Sunday, May 31
make me smile
my most favorite
And it's like I can see this spot of brightness on the globe
Wherever you are
And I love you
And that's just about the coolest thing I've learned in my whole life
Tuesday, May 26
I thought you were going to San Francisco? Yea, me too. After rushing like mad to make a forty minute connection in Frankfurt, I was on a plane that never did end up getting us to our destination.
We had a passenger that started suffering from heart problems during the flight and was fortunate enough to find the assistance of a cardiologist on board. We were over Greenland when it was advised that we get this chap to the nearest available medical facilities, which turned out to be back in Iceland.
How odd. Didn't seem to be anything at all there. I suspect that everything is underground. It was seriously surreal. We landed, stopped and there was nothing but an expanse of flat boulder covered land. But somehow medical attention was obtained, fuel was dispensed, food supplies replenished... I think we must have landed over a tunnel down into another world.
Well, on from Iceland it turned out that they can't just work flight crew when you've incurred a 5 hour delay so it was decided that we would stop and stay in Washington DC for the night. The airline put us all up in hotel rooms for the night and chartered a plane for us to continue on to San Francisco in the morning. BTW the hotel room was absolutely SWEET (too bad I only got to sleep in it for 2 hours, but made full use of a kick ass shower... nothing like the one I've got back at home) meal and taxi vouchers... three cheers for United for making the best of an unfortunate situation. The passenger was fine, but stayed in Iceland I believe... the details were kind of sketchy.
So I finally did make it here. And hit the ground running... meetings tomorrow and I think there will be deadlines to meet by Friday. For now I might just go get some sleep.
Sunday, May 24
And it shows. I get comments all the time from friends who know me from before. "You look great!"
I feel great. Filled up inside.
So what the hell am I doing? I got a call to go back to the states. To do something good for solar research. Well, potenitally good. IF we get asked to write a full proposal (and when will I do this... sea side in the warm Italian sun?) And IF it gets funded. It could be really good.
It's just for two weeks, but what a heart ache! The bedtime routine, stories and singing. Hearing the punks pour out their little hearts. You know, the good stuff that become the bits of your family; the stuff you forget about but still make you feel good inside.
Well, it's a great opportunity that doesn't really mean anything at this point except that I'll give it a shot. And two weeks solo. Wow. That hasn't happened in about 8 years. Used to love being alone. I'm kind of looking forward to that part. I'll be busy as hell.
So I am dusting off the power suit, shaving everything... hairy armpits might fly here, but they're deal breakers in the US. One glimpse and those boys will clear the room. No one does business with hairy hippies, even if it is for solar.
Wednesday, May 20
I've learned what things in our apartment are the energy hogs. The older water heater in the second bathroom and the oven are the two biggest pigs. I can't have ANYTHING else on when these suckers kick in.
Then there are the moderate pigs... the washing machine, dish washer, the hair dryer, the vacuum cleaner, the other water heater... I can have one of these on at any time, but two of them is testing the limits... depending on the combo and the amount of background power consumption we're doing (lights, computer, cell phone charging...), it can mean lights out.
This is where I've found that my aversion to house keeping is actually a strong point. I'm so rarely inspired to operate more than one of these appliances at a time that I'm not so put out by the fact that I can't.
And there are little tricks that you learn. I've started a load of clothes in the wash (and the eco wash cycle is two HOURS long) and I decide that I need a shower. Well I know that if I don't want to end up in the dark (and jogging downstairs in my robe), I flip the hot water heater off before getting into the shower. There's enough hot water there for me to take a shower, I just can't have it switch on while the clothes are in the wash. (just remember to turn it back on two hours later so that M has some hot water for his shower the next day... can you guess how many times I've forgotten to do this?) Or, when your getting ready for a dinner party and you've got something cooking in the oven but need to vacuum... just flip off the oven for a few minutes (don't forget to turn it back on). Or you need to dry your hair but the washing machine is running (we use that sucker a lot)... go and hit "pause" while you run the hair dryer. We have a gas stove top, but some friends of our have an electric one and they cannot have more than one burner on at a time... I don't have a solution for that one... eat raw?
