22 March 2009
I am haunted by the ghosts
Of clothes I didn't buy.
The image of that spectacular
Black dress from Zara
Floats above my bed at night,
Like a dark apparition
Here only to incite night terrors.
And those gray crochet boots from Globus -
Oh why didn't I buy them?
They could have provided so many cozy days -
Just me and my boots hanging 'round the house,
So comfortable in our togetherness.
It is as if my shopping addiction has finally
Gotten the better of me,
And I wholeheartedly embrace the sacrifices -
The canceled European weekends,
The periods of starvation,
The self-styled hair,
The lies told to parents -
"I only need a couple hundred," I tell them,
"to pay the bill for all those times I called you" -
But really I'm eyeing those black suede ankle boots -
Forty percent off at that store near the train station.
Those have been on my mind for awhile now.
But I can live with these spectres -
They remind me to make better choices next time -
Slap down the money for those styles I so desperately need.
And I am comforted by the fact that there are at least
One or two fashions I refuse to wear,
Simply out of slight abhorrence -
There are no ballet flats, for example,
Twirling on the edges of my memory,
Or thin belts that snake their stealthy way into my dreams.
And these are no horrific ghosts of my past
Come to claim my soul -
I gave it to them long ago -
And I will dance with them now
As they laugh and persuade me once more
Into the nearest store, where I might buy -
As credit allows -
That pair of washed-out jeans that has been beckoning -
Slyly calling out my name.
That girl in Switzerland
Mum sent me an email yesterday that contained the lyrics of a song I wrote earlyish in 2008. I had forgotten all about it, probably because I write stuff like this basically non-stop, but she found it in a little writing book that I accidently left behind me when I came to Europe.
It might not make so much sense to just read it, but don't worry - it fits the melody in my head. And it's not really tweaked - just a thought I jotted down before moving on to the next poem in my brain.
Anyway, minus the first verse, it exactly says what I feel today. Couldn't be bothered sticking the chorus in more than once, so if you feel like you must, just read it a few extra times until it feels like a song to you. :-)
When my heart is breaking
When I cannot fight alone
When all my dreams are shattered
And I’m far away from home
When my life is black and empty
When I cannot carry on
When I’ve fallen down and cannot stand
I know you’ll pick me up.
You’re my God, you’re my Father
You’re the One I lean upon
Who hears me when I call
You’re my God, you’re my Savior
I can kneel at your feet
And my life’s complete
Because you are my God.
You are my Provider
My Redeemer and my friend
You’re my anchor and my power
My beginning and my end.
I will never lack for mercy
There’s no ending to your love
You’re the only one who understands
You’re forever God above.
I won’t focus on my problems
They’re very, very small
I will let your face absorb me
And you will be my all.
(and again the chorus)
Anyway, so that's my song. I thought it might be worth saving, which is the main reason I put it here. lol...songwriting is quite obviously NOT my forté.
But today is Sunday, and today, as on all other days, I'm thankful to have a Father who is also my good friend. It's nice to know that my problems are so small in the face of eternity, and that I can keep focused on God no matter what tries to push Him out of the picture.
That girl in Switzerland
20 March 2009
I do not like shoes that leave your own heels a mangled mess, causing you to leave off wearing the previously-mentioned horrendously tall shoes while recuperating.
Still with sore feet four days after the fact,
That girl in Switzerland
16 March 2009
This is Felix. Felix is six. He's awesome! He wears sunglasses a lot because he has sensitive eyes. I anticipate a funny tan line come summer. This picture was taken just down the way from our house, on the shore of Lake Geneva, just before we were attacked by angry swans that didn't realize we weren't made of bread.
This is Jules. Jules is four. He's fun! He's a punk. Can't you just see it in his eyes? The day this picture was taken, his hair was way too long and getting in his eyes, so I put it in eight little pigtails and just waited until Charlotte came home. Both boys got haircuts the next day.
Please also allow me to discuss a matter dear to my heart - laughing with children.
Laughing with children might very well be the most refreshing thing I know. There's something very magical about laughing until you can't breath because you understand a joke from a child's point of view. I love the things in which children find delight. Laughing with them is like partaking in innocence, and that is where I find my own delight.
