Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Look what I found house cleaning!

The first two pics are my cousins, Chris and Jenny, and my dad. Oh and me, the blonde, looking a little pot-bellied. Dad and Chris look cute. Well everyone can't be good-looking. Some of us have to have the brains! Tante Deverle in her analness (I mean that in the most loving way) had labeled all the photos with dates. This was Sept 1977. Jenny and I were about 15 mos old.

Next, Carrie's entered the world! Somehow, this feels like our family. Mom has a rather droll look on her face. Maybe she's wondering what she's gotten herself into. Carrie's looking harmless but probably has a bad thought in her mind. I'm in La-La land and dad's intent on something else. Notice Carrie & I both are holding noisemakers. Definitely not an precursor for parental happiness. Sorry mom and dad. Jan 1980. Carrie 9 mos, me 3 yrs. Parents: aging!

I think this is probably my birthday (or right around). It said June 1981, which would mean I was 5 and Carrie just over 2. I wonder if that's right. I think we look very mature and well-behaved for our ages.

I was a horsewoman fashionista in my clog sandals. I loved horses until two crazy incidents when I was about 10 at triangle-Y camp when my horse took a short cut down a cliff and then another horse took a tree too close, and I was hanging off the back. (Did not fall. I am that talented. Thank god I had strong legs even then.) Age 6, just turned.

Finally, what happened to the swimming career that could have been? Goggles and looking hot...

Sadly, none of the pictures included Molly... :(

Monday, August 30, 2010

She nearly kills self, but exercises restraint instead.

In Germany, Sundays are the deadest of dead. I'd accidentally left my watch alarm on, and so was awake at 7am. Damn.

I wasn't in the mood for contemplation, reading or otherwise, and the house was beckoning me. CLEAN ME. I really didn't want to. But I made myself. I knew I'd feel better if I did. I seriously hate cleaning (except for vacuuming which has a pleasurable sound and obvious results). Usually I clean while on the phone so I don't notice I'm doing it, but lately, I've been so laid back that I lay on the kitchen floor while on the phone. Or languish on the couch. Rather than multitasking. This may be a positive argument for multitasking. The unfortunate fact is that I don't like having a dirty house or giant mess, or maybe I should say that it's fortunate, otherwise I'd be living in a giant pigsty bachelors' pad, content to dig clothes out of the dirty pile and wear shoes indoors always. (Not a fan of crap under my feet.)

So I got to work. Even washed all the floors and cleaned the toilet with putrid-smelling vinegar (trying out 'natural' methods). Sick. I think I'd hire a housekeeper, but if I did that in Germany, I'd probably be shot for laziness.

Laundry procrastination = Self Jail in Basement, since each load takes TWO hours. The Evil Dishwasher redistributes and heat-glues all the food onto all the dishes, so I handwashed them afterward. The Germans are good at cars, horrid at appliances. The Damn Garage Door Opener was acting up again. It was supposed to be a new one. I took it apart and saw that part of it had been *hot-glued* together. So that part fell off. I think it was made in 1989. Why cannot I just buy a new one? Since I fixed it myself this time, does that mean that I'm becoming more German?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perhaps my theme song

The Long Road by Po' Girl

Let's take the long way cause I like the view go by the shoreline look at the moon

Take the long way watch the sunrise listen to the radio all through the night
The rain can't dampen us drive on through til the sun shines on us dries up the dew
Take the long way cause I like the view go by the shoreline look at the moon
Savour the silence and stroke my back
Sing to me softly of secrets and the stories lost between the cracks
This moment is stardust it has already passed
But you are so bright, so bright in my mind and our moonlit mass

(It's not really a video, it's just the song.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

damn everything but the circus

...damn everything that is grim, dull,
motionless, unrisking, inward turning,
damn everything that won't get into the circle,
that won't enjoy, that won't surprise, fear and
delight of the circus, the round world,
the full existence..." -ee cummings

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reviewing years of blogging.

