Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I threw out the wrapping paper, or…

Loosing one of my manias.
We all have one or two (o.k. some of us have way more than that!) little tricks for saving: be it money, things, time (these are usually worthy actions), etc.

My mother washed out ziplock bags until they were used enough to throw away. I seem to have more than one (and yes I also wash out ziplock bags, but only once or twice). Two of the most predominant: cutting up a paper towel into quarters to use as napkins when I am on my own and the subject of this blog, i.e. saving the wrapping paper.

I can claim that this is partially genetically programmed: I can’t remember a Christmas where my father wasn’t gathering up the wrappings as we went, straightening them, piling them neatly and saving them for the next event. My mother, who tended to be the saver and tidier was seemingly content to let that go although as we grew older she did try and get him to actually watch us open our gifts instead of concentrating on the paper.

I inherited this trait – big time! I not only gather the wrappings as we go, but also make sure that no re-useable box goes missing. My two sons have long known that the box is definitely not indicative of the present: I mean, really, socks in the cartoon for scouring powder or money in egg cartons. I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten though until we shared Christmases and birthdays with others in our lives – the looks on some people’s faces before we explained that no, the fact that the box said industrial strength drain cleaner didn’t mean that that was what they were getting, anymore than the cute (and might I add expensive) box for some brand-name perfume, meant that they were actually getting that perfume!

The tables have been turned: last night we celebrated just the three of us, my upcoming birthday (son #1 – in age – returns to his job in Africa, son#2 – still in age, will be leaving soon for his stint as camp counsellor) and although two wrappers were recognizable for the stores in which the gifts were bought (let me hasten to add, that when they are good stores, this is perfectly acceptable), but the rest came in “gently used” boxes and wrappings.

A first for me – I actually threw out the paper wrappings – couldn’t quite tear myself to do the same with the bags and boxes - one of which was actually a bag for a bottle for a Christmas present – hey the apple haven’t fallen far from the tree. Got to grow up sometime (hmm… maybe not, think I’ll rescue some of the pretty birthday motif tissue paper).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Still thinking about it… or

Reasons for not writing a blog.
1)    Life caught up with me (My older son returned from Niger, Africa for 10 days of vacation) and of course we “needed” to eat out, catch up, then he left for the mountains, but was still a great excuse not to write or do much of anything really.
2)    I had nothing to say (quit laughing please). The fact that that was the 19th certainly doesn’t cover not writing anything the 17th or 18th, but then again, I can’t even remember why I was “too busy” those days so in retrospect I’ll just say that I was gearing up for his return.
3)    My typing fingers shut down and would only play computer games (now that one I know everyone will believe as opposed to #2).
4)    Other things needed doing, such as filing stuff from the beginning of the year, sorting through some more of the two boxes under the desk that have been there awaiting sorting for a couple of years now (so what’s the hurry?).
5)    I finally had lunch with someone that I hadn’t seen since early April (see I will get around to the rest of you in due time).
6)    I was into reading two separate books on France and Paris at the same time (still have a ways to go as one is 650 pages, the other 850)
7)    I needed to check on progress with varying tasks outside my normal ones (that kind of covers it all: anonymous, indistinct, uninteresting).
8)    My lamp needed fixing
9)    It’s summer (not that you can tell by the weather here) and life is slower.
10) My wash needed doing
11) The yard needing watering, weeding, the flowers snipping and the bushes pruning.
12)  I wrote emails to those I needed catching up with personally
13)  And I saved the best for the last: I simply didn’t feel like it!

I am pretty sure that no one missed me and for a few days I didn’t miss the writing, but all of a sudden today at this minute, I needed to write so that was a great reason to start again.

Blogging is supposed to be fun and I promised myself that I would never make myself do it in any pattern or with any precise frequency, so perhaps I’ll take a vacation (well earned?) or perhaps not: tomorrow will tell.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Julia of the 20 pages… or

I love words, books, libraries and anything to do with editing.

I vaguely recall first proofreading one of my housemate’s books – way back when. By the time I was doing the second one, I asked if she would mind my editing bits of it: the reply “by all means”. I would never make a good writer as I tend to think that anything that I have put into words and on paper (or in the computer as the case may be) is perfect as is: Donna-Lane Nelson has meanwhile published 9 books with more in the works and has sometimes re-written so many times that the original plot has even changed.  For a full listing of her novels, her biography, writing exercises, etc.

I have had a very small glimpse into how difficult it is to first write a novel, then polish it, then publish it: believe me they earn every (very small unless you are a world-renowned author like J.K.Rowling) penny they receive!

So how did I get to be “Julia of the 20 pages” ?

