Friday, March 26, 2010

"But don't you get bored?"

One of my internet-buddies, Terry Border (wire-manipulator-extraordinaire), published an interesting discussion on his blog about a phrase he finds to be particularly annoying : "They must have too much time on their hands." You see this line pretty regularly in response to interesting pieces of art, video, and music people post on-line. I hadn't really noticed before he pointed it out, but he's right - it's everywhere. I don't think it's usually meant as an insult, but it does have some pretty sad implications. Terry challenged those of the "too much time" declarations to try using some of their own passive-entertainment time (be it watching tv or surfing online) to create a little content of their own instead of dismissing the work of others.

In response to Terry's post, I wanted to write a little bit about a phrasal-pet-peeve of my own - one that I think comes from a similar mindset: "But don't you get bored?" During the past nearly-three years that I've been a stay-at-home-me, I've heard this line at least once a month, if not more. Each time another friend or acquaintance finds out I don't have a job, this is the response I get. "Aren't you bored?" "Don't you get bored with nothing to do all day?" "You must be so bored - have you had any luck looking for a job?" Each time I hear one of these variations, as well-meaning as I think they are intended to be, it surprises me all over again - the implication being that if you're not working, there isn't much of anything else to do. When did this happen?

I've found the past two years to be much more fulfilling than any in my working life. I now have the time and, even more importantly, the energy to explore things that interest me and to develop my hobbies. I have time to keep up with the chores and errands so C doesn't have to. I have time to focus on our meals. We both have more time for relaxing, we are under much less stress than we were before and we're the healthiest we've been in years. I don't understand how that can be seen as boring.

Despite the recent renewal of interest in craft and cooking and all those other grandmotherly skills our generation shunned just a few years ago, it still seems like most people have few or no hobbies that they pursue on a regular basis. I'm at a difficult point in this post now, where I don't want to come across as smug, but someone's going to think I am anyway, so here we go: more people need to turn off their tvs and step away from their computers for just a few hours a week and spend some time for their brains and bodies. (I'm sorry!) Once you get used to entertaining yourself, I think you come to find it a much more enjoyable way to spend some time. I'm not saying to never watch tv, to never use your computer (pretty sure a certain someone would consider kicking me to the curb for that kind of remark) but I do think it's far too easy to get in the habit of plopping down in front of one (or both) at the end of a long day or in a spare moment and lose yourself. A little tv is fine, a little computer time is good, a few video games are great, too. Sometimes, though, it's nice to do something else.

Confession time: before we moved here, C and I had quite the World of Warcraft habit going. We told ourselves that it was okay because we played together, so it was bonding time. We played with our friends, so it was social time. More than anything though, it's escape and it shouldn't have become nearly as much a part of our lives as it did. If I had spent half the time I spent playing that game practicing my banjo, I would be able to play that thing by now. If I spent half that time writing, I would have a passel of stories in my hands. If we spent a quarter of it exercising, we wouldn't recognize ourselves. It went from an occasional diversion to our only diversion... and ultimately, for us the only answer was to quit entirely - it isn't one of those games we could play casually.

So now, in the wake of my gaming addiction, in the aftermath of employment, what do I do when I'm feeling bored? Here's a small section from my 'always something to do' list:

Food stuff:
  • Cook something to freeze
  • Look for new recipes
  • Read about new ingredients
  • Send a favorite recipe to family and friends
Creative stuff:
  • Draw a picture
  • Sew something
  • Knit something
  • Crochet something
  • Take apart something you made but never used - arrange materials for reuse
  • Write a story or a joke or a list - anything
Social stuff:
  • Write an email (a long one - not just a couple lines)
  • Write a letter
  • Write a postcard
  • Ask random questions: learn new things about a friend or family member
  • Browse online and start bookmarking gifts for future birthdays and holidays
  • Play with your pet or pets
Healthy stuff:
  • Go for a walk
  • Stretch
  • Do a fitness dvd
  • Eat a piece of fruit
  • Go for another walk
Indulgent stuff:
  • Take a long bath
  • Take a nap
  • Sit in the sun and relax
Random stuff:
  • Learn a new skill or relearn an old one(think girl scout/boy scout stuff you know you forgot - knot tying, cloud identification, first aid etc)
Stuff you'll be glad you did once it's done:
  • Deep clean one small thing
  • Quick clean everything (I'm a big fan of putting a cd on and spending one song per room seeing how much I can get done)
  • Go through a cabinet or closet and find things to give or throw away
Sorry to have gotten so long-winded on this... turns out I had more to say than I thought! Anyway, I'm done now but would love to know what you think about it - and if you have any suggestions for the "always stuff to do" list, I would love to see them in the comments. I'm going for a walk.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's oh so quiet - again

