Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten on Tuesday


1. Have you ever used Craigslist?
No. It's creepy. And full of untruths: I know your "vintage walnut chest of drawers" is actually an 80s era chipboard IKEA dresser, painted dark brown. Stop lying.

2. Can you sew?
Yes. Now should I sew is another question. I spent horrific amounts of money and time making a skirt last summer that is hideous and entirely too big.

3. Do you pour syrup on your pancakes or dip your pancakes in the syrup?

I pour the syrup on top, just enough to soak in a little and then dip the bottom in the syrup on my plate. A highly technical but delicious method of consumption.

4. Rain storms: Love them or hate them?

Love them when I'm inside and it's my turn to mow the grass. Hate them when I'm at the pool. 

5. Do you like swimming?

I do. I would prefer if the bathing costumes of the 1920s were in fashion, nevertheless, swimming is a pleasing pastime. It can also be a great workout, if one is so inclined. I'm usually not.

6. What kind of drink do you order at Sonic?

They closed the Sonic in my town while I was away, weep weep. But Cherry Limeade. Sweet, tart, slushy goodness in a cup. Now with real limes and cherries.

7. Are you funny?

I'm actually terribly serious most of the time, but no one seems to understand that. 

8. At what age will your kids get cell phones?

In the distant future on the planet Klaxorr, cell phones will be obsolete so my children will call and "voice-text" their friends from the command center in their space helmets. So as soon as they can talk. 

9. What’s your favorite vegetable?

Huge fan of pumpkin. Also zucchini.

10. Were you a Girl Scout?

No. But that doesn't stop me from buying their cookies to support their yearly drive to raise....what is it they sell the cookies for again?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Golden Weekend

To road trips with parents and learning to love "soy crisps"
To being reunited with my nearest and dearest and not taking a hike
To Sheldon's oneliners and virgin Cuba Libres
To "I Heart Cat" photo frames and lollipops bigger than my face
To graduation parties and color-coordinated m&m's
To seeing how rag rugs are made and windmills are built:

Mon coeur est rempli.
My heart is filled.

And to you, at the close of a fantastic weekend:

Go greet Monday with a smile.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

I'm all about the list posts, so here's another one. I first spotted this on Rainy Saturday, who got it from Roots and Rings. That's the blog life, folks. One big share circle.

5.17.11 This is a photo edition of Ten on Tuesday. Post a photo of each of the following:

1. Your favorite piece of furniture in your home

My white wicker dresser with the matching mirror and bedside table. When I was ten, Pier 1 Imports was my favorite store. I saw this set there and fell in love. Oh how I begged and begged.  Much to my surprise (and delight!), I came home from school one day to find it in my bedroom.

2. Your favorite thing on your wall
My fictional Civil War husband and fellow Urban Outfitters lover sent me this giant canvas print for my birthday last year. Thanks Horace/Jilly.

3. Your bed as it looks right now

I have trouble making my bed. Ever. So I'd be lying if I showed you anything but this. Even though, out of guilt, I totally made it after taking the picture.

4. Your pantry.

I currently live with my parents, so here's my mom's. (Don't be mad, it's organized!)  Things you learn about my family from this picture: apparently we store the onions in the crock pot. Good to know. Also, based on the number of kid cereals, there is clearly a 7-year old in residence. Actually, my personal pantry would probably look the same. Cereal is at the top of my personal food pyramid.

5. Your favorite piece of jewelry

Watches. always. My favorite is my gray Swatch (duh, it's Swiss), but I have a terrible feeling it is lost in Massachusetts because I haven't seen it since then. So here is my next favorite: a rad stripey Target timepiece.

6. Your favorite book

Let's be real. Picking a favorite book is like a mother picking a favorite child. Secretly she has one, but doesn't want to share for fear of hurting the others' feelings. So here's a stack of recent favorites:
Leaves of Grass (poetry)
The Mind of the South (nonfiction)
cupcakes! (recipes)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the most unclassic of Austen remakes)
Old Friends and New Fancies (the original Austen spinoff)

7. Your most comfortable shirt
 Worst picture ever? yes. It is impossible to successfully photograph the back of oneself.  But this is the shirt my Swiss brothers made me. They put their hand prints on it and their mother wrote "Ton Fan-Club" (your fan club) above and their names below (Levio and Nolan). On the front it has the Swiss cross. adorable!

8. Your messiest room

If we're being honest, it's my brother's "man cave" in the basement. But in an effort to keep the peace, here is my desk in artful disarray.  Your secret is safe with me, Sam.

9. Your house shoes
The comfiest slippers you'll ever find. A gift from my dear cousin, to warm my feet on that cold English afternoon.

10. Yourself
 ::enthusiastic wave:: what a dork.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Green thumb? Maybe

The response to my last post was overwhelming in a wonderful way. What a lovely bunch of people in my life! Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. That's not the last you'll hear of my time in Switzerland. So many people and places I have to introduce you to! There are a few posts in the works, but none ready at the moment. 

Oh flowers.... one of my favorite things about Lausanne were the fresh flowers sold at the weekly Saturday morning farmer's market.  Every week it was a feast for the eyes, the stalls bursting with armfuls of jewel-colored blossoms. I never indulged but only because I would have had to buy them before the market closed at noon and carry them around until my evening train ride home.

