Creux-du-van

Day five of the Sandoz family reunion involved a bus tour where our final destination was to Creux-du-van. Breathtaking.

I’ve not been to many places that makes me gasp and say aloud, “Oh my God!” Someone on the tour commented that it probably wasn’t a good plan to drink absinthe before making the trek up the incline and stand on the edge of what is described as the Switzerland’s version of the Grand Canyon.

Creux-du-van052515According to wikipedia: “The Creux du Van is a natural rocky cirque approximately 1,400 metres wide and 150 metres deep, on the north side of Le Soliat. It is located in the Val de Travers district, in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. A very well known, amphitheatre-shaped natural attraction of the area, it is located at the heart of a nature reservation area of 15.5 km².”

Perhaps it was the absinthe, but on our way up to the spectacular view, I decided to bebull052515 Dr. Doolittle and talk to the cows. Perhaps it was the bright red head phones wrapped around my neck, but I almost got bulled over by a very large bull. Good thing that I’m still rather quick on my feet and fled from the charging Bovinae. It’s also possible that he was protecting the young calves that trailed calves052515the herd. For some reason, I always thought that bulls were kept from the cows, but my experience in this field is so  limited, I have nothing to base my thought on.

I have always been fascinated with stone walls. It’s the New Englander in me. I know that the stone walls of New England do not shake a stick compared to those of Europe, but a true stone wall that is made up of nothing but stone, is a work of art. My ex-brother-in-law, Mark Lange, built an exquisite stone wall one summer; I enjoyed watching the creation; it was like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Today’s stonewall052515.2stone wall was unlike no other that I’ve seen with the vertical rock on top.

And what was on the other side of this wall was also unlike nothing that I had seen.

More information from Wikipedia: “It was created by natural water erosion from a
Creux du van052515local glacier that was linked to the Rhone glacier, causing land slides of a semi-circular shape.”

“This giant cirque of cliff gets its name “Creux” from an old Celtic word that means a deep valley or a hollow depression. The word “Van” is also of Celtic origins, and refers to a rocky valley.” (http://www.amusingplanet.com/2015/04/creux-du-van-natural-rocky-arena-in.html)

If I had known that I was about to be fed a humongous meal of pork steak and veal sausage along with potatoes au gratin and salad, I may have walked the path twice, but I was already breathing walk along path in creux du van052515hard only half the way. At least it leveled out and the path was on the other side of the cow pasture, which meant I didn’t need to keep my head down as I walked.

Along the way, I came upon an old grave marker. Written in French, I could only understand the universal R.I.P. According gravemarkerincreux du van052515to the internet, Ici est tombé means, here fell. Even with the translation, I can’t be certain if his name was Jean Pilloud and was from Ch,tel-St-Denis Frieburg. This 23-year-old was ready to fight the Germans during World War II, but fell to his death. No one knows why he was so close to the edge. How appropriate that I pay my respects to a fallen soldier on Jean Pilloudmemorial day.

We were told that Creux du van was a wildlife refuge. I suspected that the odds were slim in seeing a lynx or a hare, but I had hoped that I would see an Ibex. The Alpine ibex, “after being extirpated from most areas by the 19th century, was alpine ibexreintroduced to parts of its historical range.” I wonder where they were hiding?

I did my best to capture a picture of a swooping and swerving bird, but I didn’t have the right lens. I asked one of the Sandoz folks and was told it was a Bern, or something like that, but I didn’t find anything. Since my image is so far away, Milvus_migrans_2005-new

bird052515I can’t be sure, but it may be a Kite. My picture is on the left. What do you think?

Sandoz Family Reunion

May 21, 2015

2:22 p.m

Neuchâtel, Switzerland

The hardest aspect of writing is know which direction to go. It doesn’t matter if I am journaling to myself, writing letters, or blogging, especially because I tend to be such a tangental person anyway. So far, I’ve not heard many things from people with concerns that I change direction often and seldom return to where I started from. Actually, I don’t get many comments at all. If you are reading this, it would be really nice to know that I’m being read. I suppose one of these days I’ll get my act together and revamp my blog page and do some self-promotion. This is not the direction I want to go, but I just had to get that off of my chest.

I’m in Neuchatel, a quaint little city that is on the Neuchatel Lake, Lake Neuchatel.

Switzerland. get natural. Neuchatel, capital of the Canton on the lake of the same name. Entrance to the port seen from the lake.  Schweiz. ganz natuerlich. Neuchatel, die Kantonshauptstadt am gleichnamigen See. Die Hafeneinfahrt vom See her.  Suisse. tout naturellement. Neuchatel, chef-lieu du canton du meme nom. L'entree du port depuis le lac de Neuchatel. Copyright by Switzerland Tourism                  By-line: swiss-image.ch/Stephan Engler

(http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/lake-neuchatel-murten.html)

The Lac de Neuchâtel lies at the southern foot of the Jura mountains.

Since 1960, the year I was born, every five years various Sandoz family members congregate here for a reunion, and since I’m almost married into the family via Sylvia, I’ve come along for the ride. Sylvia’s always wanted to attend her family reunion, and since we’re no longer Spring chickens, we took the plunge. Once in a lifetime experience, and like a dry sponge, I’m soaking it all up. I’ve already taken over a hundred pictures and today’s the first day of a 21-day trip. Now you understand my dilemma for this tangent-oriented mind.

