Tuesday, December 22

and finally... ... ... joy

The blues seem to have haunted me this year
Exercising their grip at my throat
A weight on my back
Making me restless
and, well, forced.
And I've been pounding at it
With markets
And baking
And music
A tree
And it's stayed cemented right there.
Damn blues.

But today
Something is different
Lifted, l i g h t e r .
It's more than
Presents wrapped a smile in M's eye snow boots cards singing celebration laughter and knowing you love me
More than these things
I wish I knew what
I feel like love finally won
And has taken over my heart
Painting my face with a victory smile
Dancing with joy and bursting with light
I feel like finally I can say... and feel most sincerely
I Merry love Christmas you

See you again in 2010.
-Strange Pilgram

Wednesday, December 16

let's zap their brains

The punks and I had a really wonderful walk home from the dentist today. The temperature has dropped dramatically in the past two days. So cold, my nose hairs are freezing up and Punkette retrieved a stick from under a pile of leaves that had patches of frost on it. She was delighted to discover how cold it felt. What a goofball, that one.

Our walk from the dentist takes us first along the river. The Alto-Aldige. I think you can see blurry bits of it on the side of my background image. Yea! Did you know that was an actual map of my surroundings? Pretty cool. Anyway, the Alto-Aldige is a big rough looking river. The kooks around here have raft races down the river in the early summer, right when I'm sure it must be at it's most dangerous levels. Now it's at least 5 feet lower, and still has some pretty nasty looking currents.

But it's a wonderful walk. Lots of trees and the sun coming down into the valley. It's our last half-day off together before Christmas break so we decided to go somewhere special for lunch. Chinese. Just over on the home side of the river.

Lunch was uneventful other than that we ordered from their Sushi menu and it was DEEE-LICIOUS and I adore the family that owns the restaurant. They always take the time to chat with us about how we're adjusting to life here. One of the women even taught the kids how to fold the napkins into sailboats.

From the restaurant our walk wanders through downtown toward where we live on the other side. People are returning to work and shops are opening up after the pausa. We're window shopping for gift ideas. This included a drool session over where they have the 480 euro Lego Death star. I swear it was only 450 last time we saw it.

So the kids are dreaming up fantasy Christmas gifts... Punkone comes up with a list that would knock St. Nick back about a thousand bucks. But Punkette knocked it out of the park.

Her idea was inspired by the sight of someone tossing their cigarette into the drain. She goes into her rant... Why do they throw their cigarettes into the drain? That's for water! It's not a garbage! That's why the ocean is full of all that gross garbage! (gee... I wonder where she picked that up?)

And then the idea unfolds: I want Santa to bring me a secret zapper for Christmas. One that I can hide from everyone in my hands. Then when I see someone who throws their cigarettes into the drain I'll use it to zap their brains. I'll zap them just a little bit so that they start throwing their cigarettes into the garbage. I'll change their brains so they won't want to throw their garbage where the water goes anymore. They can still smoke cigarettes if they want. I won't zap them too much.

Now I have to admit that I'm always encouraging my kids to utilize their imaginations to solve problems. To think up crazy impossible things because someday it might be possible to invent such a thing. But, somehow I don't think mild brain alteration of litterbugs will come to pass.


Dedicated to Think Green Thursday, and to goofballs.

Tuesday, December 15

comes and goes

rain floods
that make us laugh
and cry
side aching joy
seasonal fruit
hope and inspiration
marital bliss
the morning bell
being pulled
by moon phases
fresh sheets
and the lack of
moments of
and too much time dwelling on
terrible twos or your teens
and now your neck
the first crash
first crush
or indifference
your mean streak
and team building skills
a beaming smile
surprise birthday cake
and a big bear hugs
family too
With all in this world
comes and goes
It's so nice to have met you.

Monday, December 14

swallowed in the sea

I have reached my capacity for things new. Just today. Maybe tomorrow, or the next day too, but I won't worry about that. It's hard to explain the depth to which you are out of your element when you move abroad. It is wonderful, exciting, educational, expansive... but I think this alien feeling must be general among people who move for an extended length of time to somewhere dramatically new. Or maybe it's just me. To find that there is a limit, and when you reach it, you just want to go "wee wee wee, all the way home."

It's more than troubles adjusting to a new language, food, or routines. It's in the undercurrent of the culture. A foundation that doesn't support you no matter how hard you try to adapt. There's no footing, no traction. I feel like I'm always slipping, sliding, floating... there's nothing solid to hold on to. And that's fun sometimes. Thrilling. But sometimes it makes you want to lash yourself to the nearest anchor and plunge yourself back to where you came from.

Just for the music... I love Coldplay these days.

Thursday, December 10

jumping the gun

There's nothing that drives me more nuts than presents in the closet. I do not have the capacity to not give something to someone once I've bought it for them. Well, I have occasionally been able to wait it out, but I'm sure my stomach digested itself a little bit every time. Seriously, I get a bit looney trying to keep things under wraps. It's so much better for me to just buy the gifts, like the hour day before.

But then last year I ran into the problem of the gifts I was looking for being sold out. And my habit of last minute shopping has taught me that this happens routinely. These small shops just don't have the space to stock items. If there's something specific you're looking for, it's absolutely best to just buy it at the first opportunity. So this year I decided to get some of the gifts a couple of weeks before Christmas.

I think my brain was in the right place, but my heart just wasn't capable of holding out for the actual day.

Did I make it? No. I already gave one of the gifts to Punkette. And I was literally sweating from the conflict inside me... fighting to not give up one of Punkone's as well. That battle is still going on (this post isn't helping) Ugh. Now, not only do I have to go shopping again, I've got to figure out something else to get.

Sometimes I'm definitely my own worst enemy.

