Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Fill-in Fun

Looks like it's time for another set of Friday Fill-ins! Please entertain me and play along in the comments or in your own blog! My additions are in bold (not blood as I had originally typo-ed it...)

1. Birthdays are kind of overrated - especially as you get older - then again, it's hard to complain about an excuse to eat cake.

2. Fall is my favorite season because the heat of summer is fading while the leaves are brightening and the air outside smells so complex and rich.

3. I feel my best when I'm painting and it's going well enough that I've lost track of time.

4. There is no way I could choose one item and declare that it is my favorite food!

5. First impressions are just as important as people say but still no excuse to drive yourself crazy with worry.

6. The best piece of advice I ever received was probably from my mom or dad and is now so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I can't separate it from my actions.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to going to jui jitsu and dodging sweat, tomorrow my plans include seeing the yodelers in Lucerne unless we get lazy and Sunday, I want to get really lazy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wanted: A New Excuse

It finally happened - the moment I've been craving since we arrived. I got a desk for my office. Hurrah! I've been doing all my writing sitting on my futon with my computer on a tray on my lap and, as you would expect, wondering from where I had acquired my sudden-onset and unending back pain. I now have a nice big desk for crafting, typing and painting... which leads me to a new problem.

I need a new excuse to do continue to accomplish none of those things. I've been telling myself for months that once I had a desk, I would be writing for a couple hours a day before moving on to the paintings for my still unfinished squid book. Now, thanks to a trip to IKEA, (thanks Olivier and Celia)I have my desk - so now what? Sadly, the desk didn't come with a stack of completed paintings and a stellar manuscript with a "insert your name here" blank on the cover.

The good news is I have felt a bit more like writing and what-not, now that it's comfortable to do so for more than 15 minutes at a time. I've been rereading several of my books for writers and another problem I keep hitting is my own lack of discipline. Without fail, each book I've seen recommends an aspiring writer to cut out a specific chunk of time in their day to write - same write time, same write place. I haven't yet figured out what times are good for me, so each day I say "I"ll work from A to B and then when A rolls around, I remember oh-so-many other things that need to be done. I'm thinking this is part of the artistic process, right? Riiight - ok, so maybe not.

You know what is another great way to procrastinate? Blogging...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who who whoooo's a night owl?

Valais by Night
Originally uploaded by Arsmor

Ok - the votes are in (though voting is still open for a couple more days if you haven't expressed a preference yet) and it looks like at least half of you enjoy reading things I write about myself - you bunch of voyeurs! In my desire to please all the people all the time here's another entry for the "stuff about me" category (lucky for you this mindset brings enough neuroses with it that you won't be suffering from a lack of reading material anytime soon).

I am a night owl's night owl. Right now as I write this, it is approaching three in the morning here and I'm not even close to being ready to go to sleep. Staying up this late on my own has gotten to be something of a luxury as of late. I go to bed most nights for companionship or because I feel like I'm supposed to - I can't remember the last time I went to bed (for the night - naps are not included in this) because I was tired and ready to sleep. At midnight, I'm just starting to get my brain and hands loosened up and the words and pictures are just starting to come out, but most days I force myself to go to bed around midnight because I get up when Mr K does at 7:30 and "everybody knows" I have to get some sleep.

What this means for me is my most productive hours are spent tossing and turning in bed, trying to talk myself into falling asleep. Some nights I hash out stories, letters, pictures, and blog posts, always intending to get them down on paper/screen the next morning but by the time I wake up (which I do poorly and very slowly) these images are usually gone. Sometimes I'll scribble down a tangle of notes to try and decipher the next morning - I usually write these in the dark and, as my handwriting is nearly impossible to read when I'm doing my best to be neat, in the morning I can't decipher a word of it. For all I know, in the past couple years I've found and lost the meaning of life, the nature of the universe and a couple hot stock tips - I'll never know.

Most of my best ideas come to me late at night, however I'm also one of those 3:00 AM crisis types. You know the type - in fact, you may be the type. Without fail, the clock hits three in the morning or so and my brain does some kind of crisis data-dump and decides to run through all possible worst-case scenarios, ranging from "what if I have no money in my bank next time I try to buy some I-tunes" to "what does it say about me as a person that my biological clock runs a bit slow - if at all" - it goes downhill from there. Existential crisis as a luge.