SandozcrestThere are many branches of the Sandoz Family. The Tree documents relatives from at least 1209, though the way Jacques Sandoz talked, it’s more like 1100. This just boggles my mind to think of this time frame. My World History background is very limited and the images in my head are beyond blurry; they are simply blank.

My intention was to blog every day, but this is the second day that I have found myself totally tuckered out from all of the walking we’ve done; the drinking hasn’t helped the situation, but it’s hard to turn down wine that’s been made by one of the Sandoz family members. Unfortunately, Roger Sandoz is keeping his wine local and does not package and ship wine to the states. I don’t remember if he ships to any place as that be one of the facets of business hSandozwinese has steered clear of especially since he’s done well without adding another operation to the equation. Many bottles of wine were bought today at the tour, and many suitcases will be full of the stuff. I was tempted, but upon returning Stateside, I’ll probably resume my only drinking beer occasionally. I can’t remember the last time I had wine since it’s been so long.

One of my blogging goals is to hit a thousand words, but I don’t want to drag this blog on for a third day. If I don’t wrap this up now, I know I’ll start to sleep-type soon. I am not used to fighting sleep; typically I am begging sleep to come. I’m now learning that all I need to do is walk all day and drink wine and sleep will come easily.

At least I can blame any grammar mistakes on my state of exhaustion.

Vancouver, B.C.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
1051 a.m.
First leg of trip.

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Puddle-jumper will get us from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia. I have the Canadian National Anthem in my head. Not the whole thing, just the “Oh Canada.”
Thank you Luca for driving is to PDX. Hopefully it won’t take all day to install your new water heater. Enjoy that long-awaited soak.
Sylvia and I got split up a couple times.  I had qualified for the less hassle security check. I didn’t get patted down, kept my shoes on,  and the line was  shorter. Three people ducked under the plastic blockade right in front of me. I kiddingly said, “You are cheating.” I immediately thought of the zillion times elementary and middle school kids would vehemently voice that someone had cutted, such a gregious crime. Is it minotaur that hides in the labrynth? My inner Minotaur verbally pounced on the three unsuspecting rule-breakers. One said that they were really pre-approved. Another said they were Australian and could not read. He ought to have said he couldn’t hear because of the verbal instructions.
They were not the first impatient soul. The international line was long, and a panicky young man skirted the line. The woman scolded him, but didn’t boot him to the end of the line. We had over three hours, so it didn’t matter to me. In fact, we let a young woman and her first grader go in front of us since they had half the time.  They were heading to China. Nín hǎo. I wonder how many languages I can learn how to say hello, though I am having a hard time remembering Nín hǎo.
I wonder how many languages the Vancouver, B.C. Airport say for departing flights.
The second time Sylvia and I separated was when she took the elevator because of her but foot.

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Booted for the trip, she gets special treatment, as she should. She told me I couldn’t go with her. She hadn’t asked.  I needed  the exercise. Turned out it was quite a walk,  but the weather was perfect even though I am layered just case the flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt, Germany. I still can’t believe we are actually going.  I am going to get my money’s worth for this day, though I may be paying it back tomorrow.
The international experience continued after learning,  Nín hǎo, when we stopped at an Italian food place. The cashier was from Argentina and had come to here to learn English. When not in school, she sells pizza and stuffed things,  which is what I had so she could practice her English.
Speaking of English, I almost forgot about my Portland airport experience. I had noticed two different pillows, one for Oregon State University Beavers and the other their rival University of Oregon Ducks. I asked the pair of women which was which. The Beaver Believer’s accent caused me to ask where she was from.  England. I suppose I should not have confessed that I can’t tell the difference between Australian and English accents.
3:56 p.m.
Ten minutes until our eleven hour flight.

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Yang

Ying and her sister Yang drool, especially Yang.

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While I write lying down, Yang Cat is on me. This is her time.  Well, it was before I started this blog. She soaks in the attention.  Every so often she’ll slide a paw slowly and gently to my face, signalling a need for more strokes of her Calico fur.  So soft. My attention also rewinds her motor for her soft purr. Makes me think of Sheldon Cooper’s

Soft Kitty

song.

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Yang, my second experience with a Calico, making my sample number too low to conclude that Calico’s are strange. Cats are strange anyway, but Calico’s seem to be especially quirky.
Maybe I have had three.  I forgot about Ginger, Fred’s sister. Sahara was my first.  Sweet cat whose Spark went out too quickly.
The last time I went away for a few weeks,  Yang left the house. She never chooses to go outside.  I didn’t see her or any sign of her for at least a month.  And then after endless calling and looking, she made her self appear. Maybe her middle name is Cheshire. It took another month to convince her to come inside.  She has not left the house since last August.
I am praying to the Universe to keep her safe and secure for the next three weeks.

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Kneeding time, reminding me I need to write down serial numbers and what not of all my gadgets.

