31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 31

Once again, we come to the end.

Did I accomplish writing for 15 minutes for 31 days? Yes.

Were those 31 days consecutive? No.

Shit happens.

As I said last year, I’d rather be in the moment, and I was in South Tyrol. That’s okay. I do feel like the habit is better formed this year, and my other goals/projects for the year have helped a lot with that. The baking has been rolling along, and there’s a post on that coming in the next few days. I’m going to get the rest of the Norway posts out before it’s been more than a year since we came back. I have deadlines.

Generally I’m getting better on follow-through. It’s not great… the house is still a mess for one, but it’s improving. I’m not a big fan of bloggers just posting stuff just to post. I’d rather write about things that I enjoy writing about than doing so just because some “expert” says I should post on Tuesdays and Fridays every week to drive  page views or some shit. That’s not going to happen. I have no problem with trying to get things out more consistently, but page views are not the name of my game. I’m just going to keep doing me.

For now though, I’ve got a cake just come out of the oven, and pizza dough rising. BV is sitting in the chaos of the office with his little brother M, trying to help him cram for his end-of-apprenticeship exams. I told him if he studied hard, there would be cake later. I glanced at the materials and formulas and other horrors, oh my. Nein, danke. I guess we’ll see if BV decides he’s earned his dinner or not. Sometimes I wish that I had gone to German school (because the kids never actually seem to be there), but today is not one of those days.

So I’m off to start getting pizza together because the students are slowly getting hungry. Thanks to those of you who read along with all the cats, snakes, and lamentations over my inability to keep the office clean.

 

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

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31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 30

The last thing I said aloud was…

I don’t know exactly, but it was definitely something snake-related. Why snakes? Well, this evening BV got a few nice pictures via WhatsApp from his friend who lives in Tuscany. Long time readers may remember our visit there… sadly it’s been more than five years since we admired the view from their hill and now it may be longer.

Among the nice pictures of the flora and sun-soaked seating areas around their house, was a picture of one of their trees. Hanging out of that tree was a goddamned giant snake. Nooooooo! Nope, nope, nope.

BV then assured me that it’s a GOOD snake. If they have this kind of snake, it means that they don’t have vipers.

VIPERS YOU GUYS.

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

We’ve discussed going back down there nearly every year since our first visit. We haven’t managed it yet, life getting in the way and all, and now the place is crawling (slithering?) with snakes. I want to go back there, but AT WHAT COST? There are so many crooks and crannies in the old farm buildings that house their holiday apartments… my snake protocol before going to bed could be a very time-consuming search.

And please don’t tell me that the snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. I KNOW THAT, THANK YOU. I just don’t need to think about the possibility of getting out of bed in the morning and stepping on a bloody viper.

I’m currently a little more sensitive to this topic than usual though, because I had a VERY CLOSE snake sighting when we were hiking in South Tyrol a few weeks ago. I knew that there were small snakes lurking about, as last year the tripod cat that lived in the house behind ours brought one into our garden after we had befriended her. Coincidentally, that’s when we stopped leaving the bedroom double doors wide open all the time.

The snake I saw hiking though was not small, and no grass snake. Long story short, we were coming down the side of the mountain and the trail was completely buried in snow. It looked like a late-season avalanche, but I’m not sure. Either way, we alternated between trying to get over the snow directly where we could see one set of footprints (maybe that guy knew the way?) or bushwhacking through the fauna alongside the snow.

Note: I do not mean bushwhacking hyperbolically. I mean we were crawling through all kinds of low, scrubby pines, over rocks, working our way down the steep hillside that edged the snow. We went through God-knows-how-many spiderwebs in the pines, I was brushing tiny spiders off of my clothes constantly and just hoping that none took up permanent residence in my hair.

Eventually though we got to the end of the snowy area and found the trail again. Huzzah! Not five minutes later I saw something out of the corner of my eye, and saw a decent-sized tan snake with black markings curling around the trunk and branches of one of those exact same pine trees that we’d been climbing through. OH HELL NO.

Presumably we made enough noise clambering around that any of his compadres would’ve gotten out of our way. Nevertheless, I made eye contact with this snake and his little hissing tongue and he legit haunts my dreams. Not cool, sir.

I relayed part of this story to one of my groups when we were talking hiking in South Tyrol after my trip, and one of my students then told us a story about how he accidentally imported a snake from Tuscany. 

