Monday, February 18, 2019

Plastic battle

A quandry

Trying not to use plastic is difficult. Here's what we've found in general as we decrease our plastic use...

Hair care: We have found a good shampoo bar, thanks to Lush, but I am not as crazy about their conditioner. I'll keep trying.

Laundry detergent: Using powder but the powder came in a plastic bag. The box has more washes in it, though and the plastic is more like a baggie. Stupidly I didn't buy any Saturday when I was in front of the bio store where it is sold.

Dish detergent: But what about when I wash dishes at the sink? I haven't found a bottled one yet. As for the dishwasher, we used the cubes. The last time I bought it, they were wrapped in paper not plastic individually, but I don't understand why they need to be wrapped at all.

Cleaners: I never thought I needed 100 different cleaners, despite the adverts to the contrary, but could use the liquid dish soap, a toilet bowl cleaner, Javel (Clorox) and that's all. I prefer powder to liquid sink cleaners, and sometimes they come in a paper container, but usually it too is plastic.

Hand soap: I don't need a dispenser. Bars work. I still like Dove.

Sponges: I've gone to rags mostly. I keep one or two sponges for special products. Fortunately,  flannel PJs just wore out giving me a good supply.

Juice: Buying it in bottles. We also find that the juices are often bio, but maybe more expensive.

Foods: Pre-made things like hummus come in plastic containers. I know I should be making my own, but than the tahini is in plastic too. I need to find it in a jar. Cream cheese is in a plastic container. Best to buy other cheeses, freshly sliced from our cheese vendor.

Cling film: Never liked it. Never bought it. In my nest, my saucers fitted over my bowls. In the Warren we use mason jars. We have beeswax wrap. Hope we never buy it.


Aluminum: I wash and reuse. It is not plastic, I know, but one use of a resource is wasteful. As a kid we had an aluminum ball that we turned in to help the war effort.

Paper towels: My husband uses them for almost every thing. I used to take a couple of years or more to go through a roll. Never found anything that worked as well on bacon. I cringe every time he grabs a lot to wipe up something that a rag would do. Same for washing windows, although a squeegee works better than either. Stay tuned for a resolution. I would like to go back to using paper towels only for bacon.

Plastic containers: I never used them. I didn't want plastic touching my food. I don't know what poisons are in them. Take out comes in plastic containers. https://www.uncommongoods.com/our-story has much that is environmentally friendly.

Veggies: This is more of a problem in Switzerland supermarkets that wrap things that nature has already packed. In France the marché and green grocers don't do this. Unfortunately, the farmers markets tend to  be much more expensive in Switzerland. In weigh our own, I put everything in one plastic bag and after weighing put the price tags on that bag for the checkout person. I've been tempted to strip all the plastic off at the checkout but that wouldn't be fair to the poor cashier. We still need to work this out.

Plastic bags at the supermarket: We take our own to pack our groceries. For years I only needed one for everything, a rainbow straw one. Sherlock ate holes in the first one, but my lovely husband found a second.

Seems we have accumulated a whole bunch of the reusable ones with pretty pictures. I'd like to get it down to one for each of us, but then again, he uses it to store papers and I have to admit I use one to keep the clothes that need ironing. Maybe two for each of us.

Considering the amount of plastic in the ocean and around the world, I doubt our lack of contribution will make a difference but there's the satisfaction we are not adding to the problem. And in talking with people, I find they, too, are trying to use less plastic and we can exchange ideas.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mimosa&Chocolate


Sunshine mimosa
bought at the Ferney marché
Auer chocolate

People walked through the vendors at the Ferney marché carrying mimosa. Rick asked a woman where she found it, and she pointed to an adjacent row.

We wandered over, enjoying the scent of the spices, roasting chicken, oranges and looking at the veggies, meats, fish, cheeses and breads, stopping to buy this or that for lunch.

Then we saw the stand, bright yellow flowers in pails and wrapped bouquets covering the table.

We picked up a five Euro bunch. "I'ts like sunshine," I said to the vendor. He laughed. We chatted a bit as Rick paid him. The man handed me two more sprigs, a twinkle in this eye.

"Vous êtes gentil," I told him. "Merci."

My sunshine bouquet is on top of the piano along with my valentine chocolates from Auer's. These are chocolates that you bite in two to make it last longer and only eat one maybe after lunch, maybe before bed. Such perfection is not to be gobbled.

The mimosa scent fills the room. That tiny area touches my eyes, nose and taste. My heart sings a silent song at the sensuality of my life.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Poking around



Tourist Tuesdays.

