A teeny tiny vacation

26 08 2011

Today is the second anniversary of my skating accident. August 26th, 2009 is a day that will live on in infamy – read all about it here, if you wish.

Physically, I’ve pretty much recovered. I do still have some pain when doing a handstand or a cartwheel, and the flexibility in my left wrist is probably about 95 percent of what it used to be. But I can live with that. Psychologically, however, I still have trouble when I am traveling at speed and faced with a situation where I have to trust others to react correctly. I have a split-second to chart and signal my path, and I just never know what that other nutcase coming towards me – be it on a bicycle, attached via leash to a dog or with composite rubber wheels strapped to his/her feet – is going to do.

In celebration of two more or less accident-free years on skates (not counting my two splashes during last year’s Berlin Marathon), I decided to go for a mini-hike this morning, close to home. I had always wanted to walk up the hill that rises up high above the town I live in, near Zurich – to diversify my training and take a break from my rollerblades for a day. At the top there is a cafe with a terrace that features a panorama view: the city is to the left, its eponymous lake front and center, and the Alps rise off in the distance to the right. It’s simply spectacular.

...isn't it?

A cable car links the town in the valley with the recreation area on the crest of the range… the altitude difference is probably only about 400 meters but looks like significantly more. This is my preferred method of getting to the top, usually in anticipation of that wonderful, frothy latte macchiato that’s waiting for me there. But today’s mission was to propel myself up the trail as long as the weather held and it wasn’t too hot.

Cable cars are for wimps, anyway.

After about 15 minutes along, I decided that the next time I see the words “very steep ascent” on a hiking trail sign, I will believe them.

But the quiet (except for my heavy breathing) and the solitude of the forest (except for the baby snake lying across the trail that jumped about a foot as I approached, scaring the bejeeses out of me) felt like a little tiny vacation from real life.

Once up top, I decided that it was too soon to go back and continued on along the ridge for a few miles. Somewhere, I took another path back down I had never gone before, passing idyllic meadows with cows grazing peacefully in the sunshine. Arrived home after about 2 hours, soaked in sweat, knowing I had done my duty for the day.

What a great morning. What a great workout. Sometimes the world really is alright.

Happy holidays from our orchid

8 01 2011

Now that the holidays are well behind us, I took a final look at all the greeting notes I received before packing them away in a shoebox.

In the age of at-home, three-step, do-it-yourself printing and publishing, there seems to be a strong trend towards arts & crafts for grown-ups. And don’t get me wrong – I do appreciate the thought and effort that goes into making a home-made card. Something like that is quite special, for both the sender and the recipient.

But I’m finding more and more of these greetings are plastered with photos of the sender’s children – in the snow, on the beach, playing with pets – with warm greetings from them, too.


The 2010 Xmas card harvest (sans kiddos in order to protect their identities).

I do find it rather odd that not my friends, but their kids are wishing me – someone they probably don’t know from Adam and couldn’t give two shits about – a Merry Christmas.

The most egregious example of this was a card with a photo of a 4-month-old infant. The caption: “(Name of Infant A) wishes you happy holidays.” Does Infant A even know what a holiday is? And is Infant A consciously aware of “happy”? (Beyond sleeping and suckling, that is.) And don’t you think he might also ask himself someday: who the hell are these people he is allegedly wishing happy holidays to?

And all these proud parents think they are doing something totally unique. Infant A’s parents probably honestly thought their card was the most ingenious and cutest thing on earth, because of course Infant A is the smartest and cutest kid on earth.

But I received three of these this year, featuring Children A, B, C , D and E, all under the age of 4, in an assortment of poses (sitting, eating, crawling, looking out the window) and all with similar wording.

So parents, imagine your child-free adult friends receiving their 27th holiday greeting card with nothing in it but kid photos. A typical reaction would be: “Wow. More pictures of… babies. Yay.”

One couple I know sent me a whole 2011 desk calendar with photos of their kids! (OK, the kids are teenagers and the calendar itself is actually very beautiful and well done, but it was the last holiday greeting I unpacked, and the final straw that prompted me to write this post.)

So, fine, whatever – send me pictures of your kids for Christmas if you must – but it would make a real difference, at least to me, if you sent pictures of YOURSELVES, too! The adults in the family! In most cases you and I have known each other and were friends loooooong before your offspring was a twinkle in your eye, and a human on the planet.

YOU are the people I have a history with, not your kids – they came later. YOU are the people I love and cherish. YOU are the folks who have accompanied me on this long and winding road. YOU are the people who have helped make me who I am.

After receiving all these photo-cards of kids we hardly know (and one or two from kids we do), R. and I got to thinking about what motif we should put on our own Christmas cards next year. We really value our DVD player, and our skiing equipment, and our cars, and our sofa, and our dining room table. Or how about that potted plant we love so much? It’s the only other living thing in our apartment, after all.

"A dormant orchid wishes you a Merry Christmas!"

You’re right, our friends with kids would probably take offense. So I guess I will stick with sending greeting cards bought at the After-Xmas-Sale on December 26th the year before (70% off!) as I have done for the past two decades or so. Less work and more politically correct than pretending a plant can talk like a baby.

Scrooge, the Grinch and me

23 12 2010

It’s Christmas and I’m not really inspired to write anything witty or, well, inspirational. Sorry. If anything, the spirit of this season-that-will-not-end has made me more cynical and bitter the longer it lasts.

I have been assaulted by Christmas decorations in stores since two weeks before Halloween. Every day I am subjected to multiple renditions of “Come, they told me, parumpapumpum …” and stupid advertising for giving the gift of liposucton or car insurance or 60-inch flat-screen televisions, sung by artificially jolly voices to the tune of “Deck the Halls” or “Let it Snow”. That is waterboarding for the soul and should be declared inhumane. Where are the activists from Amnesty International when you really need them?

This is Florida, people, THERE IS NO SNOW! THIS HELL WILL NOT FREEZE OVER! E-V-E-R! Even if all you Floridians have to get out your fleece gloves and wool caps when the temperature drops to below 65 degrees F (+18 degrees C).

So I’m the Grinch this year. Teaming up with Scrooge… and all the other literary figures that plot to steal/destroy/pillage Christmas. Fine – take it away… make it disappear.

And yes, dear happy parents, if I would have kids, it might be different – even if just for their sake. But remember, kids are often most underestimated by the adults closest to them. Your children will also figure out pretty quickly what is real and what is play-acting. And I’m not just talking about Santa Claus here.

During this festive season of communal commercial cheer (ka-ching!), it takes a lot to actually admit you are miserable. So I’m laying it out here for all to read. I can’t stand Christmas. And this year, I’m particularly sad, frustrated and upset. For myself and for those close to me who have to fight battles no one should be placed in the position to fight, especially not at Christmas. I’m angry at the injustice of it all.

If you also feel this way, its okay, you’re allowed to be grumpy this time of year, even if the rest of the world tells you you’re not. Please don’t be a pressure cooker and keep it all inside.

Just, if you do plan, against better judgment, to spend the holidays hanging around people you’re related to but barely know, it would probably be helpful if you concentrate on fileting the turkey and not each other – by avoiding emotionally loaded topics like politics, religion, unfulfilled expectations, lifestyle choices or hair color.

For me, I’m just hoping the next couple of days will pass quickly so that we can get back to normal and go on living our lives. 2011 seems like a happy number to me – those two 1’s at the end signify to me the best of the best. Number One followed by…Number One!

Somewhere between now and then I promise to climb out of this bottomless pit of grief, self-pity and sadness, and I shall return to inspire you.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend, in whatever form it may take. I will be at an Orlando theme park, escaping reality.