Giving Birth

I’m likening my transfer to my new HP Envy computer to having a first baby. To begin, there are the last days of pregnancy when the old computer isn’t working well and it’s bloated and needs to rest (or is it reset?) often. Then there’s labor when no matter what you do, those old files and iTunes accounts don’t want to move out (or is it over?). Following is birth – the old computer is empty but still doesn’t run any better while the new computer is slick and screaming (fast?). And once you bring the new computer home (or is it plug it in? with a french plug!!!), you’re in for a laundry list of things you have not done before like feeding (adding necessary programs like Norton and Office), burping (getting beyond the numerous hiccups of transferring files and setting up accounts), changing (deleting all the add-in apps that you have no intention of ever using), and putting to sleep (I can’t even get those settings to work and I’m not a dodo).

The pacifier in all of this is reviewing some old files…to transfer or not to transfer…that is the million gigabyte question. I found a 23 minute travel video I made from photos taken on my 2012 trip to Arizona and California. And just like having a new baby sleeping on my shoulder, I felt blessed and joyful to be watching.

(u)   x(o)x

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Today

Today is our first day of spring. It’s the kind of day when you don’t mind seeing sleeveless yellow dresses with flowers in the boutique windows. It’s the kind of day when you search the bottom of your lowest drawer for a pastel colored top and contemplate putting all your “dark” stuff in the dark. It’s the kind of day when you marvel at a bed of tulips that you just “noticed” because you are strolling with a smile rather than hurrying through rain and wind with a shiver. It’s that kind of day.

It also corresponds to the beginning of 61. I have high hopes and numerous dreams to follow. And the emphasis is health and hobbies. Starting with health…

My osteoarthritic knees are receiving tlc from a kiné…the french version of physical therapy. After a wonderful week of massage and ultrasound and electrode stimulation treatment, I have graduated to exercises. And I can’t do any of them. I’ll even give you one to try…chair position of your body with your back against a wall and hold for a minute. My record is seven seconds. My kiné looks a little like Prince Harry and he likes to practice his English with me. And so far, he’s undaunted by my lack of abilities.

Dentist? Making an appointment for a cleaning and hoping that’s all there is to discover. Opthamologist? Making my first eye doctor appointment in France with a recommended English-speaking practitioner and the knowledge that a single pair of new glasses will cost an exorbitant amount. And I usually like to have two pairs handy at all times. I might prefer a cataract diagnosis with the possibility of life without glasses afterward.

All the other stuff is handled by my homeopath and I currently love her treatment because it includes weight loss pills. Starting today, when all my birthday cake is gone and I’m not sabotaging any effort, we will see how they work.

Moving on to hobbies…

Reading, writing, arithmetic in the form of bridge and mah-jong, language in the form of applying for dual citizenship, science in the form of gardening and gastronomy, social studies in the form of learning french culture and history (that french passport is VERY desirable), geography in the form of travel, technology in the form of figuring out my new computer and deleting all the preloaded apps I don’t need or want, music in the form of concerts and piano practice (and getting iTunes onto said new computer), art in the form of painting and ceramics and photography and movies, gym in the form of tai chi and line dancing, along with lots of lunches, plenty of recess, and with any luck…very little home work.

Sounds like a plan…at least for today.

(u)   x(o)x

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Remembering Mr. Buttons

Since I can remember, Olympic figure skating has been my favorite. While I cannot discern a single axel from a double salchow to a triple toe loop and beyond to today’s quadruple revolutions, I can and do appreciate the athletes who make them all look easy and don’t fall on their dérrieres.

Dick Buttons, and then Scotty Hamilton, gave us all the vocabulary along with commentary on every single maneuver…from jumps to twizzles to the finale satisfying death spiral. And I could be just as outraged as any television host when my favorite US skater did not receive a perfect “6”, particularly from the obviously antagonistic USSR judge.

Quadruple jump to today. I recently watched two 4+ hour videos of the Men’s Singles Program taking place at PyeongChang. The lovely thing about these videos is there is no commentary…it’s just the skater’s blade cutting the slick and the music they feel and we hear. The short program allowed 30 skaters to realize their dream of skating on Olympic ice. Some represented countries that didn’t even exist in my childhood while others represented their countries with their music or costumes or even their lifestyles. What an assembly of talent and skill and ambition and pride. And also what appeared to be genuine humility and humanity.

The long program featured the 24 qualifiers, giving almost all of the skaters a chance to redeem any previous program flaws. Despite not knowing the current scoring system in detail (but approving of what appears to be a more objective process), it was easy to “judge” the increasing capabilities of the skaters as they performed according to their preliminary standings. More than that, it was inspirational to watch the artistry and beauty of their movements, skating to everything from Elvis to Puccini.

I was awed. I was moved. And I was certain Dick Buttons would approve.