Basically, it's all a major PAIN IN THE ASS.
That said, I am very aware of our energy consumption. Although I'm not certain on this, it must end up saving energy. I'm so disinclined to use the vacuum now I prefer to sweep or mop. And I avoid firing up the oven at all costs (ever reheat pizza on a griddle?). Actually, I don't have any other electric kitchen appliances. We shut off that second hot water heater since we so rarely use hot water in that bathroom anyway.
Not sure how to bring this one home. I can't imagine any American purposely putting a low consumption circuit breaker on their home. I'm not even sure this is possible. Can you request to have a lower power limit? I can't imagine a politician that inflicted this kind of pain would end up being very popular. But maybe that's what we need... some tough love. Someone to say "sorry sweetie, you've had enough juice today."
Edited to add some more info... the standard power limit in the typical Italian flat is 3-4 kilowatts. The place where we stay in the summer has a 1.5 kilowatt limit. Sometimes (you get charged a higher electricity rate) it is possible to upgrade to 6 kilowatts.
Just to give you an idea, here is a list of general power consumption for typical appliances:
Common Dedicated Circuits
Power Required (watts)
5,000 (240 volts)
6,000 (240 volts)
1,000 and up
Refrigerator (not required)
Freezer (not required)
1,000 and up
Kitchen Countertop (two circuits)Appliances
You can see it's pretty easy to get over 3 kilowatts!
Tuesday, May 19
"Listen Punk (didn't actually say that), I'm not a Jeanie in a bottle on your bedside table (I did actually say that, and I did think of Jeanie from I dream of Jeanie when I said it). Believe it or not, I sleep too. If you need me to come here in the middle of the night, you need to give me a few seconds to wake up and figure out what the heck is going on"
"ok mom. I'm sorry" (big sad eyes, trying to make me feel bad... didn't work. Tough break kid, but that's what happens when mamma is sleep deprived)
So last night he calls out "mommy?" and then waits. I respond "ok, I'm coming" and then I wait. Literally, 10 seconds later I hear him snoring. Eh eh eh eh... Am I a bad mommy? I don't care. Sleep is goooood.
Monday, May 18
Sunday, May 17
It was just a coincidence that I watched Harvey Milk on DVD last night. (read a nice write up about the real Harvey Milk here). But how perfect that homophobia is on my mind and today happens to be International Day Against Homophobia. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Amanda.
Watching the movie, I thought about where I was in the late 70s. Far from thinking about civil rights, that's for sure (because I had them). Watching the movie I felt myself grasp for some vague recollection about teachers losing their jobs because they were homosexual. I'm glad that the US has evolved enough to protect it's citizens from persecution based upon sexual orientation.
Well, at least in the work place. At least on paper. The recent vote in California to ban homosexual marriage was a slap in the face... a wake up call that screamed, that even in California, people are still carrying around issues with homosexuality. And sadly bringing it into legislation. Again. Now we have the Courage Campaign.
If you are afraid, ask yourself, honestly, why? Are you afraid of everyone different from you? Can you open up enough to try to get to know a homosexual person. That's easy to do, there are hoards of openly gay blogs... go read about someone else's life, how much they hate/love starbucks, how traffic sucks, terrible twos, how it's so damn hard to find a good pair of heels in their size (ha ha, just kidding).
ANYWAY... hugs all and pass it on ;)
Friday, May 15
I was one of those "lucky" girls that never had any menstrual "issues" (heavy use of quotations to indicate that my ideas on the subject have evolved). I started late, had a 6-8 week cycle, menstruation lasted about a day and a half, no cramps, no back aches, no complaints from others about being particularly moody. I could not relate in the slightest to all that I was hearing about "that time of the month" and what a monumental thorn it was in the side of sisterhood it was. In truth I hardy gave it a thought beyond making sure I had a couple of OBs in my pocket.