The impetus for a blog was a decision to change up my entire life. Back in 2007. Since leaving the country, it's been a mostly downhill slide. Not as in negative, but as in easier. The hardest part was taking that first step. Everything that's followed has slid into place. Decidedly, this is a good feeling.

Questioning life existence, beliefs and my notions of what's important, especially over these last few years has led me on a round about path, back to the beginning. When I think of what I want out of life, I could easily superimpose my four-year-old self onto my current existence and they would meld together like a tracing overlapped. I am one in the same, who I've always been.

So why is it necessary to leave everything, to only discover I am myself?

In order to become more like myself as a young person, I had to question my thoughts on life, which means that I had to question what was important, question what I believed about the US, question my prejudices about other countries, and nationalities, and ways of living. I, myself, had to take the side road for a while, meandering along, noticing the trees, taking time to listen to people and laugh, and see the similarities and the differences. Mostly, I have seen the similarities. Mostly I have seen the good. Mostly, I have realised that who was as a child is who what I am now.

That child believed in equality, fairness, abounding boldness, self-confidence, laughter, spending time in a dream world, walking barefoot, loving her family... and more.

If I can see the world through my child's eyes, without fear, and with boldness, then I have evolved back to the beginning, but to a higher place. Perhaps why I love children so much, they are yet to be pushed into a corner of hopelessness, or rigidity, or the misconception of controlling everything in order to live a good life...

In the NYT, on exercising your mental strength:
Opinion: A Case of Mental Courage
By DAVID BROOKS August 23, 2010
The novelist Fanny Burney stared pain in the face, teaching a lesson in character we would do well to recover.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

She lives through the triathlon.

The event: Berlin Triathlon
700m (0.434mi) swim
24km (14.9mi) bike
5 km (3.1mi) run

The weather: Sunny at start time of 0900
18.0C (64.4F) air
23.0C (73.4F) water

The plan: drag ass through the swim, make up for it during the bike and run. Try not to die. Attempt to finish in 2 hours.

The outcome: Still alive. Finished in 2 hours.

The morning of, the weather gods smile after two weeks of treacherous cold rain. You don your highly attractive unitard tri-suit, which you bought for $25 at REI four years ago after having completed a duathlon. You've swam five times before the swim, passed by all in the pool including 85 year-old-beer-bellied German men. The shotgun starts. Immediately, start panicking and chugging algae-infested water. (This is no Minnesota lake.) Heart racing, think you are going to die. Wonder what you were thinking entering a triathlon, when you are the geriatric age of 34, and you are an eye doctor, not an athlete. Where are the flippies? Think you should have hidden a floatie in your swimsuit, but continue on, switching strokes about 57 times before the first buoy, which seems to be about 50 miles away. Finally decide just to plug away with the slow and bobbing breaststroke. Wonder who you should be swimming for. Think of your dad. Paddle on. Notice that the boats are circling nearby like sharks, waiting for you to shout., "Helfen mir!" so they can slurp you up into safety. You are not getting into one of those boats. Decide that you are going to come in last in the triathlon. How embarrassing. You shouldn't have told anyone you were doing this!

Finally the swim is over, and to the transition zone you head. Someone with a sick sense of humor decided it would be a good idea to climb several flights of steps to get there. You're not running. You're just glad to be alive. The goal has been revised to just finish. Seriously doubt your abilities. Kick yourself for being overconfident.

It's not hard to find your bike, since almost everyone else has moved on to the next event. Feel depressed. Decide you are totally unathletic. See Patrick (Amber's husband waiting to take a picture) and declare you nearly died. But continue on. The bike ride through the trees is pleasant and you manage to choke down two slimy clif shots. Sweet chocolate sludge, clogging up your throat and stomach. Fearful of the run, you don't over exert yourself on the bike, but manage to pass some people. Decide that you are not a total loser.

