Thursday, October 21
It's a little diner named "Ann's Coffee Shop" and doesn't seem to have been touched by the silicon valley it sits in. They have cottage cheese and peaches on the menu and a navy bean soup of the day. My neighbor orders a glass of 2% milk and a liverwurst sandwich on toasted bread with lettuce, mayo and mustard... He's obviously come home. The decor and the majority of the clients all had their heydays sometime in the sixties, but that too has a comforting effect on me. I found it grounding to be in a place that was perfectly content being just as it is... and always has been.
Monday, October 18
I'm humbled by the guy who shows up on his bike and stands there sipping coffee from his travel mug. Eyeing me hello while I sleepily fumble with my bag ticket coffee and try to punch my ticket without spilling the whole lot. He's managed to not only get himself to the train platform on time, but to do it well. He is clearly in control of his life.
This morning I am cheered though. I got out the door those 10 crucial minutes earlier that draw the line between feeling frantic and cool peace. Time to not feel compelled to speed through the streets. To return the smile from the girl working at the coffee shop. She, btw, is quite simply cute as a button and complements me in a different way every time I see her. Small things. Today she said my wallet was cute... She liked the birds on it.
I think we're all doing ok with 5 am. Like camping or tornadoes, it seems to bring out the best in us.
Thursday, October 14
Yea, I have an office now. Isn't that weird?
I have quite a nice view from my window too. Some trees, lovely quartet of towering orange exhaust stacks, blue California sky. I'm not complaining about that.
It's just that when I have my desk facing the window, I feel like every Tom Dick and Jane who walks buy noses in on what I'm up to. It's unnerving. I'm constantly on the ready to hide open message windows.
I was so ill at ease that yesterday I turned the desk around so that it now faces the door. Problem now is that instead of gazing off at the blue sky, I look out into the hallway.
Tom Dick and Jane have noticed too (I told you they were nosing)... and to my surprise, seem to feel compelled to do something of a performance for me as they pass by. One guy just did this little side shuffle so that he could square his shoulders to the door and accompanied it with a smiling mumble. Very odd. Especially as I haven't gotten so much as a nod from this dude in the numerous hallway passings we've had. Seriously, he doesn't answer when I say good morning.
Where's that second cup of coffee?
Wednesday, September 29
The only change to our new routine that they are openly protesting is the drastically reduced time with me. I'm trying to figure out how to commute across the bay, work full time and reconnect with my family every day. Since I'm here now on the 5:28 am train heading west, sleep must have gotten shafted to the number 4 slot of those priorities.
The great things about waking up before 5 am?
The air is still untouched by the scorching sun.
The stars are just nodding out.
The chickens are still sleeping.
The passing landscape is shrouded in black and sparkling points of light... reminding me of other more exotic train rides.
"On the way home, night was approaching. I watched the distance grow between the train and the Adriatic Sea. Once the sky was black and all I could see were passing lights and highways and the train was quiet everything seemed familiar again. The night, lights, and people on the train, absorbed in their books and music, are all the same really. The same you find anywhere."
Monday, September 27
First off, I'm pecking this out with my thumb so I apologize for any thumb control/auto-correct errors that will occur. Yes, I'm blaming my phone for everything written here that makes absolutely no sense.
So what do we have here. The vast majority of my fellow riders are sleeping. You quickly appreciate that most of these beautiful souls wale up at 4 am to get to work on the morning and noise of any kind is swiftly scorned upon.
The wakeful crowd occupies themselves with their various electronics, or even paper based reading (but that can get noisy, so is also frowned upon).
We roll through one of the most beautiful canyons on the area and watch the now golden hills roll by. It's not terrible.
Well, I'm the next stop. I can't wait to see the punks.
While you put on blinders and bury yourself behind brick walls.
The auto-pilot fills a new house with the things that you need.
It gets your children in clean clothes and pushes them out the door.
It hops you on the train in the morning and to meetings on time.
To teacher meetings and soccer games.
And into bed at night.
It's called surviving. And I've figured out that the presence of, or the ability to turn on auto-pilot can be the difference between function and dysfunctional. Between having your act pulled together and negligence. It makes all those necessary decisions for us when we cannot engage, for one reason or another and keeps us out of trouble. Raising too many eyebrows or shaking too many heads.
Thursday, September 23
And here is what rug dreams are composed of: Upon waking I find my office chair disassembled and the filing cabinet knocked over, having nearly crushed me in my sleep. I right it but leave the chair for some unsuspecting soul. Mind you I was sleeping in the sun after having eaten an entire chocolate chip cookie, a glass of mango blueberry water and listening to "red red robin radio" on Pandora.
Well, the radio tunes are actually pretty catchy.
And the cookies are delicious
And so are naps.
Just not all rolled up together. ;)
Monday, September 20
twist in my ergonomically correct chair that the shape of a butterfly
is reflected off the metal back support onto the wall. My new office
succulent is already dying. I never have done well by these plants
and I wonder why I let myself buy another. The world map tacked to the
wall has already faded into the background of what I notice... as has
everything else. I no longer turn desperately out of supermarkets
upon entering them... necessity has forced her hand. Old office
trinkets have found their places, marked their spots in the
accumulating dust. So I guess it's good that I notice things like
imagined butterflies... well maybe it's a horse now... trotting back
and forth across the corner of the room.
And I'm here. Sometimes I let myself think about that sliding door
twist of fate that sent the alternate me on another path. That me that
stayed in Italy and let her children delve deeper into childhood
friendships and cement their standings in the Italian elementary school.
That me who savored the sight of rusty iron work over large double
doors, the sound of footsteps on marble sidewalks and how many fossils
she could spot in the stone on her walk to the school. And then I
can't breathe and burst into tears at what I have lost.