(Thank you J for inspiring me to write again in my blog.)

(u)   x(o)x

 

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I Have A Friend

I taught J mah-jong Saturday morning and enjoyed the game, the lesson, and the company. We spoke in French. Then, when we switched to English, we discussed responsibilities that are inherent within personal power and we couldn’t seem to understand each other until she quoted The Little Prince to me. A much better lesson.

(u)   x(o)x

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When Volunteering Goes Crazy

This is my umpteenth day working on the BWC online directory project. I’ve managed to fit in a morning walk or bike ride, a couple loads of laundry, and a bit of cooking, but the 9 to 9 days have been full of computer work and headaches. The developers and I, the provider of information and tester, are getting close and the artificial deadline is “sometime this week”. When all is done, a renewing member can pay dues using Paypal, be automatically directed to create a secure login id for the Members’ Area of our website, be automatically signed up to receive our monthly newsletter and bulletin board from Mailchimp (which I also edit), and be guided to create their member listing within our online directory. We’re hoping for a 100% participation rate by the end of December, however, I know I will need to help struggling individuals as the new Directory Administrator. Despite the time and frustration spent now, this is a vast improvement over my previous annual responsibility of updating the paper directory. Plus, the online version will be real time with new members included and information changes up-to-date. I have been pushing for this outcome for over two years and can almost feel the sense of satisfaction of crossing this project off my list. Then, I’m going to take a BWC break!

(u)   x(o)x

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Hello Blog, Remember Me?

Since we last “spoke”, I had returned from the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Now I have returned from a European Rhine and Mosel River Cruise, a G Adventures tour in Morocco, visits to Lisbon, Porto, and Barcelona, and sightseeing in Bordeaux, all with my maman.

There are thousands of photos and (slightly) less credit card receipts! Souvenirs are waiting to be placed in the right spot and typical daily life will take over in a day or two. It’s probably a very good thing the weather forecast includes rainy days after glorious sunshine and summer temps have beckoned us outside.

I intend to spend the time before my next journey establishing long-term priorities and boundaries with a goal of being in my moments, and in yours when you’d like to share with me on a personal basis. I’m an email dinosaur because I don’t like typing on a smartphone…I’m a video call embracer (skype/messenger) because it’s fun to share expression and emotion in words and actions…I’m a writer because I love to read…and I’m a WhatsApp and Instagram user when only a photo will do. I’m going to “go shady” on Facebook, Words With Friends, and other social apps. (However, I will keep my user interfaces, so if there’s something you’d like me to see, please let me know and I will look for it.) I won’t be liking, loving, commenting, or sharing on FB for about a month as an experiment and I’m “unfriending” many in hopes that our paths will cross in different meaningful (and definitely old-fashioned!) ways.

For my blog, I’ll continue to write about my life…not as a travel journal, but more as a diary. I hope to limit photos to one or two favorites and include more of who I am and who I’m becoming. I realize this may not be interesting to you at all and it’s ok to stop following my posts 🙂  But, if you do comment, I will always respond. Posts and responses may be fewer and shorter but I feel there is no longer a “need” to make sure I’m “ok” by checking to see if there’s a blogpost.

On my side, I’m going to concentrate on being more worldly, more European, more French, and more “enlightened”. I want to learn differing religious beliefs and cultural values and explore art in all its forms. I want to “do” the things and “be” the person that gives me pleasure and significance in my world. I want to be my favorite version of me while (hopefully) also being your favorite version of daughter, mom, sister, and friend.

Wish me luck and wish me well and I wish the same for you…مشيئة الله

 

 

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I Don’t Have A Solution

First supposition: People hate lots of things, including other people.

Hypothetically, as long as I don’t cause harm to someone I hate or incite violence toward that person, which are criminal acts, I am allowed to go around saying “I hate them” to anyone who will listen. I am even allowed to gather like-minded people to be able to say “We all hate them.” And our hate can be directed at an individual or a group. This is our right to freedom of speech, isn’t it? Hate speech is not the same as hate crime, is it? From playground bullies to political leaders and everything in between, this “us against them” dynamic happens over and over and over again.

Second supposition: People who disagree with a particular rhetoric have their own right to exercise their freedom of speech…again without causing harm or malice.

Generally, extremist views are held by a minority of people. At any vote, debate, rally, or confrontation, usually a simple headcount indicates what most people believe. That is a powerful statement. However, that does not make anyone right and it does not make anyone wrong, unless or until a crime is committed.

Third supposition: Criminal acts are perpetrated by individuals…we arrest, try, and sentence individuals.

Yes, each individual may be following the dogma of a group, but it is still an individual choice to be a criminal. The group and it’s mantras may be objectionable (trying to come up with a word that doesn’t scream emotion), but if they are not illegal and commit no crimes, they have the right to exist, do they not?