Riding into the transition zone again, you hop off the bike and into your running shoes, off for a happy little run in the woods. "Pump your arms," you remember from the training tips in your Runner's World magazine. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You start talking to yourself. Pick it up. You're a runner. You can go faster. Decide to coast a little for the first 2 km but still pass people. Decide that you should be pretty proud since it was only a few months ago that you stress fractured your foot and now you're doing a triathlon. From afar, see Amber and decide to yell, "Is that my lady friend?" through the library-quiet German infested trees. No one else is yelling. In fact, no one's said a word. Germans are as serious in these events as in the rest of life. During the whole run, you had to suppress all these stupid jokes you wanted to call out to other runners. You didn't want to seem too American, but now you don't care.

Coming into the finish, you think it wasn't that bad, but next time you'd get a swim coach to give you some tips. Realise that you might be a runner after all. At the finish line, you pick up your finisher t-shirt, a beer, an apple and a slice of lemon pound cake. These Germans know how end a race.

You decide that you'd do another, but you're happy the first one is over.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Fall Thoughts

Today I'm wearing a sweater and pants and my back is still cold. The coffee is not warming me up. It was 13 Celsius this morning. Amber and I run a sprint triathlon on Saturday near Berlin. I'm not watching the forecast. I'll just show up and do it.

A friend of mine just left for Afghanistan. It's strange knowing I'll know people who die over there, most likely. (We sent 4,000 soldiers from this post alone, many of whom saw me for an eye exam.) This is the closest to war I've gotten. A lifelong nonbeliever in wars and questioner of military, here I am inserting ideas and experience into my mind. Opening and questioning. How many Americans have a true connection with the military?

Our military is composed mostly of the lowest stratification of our citizens, yet they are the ones who are pushing the American agenda worldwide, while the rest of us sit home in our consumerist splendor. I wonder what we're attempting to accomplish, why we think everyone would want to be like us, why we think that capitalism, consumerism and growth are the answers to everything.

Today in the NYT, there was a little blurb on a 100% free store in Brooklyn. An interesting concept which wouldn't make anyone rich, but would serve the needs of others and self, by trade. Having a pile of "money" stored somewhere creates security and comfort. A feeling of freedom. But is it false? Where does it get you? I'm no different. I feel much safer the more I've saved. Like I'm prepared for anything.

Entering fall, I feel always a sense of death. A sense of impending gloom. Perhaps winter, perhaps a reminder that we are all slowly dying every day and to what? We cycle this life until one day, we're out. The day repeats itself with small variations. The only thing I can figure is to keep learning and keep wondering.

Sunday morning, I was out walking with my friend Ryan, through the hills of Germany. He said, "You still have the mentality of a student." I took that as a compliment. I value lifelong learning. Everyday I read, write, study, question and think a little more. I never expect to know enough.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Portishead addiction pervades... thoughts swirl

Thursday night I spent lolling on the kitchen floor, hugged by darkness and flickering candles and the eerie notes of Portishead, mulling over my life in the German countryside. The singleness, the slowness, the wonder of it. If I had the choice to stay or go, which would it be?

Coming upon my one year anniversary here means I'm nearly halfway through my contract. Time to let thoughts seep in, and decide where life may lead me next. My journal pages fill. I wonder if I should limit myself. But I don't.

On my bookshelf, I picked up Love Begins in Winter, a book I ran into in a tiny bookstore in small town somewhere that I can no longer remember. I started rereading it. It's almost hard to breathe when I take in the words. I feel so much; I want to share it with everyone but I know reading is a personal experience and I what I feel might not be the same as another. But still. I'm haunted by his words, the way they reach into my soul and squeeze and waken. Tears from dried eyes fall, and I feel that this book is talking to me.

From Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy:

"The very best and the very worst of life comes from our ability to love strangers."

"And she sensed that every she had every touched- whether deeply over the years or for only a brief moment in a crowded elevator - might somehow be the story of her whole life."

"It's true the people we meet shape us. But the people we don't meet shape us also, often more because we have imagined them so vividly.

