway.

We hit the road again and stopped to explore Hoover Dam on the border of Arizona and Nevada, which is a very impressive dam that was built on the Colorado River in the early 1900s to minimize flooding and generate power. We then cooled off in the nearby Lake Mead.

Nevada

In the evening, we arrived in Las Vegas. I know Paris is the city of lights, but I have to say that sometimes I believe that it should be Vegas, since Vegas is surrounded by nothing but darkness, and then you have this town full of flashing lights from hotels, restaurants and clubs. It is quite a sight to see. We went to the Stratosphere, where there is shopping, food and casinos. Everything is in the Stratosphere. We also had a quick stop to see The Mirage at the Bellagio Hotel before continuing on to California.

California

My friend’s dad was a trooper and drove through the night, while we slept in the car. He woke us up to see the morning clouds of fog over the Pacific Ocean near Big Sur. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before. We spent the next few days with some of my friend’s family near San Francisco. We got some sun while lounging at the delta and even took a day trip to see the California Redwoods. Then we met up with our other friend just outside of San Francisco in Davis, California. We spent a few days there, went shopping in Sacramento and spent a whole day wandering around San Francisco. Finally, it was time to pack up my friend’s van and start heading back to school in Green Bay, Wisconsin. However, we did make some stops along the way.

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The first stop on the road was Donner Lake, which if you don’t know the story of the Donner party and Donner pass, it is a very pretty place to stop.

Donner Lake

Idaho

While we did stop in Reno, Nevada, as we drove through Nevada, it was not a very impressive town, so I didn’t really even take pictures. I did the drive through the rest of Nevada into Idaho, toward Idaho Falls. Idaho is much more scenic than Nevada with greenery, rivers and beautiful bridges.

Wyoming

Our second day on the road, brought us into Wyoming for our next stop. We would spend multiple days camping at Yellowstone National Park. There are so many great sights to see and great hiking trails. Some of the highlights were: Old Faithful and many other smaller geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, Morning Glory and swimming in the rapids. We spent a good amount of time searching for interesting animals. I personally wanted to see a bear (from a distance of course), but we had no luck, though we thought we came close with a black cow lol.

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After a few days we headed toward my friend’s family in South Dakota. If you aren’t a Close Encounters of the Third Kind fan, making a stop at Devil’s Tower before leaving Wyoming may not be for you, but it was amazing!

Devils Tower

South Dakota

Once arriving in Rapid City, South Dakota, my friend’s aunt took us around the Black Hills, and then we got to see Mount Rushmore. It is just as impressive as it is in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The skies were an interesting color too, which you can’t really see well in my old pictures, but there was a forest fire nearby that added a reddish tint to the skies over Mount Rushmore.

Black Hills

Minnesota

After our stay in South Dakota, we headed all the way up to visit my friend’s grandmother in Beaver Bay, Minnesota. We decided to camp one more night in a campground in Minnesota before heading toward Lake Superior. That was the oddest camping experience I’ve ever experience (I’ve now had a few outside of this trip), as the campground was completely deserted. There were no rangers to take our money and I don’t remember seeing any other campers either. To date this trip a bit, I had just seen The Blair Witch Project, and that is what this experience felt like, that we were all alone in the woods and would wake up to little rocks stacked outside our tent. We made the most of this odd situation though and built a huge fire and just behaved like the crazy teenagers we were.

Once we got to Beaver Bay, Minnesota, we ventured around the area. We went to Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse, which were all along the coast of Lake Superior.

Then it was time to say goodbye to our adventurous summer of exploring the US and head back for the start of fall term at school in Wisconsin. It was an amazing summer. I am very grateful I had that time with my friends and with all our family members that took us in along the way.

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

Lots of Love As We Head into 2016!

Lucca, Italy

Lucca, Italy

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!

We unfortunately did not get to spend the holidays with our family and friends in the United States this year. We knew it would be a little difficult to be away from everyone at such a special time of year, so we took a little holiday R&R break and escaped to Portugal, which was wonderful! We are definitely feeling refreshed and ready for the new year – whatever it might bring.