My parents are now safely back in Pennsylvania and I have to admit our apartment is way too quiet. Taco and Waffle keep looking for their grandma to play with the laser pointer with them and I keep looking for the bags of pastries dad would bring home from his morning walks - we were spoiled!

We started off their two week visit with a sunny trip to Mt Moléson for some sledding. Before sledding, we took the cable car all the way to the top to enjoy a breathtaking view. The weather was perfect and clear - mountains in every direction. We grabbed a couple drinks and enjoyed the sunshine while watching the skiers and snowshoers. As we headed back down to start sledding, I must admit I had my concerns. When my first hill of the day proved to be more ice than snow, I didn't get any less concerned. After a couple more hills, though, everybody got the hang of it and we all survived despite a couple tumbles, a lot of snow in the face, a lost-then-found glove for C and the incident where I ran over somebody's hand (ouch!).

After a full day of sledding, everyone was starving so we met up with Dani and Steph and headed to Café du Midi for some fondue. We opted for the full three course meal - a plate of local cured meats with bread and butter (Dad proclaimed this greens-less dish 'The best salad ever') followed by fondue with bread and potatoes and ending with meringues and double cream.

We all spent the next day chewing ibuprofen and comparing bruises. On Tuesday, we went to the University to meet up with Dani for lunch and get a tour of his department. Dad was impressed with the University's lecture rooms and took several pictures. We went to the Villars café afterward and enjoyed some nice chocolate and coffees - the dark chocolate with a saffron center was my favorite by far.

On Wednesday, mom and dad and I headed to Zurich for a walking tour in the morning followed by lunch followed by meetings with a colleague for dad and lots of shopping for mom and I. We spent an hour in a huge toy store,where we bought nothing, and followed it up with another hour in an English-language bookstore, where we bought several things. We returned to the station to have some drinks and wait for dad to finish up after which we all headed to dinner.

We had another day of relaxing on Thursday - Chinese carryout and LOST on dvd.

On Friday, mom and dad went to Gruyères to see the cheese museum and walk around the town and castle. Friday night, our friends Oli and Célia brought their two kids and joined us for dinner - chicken tortilla soup, which seemed to be a hit as I had only the smallest dish of soup left over!

On Saturday, mom and dad left early to spend a weekend on the Glacier Express, sipping wine and looking at many many miles of Swiss countryside. They spent a total of ten hours on trains on Friday, but mom said it was the prettiest scenery she's ever seen in her life and now we look forward to taking a ride on it one day. Mom and dad spent an extra day exploring and came back on Monday. We all had raclette for dinner and passed out from cheese-overconsumption.

On Tuesday, Oli took dad to see the fire station here in Fribourg - he came back with a ton of pictures and cool publications.

On Wednesday, mom and dad headed to Thun for more castles and exploration. Thun is one of my favorite places to visit here and I was glad they had a chance to go see it and good weather to enjoy the views. Wednesday night, Joël took dad shooting while mom and C and I stayed home and relaxed.

Thursday night everybody but C, who wasn't feeling well, went to Steph's parents for a delicious Vietnamese dinner - no forks allowed! We gorged ourselves on grilled duck, mushroom omelet, soup, shrimp and a plum dessert. We had a great time, eating and laughing and talking until late and despite the required use of chopsticks, we all left with pleasantly full bellies.

On Friday, we did last minute laundry, shopping and packing. Mom and dad had never had donër kebab so we grabbed some for lunch - it was a hit. Once all the cleaning and packing was done, we stayed up late finishing the last season of LOST and early the next morning, mom and dad were on their way to Munich.

Whew - too much fun for one post!