Sunday, February 23, 2014

Memory, memories, memorable

Sometimes it’s useful to consult a dictionary just to refresh one’s thoughts: was going to say memory, but that would really be too much in light of what follows.

My favorite go-to dictionary is an old Webster’s dating back to 1966. Side thought: I bet that 10% of the words contained therein are obsolete now, if not more and that the new one would probably contain another 10% - words brought about by the changes in technology and time.

I digress.

In that version “memory” the noun means “1.the power, act, or process of remembering. 2. The total of what one remembers 3. A person, thing, happening, or act remembered…” But it’s the one under these that I like most: “memory refers specifically to the ability or power for retaining or reviving in the mind past thoughts, images, ideas, etc.”

I do not disagree with those who say that animals can remember, but I do believe that the human being alone possesses the capacity to remember on a large scale: to remember not only a pavlovian-type response, but to also remember the why behind the response or memory; to remember things or persons in context; to be able to put words to memories; to write about them many years after their advent; to remember indifferently whether good, bad or neutral (although we do fortunately bury the bad, letting the good stay closer to the surface).

I have the memories, his friends have the memories (one of whom called today, which is what set off this train of thought): he would have been 79 today. I am now older than he when he died, yet the memories make what we had memorable.

“You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

And that it does: here’s to you Ralf!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fifty Shades of gray…

The real ones.

Yesterday was such a glorious day – I watched the bright blue skies from my office window and kept thinking: I must get out, must take a walk.
By the time I finally did, the weather was (for once as announced) starting to turn.

But 50 shades of gray are also very delightful.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Morning News

Sometimes the morning news is just too good to keep to myself.
In addition to the sad and the bad there is the odd occasion where there are entertaining, thoughtful, downright humorous bits sprinkled throughout.

Today’s edition was rich in snippets of trivia (in no particular order either chronologically nor in importance):

·      Yesterday morning an Ethiopian co-pilot high jacked an airplane headed for Rome, to Geneva where, after having to circle due to said airport’s not being open, he landed, crawled out of the side window with a rope and easily gave himself up, requesting asylum: unfortunately for him, Switzerland doesn’t grant asylum to anyone having committed a crime. Oops

·      Same theme: the plane was accompanied when they entered Italian territory, first by Italian jet fighters, later by French jet fighters: Switzerland’s jet fighters are only operative from 8 a.m. until noon then again from 13:30 until 17:00.   And in a few months we will be voting as to whether or not to acquire new jet fighter planes…

·      ABBA – the much beloved Swedish group wore very colorful (not to say outlandish) costumes: why? Turns out that they could deduct the cost of said costumes, but only if they could not be worn as everyday wear. What we won’t do to get a tax deduction.

·      After the vote against “massive immigration” passed by a narrow margin (50,3% for), others are emulating it: a recent initiative was deposited in the canton of Ticino: 5’500 signatures to put to the vote taking Switzerland back out of Schengen.

·      A street had it’s name change from the “route of the students” to “burnt farms” (rough translations) because 9 barns have burnt in the sector – a mystery that has yet to be solved: perhaps the name change will see them all burn down, then we can change it back to something like “path of agriculture” or “no deposits”.

·      Switzerland has too much salt as winter has not been as cold as usual, solution: send 24 tons of it to Sotchi where it can be used to keep the snow on the ground.

·      And, last, but not least: there is too much arsenic in rice crackers!

Almost looking forward to tomorrow’s news.

Monday, February 17, 2014

– Truth or Platitude

Lac Léman February 17, 2014

And I’ll add Plato to the mix.

Can a truth be a platitude? Can a platitude be a truth? Are they mutually exclusive, or mutually inclusive?

Truth, defined by Webster’s is the quality or state of conforming with the facts or with reality. It can, however, be an idealized abstraction as well as an actual application.

A Platitude, again as defined by Webster’s is a remark, which is commonplace, trite, even dull, especially if one utters it as though it were a new or novel idea.

So is Plato’s “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” truth or platitude?

Regardless of the philosophical discussion that one can hold – and wouldn’t it have been fun to listen to Pythagorus, Plato, Socrates or Aristotle –in the eyes of this beholder, I have found beauty in the past 24 hours.

