#Expo2015 – Milan Welcomes the World

For six months this year, Milan has expanded beyond its fashion and design personality to act as a window to the world for Expo 2015. The Expo used to be better known as the World’s Fair, but over time, the Expo has prevailed. Major, or universal expositions (like the current one in Milan) take place every five years. The last one was in Shanghai in 2010 and had the theme “Better City, Better Life”. In between the Shanghai Expo and the current one, there was a smaller one held in South Korea. This intermediate event was considered a specialized exposition, one that usually lasts for three months and has a more narrowly defined theme; in this case, “The Living Ocean and Coast”.

The theme for Expo 2015 surrounds food and feeding the world – “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. The Expo is a mammoth event with participation from over 140 countries, each with its own pavilion showcasing foods abundant in the area, strategies for agricultural growth, and general cultural information. There are special events throughout the day, tons of activities for families and kids; and if you’d been around in June, you would have been witness to the setting of a world’s record for the longest pizza.

In the many months (May-October) that the Expo has been in Milan, I sadly only managed to make a single evening visit in late August. (And, yes, I know there’s still time between now and the closing in October, but I’m back in the US without plans to return to Italy until November.)

So, here’s my evening at Expo 2015…

ExpoCrowdsWe left the city center on the metro at about 6pm on a Saturday, along with a couple hundred of our closest friends, a few more piling into the cars with each stop. The evening Expo ticket is a bargain at 5€ (the full day pass is 39€), and is good from 7pm until closing (11pm or midnight, depending on day of the week). Although the metro station is within easy walking distance from the ticket booths and general entrance, it’s a long slog from the turnstiles to the real center of activity. There are several entrances though, so find the one that works for you, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring an extra dose of patience if you’re someone who doesn’t readily embrace crowds!

ExpoStatuesWe stood looking at these statues, each honoring certain categories of food – sweets, fruits, meats, bread, wine (my kind of category!), while also trying to make sense of the map so we could plan our time. You may want to skip this step…the map can be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good map, but this one only served to let us know how sprawling the event is, and that chances were low, even with the best plan, that we would see everything we hoped to during the remaining evening hours.

The better plan was for us to take it as it came. Follow what looks interesting, try something you didn’t think you would, and keep the map handy should you find yourself hopelessly lost somewhere around the backside of Poland. Trust me. This can happen.

Argentina!For me, the highlight of the evening was arriving in Argentina just a few minutes in advance of a fantastically fun dancing and music performance. Not surprisingly, the

line for food in Argentina was discouragingly long. It almost caused us to turn away, but thankfully we navigated around the lines of hungry folk and started walking up a circular ramp. We ended up one floor above ground, facing a stage with a screen indicating a show was starting in about five minutes. The show was 20-30 minutes of nonstop action, and we had the best view in the place.

The Expo is where entertainment meets education. After our stint at Argentina, we flowed through a couple other countries and wound our way over to the chocolate section. We watched a video about the (incredibly elaborate) process required to go from cacao bean to edible chocolate. It’s quite involved and made me feel guilty (which didn’t last long!) for munching down a bar so quickly without much consideration of what it took to make it.

When our stomachs started grumbling we headed for the food trucks in the America section. The lines were manageable and the food familiar. We’d been inundated with so many wonderful aromas as we moved from pavilion to pavilion. Trying something new would have been the adventurous play. In any case, Food Truck Nation was where we ended up. I had the spicy shrimp roll. Can we say, “yum”?

After dinner we skated through a few more places and made it back to the Tree of Life in time for its presentation of lights. Simply lovely, and while I’ve never seen it during the day, I can’t imagine that the backdrop of the night sky isn’t the preferred way to see it.

Time’s running short to plan your visit to Expo 2015, but if you find yourself in the vicinity of Milan between now and mid-October, make the effort to get there. It won’t happen again for another five years. And at that point, you’ll need to be in the vicinity of Dubai. If you can’t make it there in person, or even if you can, here are some social media accounts that can give you the flavor of what’s happening:

Instagram:

@Expo2015Milano – official site for the Expo

@USAPavilion2015 – official site for the US Pavilion

@UKPavilion2015 – official site for the UK Pavilion

Twitter:

@Expo2015Milano – official site for the Expo

@BioParkExpo2015 – site dedicated to the biodiversity park within the Expo grounds

@USAPavilion2015 – official site for the US Pavilion

@UKPavilion2015 – official site for the UK Pavilion

 

Life in Negative Splits

If you’re a runner, you might be familiar with the term ‘negative splits’. It refers to running the second half of a race at a faster pace than the first. It’s a strategy many runners pursue, since it’s considered to be one key to faster overall times. I was contemplating this concept a few weeks ago after I had the unplanned fortune to run a negative split during a 10K trail run.