Rick and I have declared that one day, the time we check out something, anything. It is taking poking to an art form.

Sometimes life interferes.

This week it was Tourist Thursday and we visited the Philippe Patek Watch museum.

I've a system of visiting a museum. When I lived in Boston, I had memberships at several museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, located a few blocks from home. It was so easy to drop in, look at one or two things in detail and leave until the next time.

When one is in a city for only a short time, the Boston approach doesn't work. Coming back may be never.

But some of the method sticks. Rather than try and see it all, I focus in on a few objects. At the pig museum in Stuttgart with 48,000 pigs, I wandered until something caught my attention and then I really looked it.

I try and read what is available. More than once, I've worked my way through the French or German only to discover the English and I'm lazy enough to prefer my mother tongue.

All our tourist destinations don't have to be a museum. Sometimes, just wandering around leads to all kinds of discoveries: a plaque saying what happened, a carved doorway, a plant, a waterfall...the list is endless.

Yesterday as we searched for the museum, we walked by the river. I was intrigued that the current was faster than usual and by the pattern of the current.

Nature's art prepared us for the workmanship created by humans at the watch museum. I imagine the craftsman placing each pearl, the painter using a tiny brush to make the hair on the woman look realistic. All the time the watch maker was working on the inside.


Not sure where the next Tourist Tuesday (or Wednesday, Thursday or Friday) will lead us. Guaranteed we will find something of interest as we poke around the world.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Slippers

I am trying to imagine St. Petersburg with the snow that the news says has fallen.

My memories are of warm days, gold leaf, ballet, a river ride, the door where Rasputin escaped and the hostessing by a friend who invited us into her home and then made sure that we experienced as many wonders of her city that it was possible to see feeding my love of art, history and beauty.

She also bought slippers to wear in the house, which I still treasure today and not just because dusty rose is my favorite color. I look at them and am grateful each time how a chance meeting evolved into much, much more.

The slippers are in Geneva, but there is a new challenge.

Sherlock.

He wants those slippers and if I slip them off to put on shoes, he appears sometimes from nowhere and grabs them. We race around the flat, he shaking that slipper as if it were an animal caught by one of his ancestors.

To date, the slippers remain unharmed.

I am careful to leave them out of puppy mouth reach. I don't have a photo of him with the slipper. I am too busy trying to catch him.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mediocre life









The photos are of special moments and stopping to see what is before me.


I came across an article on a mediocre life, which triggered thoughts about my own life.

Some might say I don't have a mediocre life. I am a published writer, published being the harder part.

I live and travel routinely in places that others may only dream of seeing some day. I've interviewed world leaders (who won't remember me from diddly damn). I've crusaded for causes that I hope will improve the lives of others.

There have been times in my own life, when I've barely had time to breathe. There were the years I was part of a team renovating a Boston brownstone, which was gray, going to grad school, working a demanding PR job and raising a daughter. Time to sleep was optional.

Never again.

It isn't age that has slowed me down.

I would substitute in that article the word simple for mediocre.

Simple means taking the time to enjoy small things, people, color, food, weather good and bad. It means not having to add things but to savour what I do have.

I've accomplished the three big goals of my life: having a daughter, living in Europe and being a writer.

It is a good thing that I never wanted to be rich, because I am not in terms of money. I am rich in having everything I want (well new Venetian blinds in Argeles would be nice to replace the broken ones). If anything, adding things that might need dusting or taking up what could be free space, makes me feel poorly, claustrophobic, etc. Worse having two of something when one will do, I shudder just to write this.

Although I love traveling and seeing or re-seeing places, my happiest days are when I am home. The mornings in bed with a cup of tea, a book and my husband are a joy. I use the word see, because see means looking and absorbing the little details, such as a little girl playing in the mud in Stuttgart. With each stomp of her booted foot, her smile expanded. She is probably a teen now and her puddle stomping days are over and she has no idea that a woman in another country remembers her. It means seeing a flower in a crack in the sidewalk.

Keeping life as simple as possible takes many routes.

In spring there are two trees, one by the ILO and one in Corsier that I can't wait to see bud. In France, the mimosa in bloom, so yellow that I almost need sunglasses, thrills me. My husband bringing me a bouquet of mimosa was equally joyful.

It is walking by La Noisette, spying a friend and sharing a cup of tea while catching up with the news or just feeling the sun on our faces and wondering how the sky could possibly be that blue.