But it wasn't just in the city, all the families I knew had such beautiful landscaping and vegetable gardens, regardless of how big or small their yard. My host family had the loveliest array of potted plants.  They do not have a large garden by American standards but they made excellent use of the space. Aside from the flowers there were potted herbs, zucchini, tomatoes, even a fig tree. Not to mention the amazing variety of fruit trees and flowers in the lush garden of another of my favorite Swiss families.

I've always enjoyed plants but have never been interested in growing them myself, for two reasons. One, we have a huge rabbit problem. They eat everything remotely delicious looking, meaning any blooms are gone soon after they appear.  Two, maintaining flowers means pulling weeds, and pulling weeds means potentially infecting myself with poison ivy. Which means temporary facial disfigurement and the use of steroids to make them go away. It's just a long, itchy slope into drug dependence.

But now I've been inspired.  May has been rather rainy and cool, so not many nice days to get out and plant things. Today was not especially pleasant but my mom and I went to a local nursery and wandered about, immersed in all things flora. What looked to be a small patch of trees from the road turned out to be an enchanting woodland paradise. I immediately pictured the front porch surrounded by white and pink English tea roses, or in the back under the windows, a stunning rainbow of purple dianthus and blue hydrangeas. The dream was shattered as soon as I saw the prices of these nursery gems.  Since I'm not operating on Martha Stewart's budget, I was forced to fill my floral needs at the garden center of the nearby grocery store.

Nevertheless, we came home with a pleasing carful of verbana, salvia, fuschia, as well as ranuculus and dahlia bulbs, and a few of them even made their way into the ground before the evening was done. It's early yet, but this could be the start of a future in award-winning gardening for me. Or it could be a really expensive waste of time. We'll see.  In the meantime, I'll be sitting out in landscaping with a shotgun in case the rabbits get any ideas. Wascally wabbits.

That's right, I'm the Elmer Fudd of the Home and Garden Network.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Jar of Hidden Things and Secret Thoughts

This is the story of my coming home, but more than that, it's the story of me coming to terms with myself.  The time has come to share. I brought out the jar and have poured it out on this page.  It's the heaviest, most serious post I've ever written, so if you only come to this blog for laughs and recipes, please skip to other entries. 

Let me start with the obvious: 1) I'm home from Switzerland 2) I haven't been writing about it.  I've been going along with the thought that I owe you (the reader) nothing and therefore no reason to lay it out there. And then I read my dear friend Julie's post about ziploc bag honesty and it cut me to the core. This is why I stopped writing.  I can't write what I'm not feeling. There hasn't been a Things I Love This Week post in ages, because I'm not in a place where I can stop to smell the flowers and appreciate the little things.  The words are forced and fake, so I don't write them. But at the same time, I'm terrified of being honest in my blog, because I can't even be honest with myself.

I've been hemming and hawing, nervously guarding this experience, keeping it trapped in the swirling mass of all the everyday stream-of-consciousness thoughts of being:

"I think there's a Goodwill on the way to the grocery store.....if I am merely the sum of all my day-to-day choices, who am I today?.....must remember to call Grammie back...I love that turquoise sweater....what am I going to do with the rest of my life?......ah perfect, adding vinegar to regular milk will substitute for buttermilk....was Switzerland a dream? did it change me at all?....why aren't pet foxes a thing? must marry someone rich/smart to make this happen." 

For a very long time, there's been a heaviness to my thoughts.  A dark cloud, full of stinging rain that threatens to burst in my mind at any point.  I used to love long drives. Not just 45 minutes through the countryside, but 10, 11 hour roadtrips to the East Coast. "Don't you get bored?" people would ask. But no, I could just become so utterly absorbed in my thoughts that the hours and the miles would fly by.  Something about just me, my music, and the rhythm of the wheels, that appealed to my unburdened, idealistic mind.  Such clarity that comes from hours of letting my mind wander uninhibited!

Last week, I took a trip to Massachusetts with my sister, and it was clear my love affair with the open road was no more. I got into the driver's seat, adjusted the mirrors, and let my mind wander as Eva drifted off to sleep next to me. There's a certain point in between the miles where the usual brain chatter fades away and the memories and deep musings begin.  The thoughts of gas prices and where we would stop next faded away, to be replaced by a happy memory of an evening with all the family in the living room of our cottage in England. I paused in my mind to walk around the memory, picking up and examining the pleasant little details. Watching my cousin open her wedding gifts. Someone was braiding my hair, the sense memory of fingers next to my scalp.  The sound of spoons clinking against teacups. A general sense of togetherness and being loved. But of course, the evening didn't last forever. We got up and filtered out of the room and the memory began to pass, the warm golden ribbon of good feeling melting away. 