Well, things have changed. Since having kids, in fact. It seems like some part of conceiving, birthing, nursing, mothering two punks has awakened my inner hormonal woman. Maybe I was just a slow bloomer and things just hadn't fully kicked into gear. But since my cycle returned 4 years ago, I've been catching up on all I thought I would never be privy to in those formative years.
For example, M has a knack for nailing exactly when I will start menstruating and I'm sure it wouldn't make me so furious if it wasn't true. Dammit. And I suspect it isn't that difficult to tell... not like he has psychic abilities. All that crap about women turning into raging bitches every month is true. I thought they were just making it up.
And of course, backaches and cramps that make me want to stay in bed. Ugh. Why did I not fall to my knees and thank the heavens for my previous cramp free life?
Well, my new, perhaps more feminine, state of being spurred me to think a bit more about menstruation. Maybe I was missing an opportunity by just chalking it up to finally being one of the girls. Maybe it could be something more than just a burden to women.
Turns out (as burdens often do), it's actually an opportunity. And I don't mean an opportunity to bring more punks in the world. I mean an opportunity for us. The women. An opportunity for cleansing, both physically and mentally. A signal to slow down and look inward. A time to make sure we are caring for our bodies with healthy food and exercise. Good breathing. Enough sleep.
Now, I try to remind myself of all this when I'm menstruating. It actually helps. I still sometimes feel crappy and crabby... but if I remember to just go with the flow, listen to my body and slow down a bit, I emerge feeling empowered, energized, and renewed.
Thursday, May 14
Well, I've noticed lots of things. So I've decided I'll write about one every week with "Think Green Thursday."
This week, since I'm on the spot here... is something simple. Did you see my last post? The one about the piles of laundry? Did you know that clothes dryers are so rarely used here that they cost almost twice as much as a washing machine?
Hanging your clothes out to dry is a fantastic way to save resources. If you live in a warm place, it's a no brainer. But, Northern Italy is not exactly a warm place. What do you do all winter long? Well, you get a couple of racks for hanging laundry inside and strategically place them in front of the radiators. And hang clothes directly on the radiators. And talk about multi-tasking!!! They even make radiators with horizontal bars so that they can double as drying racks (and triple as humidifiers). Plus, I never iron, because if you're careful to hang your clothes flat, no wrinkles! Woo hoo! (of course piling them up on to the guest bed in a giant heap kind of negates this effort)
Moen, Google Images
providing the fuel, the fire, to thrust me into house cleaning gear. What better use for an empty guest room? No need for closets, just rummage through the pile on the bed, dig out some underwear, scavenge a pair of matching socks, shake out the wrinkles from the t-shirt.... then at the end of the day, throw them all right back into the same room, but this time the dirty pile on the floor (we're not heathens).
Come visit already. Please. The situation here is getting ridiculous. Or maybe I'll host a dinner this weekend. Yea, that'll work. Nothing motivates house cleaning like the threat of nosy parents coming over for dinner.
Tuesday, May 12
A daily commute
A commute by foot
Imagine no brake lights or smog, seat belts, or Starbucks.
No carpool, bumper stickers or Woody in the Morning.
Just a good pair of shoes, a pack on your back
Breathe in breathe out and head down the road
This is my favorite stretch...
Vineyards to the left and also the right
I watched the farmers go row by row
And the horse let out to roam.
Pruned in the winter, tied off to the lines
Now they pop with green and soak up the sun
And notice the stones and closer still
The lizards... everywhere!
This is my favorite stretch...
The turnstile squeaks each and every time
I try to slip by
As I pass through to cross the railroad tracks
Heading off through the mountains
The long way to Venice (the way that I like)
As it winds past the lakes and along rocky cliffs
This is my favorite stretch...
