Wednesday, October 30, 2013

on having a russian soul, but not passing it on to my child

i have a russian soul. i know it sounds bad these days, with all of the homophobia and intrigues and hired clappers at the bolshoi and odin knows what else going on in russia, but it's still there. the same burning fascination that drove me to collect several degrees and a large bookshelf full of russian literature still smoulders within. i'm reading andrea pritzer's the secret history of vladimir nabokov and it, together with sabin's recent trip to st. petersburg, have fanned the flames once again.

russia is just so infuriatingly complex and vast and incomprehensible. it is at once primitive and highly cultured, traditional and fresh and new, provincial and cosmopolitan, a pastiche of copies of styles from around the world, but utterly its own. just when you think, i've just read brothers karamazov and now i really understand the russian soul, you turn to master and margarita or pale fire and another entire facet opens up. layer upon layer upon layer of complexity and history and blood and violence and art and thought and religion. i never get my fill of it.

i'll admit i was a little sad that it didn't speak to sabin in the same way. she said she was glad she went, but that she wouldn't want us to plan a family vacation to go back. maybe at 12, wandering the streets of modern st. petersburg, sipping a starbucks, and taking snapshots with her iPhone, it's perhaps understandable that she didn't feel the soul and the pulse of history running through the veins of nevsky prospect. but i had hoped that russia would open itself to her the way it did to me.

times are, of course, different. my initial interest in russia was a reaction to an instinctive and idealistic loathing of ronald reagan (i still think he's where the slippery slope began). it also arose in following the story of dissident andrei sakharov in the early 80s and in reading that baggy monster war & peace at too tender an age. the cold war was in full swing and we practiced nuclear fallout drills in the basement of our school. that's all very remote for sabin, if she has any awareness of it at all. the foundation just isn't there.

her danish sensibilities were a bit overwhelmed by the excessive ornate decoration of everything. gold trim and entire rooms of amber or malachite do make you understand why they needed a revolution. she found she didn't like not being able to read signs or understand what people were saying (being so multi-lingual, those are strange experiences for her). i guess i will have to accept that she will find her own forms of rebellion and passions and infatuations and that they don't have to mirror mine. i'm actually pretty ok with that, but i do wish that russia had made her heart go just a little bit pitter patter. but it wasn't a wasted trip. anytime you travel the world, you grow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

after the storm

guess we won't be taking that route. #latergram #stormageddon2013
one of three trees downed on this particular road
we had a big storm blow through yesterday - with hurricane force winds (up to 54 meters/second in some places). since we consult the norwegian weather (not the danish, they haven't got a clue - i seriously got a warning via my DMI iPhone app 5 hours after the storm had blown through and was over), we knew it was coming and we battened down the hatches, so there was very little damage around our house. a few branches here and there, but even all of husband's tarps covering various projects stayed put (he's a good battener). at one point, the roof made some seriously ominous creaking sounds and i thought perhaps some of it would go, but it held and there's no sign of any damage to it this morning. this old house is sturdier than it looks.

people are really quick to clean up, especially if one of their trees is blocking the road. this morning, when i ran sabin to school around 7:30, the tree above already looked like this, all neatly stacked and everything:

tho' the storm really only lasted a few hours, it brought the country to its knees. 50 trains were stranded on the tracks around denmark, due to downed power lines and trees over the tracks. DSB, the railway, says it will be at least a week before they are back to their normal schedule. i'm very glad i wasn't on a train yesterday. they also closed the big bridges, both to sweden and the one between sjælland and fyn (storbæltsbro, the one i photograph all the time, for my instagram friends). it was a good day to be working at home, that's for sure.

actually, it's kind of ironic, the chimney sweep who came today (they come once a year as part of what you get for your property taxes and because it's mandated by law) left more of a mess behind than the storm did:

i find the whole chimney sweep thing in this country deeply, deeply strange. they dress like a soldier from the civil war, they don't knock on the door, but basically just break into your house, completely unannounced and apparently leave a giant, black mess and then leave again, without even leaving a card to let you know that they were here. i happened to notice his vehicle out front or i wouldn't have realized it until i saw the big, black mess and bag of ashes in the furnace room. and our furnace room is pretty orderly because it's quite a newly done room with a brand new furnace and husband has the wood all neatly stacked, not to mention that it was just tidied up on the weekend because of the halloween party. i think the guy is a real ass for leaving it in the condition he left it. i've written him a letter, since i don't have his phone number and i hate calling people anyway and told him i expect him to come back to clean up after himself by november 1 or i'm both writing to the municipality to inform them exactly how he does his work (he did this last year too) and sending him a bill for my time spent cleaning it up. and i can tell you that he's not going to like my hourly rate. 

