Friday, July 10, 2020

Five on Friday: Vespa Playlist

"My husband says I post and talk about Giacomo the Vespa too much . . . "

Just because the one and only souvenir I purchased on our recent vacation was for my Vespa and not, for example, for my friend watching my dog for the week . . . doesn't mean I'm obsessed. It means Sandwich is a funny name for a town and belongs on Giacomo's top box sticker collection.

So, what if I am a little bit obsessed? It's his fault anyway and I could have worse habits. Perhaps I shall just embrace my fixation on my vehicle and write my second Vespa post in less than a month.  I mentioned in my previous post that I am undecided on if I feel comfortable listening to music under my helmet so for now I just spend my ride thinking. Sometimes I think about the playlist I would listen to if I did listen to music on my rides. So far it looks like this:

1. Macklemore's Downtown: Maybe twice because it's so fun . . . once at the beginning and then again at the end? That could work.

2. Coffee Break Italian: Okay so technically this is a podcast (that teaches Italian) and I don't know if you can add a podcast to a playlist. Maybe if I download some episodes I can then put them on the playlist? Or maybe I should just listen to the music playlist sometimes and the podcast other times. Generally it's difficult for me to find time to listen to podcasts so when I'm alone riding would really be the perfect time. Better yet would be if I could just, like, take a pill and know how to speak the language. Has that been invented yet?
3. Bo Diddley's Road Runner: while as a family we're partial to the other Roadrunner song by the Modern Lovers, Bo Diddley's version has a steady background chorus of "Beep! Beep!" and I do love beeping at small animals while I ride.

4. Selected favorites from Putumayo's Italian CafĂ© but replacing their version of  Tu vuo' fa l'Americano with the version from The Talented Mr. Ripley (a movie that really I don't like, actually, as the plot makes me anxious and uncomfortable but oh, that scenery and costuming! And so many vintage Vespas! Drool.)

5. ZoomZoom Zoom: Wrong language but still sounds pretty and naturally zoom, zoom, zoom is fun to sing when driving a Vespa. I realized recently why hand grip accelerating is so satisfying and sort of nostalgic . . . because when I was a kid at the height of Evil Knievel mania, having one of those motorcycle noise-making grips on your bike to rev up was just the ultimate in coolness.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Five on Friday: A Somewhat Seventies Summer

With no camp and other unexpected limitations on fun this summer, we're making our own fun in a somewhat Seventies summer. (I'd say completely Seventies except I'm not whipping up red Kool-Aid or popping Valium. Then again, if I've learned anything  from my kids' grade school, it is to never underestimate the "Power of Yet.")

But in other ways, this summer's definitely got a seventies vibe thus far:

1. Hammocks and lounge chairs (it's one of those retro plastic kinds you can send your foot right through and have to send the ends all the way into the middle and then back out in order to move adjust the angle. So seventies!)  

2. Ice Pops and skateboards, sometimes at the same time. Because why not?

3. Kids and neighbor kids hopping on bikes and disappearing for an hour or two at a time

4. Drinking straight out of the garden hose, or at least when it's not hooked up to the Slip n' Slide.

5. Sparklers!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Five on Friday: A Little R & R (& R & R & R)

When you're on vacation and still trying to maintain social distancing, you don't go out galavanting to all the sites and activities like you normally do. You just travel to a different house and quarantine there instead of at home.

Lucky for us, the other house that we were able to go to is on a private beach. So this year's vacation has been all about staying put, enjoying the beautiful surroundings and each other as well as getting some always needed r & r (and r  & r & r since this is Five on Friday after all). They are:

1. Rest

2. Relaxation

3. Reading (and actually writing, too, in the mornings I've been getting some writing done. But that starts with the wrong letter to include on this list.)

Started & finished The Grapes of Wrath. I, too, am always tar'd and took lots of cat naps between chapters. Sometimes mid-chapter.

4. Revelations: the more you look, the more you find! Hermit crabs, Horseshoe crabs, Spider crabs. Oh my!

5. Rainbow Rocks! This beach isn't one for finding shells but you can make some really beautiful rainbows out of rocks and I've done that pretty much every day now. This one is my favorite.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Five on Friday: Riding Reflections

My husband says I post and talk about Giacomo the Vespa too much. First of all . . . I disagree.

