I have been looking forward to this interview. This would not be the first time Mia has seen her work or her story published but it would be a first here. Some may say that Mia is living the American dream. We were about to get her take on all of this. But first I needed to jump on a plane and travel to Italy.
I arrive in Pascara in the midafternoon after a short flight from Rome. Right away I could see why Mia and her family had fallen in love with this area. The drive along 1A brings tranquility to the body and mind. The quaint little mountain town of Palmoli is filled with all the charms of Italy. The narrow winding medieval streets offer an extra opportunity to experience the people and sites. Palmoli is a somewhat isolated little village in the mountains outside of Chieti.
Mia greets us at the front walkway to her little villa with a smile that could light up all of Italy. She is dressed casually in a floor length black and white maxi dress. Her hair is lightly pulled back out of her face by her sunglasses. Noticing Mia’s bare feet, I begin to take off my shoes. She smiles. “Please make yourself at home”, she says. “Shoes are an option. Personally I go barefoot as often as I can.” Hard to believe this is the same little lady whom I read about two years ago in Discover and Nature for her work in climate change studies. Mia has become known and loved for her creativity and skills in the kitchen, in the business world, in the field and behind the scenes with community ministries. ”
“My gosh Rachel you look gorgeous. How was your trip? I am so happy to see you.”
As she opens the door to her villa and summons us inside I can not help but take a quick photo. The outside of the home is a typical Italian old world stone structure with thick walls and hardwood beams. Inside the renovations take on a grander slightly more contemporary feel. The beams have been restored and left exposed. The marble floors gleam with a warmth as they reflect light from candles and sunlight coming into the room. She has a small loft above which houses her books and her office. She guides us under the loft and outside onto the veranda. The view of the mountainside is breathtaking. The fragrances of the flowers and serenity entrances me so much I did not notice the table and chairs set up to the side. A very slight breeze rolls in and flutters the edges of the tablecloth catching my eye.
“Please, join me in a bite to eat.”
Mia gestures us toward to a small dining area with an outdoor kitchen. Before us is a sampling of a true Italian brunch. She explains that this is referred to as Teatine cuisine and that many of the foods are from that region. The close proximity to the Adriatic Sea and the mountainous climate offers exquisite choices.
“Welcome to my kitchen Rachael.”
I can not wait.
“You might recognize a few items as being something we would eat in the states. I admit that mix my American palette in when cooking. Local foods can be quite spicy and no part of an animal ever goes to waste in an abruzzo dinner table.”
“This pasta dish is Maccheroni alla chitarra. It is a homemade pasta cut in triangle shapes served with a hearty chunky tomato sauce and small pieces of lamb. As you can see we also have a variety of herbed breads.
“There is nothing like this in the states, Rach. I ship extras home to Florida.”
Mia pours a little olive oil from the little glass flask and adds a few pinches of herbs. Mixes it gently with the end of an olive twig. Our taste buds melt with this exquisite bread dip. She says the secret is in using a combination fresh dried ingredients; sun dried tomatoes and peppers, garlic, basil, parsley, and sea salts.
She serves a salad but admits that is more American, although it is adorned with local bell peppers. Among the desserts were Chestnut and Chocolate pudding, Croccante ( little lemon nougats with almonds and caramel), Sise delle Monache ( vanilla sponge cake) and Confetti di Sulmona (sugared almonds). We sit and enjoy some food and a little local wine.
After taking in Italy from all five of our senses. Mia stands and we go inside to begin the interview. She sits across from us in a comfy sitting room off the main living area. The chairs are blue crushed corduroy accented with candy striping fabric on the seats. There is a small television on the cadenza. Photographs of children and young adults in frames of various sizes adorn the area. I imagine this would be her equivalent to the family room in her home in Florida.
We have to ask Mia, why the villa in Italy? Mia smiles and hesitates for a moment. Then begins her story.
” I fell in love with Italy years ago. As a kid I would grow sunflowers in my garden outside my room. I just did not realize the road I was on. I grew up in Vermont at the base of the Green Mountains in a small city called Essex. My families property was adjacent to a large piece of state property. I basically grew up in the woods. I built forts out of trees in summer and igloos in the winter. I was a good student and a good daughter.” She laughes. “My mom teases me about it. What parent could ask for more. I was pretty much outside from dawn to dusk. I ate apples off the trees and even grew my own little garden for myself. I loved being outside. I was quite the free spirit as a kid. As an adult I watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun a thousand times. It was a great movie but for me it was more. I told myself, I want to walk the streets of Italy and eat grapes. Silly to some but here I am.”