But if I don't let myself think too deeply I can see what I have
gained. What was that again? The ability to feel truly alien in the
country I've lived all my life? Yea, there's something more to it
that I just can't wrap words around at the moment. Thoughts as
fleeting as reflections, changed, and now gone.
Friday, September 17
See you soon!
Saturday, July 31
What can I say? First I guess a little background. I moved back to where I was living before Italy after 3 years. There were many reasons, I'm not sure any of it important for my purposes here. What is my purpose here? This has always been the place where I marvel at the world around me. Share that oblivion that swirls up in my head as I try to take it in. I think I can still do that. Well, at any rate, I would like to still do that.
A big chunk of these two weeks has been filled up with homecoming. A strange one though. The joy at seeing great friends again has been riding a wave of distaste for the culture. I hate the traffic. I hyperventilate when I enter the massive supermarkets. Hell, even the aisles of products at the pharmacy send my head spinning. I can't stand it, so I shield my eyes and run out of the store empty handed. I'm hiding in the cocoon of things I can accept. My friend's apartment, my office at work, old project notebooks. I can't stand to look at the world outside, so find myself at a loss for words on the "pilgram" experience.
It's shocking how lost I feel here. Not only in my head, but I have been literally getting lost. I don't remember how to drive through towns that I used to drive through daily. Streets are unfamiliar and memories of where they go are hazy.
And I'm not fully here yet. I have no family, no phone (for the love of all that is good and evil!!!), no furniture, no damn warm clothes... yea, what Steinbeck said about summer in San Francisco is true... making it even harder to acclimate. And easier to alienate myself. This can only lead to darkness.
So, after a distressing two weeks, I found myself driving my commute home. Cursing the rotation of the already boring same four songs on the radio. The tired classics and shallow new releases. But as I topped the pass from the bay into the valley, the red evening light caught my eye from the tops of distant hills. And for the first time since I've been back I saw my home the way I used to round the curves in Northern Italy. For it's amazing beauty. The rolling golden hills, the green scrub, the cool blanket of air. And my pilgram head latched on to this thread of hope. That maybe, once I get over myself, I'll start to see the wonder in the world again. YEA!!! Tiny dances of celebration erupting inside. This can work. All is not lost.
Monday, July 12
Of an inflated mat
And my body lying flat
As I stare up into my hat
Blue sky and waves are bright
But just an inch from my face
Is a dark and rainbowed space
And I am glad to be in this place
**ha... sometimes the titles end up longer than the verse
Saturday, July 10
Maybe this tendency can be attributed to being a bit too spontaneous or naive. And it's not that I don't weigh the pros and cons of the situation... it's just that when opportunities come along, "life is short" weighs heavily in the "go for it" column.
That said, I didn't make pros and cons columns when I married a foreigner. And even if I had, I'm sure "immigration services might prevent his reentry into the US" wouldn't have occurred to me.
When we lived in the US, my alien spouse had a green card. We showed up at our interview with our two proofs of legitimate marriage (the punks) and in literally less than 5 minutes we were out the door, green card approval in hand. Since he's already been living in the US for many years on various student and working visas, it almost seemed like a matter of semantics.
Then, as you know, we moved to Italy. And since we lived outside of the US for more than two years, we have to apply for a new green card. There are enough rules and regulations about green cards and I really don't want to give any further explanation than that as I'm far from an expert on the subject. But it all boils down to that.
I will say though, that don't you think there should be some sort of permanent green card for married couples? Wouldn't that save everyone, including immigration services a ton of work? They're just going to give it right back to him. I know, it's a permanent resident card... but couldn't I be the little piece of America that stays with him... sort of like stepping onto American soil when you enter an embassy abroad (ok, this could degenerate quickly). Maybe just a simple interview at the border to verify that the marriage is still valid. That would be easy. Marriage license and spouse and kids in tow... easy peasy!
Anyway, I head off the the embassy to apply. Like, a month ago. See, when we were in the US and we applied for the green card, he got permission to reside in the US while it was processing. We assumed that we'd get a similar permit this time around.
Yea, that was wrong. And he has to stay in Italy until he gets the green card. We've been assured that the process is much faster from outside the US and an entry visa isn't necessary. But the fact is that school starts in a few weeks and even faster (4-6 months) just isn't fast enough.
Maybe if I tell them that our 10 year anniversary is in September....
**I'll send you a postcard if you can name the movie I took my title from. The actual quote is "After all, she's a foreigner!"
Monday, July 5
How's summer in Amalfi this year? Well, the World Cup has everyone in a buzz. Even with Italy having performed so dismally, they still find someone to get behind. In latest matches the bulk of spectators seem to be supporting Spain, Ghana, Argentina and then Uruguay last night. My son has become a die hard Germany fan. Personally I don't feel the same passion about who wins or looses at this point, but I love watching the game. My twisted mind is usually hoping for whoever is behind to even it up and for the game to go into penalty kicks.
This is our beach, looks like towards the end of the day since I see the beds are being put away. It's a public beach but the beds and umbrellas can be rented from "Tonino-o-beach"... it's become our place to go over the years, mostly because of Tonino and his family. It's also one of the more relaxed beaches and full of kids being crazy. It's funny when you're with kids, it's almost better to go to the more crazy places because they have fun and don't bug the hell out of you so much. Punks.
We get here around lunch time, swim, relax, eat some fruit and crackers, swim, kayak, snorkle, and relax some more. Yea, it's a rough life.
When we've had too much beach we take an open bus (this is key, open bus = no vomiting) to Ravello. We're always impressed with what is going on in Ravello and makes us wish Amalfi would get it's cultural act together. The picture above is from the gorgeous Villa Cimbrone and there is a concert society that organizes concerts with Villa Rufolo. Our latest form of torture is to head to Ravello for the afternoon and return to Amalfi by foot. Not to be advised in flip-flops!