I’m sorry, you did WHAT?

He was staying with his family at a holiday apartment there, and they learned that a bunch of snakes liked to hang out inside this stone wall next to where they parked their cars. Several days after they got back to Germany, he backed his car up in his driveway, looked down, and saw a snake on the ground. He managed to capture it and then went on a wild goose chase of animal shelters that could take the thing. It eventually made its way to one of them, but apparently there was some interest in someone who wanted the snake to breed it. It was a young snake and hard to get (or something), and yes… dangerous. GREAT PLEASE BREED IT, RANDOM GERMAN PERSON.

At this point, I’m 95% sure Italy is covered in snakes. I love Italy. This is a problem. I’m going to have to get knee-high hiking boots and possibly also a shovel to hike with.*

 

*According to Texans, that’s how to deal with seeing  a snake.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 28

The best gift you’ve ever been given.

Several years ago, BV and I went to Tuscany after Christmastime with my friend E, and her then-partner. She’s one of those girls who always looks well put-together, with great accessories like a bright yellow bag that I would never think to pick up myself. She also somehow managed to do terribly intricate looking braids and other fun hairstyles on herself. I doubt I’d be able to do on my head or anyone else’s, even if I could look at it.

I, on the other hand, do one hairstyle pretty much every day. Ever since I got a decent haircut for basically the first time in my life in college and learned that I had CURLY hair, not just annoyingly wavy hair, that’s been it. I shower, I put in DevaCurl product (the last thing I still have to buy on Amazon because I can’t find it anywhere else here), I go scrunch scrunch scrunch, and that’s all I do. It air dries, and anyone who’s had 8am class with me has seen me with thoroughly damp hair.

Some days it looks pretty good. Some days I look like a drowned rat. I can go six months between hair cuts but one day I’ll look in the mirror and say “OH GOD I NEED TO GO IMMEDIATELY.” Small problem, considering my stylist books up three months in advance because she’s amazing.

Back on that Tuscany trip, we got to talking about hair, and she volunteered to give me some fun braids too. I’m pretty sure I haven’t let anyone do that to me since the Girl Scouts in elementary school, or my mom. Both my sister and I had braids every single day back then. We both had long hair, and braids helped avoid tangle disasters… mostly at least. I avoided braids for years after that though, it was just a little too ‘childhood’ for me.

We talked hair strategies, straightening, products, all that kind of girl business. In college I had several of my friends attack my head with flat irons before nights out. Why does every girl swear that “no really, this one will straighten even your hair!” They don’t. Or they do for about 10 minutes until you hit the air, or a drop of rain, or anything else that brings at least one kink back. After that it pretty much just looks flat, since my hair is also incredibly fine. I would’ve fit in well in the 70s, but that’s about it. And no matter what, there was always the frizz. The products, the gels, the sprays, and the utensils, the heat, the steam, nothing stopped the inevitable frizz.

Other girls had sleek, long manes that swung. Mine laid flat, until the teensy baby hairs started floating back up towards the sky. Frizz is the enemy… isn’t that what we learn from all those magazine advertisements?

But that day my friend said something to me that has stuck ever since, and it sounds silly, but it is probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.

“That’s not frizz, those are romantic tendrils.”

ECS, you are a treasure. Thank you.

How amazing would it be if everyone could take something they don’t like about themselves, something that they’ve spent years fighting, and almost rebrand it like that? It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature!

Especially for women who constantly feel like they aren’t “something” enough… not thin enough, not tall enough, their hair is too long, too short, their nose is too round or feet too big or who knows what. Rebrand that shit.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and two of the women were talking about straightening treatments. They both have curly/wavy hair but haven’t worn it that way in years, instead spending (to me) insane amounts of money on regular Brazilian or Japanese straightening treatments. I know that’s their choice to do that, but my lord, I thought what I spend on my DevaCurl stuff was a lot.

The word ‘frizz’ was thrown around quite frequently during their discussion, and in my head I was just yelling “romantic tendrils! romantic tendrils! It’s not really that bad!”

Think about it ladies (and everyone else… we’re inclusive here). How, and what, would you rebrand about yourself? Leave it in the comments, if you want to help someone else out.

Gratuitous shot of a VERY good curl day. Mountain water is everything.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 27

What superstitions do you have? 

It’s perhaps not a coincidence that today’s prompt is not too far off from what I was thinking about writing anyways. I figured I’d check the prompt and see if it was better and I guess the fact that it’s kind of related is fitting.