By condemning people who “hate”, I believe we pressure their behaviors to become even more radical, more angry, sometimes underground, and definitely more dangerous. Is it possible that a dialogue could open instead? Who or what do you hate and why? Can we give you information that changes your mind? Can we give you experiences that change your mind? Can we begin to deradicalize the people who hate but really have no justifiable idea why…they’re just following the crowd?

A statue of Robert E. Lee was set to be pulled down. People have different beliefs about whether or not that “is right”. Can’t we take a vote, follow the results, and leave it at that?

 

 

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Up and Down Nevsky Prospekt

The main avenue through the historic heart of SPb is Nevsky Prospekt. Intersected by canals, canvassed by buses, and undergrounded by the metro, NP is at times eight lanes of traffic (maybe ten?) and the road has ridges (like Ruffles), presumably to funnel water and prevent winter ice. At one end, abutting the Neva River, is Palace Square and the Winter Palace. At the other is the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, victims and ultimately victors of the 900 day Nazi blockade. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on NP, take a stroll down one of the many side streets for food, art, entertainment, and shopping. It’s all pedestrian friendly, lively with outdoor bands and plein aire artists, stuffed with souvenir shops and stalls, and in the summer, light until almost 11 pm.

(u)   x(o)x

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Time Warp

In chronological fashion, this post would be about the return trip to Tallinn, but I’m not through sharing SPb yet 🙂

I haven’t even mentioned the cathedrals and churches. The Russian Orthodox buildings (many and mostly) are typically onion-domed on the outside and intricately gilded on the inside. Several are filled with sparkling mosaic art and few have stained glass windows. Most have pipe organs and most don’t have pews or chairs. (Don’t even think about rest for the weary!) Worshipers, particularly women, are covered from head to shoulders to knees and there’s usually an icon or relic that’s adorned for prayer and kisses. Sightseers are asked to dress and act demurely, not take photos, and be silent – with only some success. (These photos are from the churches that are museums and you pay to enter.)

Cemeteries are in the woods and they are gorgeous. Plots with iron fences and crosses are planted with flowers and it all feels and looks inviting.

Married couples have wedding photos taken around town at all the “destinations”. I chuckled each time I watched them navigating buses, pedestrians, and pigeons to get the photo shoot. Seems the usual color for grooms is a blue blue suit or tux and the gowns were usually white but one was a gorgeous pale pink.

One day I visited the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. There was another VERY long line, mostly babushkaed women, leading out from a side gate that appeared to originate from a cemetery. Not knowing what was happening and just as equally knowing I wasn’t going to stand in that line, I attempted to find another way into just the monastery. American that I am (and in hindsight this might have been stupid), I walked through some crowd control barricades and patrolled gates with my guidebook in hand searching for the place in the picture. I was ignored as I walked past a monk filling vessels with holy water and a tent covering people eating ice cream. Finally, I reached another barricade where a very short line of people was admitted, like a timed entry thing. So, I stood there with the next group hoping to get in. Some of the line tenders asked my business and of course, I could only point to my picture and gesture to the monastery. They tried to speak with me in Russian (obviously to no avail) and then one google translated to “St. Nicholas relics” and might have asked me if I was Christian? I just continued nodding and pointing and they gave up and let me in. Well, I found out later that the relics of St. Nicholas, one of the most hallowed saints in Russia, were there for viewing from Moscow…for something like two weeks and this was one of the last days. People approached a center altar, one side from my line and the other from that enormous snaking babushkaed thing, taking baby steps to move forward. There were guards posted and everyone bent over to kiss the relics…what else could I do? At the time, I had no clue. And, I saw very little of the monastery.

(u)   x(o)x

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Last day in St. Petersburg

But not my last post about everything I saw and did there 🙂  Two more museums were on my agenda-the Russian Museum of Ethnography, and the Russian Vodka Museum. With expert planning, I explored the latter at the dinner hour and ate at their very fine restaurant. Then, on this very last evening, I was enchanted by the Russian ballet performing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the famous Mariinsky Theatre. What a finale!

I am fascinated by ethno museums. In this instance, I LOVED the fabrics and intricate weavings, admired the clothing worn to keep warm, took too many photos of sleighs, and generally enjoyed the museum practically all to myself.  It was very well done with separate areas for different cultures: Ukrainians, Moravians, Siberians, etc. There was a section for Russian Jews also.

Who would NOT love the Vodka Museum?! A small space with a huge amount of paraphernalia and I didn’t know there were so many vodkas…basically one brand per family line! At the end, I had a tasting of three very different samples which prompted a full pour to go with dinner. Vodka etiquette: it must be cold, it must be chugged, and your glass must be refilled. And since I follow the rules…

And the ballet was everything I dreamed it would be.

(u)   x(o)x

 

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