Friday, July 2
And I haven't even been watching Doctor Who.
I suppose it's the nearing date of my departure from Italy. Another American family holiday missed. A windowless bedroom compounded with sleeping with my bed-hog son... I'm carrying a whole lot of unexpressed anxiety around in my chest, so I guess I deserve octopus brains.
Plus I saw a sack of dying octopi on the beach today. Yea, that probably didn't help either.
So what does a pilgram do when she has a claustrophobic dream? First she gets the hell out of the cave/bedroom. The balcony is a good place to breathe. She switches beds with her husband. She listens to the "Stranger than Fiction" soundtrack. And when she still feels restless, she escapes into the blogsphere for a bit.
Yep, feeling much better now.
Thursday, July 1
It takes a few weeks, but it eventually stops
As the rubber gasps and cracks its back
Waking from its slumber
I can relate
We sleep in deep comas unable to resist the plunge
The sun shreds the treads of our control, the lucidity
And squeaky beds, aged sheets cradle us to our rest
And I wake from that sleep with a clear head
but with a body that feels like it's been tenderized.
Hammered limp by the volcanic earth and salt.
Blue sky, bells, and clatter in the square
Birds that call "you who" all morning to the clatter of the square...
I guess it's time to wake up.
And we stumble out of our hospice like drunken babies
Sweet milk drooling from our mouths, the perfect image of contentment
Letting pickle jars catch our leaks...
Just give us a few weeks
Tuesday, June 29
A year ago I wasn't happy with how things were going in Italy. I loved my family life, I loved the culture and our city, but I needed more. I hadn't bonded with anyone after two years and that frustrated me. I realized that if I were to leave then, no one would miss me and I'd hardly miss them. And I set out to change that.
I quit my job and dove back into Italian classes. I spent my free time working the beginning of friendships I had and left behind the ones that sapped my life. I reached out more and pushed myself harder. And it worked.
I got that heartache I was looking for. Am I sick somehow to want this? I feel torn apart at having to move away from my friends in Italy. I want to cling to them and see them everyday, share their joys and sorrow. Sometimes I feel I can't possibly move away.
But I also feel lucky and joyful. I love these people and I'm looking forward to that feeling of welcome and warmth when I return to this northern most town in northern Italy. I'm tearing myself out of that cocoon of sorrow that keeps wrapping up around me. Part of me wants to hide away and disappear... and I won't let myself do that anymore. I suppose that was something I did in high school. Friends carry too much value for me now, and not that I can't live without them, but I don't want to.
Wednesday, June 23
For me, it's many things at the moment. This beautiful city that beat me against closed doors for so long, and then finally showed me the side way in. Generous friends that didn't back down from the language barriers, who kept urging me to claw my way through. Gentle teachers that I found so abrasive from the start. And even the regular faces that took months to soften their expressions from scowls to kind recognition.
Saying goodbye makes me appreciate all the work that we have done to feel at home here. It really does feel like home, and I know that I will have a flood of good feelings come rushing back when we visit in the future.
And an especially sweet goodbye to a blogging friend who has recently passed. Bobbie was one of my biggest supporters and spread jewels of wisdom and beauty into my life. She always made note of the bright side of things. A woman much after my own heart. I will truly miss hearing her written voice. My sincere condolences go out to her family, especially her daughter Kitty.
Friday, June 11
We're sorting this evening and it's going slowly. I'm still freaking out a little as Tuesday seem to be quickly approaching and more and more activities get crammed into the space between now and then. I need to collect my thoughts.
The shipping costs break down to $3.85/lb. With that figure in my head, I'm "weighing" carefully whether or not something stays or goes. Even things that I never questioned keeping before, like books are getting the boot now. National Geographics... bye bye. Egg, Dairy, Wheat Free Cooking... uh, see ya! I'm not looking forward to piling up the books from the library.
The kids are sorting too and started out really well. But then I started pulling things out of closets that they haven't seen in a while and suddenly the pile is growing. I think I'm going to have to make some cuts behind their backs. But I don't think it's fair for me to rank the importance of their things. I'm allowing things like the giant shark tooth shaped piece of drift wood that Punkone has had on his nightstand for the past two years...
I keep reminding myself how excessive everything seemed when it arrived here from the states. We let them ship everything thinking that a recreation of their home would give them a sense of stability. They didn't need it. It was like an excessive Christmas as box after box of toys was opened, remembered and then set aside.
They've changed so much in three years. Instead of a two foot high play table, we're thinking of setting them up with desks. The donation pile keeps growing with word puzzles and animal lotto and non-slip step stools.
One thing I can say for moving is that it gives you an opportunity to shed old skin and show off some new and vibrant colors.
Thursday, June 10
I think I can
Moving date is scheduled for June 15th. I'm hoping this is a good sign.
See, 15 is my lucky number. For a long time it was just because I was born on the 15th.
When deciding due dates for my daughter the calender said the 10th and the ultrasound said the 20th so I said, "let's just make it the 15th."
She was born on the 15th. 45 minutes after my water broke weighing 10lbs even (no, not 15) but without a scratch on Mommy. I felt pretty darn lucky that day.
My husband's Mom, wife, and daughter were all born on the 15th. He's lucky too.
So, moving date scheduled, pre-pack survey done and I decide I've got a bone to pick with the moving company. We booked the move right before we took off for Sicily. I had one other quote come in higher than them, so decided to just count our losses and sign. Contract signed, scanned, sent and we're off for Sicily. For those of you who have never moved overseas, let's just say the move is more expensive than almost anything you can put in that box.