It's funny how memory works; things dash across our mind at the speed of light but sometimes it stops to savor a specific event, moment by moment. But then it's over and the faces of my various family members slipped out of my mind's eye as quickly they left the room that night. It picked up speed, the rest of that English vacation, flashing by, leaping forward through that summer, and all the things and choices that led me to that moment of leaving for Switzerland.  That terrible, gut-wrenching instant when my family's faces disappeared beyond the security gate and I was alone in the airport, facing the biggest experience of my life. When I slumped down into the blue plastic chairs of the terminal and cried so hard I thought my boots would fill with tears and float away.  
 In that moment, a cold fear gripped my heart. There I was standing on the brink of the unknown, not ready to jump but with nothing left to hold onto.  Everything familiar was moments from being left behind, tiny shapes disappearing into the blue as the plane carried me away.

As I was reminiscing in the car, the same feelings crept back over me.  Because I'm in that exact same place right now.  I'm home from Switzerland, earlier than planned, and the world is a huge white canvas.  Somewhere in my mind I know that I should be excited by the wide world of possibilities before me but I'm terrified.  I'm unemployed and living at home, with no idea what the future holds in store.  What if I don't have the right tools?  What if I fail?  What if the best I'll ever be in this life is already behind me?  These are the things I think about if I let my mind wander.  The icy fingers of doubt sneak in and take over.  I was suddenly afraid to be at the wheel, as though on top of everything else, I would lose control of the car too.  Eva had to drive the rest of the way that day. I wanted to run home and crawl under the covers.

That's the difference between me then and me now.  It never occurred to me to gather my bags and run out of that airport, back in the direction I came.  I knew there were two little Swiss children 4500 miles in front of me, waiting for their new nanny.  I knew there were lands and people and things and moments that I would come to love just as much as the ones I was leaving.  So I sloshed off to the bathroom, mopped up and actually slapped myself in the face. I looked hard in the mirror at my watery eyes and told myself that I could do this. "Get a grip. Go tackle this, like you tackled college. Like you tackled that terrible job at the dog kennel. Like you know enough about football to be using such words as 'tackled'. And if anyone asks, that growing red mark on your cheek is rosacea."  

And I did. Deepest of breaths, stepping onto the plane and again the memory slides out, whizzing forward to the present day. It became true: there are lands and people and things and moments from those seven months that I love so dearly.  Experiences I would not replace for all the tea in China. But I changed. The cold fall wind blew in and stayed; it seemed to hollow out a space inside me.  It was like a hole appeared in the fabric of my being. Small enough to go unnoticed for awhile but big enough for all the sunshine and self-confidence to slowly leak out.  And the most maddening thing: I don't know why or how the hole got there.  

And then one day I was standing in a crowded museum in Paris, in a crush of people admiring a Vincent Van Gogh collection when it seemed like all the oxygen left the room.  For no reason at all, that cold fear from the airport was back. And it brought a friend: pure, unadulterated panic.  Waves and waves of it, as though I'd been thrown into the ocean and had forgotten how to swim.  It caught me completely off-guard.  I took the train back to Switzerland early Monday morning, a thousand questions plaguing me. And then it kept happening, regardless of time and place. Out of nowhere, fear and panic would encircle me and link arms. The more I struggled, the tighter the grip until suddenly, release. And I'm on the floor, sweating and gasping for air.  

I began to fear the feeling.  There was no way to predict it or prevent it.  Sleep eluded me and I lost all desire to eat.  I didn't want to leave the house. And then I didn't want to leave my bed.  I was locked in an endless loop of fearing the fear.  It was starkly clear that this was more than I could handle alone.  I needed to leave Switzerland.  And thus, the reason I came home, with no fanfare or forewarning, and four months early. 

So here we are, a little over a month past the day my feet were back on American soil.  I'd like to say I bring you this story from the other side of the valley, but I would be lying.  Obviously, I've taken the proper steps to getting on the road to right, but I'm not there yet. It would be naive to think I could shake this off like a bad head cold.  
The fear is still there, lurking always. It comes over me but feels more familiar, predictable even. I'm learning how to deal with it. I wish so urgently to understand it, why it's there. Perhaps one day I will. Not to mention the regrets: so many regrets about leaving early. So many people I never got to say goodbye to, leaving in such a fashion.  So many people I miss so achingly each and every day! I know even though it feels like a mountain, from the other side this will look like a speed bump. For now, I'm trying to get back into a rhythm, distracting my mind to get through the day; baking, organizing, shopping, cleaning even.  In the name of progress though, I'm trying my hardest to get back to that place where I can look in the mirror at my watery eyes and be completely honest with myself.

Of course I could do this privately and not on the Internet, but I need it out there staring at me in black and white to acknowledge its presence.  I am very good at avoiding dealing with things when they are kept secret in my mind.  And perhaps that is the root of the problem in the first place. So please don't disparage me for sharing, this is not for attention or some sort of sympathy vote. In fact, I hid it because I was afraid it would change the way people would act around me.
What I ask now of you, reader, is that the next time you see me, no matter what sort of relationship we have, don't let this be an elephant in the room. Don't feel like you need to walk on eggshells or pat me delicately on the hand.  I have been altered, but will not be defined, by this experience. 

Well then, let's all have a smile and a hug. I'm all weird and emotional and not sure how to end this so  for goodness' sake, stop reading and go watch the video of the kitty riding the turtle's back.

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