As a woman of a certain age, I thought how this concept might be applied to life. You see, I’m not just approaching middle age. I’m firmly and fully in the midst of it. There’s a time, maybe in your late thirties, where you can stave off the notion of middle age. I mean, 70 is the new 50, so surely 35 isn’t considered middle age. Then 40 comes, and you think, well, 80. Eighty’s not so bad. But a few years in to the decade, you really can’t ignore it anymore. You’re there. Halfway through, perhaps more. Deal with it.RunningMan

One way I want to deal with it is with this idea of negative splits – but not regarding time. I certainly don’t want the second half to go faster than the first (although I suspect it may feel that way). But from a performance standpoint, what a great idea. I want the second half to be better, more focused and intentional than the first.

There’s a sense of not wanting to be wasteful with my time. This is usually what I’m thinking about while I’m binge-watching missed episodes of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime. Clearly, I still have some work to do.

And that’s kind of the point. I do still have things I want to do, things I want to explore, experience, and discover. I want to keep thinking that’s the case and not let time just drift by. As a child, I recall relaxing on a raft in the ocean, eyes closed, not concerned about much until I woke with a start to find that the currents had moved me far from where my family was on the shore. It sure could take a lot of effort and time to get back to where I wanted to be.

Drifting isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s a path to finding something you never even knew existed. I’ve done a fair amount of that thus far, and thankfully most of my drifts have led to positive results. But I know myself better now and suspect that mindless drifting is unlikely to lead me to the finish line, arms raised, smile on my face, satisfied with my life in negative splits.

Oh, My Heck! It’s Pie and Beer Day

Photo: Talyn Sherer

Photo: Talyn Sherer

If you happen to be passing through Utah today, you may be surprised to find many businesses are closed, state liquor stores are shuttered, and there seems to be a celebratory spirit in the air. What’s happening, you might ask. Today is Pioneer Day, a day that commemorates the settling of the first Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Prior to their westward trek to Utah, the Mormons lived in Nauvoo, Illinois; however, after members of this new religion were persecuted for their faith, they packed up and headed out of town in search of a peaceful homeland. After what was reported to be a long, arduous journey punctuated by illness, death, and treacherous conditions, Brigham Young declared the Salt Lake Valley as the new homeland of the Mormon faith.

I moved to Utah almost twenty years ago, blithely unaware of the importance of July 24th. The mountain town I live in has less than 10,000 year round residents, three ski resorts, and most people came from somewhere else. Consequently, it’s a bit of an anomaly in the state and is somewhat sequestered from all things pioneer. I never took the day off work, so it was several years before I realized all the activity that was taking place a mere thirty miles west, not to mention elsewhere in the state.

Pioneer Day is marked by spectacular fireworks shows, parades, contests, traditional dress, and many a family reunion. But in recent years, a counter-culture has developed its own version of the state holiday. For non-Mormon Utahans, Pioneer Day has been re-imagined as Pie and Beer Day. While many are parading through city streets in prairie dresses and bonnets, the Pie and Beer folks are indulging in craft beers and pie, an intriguing collaboration between local breweries and bakeries.

If nothing else, Utahans have a sense of humor. Whichever version of the holiday you’re celebrating, have a good one!

 

 

Undeniable Signs of Summer

A few weeks ago, right around the beginning of June, I noticed this social media trend of people welcoming summer. To many, it would seem, the first of June marks the start of the season. My first reaction was, “Hey, what about the summer solstice? Isn’t that the official beginning of summer?” But, upon further reflection, I realized I have my summer signs too, and they’re rarely coordinated with the solstice.

When I was younger, there was no confusion about the start and end of summer. It was clearly demarcated by the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Ten or so glorious weeks where one day flowed to the next with no distinction between weeks and weekends. No homework, no bus rides, no hall passes to the bathroom.

These days, the signs can arrive in fits and starts rather than all at once. Here’s how I know that summer has arrived:

Who Turned on the Lights?

Long, lazy days of summer

It’s bedtime, dammit. I know it is! Then why is it so bright in here?

At the height of summer, it’s often light, or at least dusky, until ten o’clock at night. Even as a teenager, my internal clock was never calibrated for the rhythms of a night owl. Somewhere around nine, I’m drawn like a magnet to begin my “shutdown procedures” for the day. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, I’m in bed reading, acutely aware that there’s a whole word of activity still going on. Indeed, I can hear neighbors outside visiting around a fire pit, or dogs barking in protest that fetch will soon end.

In the early 90s, I lived in Alaska. It was a life of extremes – the shortest of short winter days and the longest of long summer ones. At the beginning of each summer, the near endless daylight was invigorating. I wanted to soak it all in, not miss a minute, mistakenly thinking I could somehow make up for the vitamin D deficient winter months. However, by the second or third week of little sleep, I was forced to don a classic Reuben Kincaid sleeping mask to force my biorhythms back on course.

