In Search of Lost Opportunities

 

This one is for Alison With One “L” for making me laugh out loud with her last post (“Lost Time, Indeed”) in which she deals with her PTSD (Proustian Traumatic Stress Disorder).

As much as I would like to help you with your weightier existential questions, I am, unfortunately, a bit of an agnostic when it comes to packing peanuts and quantitative tomato decisions. I also won’t be much help when it comes to an obsessive need to finish every book, however recklessly started, because I share that particular quirk . . . ( . . . although! . . . I admit to the occasional skimming – e.g. the last 30 pages of “War and Peace” or the Mueller Report footnotes). How I CAN help, maybe, is by telling you the advice I would have given you had I known you were about to crack open a Proust – in the hope that it may positively influence your future choices in reading material and help you toward the non-remembrance of painful things past.

Belated Piece of Advice #1: To start off, I’m thinking what you need now is something  . . . shorter. So when fondling the next massive tome, stop and consider the alternatives. Behold:

Behold again (the novel you just finished in a nutshell):

 

Belated Piece of Advice #2: In case the above is a bit too superficial for your current frame of mind, here is a more philosophical yet still logical approach to decision making. Starting with some basic Math, I think we can agree that:

if A=B, and C=D, and B≠D, then A≠C.

Now let’s apply this logic to a certain French novelist.

Life is short. Proust is long. Short ≠ long. Therefore, Proust equals death.

 

I rest my case.

Happy future reading, Alison! May it be pithy.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

P.S.

In case you liked the first sample from this book, here are a few more of my favorites . . .

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Reeling from Time-Out to Time-Out

 

So here’s a possibly original take on the classic “why I haven’t been posting lately” post: I have just been so busy with one getaway after another.

First there was the sick leave, which, if I am honest, (and now that the memory of pain has faded), was really kind of nice. I have several crocheted animals to show for it.

That lasted about a week until boredom set in and sent me back to normal work for a few days. The week after was spent with two colleagues and twenty kids between the ages of 10 and 15 in an unheated house on an icy lake in Carinthia. Crap weather kept a lot of us in the one warm dining hall / arts and crafts / common room for most of the time. I taught a lot of kids to crochet and carve hiking sticks and make juggling balls with rice and balloons while my two coworkers took care of sports activities, homesickness and conflicts. We shared the task of kicking boys out of girls’ rooms and vice versa in the nights.

Back home, there followed an abnormally  over-excited week of work, thanks to the fact that the sex education experts were coming on Thursday and half the school kids were in a permanent tizzy – until the workshop was over, that is. Thursday at 12:30 pm they all casually emerged from their daylong sequestration in a state of feigned blasé whateverness.

(Note to future self: schedule the sex workshop BEFORE the trip to Carinthia!)

The following weekend – last weekend – was spent with my husband in some long overdue twosomeness at a nearby spa – my birthday gift to him. It was really perfect timing. With a long work slog just behind him and a mammoth one coming up, this was his one chance to unwind and unplug for a few days. Experience has taught us that we don’t see much of one another in the last weeks of the school year. For us teachers, June is the cruelest month.

Upon arrival at the spa, the first realization was that he had forgotten to pack swimming trunks. He rejected my idea to simply buy new ones. He didn’t really want to spend time in the water anyway, he said. He would start his training for an upcoming mountain bike tour and take long runs instead. He checked his cell phone and email.

“Whatever you want,” I said, and secretly hoping that the spa would work its magic.

It did. By Day Three he was napping on a lounge chair by the pool.

June could now begin.

Back home again, I stared at my calendar for the upcoming month and became confused. It slowly dawned on me that – at least in my case – this year was as good as over. First off, three long holiday weekends all fall in June this year, so I only had 10 more school days – and those were mostly excursions and sports days and special projects. Written into my calendar were some concerts and fests, a recital, one play and a canoe trip. There was a day at the public pool. There was a high school graduation ceremony and a big family celebration. There was the last day of school and the sentimental ritual that includes.

June was going to be a breeze!! Or so I thought.