Well, once I was added as “her” (unofficial) editor, I found that when she handed me 280 pages of a new manuscript that it was too daunting to think of doing it all. I would start and usually had time enough to do 5 or so pages, but that wasn’t enough to get it done in an reasonable amount of time so I, through trial and error, discovered that 20 pages a day was about right: enough to feel like I had accomplished something – and to keep the plot in mind as the chapters are intermingled, historical for one, then perhaps two of the modern plot, another historical, etc. When there are three different plots going, it becomes even more of a challenge, but again, roughly 20 pages a day allows me to do a decent job and get it done within a few weeks.

I am currently editing another Third Culture Kid novel, set in Switzerland in one of the oldest cantons, there where it all started in 1291. It has the makings of all good mysteries: family dissent, lazy sons, interested-but-shoved-to-the-side daughters, the past, which leads to the future. On top of that, this one will have cookies – the eatable kind, not the mess-with-your-computer-kind!

But I digress: I haven't done my 20 pages yet today. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

To be able to walk is a privilege

Village flowers

According to my mother, I walked well at 13 months, but wouldn’t let go of the table/skirt/anything within reach until a few weeks later: I was already tall and obviously the fall towards the ground was too much.
As a young child, one ran, one walked, one skipped and hopped with no thought of how or why.
School started and as much as I hate to use the expression “my generation wasn’t coddled”: no mom or dad taking us in the car, it didn’t matter how far, at a very tender age (6 in my case) we walked to school (my walk was probably just under a mile, but compared to my mother’s two-miles-in-the-snow, easy). We did that twice a day and as my siblings joined me (or not depending upon our friends), it became a game to see if we could walk all the way home after school on the middle white line (another relic from a past that’s long gone – it’s now difficult to sometimes cross the street, never mind walking any distance in the middle of it without putting oneself into mortal danger).

Lucky me: I grew up in Southern California, which meant that we were outdoors all day every day except for those brief periods of classes – and even then we still had P.E. (Physical Education) once a day. We continued to walk, run, skip and hop as well as adding skating (I’m going to really give away my age now: our first skates we had to hook on our shoes and then tighten with a key) biking and swimming. We were active. I still gave absolutely no thought to the process.

High school, university came and went – still walking and hiking – rock climbing was added.
As a young mother, I would fed my baby then go out for a jog before breakfast: once I had two I could at least take a long walk on Sundays, leaving them to their activities under my husband’s supervision.

When the younger son was 8 or 9, I was again able to take weekends and leave for the mountains, hiking was not something that my husband enjoyed (walking was o.k. as long as he wasn’t with anyone as he always felt conscious of holding people up: heart problems), but he was perfectly happy to play house husband and let me go. I realized that I was blessed, but not that I was privileged.

The first indication that walking is a privilege came when I was over 50: I was totally distracted reading papers whilst walking down my stair case and missed the last step entirely. Full force on one of my heels was sufficient to break it: 6 weeks of no foot on the ground. I began to realize the privilege we have of being able to walk.

Things went along that way for a while, until a trip to Prague: I didn’t see the small step (grey on grey in the middle of the square and I was busy looking up at the marvelous architecture), slipped off it and twisted my ankle badly enough to again have to have an open cast and no foot on the ground for another 6 weeks. I dealt with it thanks to the help of many friends: I was starting to really be cognoscente of the privileges.

Last year though really brought it home to me: three sprains throughout the year had me unable to do much hiking in the mountains at all.

So today, when we awoke to beautiful (finally) blue skies, I thought: it’s time. Off I went up to the ski station above the village and walked all the way back. What a wonderful activity: it’s such a blessing that I can again walk without too much thought.
What a privilege to be able to walk.

Cable car Les Marécottes to La Creusaz
Chalet at La Creusaz

Les Marécottes way down in the valley

Monday, July 14, 2014

My hair needed washing, so I went to the spa!

Well, that was one of the excuses: truth be known, it was looking out the window when I wanted to go for a walk and seeing it drizzly and misty yet again this morning that made me think of pampering and warmer waters. One of my favourite water facilities/spas/whatever is under a half hour down the road: http://www.lavey-les-bains.ch/en

Lavey-les-Bains, a thermal spa

They use a water fall and river to cool and take out the chlorine from the water before it goes into the Rhone River

part of the river used to cool the waters
It is true though that I don’t like to go when I have just washed my hair because then I have already done the work and will need to re-do it (I am not one who can swim with her head gracefully above water: either I swim properly or not at all). I also like to take advantage of having to wash my hair as they have much more powerful hairdryers than I in my chalet.

