Friday, June 29, 2012

Notes on Geneva, Part 1

Finally!  I can get into my blog!  I haven't been able to so far on this trip.  And when I see it, it's in German (which is funny because I'm in a French speaking area).  So happy to see you, my blog.

So much is happening on this trip.  It really is the trip of a lifetime.

I have much to say but only want to jot down notes now so I don't forget.  Between my notes and my over-a-thousand-pictures, I'll remember this forever.

1.  Geneva likes flowers.  It's smells good here almost everywhere.  I can't identify them all but I'd like them in my (very big in my head but small in reality) garden.

2.  There are free pianos set up around the city just for people to play.  It's marvelous to be walking down a street and hear beautiful music.  Sometimes people bring others for accompaniment.  One had a flute player.  That was fun.  One boy started out at one location, put a hat on the piano and was amazing.  During the course of the day, I saw him move to other locations.  I hope that boy made a lot of money.

3.  The current in the river that goes off from the river is fast.  I was surprised to see someone floating down it yesterday (a very hot day).  Then I saw another guy climb up the railing on the pedestrian bridge and do a back flip off.  That was cool, though all I could think about was spinal cord injuries.

4.  I love the sound of church bells.  They sound at noon at this house - such a beautiful sound.  In various other parts of the city, they've rung on the hour or half hour.  It's such a relaxing sound to hear.

5.  I have had more wine and meat in one week here than I have consumed in a year. And I liked it!  My stomach hasn't always but it hasn't revolted in a way I expected.  Yum!!

6.  They eat horse here.  I do not.

7.  Three chickens and two cats regularly come into the yard from a neighbor's house to play in the garden.  Listening to the chickens cluck is oddly soothing.

8.  Public transportation here is nice.  Similar to DC, though it runs more often and has more seats.  Doesn't smell anything like Philly.

9.  Age is relative.  This city is old.  It makes Philly and DC seem like babies.

10.  Everyone here is beautiful.  Even people who aren't so pretty are beautiful.  They make an effort here.  I really want to go into one of the many salons here and ask them in my pitiful french to do my hair and make me beautiful.  That might be scary.

11.  We went to Montreux on the way home from the Chateau Chillon.  There's a statue of Freddy Mercury there (in an Elvis type of pose).  We went into a casino and played a few francs worth of video poker.  I didn't have the guts to play at the table.  Montreux is gorgeous and smells good.

12.  The Roman ruins in Nyon are impressive.  They were found accidentally when tearing down a building.  Then they built a museum around it.  Amazing.

13.  Ducks here look different.  Some have blue in them.  Some are black with white beaks or white with black beaks.  They're all beautiful.

14.  I like wine.  Who knew?

15.  I, the lactose intolerant queen, can eat cheese here.  This makes me wonder about US products.  I've eaten cheese with most meals and had no reaction.  Still not trying coffee with creamer but still, that's impressive.  Oh, I found a bleu-ish (not exactly blue),  cheese I like.  It's like living in some weird alternate universe.  I like it here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scaring myself

I'm a firm believer that every once in a while you need to get scared.  Not scared as in my-life-is-in-danger scared.  But gee-I've-never-done-this-before scared.  It's a different kind of scared and a pretty useful one for me.

I can count on my hands the number of times I've scared myself only to find that it's improved me in some way or another.  I almost didn't get on the plane to Poland to meet up with a guy who I knew for three weeks six years earlier.  I was beyond scared.  What if he wasn't there?  What if he was really a serial killer?  I had no idea what to expect.  It was an amazing trip.  I would've missed it all had I not gotten on the airplane.

I was scared to move to Maryland knowing no one.  I knew I didn't want to live in Lansdale the rest of my life but I didn't know what I wanted to do.  I moved with the idea I would be here for three months.  That was 19 years ago.  Even after I was married and had children I thought I'd move home.  When my marriage was over my first thought was to move home.  I'm glad I didn't.  It's been a long road but Silver Spring is finally my home.

I'm doing it again.  I'm going to Geneva with my boyfriend for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!  I am excited but scared.  I haven't gone anywhere without my family in 12 years.  I'm going to be away from my kids for 4 weeks!  I'm beyond stressed.

But it will be fun.  I will see things I can't even imagine.  It will be fun.  The butterflies bustling in my tummy will go away.  Hopefully.

It's good to be scared once in a while.  Right?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The soundtrack of my life

Lots of people don't know that before I became a sign language interpreter and entered the world of deafness, music was (and still is) a huge part of my life.  I had a small record store business - music was as much a part of me as my toes.

It's not just listening to the music that affects me, though that started it all.  I love the feel of vinyl.  I love the weight of records (as opposed to cds).  I loved watching videos.  In fact, one of the earliest memories I have regarding music was sneaking a tv into my room to watch a short program on some UHF station called Rockworld.  They showed European videos and I fell in love with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lene Lovich and the Cure.  It was so different from the Philly and teenie bopper music I listened to.  I remember seeing Siouxsie Sioux and thinking I wanted to be her.  She had dark eyeliner and yellow eyeshadow.   (  The other kids wanted to kiss Shawn Cassidy. I wanted to be a bad ass like her or Lene Lovich, though I didn't want her hair. ( Later I wanted Nik Kershaw's hair (and clearly remember upsetting a hairdresser by bringing a picture of a boy (Kershaw) and saying I want hair like his!

