Monday, April 27

race car ya-yas

Get your grip
The curves are much too hard to resist
He'll test the limits of this burly beast
The engine roars
As he punches the throttle to gain more speed
Then launching us forward to stop at a light.
Its slick outside
But we fly negligently into the thrill of the grade
And vast empty space off to the right...

Sending this bus load of passengers to contemplate life.

My daily commute is pleasant in that it is short. But riding the bus up and down the mountain is a white knuckle, lets-practice-some-meditation-and-not-think-about-how-near-to-death-we-are, experience.

And, just out of curiosity, I googled "Ferrari" and "bus"... apparently they make one. Fantastic.

Sunday, April 26


pop over muffins, without the pop (no strawberries)
were still a big hit
two loads of laundry and twice cleaning the kitchen
mom is getting restless for a walk
(growling as the three of them sit there on the couch)
(growling as I'm being told not to growl)
Papa complains that they are not dogs, ironic?
outside it's a drizzle, but we go go go anyway
and despite the pause we find hot dogs to snack on
a bookstore to relax in
not the walk to the river I wanted but a walk
a stroll just the same (let's not go insane)
homework and puzzles, seems everyone is calmer
(growling subsided)
I try to brainstorm for new ideas
(to make flexible solar cells better)
Punkette is strong as nails but still needs love, lots of it
me too and you and you and you (me too)
no more tears on the bed
she and I play a board game of Cats vs. Dogs.
She's cats, I'm dogs
dinner, TV, bedtime is a blur of Papa/punk craziness
I'm content to floss their teeth
still not in sync but still a good team
still good

Friday, April 24

walked like she had a bell for an ass

For someone who has absolutely no ass, this little liner makes me want to shake my thang. Do whacha wanna do...

I'm an ass girl. As in the female version of ass man. As in, when I am noticing someone, my eyes tend to get snagged on the junk in his trunk. If you think I'm just playin', you obviously haven't seen my husband (if you wonder how a tall gangly midwestern girl like me got hitched up to a hot sexy Italian, I'll tell you, it was the gravitational pull of his ass).

I, on the other hand, missed the ass train entirely. Not even at the station when that one blew through town.

But I read something recently that made me think that perhaps my lack of ass has more to do with posture and a nice wiggle in my walk then the absence of nice round glutes. Maybe I just have to believe I have an ass. Maybe I simply need to "walk like she had a bell for an ass" - Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Thursday, April 23

slow train

Hi. My name is Christine and I'm an indecisive pacifist. And lately I've fallen off the wagon. Fallen right back in the muck of waiting for situations out of my control (like the weather, sickness, the economy...) to make my decisions for me. I swore to myself that I would no longer turn over the things I can control to chance or fate and I have done exactly that.

So my pep talk to myself is, "GET OFF THIS SLOW TRAIN! It's taking you nowhere you really want to go. You have precious few years to live, precious few months to explore Italy, precious few hours to raise young punks!"

Now, when I put it like that, it's easy to find the gumption to change. Break it down to the core values, and it really feels like "what the hell am I waiting for?"

(I snagged this from Michelle, cause she kicks ass too!)

To decipher the above, I've decided to quit my day job. My job that isn't taking me where I thought it could. It's not taking me anywhere in fact, and I want to go somewhere. Because I could do a lot with the time between the hours between 9am and 3pm and because I have the good fortune to be in a situation in which I have a choice. Because it is a sin, of the god of kicking ass, to waste an opportunity to make a better choice for your life. And while I am very good at making the best of the situation, finding and living out all the positives of any situation, I need work at changing the situation.

Wednesday, April 22

La Mucca Moka by Agostino Traini

I am sure that every parent discovers their favorite children's book authors, and loves reading these books, perhaps more than their kids do, and grabs up everything by the author that she can come across... or maybe it's just me?

My Italian passion in children's books is Agostino Traini and his Prime Pagine stories staring La Mucca Moka.