The pink houses that speckle the view
The city spread out below, the mountains ahead
Make me ready for punks, and everything else
Clear my head with
The rhythm of step and sweat on my brow
This is my favorite stretch...
Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.
Thanks Kavi and Brenda for adding your Market Day posts!
Sunday, May 10
With an open hand
Only when I wanted
Letting me be me
Go off again
As I did what I wanted
Wore what I liked
And floundered about
Giving that space
To feel safe
And I never really believed it was too bad
Inside it felt good
Once I found it
There's no cause for alarm
It all works out
In the end
Thank you for
Saturday, May 9
Tigress: It is said that the Dragon Warrior can go for months without eating, surviving on the dew of a single ginko leaf and the energy of the universe.
Po: Then I guess my body doesn't know I'm the Dragon Warrior yet. It's gonna take a lot more than dew, and, uh, universe juice.
I often wonder about the energy of the universe. Much more than I probably should. If you've ever caught me staring out a window, I'm probably spinning in the vortex of contemplation, feeling just how much my energy is tied into that of the tree on the other side. If you run with me, I selfishly hog your back wash, soaking up every drop of the energy you exude to fuel my own body. That's why I always run with stronger runners... I first tried this with an equal and we alternately had good and bad runs. There just wasn't enough energy to go between us.
Before you click on, thinking "what a freaknut" (which may well be true) consider how you feel in these situations: Don't you feel more productive around people who shine, in thriving gardens, and clean waters. A starry night. The rising sun. Even without trying, don't you feel fueled up by these things?
So, I think about this, probably a bit too often. And I don't often (ever) find any answers to my questions. What the hell do I know, anyway, about universe juice! But I think I may have found someone who does... and she's started an advice column!!! As soon as I heard this, I plucked one of my many juicy questions and hurled it on over to "A Little Bit of Braja and Debbie."
They are taking questions and giving their advice on all our qualms and queeries every Saturday. I can't wait to soak it up.
Friday, May 8
I am trying to stay up to date on what everyone out there is doing. But I miss things. So I wanted to remind everyone of the Market Days meme in the side bar. It's different from most memes in that there is no recurring day and I'm not passing it on to specific people... thus it's easy to forget about. It just didn't seem like that would work with markets around the world, all happening for different reasons and at different times. So, to help it along, when I come across a post about a market in one of your blogs, I link it here. So far I have linked to our friends in Berlin, Dallas, and Korea ;) Help me out! If you have written about a market of any kind, please add your link. Or make a point to visit your seasonal market that may be starting up. I'd love to see your corners of the world.
Thursday, May 7
Christine and Matteo are in their 80s and have spent their many years together living in a small Italian village. Two weeks ago, Christine and Matteo were having a quiet evening at home. Christine was cleaning up in the kitchen while Matteo was in the other room watching TV. It was a typical evening until Christine slipped on some water that had been splashed on the floor while she cleaned.
The sudden fall found Christine on the floor, unable to move. She started yelling for her husband. She yelled and then screamed for him to come help her, but there was no response from the other room. He had the TV on so loud that he couldn't hear her. She continued to scream so loudly that the staff in the restaurant three floors down came out into the alley to see what was going on. She screamed down to them from her kitchen floor that she had fallen and was unable to move. She instructed them to go to the bakery that she and her husband owned and get the keys for her house so they could come up and help her.
A few men from the restaurant did so. They ran up the stairs and found Christine on the floor in the kitchen. They helped her up and carried her into her bedroom. They called for the ambulance. Once the ambulance had been called, Christine asked them if they could please go and tell Matteo what had happened!
Matteo had been watching TV the entire time and hadn't heard anything. Obviously. when he found out what his wife had been going through, he felt absolutely horrible.
Christine is back home and recovering from a broken hip. Because of her injuries, she and Matteo are sleeping in different rooms, but every night Matteo goes to sleep with a string tied around his wrist that passes over the wall between them and rests on Christine's bedside table so that she can pull him to attention if she should need him.
but I am also doing research in solar energy. Specifically I work with plastic semiconductors to make flexible, portable solar. Solar woven into fabrics, laminated, coated... invisible solar. Or folded up into your pack and taken out when you need it...