Second of all, I’d like everyone to know about a conversation we repeated about once a year every year for probably eight years straight:

Him: Do you think you’d ever still want a Vespa someday?
Me: Meh, I don’t know, I think that ship has sailed.

Then he bought me one for Christmas.

Furthermore, he has no idea how many posts I think up that I never even share! Dreaming up potential posts is just one of the things I do when I'm riding. Since I'm undecided on if I'd feel comfortable or not listening to quiet music under my helmet, for now I just spend my ride thinking, enjoying the scenery, making observations and, of course, cracking myself up. Here are some recent reflections:

1. "Aw man, back roads are the best! I love their lower speed limits, terrific scenery and frequent lack of any other vehicles." (thirty seconds later . . . )

"DUDE. Back roads are the worst! Has this hill always been this steep? A curve in the road should never be this insanely sharp, my god."

2. When I see this sign (or others like it) when I'm driving in the car, I think, "Oh that's just a suggested speed limit." But while on Giacomo, I say, "Oh, yes, that is a very prudent speed limit for this incredibly curvy and steep hill! I hope the car behind me doesn't think that's just a suggestion because it is absolutely not."

3. There’s this sort of special wave that motorcyclists do when they pass one another. I haven't passed any other Vespa riders but I see plenty of motorcyclists. They are usually men and for the most part, they give me the wave. Sometimes I initiate, sometimes they do. Last week one gave me a very enthusiastic, over the head, ROCK ON salute, which made me super happy.

There are also the guys who absolutely see me and turn their heads away from me, obviously entirely too tough to wave to a rider of a pink Vespa. To them I subtly give a different hand salute that only utilizes one finger.
4. I love to sound my completely non-intimidating beep at every squirrel, chipmunk and deer that I see in or near  the road. I don't really need to, they generally run away as I get closer but it's one of the things I do to entertain myself.

5. On a ride last Friday I thought to myself: "Dogs really don’t like Vespas. They always bark at me like my dog does to the vacuum cleaner. What would I do if one of those barking dogs ever charged at me while I was driving past? Probably just beep a lot."

Then on a ride the next day: I sort of hit a dog*

(*I was traveling at a low speed as I was turning a corner in my neighborhood when I saw a dog break free from his owner. I started beeping like crazy but he didn't care. He ran towards me and his owner ran after him, placing them both directly in front of me so I came to a complete stop. He kept coming at me and I'm not sure if he actually made contact with my front tire or not. It was surprisingly not at all scary but I made a note to self to no longer wonder about things that could go wrong while I'm driving lest I bring them to fruition)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Five on Friday: I'm Fine With a Car Parade Graduation

I know there are some people who are upset that graduations this year are not what they had anticipated. I truly am sorry for them, disappointment stinks.  Personally, though, I am fine with a "Car Parade" High School Graduation for my son. Here are five reasons:

1. I’m not much for pomp anyway. I didn’t walk in my college graduation. I got married in a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

2. We just sat through a High School Graduation one year ago and we have three more ahead of us.

3. Small town High School Graduation speeches aren’t known to be all that titillating. Watching videos of the speeches mean we can skip through the boring parts! 
Also, there are sometimes unexpected bonuses in virtual Graduations.

4. I keep saying this about lots of situations that have been changed for my kids: it’s not only my kid that’s missing out on the 4th Grade Farewell, 8th  Grade overnight trip, Middle or High School Graduation or anything else. It’s not because my child is sick or unable to participate for any personal catastrophic reason. I find solace in that. They’re really becoming uniquely connected to a major historic event and throughout their lives they’ll have a camaraderie with other people their age who went through this, too.

5. Inventive adaptation! People love to claim that they’re not creative or artistic but look at all they’ve dreamed up in the past three months! So many wonderful new ways to stay connected and celebrate milestones. I know I am going to remember this Graduation more than any of the others.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Five on Friday: Advice from a Pacifist Passivist

The last week or two have been hard for an optimist. Well, the last three months have been, really, but the last week or two have taken the cake. Because when you’re an optimist and activist and have two Black boys with ever-increasing height and deepening voices . . . it’s hard to be hopeful.