Ignoring that bit, in general I find staying up to all hours to be a mostly positive experience that I really enjoy. For me, sitting in the living room and feeling the breeze blowing in off the porch as it slides across my back is bliss. Listening to the fevered tapping of my sloppy hunt-and-peck typing in an otherwise unbroken silence is bliss. Being the only one awake gives me time to pay attention to all the little details I would otherwise miss due to the distractions that come with daylight and other people.

On a semi-side note, you know what else is bliss? Sitting on the floor in the kitchen, lit only by the light from the fridge, eating a bite or two of whatever leftover or other treat looks good. I'm pretty convinced food tastes best late at night, eaten in the kitchen, though I don't know why this should be. In my most recently written and wretchedly abysmal novel (woo hoo!), I noticed as I wrote that the main character was always eating in the middle of the night - I went on for pages and pages about it. It seemed whenever I got stuck for an idea, she got hungry. Well, all my writing books do say "write what you know..."

I have plenty more to say about insomnia and all the things that I've found that don't cure it, but I'll save that for another day. Sleep tight and sweet dreams - I'll be along in a few.

"Always take a big bite
It's such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night"
R. Smith

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guards! Impostor!

Some days I catch myself feeling uptight, just waiting for someone to call me out. Some days I feel like I've been far too lucky - that I'm not living my assigned life, but rather squatting in someone else's overly-blessed existence. I find myself on edge, just waiting for whichever deities happen to be lurking nearby to find me out and smote me back to my rightful existence. I look at this apartment and think "I'm not supposed to be living someplace this nice!" I mean really - I look out the window and think, "Shouldn't I be in some dingy apartment in Leesburg or in Atlanta... how did I end up in Switzerland?!?"

I wonder if this is how people feel when they win the lottery or inherit a pile of cash they never knew existed - thrilled and apprehensive. I absolutely adore my life here, and consequently, I spend more than a couple minutes a day waiting for the other shoe to drop. I bring this up because earlier today I saw a sign posted in the elevator. Nothing exciting - as far as my remedial French goes, I think it said we would have no hot water for a couple hours overnight for some reason, but before I managed to decipher it, the insane side of my brain (yes, that is the biggest part, thanks for noticing) started thinking, "Oh god - what did we do wrong? Are we getting kicked out?" On any given day when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, I catch myself thinking, "This is finally it - we're out." The stupidity of all that is there is NO reason for these thoughts other than my brain auditioning for "The World's Ultimate Pessimist".

My current theory is all this paranoia is just one of 31 plus available flavors of "fear of the unknown." When I lived in Atlanta and worked in the restaurant, I never really got used to hearing the kitchen guys start chattering away in Spanish. They all seemed to be nice guys, but there was just something about the language switch that always unnerved me - especially when it happened as I entered or exited their vicinity. I think I'm fairly safe in saying most of us know this paranoia: if you walk by and conversations switch to a foreign language, they must be talking about you. Well, try that one out while living in or visiting a "foreign" country... my ears hear the French and the Swiss German and my head immediately goes, "What did I do? Is there toilet paper on my shoe? Did I tuck my skirt into my waistband again? Did I step in dog doo?" I have to remind myself they aren't the ones speaking a "foreign" language - I am. When Mr K and I chat away in line at stores, I wonder if we give other people those "are they talking about me" heebie-jeebies or if this paranoia is somehow uniquely American.

Despite all this nonsense in my head, it's a gorgeous day outside today and I'm looking forward to jiu-jitsu tonight... just don't ask me about the torturous French class of yesterday... I'm still trying to "oublie." Meanwhile, check out and vote in my snazzy new poll, located in the right-hand column, right at the top!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Elusive Mr S.B.Curry

The Elusive Mr S.B.Curry
Originally uploaded by hellomizk

We have recently become aware of the ongoing and, indeed, intolerable absence of Monsieur S. B. Curry here at Chez Curtis. If any of you, my fellow Americans, come across this character in your daily wanderings through the hallowed halls of Giant, Kroger, Whole Foods or even Grand Mart, please remand him to Fribourg posthaste. We offer a bounty of his weight in chocolate as a finders free to any and all who capture him. Please be sure not to confuse HOT Monsieur S.B.Curry and MILD or even MEDIUM Monsieur S.B. Curry.