 

The way I see it, Life is not a pathway forward but a curve-filled trek, always spiraling back toward some earlier point in time, though maybe on a higher or lower plane. That idea is behind the name “circumstance” and the way my blog entries often tend to end at or near the place they started.

In the case of this post . . . I am back on sick leave. Whatever caused my hip problem (which is much better now) has wandered up to my left shoulder. I’m back on anti-inflammatory meds and have new specialists and tests ahead of me next week. I assume there are also some hefty antibiotics in my future and some physical therapy. Olga will probably be beating me up again.

On the bright side . . .

. . . my earlier experiences tell me the worst of the pain involved (with the exception of Olga) is probably already behind me.

. . . I assume I will be able to take part in all of the events in my calendar that any one-armed person could manage and that is most of them. The canoe trip is probably a no-go. Shucks.

. . . I have this new duck:

 

I Stand Corrected

 

Hey guys!

I just wanted to let you know that my most recent posts included a certain amount of . . .  misinformation (especially when I tried to make predictions), so this one should set the record straight on a few things.

So far we only have one new grandchild (but a second egg is in motion):

 

I still have fifty pages to go and there has been no 70° weather yet:

 

 

It took three visits from Vera to half deplete the cleaning supplies. I will continue to monitor the situation silently:

(Now, in defense of my recent posts, please notice the reports in today’s paper – “Desperately Seeking Young Teachers” and “Styrians are Keeping Chickens Again”)

The fourth correction to be made is that the picture in my last post was of my elder daughter’s second last high school test. Today she had the last one – in German, so no drama there. It’s now looking fairly certain that she will make the Honor Roll – no, scratch that. I did not say that. (“I will not make predictions. I will not make predictions . . .”) I was also sort of wrong about her being done with high school. She came home today with an English assignment to do. A sample test question for the upcoming graduation exam.

Her task is to write a blog post and to make things easier, she got this handy instruction/information sheet including useful phrases to use. I looked it over and it seems I have been doing this blogging thing all wrong for the past four years.

The info sheet begins by defining a blog as an “online diary” that deals with “political themes, private experiences, travels, music, art, sports, youthful topics, or work”. (So, no chickens, Cheetos, or childishness.) Each post should have a title with a lot of nouns (Oops!), and an introduction that encourages the audience to keep reading (Oops! Oops!). It should begin with a friendly and familiar greeting, like “Hey guys!”

 

Aside:

“I never do that,” I told my daughter.

“Yeah,” she answered, “but I have to or my teacher will deduct points.”

 

In my daughter’s case, the post must be three paragraphs on the topic of binge drinking, whereby the first includes a negative experience, the second lays out all the disadvantages and negative effects, and the third is there to “explain [her] view on the matter”.

Aside:

I asked: “Can you write that you have these views because the test question told you to?”

“Yeah,” she answered, “but my teacher will deduct points.”

 

In addition, her blog post should address the reader directly, include some questions, and conclude by asking for/encouraging comments. So, what do all of you think about all this? Have you ever seen rules like these? Is this how you write your posts? Let me know! I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts! Please share in the comments below! I’m not kidding. DO IT!!

And in case you need some help in writing your comment, here are some useful phrases you can use:

    • I have stumbled across your blog recently and I . . .
    • I must say that I really enjoyed reading your blog.
    • I am so happy to have read your blog and I can only recommend it.
    • Thank you for pointing out that . . .
    • I just wanted to say that I completely share your opinion.
    • Great job!

 

If that is not enough, you can check the comments in your spam filter for more.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!!

 

German, English, Norwegian, Scottish, Irish, and Roman

 

I’m back to talking chickens.

Loyal readers will know what that means: there has been too much NSFB (“not suitable for blogging”) stuff going on and occupying my thoughts lately. Add to that the fact that I also subjected blogworld to two political rants in a short space of time, making me feel like I have to make up for it somehow. I have been rooting around for a nice, easy, non-political topic I can spend some time on . . . now, let’s see . . . what could I write about? . . . I know! . . . chickens!