Felix, Jules and I had some good laughs tonight. The first one came at dinner, which is always a good time for laughing.
First of all, you need to understand that Felix is fascinated with magic tricks and performs them almost every day. His favorite part of each trick is afterwards when he gets to tell his secrets to the crowd (me) and revel in all the praise (which invariably sounds something like, "BRAVO, FELIX!! That was veeeery sneaky!!").
So tonight Felix told us a story about a magician he saw at a birthday party. This magician pulled a trick where he had an "empty" glass that he was holding upside down, and he somehow managed to dump water on his head. So Felix decided to try this trick tonight at dinner - and he also managed to dump water on his head, though his cup wasn't even pretending to be empty. Jules and I laughed so hard! Felix was so shocked at himself - don't know exactly why...getting his head wet was what he was trying to do. But he just sat there blinking while Jules and I laughed, and finally he saw the humor too. It was a good dinner interruption. Here's what Felix had to say about the matter: "I just don't understand. You know why? Because it really worked when the magician used an empty one! It was really empty!"
Bedtime is a great time to laugh with children. I love to get the kids all stirred up before I tell them they have to be quiet (call it a little aupairing revenge). Tonight we played the this-little-piggy toe game, and the both Jules and Felix shrieked with laughter because I said concombre (cucumber) instead of piggy - in reference to the time that Felix told me concombre meant "pig" instead of the real word for a pig, cochon. It's been an outstanding joke ever since. (If you don't think it's funny, try picturing three cucumbers building houses out of straw, sticks, and bricks, saying things like, "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin," or getting eaten by a big bad wolf.)
The itsy bitsy spider also ate several knee caps and arm pits.
The kids laughed the hardest when I said it was time to sleep and asked for hugs and kisses. We have a bit of a game for this part of the evening. They refuse to give me hugs, and I pretend to pout and act really grumpy. After they refuse a few times, I always end up shouting, "JE VOUDRAIS UN CÂLIN ET UNE BISE TOUT DE SUITE! (I WOULD LIKE A CUDDLE AND A KISS RIGHT NOW!)" And the boys laugh and laugh because I'm acting angry while asking for cuddles. (I adore watching Felix laugh. He holds his stomach with both hands and really puts his heart into it.)
Of course after the lights actually went off and I was walking away, both boys wanted to attack me with hugs, and Jules even called me back a bit later to say, "I love you!" one more time. :-) They were a half hour late going to bed.
Saturday night I was delayed while on the train heading to Morges for a birthday party at my friend Brad's house (it was his birthday - people here throw their own parties). Someone in the next car was sick, so we had to wait for an ambulance before we could leave the station. In the seats across the aisle from me sat a little boy and his father, and as they spoke I noticed that they had American accents. I just sat there, however, and said nothing until I realized how late I was going to be to the party and decided to call my friend Camille, who was waiting for me at a different train station. When the two Americans heard me speak, they realized that I was American as well, and so a conversation began.
The father of this duo was very annoyed with his son, who I learned was eight years old. They had apparently been together all day at a huge car show near the Geneva Airport, and I deduced that this dad wasn't so used to keeping up with a kid for that many hours. So to kill time, and because I saw how antsy the dad was, I talked to the boy for about forty-five minutes so the dad wouldn't have to entertain him. We talked about everything - he showed me pictures of all his favorite cars, he told me about his mum's birthday, talked about all the trains he rides, the Bakugan he was playing with (he was totally impressed that I knew what it was), their home in Atlanta, and everything else we could think to chat about.
Toward the end of our wait, the boy said to me, "You really laugh a lot!" to which I replied, "Yeah! It's because I'm really happy a lot!" (And that earned a smile from the dad.) When they exited the train one stop before I did, the boy gave me a little pat on the shoulder. I sure hope that dad learns to appreciate laughter.
And our conversation was a nice revelation for me - just saying it and knowing that I'm happy. And having other people know it too, all because I "really laugh a lot." Whether or not I'm happy isn't something I've thought about in a good long while, but as soon as I said it I knew that it was true. It's a great feeling!
I love being an au pair. I really do. I'm so glad I decided to come to Europe this year. My life is better for it all 'round.