Mucca being Cow.
Moka being her name.

Mucca Moka is my cow hero. I LOVE reading through her silly adventures. I love her smile. I love hearing my kids laugh at her simply sweet solutions, her persistence, and her passion for cooking.

There must be dozens of these little stories... La Mucca Moka Tra Le Nuvole (Moka the Cow Between the Clouds), La Mucca Moka e La Scuola di Gelato, La Mucca Moka e i Segreti della Montagna (Moka the Cow and the Secrets of the Mountain)... La Mucca Moka EVERYTHING! (I want to read them all)

She usually is helping someone or learning to make something new with her "latte profumato" (fragrant milk). Here are a few that get me giggling (didn't know you were going to be learning Italian today, huh?):

This is after Moka helps save some kids in the mountains and she treats everyone to a hot chocolate. It basically says "Tonino and the kids put on some warm and dry clothes. Moka pulls out of her bag a camp stove, a pot, cups, sugar, and chocolate. Then Moka, with her good fragrant milk, prepares hot chocolate for everyone."

OMG I love the illustration... wouldn't you be licking your lips as a cow lifted her leg and squirted out some of her fresh fragrant milk just for you!?!

La Mucca Moka e La Panna Montata is my new favorite. This is the end where Moka has learned how to make wonderful whipped cream at the whipped cream school (after mistakenly putting little clouds on everyone's hot chocolate), and returns to make hot chocolate and whipped cream for everyone. In the illustration the police officer is writing "It is forbidden to lick the mustaches of others!"

Monday, April 20

wanted: litter bugs

I snapped some photos of the traffic signs on my walk home one gray day... you can see they were the only spots of color in sight:

The red triangle is a warning sign... yield in this case.

I still haven't figured out what this T means...

Clearance for the underpass to the left.

This sign confused me since the red circle is used to indicate what is forbidden. But a blank red circle? I had to ask someone. It means EVERYTHING is forbidden.

Self explanatory.

On to my rant:

I've observed a new approach to advertising as of late. Rather than pay people to hand out fliers or post them around town, several of the local business have decided it's just as effective to throw the advertisements directly on the ground. They pay someone to walk around the city and scatter the fliers on the ground as they walk. They stand at the bus stops and drop them everywhere, coating the wet pavement with an announcement of the next event at some bar. They drop them one by one as they stroll through the city.

It normally upsets me when I see litter. I want to scream when I see people stamping out their cigarettes and kick them down the drain. But this is maddening on a different level... there's someone in charge, hiring kids to litter. There are kids willing to do so. It's upsetting to me that this doesn't seem to bother any of them.

I need to find out what the littering laws are in Italy.

Sunday, April 19

lessons on the bus

Part of the adventure of being in a new culture is getting into unexpected situations. Finding that situations don't unfold as you expected them to and the rhythms are all different. My approach to this is to try my best to let go of my learned ways and feel out this new beat. See if I can get with a new grove. Sometimes it's harder than others....

On the bus one Saturday afternoon with my two punks, we were off to meet some friends at the swimming pool. The bus was filling up fast, but we sat comfortably in our seats and casually watched the crowd during our 15 min journey.

Punkone and I were seated next to each other, and ended up watching a pair of teenagers unabashedly play tonsil hockey in the seat across from us. I watched the rainbow of expressions pass across my 8 year old's face... confusion, disgust, intrigue, wonder... and chuckled to myself.

For a Catholic country, Italy can be surprisingly nonchalant about public displays of affection... no, it's more like public foreplay. Scenes like this are quite common, this just happened to be a situation in which the kissing couple was quite close to us and we were something of a captive audience. There wasn't really anything else to do but stare at them.

I took pity on Punkone's tension (since it didn't seem like they were going to let up) and told him that it looked like they were trying to taste each others stomachs... which made him burst into laughter but didn't do anything at all to distract the teenagers.

