Friday, December 30, 2011

Profit, Loss, Lunacy and Love: 2011

A year probably can't - and shouldn't - be summarized by single experiences, as if life could be bound by a black-and-white profit and loss statement. Well, here I go again, doing things I oughtn't. This is 2011 in a brief list, good/bad/and ugly, incomplete and in no particular order.

I, Lady MacBeff:

- Shared hundreds of hugs (or more), not to mention thousands of smiles and laughs, and heartwarming, encouraging and/or comforting messages.

- Lost my best friend to colon cancer.

- Managed to uphold some traditions that matter to me, and that keep Li'l G connected with her U.S. roots, such as celebrating Halloween, making a gingerbread house (from Ikea's fabulous Pepparkaka kit) and watching the Peanuts Thanksgiving and Christmas specials.

- Lost two dear neighbors to possible double suicide: One suffered from very advanced MS; the other - her mother - was caregiver. Very sad.

- Soaked in sunshine and vistas that would be fit for the cover of a corny inspirational calendar - in Hawaii as well as high in the Alps of Switzerland and Austria. Also was treated to a helicopter ride over Germany, France and Switzerland on a beautiful, clear day.

- Watched surges of pride, delighted surprise and other joyous expressions light up my daughter's face.

- Was fortunate to spend time with family in America, and see Li'l G reunited with her sorely missed, much-loved cousins.

- Felt no mercy with regard to needing to weigh and eventually make some very hard decisions, and deal with painful conflicts and questions where the outcomes don't appear to be win-win.

- Didn't write nearly enough.

- Ditto read, exercise, play, work, sleep, stay in touch with people, etc. etc. Yet, I filled out way fewer Facebook quizzes than in 2010 or 2009.

- Wasted time unproductively ruing various things.

- Spent time daydreaming and savoring the bliss of our many blessings - family, friends, good neighbors; sufficient funds; mostly challenging work and smart, funny colleagues; decent health care; a wealth of opportunities for my daughter; good news from people we love; and much, much more.

- Read a few great books; notably, Middlesex.

- Picked an awful lot of cat hair off of clothes.

- Picked up a little more in vocabulary and accents from other languages; and on the flip side had to endure my little girl deliberately opting for the Aussie (or UK) term "chips" instead of the American "french fries." (If she ever starts adding u to color or reversing the final e and r in theater, we are so outta Europe! I don't ask her to call them Freedom Fries, but I do like to hang on to our U.S.A. vocabulary.)

- Taught Li'l G to give our seats on the bus or tram to older people, even if we have heavy bags.

- Started most days with a warm touch from someone I love very much. (And not only the furry loved ones with the paws, either.)

To you, dear readers, wherever you are, I wish "einen guten Rutsch" (a good slide into the New Year) and a 2012 that is chock full of hope, peace, joy, success (however you want to define it), good health, patience, tolerance and love!

Lady MacBeff

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Portrait of Goodness

After O's hang-gliding accident, many people were generous and compassionate, applying kindness like splints and salve to our pain. I replay in my mind these acts of generosity and love almost as much as the sad parts of our post-accident life, like a B-side of a record that deserved to be the A-side but unfortunately wasn't. One good person I never forget is a woman named Joanne.

Pre-accident, knowing we would be leaving the U.S. soon, I had signed up for an Internet message board for expat families living in Switzerland. An early post I wrote was about Elmo, who was deeply loved and needed by our daughter (I was fond of him, too). I asked the Internet expat Swissies if there was Elmo merch to buy in Zurich, in case we wanted more Elmo stuff down the line. That was the kind of information that seemed critical for our family before the accident.

Of course, my priorities soon changed. Husband crashed. So daughter, Elmo and I flew to Switzlerand. New country, alone. Not a clue how to even locate a babysitter. My mom flew over, and then my sisters came, and then some friends and O's family. O's employer also offered help. But this was crisis management, not a long-term solution. My frequent, solemn conferences with neurologists were not compatible with a one-year-old's needs. My daughter and I had barely been separated her whole life, but we had to get a babysitter, of necessity a stranger.

So I sent an SOS to the strangers on the expat message board. I didn't know anybody on it. I must have sounded insane. Our story was so personal, but I unabashedly shouted for help in the least private forum in the universe. It seems so desperate, and I guess it was.