Wednesday, December 9


Rasping weakly for air
You breathe in another time

Once chiseled from the flesh of stone
Now left soft, bleeding

Out your poetry
Wrapped in words, color and light

And water
That glorifies and damns

All at once

Venice close ups

I went to Venice for il ponte dell'Immacolata this past weekend. We rented an apartment and just took our time. I found myself at once obsessed. The whole city was decaying, crumbling and grey, yet, these spots of color were everywhere. Maybe they stood out so much because of the contrast. The dampness that penetrates everywhere. Seeping out of the walls, over the edges, ruthlessly eating away the foundations of this enchanted place.

How can a place be hopeful and helpless at the same time? I don't know, but somehow that's how Venice makes me feel.

Saturday, December 5

double take

Written Inc. has done it again. The thematic photo this week is different. It's about looking at things from a different point of view, or perhaps slightly off the beaten path. About seeing beyond the obvious and finding something, well, different.

While he took the vantage of taking a second look at an obvious photo spot, I decided to take a second look at something average.

An average street in my city:

Holding an unexpected burst of sunshine:

Try it ;)

Friday, December 4

it's a tough row to hoe kid

Little Punkette has been one stressed cookie these past days. In addition to loosing all her teeth, there's all the first grade BS to deal with. Having to wake up at 7 am after the night has inexplicably slipped away. Having to change her underwear EVERY DAMN DAY!!! Having to brush her teeth (wth, they fall out anyway Mom). And all the coloring they make her do at school (I have to agree with her, the amount of time they spend on coloring is ridiculous... I kept her home today just to give her some time to work on her reading for a change).

But today was especially tough. One of those roller coaster days where you're emotions are all over the place. I had to take Punkette in for a mandatory vaccination today. Yes, the "s" word. A shot.

So when we woke up the crew this morning, I thought I'd let her have an extra half hour to sleep. I was getting Punkone ready for a field trip and I figured the contrast of his soaring mood and her impending doom would be too much for her to bear. Punkone could barely abide by my wishes for him to not wake his lil sister and rub her face in it.

But then, we discovered it was SNOWING!!! Even at 36, I get a charge of adreniline when I see the first snow of the season. Punkone pounced on lil sis and they literally leaped to the window together. IT'S SNOWING! Happy happy joy joy.

Then, of course, he just had to remind her of the vaccination.

And the rest of the morning ensued. SNOW! shot SNOW! shot SNOW! shot. Poor kid was getting emotional whiplash.

So, yea, even though we were finished by 11 am, I let her blow off the rest of the day. She did read an entire book at the doctor's office; I really don't think missing an afternoon of coloring is going to set her back. And I know it's so tough being a kid... I have to try my best to give her more ups than downs.

happy days

Tuesday, December 1

contrary to popular belief kids love having their birthdays lumped together with other festivities

It's December! Woo Hoo!

December is all kinds of fun. First off, it's the most awesome month to be born in. Two of my brothers and I were all born in December and we always celebrated our birthdays together with one big party. It always felt extra special for us to share this day together.

Yea, look at me. I'm all about blowing out the candles. Look at those lungs! From across the table! Wait Ma, lemme back up a few more steps. Let's see if I can blow them out from outside the door. From the looks of it, this was birthday #6 for me, and numbers 4 and 1 for the little bros. Aren't they cute! Got to love the cowlicks. Yea, I always thought it was called a cow-lick and imagined that I got my forehead all slobbery licked up by a big cow tongue just after birth. What? Isn't that how they clean up the babies in the heartland?

Speaking of cute, check out Punkette's face. Yikes! She's loosing all her teeth! She lost a second one since I took this picture and she as another two that are loose. I sure hope Santa still brings front teeth for Christmas or this girl will have nothing but eggnog for Christmas dinner.

And that brings us to that timeless December question: What do you want for Christmas? Well, go no further than this monster hunk of awesomeness: The Lego Death Star

Punkone saw this in a shop window the other day and almost wet himself. Then I saw the price and almost wet myself. 450 EUROS!!! Holy crumbolie Lego. That's a lot of moola! What do you think Santa is made of? And don't try and sucker poor Santa into one of those interest only scams. We're wise to your evil ways Lego.

Wow. Never thought I'd accuse Lego of being evil. Sorry Lego, I take it back. Can we talk fixed rate, 30 year?

And Punkette, bless her soul; she wants a puzzle. A really hard one with about 100,000 pieces and a picture of a castle or something on it. She went just as bonkers over the thought of a new puzzle as Punkone went over the Death-of-our-savings Star. God love her.

This Christmas all she'll have to eat is egg nog. And nothing but a stinkin puzzle under the tree. Please send money to finance some dentures for our poor little Punkette. Dentures. Not the Death Star. This girl needs some teeth.*

*I'm joking. She doesn't need dentures. Bigger and better teeth are growing as we speak. Please don't send any money.**

**We will accept Legos though.

Monday, November 30

have fan, who's throwing sh*t?

I realized today, while getting to know someone
Over coffee, in the bookstore cafe
That I like the experience of enduring something
It gives me joy, the experience of uncertainty
The threat of disaster, even passing through it

I realized this when describing some of the things I've done
How they sounded very haphazard to the ears
It wasn't something I'd thought much about before
Until saying these stories, about small adventures
And the trill of unsure situations

Running out of gas on a empty prairie highway
Lost in the rain or sliding through an icy mountain pass
Sailing into the storm or buying at the peak of the market
Tutor a blind girl in chemistry lab
Or throw your heart out to someone just because you have a haunch
It's right

And seeing her eyes light up with the same excitement
Mud pits and wet socks, flat tires and vomit and ice storms
She laughed with me and concurred with the joy
That getting through it is the best part of life.
I think I like this woman.

