Saturday, April 24

finding your tribe

When strangers meet, there is that nervous anticipation. Wondering what this person will be like when they open their mouth. When they meet your eyes. The online forum where you met suggested that you should have some of the same ideals, after all, how many shades of breastfeeding, co-sleeping mothers are there? Rainbows! You're screaming inside. Nervous excitement. Hope. You realize how alone you've felt since you moved abroad. You're nervous that you're pinning too many hopes on the kismet coincidence that this woman happens to be passing through the same town you've run off to. After all, you don't want to scare her away with over-eagerness. She might think you're some kind of freak.

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

a little space please...

Personal space is an interesting thing. This invisible zone that no one is allowed to enter except for a very brief greeting. The zone reserved for only the most intimate of our relationships. And the vast majority of people get this. Is it something hard wired in our brains? Or is it cultural?

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

la prima cosa e' di amarlo

The first thing is to love it.
Happy Earth Day.

Love, SP

Sunday, April 18

sacred space

When you live in the city
Even one with plenty of parks
When you don't have a yard
Or driveway...

I recently obtained access to an outdoor basketball court. Punkone and I are loving it.

Wednesday, April 14

Seize the Day!

Have you ever noticed when you are on vacation or staying for a limited period of time in someplace new, how you gobble up all the place has to offer? You go to the museums, a new cafe everyday, wander down hidden trails, and basically turn over every rock you can get your mugs on. And, perhaps in your enthusiasm, you might befriend a local. And in your first conversations you discover that they have never seen that famous gallery or bothered to stop at the historical society.

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

the weight of time

There seems to be a standard rule for the relationship of people years to dog years. I guess it helps people to understand where their dogs are at in their lives.
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

eat food

Most secrets to getting healthy are painfully obvious when you discover them, but have somehow become hidden by our modern way of life. It's so simple: eat food, drink water, sleep, and do what you love. How is it that these simple rules have become mantras or radical lifestyle choices?

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.