* * *

i had to try to photograph the wind, but wind is really hard to capture. the blur in this sort of shows it and you can see that the little mini greenhouse that fits over my herb bed was in motion:

there's something really cleansing and freeing about a good storm. it clears the mind as well as the trees of all their leaves. i'm sure i'd feel differently if anyone around here got hurt, but thankfully that didn't happen. so we just relish that all the cobwebs (internal and external) were swept away.

* * *

seriously inventive flower arrangements.

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amazing feather art.

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and i love these illustrations featuring everyday object. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

life lessons revisited

three years ago, almost to the day, i did a post on life lessons. on this rainy, grey, early dark (after the time change) afternoon we have going on, with candles glowing on the window ledge above my desk, and a contented cat in my lap, it felt like a good time to revisit the notion and make a new list. which is not to say that i don't stand by the first list, more just that i do love me a list...

~ words matter.

~ to appreciate the sunshine, you need a little rain.

~ time really does fly.

~ moisturizer is really quite important.

~ people will often disappoint you, but you will get over it.

~ it's good to see the place where you live through fresh eyes.

~ you grow more patient as you age.

~ but you also tend to take less crap.

~ you are never too old for glitter nail polish.

~ you are never too old to dress up for halloween.

~ nothing beats a logical argument. but those are few and far between.

~ so much of who your child is is already there in the child. it's up to you to nurture it.

~ everyone is pretending at something.

~ don't ever go to work for a friend.

~ a glass of wine has healing powers.

~ sometimes you just need girl talk (best paired with above-referenced wine).

~ it is possible to do something creative every day.

~ many of life's most satisfying moments happen in the kitchen.

~ spending time alone is good for the soul.

~ chickens are smarter than you think.

~ a good night's sleep will restore you.

~ there is always a good book to read, it's just a matter of finding it.

~ the internet is huge.

~ blogging is cheaper than therapy.

~ sometimes you don't know what you think until you write about it.

~ you're never too old to learn something new.

~ you can learn from your mistakes, but it might take a couple of tries.

~ it's totally normal to listen to the same song over and over again.

and that's my list. for now. play along if you'd like (please let me know, so i can read your list as well). it's surprisingly cathartic.

* * *

you never know who those people are.

6th annual halloween party

scary candy bags #halloweenfest

every year, we try to rise to new heights of creativity with our halloween party. i do my part in the area of refreshments and husband does things like moving the target shooting indoors (yes, upstairs above the new kitchen, they shot at cans) and building a pulley system so they could hoist one another up to look at a selection of items that were up high and try to remember as many of them as possible. the girls put together creepy candy bags in rubber gloves.

soon-to-be caramel apples #halloweenfest

inspired, as always, by pinterest, i sent karoline out to cut me some sticks for my caramel apples.

hurry up and be caramel already. #halloweenfest

we don't have kraft caramels here, so i had to make homemade (thank goodness). it took time, but it is out-of-this-world delicious. besides, it takes time to unwrap all those kraft caramels from their plastic wrappers too and at least this way, i knew went into them.

the last ones got 7-minute frosting b/c I ran out of caramel.  #halloweenfest

i had a bit of the 7-minute frosting left from the cupcakes and dipped the last apples in that when i ran out of caramel. it's funny, those four were the ones that went first.

a vampire bit our cupcakes. #halloweenfest

a vampire came by and bit into each of our cupcakes. the cupcakes were chocolate, into which i threw a big bowlful of freshly-picked raspberries (our unseasonably warm temperatures mean the raspberries are still going strong). with cream cheese frosting, they were delicious.

crunchy bats and cats #halloweenfest

cookie cutters and ready-made puff pastry sprinkled with poppy seeds and a spicy seasoning made for light little airy critter snacks.

bat like chicken wings #halloweenfest

and coolest of all chicken wing "bats." we told the kids that we'd gotten lucky out at the butcher in farre and were able to source some fresh bats for the party. a number of them believed it and wouldn't eat them. bwah-ha-ha.  a good time was had by all, even tho' they're in 7th grade now and some have to pretend to be bored. they weren't.