Sunday, November 29

I had to go and open my big mouth

We got together will all the families of Punkette's first grade class last night. It was a casual gathering organized to meet each other. We arrived with a tin of Nestle' chocolate chip cookies I had baked (secret family recipe) and sat down for a few slices of pizza and chit-chat.

These kind of gatherings drive both Punkone and M absolutely out of their heads, so they quietly excused themselves shortly thereafter, leaving me in peace to chit and chat.

The conversation was facinating. There is no parking at the school, or bus service, so pick up and drop off is an absolute nightmare (we live 2 blocks away and walk... apparently most parents do not). The other children come home starving because the food that the cafeteria serves is horrible (I have to instruct my punks NO SECONDS!... I'm not sure what this says about my home cooking). And oh no... the English teacher is taking a two month vacation.

Well, again, this doesn't rank among my top concerns at the school. And then I casually say, "Maybe I should offer to fill in."

Well, the thing is, I have offered to help out with both my punks' classes when it came to the English curriculum. The school is always in desperate need of mother tounge English teachers, but they've always turned me down because I'm a parent. I bring in books and games for them to use, but I always figured there was some policy against any further involvement.

Well, these parents are determined to prove otherwise. They are uniting, and organizing, all to get me in the classroom. And I'm worried that it will work.

We'll see. I'm also excited at the chance. It could be something fun to do for a few weeks.

Can you tell I'm scared?

Saturday, November 28

growing cynical

Something has started to happen, and I hardly noticed it until one morning my dear M pointed it out to me on our way to get coffee after dropping the kids off from school. He said I was becoming conservative.

I'm worried he may be right.

We have in this beautiful city in northern Italy, just enough of everything. A duomo, a castle, a big green park. Schools, hospital, police. Supermarkets and farmers markets and even too much shopping. Buses and a train station....

We also have a complete collection of eclectics that every city needs. Musicians, politicians, artisans, hippys, punks, drunks, preps, yuppies, priests. The very rich and the very poor.

I've never lived in a city before. A real city where I walked or took the bus everyday. A city where I interact with all these different people every day. And I love it.

My concern is that there are a the handful of people that ask me for money. Every day. More than ask. They harass me. They jump into my conversations with friends, they wait for me outside of the bar, they sidle up to me at the market and whine and mumble in my ear. Tell me stories about how they just arrived last night and they can't find the friend they're looking for. They need money for a ticket. For food. They plead their case.

M noticed that I'm no longer listening. Even shooting a dirty look or two.

This hard truth makes me a bit sick. I don't like being preyed on. I know that if I smile, show a bit of kindness, or sometimes even just recognize their exhistence, they will follow me for a block.

I'm not happy with this development. This is not how I believe people should act. Problem is I only know what I don't like and I'm having a hard time coming up with an alternative I do like. Maybe I need an urban society mentor.

Is there a class out there on how to be a compassionate urban citizen?

Because there should be more than these two choices. There has to be something between feeding a bad system and ignoring it.

Wednesday, November 25

waiting in the sun

It's cool. And I love how even the bright sun looks cool in November. So I planted my back against the sun baked wall of the school building and just soaked it up. I had to wait there yesterday. I didn't mind waiting. In fact, I was enjoying it so much I thought I'd try to show you why...

Seriously. I had cabbage fields to stare at outside my school. The sun that reaches into this valley in late November is absolutely sublime. Wow, what a dream.

Think Green Thanksgiving Soak it up. All the beauty in the world. Cabbage fields too. ;)

Tuesday, November 24

best of the best

When I was a kid, we used to take three weeks off in the summer and just drive. We had a big van and my Dad would pull out of the driveway at 4 am just because. I never figured out if it was the thrill of sneaking off in the middle of the night, the desire to not waste a single second of vacation, or to put as many miles behind him before us kids started driving him crazy. Probably a little bit of everything.

I love the memories of these trips. We'd camp. The years I can remember, it was in a trailer. Me and my three little brothers. Campfires and spooky stories, card games, comic books. We'd play the alphabet game or pick which cars we would have when we grew up. Or try and get truckers to honk.

And listen to lots of music. My Dad would sing and play his favorite parts over and over and over again. He's made us all fans of ZZ Top and songs like Hot Rod Lincoln:

He's the best of the best. And today's his birthday.

RTT: Maybe they don't liking the human being

My Italian teacher presented another verb tense today. The "simple conditional" form. What the hell? I think they're making this up just to scare away foreigners. Seriously. As far as I can tell, it's an excuse to tack a lot of extra vowels and double constants onto the end of verbs. Now I have to train my tongue to undulate around words like sembrerebbe, chiuderebbe, vorrebbe, dispiacerebbe, prenderemmo, aprirebbero...

Mars Attacks! The perfect family holiday movie:

Liberals. Intellectuals. Peacemongers. Idiots!

I asked Punkette what she was thankful for. She said "I'm thankful that you decided to have me born. And that you let me eat Nutella."
Life and Nutella... what more could you want?

Maybe some eggnog. In my coffee. That would be delish.
Nog, nog, nog, nog. Nog nog. (Hi Martians)

I finally bested M in an argument. Possibly the first time ever. He argued that baby teeth do not have roots. That they're just stuck in the gums! I think I'm right about this one. Please tell me that I'm right.

Apparently, Ginger in Italian is Gaia. Well, that's what they call the star chicken in the Italian dubbed version of Chicken Run.

Speaking of Italian dubbed versions... this is driving me insane. Count how many times you hear erebbero or erei:

I got four. But that's what I'll end up doing... pinging the words I know and scrambling to piece together the dialog. It's very hard to get into a movie when you're pinging and scrambling. And is it just me or do all the girls sound exactly the same? No. It's not me. And it's the same voice in every other film too. Ugh, I can't stand watching dubbed films. I'm just going to have to wait for the DVD.

Happy Tuesday everyone. Think random thoughts.