Week later come back to emails to find quote number three... a whopping $1300 dollars LOWER than who we've signed with. Ugh.
Upon closer inspection, it turns out that not only is this quote for the same services, but it's almost entirely handled by the same companies!!! There's the Italian start, a big ship in the middle and the US end. Only difference is the final mover in California. In fact, we booked our move with the central player (the trans-atlantic) part of the Q3's plan.
So I call up our mover to ask what's the dealy-O and he spews something about XYZ Port fees not being included and then Q3 says they are included and then I go back to our mover with something along the lines of figure out how to sort this out there or I'll cancel and rebook with Q3.
Mover lops $1100 off the original quote. Apologizes for not being able to match but hopes I'll accept the new quote.
Since when did $1000 dollars become something so trivial? This is amazing to me. And I have to tell you that it was difficult to accept the revised quote. I felt like I'd been scammed. Why didn't they offer that in the first place? Is there a softball team somewhere that won't get matching jerseys after all?
Since school has let out I forget what day it is. Feels like a Tuesday but I'm pretty sure that's not right. I need my planner now more than ever.
To illustrate, Punkone served us breakfast this morning. He has a "no clothes, no service" policy (it was posted on the kitchen door). This is because his sister and I spend the morning in our underwear. I think all the lack of scheduling around here is really getting to him.
Wednesday, June 9
Seems like the perfect word for "moving". Think of it as "trans-crazy."
There are more than just a few crazy things about moving in Italy:
Unless you're renting a "furnished" apartment, the kitchen is yours and you need to buy and install it when you move in, and naturally, move it out when you leave. This is an insane waste of material, time, and money, but that's just the way it's done. If you happen to be reading this blog from Trento and you need a spiffy 3 year old kitchen at a great price, please let me know.
Light fixtures also go with you. When we moved in there were literally no lights wired in the house... just a bunch of live wires hanging from the walls and ceilings here and there. Another insane waste of time and money.
Offering used items to people seems to be taboo here. Apparently it's taken as an insult... you need to tread these waters carefully and with only the very intimate of friends lest someone take offense. From someone who is an avid hand-me-downer, garage sale and thrift shop scavenger hunter this cultural quirk is hard to understand.
No garage = no garage sales
No thrift shops
Internet sites advertising sale of used items are not as hot here as they are in the states. We've posted everything with little to no interest. The only items I've been able to sell are to other expats.
This leaves me with the last resort option of calling the local church and asking them if they can find a family who needs all our furniture, electronics, and outgrown clothes. I'm not a big fan of this as accepting these kinds of donations usually comes with the expectation that you're a member of the church. I'd feel better about helping someone without the underlying (or explicit) expectation that they subscribe to a particular faith. However, it's still much better than leaving it next to the dumpster.
The other can of worms that I'm dealing with right now is reapplying for my husband's green card. The department of homeland security is SO much fun.
Waaaa... I can hear you all crying out for my dire situation and I couldn't leave you like that. There-there... There is a nice shiny silver lining to my rain cloud: We just finished a week of sailing around the islands of Sicily...
Wednesday, May 26
And when he gets on that home stretch, that last day or two of driving, he comments that this was one of those times when the journey ends before the trip is done. He was no longer interested in observing and probing and trying to take in the vibes of the places he was driving through. He just wanted to get home.
I feel like that now. I'm trying to stay present and let myself keep falling in love with Italy. For example, if only you could just hear the sound of the birds they have here. The rondine fill the background city sounds with an organic softness. It's indescribable. On it's own you might say it's a high pitched whistle, but it's more than that. It echos off the buildings as they bank from under the roof overhangs. A light brilliant layer to the lower sound of voices, bikes and footsteps in the morning. I love opening up the windows to these sounds everyday.
And getting lost in the Alps. Last weekend we decided to take the scenic route home from lake Como, headed for the wrong mountain pass, which ended up being closed and had to take a detour through Switzerland. Incredibly beautiful mountains like none I'd ever seen before. And I loved it, but in a bitter sweet way. Like watching something new and beautiful in the final hours. You're in awe, but in the back of your mind, you know the end is near.
Of course I'm also excited. I'm going home to the US, beautiful California and a job I have missed. I'm looking forward to being able to call my parents during my morning commute... reconnecting made easier simply because of a change in time zone. Feeling that American pulse again. And I'm clearing out the accumulated crap from our house. I love simplifying and shedding the excess. And I'm excited to see the next few months in Italy unfold. I'm looking forward to sailing and Amalfi, but trying desperately to not let the heartache of moving away cloud the days.
Wednesday, May 19
Herding the punks off to school
Through palace doors
Over marble floors
We do things like take out the trash
Well child check-ups
Shoe laces tied in double knots
Mop up milky cheerios
And shake the sand out of our shoes
Shuttered charm and markets
Sustain the modern buzz
of iPhones and pilates
Tempering it well with organic sustenance
Feeding that part of us that we didn't think we needed
Like the dust from backward small towns left behind
Italy doesn't give you that option
There's no leaving behind, no forgetting
And the whole of time stays with you
Tuesday, May 18
So I need to purge. This isn't going to be beautiful or poetic. I can't get any where near that though without airing things out first. Please excuse the mess.
Our decision to return to the states is based on both rational and emotional reasons. We came here with the understanding that the "worst case scenario" was actually pretty good. We'd get to dive into my husband's culture for a few years and learn Italian. My job was graciously put on hold and my husband's looked like a thrilling adventure. If it bombed, we'd simply move back to a life that we loved in California.