* * *

this will make you want to fix breakfast for dinner.

* * *

laura's piece on the politics of food will get you thinking about what you put on your table.
it's worth the time it takes to read it thoroughly.

* * *

just when you thought sarah palin couldn't get any dumber, she says this.
and i link to it even tho' snopes says it's a hoax.
it's still pretty plausible for her.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

some days are like that

it's been one of those days. you know the kind...where you're running around, doing a million errands and tho' it seems like there must be a rainbow there on the horizon, you simply can't focus on it properly. all the further ahead you can see is the next item on the list. pumpkins: check. cat food: check. return library books: check. green market which is the only place they have sweetened condensed milk: check. smashed screen iPhone to repair: check. 

although technically speaking, and in terms of the list of things that must be done for our saturday halloween party, i got a lot done, it felt like spinning my wheels. why is it we can't appreciate the little things? especially when collectively, they do add up to quite a lot. 

i also got a bee in my bonnet for my next knitted blanket (because i want to make another one) and was stymied in my attempts to buy yarn by three yarn shops. one, where they didn't have the colors i had in mind. and the other, because it wasn't there anymore and i didn't have time to go look for where it had moved. and a third one i didn't stop in because there was no parking nearby. i'm sure they would have had precisely what i was looking for. *sigh*

* * *

i spent the evening helping with a political event. there are municipal elections coming up in a few weeks and the women candidates for the city council (which is more like a county commission in american terms) were doing a speed dating evening and i agreed to help. my help extended to pouring glasses of white wine. i'm pretty good at that. it was also interesting for me to talk to the candidates. not very many people came, so i got plenty of chance to do that. i felt both educated and dismayed. this multi-party system they have in denmark (there were candidates from 6 different parties there and all but one of them had all of their own teeth) is quite fascinating. each party does manage to have its own personality and i would say the candidates that were there fit the profile (tho' the missing tooth was a little counter-intuitive), even tho' at the municipal level politics is something completely other than what it is at the national level. only a couple of the candidates that were there were already on the city council, so it was interesting to hear why the new folks wanted to get involved. and i probably did legitimately get closer to knowing who i want to vote for in a few weeks. because yes, as a foreigner, i can vote. i am a permanent resident and can vote in municipal and regional elections, but not national. danes are democratic like that. it's part of why they're so happy.

* * *

this series of photos of an old japanese lady and her cat are magical. 
we might have to name our new white cat fukumaru.

* * *

it only took about 8 hours before the first bossy, righteous dane reared her ugly head in the pinterest translators group. *sigh* i guess it was bound to happen.
but mostly, it's really interesting following the threads in the group (which is secret, sorry, i can't share), 
also for finnish. some serious language intricacies are being discussed in a very interesting way.

* * *

i might have to drag out the old canon AE-1 and try some freelensing to shake things up photographically. problem is, i'm rubbish at getting the films developed, so who knows when we'll see the results.

pinterest for the win!

see my pinterest here.

i am a sucker for being part of a group. especially if they make it seem exclusive and cool and perhaps a little bit secret. oh, and if they flatter me when they send the invitation, hello, count me in! so when i got an email from pinterest this morning, complimenting my pinboards, and inviting me to apply to be a translator for the danish version of pinterest, i was like, sign me up, baby! so i dutifully clicked through and applied. a few hours later, i was approved and invited to my first secret facebook group. i think the difference with secret groups is that the rest of the folks in your timeline can't see what you're posting and commenting on. the whole thing makes me a little bit giddy.

but really, what it is is pinterest being very smart. they've flattered their users into doing the expensive translation job for them. for free! all by making it seem cool and exclusive. there is much to be learned from this (can you say co-creation?). they get a much better translation from native speakers (and folks like me who are picky about language and have lived here so long that i'm pretty good at it as well). they create loyalty among users. and they don't pay for it. i predict we'll be seeing a lot more of this from businesses in the not-so-distant future.

a little while later, someone in my facebook feed shared a status of someone from their feed who is pissed at pinterest. pinterest's terms forbid "pin to win" contests and they will go after users who are engaging in such things. and frankly, i think that's awesome. pins should be there because they are things people love, not things people are trying to win (tho' one might argue that you wouldn't be trying to win something if you didn't love it). and i like the purity of it. if those i followed suddenly started pinning shit from etsy (because etsy just opened their doors much wider to shit) instead of moodily-lit figs, just because they wanted to win it, i would be one unhappy camper. i do love me some moodily-lit figs, not to mention triangles, don't get me started on triangles (they're the new circle).