Monday, November 23

ode to la pausa

Now that I've adjusted to this new Italian way, I dread returning to American life. Things like 24 hours and Drive Thru make me want to run and hide. Today, for instance, is Monday morning.

Monday morning when the shops are all closed. For no reason that I can find other than the desire for more time... to do something else. Need more time? Learn from the Italians and Take it. There are the bars if you want a cafe, and you'll see windows are open. To air out the pillows and blankets. But Monday takes on a slower pace, and extension of Sunday. A gift of more time.

I find it so ironic. That so many things I used to think were convenient, there to make life easier, actually do not. Malls and super stores and pharmacies with 25 aisles...open everyday and night. So much choice and FREEDOM! Because we can go and do and rush and cram more and more and more... we do. We must. There is not time to waste.

But here... It was hard to adjust to this new hum. A new pace spotted with empty space. Everyday there is a pause and everyone goes inside. From 12 to 4, give or take a half hour or two, the shops close their doors, seems there's nothing to do. Then on Saturday you see and incredible bustle, because we pause again on all day on Sunday. Sunday carries on through to Monday afternoon... 3 pm!

When you're not used to these times, it drives you nuts. You'll find yourself eating cans of beans for lunch. What a pain in the ass are the hours. But eventually you learn, when and where. There's less to choose but this is often much better, less time to take deciding! You learn the art of good enough and that's just fine. And you find so much time... to do other things! Yes, there are other things. These islands of time when you can just relax and be you.

Saturday, November 21

loves me, loves me not

When I was a girl
In a long ago world
I plucked the petals
From flowers

They'd release with a pop
Letting my heart drop
As I continued my
Way round

The watery eyes
Of little girl skies
Overfill with hope
And rain

But that little girl mind
Will eventually find
Much more than loves
And loves not


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

Friday, November 20

how did I get here?

Hello fellow pilgrams. Welcome to a new day.

When you think about it, that's pretty great. Yesterday always goes away and tomorrow always comes. Sometimes I wish time would stop for awhile, but it's probably a good thing that it doesn't. I haven't really thought through all the ramifications, so lets just leave it as it is for now.

No muckin about with time today.

Don't show this to your kids. It will MESS THEM UP. Actually, you probably shouldn't watch it either. BTW, am I the only one who gets a little wierded out when you can see a muppets' feet?

I am in the mood for a little catchin' up. I've been reading lots of new blogs during NaBloPoMo and have been seeing some new people poppin up here. How nice. So I thought instead of my usual daydreaming about life, or this great world we're in, I'd tell you a little bit about myself today.

One question that has been asked is: Why am I in Italy? Here goes:

I met my dear M in graduate school. M is Italian as in born and raised in Italy, fresh off the boat, and I met him one night at a party of a mutual friend. I start with that, because I'm not sure I would have moved to Italy if I hadn't married an Italian. I've always wanted to live abroad, but didn't really have a strong preference as to where... anyway... I remember he said something about my dimple (there you go boys, the big pick up line). We hit it off really well, like immediately, if you get my gist. My thoughts were, "well, that was fun" and just chalked it up to life is good, cause there is no way that someone that charming is actually interested in homely old me. But then he kept asking me out. I just went along with it in a mild state of disbelief for a few months before it started to dawn on me that he might actually really like me. Then I let myself really fall.

Jumping over the years of sailing pregnancy marriage babies house job (yea, that's all in the order it happened)... we find ourselves in California with a mortgage the size of Montana and couple of cute punks... life is good.

But M had been scouting for a new job since forever. One day he asks me, "I have an interview with a company in Italy. Do you want me to do it?"

It's an interview. Why not? Of course I want him to do it.

So he has the interview. The first one was in California. Then a second one in Boston. Then we fly out to Italy for a week. We suddenly have a big decision to make.

Some years earlier M had figured out what it would take financially for us to move to Italy. The offer was enough. M wanted to change his job anyway. My company was willing to hold my position for two years (we're going on three now, so thank you ;). The kids were still in pre-school. We figured in the worst case scenario it doesn't work out and we move back to California after a couple of years abroad. That's a pretty sweet worse case scenario. We wanted to go and just couldn't find a good reason not to. So we went. And here I am.

That said, all this happened after we had given up on ever moving to Italy. We tried for years to do so, but never found a situation that wouldn't mean flushing away our work experience, or savings, and starting from scratch, first in Italy, and then again in the US if we had to move back. When you go for so long on graduate stipends, the thought of doing it again can really sour the deal. Of course, this happened after we finally decided to buy a house. Murphy's law can be a real kicker. I've learned to roll with it (ie, the title of this blog) and life is good.

Thursday, November 19

feeding green

I'll let you in on a little secret. I breastfed my kids because I was lazy. They were great nursers and I had buckets of milk. It was insane. When Punkone would nurse and the other breast started shooting milk across the room, I was proud as a little boy pissing his name in the snow.

I wish every mamma could have as much fun nursing her kids as I did. Hats off, hugs, love and support to any mamma struggling with this issue. Cause, if you can get a good solid breastfeeding relationship going, there's at least a 101 reasons to breastfeed your kids.

It's Think Green Thursday, and breastfeeding is definitely the Eco-friendly way to feed your baby.

A breastfeeding mom needs an extra 500 calories everyday (more than during pregnancy) but this small increase adds little stress to the impact on the environment we are already making. Especially when you consider what it takes to get formula to a baby. It needs to be manufactured, packaged, shipped, and stored. Furthermore, breastmilk is always warm and ready to go. No bottles or artificial nipples to buy. No energy required to warm the milk. No water, cleansers, and energy required to clean the bottles afterward.

Go green! Breastfeed your babes!