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Here Comes the Pressure

I can only imagine what the Red Sox baseball players are thinking right now. it’s the bottom of the ninth; the score is tied. We had a chance to put the go-ahead run over, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Clay Buchholz pitched one of his best games of the season, but now Tommy Layne is on the mound and has to prevent the home team Seattle Mariners from having a walk-of win. The pressure is on. There’s no room for butterflies and confidence issues. Xander Bogaerts dug the ball out, had a good throw, and Mike Napoli does a nice stretch to create the first in the bottom of the ninth. Next grounder causes Bogaerts to hesitate just a moment and the runner beat it out for a hit. There’s no time for thinking. It’s got to be automatic.

As the television commentators just said, “The drama builds” as the Red Sox go to the bullpen. I don’t remember if Layne is right or left handed. Tommy wasn’t in the game long before going to the bullpen again. Nelson Cruz, a newcomer to Seattle, is a dangerous hitter. Junichi Tazawa, the Red Sox pitcher, does have the upper hand. Having a runner on second with only one out. Maybe one out. Layne had a nice play at first; he had to spin around like a ballet dancer to field the badly flipped ball.

Every time Tazawa pitches I find myself holding the breath. Two balls. Two Strikes. Two outs.

When I was a kid and had the chance to play whiffle ball with the Cliftons or baseball with some other neighbors or even when playing softball, the scenario is like that. Sometimes the count would be full. Sometimes the bases would be loaded.

I would dream of being the God instead of the Goat. When I played softball, I got a chance to practice that dream and make it a reality. Some times. I probably was the Goat a lot more than the all-powerful one that can be like Nelson Cruz and hit enough of the ball, find just enough green, to bring in the winning run. Just a bloop. Sometimes that’s all that it takes.

While I was at Bi Mart pharmacy this evening, on my way home from school and errands, I was asked if I liked baseball. I have my favorites and always enjoy talking to him. He laughed at the obviousness. Red Sox hat, Red Sox shirt. Red Sox jacket. I even synced up with Clay Buchholz by wearing his Jersey that I bought last August when I went back to Boston. I’m so happy that he didn’t pitch like he did back in August. He’s had it rough this season. Clay deserved to win the game, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Today, or I should say this evening, my summer vacation begins. I found myself really being able to engross myself into the baseball game. Not having to worry about getting up early changes everything. Being forced into being a morning person is almost as bad as asking David Ortiz to hit in left field or at least to the left side of the infield. Can you really expect a slugger to have finesse at the bat? He’s not a Dustin Pedroia or Xander Bogaerts where they are more apt to dink the ball in where it needs to go than to swing for the fences, though Mr. Pedey has poked at least seven h.r.’s this season. Maybe even having more homers than Ortiz, but maybe that’s because they are messing with his swing.

I sometimes struggle to hit a slow pitch softball. I’ve slowed down. I don’t track things hardly at all anymore, but I try. I can’t imagine trying to hit a ninety-something miles-per-hour baseball; it’s smaller; it’s faster. There’s a reason why hitting .400 is unheard of and hitting it one out of four times is reasonable. There’s a hand-eye-bat coordination that isn’t like anything.

I want to know how they do it? How does the Red Sox catcher Leon keep eyes and hands communicating when he doesn’t play every day. Brock Holt is one of those players that just amaze me. Not only can he play almost every single position, but he can sit on the bench and still be red hot. Yes, that bat can freeze up quickly, but Brock’s got something in his combustion that keeps his attitude burning, knowing that the ball will soon be bouncing off of the lumber in the same amount of time it started to slip by.

Every year, I fall in love with a Red Sox baseball player. I think that’s why I love the team so much; it doesn’t even matter this year what place they are in. I’ve been a diehard fan of Dustin Pedroia since day one. He’s got this work ethic that makes him comparable to Super Man in how he goes about his business. Being told he was too small, or too something to play baseball only molded him into the work horse that he is. I almost said work pony, but he’s a Stallion out there the way he runs down every play. When I got to see him play live for the first time, I was mesmerized by his little skip. Every single ball, every pitch, his feet are moving. He’s got this jump he does that acts like a jump starter. Yesterday he snagged a few grounders, one at least backing up a teammate, and managed to throw the runner out. It doesn’t take a large man to wear a gold glove, and he’s done that multiple times. I’m not too keen on his scruffy beard, but if it works, who cares.

I’ve liked Xander Bogaerts for a long time, but I’m really starting to see his maturity. I do have a sweet-spot for shortstops, but he’s another work horse. He’s a different breed. I doubt that anyone told Xander he couldn’t play baseball. I didn’t realize that he  was only a sixteen-year-old boy in Aruba when he was signed by the Red Sox.

First epiphany of the night. Baseball is like a fine wine. When Xander was drafted, he was like grapes. And like that fine wine, he had to wait and grow and develop. Patience is a virtue, especially in the world of baseball. There’s no time to coddle football or basketball players; their bodies don’t last near as long. I’m not a football or really much of a basketball player, and my body can relate.

Now that Xander has been given his position of shortstop; the team has confidence in him which supports young Bogaerts to play with self-confidence. Baseball is not a sport to have doubt. That damn ball is moving just too quickly.