That girl in Switzerland
15 March 2009
Today is My Birthday (I thought maybe it deserved some capital letters). March 15. The Ides of March. The most prestigious day to have been born. Do you know why? (If you do, this is the part where you take a bathroom break or get a snack while I tell everyone who doesn't know.) It's all in the Ides of March hint...Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15. It's important stuff. I was born the day Julius Caesar died. Give or take 2,053ish years...
Anyway, enough of that...
Orion is moving lower in the sky...that must mean that winter is running out. Sad, really. Now everyone will be showing too much skin again.
So I had this thought about birthdays...
Why is it that we name our current year after all the ones we've already lived?
Someone says, "Happy Birthday!! How old are you?"
And I reply "Twenty-four. And thank you so much for the birthday wishes."
Short and sweet, eh?
But the reality is that I'm already living in my twenty-fifth year.
So although I'm not all about growing old before my time, I hereby nominate that we all start calling our years by the ones we're living. The new conversation might go something like this:
"Happy Birthday! How old are you??"
"Well, I've celebrated the anniversary of my birth twenty-four times, but I'm currently in my twenty-fifth year, actually. And thank you so much for the birthday wishes."
I might start saying this, just to confuse people. It makes sense, but I'll bet people wouldn't get it.
Also, since the next obvious question you'll all be asking is "What did she look like on her birthday?" allow me to answer that in advance:
Charlotte is getting me a ticket to the concert Tuesday night at Victoria Hall. I'm excited. An evening of piano music with the Orchestra National Bordeaux Aquitaine - Ravel, Gershwin, and Berstein...I'm so excited. This is my VERY FAVORITE kind of thing to do. And trust me...I'm gonna look gooooood.
Anyway, signing off...Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeee!!
Singing off key,
That girl in Switzerland
13 March 2009
...I know you're out there...Mom and Kim (and Kimberly!), Cindy and Ashley, Julie, Danielle and Dwayne, Dee...
I just want to make you all aware that I know of your lurker status.
It'd be kind of nice to know what you're thinking when you read, even if you hate my posts!
It doen't take long to comment, and I really like hearing what people say! Comments are fun! And constructive cricism is something I really like too. It makes my writing a lot better...and that is important to me now more than ever because I'm actually choosing what to write about (as 0pposed to college, where I wrote what was required and only had bursts of love for random assignments - though in retrospect, if I had ever started writing anything before two in the morning the night before, I might have felt a bit more love...)
You can all even make fun of all my punctuation mistakes or berate me for going off on rabbit trails in the middle of sentences.
Plus, if you're a lurker I haven't named or that I haven't actually talked to in awhile, we could catch up! And I know Mom has told loads of people about my blog, and they read it too, but never comment. Come on, people...Pleeeeeeease......
I'd just really like to know who all reads my blog. Is that alright? It only takes a second or two to comment. :-)
Also - a heartfelt thanks to those of you who do comment - and that would be Melissa, Tiffany, Nichole, Leanna, Alanna, Varina, and sometimes Jess, Jaleesa, Beth, Shane, Emily, and Isaac...Here's some credit where credit is due...I appeciate you ALL and think your comments are beautiful things. And for those of you who actually added me to your follow list, that's awesome! So thank you.
Just sharing my heart,
That girl in Switzerland
P.S. And I promise to post more comments on all of your blogs too!
11 March 2009
Here's how you get there...
Thanks to somebody who is thoroughly sweet and well-intentioned, but unfortunately rather, though not completely, ignorant (just as one example - the housecleaner who can't remember the house alarm code and completely screws it up, leaving multiple wiring problems in the house), your internet doesn't work and you have no way of fixing it...you must simply wait for the person in charge of your particular network to decide (i.e. realize it's important enough) to fix it himself.
However, in the meantime, you aren't completely lost, because only the downstairs bit of the house doesn't get the internet - it still works upstairs, so you can still check your email at least once a day (even though you can't blog much, talk to people on Skype or IM, check your favorite web comics, use Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, or dictionary.com, or just sit and rapidly click your Stumble button as your eyes glaze over - which, interestingly enough, falls fairly high on your list of favorite things to do).
So immediately after the appalling truth sets in - your internet days are essentially over - you go into dramatic withdrawals...
