Tag: Change


New Skin

(Can you tell we visited Pisa recently?)

This morning was long awaited. Pencil sets deliberated over, text flurries exchanged with other moms, backpacks arranged and rearranged a dozen times, clothes laid out for a sunrise start. It’s a wonder any of us slept last night.

Even with plenty of time this morning to amble hand in hand to the local bar for breakfast and neighborly hellos, the excitement of new beginnings beat its adrenaline pace in our ears, and Sophie was the first to arrive at preschool. We left her with hugs and a new teacher who understands that nearly-four-year-olds need balloons. My heart still lurched to leave my littlest girl standing uncertainly in an empty classroom, but friends from last year were already trickling into the coat room, and I remembered her brimful happiness at pick-up times past. I remembered to walk out quickly.

One building over, I waited with Natalie, my ever-amazing firstborn who was suddenly small again under her pink backpack as her first school bell rang. There was a bit of a stampede, a noisy orientation, some half-distracted kisses, and then one glimpse through a crowded doorway of my girl sitting bright-eyed next to her best friend, expectant. I didn’t try to get her attention.

The girls’ excitement and internal rush have blazed out, and now it’s my long-awaited Monday morning. I kept my work schedule clear today so I could dive into the full potential of undisturbed time, but the sinking weight of my short Hope To Do list tells me that I need this time for adjusting instead. So much adjusting these days. I love new experiences, growth, and positive change, but I’m as quick to adapt as a faulty chameleon hand-dying new skin.

In light of this unsettled emptiness while I wait for my new skin to be ready, I’m boiling today’s Hope To Do list down to the following:
1) Be present for my girls when I pick them up in a few hours.

None of my goals for the day are worthier than helping make their adjustment a happy one, and who knows? Perhaps a single clear focus is just what I need to smooth the way for my own transition into the school year.


Alasment Period

This is it—the Adjustment Period. I didn’t expect the choppy swaying to hit quite so soon after I announced we were cutting our financial mooring lines, but we’re riding full on the swells now and stumbling our way to sea legs. It’s fantastic having my husband working from home and so, so good to see him energized rather than deflated by work, but I’ve gotta admit, being the one to leave in the mornings with the car keys and a briefcase is… strange.

Our days have an unfamiliar cadence to them now. We’re using new vocabulary and penciling appointments into uncharted waters, and while I’m utterly grateful for the possibilities ahead, I’m also utterly discombobulated. No matter how good all of this change is, it’s still change, and I’m responding with my best impression of a hungover sailor. It’s quite attractive, I’m sure.

Even though the rational side of my brain assures me that an Adjustment Period is necessary and that it’s only natural to feel like I’ve drunk a captain-sized stash of moldy rum at any given time, my emotional side is wallowing in alas… as in, Alas, I’ll never find my groove! and Alas, I  shall never write anything meaningful ever again! Like I said, attractive.

So here’s my counterstrike to all the “Alas”es sloshing around my unsteady feet—
5 sources of home-front happiness this week:

  1. Having my dearly bearded husband back from a business trip
  2. The accompanying backrubs
  3. Tag-teaming on everything from dirty dishes to dirty kids
  4. Rearranging rooms and letting clutter go without regret
  5. Enjoying these last few days with the girls before school starts

Your turn!


Unknown v. 2.0

August 3rd slipped by this year without a hint of fanfare (unless you count a dirty house as a celebratory tradition); it was a normal Wednesday in a normal workweek in a normal summer, and it completely slipped my mind that this normal was once the sheer unknown gaping underneath.

Four years ago, we packed our lives into a motley assortment of boxes and tracked a thing with feathers across the Atlantic. Through miracle and determination, Dan had found a job here that fit his abilities perfectly, and the opportunity to finally, finally take on our dream was marvel and terror at once. Some nights, we danced in a buzz of ideas, lit from the inside out with the champagne-glow of adventure. Other nights, we lay creased in thought, my hand resting on the precious variable in my womb as the whens and hows circled like vultures overhead.

There was no gingerly edging off the beaten path, no feeling out each new step from the safety of solid ground, no road signs assuring prosperity in 4,500 miles. All we had was the blank expanse of possibility and the faith to leap, spurred on by knowing our options boiled down to courage or regret. We took the leap, and on August 3rd, 2007, we landed on Italian soil to begin forging our new normal. In the four years since, we’ve settled into the comfort of friendships and routine, language becoming ever less of a barrier and the Italian culture sinking ever deeper into our bones. It’s more than we could have hoped for when we boarded the jet back in Philadelphia…

…which makes this new drop-off all the more dizzying.

