Samstag, 31. Oktober 2015

All Saints - All Souls - Mischief Night

Last year, we had our Halloween party on November 1st. We prefer having it on a Saturday, so even though the holiday was beautifully timed for the weekend, we held it the next day.
On the 31st, we had houseguests, a friend's wife and daughter. I'd been entertaining them and after dinner retired upstairs for a bath and then - Trick-or-Treaters rang the bell. Trick or Treaters! At our door! In Switzerland! This was unheard of.
Autumn in Switzerland often includes a Rübelicht parade (children and their parents carrying homemade turnip lanterns through the early twilight), which feels like the ancestor of Halloween, and Metzgete, which is a harvest festival of sorts, full of massive amounts of various meats. That one feels like an ancestor of Thanksgiving. Some people think that the growing popularity of Halloween is because of the strong American presence in Swiss pop culture. But I think that it's the cancellation of Schulsilverter. When I first moved here, the last day of school before winter holidays ended with a night of school children running around town, making mischief. The vandalism reached an untenable level and so it was cancelled. It seems that Halloween is mainly celebrated in Zürich as am excuse to egg things, tp things, spray paint things and generally make mischief. I always felt oddly guilty on November first when I saw the havoc that was wrought in the name of an American holiday. But last year, there were trick-or-treaters!!
Tomorrow is All Souls day and we're taking Ivo's great aunt to her sister's  - Ivo's grandmother's - grave. Ivo's grandparents are buried in the graveyard behind our house. We used to visit them more regularly, before we had a dog, who is not allowed in. Ivo's grandmother is one of the sweetest people in the whole world. She's in her 90s but remembers everything in the most considerate way. She prays for my mom's soul, for my health, for our chance to be parents. She remembers my siblings' names and loves every animal. And tomorrow she'll visit her oldest sister's grave in the countryside near the airport and then visit her next oldest sister's grave here in the city and we'll make her lunch. I have a candle that I burn for my mother on significant days and will burn it tomorrow. I like the idea of celebrating all souls and am posting this eulogy for Cymbeline because I love it so much.
The eulogy is spoken by Cymbeline's brothers, who think that she is dead and also think that she is a man, with whom they've become very friendly.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winters rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great,
Thou are past the tyrants stoke:
Care no more the clothe and eat;
To the the reed is as the oak;
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finish'd joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave.
-William Shakespeare from Cymbeline Act IV Scene 2

Montag, 26. Oktober 2015

childish weekend

Our oldest niece and nephew came to stay at ours this weekend. It was a new frontier. We'd been offering since the little ones were born, but it seems that the spring arrival of my siblings-in-law's fifth child has motivated them to foster their kids' relationships with their godparents, and we're pleased about it.
We'd planned for Ivo to take Luan to the zoo and for me to take Anouk to paint some pottery, but when I met them at the train station, Anouk voiced her interest in going to the zoo as well "aber nur wenn mir unsere eigene Besuch han und nüüt mit Ivo und Luan ume gönt." (but only if we go our own way and don't go around with Ivo and Luan.) Zoos make me sad, but not for the first time, I went for the love of a child. Luckily, the visit was full of questions and curiosity and climbing on things, so it was very enjoyable. And my lil' parrot (who wanted to know all the animals' names in English) scolded some children who were feeding the free peacocks, quoting what I'd told her when she asked if we could buy some popcorn to feed them.
The rest of the weekend was wonderfully enjoyable. Except when the poor kids came to wake us - as we'd told them they should - and I didn't realize that I was trying to speak to them in English, when I meant to speak to them in Swiss German and they looked at me anxiously, wondering what the hell I was saying.
On Sunday, we walked to a nearby playground and the kids wanted to play hide and seek. Having a basset makes this game a snap. And she was the designated seeker, with whichever adult was seeking. The kids got better and better at finding hiding spots (even the younger kid who joined us in our game) and Penny the basset got distracted by some smell or another and when it was my go, I looked around and didn't see them and was awash with a feeling I'd not had since childhood - the hopelessness that came with being the seeker.
I hated being alone as a kid. I tried to blame it on being a twin, but after my brother got used to sleeping in his own room - when I'd moved in with my sister - he seemed to like his solitude. (There was a long phase there when I'd wake up in the night and go to his room, to sleep and/or eventually play. Mom would come in and say "I can't take this anymore! You two waking up at the crocodile...!" - which I later realized was "crack of dawn") When my sister would babysit and want to send me to my room for being trouble, the thought of being alone up there made me hysterical. And being the seeker at play and not seeing anyone around, realizing that the others were such good hiders that I'd not see them without searching everywhere, I felt sure that I'd never find them. The future stretched out, without these people who were hiding, and I felt crushed by this crazily misguided feeling.
This Sunday, I was not the littlest hider and as a seeker, I was 6 months-30 years older than those people whom I was seeking. Of course I would find them. Of course we'd go on to complete our plan of visiting the photo-booth, eating leftover pizza for lunch and finding Wally on the rest of the pages in the book. But for a brief second, I remembered that childish feeling.
Hope is important at the moment and there is a danger of being struck by hopelessness, by letting the future stretch before me with misguided ideas. I'm glad to be reminded of perspective, presence and hope. 

