Fiume – a dog lost, our hearts broken

Fiume loved to prance.

In the afternoons I’d play with him on the ancient road outside our house. He’d pick up a stick and I’d chase him about, letting him race past me, growling at each other when I finally managed to grab the stick.

The last time I saw Fiume he was prancing. We’d been playing, and as I went inside he turned back to look at me with tail wagging before heading off for adventures unknown.

Such a boofy happy guy, and our first family dog, we saved him from certain death.

His previous owners kept him chained in the side alley, they had gone through five dogs in the eighteen months we’ve been here.

When they finally moved out we were offered Fiume for ten euro otherwise they were going to kill him.

Of course we took him

The photo of Carina in the lane way is the day he was given his freedom. Even after months with us he was still cowed down and would bark and grown at anyone walking through the Borgata carrying a stick. His previous owners were not kind.


He changed all our lives, especially Carina and Sam, of course he and Carina were instant best friends, and it made me smile to hear Sam talking with him when he thought nobody was around, just last night he said “I didn’t think I’d miss him but I really do” which is a big admission for my ‘No way are we getting a Dog’ husband.

When I was growing up my best friend and confident was our golden Cocker Spaniel Jamie. I wanted Carina and Luca to have the joy that only a dog can bring.

Fiume was that Joy.

I hope Fiume finds his way home but as the days pass it seems less and less likely.

Our neighbors Anna and Sergio have been out looking for him in the snow as have we. They love him and he often spends the day next door with their dog Lucky. When we go away in our campervan it’s Anna and Sergio that take care of Fiume.

They talk to us about cliffs, snow and wild boar when Carina isn’t here and don’t think he is still alive.

I hope that if he is dead that he didn’t suffer.

Our Valley is wild and  rugged, it’s not like a suburban backyard where you close the gate and your dog stays put all day.

Here dogs are often chained and I’d rather he have those six months of freedom than a lifetime on a chain cowed down and lacking all affection.

We gave him a glimpse of what life should be like.

He got to be a part of a family that love him. A much loved part of our ‘pack’…….come home Fiume, we all miss you x

and the heart broken gang x



Hospital by Helicopter – I love you, I don’t want to die

hospital by helicopter


Those moments in our bedroom waiting for the ambulance as Carina struggled to breathe, tried to write ‘I love you’ and repeated over and over ‘I don’t want to die, I love you, I don’t want to die, get Daddy, tell Daddy I love him’ slurred like she was drunk, not knowing we were both right beside her, wild movements, then not breathing again, complete panic, desperation, and a sense of helplessness was with us in that room.

In our valley you can hear the ambulance coming from a distance, she struggled to get up, pulled over the bedside table, couldn’t stop screaming, then the ‘I love you, I don’t want to die’ started again. Our neighbor came in the room, my control broke, I’m the calm one, the one to take the kids for injections, the one to stay in the room at hospitals, Sam can’t cope with anything to do with the thought of choking.


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It took forever to strap her onto the board to load into the ambulance. Delirious she thought we were trying to choke her, she fought the straps. “She has to stay still” the ambo’s tell me, in the ambulance we are all standing holding her on the board, I brace myself for the ride down the mountain to the waiting helicopter. Sam is following in the car.

We drive straight out onto the football field, the gates held open. I am led to the helicopter by the kindest man, reassuring me all the way, such a calm soothing voice. In the helicopter I watch the expressions on their faces, I can’t hear what they are saying, Carina vomits.

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After multitudes of tests it’s confirmed that she has a severe concussion, we are admitted overnight. I hold her as she showers to wash the vomit from her hair. So fragile and vulnerable.

The nurse puts in a drip, we share the room with a five year old admitted with asthma, each time they try to put a ventolin mask on her she screams the place down. The night is filled with screaming, almost constant screaming, not crying it’s beyond that. In our ward we have maybe six children under five and Carina. We hold hands through the night when the screaming gets too bad.

She has my pillow from home, they used it to hold her legs still as they strapped her onto the stretcher. Sam arrives and I leave to find food, only one parent can stay in the room. I wander the hospital, sections seem abandoned, and when I return I can’t find the right floor, I take the lift to the eighth floor and walk down peering through each window trying to recognize something.

Lost, anxious, constantly to tears, I cry as I leave the cafe with two panini and bottles of water.

Later we share her dinner, the food is incredible, best mashed potatoes ever and the chicken so tender. I feed her tiny spoonfuls and she rests between each one. Those little girl moments are so precious, soon she will be a teen, things will change, but this closeness will always flow between us.

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Our first little boy Aaron was full term, ten pound and my pregnancy was perfect.

I went into labor Easter Sunday and Aaron was born alive, but critical.

We were transported to the Children’s Hospital by ambulance

and he died in the early hours of the Monday in the ambulance just as we reached the hospital.

I didn’t know he was already dead as we followed him into the hospital.

My world fell apart

I fell into the black hole that is grief, it took a long time to see the sunlight again.

Trying to get pregnant again with no result. I thought we’d never have children.

My world become about ‘trying’ with books and gizmo’s to tell me the exact right time to conceive.

Our next pregnancy with Carina was like walking on egg shells, I was so fearful that something would happen to her.

She was born almost exactly two years after Aaron, healthy and pink, and screaming her lungs out.

Luca came along two years later. By that time I had become paranoid and fearful that something bad would happen to Carina. I couldn’t let the kids out of my sight, if Sam wanted to take them with him to the shops I’d make sure I went along.