There is no food more locally produced or sustainable than breastmilk. Yet, the promotion of breastmilk substitues continues to undermine breastfeeding. The International Baby Food Action Network has been working for 30 years to stop formula manufactures from undermining breastfeeding by innappropriate promotion of their products.

Wednesday, November 18


When my kids were young, one thing I was really good about was getting them comfortable with their health care providers. The doctor and dentist office was a place where we went to get taken care of and received trusted advice. They were good people we could talk to. We never had any problems going to the doctor or dentist. Even when faced with scary problems, my kids knew that they were going to get good quality care.

That all changed when we came to Italy. I'm sure part of it is my fault as the kids must sense my own uneasiness and troubles trusting a system I don't understand and struggling to communicate with doctors who don't speak my language. But a part of it is also the fault of the doctors.

The case in point is my Punkette and her dental issues. She had several soft spots when we left the states that were likely to become cavities. They did. I got her to the dentist. She went voluntarily, had a cleaning and it was confirmed that she did have cavities. An appointment was made to fix them, FOUR MONTHS later!

We survived until the appointment, but things are worse by then. But she's still cooperative. She allows them to drill two of the smaller cavities out without any medication. When they tried to fill the holes, they jabbed a plastic spacer and this caused her a lot of pain. She refused to open her mouth for them after that.

This is where the core of her problem starts. Not one, or two, but now THREE different dentists reach a point with her where she refuses to cooperate and they just give up. They come to me and say, I'm sorry, I can't help her, she won't cooperate. I've been in the office with her, I've made her go in alone. They all ultimately hand the decision over to her, saying, "Do you want your teeth fixed or not?" Her answer, "No." And they give up.

Finally I had some hope with this last one. We had scheduled several appointments for Punkette just to get comfortable. Just cleanings and sealing the molars. The first visit, all she had to do was open her mouth. Finally, this dentists laid down the law to my very determined punk. The dentist told her what was going to happen that day and she couldn't leave until that was what they did. It took her an hour to open her mouth. A f@#!ing hour, but she did it. The next appointment was the cleaning. Half an hour, but again, she did it.

I thought FINALLY we are getting somewhere.

And they just friggin flushed it away today. Today was sealant. The dentist needed to use a few more tools for this. Punk didn't like how many tools were going in her mouth. TODAY, dentist made the fatal mistake. Put the damn ball in Punks court. Punk said no. Dentists looked at me in defeat, said, "lets cancel the next three appointments and have you come back, end of January."

So I'm fuming. This makes no sense to me. What happened to no way out? Cause if my Punk knows there's a way out, by all means, she's takin it. What happened to working her through this. If three tools is too much, isn't there a way to compromise. It may take longer, a lot longer but you can't just give up. I thought this dentist would be flexible and do what ever it takes to help this kid. The suggestion was that I punish her in some way so that she cooperates next time. I just can't imagine a scenario where this would help. She needs to be in that chair, letting the dentist work in her mouth. ARGH. They got her to the cleaning and now were back to zero.

Ok I'm done. I'll get Think Green up right quick. Thanks for listening.

edited to add:
I blocked comments because I was too mad yesterday and really just needed to vent. All better now. I'm ready to jump back into the fray.

Tuesday, November 17

RTT: remember it's November

I'm in a bit of a mid-November slump. The sky seems increasingly dark and gray, I'm forgetting a lot of basic things, getting scatter brained. It's very frustrating. So a few things to remember:

November is my Dad's birth-month. Yea, he's Dad, so he gets a whole month. I should bake some chocolate chip cookies in his honor.

New Moon is coming out and the theater is showing a Twilight, New Moon double feature for 10 euros. I wouldn't mind seeing it.

Parent-teacher conferences. Have you hugged your kid today? No matter what, I think you should always tell your kid that the teachers are so happy to have them in class. That they are a gift of joy to the world. Cause they are. That first. Then work on whatever you need to work on. Don't say, just work.

Buy everyone in the family new underwear. We're all happier when our bums are comfy cozy.

When you scald the milk for your coffee, put chocolate in it.

Isn't this absolutely BRILLIANT!?!?!?!

Yea, you are too Keely! ;)

Sunday, November 15

I ate a lot

This is one of M's favorite expressions. Not in the sense that he says it often, but in that he heard it once in his early days in the USA and it just struck him as funny. Some dude walking out of Ponderosa stamped his glutinous sigh of defeat onto my M's brain.
"I ate a lot."

Guess you had to be there.

We have so many of these. They're our classics... the inside jokes of our courtship. There's the "Let me get this straight, you want it with bacon," sarcastically said by the waitress in upstate New York after the guy ordering dropped the words "with bacon" at least 16 times while ordering his hamburger.

Or the simple yet equally entertaining, "RUN!!!!" screamed at the top of the lungs by a mother to her tender offspring as they sprinted one Minnesota winter day from their minivan parked in the Mall of America parking garage to the mall entrance some 15 yards away.

"We see the cooling tower of a nuclear reactor" was the response overheard on the radio that started us giggling as we sailed lake Ontario, having stared at this same damn tower for the better part of an entire day in our efforts to reach Oswego. The distressed people had left Canada to explore the Thousand Islands without navigation maps, gps or even a compass.

"We ain't callin 911" was on a sign hanging from a gun that was hanging above a cash register at a restaurant we stopped at in Oklahoma. We weren't going to rob the place, but I'm sure they thought about shooting us just for laughing so hard.

Anyway... I didn't really start off to tell you the intimate tickings of my marriage. I just meant to say "I ate a lot" which caused me to chuckle and I thought, well, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't let you in on what I was chuckling about. Yikes... bad day for tangents.

Point is, I ate a lot, AND I'm still cooking. Muffins. I found a recipe for muffins and I'm giving it a go. They smell SO DAMN GOOD. If this works out I may never have reason to return to the states again.