Last Sunday, during our last softball practice of the season, I thought about how I could convince my 55-year-old body to play like a 20-year-old. I don’t remember having doubt when I played for the Wayland Savages. Those were the good old days. I had a chance to play with some of the best athletes I’ve ever played with. I wonder exactly how many Red Sox wives are good athletes? I wonder how many people even know, though I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. It was when I played with Janet Miller. I’m blanking of Rich Gedman’s wife’s name. I think it is Michelle. Present tense hoping for both of them. I had never met someone famous, and having Red Sox wives on my team, was the closest thing I would ever come to playing professionally for the Boston Red Sox, though I dreamed it all the time. Still do.

Not only were these women extremely nice and down to earth, but as I said, they were amazing athletes, and it was such an honor to play with them. Maybe one of these days our paths to the bases will pass again.

2014-2015 School Year

Tomorrow, my last day of work for the 2014-2015 school year, I get to be a shop teacher at Thurston High School. The kids will be like putty in my hand. I can only hope. By this point in the year, I would think that the high schoolers would be well into their wood projects and will be motivated to work hard.

I wish I had a magic wand that could wave about as I flit about the classroom, sprinkling  Motivation Magic Dust on the slackers and disinterested and bored kidletts. It’s got me thinking about what my magic wand would be like, though just being able to spread the jazz with a flick of my wrist. I wouldn’t want schools to think that I come armed and a magic wand may give off the wrong impression.

Sometimes it’s better to subtly apply motivation, catching students off guard. Law of Motion, if there is such a thing. Maybe I’m thinking about some sort of Law of Thermodynamics and energy. If I want an object to move, especially when the object is larger than I, which matches the description of most of the students that I teach, it helps to get the object moving.

Teaching the unmotivated is like having to push a car, sometimes there’s even an incline. Sometimes i can get a student moving; if I am really lucky, the dead-car-like-student’s motor will even start. Most of the time, I am able to get a little bit of forward motion, though unfortunately, there are also some times I have to step aside to prevent from being backed over.

Today I was at Thurston Middle School, only my third time at the school, and I had a really good day. I had to do quite a bit of car-pushing, but I had fun. I knew before I walked into room fifteen that with only two days to go before  starting Summer Vacation, it would have taken a lot for me to shake me out of my good mood. I really walking on sunshine all day. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be on cloud nine.

Teaching is a lifestyle.

I’ve got two more days of teaching before the school year ends for me. Monday we head out for our European escapades, my first journey overseas.

I’ve chosen to think that my young childhood trips to the Bahamas don’t count. I remember eating as many breakfasts as I could; no one should have taught me to charge hotel food to room. I would wake first and go eat by myself. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t that young. It’s possible I’m making this all up. I tend to do that with memories. Anyway, after my sisters got up, I’d eat with them, and finally I’d get my trifecta when my parents got up.

I remember playing in the hotel elevators with my sister Pam. Maybe I had never been in an elevator, but meinaholethat couldn’t be possible, could it have?

I remember being bored on the beach and entertaining myself by digging holes, though from the sounds of it, I also dug holes while on Plum Island. But I have absolutely no memories of Plum Island.

By this time next week, we’ll be in Switzerland; it’s still a mere concept. Reality without shape. I’d like to learn about the European School Systems,  at least the schools in Switzerland, Germany, and England. I can’t imagine there’s all of this rig morale. I really wanted to write rigor morale; my version fits with the debate over Smart Balance Testing. Our moral is down due to the lack of rigor, the increase of rigor?

A teacher I used to work with recently told me that  the American School System went down the drain in 1959. Not sure where she got her in intel for that tidbit. (By the way, is intel a word? or is it in tell?)

Yesterday as I was walking the parameter of part of our yard with the dogs, I had a chance to do some reflecting on the almost completed school year. Another year in the bank. Tenth year?

For most of my life, I have wanted to be a teacher. I thank Barbara Clifton with that inspiration. I would visit her class every year. Nursery or Kinders. Another thing I can’t remember, but I do remember how cute those kids were. Barbara was so sweet with those kids. I want to say it was at the Brooke School, but again, the name is fuzzy, as I think that was the name of an elementary school in Weston.

While floundering in high school, it was at the end of my Sophomore year in high school that I realized I wanted to coach and be a physical education major. Talk about shifting gears. I went from being in neutral to the highest gear, though it wasn’t easy going; my mind felt as if I were driving in first gear. Grind it out. My motor was working hard, especially in Chemistry. Especially after my dad told me that if I didn’t pass Chemistry, I would never be playing another sport while under his roof.

He had never made that threat for all the classes I had failed in the past. I don’t think I had ever really tested my father’s follow through. Sports had consumed my life. I was really into soccer, playing and coaching it. I was coaching little league baseball with Peter Büttner, an amazing man. I had gotten a taste of what I wanted my future to be. Hockey had to have been in the picture somewhere as it always was on the schedule.

Since I had decided that I needed a college degree to teach, and the fear of my father, though there really wasn’t anything to substantiate that fear, I knew I had to get my grades up. I busted my academic butt for the first time in my life. I think Mr. Jordan, the science teacher, felt sorry for me. I was trying so hard, but my brain just couldn’t absorb the information; it’s not like it was full. I always thought that perhaps I had several leaks.  I wasn’t the only person who thought that.