Sunset February 16

Lake Swan
Heart of a yellow tulip

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Kitchen cleaned
Hair washed
Dishwasher running
Clothes washer on

Succinct doesn’t necessarily do it.
These 9 little words in no way indicate the time, effort or energy involved.
I won’t go “Proustian” on anyone though as


Single words will suffice.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just because I could…

I turned over and went back to sleep when I awoke at 6 a.m.;
I got up, fiddled around and made fresh applesauce from leftover apples;
Went for coffee and the mail late (sick friend meant no meeting this morning);
Went mid-morning shopping;
Picked up the ingredients for lemon “brownies”,
Bought some cheery yellow tulips for the sick friend as well as
white ones for myself;
Popped around to take the flowers and fresh applesauce to my friend: she gives so much to everyone else, she deserves anything that I can do;
Worked for an hour (o.k. that was more just because I should);
Late, light lunch
A computer game or two and now I’m ready for the rest of the afternoon.

Ah – the beauty of doing things just because I can sure beats “have to” any day.
But I guess I had best not apply it too often or
1)   It would lose it’s attraction and “change” value
2)   I’d never get anything accomplished

Friday, February 14, 2014

Copacabana sur Genève or…

The power of thought.

Remember my fat lip blog? Today, a week later, it was time for the stitches to come out. Hadn’t worried too much throughout the week, but conscious that “today was the day”.

Upon arrival the nurse-receptionist (who is very bubbly and always smiling – a great thing for a doctor’s office) installed me in one of the rooms, telling me straight away that the doctor was running a bit behind.

I was apprehensive about the stitches coming out as my lip had really hurt after surgery, to which she replied that she was the one who was going to “torture” me. Not as painful as I thought (but no, I would prefer not to have a repeat anytime within my memory).

Then I was left to relax on the narrow examining table: closed my eyes, had my lovely warm blanket, and with the bright light shining through my eyelids I transported myself to Copacabana. All that was lacking was the music.

The doctor’s arrival broke the dream, but I’ll vacation on as the lip-lump was not cancerous: the chest mini-mole was dysplasic so return next year. Meanwhile Champagne anyone – I’m off to my beach – at least in spirit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My mother told me that there would be days…

She just didn’t tell me how bad they could get.

I should have known that it was not going to be a stellar day when my local newspaper was not in my PO Box at 9 this morning (we recently lost our post office in spite of protests, in spite of long lines – it’s all about profit these days regardless of the country).

There had been issues when they were delivering from the larger post office 4 miles down the road, but our post master had still been here to call and straighten things out: no Daniel in sight this morning – he’s been sent off to substitute throughout the canton.

I enjoyed tea and catching up with a friend then swung by again on my way back home: nothing (there had been one letter however at the normal time so I figured that mail had been delivered).

Worked awhile, did various tasks, had lunch then mid-afternoon set off for my normal coffee. By the time I made it to the large post office I had looked through the telephone book (no phone numbers for any of the local branches, no phone number for any throughout Switzerland), gone on-line where I also was not able to find one single number. I could have opened 10 accounts, got advice on investments, bought stamps, figured out what the postage would be for a package to Switzerland, Europe or even internationally, same for a letter, a postcard, a piece of advertising: I could have applied for a job and any number of other non-postage-related topics, but NO telephone number for information of the mundane variety.

At the larger post office, knowing that it was futile, I duly waited the 10 minutes in line, then explained to the lady at the counter, taking care not to blame her personally. Of course she didn’t have a clue. Turns out that there is now only one number for “client relationships” throughout the entire country! It was too late, but this number would supposedly allow me to ask the local postal employees who actually deliver the mail why they hadn’t brought my paper.

Returning home I swung by the PO Box yet again and lo and behold – not only the paper, but also letters: will never learn why I am sure – and they call this progress.