Except of course Minnesota winters and Oklahoma hospitality. Those are hard to come by. Oh, and Italy doesn't have any nuclear reactors either.

domenica pranzare

I'm hungry!

An onion stew with beef
The golden sauce shimmers
Cooked for hours and hours
My mouth waters
Filling the house with
Savory devourers.
Add a bed of noodles
Strain the string beans...
Hey mom, when can we eat?

Amalfi, Cloister of Paradise, Italy

Saturday, November 14

full immersion

If I could capture these days
This full-fillness of presence
The density
The depth to which I enjoy
To which I fall
As I step through the door
The fibrous throbbing
That simply walking brings
A caught glance through the windows
A sigh to the sounds
The hum, the voices
Even the silence of stone in the night
It all beats into me
Full immersion, as they say,
Has a relentless intensity
I didn't quite comprehend
And I'm hooked.
I don't want it to end.

Friday, November 13

a well worn path

Did you know that the floors in my home were put down in the mid 1700s? They're made of wood. They don't make a sound when you walk on them. Not a creak. A few of the rooms have newer ones that practically squeal when you touch them, but these old ones in the library and my bedroom might as well be bedrock. Amazing. And beautiful.

Sometimes, just to make my head spin I try to think about how many people have lived on these floors. What were they like? Did they play music? Knit? What did they read? What did they dream about? What were they afraid of?

Considering that this palace was in Austria back then, they were probably afraid of Napoleon. Perhaps their greatest fear was that their palace would some day be inhabited by a bunch of foreigners.

This is the picture that I put in my background. It's in Rome. I thought I would post it in case not seeing the whole thing was driving anyone crazy. It's bad enough that I'm making the local nobility roll over in their graves.

Wednesday, November 11

dumpster diving

It's think green thursday! Woo hoo. Time to live on the cheap, rethink, reuse, recycle. Find your inner hippy. Who's a cheap skate out there? Raise your hands. Who looks at brown and shrunken bananas and thinks Banana Bread! or Ice Cream! Rotten banana ice cream is such a treat and SOOOOO farkin' easy it's not funny. Just peel and toss your rotten bananas in the freezer. When you've accumulated 4 or 5, drop them directly into the blender to mash them up and WAA LA! Creamy sweet 100% banana "ice cream". Yum yum.

But my focus today is REUSE. One of my shameless joys is finding something good for free. I've always got a raised eye when passing other people's trash, assessing if there's anything good in there. In grad school I hauled home a leather lounge chair that I happened to see near the dumpsters on my way home from class. It became the best seat in the house for the remaining four years in that apartment (then promptly when from the curb into some other lucky student's apartment). Heck, the comfy leather chair I'm SITTIN ON AT THIS VERY MOMENT was rescued from the trash heap. We have a pair of them. Nice bouncy springs in the seat, brass buttons, worn wooden arm rests. You can find great things that have been kicked to the curb, often with a lot more character than anything new. AND FREE!!!

Even here in Italy, where such activity seems to be more strongly frowned upon, I've stumbled on a few things I couldn't pass up. Especially around season changes, when shops update their look, you find all sorts of great containers just headed off for the landfill. For instance, I picked up a pair of large square baskets and gave one to each of the punks for their treasures (the key is to get to it before it's been rained or peed on).

The flip side of this is to not put your reusable stuff into the trash. Haul it off to the goodwill instead. They make it so easy, some charity/second hand shops even schedule neighborhood drive thrus... all you have to do is leave what you want them to take outside your door. Poof! It's out of your life and off to a better, more useful exhistence. I really wish this was more popular in Italy. I really miss the second hand, co-ops, and goodwill shops. I found it so cleansing (literally and figuratively) to haul off all our outgrown clothes and shoes two or three times a year. These shops also provided a thrifty way to satisfy my occasional itching to do some shopping. What an adventure to weave your way through a good second hand store. I especially love great finds like hand-stitched napkins, dish towels, and table clothes. Pillowcases too.

So that's my pitch this week. Reuse. And don't be too proud to do a little dumpster diving. ;)

PS... Another great blog that lives and breathes the spirit of thinking green, Consciously Frugal.

Tuesday, November 10

simple things

in the rut of routine find joy in simple things
sun beams

I walk home instead of taking the bus so I can
smell the breeze
see the mountains
feel my muscles
find my rhythm

the goofy smile you see on my face means
the punks are in school
I'm not in a car
it's raining
or you're really cute but I have no idea what you're saying

so excuse me while I soak up
the sights
the sounds
my confusion
and a fresh perspective

the american version

I'm no gear head. I don't particularly crave certain cars (although my Dad has a few tasty classics in his garage) and generally speaking, I try to figure out how to live my life without the buggers... but I must admit I fell in love with Fiat's Cinquecento (500) the first time I laid eyes on it.

A new version of this cute little number will be coming soon to my fellow patriots. With one key modification (there are actually several differences, but this one is key). The American version has cup holders.

When you think about it, this seemingly trivial detail says volumes (well, at least a blog post worth) about the difference between Italian and American culture.

Walk into any coffee shop in the US, what do you get? A large paper cup of pipping hot beverage... coffee or a latte? Generally about 16 oz. worth and hot enough to carry you through half an hour of your commute. Or if you're thinking green, you might bring in your own travel mug. But in either case, it's to go. You grab your coffee and hit the road, enjoying the warm tastiness on the way.

And the forgotten supporting role in this scenario? The cup holder.

On the other hand, in Italy, the coffee shops are called bars (you can in fact add a little extra zip to your morning btw) and what you get is something completely different. First off, no paper cups. Nada. Zilch. Nine (no, not 9, the german zero). Second off, it's a bar. At which you stand. Thirdly, anything you order can be finished in at most, 5 sips. No matter how many times you say grande, what you will get will fit in a tea cup. How long were you planning on standing around anyway? So you get your little cup of cappuccino, swirl the sugar around, drink it in, oh, 2 minutes if you're really dragging it out, pay your bill (sometimes you pay first) and leave. Perhaps in your little Cinquecento. Sans cup holders.