Anything that required memorization was almost impossible for my brain to handle. My brain was like a sieve or perhaps Swiss Cheese. Some things would stick, but things that I declared unimportant, would slip through. Is that when something is permeable? Sometimes I remember things, but I’m not really sure what it means.

By the time I got to Ithaca College, I was determined to be the best physical education teacher. I had always felt bad for girls who hated pe classes. I thought that perhaps it was the way gym classes  were taught. Maybe I could make it more about playing and fun than coordination.

Recently this school year, I had an opportunity to resurrect my pe dreams by substitute teaching at the Family School in Eugene as an elementary school pe teacher. Heaven. Pure. At one point, I tried to teach the kids how to hit a birdie. Badminton. What a strange word. (Can anyone tell me how a minton can be bad? What exactly is a minton?) I was working with grades one through five. Even the fifth graders struggled making hand-eye coordination. Birdie, AKA shuttlecock, and racquet seldom met. For a few, this provided them with a serious challenge that made them determined to badmintonsucceed no matter what, but most found it frustrating and gave up quickly. I was always the one that had to to repeat something over and over and over until I got it right; that’s as long as the it involved a sporting event, which typically required a hard object like ball or puck. Can’t really classify a shuttlecock as a hard object, but when slammed they were kind of like missiles.

I’m not sure what caused my dad to install a regulation badminton court in our backyard next to the pool, but I loved badminton. My biggest challenge when I tried to play by myself, requiring myself to hit from both sides of the net.

As I mentioned in my last blog, my career as a physical education major was short-lived. A year and a half, sort-of at Ithaca College. Not even sure if I made it a year at Northeastern before I threw the towel in. Remember the philosophy of not being able to teach something without being able to teach it? Ithaca College was preparing me  a wide spectrum of teaching opportunities by making me proficient in gymnastics, not a sport high on my list of things I liked to do, though mostly I detested the leotard. No, there wasn’t any reason why I flunked Modern Rhythm Gymnastics. Running around with a streamer to Genesis’s Dance on a Volcano without a routine and having neither no rhyme nor reason didn’t help my grade, but getting tangled up in my streamer secured my F. I really hadn’t imagine coaching or teaching gymnastics.

The Sports Photography of Rick RickmanI passed Synchronized Swimming, which helped me pass water safety class. It’s  always good to get a real life experience in almost drowning to be more sensitive to saving people from drowning. This came in handy when I almost had to save a person from drowning in the Willamette River. Not an experience that I’d like to ever do again.

Even after my image of being a great pe teacher was wiped out of my mind, I continued to think about being a teacher. Not exactly sure why I got a degree in English and not a degree in elementary education; it didn’t occur to me or anyone else even though my goal was to teach at the elementary level. The B.S. got me swept up into secondary education when I entered the Master’s Program in Teaching. Talk about drowning.

As I sit back and think about my tenth year of teaching, I have held my breath quite a bit of the time. Tomorrow while I stand in front of middle schoolers, there will bound to be moments of turning blue with frustration; they did the last time I was with them.

This is why I think teaching is a lifestyle and not a choice. (I bet there were some of you who were wondering if I were ever going to come full circle… .) I get so frustrated sometimes when the kids are doing one thing, but I sure would like them to be doing another. Day before yesterday it was a third grade class that had me bamboozled. I’d ask them, “Are you doing something that you would be doing if your regular teacher were here?” They would say no. I’d ask why. They would say I don’t know or shrug their shoulders.

And yet, I keep coming back. Maybe that’s why I need the summer off. Sometimes the Winter and Spring Breaks just don’t cut it, don’t recharge the batteries like an entire summer. Maybe the three weeks in Europe will be an extra boost to boot. I can only hope so.