That however was not the end of my trials and tribulations: had purchased a piece of squash intending upon making fresh soup. Now, normally I would take a part of it and microwave just what I need, blending it with a hand-held blender, but I was being thrifty (and saving time for tomorrow or whenever I end up having soup the second time) so wanted to cook the whole thing. Over the holidays I had made red-cabbage for one of my neighbors – taking it up in a large glass bowl that works well in the microwave – but had never recuperated said bowl. Hmmm: had to actually get out a pan and steam it on the stovetop. Not a problem as I have a lovely heavy-duty blender, which I have used all of twice since I bought it 5 years ago (loaned it to my younger son for a couple of years and he has just brought it back).  Squash duly softened I scraped the meat off the skin and put it into the blender – WITH A TOP ON. Locked things down and pushed the button and witnessed orange soup fly all over the counter top and anything on it.  Did I learn ? Just figured that I needed to hold the top on. Try 2 – another half the contents on the floor, the upper cabinet doors, taking it even further onto the adjoining window, green bin, soda maker, Nespresso machine and anything that I had missed the first time.

For anyone who thought my kitchen was gray and without color – I will be scraping orange from holes and cracks and places I didn’t know existed for some time yet.

Hope that the soup is at least good! 

But that wasn't quite the end of it: whilst I was still standing there, there was a flash of light from the microwave (new last week) and it was out, the under cabinet lights were out - and nothing had been turned on at all - blown fuse, just hope it hasn't ruined the microwave.

I’m now off to sit quietly in a chair and hope that nothing else happens before I can get into bed and stay out of trouble for at least the night (do I need to put barriers on my bed?).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Security blankets

Come in many sizes, colors and fabrics: some aren’t even blankets!

My security “blanket” is reading material: I can’t even drive across town without having something to read in the car in case I get stuck in a traffic jam, or at a long stop light. If I take a flight I have to have at least two papers, a book, a couple of magazines and some Sudoku games.

This morning I took my roommate to the train station, leaving the house with 3 pieces of reading material. After a check on the trains and schedules we had a leisurely breakfast (and wasn’t she a dear – said that taxi drivers were worth something – and picked up the tab! I always love the surprise and may I never think that it is due!) after which I had a browse in the newspaper store next door, walking out with three more magazines or papers.

18 stop lights on the way home but as it was Sunday, only had to stop briefly for two: never mind, I am covered today for any down moments.

My security blanket is in place.

Fat lips and

Other adventures

Friday I had to have surgery for two bits of skin that potentially could have been (keeping fingers crossed) a problem. One was a tiny crescent shaped mole on my chest – no problem and I could care less what it looks like. The other unfortunately was part of my lower lip.

Then I had a choice: stay in for a couple of weeks so as not to expose others to my changed appearance and huge, fat lip, or live life – never guess what I chose. The reactions have been interesting: those who don’t know me of course notice nothing; those who do automatically presume that I have fallen, yet again, and split my lip.

No bandage, just a split lip with stitches.  During surgery I was not allowed to talk part of the time and of course had to laugh at an image in my mind whilst the doctor was stitching up the lip. When he asked afterwards what had been so funny, I told him: I felt like a fish that had been caught, hook, line and sinker.

Less funny is the necessity to not get said lip wet. Didn’t have time to make an appointment with the hairdresser so my housemate got pulled into shampoo duty. My hair is clean – as is the rest of the bathroom!

Somehow I don’t think this is what we had in mind when we talk about our “adventures”.

Shampoo the hair? What about the bathroom too?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Vas, Vis, et Deviens”… or

Go, Live and Become
The original title above refers to a French-Israelian film made in 2005 by Radu Milhaileanu: one which explores what happens when a child is told by his mother to leave her and pass himself off as an orphan and of another religion. He not only loses his familial past, but also his cultural past. Of course, the mother did this as she wanted a better life for her son than one in a refugee camp.

However, in the case of those who choose to travel, to explore other cultures, perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps these people (several of my ancestors, myself) need to go, to live and to become and can only do so by experiencing other lands, other cultures.  

Chosen, it becomes a valuable, growing experience, one that allows us to effectively become the person that perhaps we were meant to be.

If nothing else if we all did this for a period in our lives, wars and hatred of others based upon erroneous beliefs would be a thing of the past. I am not saying that there would be no more wars (although I firmly believe that there would be many less), but at least one would be basing that war on a personal belief and not just what “someone” else decided.

It is difficult to maintain a distance, a hatred or a belief about someone, or some other way of living when you actually take the time to experience it. Understanding someone else’s way of doing things may not make one become or perform in the same way, but it will allow the other person to continue in his own way instead of making that person change, recognizing that we are not all the same, but that we can all live peacefully together in spite of our differences.