Today, I felt that I experienced a very small act of karma.

I was sitting on the S-Bahn from Fürth to Nürnberg  with my bag in my lap, when I noticed a ladybug making her way around the seam. She went up, she went down, she went across, she climbed the buckles. She traveled the whole top surface of my bag  in our 12 minute journey together. As we rode along, I wondered how long she’d been hanging out there.

Had she hopped in as I ran through the garden to the train? I hoped not… it seemed a rude thing for me to do, spiriting her away from the nice village garden to the mean streets of Nürnberg. I hadn’t noticed her on my village train, but I had been fairly involved in my crossword puzzle (on the phone, of course), so it’s possible but let’s hope not.

Perhaps she’d landed on me while I’d waited the few minutes in Fürth. That would be preferable, if she was already a city-dweller, but of course she may have to change her football loyalties and also start to complain loudly about the drivers from the “other city.” This is very real, despite the fact that they have grown together.

The train began to slow into the station just as she left the bag and made her way onto my arm. She crawled into my hand and I lightly cupped her in, to ensure safe removal from the train. I thought I’d leave her on one of the walls around the stairway. Not ideal, but at least she’d be off the ground.

A guy standing next to me was already giving me a bit of side-eye for my cupped hands when she found a weakness and crawled around the top. The doors opened as I let her crawl up my finger and just two steps out of the door she reached the tip of my pointer finger and took off. Probably a better choice than the wall, really.

Free of my short-lived charge, off to class I went.

*Cut to two hours later*

Class over, I headed home with a few stops in mind. I had grabbed most of the necessities for dinner this morning, but the store was out of coriander, and I had forgotten the sour cream I’d need.

I first swung through the bio shop, but there was no coriander to be found, go figure. Right behind the bio shop is an Edeka I’d never been inside, but since our Edeka has had coriander quite regularly lately, I headed there next.

Success! I snagged the last package, grabbed a container of sour cream and a bottle of wine because hey, I was already there, and looked for the check out.

The layout was a bit odd, so I found myself awkwardly scooting around a very old couple as they came around the end of an aisle. The check out I could see was closed, and it appeared that the elderly couple were also going in the direction of the open one around the corner.

NOOOOO!

I could see their hugely piled cart now, pointed at the register, and boy… they were shuffling. I braced myself, as it’s been said that the older folks are often the ones to ram you over to get to that line… just ask twitter.

But no, not today. The lady smiled at me and told me to go ahead. Her husband was now at the cart and seemed not to have heard her, so she tapped him and told him to let me go on because ‘the young lady* doesn’t have much and she’s moving faster than us.’

A second later another man appeared, and the woman let him go ahead too. A minute later, a third woman got the wave.

I wonder how their ladybugs are doing.

 

*Bonus thank you for the young compliment madam. You are a wonderful human.

 

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 26

Sitting and waiting for a train today, I scrolled through my phone as usual. I scrolled past a tweet from the Tiny Buddha twitter account that said…

“You leave the present moment every time you check your phone.” ~Deirdre Jayko

The tweet linked to a post, which I clicked on. I started reading, got bored, and clicked out of it. Back to the absentminded scroll, scroll, scroll, as I munched on my pastry.

The train pulled up and I got on and grabbed a seat. A few seconds later, my phone was back in my hand (to be fair, it doesn’t fit in the pockets of the pants I was wearing today so… excuses?) when I realized what I had done a few seconds before.

I had clicked on that quote because I knew it was right, but got bored the second I tried to read the article. It was more interesting to me to scroll through a whole bunch of crap, rather than reading something that would make me think more about what I was doing.

Back into twitter to try it again… I clicked on the link and I read the whole thing. Like, really read it. Like, paused my podcast because I can’t listen to people talking and read at the same time.

The hand that held my phone hurt a bit as I read. Why? It’s been doing that a lot lately. I haven’t had it checked out, but I notice it more on days when I’ve been puttering around on the phone a lot more. Days off, rainy days, things like that. Doesn’t seem like too much of a coincidence. And yet… if I can’t think of something else to do, the thing is in my hand. There are books sitting right next to me, but the phone is right there.