so, to recap. pinterest flattering their users (including me) into doing their enormous translation/localization task for them = score. and cracking down on "pin to win" greedy bastards = score. so it's pinterest for the win!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


i ran across this list of reasons people were committed to a west virginia insane asylum in the late 1800s. hmm, in light of recent events in the congress of the united states, perhaps we should bring back that "politics" one and frankly "religious enthusiasm" wouldn't hurt either while we're at it.

i'd be in trouble myself with "novel reading" and "dissolute habits" as well as "bad habits and political excitement" not to mention the occasional "feebleness of intellect" and "periodical fits" (is that fits over reading periodicals or are they just every once in awhile?), tho' my periodical fits are possibly related to "menstrual derangement."

i've always wondered what "dropsy" was. and apparently back then there was just a "time of life" when you entered an insane asylum. "egotism" was a reason to be committed in those days, whereas today we encourage it.

i suspect that we simply go for a spa weekend to get over many of these things in this day and age. and gunshot wounds are probably treated in regular hospitals. i hope that one goes to regular prison for shooting one's daughter these days, unless it was done from a "gathering in the head," in which case, perhaps an asylum is still appropriate. not so many people fall from their horse during war, so i imagine their business on that front has fallen off significantly.

well, i don't know about you, but i'm off to clear my "congestion of the brain" by reading a novel...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


fanciferocity - i learned that word from the j. peterman catalog today. (it would be my dream job to write for them.) i figured it was appropriate, as i've gone a little nuts with the fanciferous little round baby acorns. it's just that every time i go out to feed the horses, i see more of the little caps on the ground and i can't stop picking them up. it's funny, as i already told you, i started thinking i'd just make red and white, since i want to use them on our christmas tree, but very soon, i picked up orange and green and blue (of course) and before long, i was making a whole rainbow. i just couldn't help myself. molly suggested making a garland and i just may have to do that, if their little sticks will hold up to it. otherwise, i'm going to incorporate them in my packaging for the upcoming christmas market we're having at our local kulturhus (community center). hopefully they'll make my bottles of cordials and jars of jam look totally irresistible.

i have so much going on and so many thoughts and ideas and possibilities swirling in my head at the moment, that it strangely doesn't want to come out into the blogger compose window. that doesn't happen to me very often, but apparently now is one of those times. i will undoubtedly be back soon with some self-therapy. but until then, i hope you're all having as glorious and warm an autumn as we are.

Monday, October 21, 2013

catching up after an unseasonably warm monday

unseasonably warm temperatures have the birds around here singing like it's spring, the mushrooms and other fungi going crazy, the raspberries continuing long after they are usually finished and it's even confused a few of the strawberries, which are blossoming again. and here we thought global warming was a bad thing.

* * *

the child is home from russia and she had a wonderful time, tho' she says she doesn't think we should go there for a family vacation (it might be a case of been there, done that syndrome). highlights were the circus and a fabulous piece of cake she had in an old theatre turned café. after all my worries, it all turned out ok (tho' she admitted that the rhino was no fun when he was stressed, which was most of the time). i'm glad i had those flight numbers in the end, so that i knew her flight home was delayed by half an hour. it's not that much fun hanging out at midnight in billund airport.

* * *

just saw a piece in the local newspaper about a recent wine tasting evening for women. like in english, there is but a small difference between the words wine and whine (vin - hvin) and our local journalist didn't hesitate to use it in characterizing the evening, adding insult to injury in the headline by referring to it as a henhouse on top of it all. aren't we beyond such sexism disguised as smug cuteness on the part of male journalists? sadly, apparently we are not.