SO that's what's happening. And rationally it's all good. Our tenants in our house in CA happen to be returning to their home country in June, freeing it up in perfect timing for us. Even the stress of uprooting the punks seems to be going reasonably well thus far. Goodbye parties are being planned, friends consoled...
So why am I in such a funk?
I'm realizing that I am much more attached to this life than I imagined. Also, this move seems much more final to me. I dreamed for years and years to live abroad one day. Now I've done it and it's coming to an end. I'll move back to the US, slip back into my job, hike, visit the ocean, garden and eat great Indian food... all things that I loved doing before. Things that I miss. But I'm finding now that I don't want it the way it was before. I want it to be more than that. This experience needs to have changed something about where my life goes from here.
And in recent days I guess I am starting to believe that it will be different because we're different. We'll see things differently and do things in a different way. God I hope so. Otherwise it feels like it was all for nothing.
Wednesday, May 12
It sort of spun out a comment that a friend of mine made not long ago. She told me that she "adored" the way I expressed myself in Italian and that I should write much more before I learned too much of the language. It seemed a curious comment to me, but peaked my interest nonetheless. The kick came last night when I found myself awake at night, spilling out lines of a poem in my head, in Italian. And I thought, well, why not?
I linked to the blog on my sidebar under "siamo qui" (we're here).
Monday, May 10
I think I've gone and hopped right off it
I've let myself dive into the persistent cloud-cover,
feeling the gray and gloomy days.
While lush mountains with their woolly green coats
flock the sulking Shepard.
Who sits on her rock and consoles her heart
drawing rivers with a stick in the mud
You see, the earth and the rain are playing a game
coaxing this crab from her shell.
For sit long enough on the most comfortable rock
and your bony ass will get sore
And your numb bum and the soft filtered sun
will cause you to stretch and to eye (unawares)
Whereupon Mother Kesey and her gang of merry pranksters
Swiftly sneeze you into the sky.
Saturday, May 1
And turns out, that it's a pretty good adjective for how I've been feeling lately. Glipmar 'bout sums it up perfectly.
See, we've decided to end our time in Italy.
So I'm inside out. I feel excited about what lies ahead. I feel sad about leaving Italy behind. I'm looking forward to time with old friends and already missing the time I've had with the new. Both happy and sick about the coming weeks ahead, weeks of getting rid of everything we won't ship, sailing the Sicilian seas, packing, and the joy of Amalfi. It all lies ahead in one giant ball of stress. I've gotten so far ahead of myself that it's paralyzed my ability to live one day at a time.
Saturday, April 24
Scanning faces for that look. Not knowing what she looks like at all, but only that you've decided to meet in this park. The kids take in the playground and you take in the scattered mothers. No one meets you with that same look of expectation and they're quickly dismissed.
And then you see her walking toward you from across the grass. Like an angel. She and her papoose in a scarlet wrap and the three older children move with her like ducklings. And you adore her already.
Some friendships grow with time, linger and it's the sum of experience that builds their importance in your life. But this one erupted with intensity and passion. You permit yourself to be consumed and savor every moment of it. Her strength and beauty. That smile that comes from happiness of years gone by, so genuine it pierces you. We shared in our trials and joys at natural parenting, marriage to non-American men, and living abroad. Language and education and exploring this mad world with our children.
3 months passes fast in love. The purest of feel good hugs. Calling across the park with our final goodbyes. And that melancholic sigh when we realize our schedules are suddenly empty once again.
Friday, April 23
I've come across arguments for both. In the Smart Guide to studying in the USA site they explain personal space as a cultural difference and advise new comers to avoid closing the gap when someone backs away from them or touching someone during a conversation.
I know for certain that this personal space is a much smaller area in Italy. Almost non-existent. It is standard practice to lean against the person in front of you while waiting in line. If you inch forward they just slide right up on you. Or they will be so close that you're certain they're trying to smell your neck or rob you.
And while you (ie, me) are freaking out, they think nothing of it. Not a synapse of alarm or seduction or malice fires in their brains. They're just standing in line.
But then I read a study published in Time that found that the personal definition of personal space was controlled by a portion of the brain called the amygdalae. The found that people with healthy amygdalae had a personal space of about 2 ft. while a woman who happened to have severe damage to this region of the brain was comfortable with half the distance.
Does that suggest that cultures with little or no sense of personal space lack developed amygdalae?
Maybe we could add it to their milk... like vitamin D. Sure would make buying tickets for the movie feel a lot less like going to a rave.
On the other hand, it might be nice to not be bothered by someone's arm around your shoulder, or being able to speak more discretely with the people around you. Huh... I wonder if this is why Americans are so loud.
Thursday, April 22
Sunday, April 18
Wednesday, April 14
Or maybe you've been that local and found yourself caught up in the eagerness of a visitor passing though. A friend or relative that has a list of places they must see. And for a few days you catch that exploration fever and your commute and grocery shopping and weeds to pull in the garden are forgotten.
My husband, for instance, lived in Rome his whole life and never visited the Vatican Museums or the catacombs until I dragged him there. And it's not that he wasn't interested. It's just that when you live in a place, you don't feel that urgency. You figure you'll see them eventually, but never get around to it. And thirty years slips by.
Why is this? It's a question of time and how we experience it. When it's been sectioned off and rationed out, we feel it slipping away. It always passes at exactly the same speed, but we generally don't notice unless we're told that we only have so much of it.
When I moved to California the first time, it was for a three month internship. I had three months and I went somewhere new every weekend. I saw as much of that state in those three months as I did in the five years that I lived there later in my life.
So, having observed this, I try to trick myself into being the tourist every now and then. I tell myself, "this is the only April 15th 2010 you'll ever have!!! Is there anything you'd like to do today?" or "If I were going to leave this beautiful place in, say 6 weeks, what would I want most to do?" It gives me just enough kick to get out of my lazy comfort zone and get out on the weekend or finally invite those friends over for dinner.