At the pool, Giulia leaned over to ask me where her goggles were and got a close up of the tongue action in the lane next to where I was swimming.

.... Latin lovers! They're everywhere!

.... which makes me think about what my kids will be doing in about 5-10 years (please let it be closer to 10). At least there won't be any uncertainty about what to do.

Maybe all this pda is not so bad... the teenage pregnancy rate in Italy is 3 births in every 1000 while in the US it is 53/1000. Like I said... trying out a different rhythm...

Saturday, April 18

moments to validate

The bus wasn't particularly crowded, but enough that she would have had to push her way through to validate her ticket. Instead, she stood in her space at the rear, bracing herself for the curves against the door. She stood there, fingering and thumb flicking the edges of the red and yellow ticket. Sensing the people around her but not hearing conversations. Catching a few pairs of eyes near the front, snagged momentarily in her gaze. But feeling that space, that there was nothing more for her to do in the next few minutes but to watch for the door, she settled down into the steam of thoughts. That stream that's always there as if she'd been wading just now at the bus stop. Looking for the bus and pulling out one ticket, the stream swirling around her ankles. Now she took the space to flop down in it.

The swimming reflection of blue eyes that match the sky, right where it meets the mountain. Or at least her memory of the blue. Gazing past the same scenes she passes every day, the tones of a voice gently swirl up around her. She smiles. Feeling that smile, that outward reality, she sees the things around her... the rows of grass between bare vines now speckled with yellow dandelions... there's always something to give reason for a smile... but she knows that it's the resonance that brings it.

Thursday, April 16

a zoo in Italy

This felt strange to me. Going to the zoo. Who goes to the zoo in Italy? Well, living here, we do lots of "normal" things, and I guess going to the zoo just became one of them.

We went to Parco Faunistico Cappeller. It was inexpensive, clean, and relatively quiet and uncrowded for a spring break day trip. There were lots of play and picnic areas and the kids seemed to enjoy the easy pace. I enjoyed them not fighting or complaining in addition to just soaking up some sun. It was very laid back.

I was personally impressed by this Marabu. There were also two Marabu chicks there as well.

In hot pursuit...

I swear this little guy was trying to get us to break him out. He kept motioning to us, glancing up at the staff, looking back at us, wiggling the eyebrows and nudging his head in their direction. Either that or he was telling us all the zoo gossip.

I felt bad for the meerkats. They were particularly preoccupied by the birds flying around above them.


There's not too much to say really. I guess I discovered that a small zoo in Italy is pretty much the same as a small zoo in the US. And that I enjoy a simple day doing something for the kids just as much here as I did there. We ate sandwiches and chips from the snack bar. They ran from one exhibit to the next, reading from the signs and looking for their favorites... the surrounding scenery and the language has changed, but many things are pretty much the same. It's oddly comforting. An oxymoron, but that's really the best way I can describe it. I'm both unsettled and comforted by the experience at the same time.

road trip

The punks and I had our road trip and all went well. We drove along the Brenta River for a few hours, getting only moderately lost and incurring no traffic violations. I'd say it was a success. The Rolling Stones were playing on the radio (the DJ said that "compilation" was a bogus word Italians made up) and I even felt a wave of road trip bliss come over me.

Punkette had the camera in the back seat:

Friday, April 10

Pilgram behind the wheel!

I'm on vacation with the punks this week. AND we have access to a car.

I am 100% happy that I have been living without a car for nearly the past two years. I'm not exaggerating even a tiny bit. I love the absence of car hassle in my life.

But circumstances have it that we now have a car for a few days, I thought, to go exploring of some of these gorgeous mountains I'm always gazing at from afar.

Day one: We went to McDonalds. B. A. R. F. (not sure what that stands for) But we went. Because I asked the punks where they wanted to go with the car for lunch and that's what they came up with. Of course. What did I expect? I was stupid to ask them, so I took my punishment and we went to McDonalds. Later we went to the mall (kill me now).