Dan has turned in his job resignation. It was necessary for a variety of reasons, and it was time, but oh. We’re here again with the buzzing ideas and circling questions, minus one occupied womb and plus one meticulously written business plan, and while there are possibilities that make our heads spin with goodness, they’re still only possibilities. Our now-normal has a windblown pang to it. I keep taking mental inventory against my better judgment and trying to work out which facets of our life—home? church? friends? money?—will still be in place come Christmas. My heart balks as the calendar pulls us forward.

Never mind that we wouldn’t be here in the first place without that leap off the edge of reason; I don’t want to do it again. I don’t want that momentary weightlessness above the dark pit of my imaginings. I don’t want to have to rely so completely on a divine intention I still have difficulty trusting (and sometimes believing at all). I just want someone who can peek into the future and put a stamp of guarantee on our steps before we plunge into them. I would like the risk eliminated altogether, thankyouverymuch.

But if I’m honest with myself, it’s only the narrowest bit of my mind that’s clinging to the notion of safety. The broader scope of who I am recognizes that ours, like any good story in the making, runs on the cogs of adventure. These tenuous days swinging between doubt and hope are paragraph spaces in an unfolding work of art that teaches us to live as protagonists rather than as background filler, and the process is nothing short of exhilarating.

It seems clear that August 3rd has served its time as a memorial to our story and is now ready to pass on the honor to a new date, a new landing—whenever and however it may be.


Double Shot of Eco-Buzz

Homer: “Marge, can you cut back on your makeup budget?”
Marge: “But I already use crayons for lipstick and fireplace soot for eyeliner….”
Homer: “So THAT’S where my soot went!”

(The Simpsons will forever have a place in my heart.)

Over the last few months, I’ve been researching ways to save money, and I always end up arguing at the internet thusly:
But we already line-dry our clothes!
But we don’t even have an air conditioner!
But we already eat seasonally!
But we’re already a one-car family!
Pet hair sweaters? Are you kidding?

I’ve felt for a long time that there’s not much we can do to lessen our day-to-day expenses, and I’ve avoided updating our budget spreadsheet for weeks because of the helplessness I feel in the face of so many numbers. Today, though, a particular category made me pause.

We spend—::cough:: I don’t even want to say how much—a month on hygiene, beauty, and cleaning products which I’ve always considered a necessary evil because, well, wallowing in filth just isn’t our style. Of the 7 products I use in the shower, the 5 in my daily facial routine, the 3 for hairstyling, the 4 for laundry, the 8 for housecleaning, the 4 for dishwashing, and the myriad lotions and soaps and cosmetics and perfumes and gels and sprays that we cycle through, there are maybe two I feel I could do without. Let’s face it—I’m just not that crunchy.

However, I’m noticing downsides to our current modus operandi in addition to the cost. For example, I won’t let the girls help me clean the house (despite all of our wishes) because I don’t want them coming in contact with all those chemicals and fumes. For another thing, I have to bring an entire backpack worth of toiletries on vacation, and my face-washing regimen looks pretty ridiculous lined up in a campground washroom. I hate feeling enslaved to certain aisles of the supermarket, forced to choose between cleanliness and my better judgment. (€5 for the cheapest bottle of lotion? Really???) I hate feeling powerless to change.

So this morning, I dove into some online research on homemade, frugal, eco-conscious solutions, and I emerged from Google two hours later with glassy eyes and a dizzy brain. The quantity of information out there is simply overwhelming, and I have no idea whether the kiwi-cider toilet scrub recipe or the wasabi-Borax one is more effective (my guess is neither, and anyway, I can’t find Borax here). The familiar helplessness started sinking back in, but then I had a revolutionary, completely original idea that I will now share with you at no cost just because I like you so much: Try one thing at a time. (Novel, non?)

Here’s how I imagine it working: As I run out of a product, I try to find a more sustainable and inexpensive substitute. If I find something that works, I rejoice and my husband gets to make fun of me (you’re welcome, dear). If not, no big deal, nothing changes, and I pretend I wasn’t trying to unclog the drains with salad dressing. Also, I get a guilt-free pass from all the following:

  • Using fruit for anything but eating (There’s no way I’m going to shell out big bucks for a tub of strawberries and then smear them on my face. Unless by “on my face” you mean “inside my mouth,” in which case, yes please.)
  • Using rocks as deodorant (I have previous experience with this one, and it resulted in a friend kindly donating me her father’s used Speed Stick. True story.)
  • Giving up makeup (I’m sure that beet juice lip gloss and olive oil mascara bring out one’s natural beauty, but… no. Just no.)

My natural inclination is to give up before I even start. Too much information, too many opinions, too much focus on weighty issues like ethics or politics when I’m just trying to save money and live a little simpler… but I like meeting challenges, I’m grateful to find my own strength in overcoming obstacles, and I’m even rather fond of my inaugural attempt:

Eco-friendly buzz

Do tell: Are there any budget- and eco-friendly products you can vouch for? Or am I headed down a vinegar-scented slope to utter wackedness?