Several incredibly good people answered my pathetic post and offered help or advice. But the woman named Joanne made me feel she had nothing better to do, nothing she'd rather do, than help us, this little lot of freakishly unlucky strangers. "Let's face it. It could happen to any of us," she said.

Joanne was a stay-at-home mom, humble and self-deprecating. I would have liked her even if I hadn't suddenly needed her so much. She was very cute, low-key, slightly pixie-ish yet rugged, and funny. She was an extremely good sport, serving up veggie burgers (a novelty at that time and place!) and even hard-won Elmo goodies to appease my little G, whom I was suddenly wrenching out of my arms and thrusting into the those of a another.

I had the audacity to ask this poor woman (and her equally wonderful husband) for big favors over the next few months, mainly taking care of G so I could visit O and meet with his team of doctors and therapists, and spending the night once or twice. The first time we met, Joanne even drove out to meet me at the rehab so I could follow her to her house; I was too frazzled to believe I might manage to find it and deal with the strange towns and Swiss road signs (in the days before I had GPS or an iPhone for navigational security).

Joanne had a gift, in my memory, for hitting the right notes of sympathy or humor, or treating me like just a regular mom-woman at the right moments. And she was wonderful with my daughter. She made me feel a little bit safer when my nights were filled with bad dreams and the days with an even worse reality.

But what makes her so saintly is what I realized later, when my insight was less obscured by the throes of crisis: This woman took us in while she was herself seriously challenged caring for her bright and sweet, but not-easy, toddler. Soon after this time, he was diagnosed with a form of autism. But that didn't stop Joanne from being a superb mother both to him and to that toddler's baby sister.

Joanne was from Ireland and hadn't been in Switzerland long, couldn't speak the local language much, and her husband was working and travelling a lot. That can be an isolating and taxing situation when you've got little kids, even without taking on responsibility for a frantic stranger's baby. I admire Joanne's energy and selflessness as she added Project Freak-Accident-Family to her full plate of duties.

Yet she helped me - big favors she played down as if nothing at all - without hesitation, but with extraordinary, subtle compassion. She's one of many people who inspire me to be more generous, more compassionate. I haven't lived up to her standards or my ideals by a long shot. But I vow to continue to try.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good Grief! Bad Grief!

Grieving has been on my mind (for a reason). And so has an article last month from a series on grief in Slate, "How To Help Friends in Mourning."

It's good, it's useful, people should read it. I vouch for this because I, too, have paid the dues to be a member of the "grief club" (referred to in the piece).

At the same time, I get that sinking feeling that the article means there is something, yet again, that I am doing wrong and I must be shamed and paranoid about getting it right. The thing is talking to people who are grieving. There's a right way to do this, and if you can't, you will be angering the last person in the world you intend to anger because what you're actually trying to do is show you care! Doh!

I think the piece comes out a bit harshly against people who mean well but don't get the words right. Yes, some people don't supply the perfect words because they are callous or selfish. But most people simply fear making things worse and say something awkward. I'm awkward by constitution, so maybe I just feel akin to these alleged sinners. They are scared, pained. As a griever, yes, I grind my teeth and my stomach lurches to hear platitudes like, 'it's all for a reason,' or 'this was fate; it was meant to be this way.' I think that's baloney. Meant to make me feel better, but doesn't; not one whit.

Yet I do not resent the people who said it. They might truly believe it. It might make them feel better when others say it to them. Maybe they've had the good fortune - more power to 'em! - not to have grieved yet and thus not to understand what many grieving people need. They are trying. Most of us are.

When grieving, we are mostly helpless. Most causes of grief are irreversible. There's no rational target at which to take out our anger. When people try to say something kind but it turns out to be kind of useless, do they deserve our anger, even if we don't know what else we can do with it (the anger)? As a self-styled expert on getting through tragedy, I say no, they don't. Let's face it, most everyone walks around with grief of their own at some point. Maybe even those very people at that very moment. Since I've been through a tragedy or two, I feel very much more tolerant than before. People are trying.

But the main part of the article that has been itching my brain was a woman who recounted what she felt was an inappropriate comment from her sister, as follows: "At my husband's wake my sister actually said to me, 'Why do bad things keep happening to me?' after her car broke down."