Day two: Determined not to make the same mistake as the day before, I proposed we head up to the mountains for a picnic. We were short on time because we had a dentist appointment in the morning and a birthday party in the afternoon, but, having a car instead of taking a bus, I figured we could pull it off. I only wasted about an hour driving in circles looking for parking (and amazingly, I got right back into my cursing the traffic and lack of parking spaces zone complete with stiff shoulders and a sore neck).

Mom and punks day's 3 and 4 come next Tuesday and Wednesday when we return from our family trip (I am NOT driving any where remotely close to Rome)... hopefully we'll explore a bit further afield and make all this car hassle worth it.

Tuesday, April 7

row row row your boat

Rowing is one of my favorite activities. Gliding across the water, I love the persistence of rowing.

Rowing through this pond, in Rome, I remember feeling as if I was in a pot of turtle soup. You couldn't help but hit them with the oars and seemed like three or four were riding along with each stroke. I never imagined a pond could be so densely populated. The day was so hot I might have feigned falling in if I wasn't sure I'd have met my untimely death by turtle nipping.

Rowing at 5 am across a foggy river in graduate school... rowing away exams and research (and a fiance') until there was just sweat and sore muscles left and I could see the mist fade and the light change as the sun came up. Physically blasting through each stoke finding power and strength in our unified saunter, but mentally drifting with clarity and calm across the water.

I'm rowing now. Through life, love, parenting, marriage, living abroad... Power and peace swirling simultaneously. Pushing forward and stepping back. Finding (seeking) that pleasure in both the two steps forward and the one step back (or 10). Enjoying the burn as much as the breeze.

Monday, April 6

Sankeien Garden, special guest post

Amuse Bouche

Luminous memories just shadows
Tempting the palate
Yearning to taste the original
Destined to feast on the reflection
We mourn and celebrate
Eating with awe and gratitude
Our hearts relish the new dish

Poetry and photos are original works by my dear friend and fellow pilgram, Michiko.

tutto bene

I just wanted to report that the lack of new posts is not related to the recent earthquakes in Italy. All is well here. Good things to come. Soon.

Thursday, April 2

Exit Row

Window or aisle?

What do you need most? To see where you're going, where you've been, the world passing by? Or something solid to lean on? Or a bit more freedom to come and go?

Window please.
The last one is in the exit row. Is that okay?

The exit row seems an odd place for weeping, but there I was, weeping in the exit row. It was a breach in the walls that keep me from feeling too much.

The man on my left
Married to a friend from jr. high
Father to two girls so stunning I didn't even have time to craft my adoration... it just came spilling out as he produced the photographs from his wallet.
Michael, who carries photos in his wallet.
Michael, sharing my flight home in the exit row, is on his way to Iraq.

I don't back away from these warnings, you know that. The fissures that cause others to reach for the mortar. I stand there, seeing them grow, wondering how much I can know before the damn is breached. It's that time between, so precious. When I finally start to feel, knowing that soon it will be too much. Precious moments.

Michael is a retired police officer. He worked in law enforcement for 30 years. He'd had enough. And then decided to go train military police in Iraq.

Michael didn't mind my questions. As he offered me his bread and collected the trash from my tray and made the flight attendants smile, he gave me a safe place to find out about peeing blood and the names of the neighborhoods in the green zone. The soldiers he was going for, "kids" he called them. How he'd be going back this time without infantry cover because they'd been pulled out. How he might leave early if things got too crazy. Dust storms. About answering that devil of a question "why?" when trying to teach a respect for human rights. I was so absorbed by our conversation I didn't notice the movie passing, the sun setting, and the walls crumbling. None of it mattered as I unearthed treasures in the exit row.

As I settled in to sleep, I watch in silence as that wall crumbles away, happy to see it go. Tears of pain mix with tears of joy. Feeling too much and being thankful for it.

As we were landing Michael imparted his father's words of wisdom to me. "The key to success is knowing when to make your exit." I hope he heeds them.