Insert your favorite soap opera title,
Saturday, April 10
But I don't have a dog.
I have punks.
And I've been thinking a lot lately about the ratio of grown-up to lil'punk years. It's not so simple to understand.
They're clearly different. I can remember finding it nearly impossible to utter the phrase "nineteen eighty." It seemed like the planet had been knocked off axis when teacher informed us that it was no longer seventy-nine. What was the world coming to? And I'd struggle to wrap my aural cavity around eighty without gagging. Seventy nine was so smooth. Had the world gone mad?
And the monumental leap that every birthday brought. The wait for Christmas. Or recess. These memories cause me to speculate that it must be at least 10 kid years to every grownup year. And how much of who we are is defined by those first 10-20 years? Do you think I'm crazy? Letting nostalgia run amuck? Of course, those are the "formative years." Maybe think about it this way... How much does the 9th year weigh in relation to the 39th?
Some thirty years later I could tell you some good stories about my 9th year. My youngest brother was born. I remember the camping trip when my parents told me and my two younger brothers that we were going to have a new sibling. And the bets were immediately placed between my brothers and I. They wanted another brute to gang up on me with. I wanted a sister I could play dress up with.
I remember spending the evening with my Aunt DD when my Mom and Dad went to the hospital. She had finally piled us into the car to take us to her house to spend the night when my Dad pulled into the driveway. I jumped out of the car and he yelled "It's a boy!" I was so pissed.
And I remember taking the new brother to school for show and tell. I remember our third grade play. Being asked to decorate props instead of reading a part because I just couldn't speak up loud enough. I remember being in love with Chris Kirby (he was the lead) and hanging out every day with him and Jason on the playground. Playing "heart and soul" on the piano.
It all gets a bit diluted when you're a grown up. Memories come in terms of decades or eras. In my twenties, our college days, or when I was dating Garth. And now I'm thinking... worrying (I never worry) about this weight of three years and how it feels to me and how it might feel to my punks. We've both been thrown into this new culture and soaked it up in different ways. I think to a greater extent they've just lived their lives. They've gone to school and had the birthdays and Christmas' and the long wait for recess. And I've done some of that too. But at the same time I don't think I ever lost this sense of being in another world. And if I had, could I leave it behind? What chunk of their lives are we forcing them to part with? What fills up their hearts and what will be carried with them for the rest of their lives? It's 3 years for me. Three amazing years. What's that weigh in punk years?
Thursday, April 8
When I was pregnant with my first punk I devoured all the information I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. I felt this need to be the healthiest I could be, make the right choices, and most of all, not screw it up. Fortunately, I was at the university when I found out I was pregnant and the only book on pregnancy the university bookstore had to offer was an anthropological study on birth in ancient cultures. It was about the inherent wisdom of women who know how to listen to their bodies and are supported by their communities. I'm thankful that this was the book that preceded all others that I would read in the coming months. Because, quite frankly, all the others are full of a lot of stress inducing garbage. It wasn't until my second pregnancy when I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth that I finally found the information I was searching for.
And that was the sum total of her nutrition advice: eat food.
And this simplicity can be found in my other rules of thumb...
For health : eat food, drink water, sleep. Sit up straight.
Career: Do what you love.
Housekeeping: If you don't love it or use it, get rid of it.
Of course I don't have all the answers. Good gracious I'm only just 37. My family life has it's ups and downs, my cholesterol gets high, my back curves like a snake. But I like these kind of simple steps. Even ones like love is worth fighting for. That means the right thing for me now. I used to think it was a cowardly excuse for war. It's not. It's more about believing in yourself and being honest.
I like the sun warming and music and hugs. Simple things.
Maybe that's what I'm still looking for. Sometimes simple things are difficult to see.
Wednesday, March 31
they're doing the usual things
growing tough and strong
as their little clay pots
brought one home today
to show mom and dad
his handmade creation
in the bottom of a bag
he told me how someone
laughed when it shattered
and asked for some superglue
but didn't seem like it mattered
and during errands today
we bought some more clay
and the kids set to it
cause he just couldn't glue it
preoccupied by messes
and being quite the hag
I take no time to notice
the shattered pot in the bag
nor the one on the table
that dries for tomorrow
he's balled it up
his heart full of sorrow
he falls asleep in the bed
and my regret lingers...
now I need help getting
superglue off my fingers
**aka: I suck
Tuesday, March 30
The one in the group of black trench coats staring at the clouds.
The window with the beaded curtains.
The pink houses.
The neon tights.
I smile at the portico capped with rusted iron angles.
The bimbo who wipes the gelato from nonno's chin.
Cherry blossoms at the bus stop.
Crazy curly frizzy hair.
Enormous orange hats.
Just when I'm feeling that I am the odd one out,
I look up and notice someone or something distinctly different,
The wonderful quirks that we humans bring to light,
That set things off,
But make it quite right.
Monday, March 29
Spring, degenerating health, and ants in my pants got me out for not one, but two runs this weekend. Punkette on pink wheels came along to keep me company while M and Punkone set off further afield.
So I lace up my shoes, pull down the bike, and she and I wound our way through the city streets. Down the street, right through the alley, across the park, under the tracks, two more blocks and we find the bike path.
Punkette's chattering dances across the steady beat of my feet on the pavement. Mixing up my usual rhythm. "Why do bees like bright colors?" she asks, reflecting upon their attraction for her fluorescent yellow t-shirt. I make something up about all the bright colors in nature being flowers. That the bees have evolved to recognize bright colors because that was where they always found the pollen they needed. That it was only just recently that people started confusing them with crazy colored t-shirts.