It is watching Sherlock run zoomies at the reserve or dig at the sand at the beach.

It is feeling the cold when Rick opens the door to take the dog out.

The list goes on and on. Maybe because of the number of things that tickle my senses, my life is not so simple. I do know it is happy with the time to enjoy each moment I have been given.












Sunday, February 10, 2019

Differences

It is almost seven years since Rick and I reconnected after 24 years. A coupe de foudre changed a former professional relationship into a love match.

Maybe it is maturity that allows us to accept, usually with anything from a giggle to a guffaw, these differences.

This morning I read his blog  http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.com/2019/02/one-thing-at-time.html and burst out laughing.

Where he mentions not hearing what I say when he is involved in something else, I've learned to double check. It is not quite so bad that I need to get him to sign a paper saying he heard, read and understood my message. Yet.

He is a just-in-time writer.

I, on the other hand, am an obsessive planner. I don't get out of (or maybe even in) bed until I know what I am going to wear. Usually, I know the next ten things I am going to do, although rarely do they happen in order. It is probably a saving grace I can adjust and readjust.

I am also a systems person (except my closet). In some cases, Rick sees that as a good thing.

In others?

He suggests a better way (most often he's) right.

The English phrase "Taking the Mickey out" translates as making sure someone doesn't take themselves too seriously.

The fact that we both wrote blogs on the subject means not only do we take the Mickey out of each other, but ourselves. We have more important and loving things to do, to argue about our quirks.

Eye rolling and head shaking are still allowed.





Saturday, February 09, 2019

Prayer in school


 Row 1. Christian, Jewish, Hindu Row 2. Islamic, Buddhist, Shinto Row 3. Sikh, Baha'i, Jain

I am seeing more and more postings on Facebook about bringing prayer and teaching religion in schools. 

Ignoring the Constitution, I think it is a great idea. Here's how I would do it.

Each morning, class would start with a prayer from one of the world's stronger religions.

Monday: Christian
Tuesday: Jewish
Wednesday Muslim
Thursday: Hinduism
Friday: Sikhism 

A curriculum teaching these religions in turn, along with a unit on the less populated ones, would be written.

Getting the curriculum would not be easy, especially with all the divisions within each religion.

Hopefully it would help reduce intolerance. I have a girl friend who was taught in her Protestant religion that Catholics were the children of Satan. And for years Jews were taunted for being Christ Killers. Never mind how Muslims are treated today. Sikhs were killed after 9/11 because ignorant men thought they were Muslims. My brother was denied his milk and cookie when he refused to say the Lord's Prayer (it was in the mid 50s).

Of course, it won't happen. Despite claiming they are men and women of faith, meetings will break down into petty squabbles.  Nothing (k)new. Just look at the battle over the Nicean Creed, and although written in 325 the Arian "heresy" still exists. Law suits will fly in court after court.

But I still wish that humans could agree on what is positive.




Thursday, February 07, 2019

The Money Room

My husband leaves before I am awake for his French class.

Two days ago when I went to take a shower, a 100 CHF note was on the floor. I stuck it in my wallet and was going to mention it, but forgot.

One day ago, same French class departure, same need for shower, new 100 CHF note on the floor. This time I put it on his computer and explained when he asked. He wasn't sure how it got there. Maybe fell out of his pocket?




Today, same French class departure, same need for shower. No new 100 CHF note, but a 20 CHF note.

Hmmm...








Possibilities:

1. He had less money in his pocket.
2. He was teasing me (we kid around a lot on all sorts of things)
3. The bathroom makes money.

Although 2 would be good, I like number 3.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Button Box

In the novel I was reading, the mother went to her button box. Visions of Dar's (my grandmother) button box came up from the depths of my memory database.

It was probably the size of a slightly large cigar box without the lingering smell of tobacco.

If we were good we could play with the buttons. I used them to make designs or people that I would move within stories I made up. My brother turned them into soldiers and cowboy and Indian standoffs.

When I lived on the Riverway in Boston, I too had a button box, but its collection was scanty. There were never enough to do a multi-button replacement. Most clothes came with an extra button negating the need to replace many. With my non-love of sewing, one button was more than enough to rescue the garment and let me get on with my life. The box disappeared in a move to France.

After retirement, a knitting bug hit me and I designed and produced baby and children sweaters almost in bulk. I didn't know anyone pregnant and most of my friends' kids were way past the stage they could fit into my creations.

I was partially motivated by the novelty buttons sold at our local yarn store. When the bug passed, I donated the sweaters to a local charity shop. There were no leftover buttons to start a new box.