Computer toys cost

I don’t have a problem shelling out the dough even though I am paid peanuts for new technology. Luckily, I only go on spending sprees every few years. 
Okay,  it wasn’t  that long ago that I bought a new laptop. But it wasn’t my fault.  The computer made me. No, I am not like that crazy principal in some crazy state say the Devil made her say something crazy.  Are we not supposed to teach accountability? Has this educator never heard of role modeling. Maybe she thought the word was roll and not role.
I am sorry for the tangent. That also wasn’t my fault. My new Galaxy Something Whatever made me think of the crazy principal lady. The thing is constantly flagging me with emails, Facebook, news blurbs. I have told my phone that baseball season is over.
The reason I bought a new lap top was not a choice,  but a necessity,  like socks.  They wear out and I even have a hard time throwing the pair out even if only one is worn. I keep those in a special place so when knee surgery number four rolls around, I will be prepared. I think I get my knee done almost as often as getting a new computers.
I just got rid of my Commodore Amiga, which correlated with my first knee surgery. Surgery and computers were archaic in the 1980s. My knee surgery came with a full leg cast, lots of physical therapy, and the verdict is my knee was toast regardless.
I had to give up being a Physical Education Major. If you can’t do the activity, you can’t teach it. Too bad that crazy principal lady hadn’t been a PE major.
Not being able to be a gym teacher and coach wasn’t the hardest of destroying my knee while playing lacrosse, the second to best sport in the world.  Sorry Candace, my favorite lacrosse coach, ice hockey beats everything! Not being able to be an athlete has been horrible.
I hurt my knee when I was nineteen. I am fifty-five. You do the math.
Where was I going with this?
A few years after I had major knee reconstructive surgery, I ran away to Oregon. My direction was a dead-end in Massachusetts. Is it ironic that I lived my first eighteen years at the end of Pinecroft Road, a dead-end. I will call this an epiphany, which is why I did not use a question mark? How many of my careful readers noticed the declarative sentence. Rhetorical. Took me a sentence to come up with that fifty cent word.  Rhetorical, and so soon after using the word epiphany. I am quite proud of myself.  I am firing on all cylinders.
Actually, I think only half the pistons are firing. I can’t seem to stay on the same track.
How is my knee surgery in 1980 similar top my first personalized computer. I know Apple’s were never considered PC, but what about Commodore? It was kind of like a hybrid. I chose it over an Apple computer because of it’s color. I had sold Apple Stock to buy A Commodore Amiga. Her color and screen size beat the Apple Computer hands down,  but like other girlfriends, the Commodore Amiga promised yet didn’t deliver.
Another epiphany. This is why I moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Eugene, Oregon.
Anyway,  the poor Amiga was limited. Her 512k RAM Memory could not handle me and my ravenous appetite to write.
Relationships are like a two lane highway, sometimes four. I admit that I was always pushing her to the edge. How many more characters could I write without her freezing up? And of course I would blame her even though it was all my fault. How many times did I have to tell a professor that my computer ate my paper before I realized it is a good idea to save every five minutes or sooner and to print a zillion rough drafts. I hate to think about the trees I destroyed with papers, journals, letters, and later on emails. I printed everything because of my distrust of computers. Shame on me once and twice and three times and so on. I stopped printing everything in 2006 or there abouts. From 1983 to 2006 I printed everything I wrote. My wall is full of three-ring notebooks. I sought out the five to six inch binders. I like my notebooks big. Typically a year could be split into two volumes.
Speaking of, I have third graders early in the morning. I better make this blog a two-parter.

Louise Erdrich

In the past few weeks, I’ve been getting acquainted with the author Louise Erdrich. I just happened to have The Master Butchers Singing Club, Beet Queen, and The Birchbark House. I have no clue where these books come from. Some of my eclectic collection was from the ten-year span of working at The Register-Guard; books would come in daily, publishers hoping that the Eugene newspaper would give their books some attention. My job was to open the mail, and here and there a title or an author would catch my eye and since the paper had no use for these books, their main destination was to be donated to the Friends of the Eugene or Friends of the Springfield libraries. It wasn’t uncommon for RG employees to peruse the rapidly expanding collection of books.

I don’t know if any of my Louise Erdrich books came from the RG or from many other sources. Garage sales, gifts from friends, purchases from bookstores. For a few years, I attended the yearly benefit sale for the Eugene Library. Every April, the Lane County Fairgrounds houses this tremendous fund-raising event over a weekend, and each time I went I came away with more than a couple of boxes full of books, books that I might want to read some day or books that I could use in my classroom. Since becoming a reading specialist for all grades, this opened up the barn door with my desire to collect an even wider assortment.

love medicineIt’s possible, perhaps even probable that I first discovered Louise Erdrich in 1984, or thereabouts when she won the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award for Love Medicine. I don’t have the book, but the title sounds very familiar. This book cover looks very familiar. Though, th12676184is cover also looks familiar…

It wasn’t that uncommon that I would sell books or exchange books during my college days, though books came through the door at a faster rate than exited.

What I most enjoy about Erdrich’s writing is her books are so different from each other. Oh, sometimes there’s an overlap. The main character in The Master Butcher Singing Club is of course a butcher.   This is a masterpiece of a book; it had me crying and laughing as I read about a butcher’s life.

Even though I’m typically a sequential person, I didn’t read the Erdrich books that I had in any order; Birchbark House caught my attention first and it was Birchbark that caused me to fall in love with Erdrich’s writing. In this story, readers follow characters from the American Indian Ojibwe culture during the 1800s. Her images flit like sparrows in the spring air where there is purpose yet demonstrate the joy of unbounded freedom. I was mesmerized.

erdrichIn the thirty-one years that Erdrich has been publishing, she’s published 14 books. I think of her more as an artist than a prolific author that cranks out a book or two or three a year, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love pulp fiction with its purpose of pure entertainment or escape, but there’s a magical side to Erdrich’s writing, and I can’t wait to get a hold of the rest of her work.

Switzerland

Aside from being able to spell Switzerland, I don’t know anything about the country. I have seen a Swiss Army knife, though I don’t think I have ever owned one. Swiss Miss is one of my hot chocolate choices; I probably have a box or two in the cabinet. Who knows how old they are. Today I had Swiss cheese to go along with my roast beef sandwich.

I googled the question: What’s important to know about Switzerland. The first item was so boring, I can’t even remember what it was. The second thing I don’t have to remember because I remembered to copy it. Actually, the first thing from the 35 most important things to know about Switzerland is that it isn’t all snowy. I never thought that was the case. I don’t tend to think about weather.

g848I didn’t know that Switzerland is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica, “which explains the abbreviation CH. What abbreviation? I’ve seen the CH decal on car bumpers. Confoederatio reminds me of the word confederate, but having the word foe in the middle doesn’t sound good. Helvetica is a font. A font that comes from Switzerland?