Granted, it's tacky to call the need for car repairs "a bad thing happening to me" after her brother-in-law died. But I'll bet one of the "bad things" she alluded to was the death of her sister's husband. If her sister's husband died, a "bad thing" did happen to her, too. I'd bet she felt intense pain and sympathy because of her sister's loss in the first place. Second, if she knew the brother-in-law and liked him and they spent time together, losing him was a blow for her, too. And if your sister's husband, whom you loved, died; and your car breaks down right when you're dealing with mourning your brother-in-law, well, to be quite fair, that would actually be quite rough. And I - a member of the grief club - give her carte blanche to feel it is so. (Still, she should have handled it better by sharing that remark with someone who was not dealing with a massive loss just then.)

Any thoughts? Anyone else grieving or engaged in anticipatory grieving at the moment?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alone: Better Than a Horse's Head in Your Bed


It's like a mafia guy in the movies grasped me by the hair over a *sinkful of silence, shoving my face down into a basin of Alone, yanking me up intermittently to bark, while I gasp for air: "Alone time? You wanted alone time?! You'll get your alone time, now!"
 (*I was going to write 'toilet' instead of 'sink,' because I think that's what mafia-type guys do in the movies. But I'm afraid that the number of times the word toilet appears in this blog is becoming conspicuous.)

For so long, there was nonstop hectic. Nonstop people, nonstop noise, nonstop "I should be doing this, or that."

Then suddenly, after blessedly long family/America time, I'm back in Europe. And the nonstop noisemaker whom I birthed is with grandparents in another country, and a certain someone else is away on a long trip on another continent. And I've not yet been back from travel long enough for the cogs to have engaged in the gears again, to have plans and activities and feel like I'm living life here.

The initial return to Europe always feels alienating. The sky always seems gray, the temperature chill, my clothes too bright, my speech with the giveaway American R-sound like an impermeable border patrol between me and relaxed conversation. It's always a shock to my system when I get back to Europe and, without thinking, naturally, meet the eyes of strangers. I flash meaningless but harmless, tiny smiles, and am met by stony faces. Or so it feels for the first week or two.

So maybe I wasn't ready yet for the current empty space, this silence. Only my thoughts are noisy at the moment. It's my own fault, but I've erected a barrier of brooding. Usually my little girl knocks it down before it can be built in a really sturdy fashion. I miss my girl - the cuddles, the giggles, the drawings, the funny faces, the incitement to play, to go outside, to laugh. The mafia guy is taunting me with the memory of the giggles. Heck, I'd even take the bickering about bedtime, the messes, the constant interruptions right now.

I should probably go out and make my own noise. Call a friend. Bike into town. Wrestle my introverted, brooding self to the ground, force her to chat with friendly neighbors. At least tackle some chore that's always hanging over my head. Worrying, fretting, brooding - it's so useless, isn't it?

But then, I know all the noise will surround me again very soon, the gears will creak back into motion that can't be halted, and I'll crave peace again. I flinched with pain at my blazing sunburn last month, but relished it, too, because I knew it would be so, so long until I might again be so drenched with sun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Flavor of Blogging

It occurred to me that in a way, I'm in league with Flavor Flav. Okay, the similarities are kind of limited and are based only on a frequently used phrase from the rapper's reality dating show. But like Flav, I'm thinking a lot about 'being real,' at least on this blog.

(Background: When I do watch TV here in Europe, it's sometimes more relaxing to watch in English. And sometimes the only thing in English besides CNN is an MTV or VH-1 reality show. Consequently, I have seen lots of Flavor of Love. Can't say I'm the better for it, but it is a distraction. You know what time it is.)

It's been harder to post on Bitter/Sweet and Salty than I expected. Time constraints do prevail, but that was predictable. Stranger is how frozen, how utterly self-conscious I sometimes feel.

I had pictured this as a possible forum for fun tales, but also for stark honesty, even about thorny personal affairs. It's not in pursuit of sensationalism, but because I have so appreciated honesty about even extremely difficult topics in other people's writing. Some books by spouses of people with brain injuries, for example, and their grim but enlightening, candid stories, have helped me a lot.

But my blogging fingers start their capers over this keyboard and then HALT. Delete. Caper. Repeat.