Dar also had a bigger box of envelope liners of all colors and designs.

On rainy days, she'd bring out paper, scissors and glue. We could make designs, create mosaics of houses, flowers, country scenes. The linings were used for paper doll clothes and even Japanese lanterns. When done, I might make up stories about whatever I had wrought.

Today we buy envelopes in packets, There's only a rare on that is decorated. I kinda wish that my bills came in envelopes with pretty liners--so much nice to open. And for those that come by email, linings don't exist.

In today's computer world, playing with buttons and envelope linings, never mind paper dolls would earn an eye roll directed to whoever suggested it.





Sunday, February 03, 2019

Relearning German



"Hauptbahnhof" I would say to the Strassenbahn ticket taker.

"Hobahnhof," he'd correct me. I was on my way to Kelley Baracks in Möhringen, Germany for my intensive German course.

The next morning, same conductor, I'd say, "Hobahnhof."

"Haupbahnhof,"

After a couple of weeks, I jumped on the Strassenbahn and said, "Hauptbahnhof oder Hobahnhof."

He stared for a moment and then we both laughed.

Once on the base, I would stop for a coffee and a raised, honey-coated doughnut before class which was from 9 to 5. It was taught by a Spec 4 who held an M.A. in English literature. My goal was a B.A.in English, a degree interrupted by my marriage. During lunch we had great discussions--in English.

When the course was over, I could function well in German, as long as we were not holding intense philosophical discussions.

Back at university in the States, the school did not offer German and I found myself in a French class, with a professor who spent little time teaching French and a lot of time talking about his life. Little did I know then, how much I would need French later in life.

Only during my senior year, German was added the curriculum. The prof had studied at Heidelberg University. One of the first things my prof said when I spoke with him in German, "You have a Swabish accent." He was right. That was the accent from the Stuttgart area.

Then decades went by. Moving to Switzerland, I needed to learn French, which I have done--painfully. My German had deteriorated to the shopping level, although I could garble out a response to an almost understood telephone conversation with my housemate's German relatives. And when my housemate and her son had a conversation in German, which was strange in itself, I did catch parts about her worry when he would be home and things around that. Stranger still, until I realized that night they had planned a surprise wedding reception and were finishing up details and went to the language which they were sure I would not understand.

When I was having radiology in Bern, I was worried about understanding the doctor. No fear. My doctor spoke seven languages fluently and was functional in three more. I chose English.

Last year, I decided to get my German back to functional. With the Rosetta Stone installed on my computer for the past several months, I've dutifully gone lesson by lesson. I have language cards. Many words are the "Oh, yes! I remember that" kind. Verb forms are no mystery and even some declensions make sense although not all.

Pronunciation not so good. Any word with an R is victim to my Boston accent. I do not worry about it because I live in Switzerland with its many Swiss Deutsche accents.

Last weekend in Saint Gallen I was able to hold a couple of short conversations in German. Very short. Every time I'm tempted to skip a day, I force myself to go on. When I have no choice about skipping a day, I try and double up.

So until my next blog, Auf Wiedersehn!





Saturday, February 02, 2019

Day care interviews




I am still interviewing my characters for my novel Day Care as a way if developing them. Strangely, the interviewer, Susan Ainsworth is becoming a character herself. Some writers have everything worked out in advance. Me? I am constantly surprised by events in my novels.