“In June of 2018 I traveled with my family to Italy for vacation. We had already planned to spend a month here, knowing that a week was not going to be enough. We spent our first ten days on a guided tour. The idea was to let someone with some knowledge show us around versus feeling completely lost. It was perfect. We got to see all of the top tourist areas and learn about them. The restaurants, shopping areas and hotels were picked out. Along the way we kept little notes to our favorite spots and where we would like to see more of. When we were in Rome I met a wonderful couple who were from Chieti. We talked for hours. I could always see the mountains in the distance. They seemed familiar and inviting. We rented a car and began our own tour. We visited our new friends in Chieti and found our way to Palmoli. It felt like home away from home. When we got back to Florida we began searching for property in the area. ”
Tell me about all of these changes over the last decade or so. I have seen your various publications and seen write-ups in your local paper. What was your spark?
You make it sound so simple Mia?
“I have learned that often times the simplest things are the most difficult. Between January of 2011 and December of 2012, I suffered a series of huge failures. My relationship, job, home, it was all gone. Soon I stood on the edge of losing myself. My health was failing quickly. I suffered a mild stroke at the age of 45. I had lost faith. Faith in myself, God and the world. I tried several times to stand up but only to fall again. In June of 2012 my daughter and I found a church that was uplifting and spiritual. My Faith began to open and grow.
Amazing Mia! Some might ask why acknowledge a time that was so obviously very hard and painful?
It is a part of who I am and where I had been and where I am not any longer. It would have been much easier to have stayed there not to have moved on. Remembering the past is different than reliving. I would soon learn many new life lessons.
In 2013, I was given a scholarship to The Master Key Mastermind Alliance under the mentoring of Mark J, a.k.a The Laziest Networker and his truly fabulous wife Davene. I had already been through their programs Go90Grow and Think and Grow Rich. I felt this should be my next step in the program. I had no idea what I was in for.
I was called into a new deeper idea of Faith. Faith in my ‘Within’. All the power we all hold in ourselves but can’t or won’t reach and release. I forced myself to let go of old habits and develop new habits which formed into new dreams and goals that I began to achieve successfully. I wrote my DMP, which was my Definite Major Purpose.
The strength I found in myself resonated from within me and my business flourished. By December of 2014, I was bringing in 3,000 dollars a month from the business alone. I longed for time at the beach. I had spent three years of my life working in Cape Canaveral in conjunction with NASA. One morning I was going through my daily habit of saying “Do it Now” 25 times and BAM!… I looked up and saw my NASA poster on my office wall. That Saturday we took a day trip to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, we found a cozy little three bedroom house two blocks from Cocoa beach. This became our vacation home.
In December of 2015, I celebrated my First Family Christmas in over a decade. I can not express the tears, happiness and overwhelming absolute joy to have all four of my children together with me. I was able to fly my son Josh, his wife and their four children to Cocoa from California. I flew my son Ben, his wife Katie and their two little boys down from Michigan. My daughter Jen and her husband Justin flew down from Michigan also. My youngest daughter Alaena was elated to have her sissy and brothers with her.
This year we will get together again for Christmas. Alaena will be home from college. She is getting ready to start her third year. What a blessing to be able to be been free to set aside so much of her college fund. I have also started a trust fund for each of the grandchildren as a gift for my children. It is a growing fund so they can each contribute.
Five years ago I had a new publication in Nature. My business team had grown to the point I could devote time to one of my few hobbies, geology. My Masters degree was in climate change. In the summer of 2016 I was back in the field. This time not as a student but leading an expedition in Utah. I had been working on a project for years with a business associate. We were going over our old research and discovered by accident a gap in time. I funded further research and then a field expedition. In 2020 the research was expanded and featured in Discover.
Fantabulous Mia! Would you say you are living the American dream?
” I am living my dreams, yes. The publications and write-ups are great. But I really look at them as another way to give back, of leaving a legacy. I was given the opportunity to find my faith. To see my dreams, believe in my dreams, realize my dreams and give my family, friends and others opportunities to realize their dreams in return. Whether it is from something they read, a donation I made to my church, or the food ministries I run or just a smile and hug I give. I get so much back.”
A simple thing.
But the hardest and most rewarding group of words I would ever write.”