My anecdotes and ruminations on caregiving, or the brain and spinal injuries and side effects that led to the caregiving... they're not just about me, naturally, but about O. Is it fair to write this? Sometimes I think not, even if feel a "need" and if I think it would ultmately do good not just for me, but (hopefully) for others.

To write what's really on my mind - right now, that's my cancer-diagnosed best friend's worsening situation - might violate the privacy of her and her family even if most of you don't know her, might it not? Anyway, who (besides me) wants to read about sadness and other un-fun emotions (sometimes also known as whining).

And that first date I had in autumn...which has been followed by many more; well, that story's not just about me, either. I fear getting too personal in the blog, especially about someone else. Whereas work and co-workers, obviously, are something that's better not to blog about.

I don't want to hurt, offend, invite vitriol (by blogging politics!?) in any way. I've been pretty relaxed about revealing the depths of my uncoolness. But I do shrink a little at possibly revealing myself to be a real idiot to my brainy, suave, intellectual readers. Parenting blogs can be fun and satisfying, but are done so much. You readers deserve to be entertained richly and novelly.

How real should I get? How to produce that intellectual yet down-to-earth, amusing, candid yet none-too-personal, uplifting post for the readership? How to unblock the self-conscious blogger within?

When deer freeze in view of headlights, what is the outcome?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The way my little girl bounced down the street, delirious with delight, you'd never know the reason was a tick bite.

The little sucker (the tick) burrowed into that sweetest morsel of a belly during a class trip in the woods. After lunch, apparently, Li'l G bounded out of the restroom shrieking about what she assumed was a spider on her tummy. The teacher identified it as a tick, removed it and then circled the area with ballpoint pen so I would know where to check for Lyme disease symptoms.

It seems that the drama was substantial enough to be savored the rest of the day. When I picked her up, I could swear my girl was channeling Ramona Quimby (the exquisitely funny and lovable show-off from Beverly Cleary's children's books). Li'l G buzzed with titillation, from all the attention and from the thrill of being the first kid at school in this particular danger (perhaps better yet for being highly improbable danger).

She cheerfully chirped all the way home about her brain feeling funny, about feeling achy and feversish (skipping all the while). Her shirt jerked up to show the scibbled circle to all. To any passing kid she recognized, she hollered, "I GOT A TICK BITE. AND I HAVE THE TICK RIGHT HERE. WANT TO SEE?"

Yes, the school had packed the tick for me to take home, in case I wanted to take it to a laboratory to have it checked for disease. I didn't want to, though having the option did boost my natural insecurity about how I'm supposed to handle these matters. I ran it by the pediatrician the next morning and got the green light to throw away this creepy wannabe pet.

I don't know how this would have been handled in the U.S. But I did noticed that the tick seemed possibly to have been wrapped in the cellphane packaging from a pack of cigarettes - and I'm pretty sure that would only happen in Europe.

A kid like this, you just know will be trouble - full of 50 times the energy of an adult and the source of inadvertant and sometimes intentional mischief, but also ceaselessly entertaining and lovable. Just like my daughter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rubber Ducky, You're the -- Doh!

I've been composing Top 10 Lists in my head, but not completing them. So I mulled a Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists I Never Complete. However, I didn't finish that either. So I wondered if whittling it to the Top 5 would help. But with a hungry school girl scheduled to barrel into the apartment shortly, I might even settle for 3 or 4.

Top 5 Laughably Annoying, Chaotic Mishaps of the Week*
*This does not include anything related to conflicting or unresolved coverage of bin Laden's death. Or anything else of actual importance, for that matter. These are just goofy little episodes that make me wonder if sitcoms actually ARE based on reality.

1. I have (had) a very cute toilet brush with a little blue pond encased in the handle, in which swam some tiny rubber duckies. It was like a rubber-ducky snowglobe, but filled with blue-colored oil to make the quackers surf the faux water ever so cutely, especially if shaken. It looked like this cup, except it was a toilet bowl brush:

It's nice to pretty up the toilet experience if at all possible, don't you think?

Anyway, I picked up the brush to clean the you-know-what, and thwack! the handle forcefully broke apart. First, there was the banana-peel-esque physical comedy of trying to catch the brush itself as it flew across the bathroom (over the toothbrushes - eeeww) and catching it in my hands (eeeewww). The six-year-old would have loved it.