You break into a cold sweat whenever you think about it...
You repeatedly turn your computer off and back on using various methods including the restart option, the "turn off the computer" option, and even the power button on the computer tower, in a desperate but obviously-futile attempt to make the internet work again...
You unplug the computer and plug it back in (while it's off, of course...though obviously if it had been working before you turned it off...)...
You do the same with the network cord...
You pace the floor, returning to your computer often to see if it has found its connection yet...
You decide that life isn't worth blogging about if you have to do it upstairs in the dead of night and then wait until the next day to go back and tweak everything multiple times, as you are used to doing in the comfort of your own room...and you write down the things you mean to tweak, including the punctuation (over which you've been mulling), so that you won't forget it while you sleep...
You write down your blog posts on paper so that when the time comes, you can type quickly instead of using blogspot the way it was meant to be used...
You decide that reading books has never really been a good way to pass the time, an idea that goes against your very nature...and four days and three James Rollins novels later, you are still thinking the same - though, inexplicably, you also think that possibly a couple thousand thrill-seeking Clive Cussler pages might change your point of view, which you contemplate reading simultaneously with Gone with the Wind...
And you watch hours of back-to-back episodes of the fourth season of Desperate Housewives, but every bit you hit pause to go restart your computer all over again...
You sms friends during the day to ask if you can come over "for thirty seconds" to check your email because you "just know there are loads of important ones piling up"...and when you do check your email, it's mostly spam, but at least it's off of your mind for about half an hour...
But you do think about it all the time, even in town and on the bus...
Using non-bad - yet fairly adequate - explitives, you curse your telephone because the bill for calling your family in America is getting higher and higher, and you long for the days of Skype...
You find it terribly inconvienent to edit your thoughts before you speak, since you can no longer just hit the backspace button...
You try every possible way to repair your internet connection, but to no avail - you click the button over and over, hoping against hope that thirty seconds down the networking road won't again leave your computer screen saying things like, "Cannot connect to network," and "Could not renew your IP address..."
You go upstairs and reset all the network boxes you can find...
And after a few times of that not working, you decide that it's worth trying again...
...and then one last time, at least until tomorrow...
And then you basically repeat the entire procedure, switching up the steps, all the while realizing that you're pathetic and that intensive therapy might help you cope.
But after the withdrawals are over, Freedom herself comes to claim you...
You leave the downstairs computer off for days a time, realizing now that your life-source is not somehow tied to your internet connection...
You read whole books and manage to imagine the literary person you will become because of embracing your new freedom...
You talk to your sister again for the first time in a month...
You realize that the friends you talked to on the computer didn't sustain you...and that (previously the unthinkable) you will make it if you go a whole day without discussing your life with people who live thousands of miles away...
You tell all your friends who had been letting you check your email that they were right - that your life is better now as a result of less internet, and that you appreciate them now more than ever...
You start volunteering in local soup kitchens...
You learn to think before you speak...
You sleep better (and more) at night, thereby becoming healthier overall...
Your love for life deepens with each passing day - and as the need for the interent releases its hold, you realize that life has never been so worth living.
Essentially, you begin to blossom...
Unfortunately though, this is not about you...
...it's about me, and that last bit is thoroughly hypothetical...
...I'm still in withdrawals...
...and also unfortunately, I gave up exaggeration for Lent...
That girl in Switzerland
04 March 2009
So many memories...how do I write them all down??
Albert knew all of my favorite books. He fostered my love of Dr. Seuss...he used to quote whole books by heart - I put some of them to memory myself because of Albert. He read me parts of The Chronicles of Narnia (complete with voices), and he let me watch the movies, thereby fostering my little-girl crush on Peter, and my literary crush on C.S. Lewis. He knew all about Madeleine L'Engle - knew all the names and plots of her books by heart - and we used to discuss which ones had Biblical themes. I thought, when I was young, that he must know everything there was to know about literature.
They were such a big part of my childhood, Albert and Olene. I remember just shivering with excitement as my family prepared to go to their house. We kids would pick blueberries until our fingers were blue and lovingly abuse (accidently, of course...we only meant the loving bit) the multitude of kittens until the adults told us to leave them alone.