I Become Shirley Temple

Not Shirley Temple Black, mind you – sophisticated, intelligent woman who served as US ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. No, no, not that one. The other one. The little girl with impossibly curly hair and dewy skin who romped around with bobby socks and lollipops as big as her head, singing to sooth the masses.

Okay, it might just be the impossibly curly hair that Shirley and I have in common during summer. I haven’t worn bobby socks in decades – probably around the last time my skin was described as dewy.

Perhaps the better comparison is Gilda Radner’s beloved character Roseanne Roseannadanna. The difference is a couple percentage points of humidity and the availability of weather-appropriate hair products.

My summer-time hair is like an inconsolable child who left her favorite sleepy-time doll at a friend’s house – a friend you aren’t going to see again for about three months. My hair cannot be tamed. Ringlets are like whack-a-moles. Tamp one down on the left, only to have another spring to life on the right.

Let’s just say it’s a season of bad hair days.

Flesh Frenzy

Once the shorts, tank tops, and sandals are front and center in the closet, summer has arrived. Unfortunately, this also means seeing a lot more midriffs than is really necessary.  I don’t consider myself to be a particularly modest person, but something about summer time wardrobes brings it out in me. I’m often surprised at the shortness of shorts or dresses, particularly when found in the most unlikely of places – churches, doctors’ offices, schools. – and, of course, Walmart. Everyone’s got there ‘You’ll never guess what I saw at Walmart’ story. No place seems to be oFeatured imageff limits.

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes on my part since most of those slinky items are no longer age appropriate – or rather body shape appropriate – for me, but I’d sure be pleased if beachwear was kept on the beach and there was still a sense of decorum when we’re out in public.

Of course, there are fun things about summer too.  That first time you lay out in the sun each year is utter relaxation. The summer fruits like nectarines and plums seem particularly delicious after not having them for months. Barbecues,  outdoor concerts, hiking my favorite trails. It’s a pretty good time, even if I am running around with bad hair and feeling sleep-deprived.

What are your summer signs? Maybe it’s an annual trip to the same place each year, a summer tennis league, or picking strawberries. Would love to hear your thoughts! Wear your sunscreen (and some clothes) and have a great summer.

 

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Midlife Crisis

Go for it!Are you approaching midlife? Perhaps wondering if you’re already there? We all arrive at it in our own way – some with a whimper and some with a bang. Midlife’s a natural time (although it can feel quite unnatural) to pause and take inventory. It’s what you do with the results that makes all the difference.

Gone are the days of the garden variety midlife crisis. You know the ones – men frequenting the gym, getting highlights and fake tans, and buying overpriced cars in fire engine red. When I was growing up, it seemed the midlife crisis was the singular domain of the middle-aged man.

But times have changed. Equality between men and women may not be all the feminists had hoped, but one thing is clear – when it comes to a midlife crisis, we’re all entitled to one. Use these three tips to plan for its success.

1. Don’t Sink the Ship to Improve the View

When you start to hear the rumblings of your crisis approach, don’t let the discontent or questioning have you jettisoning all that’s good in your life. Midlife isn’t a ‘do over’. You don’t get to act like the last 40-ish years of choices didn’t happen. Not without consequences anyway, and the last thing you want is to become one more cautionary tale. That pile is deep and wide.

We often find in midlife that the things we charged so hard at in our 20s and 30s haven’t brought as much fulfillment as promised.  Or maybe they did for a while, but now that’s started to wane. Midlife is a chance to set new intentions, to match long-held desires with decades of experience. Changing course should be a gentle shift. Be kind to yourself, your past, and those around you.

A midlife crisis is like going on walkabout, a sort of vision quest, a rite of passage that leads back home. Make sure the door’s still open when you get there.

2. Channel Your Inner Child

So how do you know what might satisfy your itch? One way is a bit of advice I heard from one of my favorite podcasts hosted by Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. In the eighth episode of their podcast “Happier”, Rubin and Craft suggest that asking yourself what you did for fun when you were 10 years old is a great way to find what might make you happy now. They don’t discuss it in the context of a midlife crisis, but why not? Your crisis is about change, changes to make you happier, more fulfilled, content.

Perhaps you loved to dance when you were 10, but didn’t keep up with it as the years passed. Or maybe you loved climbing trees, playing tennis, or listening to music. These are things that can be re-imagined as adult activities – especially climbing trees. Take it easy out there. No crisis is worth a broken hip.