At least that's the promise of what we'll be able to do. Where we might be in 5 years? Seriously, this stuff is closer that you might think.
Anyway, I found a great web site that has an interesting, educational (much needed) approach to solar. I'm still going through it, but liked it so much so far that I put a link to it on my sidebar.
If you're interested in learning more about how we as a world can better use it's solar energy, take a look!
Why is it called a rainbow?
Why are ladybugs sometimes called ladybirds?
Do they ever get tired of asking questions that I have no answers for? I think it's so frustrating because I know that there are probably answers to these questions, I just don't know them. Stop asking me about stuff I don't know!!!
Why is Captain Hook called Captain Hook?
(FINALLY!!!) Because, he's a captain and he has a hook for a hand. (Fireworks and grand applause for Mom, the fountain of knowledge)
What was he called before?
Tuesday, May 5
The saga of the mini-porta potty from here on in dubbed the pee box.
I am sure I am slowly loosing my memory, because I KNOW I've used one of these things before but I had NO IDEA whatsoever as to how to operate this one. At the moment, all I really needed to do, desperately, was to pee.
Below decks, I wedge my six foot frame into the "bathroom" setting my ass into the sink as I'm trying to wiggle my pants off and open the pee box. It's latched shut.
Why? Because everything on a sail boat gets strapped, latched, locked and stowed. Nothing can wiggle. Except when I try to open the pee box, the entire box lifts up.
I should really fix this situation first, but man alive, I've got to go. So I figure out how to unlatch the lid, pray that M doesn't decide to be funny and tack or jibe, and do my business.
Now I've done it. I've filled the upper, open portion of the pee box and I have no idea how to get the pee into the lower part where it won't slosh out and baptize us all.
One convenience of being in a bathroom so small that you can brace your body on all four walls simply by exhaling is that you don't fall and hurt yourself as the wind and waves toss your little boat (and your pee) around.
Assessing what I've got to work with on this box: There's a plastic push thingy on the left and a twisty knob on the right. Well, being a PhD, I could grasp that the knob wasn't going to help me, but perhaps it made sense to pump on the push thingy?
A couple of pumps are given, but the pee is not disappearing. The push thingy is not the flusher. Where the hell is the flusher?!?!
I try to get a look at other sides of the pee box and find the magic thing that will take this pee away. I lower the lid and latch it (like that's going to help) so I can lean in and look at the front. As I brace myself on the top edge of the now "closed" (hermetically sealed) pee box, I realize that it wasn't the whole pee box that lifted up earlier, but just the top section. This is not good. Not at all good.
Can you guess where the pee goes?
Anyway, the geniuses that designed sailboat bathrooms make the space for the pee box fit into a very shallow tub. So, now I have the pee box sitting in a pan filled with pee. As I am turning green from being below decks on high seas, I decide there is nothing more that can be done to help the situation and decide to let M deal with it later.
Me to M: I think the pee box leaks (playing the totally clueless woman... hey, sometimes it comes in handy)
M: Why do you think that?
Me: Because I see pee running out of it.
M: (cringe) Oh, well, I'll look at it later.
M doesn't have a stomach for these things, but being the captain of the ship and leaving the child wrangling to me, he later, valiantly, tackles the pee box problem. It was, as I suspected, not put together right and it took a manly man like M to right the situation.
M: (looking at the pee left in the tray) Who's pee is that?
Basically, M decided that the owner of the pee has to clean it up. There was no convincing him that this also fell under the category of Manly Men jobs even given the fact that the pee was in contact with an important key component of a beastly sail boat. And pretty darn close to the engine even.