Many thanks for your kind attention to this matter.

PS. ANYONE who can acquire a Wii Fit (US Version) for us (store price, not Ebay price), please drop me a note. We will gladly repay you and arrange for shipping as well as shower you with chocolate and any other Swiss treats I can get my hands on. Thanks!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Fill-ins, completed on time!

Originally uploaded by hellomizk

Hello again - I'm back already! My last post might have been just a tad bit heavy, so I'm lightening things up a bit with another installment of Friday Fill-ins. As always, it would be fun if you post your own fill-ins in the comments or, even better, on your blog if you have one!

My answers in bold, of course!

1. Taking a trip carrying only what fits in a small backpack is high up on my bucket list.

2. My favorite quote is "I like you - you're tolerable"; it's from Mr K, of course!

3. Sharing with friends and family and a chance to develop my writing skillsinspired me to start blogging.

4. Strawberries are best bought locally and in season.

5. Water was pouring out of my ceiling and I was stressed out about trying to explain the situation to our building concierge in French in the last dream I remember having.

6. The most enjoyable time to go for a walk is right before a summer storm, when the wind is blowing but the rain hasn't started.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to jiu jitsu and Mario Kart, tomorrow my plans include much cooking and eating with friends, with a possibility of Frog Museum in early afternoon and Sunday, I want to not clean, not do dishes, and not do laundry!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The perils of growing up a military brat... or why I can't be bothered to keep in touch (Answer - I'm lazy and ill-trained but trying to do better!)

So, other than football mania, not a whole lot has been going on this week that I would consider blog-worthy. This leaves me with the question of what to blog when a post is "due" but nothing inspires an entry: look for writing prompts! I flipped past six or seven prompts until I got to this one:

“Is there someone important in your life that you have lost touch with? Why do we allow ourselves to get so busy that we place our friendships on the backburner?”

I was preparing to skip that one as well - it's the kind of question that only makes you feel worse the more you think about it - but it stuck with me. This level of self-examination is bound to remind me of the parts of myself I'm not so fond of, but then again I could probably use that sort of reminder every once in a while. The quick answer to the question is yes, I have lost touch with an important person in my life. The longer, and more telling answer is I have lost touch with any number of important persons in my life - in fact, with most. You would think the internet would make it easier to keep in touch with people over any span of time and distance, but I'm starting to think otherwise. Maybe because email is so quick and easy, we find it even easier to neglect. Sending a card, postcard, or letter requires some forethoughts and preparation - it takes work. Email takes a few seconds sitting in front of the computer and, honestly, isn't that where most of us spend a substantial part of our days?

My lack of keep-in-touchness dates all the way back to my childhood. I keep in touch with one childhood friend - intermittently and through Facebook only- and maybe three friends from college - also intermittently and through Facebook. I quit my job just over a year ago this month, and yet in that time I've already lost contact with all my former buddies but five. This is a really sad statement to make in a world where I could easily be communicating with several people effortlessly and on a daily basis.

I trace a little bit of this to growing up in a military family. Now, dad, before you get too up in arms (ha ha get it?!?!? Army! Up in arms!) I think the pros of growing up the way we did far outweigh the cons. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that if I (and Mr K for that matter) had not grown up thinking frequent moves were a normal part of life, I would never have had the courage to move to Switzerland in the first place. Moving every couple years taught me how to adapt and how to find my niche in a new place (though many people would probably argue I've never actually been so good at that part). It made me more reliant on myself because I knew that, every couple years, it would be time to start all over again. I grew up seeing people do work they were dedicated to and believed in and that developed my own work ethic. So, no, given the chance, I would not choose any other kind of childhood. The downside to all that moving was the sense that friends and companions are replaceable and, in fact, have to be replaced every few years. Gah, that sounds terrible even to me reading over it, so lets try and explain this a bit better.