Picking up a new hobby is a great way to channel youthful thoughts. When was the last time you took a lesson, tried a new sport, or went back to doing something you loved as a child? At some point, you probably moved from student to teacher, whether in your home, your profession, or both. It’s time to take a step back and play student again. Learning something new in middle age can be energizing and invigorating – challenging too, perhaps, but knowing you aren’t an old dog quite yet will do wonders for your view of the future.

3. Broadcast Your Intentions

Demonstrate respect for yourself and those around you by talking to them about what’s going on with you. I’m not advocating posting it as a Facebook status, by the way. Close friends, significant others, and family, though, definitely need a heads up. Talk to them about the angst you’re feeling and some of the changes you want to make. Engage them as a support system, give them a chance to ask questions, and maybe they’ll even have some ideas for you. Remember when you used to like to…? Or, You always said you wanted to… 

Be brave. Introduce changes slowly. Remember what it’s like to dream again. Did I mention be brave?

Use Your Words, People

#UYWP

A friend and I often discuss the ubiquitous nature of acronyms in this brave new world of hashtags and texting. We both love words and language, but it’s fair to say that texting has ushered in a whole new language, one for which there’s no special course or Rosetta Stone. So how is one to go about cracking the secret code?

Silly question, right? You’re probably going to tell me there’s an app for that. And you’d be right. Of course there is. But if you don’t come from the generation that intuitively knows what LOL, SMH, and ROTFL mean, then you also don’t naturally look for solutions to every problem in the app store.

My friend’s solution is to work in an office where 20-somethings abound. She has living, texting millennials in her midst, and she makes good use of them. She mines them for information and then discretely shares the data with her cohort, of which I am one. As with most knowledge, though, if it isn’t used soon after acquisition, it can end up in the recycle bin of the mind.

I bristle at using too many of them. I don’t even really like to LOL. In my day, we only had a few acronyms to keep up with – PS and RSVP come to mind. They must seem archaic these days, particularly since both of them were primarily related to written letters or invitations, vestiges of a bygone era.

I remember on long road trips trying to decipher vanity license plates with my sister. That’s what it feels like when I’m trying to figure out the meaning of FTW or YOLO, except I’m not huddled, unbuckled in the back seat of the family car arguing with my sister about who guessed right. In fact, coming up with alternate meanings can be a fun game. You occasionally fall on the right answer. But sometimes you also think YOLO means ‘Your Ovaries Look Old’. Since it’s no fun to play a game without a group of your most distant friends from around the globe, there’s an app for this too! The game serves up random acronyms and players posit their most creative guesses. When time’s up, players vote for their favorite. SMH…

In other acronym-related news, ‘WTF’ was recently listed among the new entries to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to which I want to respond – “WTF??” I mean, really, does this warrant a dictionary entry, other than perhaps in the Urban Dictionary? Merriam and Webster sure think so.

I appreciate that language evolves and changes. As well it should, or we would still be talking in ‘thous’ and ‘thees’. Perhaps the pace is too fast for me these days. Perhaps I’m bitter it wasn’t my generation that introduced the wild change. Or perhaps I just want you to UYWP.

Round about Town

By the end of this post, it will be abundantly clear timagehat you have not unwittingly landed on the next Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, or even <insert favorite Instagrammer here> . However, I do get a chance to see some cool things, so thought I would share. Plus, I’ve got some mad iPad skills.

This striking mural of a woman clutching a heart can be found in Via Morosini in Milan. It’s part of an urban regeneration project that’s goal is to take back an abandoned area of the neighborhood and establish it as a “cultural garden”. There’s certainly not much traditional gardening going on, but the space is clean, safe, and interesting.

image

There are actually two murals spanning the entire side of adjacent apartment buildings. This picture gives you some perspective of how the murals really command the space. The area has quickly become a meeting place, as evidenced by the three men relaxing and chatting on the bench.

imageOn the day I visited, there was a lending library displayed on several benches and tables around the garden. The rules were quite simple – take a book, leave a book. There were even
some books in English, but since I came without anything to leave, I amused myself by browsing the collection. A few women sat at nearby tables visiting, but keeping an eye on the books the whole time, lest the threatening clouds open up and drench them – something that seems to happen often at this time of year.

After I left the cultural garden, I wound my way through the sleepy, Sunday streets back to my apartment in Porta Venezia and came upon this street art. I know, I know – back in your day, they would have called it graffiti. They did that in my day too, but times they are a changin’. I’m doing my best to change with them; but mostly I just want people to think I’m a cool hipster (that’s redundant, isn’t it?)

image
Milan is filled with graffiti, both the kind that can easily be elevated to the category of street art as well as the kind that’s simple vandalism. I would argue that this picture qualifies as street art. There’s definite artistry at play, and I love the message – “The important things aren’t things.” It’s not every day that you get a life lesson from the side of a building.