In the article, the author mainly talks about her desire to get off Facebook. I think that’s something that most of us who use it have felt at one time or another. It can be a hell of a timesuck, but I’ve drastically reduced the amount of time that I spend there, posting or clicking ‘like’ on random things. The things that other people post can be annoying but hey, that’s their choice. And if I choose to click on the unfollow or hide or mute button, that’s mine.

Most of the time I don’t really want to delete it, but some days are truly mind boggling. But without Facebook, I don’t think that I’d have been able to see some of the people that I’ve seen in the last years as they’ve passed through Europe. They’re people I would’ve wanted to keep in touch with but via phone or email it probably wouldn’t have happened. I also have a few friends who insist on using FB Messenger for some reason, even if we’ve also talked on iMessage or WhatsApp. I’ll start a conversation on one of those, no problem, but then they’ll write me the next week on FBM. Why? I don’t freaking know.

Notifications are another big problem that the author mentions, which is again, very relatable. Because they drive me nuts, I only have them enabled for my email and messenger services. If I want to see what’s going on with any of the other apps, I have to open the things. You might think that would stop me from checking them repeatedly when I’m bored, but you would be wrong. It’s gotten to be such a habit that I’ll often find myself with my phone in my hand, and no idea what I wanted to look at. Oh well, better just cycle through all of them.

Buddha had me thinking though. I got an email later this afternoon that also gave me some low-level anxiety, and my head was going, going, going. I wanted to go for a walk, but it was still 28°C and that seemed like too much work. I decided to settle for yoga.

The video class that I did today was 28 minutes long. During that time my phone buzzed with a message or email three times. One I knew was BV, because that popped up on my Fitbit too, and I looked because, reflexes. The phone silently demanded I check the emails (both junk), and my wrist vibrated, and my head was spinning with that stupid email from earlier and it was DECIDEDLY NOT ZEN.

When Savasana ended, I made a decision. Instead of grabbing my phone and immediately seeing what was happening, I sat there with my eyes closed and made myself count to one hundred. In German. I know the numbers, it has been seven years after all, but I’m still crap at pronouncing them and I cannot think about anything else while trying to count in another language. It was, dare I say, kind of meditative.

Did I look at my phone immediately afterwards? Yes.

Did I give myself zen whiplash by going right from Namaste to junk mail from LinkedIn? No.

This may become a new strategy for life.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 25

Who was the last person to knock on your door?

This is particularly relevant due to how today began. I slept pretty badly, as our room has been a virtual oven for the last two weeks, and when I did manage to sleep, Marry came in to party on our heads. She hasn’t been coming in too much at night when it’s been hot lately, but last night she passed through several times.

As I mentioned yesterday, my usual Monday class was off today. That meant that even when I woke up in the middle of the night, I figured I’d be okay today since I didn’t have to get up at 6:30 like I usually do.

Cut to 6:45 this morning, and the doorbell rings. Who was it at such an unholy hour?

Yep, Ye Olde Chimney Sweep.

We had an appointment for this morning, but the card has been next to the door for so long that we had both completely forgotten about it. Whoops. BV flew out of bed, threw on clothes, and took off to let him in. Not the most relaxing start to the day, but at least I could go back to sleep for a bit.

In case anyone is wondering, the appointment time is decidedly NOT our choice. He comes 2-3 times a year, and sets our appointment time based on what time our landlord (the former resident) wanted. We could change it, but it’s just easier to let him come at the ass-crack of dawn and complain about it then to try to find alternatives.

Up until recently I assumed we were on the early part of his route and so that was why our time was always so absurd. 6:45 is actually late… it’s often 6:15 or 6:30. But then one day I was walking around town at about 9:30am, and saw his truck go by. I thought he’d be three villages away by that time, but it seems we’re just the early-bird suckers.

I still find the whole “we have a dedicated chimney sweep” thing to be kind of funny. If anyone had told me at 22 that this would be a consistent part of my life at nearly-35, I would’ve looked at them like they had three heads. Our house growing up had a fireplace, but I really don’t remember someone coming to clean it with anything like this kind of regularity.*

I guess this is just one of those unexpected things.

*Insert future edit here if/when my dad corrects me on this one.

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Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 23

Note: When scheduling posts it is helpful to click “okay” BEFORE shutting the computer. Sigh.

This morning while on my walk/jog, I got to thinking about an Intro to Anthropology class I took my first semester of college. I, perhaps foolishly, thought that the intro classes would be easy, but that was definitely not the case for this professor. It was an interesting but demanding class, and midway through the semester a fair number of the students in there were struggling to keep their grades up.