The result is that I’ve been taking a slightly more passive role in exercising my activism lately. (A passive activist? Does that make me a passivist? A pacifist passivist?) At the same time, many people have been turning to me for input and advice. So while you may not have seen me at last night’s protest, I did act as a consultant in its planning.  

As a person who is used to being very visible in my activism, this is different for me and at first felt a little strange and somewhat ineffective. But when I saw this, it soothed me, so I shared it on my page and I will share it here again:

As people continue to turn to me for advice, the optimist can’t help to find hope trying its hardest to trickle back in. I can’t ever remember this many people reaching out to me for advice at once before. Something is different this time and not just in my circle of friends. Local authority figures and organizations have never made this many public statements surrounding a Black man’s murder at the hands of the Police before, though there have been countless opportunities. At least 1,000 people marched in last night's local protest even though we've only ever gotten a handful at similar events in the past.

This doesn’t make everything better or my worries for my children dissipate, but it does strengthen me. I embrace my new role as a more behind-the-scenes activist and hope that people continue to reach out to me for advice. I am far from an expert but am happy to share the knowledge I have been able to gain and welcome discussion.

If I were to give general advice on what a person new to the world of anti-racism work could do, I would narrow it down to these five things:

1. VOTE. You hear this one again and again, but can we move it away from lip service please and break it down into how exactly this can be effective? First of all, make sure you are registered and you know how and when to vote (some dates have changed due to the pandemic) Do you want to vote by mail because of COVID concerns? It’s time to figure that out. Now. Most importantly: voting is not going to help if we continue to elect politicians that support white supremacist policies and actions. Use your vote wisely.

2. If you are raising white children, talk to them about race and racial disparities. There are so many resources online to guide you, including this list of book ideas.

Additionally, strive to include books on their bookshelves that include People of Color as main characters and NOT just as heroes in stories of slavery or civil rights. Read books where they are main characters, kids like them whose skin (or gender or abilities) are  a different color than their own.

3. If you are not raising any children, apply all of the above to yourself but swap out the above suggested reading with this list instead.

Not much of a reader? Watch instead. There's so much available online, including Just Mercy which is free this month.

4. Be brave and forthright in your conversations. When I was performing with The Meta Theatre Company we’d hear from white audience members again and again: “I don't speak up because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing.” 

I implored them then and you now to say SOMETHING. Even  “I am not sure what exactly to say here but I know this is wrong, please stop” is a million times better than allowing racist behavior or language to go unchecked. We are all learning how to be effective anti-racists together. We all make mistakes. We must be receptive and willing to learn when People of Color point out our mistakes. We will learn and try harder. We will inspire others to be courageous.

Would you have the courage to film? Do you know how to safely do it? Prepare yourself in advance in case the moment ever comes up. Here's some advice and here's one app to help you do it.


I am not Black. 

I am not an anti-racist scholar.

I am a white anti-racist, continually-learning Mother of Black (& white) children. I can only be a sounding board, a stepping stone, a sharer of resources. Thank you for reaching out. Thank your marching. But please now, pick a lane and help us keep things moving in the right direction.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Five on Friday: Almost 10-year-olds Say the Darndest Things

It’s almost the baby’s birthday.

She’ll be turning ten.

I don’t really refer to her as “the baby” anymore but it worked for a long time. My oldest two kids are referred to as "the bigs" and the next two kids are "the boys." (One of "the bigs" is also a boy so whenever I say "the boys" should do something, he always asks, “Am I a boy?” Sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t, depending on what I was talking about.)


That leaves us with “the baby.”  She’s about to leave single digits and grade school behind. She recently graduated to a later bedtime. And before quarantine started, it seemed as though some of her younger-kid interests were starting to wane.

Enter unexpected benefit of lockdown #27: with nothing else to do and none of her friends to play with, her interest in baby dolls, the playhouse and just good old-fashioned imaginative play has been renewed.