Another justification (I do tend to have to do that) if one was needed is that I am supposedly (anyone who ever worked for themselves will more than understand) on vacation – that vague term that theoretically allows one to do what one wants (as if I didn’t usually anyway!).

Interesting how quickly I can find reasons to do something should I need them: exercise, wash hair, relax because I’m on vacation.

In the end though I did just that, swam a bit, listened to the music and whale calls underwater used the various spouts and jets for massaging my shoulders, back bones, etc.; lay in the “bubble” chairs (in the pool lounging spots to lay in where the water bubbles up around one alternating cold jets with the warmth of the pool itself), and finally the “quiet” room, where I finally finished Alexandra Fuller’s “Scribbling the cat”, Travels with an African soldier.

A "must read" as are all her books!

So well written, so all encompassing of the mental state of those who fought in what was known as the “Rhodesian” war. Her descriptions of landscapes, humans and animals drag you into the African world – a world far from that of a peaceful Swiss village. Highly recommended reading: but not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Plaisirs du dimanche, ou

Dimanche des plaisirs…
Tout d’abord il faut avoir passé une bonne nuit et comme les nuages et le brouillard ont recouvert les montagnes et que je ne pouvais voir la pleine lune (soit dit en passant, une super pleine lune), j’ai très bien dormi – merci (selon mon FitBit même avec une efficacité de 81% !).

Après, passer chez Rose-Marie pour prendre son journal du dimanche ainsi qu’une demi-livre du pain : sans mentionner le fait qu’elle fait les meilleures crêpes du monde http://www.creperielecentral.ch/ (et j’en ai mangé des quantités à travers le monde dans mes voyages), le dimanche elle fait aussi « dépôt du pain ».

Selon le contenu, la lecture du journal du dimanche vous réjouis ou vous déplaît, ce n’est pas grave, vous êtes au moins « au courant ».

Constatant que le temps n’avait pas l’air de s’améliorer mais qu’il ne pleuvait pas actuellement, je suis partie en promenade : les « Chemin des Messieurs », la forêt, le Creux du Loup, la route menant à Planajeur, découvrant (en juillet !!!) des champignons et des myrtilles (nous n’avons vraiment plus de saison ou les dieux sont tombés sur les têtes).  Au Planajeur les moutons sont de retour sur la prairie, noirs compris. Belle balade.

De retour à la maison, et ayant croisé ma gentille propriétaire, la discussion portait sur ce que nous allions manger à midi: ni l’une, ni l’autre n’avait d’idée – alors « allons célébrer ton anniversaire » aux Mille Etoiles.  Bien nous en a pris : salade du jour avec sa sauce – fraîche, délicieuse ; moules du Bouchot (moi qui en avais pas mangé depuis des lurettes) suivies d’un tiramisu à l’abricot. Une bonne table ? Non, un super : http://www.mille-etoiles.ch/ Merci Mikael !

Après, il n’y a plus rien du mieux à faire que détente, café et réflexion sur les bonheurs de la montagne. Que la vie est belle, ici « aux Marécottes ». http://www.valleedutrient-vallorcine.com/

Couleurs d'Eté, émission de la RTS sont passées dans la station, mais n'ont vu que Stravinski (le compositeur a passé quelques jours à Salvan), le cuisinier Bochatay  (mort lors du naufrage du Titanic) et le zoo alpin. 

Il y a bien d'autres choses à voir et à faire dans la région: le canyoning http://www.nolimitscanyon.ch/fr/
la domaine du ski en hiver, et départ de promenade en été à La Creusaz (où vous avez aussi un excellent restaurant) http://www.telemarecottes.ch/
la confiturière qui fait de vraies confitures dans des bassins en cuivre : http://www.valais-terroir.ch/fr/points-de-vente/types/valais/le-confiturier-marcottin-0-78587 
pour ne mentionner que ceux-là.
A Salvan il y a le parcours Marconi et un moulin; à Van-d’en-Bas l’Auberge du Vallon http://www.vallondevan.ch/ avec une carte qui ravirait n’importe qui, 
les Gorges du Dailley, et j’en oublie. 

En somme une petite station de montagne très agréable.
Et qu'est-ce que je vois: un rayon du soleil - pour l'instant la vie est parfaite, même les nuages.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Keeping one’s eyes on the path, or

Survival technique.
Yesterday it rained all day so I stuck to the paved roads, or mountain roads wide enough for tractors. 

Today, bored with that (there’s like one in each direction for about a 10-minute walk in one case and perhaps 20 in the other) and since today is only foggy, I decided to risk a mountain trail.