If I had only read the third most important thing to know about Switzerland, I wouldn’t have had to go one about confederation, but this is what they say:  “Switzerland has 26 cantons – the federal states of the Swiss confederation. They vary greatly in size, population and character: the canton of Geneva comprises just one city; the canton of Uri is entirely mountains and valleys; the population of the Zurich canton is over a million while the people of Appenzell Inner-Rhodes would fit into a football stadium.” (http://www.expatica.com/ch/about/35-facts-about-Switzerland_100041.html)

My former brother-in-law was from Canton, though I can’t remember if there’s a Canton Mass. and a Canton Ohio. I didn’t know that Geneva isn’t a city, but a canton. I’ve heard of the Geneva Convention, but I watched a lot of M.A.S.H growing up or maybe that was Hogan’s Heroes. Had the Geneva Convention rules on how prisoners can be treated invented before Hogan’s Heroes came on the air?

Zurich-The first leg of our adventure is Switzerland. I think we’re flying into Zurich May 19th, though since I don’t have a good grasp of time zone shifts, it may be the next day by the time we get there.

The third thing on the list of the top 35 important facts to know, which may be a different list than the top 35 important things to know, “The Swiss currency is not the euro – Switzerland uses the Swiss franc (CHF). As at October 2013, one Swiss franc is worth around EUR 0.81/USD 1.10/GBP 0.68.” I wouldn’t be banking on information from two years ago, especially with currency. I used to think that currency had something to do with currents. Maybe because I don’t travel often and have not travelled internationally for a very long time, but every other person warns me about being careful of being pick pocketed, though the number four fact, “Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialized countries – despite having liberal gun laws (2.3–4.5 million guns in a population of 8 million). In 2010, there were only 0.5 gun murders per 100,000 people compared to 5 per 100,000 in the US.”

I do know that tourists are targeted all over the world, and there’s no way I’m going to try to pretend I’m not a tourist. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to try to pull this off. There’s going to be too many times to count that I’ll say, “Hey, look at that or this” and be totally in awe of a building or a scene or a new food or things that I can’t imagine. It’s kind of nice to go to a place where the canvas is blank. I have no idea what will be painted in our experiences.

Switzerland has a population of about 8 million – about 5 million of them live in the Swiss Plateau in between the Jura Mountains and the Swiss Alps. Jura_MountainsAll the larger Swiss cities lie on the plateau, including the city of Zurich, which is Switzerland’s largest with a population of 376,990. The canton (federal state) of Zurich is the most densely populated canton in Switzerland, with 1,242,000 inhabitants in total.” Do you know how many people live in the United States? How about your state? I don’t know and I’m not sure I need to know. I have never heard of the Jura Mountains. I wasn’t paying attention in 8th grade social studies. Sorry Mr. Morgan.

Three of the most important facts fit together and go in the category, Are you shitting me?

“Switzerland lags behind most Western European countries in many aspects of sex equality – less than 20 percent of all national decision-taking posts are held by women and despite a commitment to equal pay for men and women, there is a gender pay gap of 17 percent. There are large differences between men and women in the labour market – as at 2013, 85 percent of men and only 41 percent of women work full-time. Women did not gain the vote at federal level until 1971 – and they are still underrepresented in political life.”

It never occurred to me that Switzerland was so behind. I know that there’s no simply answer, but why is this the case? Women’s rights in the United States has been painstakingly slow. And yet, the Swiss, according to this list of 35 facts, are educated. Two years ago, 86 per cent of adults aged 25–64 had the equivalent of a high school diploma. Now, the US at that time was at 80 percent, but are we comparing apples and oranges. I have idea what the education system is like in Switzerland. I know the US system is broken, but would the Swiss be a good model?

It doesn’t surprise me that people smoke in Switzerland. I may learn that I’ve been spoiled with all of these no smoking bans. I can go many days without having to breath any second-hand smoke. I suspect that this won’t be the case while traveling. I wouldn’t mind a pleasant surprise, but I’m not counting on it.

My main goal for our three-week trip is to be stress-free. Maybe the last fact of the top 35 will help me accomplish this mission: “Switzerland has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world – along with the US and Britain. It’s estimated that about 600,000 users get through 100 tons of hash and marijuana each year.” The list of facts doesn’t tell me if this is a legal activity.

Why is it so hard to be an optimistic Red Sox fan?

I have a long love-hate relationship with the Boston Red Sox. I don’t really know how how long I have been a BoSox fan. I randomly decided that 1965 is a good year, but I was only five, and chances are great I wasn’t really cognizant of what baseball was. I know at some point the Jon and Jed Clifton and I began playing whiffle ball and we would mimic the various Red Sox batters and the strange quirks. We may even have copied the pitchers.

I bring this up because I’m currently watching the cellar-dwelling Sox play Tampa Bay where they are celebrating the 1975 team.1975_Red_Sox

Being a life-long Red Sox fan, regardless of whether it was 1965 or 1967, has been a roller coaster ride. In a way, when I became a fan, I also inherited the notion that no matter, the Red Sox will eventually let you down.The Curse of the Bambino held strong for 86 years and fell in 2004 like the Berlin Wall.