"Let's talk of the things of nature" she says in an awkwardly translated Italian. Its something she's learned in school and I ask her to explain what she means in Italian. That I'm sure I'll understand. She doesn't look convinced, but proceeds.
And we run and bike, side by side and sweating, I quiz her... The game is to say if something is natural or fabricated. We quickly arrive at the crossroads of the wooden post, which is fabricated, but made of wood, which is natural.
She enjoys this and I'm distracted from my tiring muscles. Their outraged cry at the past months of neglect. "What are you doing to us?!?!" is muffled by this curly headed punk on pink wheels.
But I sense a lull in her enthusiasm for the ride so I point out a far off cluster of trees. I tell her that there is a bench near those trees and that it would be a perfect spot for a break. Again she doesn't seem convinced (when did my children begin to doubt me so much!?!).
Then I cut her off at the start of "I can't..." and offer to set her up with the mp3 player. To this she lights up. And we race ahead, my body's cries for mercy drowned out by Punkette's repeated renditions of "Lollipop!"
She does the "sassy" Mika part really well.
Tuesday, March 23
Basically I walked along this path and kept hanging my camera over the side to see what I could find...
I noticed that the buds became more and more open as I headed up river...
I was surprised to see this little guy out as it wasn't particularly sunny or warm. Guess he was just stretching his legs (the lizard I mean).
Monday, March 22
Also, I am putting together something special for tomorrow's random thoughts.
Little bit of love,
Standing centered dance floor
And hand made fortune cookies
Send him to the wrong brown hair blue eyes.
I felt like crap but I didn't know
The worst was yet to come
And that the worst is actually the best
That bleeding is vital
I'm a fool, a tool, face down in the pool
Following risk into the dark
Because it's the thing that feels right
And feeling right makes me smile
Too much joy to be had
Love to be lost in
To be worried about the hurt
After joy moves on and love dies.
So leave me standing, the fool
Laugh at my inexperience, the tool
Just choose you're own fate
And leave me to dance with mine
Friday, March 19
I'm not one to complain too much about winter and cold and gray skies. These things always seem to give me a little buzz of latent childhood excitement. But WOW, this warm fresh air, windows open, short sleeves and skirts kind of weather is AWESOME.
It makes me want to exercise.
It makes me sing to myself as I zip through the streets.
I find myself tossing 2 euro coins in musician's baskets.
Playing hide-and-seek with wild abandon.
And literally hopping out of bed in the morning cause I'm so thrilled to see the bright blue sky.
Tuesday, March 16
The rambunctious swarm
Black tights and hairspray
Somehow you're left out today
The velocity of growth
Hasn't yet finished it's work
The stunning looks hit your eyes
But you're still just a child
In your hoodie, your lavender backpack
Trying desperately to twist the joy of youth
Into something you're not sure of... how does this work exactly?
"Please, do you have any change?"
And where is the man that was holding that sign yesterday?
Is there an empty seat in a classroom somewhere today?
What horrors come to coerce you into this post?
If only the change could be
Never holding that foul sign again
Never pausing on corners, but to laugh
Arms slung over the shoulders of friends
Please go look at these pictures that tell a small part of the story of the Roma Gypsies.
Thursday, March 11
But we went to Milan yesterday. The weather was beautifully crappy... snowy, wet, but not too cold. We were going there to get a new passport for Punkette. I tried to add as much excitement as possible to the adventure by filling out the application in the car on the way there, realizing that I didn't have her social security number nor did I remember the address of her emergency contact. Weee!!!
And getting into the embassy was SO MUCH FUN!!! You can't bring ANYTHING in with you. Seriously, we had to go find a Mailboxes Etc. to lock up my purse for an hour. Punkone had to put his chapstick in a little locker. Ok, they did let us keep our clothes on and enter with only the (incomplete) application and our passports. It was a riot.
The guys on the inside were soft (wiggle, jiggle) as jello though. I was really expecting much more of the third degree, but they were all super nice and let us get away with all kinds of silliness. I think they've got the guards fooled as to what really goes on in there.
And I made this goofy video. No, nothing remotely related to the embassy... I really wasn't interested in finding out what might happen if I attempted something like that. No way. It's just some fun randomness and discovery. Hope you like it.
Tuesday, March 9
This one is in Venice. I don't live here, but I love the way squares fill up like this in Italy. I also liked the matching hat/pants combo on the person in the foreground.
This is a square close to my house on Sunday.
Can you see the silence?
It's nice to get out just to do nothing.
Monday, March 8
Punkone had a rough day which did not seem to get better with the standard good listening and nodding. I had to pull out all the stops and apply hugging and kissing his neck until he giggled.
Punkette is a ball of energy, positive and directed today despite the insanely crappy state of her shoes. Or maybe because of this. Who knows what floats this girls boat. I'm just happy when she's happy.
I added to the flatness of my ass catching up with Bluebird's Mixed Tapes. I'm justifying this by swearing on the Festa della Donna that I'll put it to good use on my mp3 player and go for a long hike/run tomorrow.
Friday, March 5
Today it's the old man with the smiling blue eyes. He sits on his low stool and rocks and nods as the song unfurls it's way into my ears. This alone is Italy for me. This makes everything... Having my life set to sound brings a cinematic quality to it. Intensifies and brings weight to passing moments, gone more swiftly than the notes clinging to the air.
A coin toss a day that goes with a wish. That you'll be here again tomorrow.
Thursday, March 4
And they did. The Italians loved Grandma Nestle's chocolate chip cookies. Bambini and Mamme were hitting me up for the recipe after school. I was all the rage. Of course such a long standing family tradition cannot be divulged lightly. Next thing you know, you'll find it posted on the internet, or worse, printed right on the packages of chocolate chips! (Don't look now, but there is an empty package of chocolate chips tucked away in my recipe book just for this reason.)