Dienstag, 20. Oktober 2015


Jeepers, I'm getting lovely practice at staying present and patience. I had an MRI last Wednesday and will not get the results until tomorrow. So I'm diverting focus - or trying to.
Last night, Ivo said that he was offered the trip to Bosnia to cover the anniversary and I gave my whole-hearted endorsement. We started talking about films made around the time of or about the time of the war and he said "We should watch No Man's Land on Wednesday." I thought about it and the fact that I may get good or bad news on Wednesday morning and said "Maybe next Wednesday."
Then this morning at the gym (hooray for feeling well enough for the gym!!!!!!!) it occurred to me: Back to the Future II!
October 22 is Christopher Lloyd's birthday, and was thus used for Back to the Future II. And as of Thursday, we will be beyond Robert Zemeckis' vision of 2015. So I voice messaged my husband and one of our closest friends and made a plan. I'm cooking some (vegetarian) Lahmachun and we're going to eat dinner in front of the TV and watch what might have been.
I first saw Back to the Future II on Thanksgiving. There was a snow storm and it was meant to get bad and so we canceled our plans to drive to my aunt's for a family dinner and mom took pork chops out of the freezer. We kids were crestfallen. We love, love, love Thanksgiving. My brother's been a massive fan of it since that time we had our great big dinner and walked around a lake (or was it a pond?) and then went home and watched the animated Hobbit movie. It was the last Thanksgiving before our dad was officially out of the house. Thanksgiving is also really beloved because there's no gift-giving stress and the whole point is togetherness and yummy food. But in 1989, there was a significant lessening in our togetherness thanks to snow and there were frozen pork chops.  But then, mom said "why don't we go to the movies" and we did. We asked a couple of friends om our street to come along and we popped into the van and headed - slowly but steadily - to the cinema to watch Back to the Future II.
Of course the conversation on the ride home was mostly about the sneakers and the hoverboards in the film. I wonder if any of those kids in the van are currently "hoverboard"-owning adults. (I understand that those handle-less segways are called hoverboards. I first saw one this summer and involuntarily gasped "the future is here!")
I used to love chats on the rides home from the movies with my family around that time. I still remember my brother and his friend Seth and their loquaciousness on the subject of the possibility of genetically reviving species of dinosaur and the magic of frogs after going to see Jurassic Park. Now, I hop on my bike after watching a movie with others. It's different. Not only is there less chat (I really dislike riding bikes side-by-side in the city - or most places, if I'm honest - which makes anything short of shouting difficult) but that feeling that one gets after an intense film totally takes over one on the ride home. There's an intensity and speed. I'm sure that it's not just me. After seeing 2011 in New York, our walk home to the hotel had me jumpy. Every big building we passed, I could almost see how it would crumble in the big earthquake. But that's another post.
So we saw a movie that made us think of the distant future and then ate pork chops and talked about what we were thankful for and all those things to look forward to or avoid in the future.
But I was correct back there at North Station this summer. The future is now. And my future may be altered at my doctor's appointment tomorrow. But today, I made fun plans with fun people and found a great recipe for vegetarian lahmachun.

Samstag, 17. Oktober 2015


My favorite radio story is Starlee Kine's This American Life, where she tries to write a torch song with the help of Phil Collins. I love this story. I love the songs that she plays to demonstrate a great torch song, I love the song that she writes and even bought a copy on itunes.
I was the child who cried most in my family. Though I'd been accused of mock crying at opportune moments, I only ever faked gawping sob-like fish face, but all my many tears were real.
I wasn't maudlin or anything and I was easy with a laugh as well. But I indulged in the catharsis of a good cry.
For me, the cleansing nature of crying can only be used if I then move on to cheer or neutrality or any other emotion afterwards. But at times when I'm sad, I sometimes like to double-down on the sadness; really wallow. I'll listen to a sad song or watch a sad film. After breakups, I used to either watch Sliding Doors and just bawl when Helen thinks that James is cheating on her, or watch If Lucy Fell and weep when it looks like Joe and Lucy wouldn't get together (and then cry harder when they did.) Then there was the decision to not turn off About Time on the airplane home from my mother's funeral and - is "cried like a drain" an expression, or is it reserved for laughing? Because those were the sounds that that cry created. I mean, planes will make me cry at any movie, that tennis one with Kirstin Dunst, or Elf... Keira Knightly's Pride and Prejudice undid me on the way home from visiting Ivo during our long distance relationship ("I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on." Oh the satisfying groan that gives me even thinking of it now...)
I like to try to put limits on a wallow, but I can sometimes get stuck in. When I miscarried a few years ago, a friend sent me the video of Walk Off the Earth playing the guitar simultaneously and singing Somebody That I Used to Know. I then listened to Gotye's song over and over, relishing the melancholy. Throughout the years of trying to conceive, I would listen to Barren Egg by Jill Sobule nearly monthly and allow myself at least a day to properly mope and mourn every menstruation - until we took a break from trying to conceive. We'd made a plan to try IVF and sex was purely sex and procreation was a bookable effort.
One of the ways I try to interrupt the momentum of bummer-dom is also music. I set a gratitude alarm on my phone. Days when I anticipate stress or when I've been feeling blue, I set it every hour or two. It plays a cheery or uplifting song and while turning it off, I take some deep breaths and concentrate on gratitude.
During the month of taking hormones for IVF, this was my alarm playlist:

and our IVF / Path to Parenthood themesong: 