* * *

i want need a projecteo!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

cheerful little acorns

i tried my hand at lisa's felted acorns. the first one was a bit mutant and enormous, so i went a bit smaller. most of my acorn caps are pretty small anyway. they ended up a little more round and not quite so acorn-shaped, but i decided that i liked that.

lots of my acorn caps still have their little twig, so i'm doing my best to preserve that. i hope they don't fall off as they get a bit dry. at least not until after christmas, since i want to use these to decorate and also as part of my attempt to wrap things properly this year. yup, this is going to be the year i learn to do it right and stop wrapping like a kindergartener.

i had intentions of doing just white and red felt balls, but i quickly tired of only working with two colors and couldn't help myself but move on to a broader palette.

they look awfully cheerful there on my little old scale. i've been back outside, hunting for more of the small acorn caps. luckily, they're abundant, as we have a lot of oak trees around here.  if i make enough, i can use some to dress up my jams for the upcoming christmas market we've having in a few weeks. so i guess that's what i'll be doing with my sunday afternoon. here's hoping you use yours wisely as well!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

flea market finds

this year's flea market was a bit disappointing. there wasn't any good 70s pottery and when i first went, it was so crowded that it was actually downright unpleasant. but here and there, in between, i managed to find a few treasures. like this embroidered mormor (grandma) pillow with a fine rooster on it. 

i spotted these tiny houses in amongst a bunch of plates and cups that i wouldn't want. they were probably made by some child in school, but i love them.

the guy said i could give 5 kroner for both, but i felt badly about that, so i gave 5 kroner each (about $1). the money does, after all, go to the local scouts.

these will go nicely on my tiny houses board on pinterest (which is part of why i've posted so many photos of them here).

i do wish the child who made them had signed them. that would make them even nicer.

i also found this little teal blue typewriter for just 50 kroner. the blue is much better than it looks in this photos. i've not tried it yet, but i shall.

i had to have this sweet little red enamel bowl - it will be a perfect berry picking bowl. it says made in yugoslavia on the bottom, which makes it even more charming in my book.

tobias approves of the new chicken pillow. or maybe it's just that i put it in his favorite chair.

* * *

i love this little article about unusable words.

* * *

and how about an imaginary world encyclopedia that is unreadable?

* * *

and speaking of books, reading this article makes me long to have lived in another time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

friday randomness

little chocolate-colored flowers from the garden on the windowsill. i've been collecting acorn caps every time i go out to the barn as well, to try my hand at lisa's famous felted acorns. i want a more natural look to our christmas tree this year.

i thought the raspberries were finished after we had a couple of frosty nights in recent weeks. but they were most decidedly not finished and the frost seems to have rendered them sweeter and more delicious than ever.

* * *

in the wake of the recent weeks of madness in the US congress, i find myself wondering what passport i will have when the US completely falls apart? will illinois issue passports themselves? or south dakota? or arizona? and what will the requirements be? place you were born? where you last lived? where you hold your driver's license? or will i qualify for asylum in denmark as a stateless person?

* * *

have you seen these fabulous dressed sculptures? they bring hipster to a whole new level.

* * *

i'm missing the child, but she's having a wonderful time in st. petersburg. and thanks to the wonders (and ubiquitousness) of wifi and FaceTime, we've been speaking to her daily. things have most definitely changed since i studied in russia nearly 20 years ago (holy crap, it was nearly 20 years ago!)

* * *

our local scouts hold a big two-day flea market every year at this time and i can't wait 'til the doors open at 2 so i can go to see what treasures are there! photos will most surely follow.

* * *

happy weekend, one and all.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

bullying: nothing will change if you can't discuss it

i've got bullying on the brain. a week or so ago, several parents in our community called a town meeting to raise awareness of bullying in our community. i saw a sign about it at the library, but it was the same day that i spent at the food co-creation event and i only got back to town as it was starting and i still hadn't fed my family yet at that point, so i didn't go, even tho' i was curious about it. earlier in the year, i worked on english subtitles for a danish program about bullying that was broadcast on DR1. while my own child doesn't have problems with it (either as bully or bullied, thank goodness) at school, i know it's a big issue in schools and frankly, in the workplace and other places among adults.

it turned out that very few people attended the meeting that evening. and the reason is a disturbing one. apparently teachers at the 0-6 school had taken down the signs about the meeting and spread the word that it had been canceled. and quite a lot of parents must have believed it, as only a handful came to a meeting where they were expecting to have more people there than were allowed by the fire code (that would have been 150+). why would teachers not want this important topic to be discussed, i wondered?

the issue moved to the pages of the local newspaper in the days that followed. the first article reported on the meeting - three parents of children who were bullied told their sad and harsh stories. the reporter expressed that it was too bad no one from the bully's side had shown up and that there was no debate on the topic, as had been planned, since it was only the bullied side that was present.