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

I can hardly believe that my husband and I have been living in Lucca, Italy for almost three years. Time really does fly by sometimes. One of the main reasons that we chose to make the big move to Italy was our love of travel. Living in Italy has given us such accessibility to other parts of the world. 2015 certainly provided us with many amazing adventures. We explored 12 different countries, which includes visiting Italian cities outside of Lucca as well. (Find more details on my Travel Page, which I am constantly updating.) Our three favorite travel adventures this year were taking our first big cruise (on the Mediterranean), participating in a photographic tour through Cuba (hooray! Americans can go to Cuba legally!) and experiencing our first World’s Fair Exposition in Milan, Italy. A personal favorite moment of 2015 for me was when my husband surprised me with tickets to see Puccini’s La Boheme at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. It was definitely a dream come true.

In the midst of all the travel, we welcomed my in-laws for a visit to Lucca. It is always nice to show family and friends our wonderful home and all the things that we love about Lucca and living in Italy. We were thrilled that they came. We also hosted Thanksgiving again for the third year and had a wonderful turnout of about 20 people. There were many new faces this year, and we enjoyed it very much.

While we saw every travel moment as an adventure, some of the trips were actually work-related. My husband participated in 5 conferences this year in Berlin (Germany), Arizona (USA), Zaragoza (Spain), Helsinki (Finland) and Budapest (Hungary). He has had a very busy year. All of the conferences he’s been to recently have been very productive, and he’s working on multiple different projects.  One really successful one has been patent inventor and assignee disambiguation (basically, knowing that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same thing), which is really important to do accurately if you want to understand how universities and companies combine different skills to create technology or how scientists move around the world.  He’s solved that problem for 4 million patents worldwide, and there’s a lot of interest in using his results!

I too have been working. I completed my work on the Introduction to Network Science book that I was helping to edit. Then I signed a contract to do some work for IMT – School for Advanced Studies Lucca, where I also edit publications. I am very fortunate to have these opportunities. I never for one second saw myself as an editor, but I rather enjoy it most of the time. I will say, however, that working from home has its difficulties. It is easy to lose one’s motivation and concentration at home. It can also be difficult to spend so much time within the house. I started consistently running miles outside every week just to get a bit of fresh air. It not only provided the break I needed, but it turns out that I actually started to enjoy running. Who knew that would happen?!

We have no idea what is in store for us in 2016. My husband’s contract at IMT-Lucca is ending at the end of May. He is currently applying for jobs in the United States, as well as other places in the world. However, he has also been offered an extension of his current position if we choose to remain in Italy. We are going to let the Lord and fate guide us these next months. Please keep us in your prayers as we may have some big decisions to make. Whatever happens, we know that we are blessed with wonderful friends and family who continue to support us. We love you all very much!

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Arrivederci 2014-Benvenuto 2015

Buon Anno!

This holiday season I decided to follow in my mother-in-law’s footsteps by not coming out with a Christmas message until after Christmas. She said that people don’t have a lot of time before Christmas to sit and read letters anyway, and I agree if for no other reason than the fact that I have been too busy to write my letter.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to spend the holidays in the United States with friends and family. It has been our first trip back since we moved to Italy a year and a half ago, and we have been having a wonderful time. Being back makes us realize some of the things that we have missed since moving to Italy. We have been eating lots of Mexican food, and I have definitely been taking advantage of the fact that I can wash and dry a whole load of laundry in less than two hours. We both also drove cars for the first time in a year and a half. Overall, we are just enjoying spending time with our parents, siblings, niece and nephew. We have had so much fun talking and laughing with family that I have lost my voice.

Soon we will be returning back to our home in Italy. It has been an interesting year living in Italy. It is a simpler lifestyle. The main focuses are family and food not work like in the United States. It is a slower lifestyle where you do actually take time to smell the flowers (and the pastries). Lucca is a walled city that has converted their ancient walls into a park that you can walk on. Sometimes I would walk on the walls and think to myself that no place is more amazing than Lucca. We feel so blessed to have this amazing opportunity living in Italy no matter what struggles we have been faced with.