I didn’t even trust my husband to care for his own kids.

It consumed me, this fear.

I would have elaborate dreams about our daughter’s funeral,

what she would wear, and the toys she would have in the coffin, the music that would play.

I nearly sent myself over the edge.

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The sound of any ambulance  fills me with dread, still after fourteen years.

We both know how sudden loss can be, how it feels to have no control over the situation, the thought of loosing Carina was with us, a heavy weight in my heart, and Sam crying in our room hearing Carina saying ‘I don’t want to die, I love you’……it really never leaves you.


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Carina’s wonderful ‘Frozen’ cake was a gift from : l dolci di Dede 

Our community here in the valley has been wonderful, many people told us they heard or saw the helicopter. Some have little rituals they perform, others rang relatives to check they were okay, nobody knew it was Carina other than those in our village.

As I boarded the helicopter I glanced around to find Sam and the entire village seemed to be out, offering to help him with directions, just wishing us well, and sending a prayer our way.


In the week that has followed we have had visitors, phone calls, messages, and outpourings of concern and love. We are stopped in the street, Carina is given the once over, everyone asks after her.

Our home is now here in the Valley, and we have friends and family all over the world, we are so lucky to have found our home in the mountains of Piedmont, to have become part of such a warm community, and to continue creating a life we love.


Thank You…….

Today, one week later was spent with friends in the mountains, enjoying simple food, lots of laughs, cooking chestnuts on an open fire, eating cheese made from fresh milk, bread that is homemade, salami, tiramisu, strong coffee, and some strange kind of digestivo that almost blew my head off….

I’m now slightly tipsy, and rambling so I hope you feel the love,

who knows what the future will bring but I feel it will be Great things for all of us.

 and the gang x








Portrait in Paris – with Carla Coulson

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Portrait in Paris

For many years I have been missing, behind the camera instead of in front.

Convinced I didn’t deserve center stage,

Carla Coulson you helped me change all that.

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Not only did I find my inner sexy, adventurous, spirited, passionate sense of self again.

I also gave the gift of myself back to my daughter.

A Mum who wears red lipstick, high heels and knows how to navigate the Metro.

One full of laughter, confidence, glowing with happiness that we get to share these moments together.

From the absolute surprise on her face when she caught the first glimpse of my transformation I knew I’d cheated her a little.

Our portrait in Paris was a chance to change all that.

We laughed out loud feeding the pigeons at Notre Dame, splashed in the fountains, shopped, danced and sang together.

Total ‘Girl Time’

It was long overdue.

My own Mum and I have an incredible closeness, she raised us after my Dad died suddenly at only thirty nine. I’ve long had a thing for preserving memories, I only have a few photos of my Dad and I together, I was only five when he died.

By taking myself out of family photos I really see how I just disappeared.

How my kids don’t feel they smile the right way for photos.

If I could give you a gift from my heart it would be to let yourself always SHINE.

To not hit delete if you don’t look ‘just right’ and if you get a chance to have a portrait taken go and do it wholeheartedly.

The day we spent with Carla for our portrait in Paris really did change my life, in ways I didn’t see coming.

She has such a natural, humble. easy way, a clear vision that she brings to life, and she carries you along with her passion and enthusiasm.

I have never felt this way in front of a camera in my entire life.

Swirling, laughing, yep even a bit of strutting……people pausing to watch us, it all seemed on the edge of my joy, hugging my daughter, a bouquets of flowers with their own special meaning for us, feeling like a million dollars.

I even did a few quick outfit changes in a little courtyard, and Boobs…..who knew I had those!

Just Priceless.

A complete and total contrast to how I felt only a few short months ago when I found out I had won.
I turned the camera on to video my thanks and everything went sideways.
I know the video and the post I wrote touched many people who also hide from the camera.

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All photos copyright Carla Coulson

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To the only man in my Life,

we share so much, laughter tears Renovating (enough said), you are still and will always be my HERO!

I might not tell you enough that I love and adore you

yet I do

with all my heart x

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My beautiful butterfly girl.

You are my heart,

I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way when we argue but it will forever be true.

I love you more than a million red M & M’s, more than anything in the world, to the moon and back.

My little girl you are becoming a young woman and I am so proud of you!

You have such a special grace, an inner beauty, a rare gift of resilience, creativity, laughter, cheekiness, and such a Spirit.

I love you Sweet Heart, you are my JOY xxx


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Lisa and Carina Paris

Dearest Carla,

You gave us so much more than you could ever know.

Way beyond a Portrait in Paris.

Such a beautiful moment in time together, the grace of a girl becoming a young woman.

I’m incredibly happy that you were the one to capture these moments. I can’t imagine anyone else behind the lens, you have such a gift.

At the end of the day shooting it felt like we had just wandered Paris, soaking it all in, all of us laughing together as girlfriends.

I don’t actually remember you pointing a camera at us, how weird is that?

I just remember Carina in my arms, laughing, relaxing, a feeling of twirling, sharing, her hand in mine as we walked, lots of laughter.

Yes Life Changing in so many ways!

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 “Freedom, Sensuality, Joy, Movement, Adventure”

thank you Carla from the bottom of my heart xxx

PS  Carla I will forever love your little cat, how clever he was to draw my name from that dish.
Give him a big kiss on the whiskers from us says Carina x

PPS Now the boys want to get in on the act….next time you’ll have the entire family LOL xx

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and the gang x