Now that we have an assembled pee box (and understand it's complicated inner workings), we still want to keep it's usage to a minimum as M and I are keenly aware that we will have to properly empty it at the end of the weekend. So, We declare: only for extreme circumstances (ie. we'd rather you pee in the box than on the floor of the cabin) and keep true to it's title - PEE box.
Well, I don't want to get gross (it's not been gross up to now, has it?), but the contract was breached. The one about pee only. Yea, Punkette is apparently so comfortable with her bodily functions that she does not suffer in the least from travelers constipation. And when it came time to return the boat, M paid the 50 euros to NOT empty the something-other-than-just-Pee box. It's a good thing they didn't ask for 100.
Monday, May 4
After some initial stress (a vomiting incident during the car drive there, being taken to the wrong port, the chartering company failing to mention that they required a 500 euro cash deposit, more than the cost of chartering and M having to endure a sail test run with a neurotic sailor who insisted that the best way to handle the boat was to hold the tiller between his legs. I think there may have been something else going on there) we were finally able to settle into our boat. The punks were HYPER excited.
The town was packed with tourists visiting during the May Day holiday. We found a fantastic restaurant a short walk from the marina and an organic grocery store across the street. Finally some organic strawberries!
The lake is the largest in Italy, surrounded by high peaks and speckled with cute little villages. We had originally planned to make stops during the day but were told that most of the towns did not have places for boats our size to dock. This turned out not to be true, but for this trip we did our sight seeing from the water and survived just fine by stocking up on lots of healthy food and eating our lunch while we sailed.
Saturday night we made port at the little town of Bogliaco (where we had to pay the INSANE price of 80 euros for the slip... at least the bathrooms were nice). The picture of lake-side tranquility.
What's cuter than an Italian village? An Italian village with sailboats in the square!
Sunday morning on the lake: skipping stones, soaking sun, and kids setting up their boats for sailing school.
Children playing soccer in their wet suits while they wait for the rest of the sailing class to get ready.
We got to that point where you feel like the land is rocking... our "sea legs." There was lots of sun and wind. Nice (terrifying) gusts of wind due to breaks in the surrounding mountains. The punks and I were riding on the bow for awhile, trying to see if we could get our feet wet when were were slammed by a 50 mph gust of wind. Seriously, it was sudden and I was wishing my pants were made of rubber instead of silky smooth cotton. Fortunately, I had already positioned both kids so that they had something solid to hold on to and I kept myself on the boat by clinging to the lifelines. Seeing that M was in serious need of help reefing the sails, I opened the forward hatch and helped (shoved) the kids into the cabin. Things were quickly normalized but I had to talk Punkone back into the cockpit. Once he was out, sitting in the cockpit, deadpan faced, he said "Getting my pants scared off... check." Funniest moment of the trip.
Sunday, May 3
This weekend I went sailing with my family in Lake Garda. Yes, I cheated with the connections posts. But WOW the sail around the lake was amazing... I will make it up to you when I up load the photos in the morning and do a proper post.
Just being back on a boat again with M. He owned a small sail boat when we were in grad school together and we sailed every weekend we could. We loved the physical labor of refinishing the boat during the winter months. And finding that flow between us that maneuvering a boat requires. On a two week sail we night sailed threw a storm and he says that was when he decided he needed to marry me. The same storm came up in visualization exercises in our childbirth preparation classes. We even lived on a boat for the last three months of my first pregnancy. Later we sailed with both kids to where we were married. So, yes, it felt really wonderful to be back on a boat with M... makes me want to do a year aboard.
The punks were great. And M was good about asking them to pull lines, steer, and other things to help out when he could. Sailing can be stressful and he kept the tension down. This was the first time I've sailed with older punks and I didn't bring anything to keep them entertained. They made due towing dock lines, trying to get their feet wet and feeding the ducks, but next time I'll bring a toy boat they can tow, fishing poles, and nets maybe. More water toys. And their swim suits, even if the water is German tourist cold. ;)
I can't wait to post the pictures and tell the stories.