Can you imagine if they tried to sell a car in the US without cup holders?!?! It'd be like offering a car without a steering wheel! How could you drive the thing?

And at the same time, going anywhere with a travel mug in Italy might raise enough suspicion to cause an evacuation.

Brilliant. The cultural implications of the presence/absence of cup holders! Wonder what it would take to get the automotive industry to apply this level of genius to the problem of pollution?

Monday, November 9

since the fall of the berlin wall

I experienced the first major anniversary of an adult memory the other day.
The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.
I read the headline and thought, "20 years?"
Has it really been twenty years since the Berlin wall came down?
But twenty years is a really long time. It can't have been twenty years.
For some reason I feel like I've just left my teens. Oh, I've matured, but it wasn't that long ago.
And then I did the math, the hard science, and realized I've got a 20 year high school reunion coming up.

((shudder)) Good god.

I remember, clearly, when my parents went to their 20th high school reunion, and they were, like, fossils.

Am I a fossil?

More than half my life has gone by since the wall came down.
What the hell have I been doing?

Well, in that time, I've had every romantic relationship of my life
And 5 years of college
Stomped the high school mud off my boots
Dorms and classes
The soap factory and death and music at the tracks
And California
And 5 years of graduate school
Non-linear optics and rowing,
Lasers, Love and sailing
And marriage
And back to California
And babies (6.5 years of breastfeeding!)
And finally a thesis
The national lab nightmare (3 years)
The non-profit salvation (another 3)
Friends and home, and new sister-in-laws
And now these years in Italy...

Since the fall of the Berlin wall I guess a lot has changed, and it really has been that long. Makes me excited to see what the next 20 will bring.

Sunday, November 8

lazy Sunday

We threw a halloween party for the punks last night. 10 kids, 9 adults, some bubbly, couple bottles of wine and two pans of rice krispy treats.

The party was delayed due to illness of half the punk population of Trento. But in absence of door-to-door trick-or-treating, halloween can happen whenever you feel like it so in our house, it happened yesterday.

Still feeling the sting of last year's break-down-the-house-raging-headache-I-hate-Italian-parents-and-their-out-of-control-kids-craziness, this year I decided a padded room was in order. I emptied the guest room (of all the laundry) and piled every possible costume type accessory we could find onto the bed. Capes, hats, tutus, wigs, swords and jewelry. I also decided to "do as Romans do" and pay no attention at all to what was going on. It worked surprising well and kept the madness confined to one empty room of the house. Success!

So today I am rewarding myself with some Indiana Jones, some leftovers (steak sandwiches, potato salad and risotto) and a big comfy couch.
Happy Sunday.

Saturday, November 7

Friday, November 6


After our walk in Riva, we went into a reptile house. Yes, the town is deserted, but Reptiland was open for business. Everyday from 11 am to 8 pm (closed January when they pack up the whole brood for holiday in South America). I guess you might have to live in Italy to appreciate hours like these. A woman opened the door for us when she noticed us loitering outside. Punks 8 and under were free, so it was just 6 euros to get in. She called out to someone and took off around some partitions. The man that she had apparently been calling for appeared from the other direction and they circled each other for about half a minute. This couple finally took our admission fee and then swiftly disappeared, leaving us to ourselves and three rooms of venomous snakes and spiders.

We took it slow. Snake by snake, we identify it's name, where it's from (by identify I mean reading the card taped to the tank) and what it prefers to eat. It's all written on the side of the tank in three languages with a colored world map, so that was fun. Some of the snakes move. Most don't. But it's all terribly exciting for the kids. I'm milking the situation.

After about 20 minutes, we're roughly half way through the house when the the male proprietor comes in the room and drops a tension bomb. He's sweating slightly and short of breath. And starts pacing between the backroom and one of the tanks. He looks agitated. He's carrying a pole with rubber hooks on the end. You know, one of those things crazy people pick up snakes with.

It looks exactly like he's lost a snake.

Punkette, bless her soul, continues her oohing and aahing over the creepy crawlers. Punkone and I are looking at this guy with restrained panic. Keep in mind that we've just spent 20 minutes massaging the creep centers of our temporal lobes.

Assessing the situation, I quickly chill about the white walls and the ceiling, but the damn floors were covered with persian rugs. What the hell? Who lines the floors of a snake house with persian rugs? A tiger could hide in that room.

So, I'm stepping lightly, and, logically, we head over to check out the tank that the guy seems to be so nervous about. It's a venomous something or other. It's occupied (whew) and it's got a mouse in it's mouth.

Ok. This is cool! Education. We've just been discussing what and how snakes eat and now the kids can see this snake swallow a mouse. We watch and watch and watch, but it doesn't seem like the mouse is getting swallowed. It seems the mouse is doing a good job of gagging the snake. It's sideways in the snake's mouth with the head sticking out one side and the butt out the other. While I think, survival of the fittest, having known other devoted snake owners, I wonder if this is what the guy's so upset about.

Who knows. The guy continued pacing and mumbling and sweating like a maniac and we didn't stay much longer to find out what the problem was. We quickly finished the circuit and got out of there. Dude was creeping me out.

Thursday, November 5

thinking green everyday

This week I stumbled across this cool blog that I'll pass on in the spirit of Think Green Thursday. The idea of thinking green is to make sustainable living a way of life. Sooner than later. Low Carbon Lifestyle is a simple blog diary about how one man lives green everyday.

a walk along the lake

When you wander, without thinking too much or too much planning, you stumble on things. Things that you wouldn't go out of your way to do, things that do not make good brochure fodder. That is, perhaps, exactly why I wander.