The professor told us that if we wanted to help our averages, we were welcome to come to her to discuss options. One suggestion was that students could do some sort of extra project, or presentation on their experiences with another culture. A friend of mine was taking the same class at a different time, and did just that. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details here, but I think that friend had done a similar trip as I had done with my high school French class, and thought that perhaps a presentation on that could help her out. That’s a cultural experience, right?

Nope.

Not according to that professor, at least. Ouch. As much as we were in the bubble of being on an organized class trip, that French trip for me was fairly life-changing. I knew right then and there that I would 100% find a way to travel again, preferably live somewhere else if I could.

And here we are.

On one hand, I can understand the professor’s perspective. We DIDN’T have much experience of the world, or other cultures. But c’mon lady! You’re teaching an Intro to Anthropology class at a public university in northern Wisconsin… most of the students in here are barely 18, the vast majority are from this state or the one next door… how high are your expectations? If people went on vacation to Florida instead of “up north” regularly, we thought they were full-on globetrotters.

One student in my class did manage to give a presentation on his idea of a cultural experience, and I guess she found it interesting enough to give him some extra credit. He was a few years older than most other people in the class and had taken a few years off to work and travel before coming back to school. That helps. He’d worked on a sheep farm somewhere in Ireland (or maybe Scotland), for some time, and lived with the family while he was there. Not the *most* exotic thing I’ve ever heard, but at least he got the chance to talk about it.

I wonder if I’d have enough material now to give a presentation… hmm.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 22

Our village is usually a pretty quiet place. On this Friday night though, I’ve been hearing a lot more noise than usual. Laughing voices have passed by occasionally, and just now I can tell that a train has arrived based on the increase of rowdiness in the air.

That can only mean one thing, and that is Kerwa time. Ours always takes place the second weekend after Pentecost, this year from Thursday to Tuesday. When I popped out onto the balcony to take in the laundry, I could hear the faint sounds of a band playing, so I guess the beer tent is rocking right about now.

It’s a good time of year to live around here. Every weekend has an event. On Tuesday  night this week we could hear the bangs of fireworks from a town about six kilometers away as their festival wrapped up. And if you’re out of town when your local fest happens? No worries, the next town will host theirs in the next few weeks.

In fact, the Zindorfer Brewery handily mails us a brochure with a map of all the local dates, and suggestions for routes on how to make the most of your free weekends. So convenient, and tasty!

We swung by last year for some snacks and drinks, but I’ve only managed to get the full festival experience once. It was quite memorable, sheep dances and all, and I wrote about it here if you missed it. I can’t believe that was four years ago, but it must have been… we even watched a World Cup game that weekend, and that’s coming up in just a hot minute.

I also can’t believe it’s June already, but it is. Technically I should’ve finished this writing challenge but we’ll march on for a few more days. 31 will be here before I know it.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 21

I write the most when…

this one is easy. I write the most when I’m experiencing some sort of emotional turmoil. I kept a journal all through high school, anxiously scribbling in the wee hours of the morning because I was basically an insomniac for those years. That also meant that I was unable to get up in the morning, causing my poor friend Angie to spend entirely too long sitting in her car in our driveway waiting for me on a daily basis.

I’ve written off and on over the years, again, usually when I’m trying to work out some sort of life decision, relationship problem, whatever it may be. And I think that’s why I struggle with this challenge.

It is my choice to do this. I enjoy writing. I want to do more of it. But I have a terrible time writing about myself, beyond the posts about travels or baking adventures, or whatever is going on in Germany these days.

At this point I’ve been here for nearly seven years. I’m used to most of the oddities of German life, so the weird stuff I see on a daily basis doesn’t really inspire me to sit down at the keyboard. I like writing about our travels, and I think my family appreciates the pictures, if no one else. I enjoy reliving it too, and I consider those post to be a good record of our adventures together. Some day when BV and I are old and gray, we can look back at them this way.

But when everything is normal and everything is good? I got nothing. Apparently emotional turmoil is my impetus to write and being in a functional relationship is not exactly conducive to that. Shit.

We are currently having a small disagreement, but my thinking that every pair of functional sandals that BV picks out is ugly, is not exactly tumultuous. So what to do? Pick more fights about footwear? Or find more inspiration in the daily. Help me, please! What should I talk about… send help… and snacks…

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.