My regular playlist would surprise people.  There's a lot of stuff that would be expected - cure, alanis morrisette, INXS, etc.  But then there's a lot of blue-sy stuff (thanks to the Rev who introduced me to Ben Andrews and more).  There's Jah Wobble, who had a brief period of music I love followed by music I never want to listen to.  There's the music I got from Weeds:  The Real Tuesday Weld (  I love Yolanda Be Cool's We Speak No Americano (

I am thrilled to have found someone who shares my enthusiasm for music.  I don't know if I would've gone on a second date with my boyfriend but he sealed the deal when he said he not only knew Jah Wobble but proved it by showing it on his ipod.  He understands my obsession with Paul McCartney and appreciates the Cure.  He introduces me to new music yet we have the shared experience of growing up in the 80s as music lovers.  And yet because we experienced that on different continents, it's different. It's fun to listen to something and say "that has shades of Jim Kerr in it" and have him know exactly what I mean.

My girls love music, too.  I expose them to all sorts of stuff.  They don't have to like what I like but they need to know why some musicians are important to know.  This was reinforced one day when we were at Frozen Yo (yogurt place) and A heard the music and told me "That's the Beastie Boys!" A patron at a table turned around, slightly surprised, to see a 10 year old know that.  He talked with her for a minute about the Beastie Boys - she was thrilled.

My current favs?  I love the new Garbage cd.  Some Nights by Fun wins my award for the song of the summer (so far).  For dance stuff, I hate to say that I like Nicki Minaj's Starships.  Oh, so many tunes....

Now, off to make playlists for my trip.....

Monday, June 11, 2012

The end of the elementary school era

It doesn't seem so long ago that we took the girls to their first day of kindergarten.  I remember that day clearly.  Mike and I made sure the girls had everything they needed.  We walked them into the school, made sure all was set and then (I reluctantly) left.  The tears were streaming down my face, Mike's arm around my shoulder.  The other parents looked at me walking with my head down and sniffling, and made their sympathetic "oh, kindergarten parents" comments.   It seems very long ago.

Being an elementary school parent has been an interesting experience.  The girls have had far more homework than I expected.  They've had wonderful challenges and experiences, too.  We've all met people along the way who have affected us permanently.  The girls are now fluent in French, love music and art and have had to learn to get along with others.  It's been an overall good experience.

It never occurred to me that I would meet teachers who didn't like my children.  My kids are fun and cool and eager to learn.  What's not to like, right?  Um, no.  My kids also talk in class, pass notes, daydream and don't always turn in their homework.  Still, I had no idea what to expect when I had parent-teacher conferences. I learned to dread them.

Most of the teachers loved having A in their class.  She's a voracious reader and is eager to please her teachers.  I wasn't so lucky with M.  She's super creative but daydreams.  In kindergarten the conference was so-so.  It didn't improve in first, second or third grade.  Each year included statements like "She's a smart girl but...."; "She invents a lot of things which is interesting but....".  Rarely did they say anything positive.  I dreaded teacher conferences.

Some teachers were more patient than others.  M's first grade teacher understood that M was smart and had a different style of learning.  When I asked if she would allow the entire class, not just M, to do 10 jumping jacks between subjects, she agreed.  At the end of the year she told me what a difference it made for the entire class.  A little activity, something different and physical, makes a big difference and helps all the kids!  No teacher after that would agree to it.  We had a few long years in there.

Then came her fourth grade teacher.  I will never forget this woman for as long as I live.  She started the conference with "M is one of my favorite students".  I wasn't sure if she knew who my kid was.  But she did!  And she liked her!  I cried right then and there.  Seriously.

My children changed that year.  A had Mme Thompson for one class, M had her as her main teacher.  Both kids thrived - they never wanted to disappoint her. M talked to her.  This was a hard time for my kids - their dad and I had separated and their grandmother was dying.  M trusted her.  So did I.  This teacher who had 20+ kids in her class took time to have lunch with my daughter, to listen to her (and me) talk and cared about us all.  I know everyone has a teacher in their life who, at some point, leaves an indelible impression.  I had my teacher - a few, really.  I thought that was over when I graduated.  I was wrong.  I get to have that experience all over again as a parent.

Fifth grade has been okay.  The year started tearfully with the girls realizing this was their last year of elementary school, the last year of being the big kids of the school.  It didn't hit me until May. At the promotion ceremony A was honored for her outstanding grades and attendance.  M was given a Presidential Achievement Award. But now it's over and middle school will be here soon.  I can't even imagine what this is going to be like.  It's going to start early.  That's going to suck.  It's supposedly the worst years for mean girl behavior - also going to suck.  But they'll learn new things and meet new people and continue to grow.

And I'll be the mother of middle schoolers.  God help us all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Friday 5 - Gifts!