My husband continues to amaze me. He has embraced living in Italy so much that it almost seems like he was always meant to live there. He speaks and understands Italian far better than I do and has also started dressing more like an Italian. He continues to create new masterpieces in the kitchen which recently included making pasta from scratch. We hosted Thanksgiving for the second year in Lucca, and the turkey came out even better than last year. My husband spent the whole day cooking the turkey and his toil was to our benefit as it was the best turkey I had ever had.

My husband continues to work full time at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca. He has spent the last year continuing work on using complex network methods to understand innovation networks, with about ten people at his institute working with him on linking the patent data he’s worked with to other databases they have access to.  He has about five papers that are partially completed on a wide range of topics right now including geolocation (putting millions of pins on a map based on patent addresses), disambiguation (determining that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same institution), predicting collaboration between scientific authors, detecting structure in correlation networks, and understanding citations within or between firms.  This year has been very productive, and the fruit of all that labor will be seen in multiple publications next year!

While my husband is at work, I have been working from home on a project with a professor from Northeastern University. He is writing an Introduction to Network Science textbook. The online version is available here. The hard copy may or may not be coming out in 2015. It has been an enjoyable project.

At the beginning of 2014, I found a English book club in Lucca. Everyone that knows me knows that I love reading. When I lived in Washington, DC and then in Boston, I enjoyed participating in book clubs. I love having people to discuss books with. I find that I appreciate books more when I can discuss them and be faced with different viewpoints. The book club in Lucca has also helped me meet a few ex-pats that I can spend time with and share experiences beyond books .

We have enjoyed the company of many friends throughout 2014. We have shared Lucca, wine, and our home and loved every minute of it. We find that we explore more of our beautiful town and country when we have visitors. In 2014, we watched fireworks in Pisa for New Years, stood among a million people from all over the world in Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, wore masks through the streets of Venice for Carnivale, threw confetti for Carnivale in Viareggio, ate our way through Bologna, watched fishies at the aquarium in Genova, listened to the bells of the Duomo di Siena, relaxed along the waters of Cinque Terre, ate the worlds best gelato in San Gimignano, visited Saint Francis in Assisi, listened to multiple Puccini concerts in Lucca, and explored the surrounding areas of Lucca. Even with all of these adventures there is still much more of Italy to see. We look forward to seeing a bit more in 2015.

Other than exploring Italy, my husband and I had a few wonderful adventures outside of Italy as well. In January, we visited friends in Berlin, where we wore our heavy winter coats for the only time that season. In the summer, we joined my husband’s family for our annual trip that included a weekend in Istanbul, Turkey followed by a safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania to view the wildebeest migration. At the end of the summer, we visited friends in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. In October, we traveled to the beaches of Normandy in France. I will continue to write more about all of these individual travel adventures on our Travel Page. As we continue to check off items on our travel bucket list, we also continue to add items. We have definitely learned this year that there is more to see and do in the world than we had ever imagined previously. We hope that 2015 will bring just as many travel adventures as 2014 did.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful 2014! May you all be blessed with love and joy throughout 2015!

Merry Christmas 2013

Buon Natale da Italia!

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Normally we would send Christmas letters to all friends and family around the holidays. However, when you live in Italy, it is a little harder to do that, so hopefully you all receive our love and blessings through this blog post instead.

2013 has been a year of big changes for us. My husband started off the beginning of the year by accepting a new job position. He is now the Assistant Professor of Statistical Physics with the Laboratory for Analysis of Complex Economic Systems at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca in Italy. This was a big decision that we discussed constantly during long walks along the Boston Harbor until we came to the conclusion that this was a move that we just couldn’t pass up. We spent the first half of the year preparing for this. While we have become accustomed to moving, it is quite different when you are moving to another country. We are both very happy with this decision.

I was very fortunate to be able to visit with lots of family and friends before moving to Italy. My parents came to Boston for a nice visit in the Spring, which was followed by a vacation with my in-laws. Both my husband and I have been very blessed with wonderful families, and we miss them a lot, especially during the holidays.

My husband is thriving in his new job. At Harvard, he was working on understanding biological networks using simple physics models (well simple for him I guess) and is applying these same ideas to economic systems at IMT. He was invited to give a talk at the Signal Image Technology and Internet Based Systems 2013 Conference in Kyoto, Japan on the “Border Sensitive Centralities in Patent Citation Networks Using Asymmetric Random Walks.” He also recently attended meetings in Paris, France.