Sweep Me Away

Something about today whispered spring cleaning. Never mind that winter just finished unpacking its bags or that the air is the approximate temperature of a slushie; my instincts demanded I open all the windows and invite the sunshine in to dust with me. (I wanted to write “sweep with me,” but that’s a double entendre in Italian, and now I’m worried that learning a second language has guaranteed my mind a permanent spot in the gutter. Italian vocabulary tends to be very… passionate.)  My energy levels are regrettably dependent on the weather, and I tend to slog through January with all the motivation of a boiled cabbage. Thank goodness the sun came out today; otherwise, our house guest tonight would have ended up sleeping on a pile of unsorted Christmas decorations.

Despite cohabitating for a whole 11 ½ days, 2011 and I haven’t really gotten acquainted yet. I know it uses a different brand of shampoo than 2010 did and takes less sugar in its coffee, but I haven’t figured out what makes it tick, how its hobbies and personality traits intersect, whether or not it is likely to be a good housemate in the end. I’m waiting until after my trip to get back into running and to pick up where I left off on Ye Olde Novel, so I guess that’s when I’ll schedule my heart-to-heart with the new year. We’ll likely survive until then. It puts its own socks in the laundry, and I don’t pry when it stumbles in at 3 a.m.; good enough for now.

So. How are you? Have you made any great discoveries yet this year? Do you have any new projects or goals that spark your enthusiasm? Any survival tactics for less sunny days—you know, in case I don’t manage to finish spot-cleaning behind the oven today? Any double entendres worth sharing?


Bobblehead Crossing

I am a bobblehead doll today, skull packed tightly with rubber, earlobes dragging me off-balance. It’s preferable to the tire treads across my forehead yesterday or the jackhammers in my eardrums the day before, but something tells me I’m sicker than I realize. Standing up really isn’t ideal right now. Neither is sitting up, but I’m determined not to sleep away a wonderfully wide-open morning; better to spend the hours staring at my computer screen through a groggy haze than losing them to oblivion, yes?

I am absolutely, positively, 100% not ready for December yet. The last half of this year has been dragging me along by my toenails, and I’m suddenly tangled in a string of colorful, glowing Christmas tasks wondering where summer went…though that could just be the bobblehead talking. I shouldn’t try to wax poetic about the changing of the seasons when I’m having trouble locating my own neck.

In lieu of more incoherent mumblings from me, I’d love to hear about you.
What do you see outside your window?
What are you listening to?
What are you looking forward to today?
What’s making you tick, making you smile, inspiring, warming, filling you right now?

I’ll start:
I’m watching hundreds if not thousands of birds perform a frenzied ballet on the winds whipping our sky into a froth. I’m listening to Ella Fitzgerald in an attempt to absorb some of her nutmeg-sweet Decemberly vibes. I’m looking forward to reading Farmer Boy with the girls before naptime and some new Christmas storybooks before bed; snuggling up and sinking into the literary world together is one of my very favorite privileges of parenthood.  And for the final question, I think the mug of cinnamon apple spice tea in my hand pretty much covers it all.

Your turn!


March Madness

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
~ Mark Twain

By the time we got home from the mountains last weekend, spring was already busy stereotyping itself—double rainbows arching across the sky, vain spiders sun tanning on the balcony, trees and meadows bursting into bloom, pollen, pollen everywhere. Spring! I immediately pulled the short sleeves out of storage and tossed the blanket off our bed, only to remember that late March is not quite as warm as it looks. Nevertheless… spring!

Clouds and sunshine have been flirting endlessly, my energy levels fluctuating in direct correspondence. My total emotional reliance on the weather amuses my husband, but it’s about as fun to live with as a pet harpy. Bursts of inspiration are washed out suddenly by tiredness; I go from supermom to horrible failure in sixty. (D: “But you’re not a failure.” B: “You’re forgetting the horrible.”) I feel hopelessly motivated and hopelessly behind, seesawing to opposite extremes in the capricious sunlight. I’m part honeybee, part slug, and three parts mad hatter all at once.

However, change is dancing in the breeze as it does every spring. I’m believing at least two and a half impossible things before breakfast, and the horizon continues to glow long after dark. Tomorrow, we pack up our new tent (Car Lingus finally inspired us to upgrade from our leaky 2-person budget model) and chase the scent of lemons down to Capri for the weekend; I intend to come back brimming with the magic of sunrises over blue water and hopeful enough to ditch the slug persona.

Welcome, you crazy spring.

(Thanks to Dan for sending along this gem of an April anthem)

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