Take that Italy! You may kick ass in pasta and saltimboca (prociutto and sage wrapped veal bites that "jump (salt) in (im) your mouth (boca)" ), but US Americans take the cookie!!!
Okay, enough ra ra. I don't even like Nestle'. Boo Nestle. Go steal their recipie but get your chocolate from somewhere else.
The party was a hit. The comment from one of the kids upon spying the tray of "ants on a log" was (translated) "I don't know what that is, but the prociutto sandwiches are good." As a result, we had ants on a log for dinner and have enough left over for snack today.
My only issues were getting some of the kids to keep their shirts on easily solved by innocently proposing that I call up their Mamma and ask if it's okay and breaking up kissing sessions. Yea, apparently a couple of these punks are "dating" and entertain their peers with extended kissing. They reportedly only got to 3 seconds yesterday. Seeing as they've gotten to 20 seconds on the school playground, I feel like I've adequately performed my duties as the parent in charge.
Ahh, the joys of 3rd grade.
Tuesday, March 2
Thank you body. It was not enough that I was up all night with a vomiting child. The migraine is really the
Speaking of cake, said puky punk has a birthday party tomorrow. So, not only is he home today
I'm praying that I
This morning he walked halfway to the bathroom and... well it was too gross to say. I can usually handle gross, but apparently migraines and grossness don't mix well. Or punkone has taken grossness to a whole new level. Today I'm doing this mothering gig simply because I have to. There is no joy in it for me. Something is stirring up from inside of me, but it's not joy.
Yes, Mom, I do remember a certain girl scout trip when I was similarly afflicted and the only bathroom facilities were an outhouse. (Seriously, an outhouse? There's no charm in using an outhouse) I guess all I can say is, thanks. I hope you didn't have a migraine.
The only thing to do now is clean up and move on. Repeat. Joy will come another day.
Friday, February 26
walking - is my salvation. Simple, continuous walking. It brings depth to my daily routine and provides just the right amount of physical distraction to release mental tension.
time alone with M - the positive nurturing impact of time alone with my husband surprised me. I didn't think it could make such a difference in our relationship.
stretching - I love the release, the breath, and the pause that I get from stretching and I do it many many times a day. It not only releases built up muscle tension, but gives me just a few isolated moments to center my mind and refocus.
soup and a sandwich - as amazing as fine cuisine can be, I think I still feel the most nurtured by a hot bowl of soup and a toasted sandwich.
sailing - pure bliss... I must move in a direction that brings much more sailing into my life. Everything from scraping mollusks off the bottom to oiling the topside teak... from leaving port to dropping anchor (what a torture)... I feel completely at ease with the world when I'm sailing.
writing - nurtures me by allowing me to purge my soul. Writing the words helps me to process things and reveals new ways to think about them. It's almost as if another (usually wiser, more stable) person is writing to me. I always feel renewed after writing.
music - always and any way music. Listening to albums, the radio, my children playing it, the artists on the street, in clubs... music immediately lifts my spirits. Music lets me tap into hidden pockets of energy... I can run twice as far, play twice as hard or transform a bad day into a good one just by listening to music.
weather - Rain, hot sun, thunderstorms, summer breezes and snow storms are my favorites, but I'm thankful for it all.
a clean house - I originally wrote, cleaning house... and there's something to that. The whole process of keeping a home feels nurturing to me. Creating a space that feels good is so important and in the end, nurtures us.
hugs - I like the warmth and the density of a hug and physically holding on to the people I care about. I fall into hugs, feeling the expansion of your lungs, absorbing the rhythm of your heart.
family - There's something wonderful about being with someone related to me. That comfortable understanding that you love each other without any explanation. I feel very much at ease when I'm with my family. I need to work harder at keeping in touch with them... but my heart is always open for them.
being in transit - is a meditation for me and I feel very much at peace while in transit. What's that saying, "life's a journey, not a destination"? Everything from buses, cars, boats, trains and airplanes... I'll settle in and find the rhythm of travel. The way the earth passes by. The people with me. Or what's really going on in my head. I always find something new along the way.
dancing - everywhere, anywhere dancing is a joyful expression of my already upbeat mood... and pumps me up even a bit more. I feel high when I'm dancing. I love to interrupt my day by cranking up the stereo and completely throwing myself into some funky dancing.
comfortable stylish clothes - a bit materialistic perhaps, but in a culture where clothes are a necessity, I definitely feel nurtured by clothing made of beautiful fabrics, textures and colors.
seeking the truth in my friends - trying to figure out what's really behind "fine, thanks"... it's so easy to just skim the surface of our relationships, I like to push things and dive a bit deeper.
the ocean - I love being near the ocean, to breathe the ocean air, feel the wind, the sounds, and especially the smell of the ocean. I treasure the days when I can literally spend hours in the salt water... I go to sleep after such a day feeling the rise and fall of the waves.
climbing - I haven't done this since my kids were born and I miss it. I miss the physical exertion, the adrenaline, (the scraped arms and legs, salty sweat, muscle twitch) and the sense of accomplishment and relief when you finally reach the top of a difficult climb.
buying my food from farmers - maybe it's mental, but my food tastes better when I get it from a market. I enjoy it more and I eat more raw fruits and vegetables. I feel physically nurtured by this food when I eat it, praise it, and enjoy ingesting every bite.
fresh air - of course this goes with many of the other things that nurture me, but when push comes to shove I'll feel better just opening the windows.
If you enjoyed this please visit the beautiful Braja at Lost and Found in India to find out what she and others are nurtured by... and add your own 20 things!