Riva del Garda is just such a place. Oh, in the summer, it's bursting with tourists. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, cupped in the palm of the Dolomites, dotted with cobblestone villages and medieval castles. And Riva is the crowning jewel offering everything from day spas to camping.

But in November, on a weekday, the streets are empty, the hotels are all closed, the paths at the lake shore are clear, save for the stray local that scurries silently by.

And I wandered into Riva on a day like this.

I'd never been in downtown Riva before. It had always been too full. But now it was perfect for wandering. Slowly, like toddlers finding new things. We wandered into an empty playground with a red rope web to climb. Then noticed a canal close by and went to see the boats. Random ducks and a single swan swam up to see if we had any stale bread to share. A sculpture catches the eye. We wander.

Wednesday, November 4


A few things happen for me on Wednesdays:
I have lunch with the punks, usually Pizza da Andrea.
We skip school and go swimming in the afternoon.
Our Italian babysitter comes and helps with homework. I make them all dinner and then escape to have dinner with M. We're back by lights out.
Overall, a pretty great day, Wednesdays.

If you happen to not know Pearl (I can't think of anyone who doesn't, but you never know), you're in for a treat. She's celebrating her 500th post in 500 days tomorrow (bow down fellow NaBloPoMo'ers). She's insanely creative and maintains a level of writing, every day, that I have trouble reaching even occasionally. Please tell her this Pilgram sent you.

Finally, something I wrote long ago...

Stale peeps and coco wheats
Things that make my life complete
Shipped in a box across the blue
Can you wrap yourself up too?

Tuesday, November 3

no lack of color

This morning.
The air was cold.
My body sore.
But time stops for no one... not even punks snuggled in their beds.

Our mornings are not rushed, but must maintain a certain momentum if everyone is going to arrive on time. I am the metronome to the morning.

Time to get up.
Get up.
Wake up beauty-pies.

And it continues. I put the clothes on the heaters. I make breakfast. Refill water bottles. Pack snacks. Check lunch tickets and diaries. Tick-tock-tick-tock... Brush teeth (we try), socks, shoes, coats, backpacks, door...

We can get it all in within about 45 minutes. Nicer when it's 60. Not so much when it's 30.

And this morning it was cold.
The changing season had wrapped itself around us in the night.
I could definitely feel it. And smell it's freshness.
That new season smell.

And it wasn't until I sat down two and a half hours later in my Italian class that I saw it. Right there in front of me, out the window.
Trees had turned red, yellow, with speckles of orange and burgundy.
Mountain tops white. Blue skies and white feathered clouds.

I've been walking on wet slippery leaves for a few days now... I wonder how I could have missed this.

Monday, November 2


Last night.
After four stories and lights out and waiting, meditating in the dark, one hand for each, shushing, and waiting and shushing. And then sleep.

After making a tea, ginger lemon.
After starting to watch "Something About Mary," in Italian (Tutti Pazzi per Mary).
After lying, no, stretching, on the sofa.

Punkone wakes up.

He can't sleep. He feels hot. He feels sick. He's itchy. He teetering on the edge he always falls over.

I can only be calm.

Bathroom. Water.
Remove covers. Turn off heat.
Perhaps a tea?

We sit in the empty kitchen. The tea is steeping and I start thumbing through a Penzeys Spice catalog. He sits, calmer. "Have a sip," I suggest. More moaning. More silent waiting.

Back in bed. He's itchy. Eczema. And some medicine for the wheezing. He wants to sleep but can't and tosses and itches and is frustrated as his sister sleeps soundly. As she always does. I sit on his bed, just waiting.

And he finally grows calmer. Cooler. But he can't sleep. And I bring him my iPod to listen to. This helps. Seems to.

As I sit with him in the dark, listening to the sounds outside, seeing his eyes grow heavy, and breathing, he turns again, and starts quietly to cry. And through tears he says he's sorry. He's sorry for disturbing my movie. He's sorry I had to make a tea he didn't drink. He's sorry I have to wait...

A hug is all I can do. And a kiss, a sigh, And waiting. But what am I waiting for? To have my tea? Lie on an empty sofa? Oh. Maybe waiting isn't what I really meant. Because sitting in the dark, with my hand on your shoulder... it isn't a burden at all... it's simply my way to be.


This is beautiful.

Sunday, November 1


I have dreams.
Dreams of scaling El Capitan
Clamped to the edge of the world,
Drifting at the edge of space.
Dreams of tall pines and sap on my fingers
The sting of scraped knees and my breath
Caught as we sway with the wind.
Or being old and weaving loose ends
The loose ends of a fortunate life.
Loose ends that slip into a comfortable knit
With an old friend with the right loose ends.
Dreams of being unknown
But knowing myself
Just driving off in a new direction
And being exactly what I feel like being.
Or spinning these things
Bits of death and love and reaching far places
With an unseen touch into the web.
Into the ebb, into the bed,
Into... and
Out of my head.
I will not live in dreams
But dreams are the thing.
The things that fill up the vast empty spaces
An oil that carries heat from the fire
To everything cold
To everything real.

Wednesday, October 28

party time

I'm looking over the guest list for our Halloween party this weekend, thinking up the menu, and starting on a shopping list... when it occurs to me that once again, I will never learn.

In fact, it's no longer a sneaking suspicion. Despite the periodic ranting of my dear husband (who is obviously just making stuff up) I maintained some glimmer of hope that I was being driven by something good within me, and not just simply making the same boneheaded mistakes over and over. I now have the hard evidence that I never learn. Documented by yours truly in this blog.

It was nearly one year ago that I started blogging, and my very very very first post was about me getting ready for what turned out to be an insanely wild Halloween party. Fortunately we kept it just shy of caving in the floor and killing Marchesa.