Kayla said, “I know you want to interview me. How about now in the kitchen with a cup of tea?”
I’m a coffee drinker, but I take what is offered rather than create any dissonance no matter how tiny. And with the snow outside the window, it seemed to fit the ambiance of the day. Better than the Skype interview we had originally talked about.
Ashley was using the time Kayla was there to work later than usual. Another win-win, giving Kayla extra time with Maud. Both women had told me this separately.
M
Me: You’re from Dallas?
KW: Yes. My father worked in a bank. My mother was, is a nurse. They’re divorced.
Me: How old were you?
KW: 13. My mother is a devout Catholic. My father a lapsed one. He remarried.
Me: Do you like your stepmother?
KW: She wrote the Ugly Stepmother Manual.
Me:  (I wanted more detail, but since our time was limited before Ashley got home, I decided to save it for another time.) Do you mind telling me how you got pregnant? (I learned long ago to get permission for painful questions.)
KW:Stupidity. I was raised in the no-sex-before marriage, be like the Virgin Mary school. And then I fell in love with my chem professor. He wasn’t married. And he didn’t want to be.
Me: Why didn’t you get an abortion?
KW:I thought about it, but I couldn’t.
Me:  Where were you when this happened.
KW: My junior year at BU, Boston University. I had a scholarship.
Me: Did you tell your parents? (Kayla gives me a long, long look.)
KW: My stepmother hates me and would turn my father against me. My mother might have disowned me.
Me:  Do you know this for certain or . . .
KW: My mother recommended a friend do that to her daughter when she ended up pregnant and single.
Me:  And it wouldn’t have been different for her own daughter. Think how Dick Cheney became much more tolerant toward gays when he discovered his daughter was a lesbian.
KW: You don’t know my mother.
Me:  (I was afraid if I continued on that line of questioning, I’d lose the rapport we seemed to be building.) Did you think about keeping the baby?
KW: Oh yes. But I know I didn’t have the money to raise a child and continue in school. I wanted to be a doctor. I think I changed my mind every five minutes on what to do.
Me:  What sent you to Ashley’s firm?
KW:A friend whose sister had dealt with the firm. The first appointment was more of a crying fest. She had her mom take her next appointment and gave me all the time I needed.
Me:  And . . .
KW: I told her that if there was any way we could find a family that might let me be part of the baby’s life. And Ashley said it might be hard and suggested I read everything I could open adoptions.
Me:  And did you. (Kayla nods vigorsly.) So, you went the adoption route.
KW: Yes, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Neither was Ashley because she had never done this before.
Me:  Did you think of changing to someone more experienced.
KW: It turns out we did, but not for the reasons you might think. Ashley wanted Maud but ethically she couldn’t do it herself. She found a friend that could.
Me: How did you feel?
KW: Relieved, sad, happy sometimes within minutes of each other.
Me:  How has it worked out?
KW: Sometimes I feel I am in one of those nincompoop Hollywood movies where everything ends happily. Of course, Maud is only four and . . .
            The front door opens. I hear Ashley call, “Anyone home? I brought Chinese food.”
There’s so much more I want to ask her. Like she says, it seems like a nincompoop movie but right now I will eat my egg rolls and observe how everyone is acting.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Bad News



I was in the shower when Rick came in. "Babette is here."

Why would the woman who owned the grocery store be visiting for the first time in decades?

I finished my shower and went to the living room. Babette was with another woman. She held an address book in her hand.

"Barbara est morte." Barbara who Rick saw at lunch time? Barbara my friend of 40 years at three addresses in two countries? Barbara who lived down the street? Barbara who was my role model on being true to myself? Barbara with whom I shared meals, books, events?

Babette handed me her address book. Barbara lived across the street from the grocer who had the keys to her house, often taking care of Ptah II, the cat when Barbara was away. "I thought you would know her daughters to tell them." She said it in French, of course and handed me the address book that she had found.

She was right. The girls would not understand her even if she knew which addresses were Barbara's daughters.

The pain of my loss had yet to sink in. It would take a long time. I found Wendy's number but before I could call, Rick said, "Make sure Wendy's not driving. You don't want her to have an accident."

I can't remember my exact words. It was quick and direct. Wendy, whom I've never called, even when I lived in Boston, I saw her frequently, so she must have known something was wrong. It was why I didn't prolong it.

After I hung up I remember a telephone call some years before from a beloved uncle in Florida who never called. "Are you sitting down?" he asked. I said yes, although I wasn't.

"Your father died this afternoon." I sank to my knees. He couldn't have. That afternoon at the same time he was dying, I was mailing a Christmas present to him. His birthday had been the day before. He'd shot his best round of golf ever.

"I'll call you back."

My housemate Bill left the room while Susan, my other housemate, said the right things. He came back with all the information on our flight the next morning from Boston to Florida along with the car rental arrangements.

As shocking as my uncle's call was, other than the preparatory question on my being seated, he went straight to the subject. Anything else would have made the surreal more surreal.

We had been expecting my mother, who was suffering from cancer, to die. The doctor was the one who called. He too was direct. "We've lost mama," he said. I thanked him. No one should go through what my mother was going through. Her suffering was over.

A phone call brought more bad news when the son of a friend called from Massachusetts. I'd already had an email from his father labelled with the warning "bad news" telling me of his cancer. I knew before the son told me. At the end of the conversation I said, "I'm sorry you lost your father." He replied "I'm sorry you lost your friend."

I hope I don't ever have to break news like that to anyone again, but in reality, it will be possible. It will be impossible to escape the words, "I've bad news for you." That is the price of loving.