but that must have not been quite correct, as the next day, there was an interview with the principal of the 7-9th grade school, where she said she had attended the meeting and thought it was a shame that she was never given the chance to speak. the first article had indicated that there was no one else present who wanted to speak, so i wonder if she didn't even try to speak up that evening.

she confirmed that the posters had been taken down by teachers at the other school, but said that they would have to speak for their own actions, she wouldn't do so for them. she also indicated that the school acts immediately in cases of bullying, talking to both the children involved and their parents immediately. she gave a recent example of a student who had used a fellow student's gym bag as a toilet and was going to be replacing his bag. she did admit that teachers and school leadership could only do something about incidents which they knew about and that undoubtedly other things happened at school that were never reported and thus not acted upon. fair enough that the teachers cannot be everywhere at all times.

things were quiet for a couple of days and then the story of the worst bullying incident came out in the newspaper. the story had been told at the meeting that evening, but too few had heard it. it was a case of systematic bullying over two years, which resulted in the boy in question growing increasingly angry and violent himself and eventually he, as the bullied, was kicked out of school. he was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the bullying and spent several months away from school. he's now started in a new school, as it was impossible for him to return. a sad tale indeed.

only one side of the tale has been told, as the school claims to be under a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the case. all of the parents received a letter from the superintendent who is responsible for both local schools, on friday (the day after the article appeared). the tone of the letter is very defensive and, in my view, not at all willing to admit that there is an issue. he claims that they have been "hung out" and that not all of the stories are true and that it's quite difficult to have to just "sit back and take it," due to the confidentiality agreement. the letter tries only to shut down the discussion, not open up for an honest conversation that might lead to solutions and new thinking around ways of handling bullying.

then, on monday, a politician got involved and has asked the school for a written explanation of the events in the story of the boy who ended up with PTSD. the explanation will be handled on a political, municipal level by the division of children and young people. it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

i find it sad that it's such a sensitive issue that it seems to be impossible for the school to open up and talk about it. no one wants there to be bullying so bad that a child is chased out of school completely, but to not be able to discuss it is a tragedy. how can anyone learn from the experience and prevent the next one if it's surrounded by defensiveness and a lack of open, honest discussion?

in the program i worked with in the early spring, many of the teachers were also very closed and unwilling to discuss the topic, some of them actually resorted to bullying tactics themselves on the man who was making the program, ignoring him and not letting him join them for lunch when he asked. unless they are involved in the bullying themselves, i can't see why teachers wouldn't want to open up and look for solutions together with parents and the community as a whole?

it's a sad affair all around and i'm grateful that somehow or other it's not an issue that's affected our family or our child's love for school. a week or so ago, she was actually sick and insisted on going because she didn't want to miss out on what they'd be doing in class that week. so the school is doing something (and probably a whole lot of something) right, but they're not handling this bullying issue very well. not very well at all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

creativity and co-creation

this morning an article with the shocking headline of ted talks are lying to you caught my eye. my initial thought was, "say it isn't so!" but then i remembered that brené brown drivel on which i once spent 20 minutes of my life that i'll never have back. brené - what kind of a pretentious crap name is that? but thomas frank lays out a pretty good case for the pop phenomenon of self-help/business books on the topic of creativity. they're formulaic (like most business books), they're filled with the same stories (invention of the post-it with a few bob dylan lyrics thrown in) and they're not really about creativity at all, but about conformity and societal norms. and that made a lot of sense to me. because i've experienced myself how truly thinking outside the box will get you thrown out of the club, because what people really want is to be surrounded by people who think as they do, not by people who push them to think differently and behave in new ways.

it's an interesting read and it makes a lot of sense to me and articulates the aversion i've found that i have for books on cultivating creativity, without really knowing why i found myself rolling my eyes at them. what he doesn't go into is something i've been pondering of late and that's whether it's even possible to be truly creative and think outside of the box (i hate that phrase)? i'm beginning to think that creativity has much more to do with regular, even dogged, practice than it has to do with any epiphanies. the possibility of developing something unique and which is truly yours or truly an expression of what you'd like to, well, express, is nearly null. anything we make is somehow a conglomeration of influences and experiences and contains grains of them all, rather than being something completely new and unique. even a post it is really just weak tape and a small piece of paper, it's not anything new.