 

 “We’re going to be grandparents of three,” my husband said to me a few days back. He had just checked our third batch of incubator eggs with his special illuminator device, homemade out of a toilet paper roll and some tin foil. Of the six eggs, three of them had dark shadowy innards. It takes almost exactly 21 days for the eggs to hatch, so in about two weeks’ time, I will be able to tell you if he was right.

Our first attempt, some of you may remember, resulted in the deformed, short-lived Quasimodo and the equally doomed Fred, the German Reich’s chicken who was clearly too beautiful to live. Those two were accompanied for their short time by some hastily purchased Wyandotte chicks, all four of whom turned into roosters and, subsequently, three of whom turned into dinner. The fourth is the father of our current incubator batch. This time I am actually hoping for a rooster. I want to name him “Pete Buttig-Egg”.

Our second attempt at incubating was more successful – it produced four hearty Orpingtons who managed to survive the harsh winter in a small henhouse with an open door. They did it by sticking close together. By March we had three full grown hens and one rooster but, sadly, no eggs. For months I fed them, checked the empty laying box, and then informed them that they were a bunch of good-for-nothing losers. But then – on the very same day Mueller finally submitted his report to the aptly named Barr – one of them laid an egg:

Surely there will be more to come. There has to.

 

All this focus on progeneration naturally led me to other thoughts. What about me? Where do I come from? I still remember asking my mother about it way back in grade school when the topic of nationalities was first introduced into my consciousness. Just like Elizabeth Warren’s mother’s tale of a Native American ancestor, my mom had a theory of her own to tell:

“Well let’s see . . . you are German, English, Norwegian, Scottish, Irish and Roman. Pretty much in that order.”

“Roman?” I asked. “Where does that come from?”

Mom told me that her own mother was 100% English, but that she had dark hair and olive skin – so that probably went back to some Roman soldier from the Empire’s occupation of England in the first millennium. It seemed pretty feasible.

In defense of my mother, I assume now that she was being a little facetious and never thought I would go on to repeating that list of nationalities – including the last one – for the next two decades. Thank goodness there was no “Roman” box to tick on my college application form!

The mystery surrounding my heritage was further complicated by my elder sister who has spent years compiling a massive database of our genealogical tree. I only know a tiny bit of it, but I vaguely remember her correcting my version of our connection to the Mayflower and – more importantly – not being able to confirm the “Irish” part of my nationality list. This disturbs me greatly because I once distinctly heard the call of my ancestors while wandering around the peninsula of Dingle in Ireland. On the other hand, when I was in Rome a few years back, I listened for a similar call and . . . nothin’.

Fortunately, modern science might offer me a way to prove or disprove my mother’s and sister’s theories. My Cuban friend (whose mother told her she had some Chinese ancestry) did a DNA test through “MyHeritage” and got some surprising results. To cut to the chase, she now walks around feeling less connection with the Ming dynasty and more with the Massai.

Of course, after hearing her tale, I went online and ordered two kits for me and my husband. They have been sitting on a shelf for weeks, but I’ve decided that today is the day to force the hubby to swab. Once that is done, I will mail the spittle off. So . . . in about six weeks’ time, I will be able to tell you if my mother or sister was right. I’m curious to find out who, if anyone, will be exonerated.

 

 

Happy New Year!

Ever so slightly belated.

Clearly, “stop procrastinating” was not on my list of New Year’s Resolutions this year. That might be because I didn’t actually make one. While listening to some podcast over Christmas vacation, I heard a funny woman say

“To Do lists are a weapon you use to beat yourself up”

– which somehow hit home. And what are new year’s resolutions if not simply more ambitious and glorified versions of the daily tally of undone intentions? So there is no piece of paper lying on my desk this year, commanding me to start jogging or give up coffee. That’s a relief.

Which is not to say I don’t have a few ideas about how to tweak my daily routine and rid it of a few ruts . . .