There are people we yearn for but never seem to meet. Every adult yearns for some stranger, but it is really childhood we miss. We are yearning for that which has been stolen from us by what we have become."

"Love is like life - but starts before and continues after - we arrive and depart in the middle."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A curious idea... slow investing

Seems counterintuitive, at least. But after reading the article in The Sun (June 2010 issue), I was intrigued.
I've always been a ridiculous saver. Probably years of training from my parents, who grew up rather poor on midwestern farms and were genetic spendthrifts. So I save. And then what? What do you do with your money when you don't spend it?
I've read financial planning books and met with advisors, and what I've saved for retirement is probably less than what I put in, as the stock market has not been overly friendly these last eight years. So do I sit with it in a savings account? Do I buy bonds? Do I buy mutual funds? Do I wait for the market to really tank and then buy? Do I care? Jeez. 
Investment apathy. 
It's hard to care about ideas of money when you don't care much about money itself. However, I do care about the freedom money affords. But then, I think I'll always live off very little, regardless of my position or pay. 
So the idea of "Slow Investing," putting money where your conscience dictates, rather than where will reap the fastest rewards piques my interest. It's about investing in what matters, and decreasing the emphasis on getting rich quick.
I'm still researching myself, but if you'd like more info, read here: (it's a little slow to load)
Prophet of Modest Profit: Woody Tasch On How Not To Get Rich Quick, by Thea Sullivan

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Since the pool's never open, I went swimming on my bike

Then visited a few people who I didn't know in the German countryside...
It was one of those sketchy days, when you need ALL weather gear. Stupidly, I leave the house with a post-it note map, wearing a tank and shorts. About 40 minutes into the ride, it's suddenly night. Though obviously dimwitted, I turn around and head home. Somehow had been oblivious to the blackening sky before.
Within minutes, icy shards pelt my arms and face. Not hail, but sure feels like it.I pedal harder. Soon the rain is so heavy, I can't see. My glasses fogging up doesn't help. I continue on, waiting for the big hills that I know are coming. 
What luck... Downhill both ways? There really is a god.
Or Fuck, you are lost in a thunderstorm. 
The latter.
I'd seen a car a ways back with people in it, so I turn around. But their license plate is Czech. I bike up a driveway and ding the bell. A man answers and curtly states to continue on the way back I was going. (What, no offer of a ride?)
A little further down the road, I ask two German men in an SUV. After a delay in recognising "Edelsfeld" they say continue on, straight down the road. I know I need to turn somewhere, but I keep pedaling. Last stop: two little girls answer the door. Shortly followed by their mom and two more kids. She says, "Go to the next town, then right, then continue on over B-85." Finally someone whose directions I could trust. She offers me to come in and dry off, but I can't see the point. It was nice though.  (Thank god again for my crap German skills.)
Two hours later, I arrive home, soaking, and hop in the shower.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In the woods

Vapors rising. Shuffling, ruffling leaves. Light surges, then fades.
I always want to be in the woods.
When I remember childhood, I think, the woods.
Walking home through...
Climbing trees in...
Sledding between...
Chopping down...
The woods.
The woods. Where the bears hid.
I never saw them, but in my dreams. That was enough.
Now I go to the woods to hide from the chaos of life. To think. To get away. To calm myself. To wonder where next. Why in this life. What am I doing. Cemented here.
Crescendo of leaves. Haunting me. Holding my breath.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cultural isolation. In the midst of another culture.

German countryside, mixed in with American Military. What a contrast from the hippie lifestyle I was enmeshed in back in Portland. Where I'd regularly ride my bike into the night, dressed as a bicycle demoness of some sort. Regurgitating the cultural chaos of the masses. Everyone had their clique. I found it sick and comforting. Mournful now for the crazed, elite bike crowd, the twig-legged unisex bandies, the proliferation of self-professed artists, the rope-haired hippies who loitered outside the local coop, all making me feel like an outsider in my own neighborhood, because I was white collar professional, working for The Man.

This week I've been Portland-sick. Maybe it's time for a visit.