The Zombie's song, as well as the OK GO cover, continues to give me hope despite the years that I have listened to it, wondering if it would be our year to become parents. This will not be our year. But today my alarm sang it to me again and I still thought that This Will Be Our Year for something. It needn't just be procreation. 
In the meantime, I continue to let myself get manipulated by music and try to maintain homeostasis. If surgery is in my new future, I wonder if I'll come up with a theme song for getting an ostomy. 

Dienstag, 13. Oktober 2015

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

I remember my first CT scan. I’d not eaten anything substantial in 2 months, 1 month or so was because I was ill and a few weeks were because I was in hospital NPO. I was told to drink 14 cups of contrast (fruit punch flavor because I didn’t like fruit punch to begin with and I didn’t want an unpleasant association with a drink that I did like.) My nurse told me to tell her if I suspected impending emesis (it was a children’s hospital and she used more colloquial terms, but I don’t wanna be gross.) I did so, she called the doctor and was told to measure whatever was emitted and then give me a corresponding volume of the contrast. I poured two cups down the drain secretly, but all went well with my test. 
My father pushed my wheelchair to radiology and stayed with me every moment until he was shoved out the door for the “could you be pregnant?” question and the administration of rectal contrast. 
My first upper GI, my father was there as well. This time I didn’t skimp on the contrast materials. Though it was similar to trying to swallow a partially-filled balloon, i glugged down the barium. I had an ostomy at the time and the cement-like quality became comical when it was emptied into my bag. I felt like I was carrying wet cement on my hip. Between scans, my dad and I walked around the hospital and he kept me laughing. When  a little boy walked past the light wall and saw the pictures of my barium-filled j-pouch, he said “it’s like train tracks” and that kept us chuckling for the rest of our stay in the radiology wing. 
My first MRI, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if i would feel claustrophobic or not. My mom came along and brought a trashy magazine for the purpose of distracting me. I did feel a bit scared and alone in the machine, and so to soothe me, my mother read aloud (shouted aloud over the thrumming of the machine) an interview with some celebrity of the moment.  The poor dear nearly shouted herself hoarse and I was so grateful for her company. 
From then on, my tests were solo. They were less scary and more standard and I’d had the foundation of loving parents getting me through the first go. Now I fall asleep in MRIs, I chug contrast like a college kid with a beer bong. I don't go with my parents, but I have a loving partner who is there for me when the results come in. 

Montag, 12. Oktober 2015

Ariel revisited

A few years ago I blogged about having seen The Little Mermaid at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. It was a sing-a-long and transported me to my days of watching the film on a daily basis with my best friends at the time. While watching the film, I was struck by the coincidence of having been addicted to that particular film and then having followed love to a different world of sorts as an adult.
During my Ariel-addiction, I was staying with my great aunt and got to visit the Kindergarten where she taught. She said that they would be watching The Little Mermaid and I was thrilled. I could not get enough of that film and the idea of watching it with little kids who might be experiencing it for the first time was exciting. But it turned out that my sweet aunt had brought an animated copy of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. My disappointment was dramatic. The film was grim. The sea creatures were not colorful and cheery, the mermaid was not hopeful and plagued by her less intelligent and superficial-seeming sisters. The titular Mermaid was blasted to bits and eaten by the sea-witch's kampine underlings, if memory serves.
As a 34 year old foreigner, more than 58 hundred miles from the Castro theater, I think that I may more closer relate to Andersen's Mermaid than to Disney's. The 16 year old zeemermin had to clamp oysters on herself, which she found painful. Much like my ostomy bag that I clamped on myself at age 16. And my siblings want and wanted for my good health, just like the Mermaid's older sisters, with their flowers.
At the end of the story, the sisters say „...for every day on which we find a good child, who ist he  joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at the good conduct, for we smile with joy at his good conduct,…” There’s more about how poorly behaved children contribute to the mermaids’ suffering, but that’s just the traditional fear-inducing nature of old fairy stories.
I’m currently waiting for medical advice and am unsure of the future health or my infertility or choices about how to become a parent. There’s a focus on my long-term health and talk of revisiting adoption.
Today I was thinking of The Little Mermaid. I never saw the sequel, so I don’t know if the ginger-haired Disney princess struggled with infertility or had weird, hybrid mer-babies or something. I just know that I still struggle with not looking at things that seem beyond my grasp and detaching from them. But I know that I have to stop it, or suffer.