I love presents!  I love getting gifts and, when I do a good job, I love giving gifts!  Sometimes I'm spot on and sometimes I'm really off base.  Surprising someone with something they love is always fun.

So, the challenge today is my top 5 gifts.  That's so hard!  I've been very blessed in my life to get more than 5 awesome things.  Hmmmm......let me see if I can narrow things down a bit.

1.  Tiffany coins.  Tiffany - yes the Tiffany and Company with the pretty blue box - didn't used to do gift certificates.  Instead they had Tiffany coins.  They were heavy and beautiful and shiny.  My brother got me several over the course of a few years.  I horded them.  I couldn't decide what I wanted so I just saved them.  Every now and again I'd take them out, hold them in my hands and then put them back in the small cloth pouch they arrived in.  Several years later, my then-husband added to my collection and took me to NYC to go to the only Tiffany store that counts on Fifth Avenue.  I bought a beautiful gold concave ring.  I still have it.  The memory of the whole experience makes me smile.
2.  My first computer.  Way back when computers were not in every home and they were not the norm to have (yes, I realizing I am dating myself here), my brother got me my first desktop computer.  It was for Christmas the year I opened a small record store business.  I will never forget coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and seeing everything out - and noticing a small card table set up in the corner with a computer on it.  He was waiting for me to see it.  I wasn't sure if it was for me or not.  When he said it was, I nearly passed out.  I was beyond excited.  I had that computer for a long time.  I don't know that he knows how important that was to me.  Yes, it was a cool gift but beyond that it showed that he believed in me and my business.  That was an awesome gift.

3.  My dad's wedding ring.  One of the things I used to love doing was going through my mom's jewelry box.  She had the best stuff!  And it all had stories associated with it.  This ring was given to all the first born girls in the family.  This one your grandmother's parents had to pawn to pay for food during the depression.  This one and that one - they are all special.  But my dad's wedding ring, a simple gold band with no adornment - was my favorite.  My mother gave it to me in a special carnival glass box (I collected that stuff) on my 25th birthday.  I am rarely out without it.  It makes me feel like he's still part of my life.

4.  My 40th birthday was a huge surprise.  Not the fact that I was turning 40 but that my then-husband and friends and neighbors could (and wanted to) surprise me.  I had absolutely no idea - it never crossed my mind.  I thought my husband was taking me to Applebee's (which made me cry, btw) for my birthday.  Don't get me wrong, I like Applebees.  Just not on my birthday.  We went to his mother's house - I still had no idea - and there were a lot of friends there.  I didn't know why.  Then they said SURPRISE! and I got it.  Mike and my family had gotten me my first digital SLR - a Canon.  All I could do was laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.  Folks didn't know what to do with that.  I was beyond thrilled.  I am happy behind a camera.  This brought me much joy.  Mike's friend, PJ, gave me a gift certificate to Applebees.  I didn't cry then.

5.  A trash can.  Yes, that's right.  A trash can.  It's not my favorite because I loved it.  I really didn't.  But it was memorable and that's impressive.  It came from my mother-in-law's cousin for our wedding.  Who gives newlyweds a trash can?  Francis, that's who.  There's a couple of funny parts to this.  First, it's one of the few wedding gifts I can clearly remember getting.  Second, he gave THE SAME GIFT to my mother in law about a gazillion years earlier when she got married.  Apparently that's the gift he gives everyone.  Reading that in her memoir made me laugh.  So while it's not my favorite because I love it, it is a favorite because it's so weird.  That counts for something, right?

Clever Compass' Friday 5

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday 5 - BOOKS!

Books are a big deal in this house.  My kids are voracious readers so there are books everywhere.  It's actually something they get in trouble for - reading all the time.  They sneak books in the bathroom, under their dinner plates, between the cushions in the couch - everywhere!  In fact, I was lying in bed  with them one day (they were sharing the bottom bunk of the full size bunk bed set) when I decided to look around.  Hidden in that bed were 26 - yes, 26! - books.  They were under the pillows, between the slats - all over.

You'd think this is a good problem to have, right?  It's not.  It's annoying.  But it is cool to hear them talk about their favorite characters, books, authors, etc.

But sometimes I like to read, too.  I just don't leave my books near the toilet.  So this list will be a family combo list.

1.  M & A - Mysterious Benedict Society - all books in the series.  They love them all.
The Mysterious Benedict Society

2.  A & M - Hunger Games.  All of 'em.
The Hunger Games

3.  Me - Illusions:  The adventures of a reluctant messiah.  This is my favorite book.  When I'm happy, I read it.  When I'm sad, I read it.  I learn something new every time I pick it up.  It's become like an old friend to me, giving me advice on things I most need to learn.

4.  Everything by Shel Silverstein.  I especially love The Giving Tree but all bring me happiness.

The Giving Tree

5.  Dick for a Day.  This is a collection of essays by various female writers on what it would be like if they had a dick for 24 hours.  Lots jerked off because, well, wouldn't you want to play with it, too?  All felt more respected.  Some hurt others because they could - it all made me think.
Dick for a Day: What Would You Do If You Had One?

Clever Compass' Friday 5