There are certain gaps in my education and experience that I am considering doing something about. I have never seen the movie “The Godfather”, for instance, which I keep hearing quotes from in political news shows. Another example from the category Must-See-Films-I-Haven’t is “The Big Lebowski” (which, my being from Milwaukee, is apparently an almost unfathomable sin of omission).  And then there is the fact that for thirty years, I have lived 5 minutes away from the largest hot springs spa in Austria, with a special, luxurious, adults-only section for which I have a lifetime 50% discount – and I have never been there. Similarly, for the past 4 years, a beautiful grand piano has occupied half of my living room and I have only played it once.

I’m a creature of habit for sure. Every day begins with the same movements – the donning of the same blue bathrobe, the trip to the bathroom, the petting of the dog on the stairs en route to the coffee machine and the swallowing of a daily vitamin and thyroid pill. From there it is off to the laptop for a quick email check and a Good Morning, Rachel . . . (thanks to the time difference, Maddow is my morning news show). So far none of this requires much tweaking, but other habits have snuck into my days that don’t do me much good. For instance, the additional daily doses of disillusionment that Donald delivers. I could do without those. And those educational gaps I mentioned above? Well, I have thought about these so many times over so many years that one could argue I have made a habit of not doing them. Not keeping up with this blog is another bad habit in that category. It’s the one I’m planning to quit today.

I binged some “Big Bang Theory” over Christmas and had to laugh about Sheldon’s quest to find the perfect date (with mathematical symmetry) for his wedding. I do the same thing all the time – a habit I started back when I was a smoker and repeatedly looked for a memorable date on which to make my next attempt at quitting. (Just as an aside here, the date that finally worked was my daughter’s birthday.) Well, this blog post was written on the 19th and 20th days of 2019 – how is that for symmetry?

I hope it is not premature to say that it’s good to be back.

Good News

I finished our wreath yesterday, just in time for the First Sunday in Advent celebration – which this year consisted of lighting a candle. My 16 and 18 year old daughters dutifully complimented my work, made 95 seconds of small talk and then retreated back to their rooms.

In earlier years, we would have had a longer ritual including aromatic tea, cookies, the sound of Bing or Dean or Frank softly singing Christmas carols in the background, and a reading of some short, moralistic, Christmas-themed story. That last part, to be honest, was never my daughters’ favorite and might explain their speedy departures now.

So . . . seeing as how I missed telling them a sappy story, I will force one on my blog audience . . .

A week ago, we just had friends visiting and we took them to the Christmas market that had enchanted us so much the first time we were there  (when I bought my “alternative” crèche.) While we were there, I unhopefully walked up to the cashier and asked if anyone had found a missing Baby Jesus made of felt about the size of my thumb. I wasn’t expecting much as we traipsed over to the next room. In the corner where my crèche had been displayed there was now a bucket of stuffed sheep and cows. We took a closer look and . . .

 

. . . there he was.

 

A little Christmas miracle.

 

My Baby’s Gone n’ Done It

Continuing with the Bible citing from my last post, I will add . . .

King James Version – Genesis 2:2-3:

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

 

All this repetition makes me think God really, really (!) wanted to make a point about all the work he had made and how he needed a rest.

Suddenly we two are back in sync. I needed a rest too! Of course, me living 6000 years later in a more modern period after the Great Flood and the invention of weekends, I took both the sixth and the seventh day off to rest. And then I added on the eighth for good measure, because . . . heck! Why not? It’s summer!

On the Ninth Day, however, I was fully back with The Plan – the one exception was the blogging part.

And my elder daughter was to blame for that.

It pains me to say this but she . . . but she . . . she had the AUDACITY  to . . . to . . . TURN 18!!  And to add insult to injury, she is . . . she is . . . TAKING HER DRIVING TEST TOMORROW!!

There. I have said it.

I hope you will all understand why, when it comes to blogging, I am just phoning it in today. All I will add are the links to earlier posts which should suffice to explain everything about my state of mind:

Fritz the Sheep  and Driver’s Education.

 

P.S. My daughter loved the box of treasures I had been saving since her babyhood (mentioned in the post above). At the end of the evening she asked me where I thought she should keep it. I offered to keep storing it in my closet for her and she immediately thought that was a good idea. She may be 18 now, but she still likes the idea that Mom will take care of certain things for her. That was a gift from her to me today.