Worse, water + blue oil flew all over the bathroom! (This rivalled the time when I was eight months pregnant in NJ, and O. was in Poland, and I knocked over a bright-blue, burning candle onto a cream-colored carpet. It had been burning for hours and was basically a sloshy pint of hot, blue melted wax.) Artificial blue oil is just not what you want yourself OR your apartment to be awash in, let alone if it derives from a toilet utensil. Fun clean-up (not)!

(The rubber duckies have been flushed. I couldn't help it. It's illegal to flush inanimate ducks in Switzerland, so I hope the coppers don't read this.)

2. Earlier this week, when racing out the door to work (my American ways always in conflict with the Swiss penchant for punctuality), I quickly dropped my jacket on the floor by the door to grab something from another room. As I ran back to slip the jacket on, I found my cats had sabotaged me. Potty (urine, in case you don't regularly converse with a little kid) was in a giant puddle on the jacket. Doh! Do they secretly hate me? I should threaten to put the feline Lucy and Alladin into a costume and post one of those cruel, dumb, humiliating videos on You Tube. That'd teach 'em.

3. On the tram, Li'l G. and I were creaming up with sunscreen, and she accidentally sprayed a giant squirt on the black skirt of the Sunday best of another passenger. Luckily the passenger was quite gracious about it. Once people hear my accent, they seem to accept any mishaps as a matter of course.

4. I won't even mention how many times I have walked right into the blinds over the glass balcony door, as they're broken and suspended about halfway up. (They're strong metal blinds that are common here and close to create a sort of thick, second, metal door.) The metal slats clank and clatter loudly, ensuring my clumsiness is broadcast each time far and wide in the neighborhood. Supercool.

Is it just me walking around here like Jack Tripper from Three's Company? I kinda suspect it is. Anyway, having already used up all the swear words, it's good to have something to laugh about.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You Just Put Your Lips Together and... Pfyffe

My little girl had her first piccolo lesson today. (That's one of those phrases you don't get to use every day.)

Piccolo is one of the most important elements - along with marching drums, confetti and candy - of our city's annual Carnival, called Fasnacht. It can strike non-Basel natives as bizarre, but it's celebrated as feverishly in our household as in a local's. Instead of pondering what she'll be when she grows up, Li'l G has been flipping between plans to play the drum or the piccolo. She has listened to a CD consisting of only marching drum and piccolo for weeks (weeks!!) at a time.

Now she's almost 7, which is nearly of age for Fasnacht participation, so she was permitted to join a beginner piccolo lesson. And she loved it, and I loved it. It was simply amazing to watch her so intensely learning again. That exploding-heart, soaring pride and joy rocked me the same as it did when I first watched my baby learning.

You can literally see the learning process in little ones sometimes. You watch your baby rehearsing moves in her sleep at night when during the day she's been learning to crawl or walk. (Similarly, there's the Pampers commercial where a baby practices talking in her sleep and wakes up saying her first words, "Mama, thanks for buying me the most expensive diapers!") But the older my G gets, the more fine-tuned and internal her learning becomes.

So observing her today was stirring. As the older kids produced actual sounds on their instruments, I watched Li'l G's glowing eyes watching them, her lips instinctively imitating theirs. She was so focused. And I flashed back to those happy, happy baby days, and revelled in witnessing my daughter so gloriously eager and engaged.

She got a loaner piccolo for home practice and was obsessed all night. If excitement could be measured in decibels, the walls would be shaking and our ears would be bleeding. (I guess they might if she continues piccolo or takes up the marching drum in our apartment.)

I also learned something about myself. I shall never be able to play piccolo, flute or similar. I'm the type that giggles when nervous. I wouldn't be able to keep my lips in that Barney-Rubble-upper-lip-jutting-over-lower-lip formation required to push air downward into the instrument.(See what I mean about Barney's flute face.)

I also got to thinking about this international life of mystery we're living here. Where are we headed? Can G really blend in with the locals like this? (And does that make me the first-generation immigrant parent, slightly clueless and with a foreign accent, but earnest about integrating?)