“I have three babies, I have five kids. What a mistake I’ve made!
She’s also been hitting it out of the park with hysterical mispronunciations and observations lately, and those suddenly feel more precious. With her being our last child and now a rising middle-schooler, I know hearing these sorts of things soon will be a sweet memories. So for today's Five on Friday, I'll be sharing some of them for posterity and enjoyment:

1. "Mom! I was watching that animal show and the poor whale had allergy ALL over him. And did you know that a girl lion is called a lion-sis?"

2. She climbed a tree and found ants higher up than she expected to. She shouted down to us, "There's something I've been wondering and I think y'all should wonder it, too: how do ants get up so high?"

3.  "What's it called when a book is half real and half not? Is it fake-tion?"

4. The kids were trying to establish who they all agreed upon as being cool. She offered up "Simon" as her suggestion.
"Simon? Simon who?"

5.  Over the past three months, she has been asking if the Governor has said if it's safe yet to do things like go to school or the park. But she doesn't actually refer to him as the Governor, instead she calls him "Government Murphy."

She's going to outgrow that soon enough; I refuse to correct her.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Five on Friday: Busy

When quarantine first started, there was a new workload to adjust to: the near-constant cooking, the deep spring/quarantine cleaning and overseeing my kids' remote learning. The addition of these chores was not overwhelming because along with it came the subtraction of so much: sports, play dates, my second seasonal job as a school tour guide, sports, being able to go anywhere, school events, work events and, of course, sports. 

As a matter of fact, after a few weeks there were a few times that I almost felt bored (and quickly had to remind myself that I always tell the kids that only boring people get bored.) But then about two weeks ago I found myself saying things like, "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back in touch. Somehow I've felt busy lately . . . and busy felt sort of nice, like maybe things were normal again."

So what have I been doing that makes me feel busy if it's not rushing my kids through their homework so I can shove some dinner down their throats and get them to track practice on time and figure out what they'll have for second dinner when they come home famished?

1. Virtual Exhibits: The Museum I work for has been closed to the public but I'm still working part time. I've actually been getting a ton done that I never usually have time to get to. Honestly, it's been a great time for the Museum itself even though I haven't been able to have visitors. I still want to stay connected to the public and so have been sharing virtual exhibits. The latest one was a brief history of baking bread using artifacts from the collection.

2. Video Tour: The weather was terrible this spring and I know if I was giving school tours I would have been miserable about how cold and wet it was . . . but I still missed it. The kids always ask amazing questions and there's always the sweetie that wants to be right next to me the whole time. 

A friend asked if I'd consider doing a quick virtual tour for her son's class and in exchange she'd make a donation. I jumped at the chance and am pretty pleased with how my Virtual Tour of the Bunker Hill Schoolhouse turned out.

3. Speaking of videos, we've made a few.  The first (which seems like such a long time ago now) was a little something I called "Not in Sicily." I had seen a video online of Sicilian neighbors playing music on their balconies. My kids were all practicing their instruments in their rooms so I walked around the house filming them.
Then we filmed a "Quarantine Teen" (parody of Billy Ocean's Caribbean Queen) music video for a good friend's 13th birthday. After I specifically requested it, the kids did follow through (thanks to my oldest daughter) and film a Treat Your Mother Right video for me for Mother's Day. Lastly, we made a collaborative music video with friends in which they all filmed about thirty seconds at home and then I spliced them all together.
My boys are sort of over my video-making ideas that involve them but in this one all they had to do was pelt me with balls while I was walking by in a nice dress so they were all in.

4. Gardening, finally! When your nine-year-old is horrified by how dirty your feet are in the evening . . . to me, that's the sign of a great day.

5. Helping others. I have always derived joy out of volunteerism but don't always have the time to do it as much as I'd like to. The current time on my hands along with an increased need has provided ample opportunities to help out both on an individual basis (errands for folks who can't go out right now) or on a larger scale (now organizing my second donation drive for the food pantry).

A friend that I've been assisting said something about me putting on my superhero cape to help her so the next time I was able to, I was sure to do just that: