Thursday, August 14, 2014

Irate

I usually wake up groggy---there's no amount of sleep that seems to shake the exhaustion of motherhood.  Other days I wake up hungry, heading straight from my unmade bed to the chocolate drawer.  But today, I was neither tired nor hungry.  I didn't linger under the sheets for a few extra moments or raid the refrigerator for last night's leftovers.  You see, today I was irate. 

I sometimes feel like I'm on the outside looking in.  I'm an American outside of America, and I can't help but see how the others see us.  So, yes, today I am irate.

I'm irate that the United States of America is so damn blessed and untroubled that we are rioting in the streets over a singular case we know next to nothing about.  I'm irate our media exploits racism in the name of equality and righteousness, yet perpetuates stereotypes and violence by encouraging disorderly demonstrations and looting stores.

I'm irate we have contrasting principles---that our American society is one brimming with contradictions.  We blame the police for not doing enough on our gang-riddled streets, yet we accuse them of brutality and murder when we don't like the outcome of their presence. 

I'm irate that our entitled, over-indulged citizens are chanting "kill the police" while there is a mountainside of children awaiting their own slaughter in Iraq. Really, America? Get your shit together.  Rather than criticize our police officers and military and law enforcement, let's be *gasp* grateful for a damn nanosecond that we have them protecting us in the first place.  Let's acknowledge we know nothing of true oppression or the unthinkable atrocities happening daily in other countries.  We are spoiled, overfed, and beyond fortunate, and I'm irate at how often we fail to remember this.

I'm irate our President has re-evaluated the Yazidi rescue mission and decided it's not as necessary as it once seemed; that the sanctity of human life upon that mountaintop is no longer worth our resources. 

I'm irate our government advised Israel to use "restraint" when rockets were raining down on them.  I'm irate we discouraged Israel from defending themselves from terror, and irate our country didn't reserve the "practice restraint" line for those rioting in the streets of Missouri. 

I'm irate; I'm ashamed; I'm disgusted; but above all, I'm American---and not for the briefest moment will I forget what that means:

I'm also incredibly blessed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sad Cow Disease


I counted 147 cows and one roadside donkey on my way to the grocery store this morning. It's my Swiss version of 'I Spy'.  Amelia shouts "Cows, mooooo" with a glee I could never muster for such large, filthy animals while I use my imagination to turn them all into filet mignon. 

Everyone comments that I only wear black these days. It's the French in me, I tell them, though I subconsciously wonder if I'm mourning fast food.  Black dresses, black shoes---I even don the black fingernails. Why am I not adorned in yellow in the land of paradise with my 147 cattle?

I miss noise---the rumbling of the gas guzzling SUV; the high decibel American conversations; the Stephanie Peck's of the world.

I miss the unrefined.

Everyone is so damn proper here. I can't even drink out of a Coke can without receiving bewildered stares. Silly me! Where are my manners? I must have left them behind with my fine crystal glasses.

Back in the states, where anything goes, where nobody gives a damn, I used to grocery shop in my flannels and rain boots.  Here, I feel underdressed picking out spaghetti sauces in an evening gown.
 
 

I took Amelia to the local "preschool" today to sign her up for the fall semester.  I had to quadruple-check the information packet to assure I was reading the tuition correctly.  I've always known Switzerland to be insanely expensive, but I could afford to send Amelia to Harvard for the same price as this glorified daycare and still have money left over to fuel her Goldfish addiction. Sheesh, Switzerland, I know you are trying to educate the youthful minds of our future, but my toddler still claps when she poo's.

I felt this same nostalgia around the very same time last year.  I think there's something about the summer months and the red, white, and blue that make me long for cookouts and baseball games. The annual Marching of the Cows parade just isn't cutting it for me anymore. I want to go home, but as Amelia reminds me daily, "This is our home, mama."  I forget that while I've been adjusting to European life and constantly feeling like an outsider and obnoxious (yet awesome) American, this is all Amelia knows.  She sees this incredible side of Switzerland that I have so much trouble acknowledging. 
 
Even though I knew we would be here for at least a few years, a part of my subconscious always thought they would deport me for my disrespectful attitude towards aged cheeses. I just recently realized we've been here for an entire two years.  I can't believe I've survived this long without a Taco Bell Gordita Crunch, let alone thrived.  We're doing well here, and as much as I'm missing Kyle Wiese karaoke nights and wine dates with the girls, I can say I'm okay.  This is a segment of my life I will one day look back upon and see quite differently.  I think Switzerland will have a certain invaluable charm when it's well in my past; when I one day accept the wonder outside of my American close-mindedness; when I finally see it with Amelia's eyes. 
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

Since it's all the rage right now, I think I will show you a before and after picture...of the chocolate Easter bunny I just annihilated.
 


Or perhaps a before and after picture of my food baby belly? I swear to you I can go from flat stomach to six months pregnant in three minutes flat.  It's quite impressive.

Readers mustn't worry; I have no intentions of displaying bikini-clad side by sides on the internet anytime soon. No need for the social networking realm to see the outline of my afternoon pizza party. 

I thought New Year's resolutions were only supposed to last until the end of January? It's like everyone's drinking the Kool Aid (or in this case, the powdered diet shakes).

Now I don't mean to be a hypocrite; I quite regularly imbibe on these diet regimens as well. How else could I possibly stay at a reasonable weight and still be a VIP at Pizza Hut? My monthly diet is as follows: one week of hunger and famine followed by a week of over-indulgence and pure happiness. Repeat.

I don't need your tweets or your public fitness diary to inform me how unhealthy I am. I am an educated adult.  I know that 24 inch chocolate statues are not good for the body (though I will argue they are amazing for the soul). I know the proper steps to a bikini-ready body include exercise and calorie control, just as I know that too many cheese fries give me a stomach ache. I know that vegetables are nutrient and vitamin rich, yet I also know that milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard.

This is a public plea to stop body-shaming the rest of us. We are so very proud of your flab to fab tummy, and we think it's great your cholesterol is finally in check, but to put this frankly: we don't give a rat's derri√®re if your pants fit better. Flaunt it on the streets, but please stop congesting my newsfeed.  I'd much rather get back to the ugly babies and sloth memes.

If you lost ten pounds, then be proud of yourself.  If you shook your toned booty to three hours of workout videos, give yourself a pat on the back.  And if you ate a life-size chocolate bunny, then let's be friends. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Capturing Nonsense

The walls at Craig's house make me very sad.  So do his pistachio green couches. Most bachelor pads, for that matter, need some life breathed into them.  Thanks to my sister, Craig's fianc√©, his home is finally getting her feminine, overbearing touch. Kelli called the other night to request a file of photos from me.  In that file, she wants images of me, Amelia, and Matt so she can frame and hang them on Craig's empty walls.  While I'm quite honored to have a living memorial erected at the home of my future brother-in-law, I'm also a bit skeptical about coming through on my sister's request.

For reasons either physical, intentional, or psychological, my husband cannot take a decent photo.  Like the boy who dances to his own drum, it's as if he's smiling at a different camera lens...



example a (ridiculous, I know)


 example b
 
 
Please don't think me cruel.  My husband is very aware of his inability to produce frame-worthy photos.  For this reason (and also because I'm insanely vain), there are mostly only fabulous portraits of yours truly in the house. 
 
On occasion, I can successfully capture an image of Matt where his eyes are looking the correct direction, but then it seems his mouth malfunctions. 
 
 
See what I mean? 
 
 
 
For someone who practices selfies in the mirror (along with an awesome Jamaican accent), it's imperative to remedy this situation in order to uphold our family honor.  In case Matt was just trying to irritate me, I figured a professional photographer could be the antidote.  Surely, he would be on best behavior if we were coughing up cold, hard, cash. Folks, I had high, high hopes for this.
 
Then he subtly snuck out the tongue.
 
I've now accepted there's nothing to be done about my non-photogenic husband.  I continue to snap his picture for the rare occasion when I actually capture a keepsake photo.  Sadly, through all this snapping away, I have discovered a horrible, tragic truth.  My daughter, as well, has inherited his condition. 
 
 
 
 
I sent a whopping three photographs to my sister to frame.  It looks as though there will be no memorial erected in our honor; no real contribution to Craig's desolate walls.  Since it's not often someone asks for a picture of us to go on their wall, I asked Matt one last time to give me his best effort.  On the count of three....
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Auschwitz

Amelia has dolls like these: plaid dresses and curly heads of hair.  She carries them around our house while I complain about the weather, or my bad hair day, or the lack of stations on our Swiss television set.  I assume my life could be easier inside my warm, heated walls. 

Amelia has shoes like these: buckles and shoelaces to fit her chubby, small feet .  She wears them while we dine at fancy restaurants and while she giggles at the park.  "Pwetty shoes," she calls them.



Our village has chimneys like these.  Brick chambers releasing the lingering smoke and laughter of a late evening of red wine by the fireplace, white fog ascending to the heavens while we sleep in our large, warm beds. 




Our country has railroads like these: endless tracks delivering us safely to the next village. Or the park or theatre, perhaps. "Choo, choo," shouts Amelia as the train leaves the station. I smile out the square window and comment on the weather. 



Such simple, mundane things.  A curly-headed doll.  A small pair of shoes.  A brick chimney and a solitary railroad track.  I close my eyes and wish to forget.

There is a haunting sort of calm I will never be able to put into words; a sense of quiet dread that makes the tiniest hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.  I felt it as I trudged through the rock and mud and ashes of Auschwitz. A tangible evil.

 I feel it now as I sit in my own home. 
 
Did humanity cease to exist inside those barbed wire fences?  Were the Nazis born without conscience, or did they exterminate their souls alongside the children in tiny shoes? 

Our nation starts riots and protests and the world mourns over the loss of a single tragic death, but where are the sobs and the outcries for the millions who left this world in ashen smoke?  Perhaps we can't comprehend the number.  Perhaps we are too far removed. 

Friends asked me why I wished to walk the grounds of Auschwitz. Morbid, they called me. What good would it do?

I am unsure the reason, myself.  Maybe I have sought asylum in my safe, opulent world for far too long.  Maybe I need the heaviest of reminders that even on my worst, and sickest, and saddest of days, I have been blessed too abundantly to utter a word of complaint.  Maybe I needed to see it to actually conceive it.  Maybe I just truly wanted to feel. 

I awoke New Year's Day to empty champagne glasses and the clearest of skies, yet I felt joyless and hollow as I glanced out the window at the quaint cottage across the way.  Its small brick chimney carried smoke into the perfect Swiss sunrise,  and I was overcome by nausea. 

I wish not to go back to my life before I walked the grounds of such horror.  I wish to remember the rubble of the destroyed crematoriums, and in all the anguish and destruction, I wish never to forget the voiceless generations whose lives were snuffed out by ignorance and hatred. The frightened children.  The emaciated mothers.  The starving, beaten men. 

I find myself rereading this over and over, but nothing I have written bears semblance to what I have seen; nothing to what I have felt.  It seems I cannot find the words.  

Perhaps there are too many.

Perhaps there are none.