Unless G becomes the Pied Piper of Anytown, piccolo may not prove a very useful skill outside of Basel. Also, this annual carnival, with the year-round preparation and involvement in a chosen Fasnacht club - well, it seems sort of binding. Would it be a source of great pain to G if we ever to leave Basel? Or is it an odd little sign that we are putting down some roots, that we might actually settle somewhere?

Now I'm going to peek in her room to see if those kissy, red little lips are blowing piccolos in their sleep.

G'night to all and thanks for reading,
Lady MacBeff

To learn more: Yaaaaay, Fasnacht! So weird, so lovable....

p.s. Can anybody confirm or shed any light on this memory? Uncle Google couldn't help for once: Did Burger King or did Burger King not, in the early 1980s, give away a plastic toy piccolo shaped like a pickle... as a reminder of that tasty condiment on their burgers? Let's put our collective memories of retro junk to good use! Thanks!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rubber Soul Wanted, Must Be News Repellent

It would be so nice to just stop processing what's going on in the world. You know that waterproofing spray for new shoes? What bliss to spritz my mind and soul so all the rotten news and prophecies of doom simply would not absorb. They could just bead up and roll away into a gutter.

Earthquakes, floods, nuclear malfunction, tsunamis, wars, dwindling resources, poverty and even poverty coexisting with obesity: nothing but awful, depressing, senseless. ("Light" news isn't much better: It's depressing to see with what fervor Americans apparently care about Dancing with the Stars or K-Fed's babies.)

I have conversed with people who anticipate the grimmest possible futures becoming reality within a generation or two. But I can't recall talking with anyone who's genuinely optimistic about the world. Is there anybody out there who sees scenarios of actual goodness for humanity on the horizon?

Again, I ask myself, *why* do we still want to procreate? Why plant kids in a world that seems so ugly, when they'll suffer and will have to untangle so many messes that were created before they arrived? I guess it is nice to have cute, cuddly little offspring that does funny things to make us laugh - y'know, cheer us up. On the other hand, we could just get pets for that. But then again, we wouldn't get to play with the Easy-Bake Oven, visit Chuck E. Cheese's or watch Disney movies again. (It just looks less weird if you have a kid as an excuse to re-live the nostaliga.)

Perhaps the answer to the question, why have children now, in this world, is: why not? Even if the doom and gloom scenarios come true in a big way, we might as well fill the time while we're waiting for the end of the world. It's like knowing your guest will leave by plane or train shortly. The visit's over. Why just awakwardly wait around, checking our watches, absentmindedly eyeing the departure gate.
And maybe our little time killers (passing the time until doomsday and death) will turn out to be smart - smarter than us. Maybe they'll be better, wiser, will figure out ways to still people's needs, to improve the world. Children are the future; man, Whitney Houston was spot on.

By the way, if you hear any hard news - like that the end of the world is coming soon - then I would really like to know. (Because at that moment, I'm going to start eating a lot of ice cream.)

I would love to hear what others do. Do you think the gloom and doom is nonsense? Are you optimistic about the future? Do the terrible headlines get to you? How do you deal? If you have kids, how much do you tell them about the news, if anything?

With sincere faux cheer, I wish you good night,
Lady MacBeff

Thursday, February 17, 2011

There's No Place Like Home (where ever that is?!?)

My progeny took a developmental leap today. She watched The Wizard of Oz!
She already knew a good deal about the plot. And - unlike her mama at age 6 - she has the good sense to know what might give her nightmares. So she often wanted reassurance that, 'It's not really real, right? It's just a story?' (Example: “A real witch didn’t really get killed under that house, right?”)

Still, Li’l G was captivated. Even as I write, she is humming, “Ding dong, the witch is dead!”

And me, I was oddly elated because as I realized, Li’l G had taken a massive stride in acquiring cultural literacy - the literacy of my culture, which is not automatically hers because she’s growing up in Europe and I grew up in northeastern U.S.A.. Now every time an English speaker jokes about not being in Kansas anymore, she will get it! The old line that there’s no place like home? That, too, she will get!

She’ll know why I call her my munchkin, where the yellow brick road leads; she’ll see why our impression of a witch features hideous cackling (and threats to small pets). And she’ll know why both disillusionment and wisdom result from peeking behind the curtain.

