Friday, March 28, 2008

What I should do

I live in a constant, heated battle between what I fall into doing and what I think I should do, which doesn't get done even when what I think I should do is something I like.

I'll illustrate my point with a series of examples organized chronologically.

I should get up early every day, even on weekends. Instead, I hit the snooze button during the week and on weekends I wake up early and invariably go back to sleep, even as I think get up get up get up you'd have more weekend time if you started your day now.

I should eat only extremely, supremely good-for-me food because I like how it makes me feel (not just healthy, but virtuous), but drinking coffee, having sugary, crispy things and white flour is...well, I don't have to tell you what it is.

I should take a multivitamin but I only manage to do so two times a week, despite the fact the big bottle sits between me and my computer at work (meaning, I stare at it about 9 hours a day.)

I should take better care of myself now that I'm pushing 40. Regular facials and visits to the salon. But, there are so many other things I'd rather do with my time (and my money). I suspect that when I'm old I'll be well traveled and wrinkly.

I should be better about updating my wardrobe, knowing what looks good on me, and using make-up. My younger sister even knows how to make purple eye shadow look totally cool.

I should be more patient. It's just that I'm surrounded by completely exasperating situations. You try calling United.

I should exercise every day. Not only that, but do a variety of exercise, such as aerobic, weights and stretching. I'm doing pretty well on the aerobic part but I usually only manage to do weights twice a week because I don't like to exercise indoors. And, for some reason I can't even come close to understanding in myself, I never stretch, even though I find it delicious. Ever.

I should have less stuff. I'm clutterphobic.

I should worry less. It's not like it's effective in warding off what I worry about. (...Or is it?)

I should write in my blog like Miguel does. Frequently, generously, outpouringly. I manage a pretty consistent entry a week but I wish I was more like my prolific friend.

I should read more - which I definitely love -and watch less TV. In fact, I should read the classics. But TV is so darn entertaining, particularly when I'm watching it with all the things listed above that I shouldn't be eating. American Idol and ice cream, anyone?

Friday, March 21, 2008

La Nonna Pina

My husband’s grandmother is 98 years old. She says she doesn’t know “why God has kept her here for so long”. She’s tired of living. She’s outlived so many people she loved, in particular her husband Carlo, Luca’s grandfather, who died 15 years ago.

As luck would have it, she’s healthy as a horse. She’s rail thin. She never gets sick. She lives alone in an apartment one floor below Luca’s parents, keeps it clean and organized, cooks for herself and walks to the grocery store and the hairdresser.

She’s proud, independent, rigid, frugal, an introvert, set in her ways. She spends most of the day in her apartment, refusing to “invade” her son’s life. She usually eats by herself, despite daily invitations, and was often found sitting in a chair with her arms folded on her lap, looking out the window.

It wasn’t until recently that she began to concern Luca’s parents. She’d leave the house and forget why she had done so. She’d show signs of not remembering recent conversations. (Both symptoms I frequently experience, but I’ll stick to the original subject.)

They began to worry that they couldn’t risk leaving her alone. What if she left the stove on? What if she went somewhere and forgot how to get back? A visit to the doctor revealed initial signs of senile dementia, which, although normal for her age, placed an enormous burden on her caretakers.

Luca’s parents decided to hire someone who could stay with her a couple of times a week, to give them some freedom and less cause for apprehension. She was furious. She said she preferred to go to a home rather than have someone in her house. At first, this was received with horror and guilt, but gradually it was decided that this was indeed what needed to happen. The event was so traumatic that Luca flew to Italy for two days to lend an ear.

A home was found outside Milan where she’d have a beautiful room with high ceilings and a view of the park. When the day arrived that they had to pack her things and drop her off they were sad, anxious and wracked with guilt. Stories abound about how these homes are where people leave their family members to die.

Instead, Luca’s grandmother took to it like a fish to water. On her first morning, upon waking up, she took a fitness class. She now shares meals with people who are much younger than her (80), watches movies, plays bingo – a far cry from sitting on a chair and looking out into empty space, waiting for death to finally arrive. She goes to the chapel, and then takes tea every day at 5:00 p.m.

Luca’s parents drop by twice a week, and have reported she has put on a couple of pounds. On their last visit, they noticed she was tan – she had spent the day in the park with her new friends.

I know she speaks with Carlo every day. I know he hides in the shadows where only she can see him, and that she yearns to be with him again. I know too he is happier now that time will go much faster for both of them.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


In my (inexpert) opinion, there are two types of archeological sites. The first one is rigid, monumental, imposing, interesting, reconstructed. It’s become a contemporary statement of a past civilization, largely zapped of its whispers. Chichen Itza, gorgeous, grand, trampled, is a good illustration of this, my first category.

The second is crumbling piles of rocks under dense vegetation. Due to a perpetual lack of government funds, reconstruction is minimal, so that it still stands, but barely, a defiant example of time’s utter lack of mercy.

Tall trees grow on the pyramids, the tangle of centenary roots proof that the elements that destroy a structure are often also what hold it together.

During a visit, as you scramble up hundreds of steps, you silently refute the guide’s explanations because you have your own secret hypothesis of what that room was once used for.

In this second category, you feel a gust of fresh breeze on a hot, humid day and hear, beneath the rustling of leaves, the faint echo of footsteps, the unintelligible whispers of former inhabitants.

Campeche is, inexplicably, the least visited of the Yucatan states. Among other things (fantastic food, lovely people and a town so beautiful it’s considered a World Heritage Site), it holds perhaps hundreds of Maya ruins that belong squarely in my second category, which Luca and I explored in utter, complete, absolute solitude.

Calakmul, the largest of the sites (a 72 square km expanse that has been minimally restored due to ecological regulations), is found a few miles into Mexico’s largest biosphere reserve, in the middle of the low jungle.

Maybe you can go visit one day, and hear for yourself the whispers I speak of. With any luck, you'll make out the words and come back and tell me what they are saying.

Photo by Luca

Saturday, March 8, 2008

10 things always in my to-do list

Do laundry


Straighten house

Water plants

Write a blog entry

Go to the supermarket

Cook something with all the food acquired in supermarket

Call my parents

Call a friend I haven't spoken to in a while

Remind myself that just because I spend all day with Luca doesn't mean we've connected

Photo: Real Simple
OK. I'll diversify.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

10 things I'd love to do for a living



Interior designer

Painter (if I could paint)

Singer (if I could sing)

Architect (but I flunked the only subject that ever came close)

Dog walker (I’d walk one at a time)

Coach (if anyone would listen)

Doctor (if I wasn't squirmish)

Anything that requires having a loudspeaker in my hand and a whistle around my neck

Photo: Real Simple