As a child, I knew every couple years I would be leaving all my friends and starting all over again. When we were still in military schools, this was hard but because you knew everyone else was in the same boat, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. You made friends fast and moved along from there. So I would be inseparable from a friends for a few years and then one or the other of us would move. It was sad but, thanks to the typical kid-attention-span, you moved on. As I got older, those friends and I would exchange sloppily written letters and postcards for a few months and then that, too, would fade away - not a big deal, just how life went. When my dad later went into the Reserves, my sister and I found ourselves in a civilian school system and it was a huge change (and probably fodder for a posting of its own, assuming I feel like dredging all that up again). Suffice to say I spent most of high school fairly niche-free since everyone already had their friends by the time I came onto the scene. No matter - in a couple years I knew I would move again - to college - and start from scratch with everyone else. Then when college started, I already knew in four years we would all be moving on yet again. See the cycle?

So, here I am, doing my best to better keep in touch with the people I have left (in both senses of the word). The good news is this: of the people I've managed to keep in touch with, it has been well worth the effort. I've gotten to know so much more about some of these friends through email and phone calls than I ever did when we lived in the same town. I love it that many of my friends blog - it makes me feel much more in-the-loop on their lives and also provides a kind of insight into their minds I would never get otherwise. I've discovered among my friends painfully talented musicians, brilliant writers, an incredible dancer, and just plain good people. I've been honored to know these people and feel continually enriched and encouraged by my interactions with them.

This is the kind of thing I try to remind myself of when I'm feeling just too busy to answer an email. Back burners are for the ignorable and the replaceable, and I've finally figured out that friends are really neither.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A must-see for all future guests

Originally uploaded by pinkbirds1978
Apologies for the lack of updates - we've been entertaining again! Mr K's sister Alex arrived last week and the two of us have been busy seeing, tasting, and exploring more of Switzerland. On Friday afternoon, we took a short train ride on a tiny (four car) regional train to Estavayer-le-Lac, a beautiful little town on Lake Neuch√Ętel.

We arrived shortly after 11 in the morning - just in time for everything to close for the two-hour lunch break in the middle of the day. We picked up a map from the tourism office and made our way down to the lake-front to look at the ducks. It was raining lightly and the breeze off the lake was a bit chilly, so we only stood around for a couple minutes before going to explore the rest of the town, which turned out to take much less time than we expected.

As we got into the middle of the tiny town, we saw several brightly painted frogs suspended on wires hanging between the buildings leading towards the whole reason for our expedition : the Frog Museum! The website explains far better than I ever could, so allow me to cut and paste:

"One special attraction is the 108 frogs all portrayed in scenes from everyday life. Back in about 1850, a Napoleonic guards officer developed a fascination with frogs and started collecting them as a hobby. He extracted the innards through their mouths and refilled them with sand before putting them into displays. If it is originality you are seeking, you won’t be disappointed."

We certainly weren't!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hamster Dance

Woman in Window
Originally uploaded by Arsmor - yeah!

So we just got back from our long weekend in Amsterdam to celebrate both of our birthdays and our second anniversary (and the first anniversary we've been together for - last year Mr K was here in Fribourg, scouting out our new home) and a long-long weekend it was, too.

It was nice to travel, but Amsterdam didn't quite live up to the hype - I read that it was one of the most scenic cities in Europe, but I don't consider streets lined with multiple Argentinian steakhouses and neon signs scenic!

Stuff we liked about Amsterdam:
* pancakes with ham and cheese
* Van Deek art supply store
* cheese souffle snack from weird little automats at Febo
* hanging out in the parks and painting
* Wok to Walk Chinese takeout (I liked it - Mr K isn't so into the Chinese food)
*walking walking walking

Stuff we weren't as impressed with:
* neon neon neon
* tourists as far as the eye can see - so crowded
* the canal water looked pretty icky
* most of the food was expensive and not-so-good
* the lights in our hotel room would shut themselves off every 20 minutes or so and then come back on five minutes later
* not nearly as many cats as in Switzerland

Stuff we have no reviews of (because I know you're wondering...):
* workers of the Red Light District "service industry"
* that special "coffee" that draws all the tourists in the first place

Overall: Amsterdam reminded me a lot of New Orleans without the cheap and tasty cajun food and live music. We enjoyed having time off but were definitely ready to get back to beautiful green and peaceful Switzerland.