The references really seem stale. I can barely imagine a joke about ‘not being in Kansas anymore, Toto’ that could not sound tired. But the emerging sometimes-clever/sometimes-obnoxious grade-school humor will probably find it original and sophisticatedly ironic at some point. Hooray!

It is part of Li’l G’s U.S. cultural heritage. Granted, it might not be the single most glorious element of our American heritage (though not the most ignominious, either!). But I feel surprising happiness and relief that she has reached, with such verve, the (American) childhood milestone of watching The Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We'll Get That In A To-Go Box

You know when a kid says something and you can't decide if it's funny or cute, or actually kind of profound? Some kid-utterances just need to be recorded.

(It started like this [Achtung: sappiness alert!]: "No matter what happens, I will always love you sooooo much." G replied smugly that, no, I can't love her when I'm dead; to which I responded [unconvincingly, as  you will see] that my heart probably could still love her even if I'm in heaven.)

Turns out Li'l G doesn't believe in heaven anyway. At least, not in the form that we usually sell kids - and that I, too, tend to proffer sheerly out of unwillingness to plunge her unsullied imagination prematurely into my kind of anything's-possible, pragmatic darkness.

This, says My Girl, is heaven: A wooden box and everyone's in it leaning against the walls, and God's there shining a light. God's the only one walking around. (She was too tired to tell me how the people feel about this.)

And she adds, with that 'isn't-that-so-naive-and-sweet' tone we grown-ups sometimes use when discussing kids, "And you think Grandpa's up on a cloud looking down at us!" 

What do you think... (and I'm not trying to sound like Green Eggs and Ham here)... will we end up in the clouds? In a box? What do/ would you tell your tykes? Is there a cut-off age when you consider them less in need of hearing shiny-happy versions of things, or do you give it straight from the git-go?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Magnum Nope-us, or, Can't I Please Just Have Morphine?

I am bursting with - if not unfulfilled potential - then with unwritten blog posts.

One reason is that recently, I broke my right arm. It's not the worst thing in the world, not a bit. I don't even have a cast, just a sling and some woefully inadequate pain meds. But it definitely cramps one's style(enjoyment/pain threshold) when it comes to typing. (Many of you are already aware of the fracture, due to my persistent belief in the restorative powers of whining to anyone who will listen/read my FB status updates. I love you, people.)

Another reason is that I had the best visitor I could wish for, on a long, long visit. As someone who previously was alone most nights*, I had not appreciated the following fact: It turns out that people actually get annoyed when one allocates that which should be face-time to screen-time. Understandable. But not conducive to blogging.
(*This was not intended to seem as pathetic as I think it may sound.)

Now, after a long delay and a huge buildup of words bucking at my fingertips, straining for their turn to hammer the keyboard, I feel that nothing less than a magnum opus of a blog post is due. But that is procrastinator talk, my friends; not to mention hoplessly delusional.

So I'm just going with a micropost for now. The main thrust: the confounding co-existence in this world of unfathomably sweet goodness alongside the wretchingly bad. (I can't claim these are original thoughts; but my thoughts they are, often.)

Today, I sent up a signal (in the Internet) for help for my friend with the (wretchingly bad) cancer situation. Right away, people were volunteering, and choking me up with their powerfully kind words and exceeding generosity. When considering these acts, my heart swells and lifts me like a hot-air balloon to float far above all the sadnesses.

Then I got a letter from Li'l G's primary school. A predator-man (a type which Li'l G knows of academically as "a bad apple") has been approaching children on the playground at a neighboring school and trying to lure them into his car. The school reports that the children all wisely refused.

It sounds like Nothing happened, nor is likely to - not even to a self-assured six-year-old who is sooooo sure she can walk home from school by herself (ca. 10 city blocks!). It's just that it's a little revolting to consider this rotten apple with his hideous evil hellcar stalking the school recess yard. Enough said.

[Faintly tangentially, the school also reported that "the police are watching the schools and the neighborhood closely." .... Fleetingly, I started to regret our semi-urban surroundings. (It's crucial to note that this is "urban" by Swissy standards, not U.S. or international ones!) It's saddening if your child's- any child's - schools need to be staked out by the cops. On the other hand... perhaps in a more idyllic, non-city environment, predator types might be so unexpected that they might more likely go unnoticed (until it's too late)?]