Since moving to Lucca, Italy, I continue to work part-time but have also kept busy learning Italian. I took a beginner course at the Lucca Italian School. It was quite intensive, but I enjoyed it. It was a great introduction to Italian and my classmates were the absolute best. My husband and I will occasionally list one or two of our extra bedrooms on Airbnb as well, which is a lot more work than originally expected. I was hoping to be able to say by this point that I am now a permanent resident of Italy, but my paperwork is still being processed. That has been quite the ordeal.

One of the huge positives to making this move to Italy was to have more opportunities to travel and explore places we haven’t been. For those that know us well, we love to travel. Since moving to Italy, we have been to Prague, Malta, Paris, and will be going to Barcelona immediately after Christmas. We have also explored a few places in Italy. You can read more about our travel adventures on my Travel Page.  (https://greatmorrisonmigration.wordpress.com/travel-3/)

Being in Lucca, Italy has allowed us to start new traditions. My husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. We enjoyed it immensely. The food and company was just fantastic, and we hope that we can make this an ongoing tradition during our time here. Christmastime is a bit different here than we are use to. It isn’t as commercialized as it is in the States. There are some outdoor markets, an ice skating rink, and light displays (as shown in the pictures I’ve attached to this blog). The Christmas season really doesn’t begin here until mid-December; whereas in the States, everything is Christmas now before Thanksgiving is over.

As my husband and I look back on 2013, we are very happy with the decisions we have made and look forward to the adventures that we will have in the upcoming years. I think if anyone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be living in Tuscany, I would have laughed and thought that was ridiculous. This seems like a dream, and I am very blessed to be sharing it with my best friend whom I love very much (Yes, husband, I am talking about you). I would like to thank him for being an amazing, patient, and loving husband. Next, I would like to thank a very important individual that I lost this year. My Grandma has been a very important friend and confidante in my life. She supported me and guided me throughout my entire life. I am grateful for every precious moment that we spent together. I think about her all the time and will always love her very much. Last, but not least, a big thank you to our family and friends who have been there for us. We miss you all and wish you a very blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!!

Christmas in Lucca 2

Thanksgiving 2013

When I was little, my family celebrated Thanksgiving at my Grandmother’s house. I remember how the table would be so well decorated and full of food. My Grandmother had made ceramic name holders, so we knew where to sit. The name holder also had an Andes candy in it. That was my favorite part of Thanksgiving, especially when Grandma would slip me a few Andes candies on the side. 🙂

For the last few years, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband’s Boston family. It was actually at Thanksgiving that I first met them 5 years ago. Surrounded by 50 members of my husband’s family, all talking at the same time, was a bit overwhelming, but now it is hard to imagine Thanksgiving any other way.

However, we no longer live in Boston and have an opportunity to celebrate a bit differently this year. My husband and I have decided to host Thanksgiving for the first time ever. He seems really excited about cooking a turkey. We have decided to invite all the Americans that we know here along with their families. We should have about a dozen people. I think that is a good amount for our first Thanksgiving. We should have more than enough food. If this goes well, we are hoping to invite many more people next year.

Through all the running around to prepare for our first Thanksgiving here in Italy, I have forgotten all the many things and people I am thankful for. I have decided to make a list of ten things that I am thankful for this year.

  1. I am thankful that we get to host Thanksgiving and celebrate with new friends.
  2. I am thankful that my husband and I survived our first year of marriage. I love you husband.
  3. I am thankful for my Grandmother’s love and friendship. Miss you everyday, Grandma.
  4. I am thankful that we have this amazing opportunity to live in Tuscany.
  5. I am thankful for all the friends and family I got to visit with before I moved.
  6. I am thankful for all the awesome people I met through the Lucca Italian School.
  7. I always loved Black Friday Shopping, but now I am thankful that I live in another country so I don’t have to choose between that and Thanksgiving.
  8. I am thankful that I still get to watch Packers games.
  9. I am thankful for all the new places I got to explore this year.
  10. I am thankful for books.

Hope everyone back in the great U.S. of A. has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!