Due to previous experience, I keep my eyes glued to the trail whilst in movement, thus preventing (mostly) sprained ankles and tumbles. This morning was a case in point: even with my eyes on the path, my brain forgot to transmit in a timely manner the fact that the rock upon which I was about to set my foot would be slick. Good news, I slipped, but didn’t fall!

It dawns on me that this survival technique is also valid in my life: if one has a problem, a health issue, a loss (be it financially, physically or mentally), it is easier to keep one’s eyes down and on the path. Taking things in smaller bits (eyes down on a path one only sees a couple of meters ahead and to the sides) allows one to concentrate on just that bit and not be overwhelmed by the totality of the issue.

Of course, one needs to stop and take the time to view the larger picture, or one loses sight of many things, metaphorically – the “goal”. I wouldn’t miss the sight of the mountains, the glaciers, the streams and lakes for anything, but whilst moving (or making progress if you will), keeping one’s eyes down and on the path allows one to move forward with as little stumbling or tripping as possible.

It also means you don’t miss those logs covered in fungi – pictures for my brother-in-law!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Back in the clouds or…

I’m an angel.
Well probably not, but it sure sounds better than simply talking about the real reason that I’m back in the clouds: i.e. the weather.

Which will soon become “THE WEATHER” in our conversations. I mean back when we had our hot spell and I was having to water the hedge for fear that it would die as my neighbour’s gardener had cut it more than half back, I laughing said: “well that’s summer so get ready for July and August to be topsy-turvy awful”. From my mouth to the directors of the climate it seems.

Since I was tired of home under the rain, I thought that I would try the mountains instead. Was glad that I knew the roads well so the fog didn’t faze me. Slept better than ever, but that may have also been the glass of red wine and not the weather.

However, after only 300 steps throughout the morning, thought that I had best brave the elements, regardless. Even in the wet, it is beautiful and the rain can’t totally hide the lovely flowers.
I will remember the cool when I complain about the heat.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Every day is Mother’s Day – a tribute

Five years ago my mother passed away. Born on 8.07.1919 she died on 07.08.2009, just 30 days short of her 90th birthday.

A resume of my mother's life would show many hardships as well as many joys: times of little, times of much.
Born in a one-room log cabin in Wisconsin, her birth wasn't even registered until 3 months later and the clerk (or her father?) made a mistake and her birth certificate reads "male".

When just under 12 (for the cheaper train fares) her aunt from the state of Washington, came, saw that her sister (my mother's mother) was struggling to take care of their mother and the three girls at home (the oldest was already in teacher training at 17); off she went with the middle two 3'000 miles - my mother never saw her mother again.

Raised thereafter with the cousins, a right merry band: Uncle Andrew had first married one sister, who died in the Spanish Flu epidemic, then married the other, so taking in the children of the third eventually meant 9 in the family, some of whom were not only cousins, but also half-siblings. And we think that families today are complex!

An education was always an important thing, perceived as a way of becoming independent. Emma Johnson lost a couple of years following her aunt (a school teacher and the main bread winner of the family: Uncle An drew was a house husband before we knew the term) around to take care of the youngest daughter. A bright young woman though she got her pre-dietetics degree in 1941, followed by a BS in 1943.

Then, inevitably, she "met a man", got married in 1945 and they started a family - me - in 1948. Followed the births of my siblings: Karyn, Pat and Bob (yes a Jr. those were the days of carrying on the family name).

When my brother was 6 and off to school my mother returned to school for her Master's Degree in Dietetics, one which she received the same Sunday that I graduated from High School!

Her four children were always led to believe that an education was the only way to go and, very fortunately for us, due to scholarships, working and my father's discount, all of us finished our university degrees.

Then the marriages started, the grandchildren came, life was - with the exception of her boss - a much better thing. My parents began to travel, something that as parents of a young family had meant only camping, now became Europe, cruises and even China for my mother.

Retirement brought more peace and travels to visit the grand children, which we, accommodating everyone, spaced well apart: the first in 1977 and the last, twins, in 1992.

They say that no one is completely gone until the memory of them no longer exists, and my mother's memory is alive and well in the minds of her remaining children and grandchildren, in some of their gestures and thoughts, in their genes.

In pictures below a few of the highlights of her life: I’d love to be able to share them with her in person!
MS in 1943
Married in 1945 to Robert Bruce Aitken
Julia I. Aitken, 1st born

Karyn M. Aitken, 2nd daughter
Patricia J. Aitken, 3rd daughter
Robert B. Aitken, Jr. - that long-awaited boy!
1995 - 50th wedding anniversary
2007 shortly before she fell: all her grandsons
In loving Memory