Even by winning their second World Series, the whispers of pessimism are strong. Has it always been about the pitching? This year’s struggles certainly about the hurlers; the only record the Red Sox seem to hold this year is the highest ERA in perhaps all of baseball. Tonight’s win against Tampa Bay has been the first game in several tries where the pitchers haven’t given up at least five runs. Five runs only make the opposing pitchers confident and the Red Sox bats desperate.

This 2015 season started so much better than 2014. I think Red Sox nation was desperately clinging onto the hopes of this year being the year that the Sox could make another worst to first since I don’t think the Sox were ever at .500 in all of last year. I am typically not a trash-talker, but for that short glimpse when the Red Sox were better than the Yankees, I gloated. I had really learned to hate the New York Yankees while attending Ithaca College in Upstate New York in 1978.

The season is still young, yet I notice I’m not as eager to turn the game on even though I dutifully bought my MLB.com package, the only way I can see the games. I didn’t watch every inning of every game when they played the Yankees. I found more motivation to nap than to watch or even listen to baseball. Maybe being a Red Sox fan makes me depressed.

Have you seen the movie or read the book The Secret? There’s a lot to be said for the power of thoughts; that if positive and negative thoughts can change the formation of 00261fda-4062-4096-81fd-8cf96b9034e8crystals, it’s just possible that as a member of Red Sox Nation, my positive thoughts are valuable to the team. Our positive thoughts could have an impact.

Or maybe it’s the socks. Today’s victory came after the Red Sox put on the 1975 throw back uniform, and many of the infielders donned the socks of 1975, though I think in 1975, there was more uniformity. It may have been a rule that everyone had to have the exact same uniform, whether it be socks or shoes, but that’s been relaxed now. Well, it worked out for Mookie Betts as those long socks helped him get two home runs today, the only runs in the game.

And since baseball is all about superstition, I wonder how many of those socks will be left exactly as they are from today. Perhaps someone should make sure that Mookie’s socks don’t get washed.

Miles between here and there

In thirteen days, we’re off for an adventure of a lifetime. Five thousand, four hundred and seventy-two miles to be exact. I should start to think in Kilometers, but my Americanized brain has a block. Eight thousand, eight hundred and six Kilometers would be the European way. Now, when the internet says that there are 4,752 Nautical Miles, are they really measuring the amount of miles I would go from Eugene, Oregon to Zurich, Switzerland or are they just translating miles to Nautical Miles?

Eugene to BostonWhen I drove away from Boston, Massachusetts to Eugene, Oregon, it took me several days to cover the 3,097 miles. Too bad I couldn’t have travelled the path of the crow as that would have only been 2,582 miles, and I didn’t take a direct route since I swung through Salt Lake City on my way. I wonder if my friend Nancy Palmer still lives there. I’ve not seen or heard from her since I drove to Utah to see her in 1983.

I did stop here and there, but we pretty much pushed through, my dog Kahlua and I. Maybe if I had stretched the trip out longer, Kahlua would have retained his ability to ride in the car without throwing up.

Luckily for my German Shepherd Collie mix, we really didn’t spend much time in the Plymouth Volare, a rusty gas-guzzler. I shouldn’t complain or look a gift horse in the mouth, but once I parked it in the garage on Rasor Avenue, it didn’t see much action, especially onplymouthce I became a University of Oregon student where parking spaces were unheard of. It was a lot quicker to ride my bike.

Eugene has some wonderful bike paths, and once I got the necessary rain gear and fenders for my Motobecane, I was set. On laundry days, I would put a dog pack on Kahlua, and being the working dog that he was, he didn’t mind being used as a pack mule. He was just happy to be out in the open and not in the car. Since we lived right near the river, his reward was swimming time.

I remember packing up as much as possible into the car, but I’ve got no recollection of my bike being part of the deal. I had a U-Haul container that left scratches on the top of the car after going through Colorado where we hit a slight snow storm, though mostly it was the wind. At that time I was extremely happy to have such a solid car beneath me.

Whether I am traveling or writing, I have a hard time staying on a direct course, but I think that’s where the adventure comes in. I never really know where I am going, though I have a far easier time traveling in my mind than physically traveling. Theugene to portandere’s nothing wrong with being a home body. I love my home and the property and the dogs. I don’t even get to Portland, Oregon near often enough and there are only 110 miles between Eugene and Portland. Maybe I would make the trek more often if there wasn’t any traffic or if I could take the dogs, but considering I hardly leave the property during vacations, probably not.

My goal is to blog as often as I can. Maybe I’m supposed to be a travel writer and didn’t even know it. I did, after all, have a fantastic time writing for Fodor’s a long time ago even though that was only updating the Willamette Valley travel guide. Only time will tell.

map-of-europeSo, in thirteen days we’ll be driving the two and some hours to Portland. The next day we’ll catch a flight, a long eleven hour journey to Switzerland. After a week in Switzerland, we’ll take a train to German, stay in three different cities for the week, and then finish up in London for the last week. I’m so excited that I’m almost beside myself. Is that like having an out of  body experience?