Go, live, become.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pretty in Pink...

Is a phrase that I heard as a young girl growing up. 
Now, I was blond and fair, but most shades of pink didn’t really look pretty on me – and still don’t. 

Still that was the phrase that popped into my mind this morning when I looked out the windows towards the mountains. They truly were “pretty in pink”.

Sunrise on the Jura mountains

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

“Found” time

One of the perks of waking up too early is that one has time to clean one’s fingernails! 

It is always a series of events that brings on “found” time. In the case of clean fingernails it was eating out with the son who doesn’t drink as much water: last night I ordered the usual bottle of water and only realized halfway through the meal that we hadn’t drunk any of it (with son 2 we would have already re-ordered). What is ordered needing to be paid I started drinking it and the predictable end result was needing to get up and go to the bathroom at 5 this morning. Tried to ignore my full bladder, unsuccessfully so had to arise at 5:45 at which point of course one isn’t going back to sleep.

However, the positive side was time to not only clean my fingernails but to also water all the houseplants and tidy up various piles of papers.

This led me to the thought of “found” time and how precious it is. “Found” time is any time for which one had plans (i.e. sleeping in this case) that fall through creating a period of time (and if one is extremely lucky hours or even a day) with no constraints or schedule.

Regardless of what one eventually fills that time with, it is always a pleasure as a perk, something unexpected. The cancellation of an appointment in town often gains one a half if not whole day – a day to either read, go for a walk, sort out a drawer, work on one’s current hobby project.

It lightens the spirit to have a planned event fall through leaving time to be enjoyed in another manner: of course this is not true if the planned event was lunch with a friend and they have to cancel due to the flu, even so it can be used positively and with great pleasure.

Hmmm…. The flip side: if there is “found” time, there must be its opposite “lost” time, but I won’t worry about that for the moment, I was happy enough to have my “found” time today.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The state of the world…

The state of my world.

Not quite sure how it happened, but I seem to have become addicted to Facebook. OK it still ranks second to my e-mail inbox, nevertheless every day time is spent checking both.

Today’s brought up two topics: the state of the world and the state of my world.

The state of “The World”: a friend forwarded a YouTube link  A very well thought out and put together 5-minute video of what is happening to our physical world.
Almost grateful that it didn’t address the state of our mental and emotional worlds.

The state of “my” world: solid and stable for the moment. Having checked Facebook and seeing that son 2 is safely in Cuzco, Peru for some 4 months, following his trip from New York, in all its beauty and sensitivity; knowing that I will see son 1 tonight to celebrate (belatedly) his recent birthday; having looked out the window to see birds at the feeder, patches of blue sky and a hint of sun on the oaks, I would have to admit that my life is good.

Sunday, February 2, 2014



Tradition: for the past three years I have spent every night in January happily ensconced in my own bed – a miracle for those who know how much I enjoy travelling and how often I indulge in that love.

Habits: they say that in order for an action to become a habit one needs to perform it at least three times. I seem to have made a new habit (and way more than three times so it may stick): eating my breakfast at home on Sunday mornings. And sometimes I even do so in my pyjamas and bathrobe! The breakfast-at-home on Wednesdays (coffee shop is shut) are a half-habit as I have been known to both stay at home or go to another coffee shop depending upon the days’ duties.

Friends: o.k. so I keep saying that I don’t want to make new friends – and promptly break the rule. Most recently met a delightful lady (waiting at the bus stop as I came out of the restaurant and I figured – correctly as it turned out – that she was on her way to the continuing care hospital, which was right on my way. I proposed taking her and we just never stopped talking). Exchanged e-mails, met for coffee and what a fascinating person I would have missed had I not, on a whim, asked if she needed a ride. Always leave room for those impromptu events, you never know where they may lead.

Books: for some reason, all of my friends are reading the most fascinating books currently and I have a backlog of 5 or 6. Good to know that I am not going to run out of reading materials any time soon!

Months: On to February having had nothing disastrous happen in January – it’s going to be a good year.

Year: we end the 14th, or begin the 15th year since I lost my husband and the boys their father. We have survived.