Even though I didn't see him much after he left the South, his is one of the faces I see when I think of the good old days - his face and Olene's; all the family still together; him with grandkids, nephews and nieces on his knees, who were mostly poking his belly and giggling. Those were the days when I was dubbed "Heather Jean" - days I will always cherish as some of the most precious of my lifetime.
Years ago at Aunt Olene's funeral, Albert and I cried in each other's arms - it was the first time I remember allowing myself to cry in front of someone. We hurt together that day. A year later he cried again as he told me how much he missed her. He spent Christmas at our house that year - spent most of the day sitting on the couch looking sad - he gave me a sweet pea Bath and Body Works set.
I loved hearing Uncle Albert preach. I've heard him preach what must have been a hundred sermons in my lifetime, but the one I remember the clearest was at an evening camp service at Hobe Sound the year I was eleven. He was standing to the right of the pulpit talking about keeping your godly standards in a sinful world. He drew an imaginary line on the floor and said to imagine the line was the center of God's will. He said, "You know it's important to stay right in the center of God's will...but maybe you'll think, 'What's wrong with taking just one step away? I'm not changing very much.' The problem is, once you've taken that step, you just say the same thing again: 'What's wrong with taking just one step?'"
He repeated and repeated these lines and took little steps sideways until he was about five feet away from his original "God's-will" line, and by the time he got there he was shouting, "IF YOU KEEP TELLING YOURSELF THIS LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO END UP! YOU AREN'T ANYWHERE NEAR THE CENTER OF GOD'S WILL ANYMORE!"
Every time I've considered my standards since that message I've remembered what he said. If I am the only person alive who remembers that night over thirteen years ago, he was still God's voice to help keep one person on the right track.
Remembering Albert shout at a crowd like that makes me compare and contrast two of his best qualities. He was so humble - if you've ever once heard him speak, you've heard him give personal illustrations that the average speaker would never dream of revealing about himself...but Albert did just that so other people could learn from his mistakes. But in the midst of all that meekness, Albert could still yell and make the crowd jump in their seats as he said just one concise thing that somehow hit home for everybody listening. He was humble, and because he was humble, people listened and took note when he said the hard things. He wasn't just preaching at people; he loved people, and he wanted all to go to heaven, no matter the cost to himself.
When I was really little I would race to sit beside Albert in church because I liked to listen to him sing and watch him weep silently as he got blessed by the hymns. Sometimes I would shyly stick my hand in his and wait for him to squeeze my fingers. I loved it when he did that. It meant he noticed me. I thought Albert was just the greatest.
I still think Albert is just the greatest. One of the things that stands out the most when I let my mind wander over all my memories of him is how much laughing I've done with him over the years. He just adored embellishing his stories - like the one about the time he accidently sat by the wrong woman in church and putting his arm around her before realizing that the whole place had gone silent.
I can picture him laugh- his eyes all crinkled up, his hilarity getting the better of him - he did have the most distinctive laugh, didn't he? - as the adults shared stories of an apparently-rollicking nature. I think I learned real laughter at his house.
I can't wait to laugh with him again - see those faces once more. They're reunited now, Albert and Olene, and for some reason the world feels right again.
I wish I could be there for his funeral. I wish I could say "I love you so much" just one last time...give him one more hug and look into his watery eyes and hear him say, "I love you, girl. You be good now, you hear." But I'll always cherish my memories.
The Bible says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...Albert Barr had them all in abundance. I wish I could see the look on his face as he hears his Father say, "Well done! You have been faithful..."
I've learned so much from good ol' Uncle Albert - that Mother Hubbard's daughter and cupboard were both bare, the real reason Davy Crockett headed west (killed him a barr), that it takes a steadfast perseverance to remain holy in a sinful world, and the inadvertant lesson that cherishing family is so much more important than having your own way.
I'm really going to miss him. Having him go now, with no way for me to say goodbye, is really hard. But I know I'll see him again. And I know that he's eternally happy worshipping at the feet of Jesus. And that's what matters most. He's where he should be now.
I love you, Albert. I'm proud to be your niece. And I can't wait to see you again. So I won't say goodbye - I'll just say (as in childhood), "See ya later, alligator."
With sad fondness,
That girl in Switzerland