but that said, i do believe in a creative practice, tho' i admit that i do it myself in fits and starts and not very consistently. and i believe in the power of co-creation - where a group of people from different, seemingly diverse fields, come together and put their ideas into one big pot, where they are stirred together and become new and improved ideas. and i'd say that one of my main talents lies in an ability to put such groups together and have magic come of it. but it's unpredictable and the magic is always, always different than you imagined it would be. that's actually the magical thing about magic. to co-create ideas with other people also means being very open and willing to throw an idea into the mix and see it change and morph and become something else that only carries a kernel of what it originally was. and it's there that a lot of people have problems. they're not willing to let go of their precious baby ideas and really let them outside of their original box. i think that's where the dogged persistence and the actual nitty, gritty work come in. you have to keep going and pushing and seeing what happens. just like in real life.

and ultimately, it's why i still think ted talks are a good thing - ideas are floated into the world, consumed by people, who combine them with their own ideas and they become something else entirely. life, it's an act of co-creation.

* * *

always pondering libraries, so i liked this guardian piece by neil gaiman.

* * *

fantastic photos and stories of a forgotten russia.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

in vino veritas: thoughts of st. petersburg

with sabin in st. petersburg, my thoughts turn to russian poetry. i've said it before, i'm a prose person, not a poetry person, but this one by alexander blok is one of the few i like.

The Stranger

The restaurants on hot spring evenings
Lie under a dense and savage air.
Foul drafts and hoots from dunken revelers
Contaminate the thoroughfare.
Above the dusty lanes of suburbia
Above the tedium of bungalows
A pretzel sign begilds a bakery
And children screech fortissimo.

And every evening beyond the barriers
Gentlemen of practiced wit and charm
Go strolling beside the drainage ditches --
A tilted derby and a lady at the arm.

The squeak of oarlocks comes over the lake water
A woman's shriek assaults the ear
While above, in the sky, inured to everything,
The moon looks on with a mindless leer.

And every evening my one companion
Sits here, reflected in my glass.
Like me, he has drunk of bitter mysteries.
Like me, he is broken, dulled, downcast.

The sleepy lackeys stand beside tables
Waiting for the night to pass
And tipplers with the eyes of rabbits
Cry out: "In vino veritas!"

And every evening (or am I imagining?)
Exactly at the appointed time
A girl's slim figure, silk raimented,
Glides past the window's mist and grime.

And slowly passing throught the revelers,
Unaccompanied, always alone,
Exuding mists and secret fragrances,
She sits at the table that is her own.

Something ancient, something legendary
Surrounds her presence in the room,
Her narrow hand, her silk, her bracelets,
Her hat, the rings, the ostrich plume.

Entranced by her presence, near and enigmatic,
I gaze through the dark of her lowered veil
And I behold an enchanted shoreline
And enchanted distances, far and pale.

I am made a guardian of the higher mysteries,
Someone's sun is entrusted to my control.
Tart wine has pierced the last convolution
of my labyrinthine soul.

And now the drooping plumes of ostriches
Asway in my brain droop slowly lower
And two eyes, limpid, blue, and fathomless
Are blooming on a distant shore.

Inside my soul a treasure is buried.
The key is mine and only mine.
How right you are, you drunken monster!
I know: the truth is in the wine.

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok

slipping through my fingers

as i write this, sabin's landing in st. petersburg. yes, we did let her go in the end. if it had been just her, i would have easily said "no thanks," but her best friend, who turns 13 on thursday, was going as well, and that would have left her all alone on the trip with a bunch of kids from other schools who she didn't know. i just couldn't do that to them. and i felt completely better, delivering her to the airport at 4:30 this morning. she was so excited and so relaxed and confident as she made her way through airport security. the kid is a seasoned traveler, after all. she's going to be fine. i made her promise to take a million pictures.

i'll admit i listened to this in the car on the way home...

Monday, October 14, 2013

triangles are the new circle

my inspired-by-pinterest dreamcatcher totem homage to nature and the goddess is hanging on the door, warding off any evil spirits and bad karma that might want to enter our house this week. here's hoping it's a good one. (both the week and the magical yarn-wrapped stick.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

is i maven my ass

i'm not religious, not in a conventional sense, but i have a fatalistic streak, undoubtedly from having been raised presbyterian (which in our little town was more of a social distinction than a religious one). and i keep wondering if all of these big red flashing lights that have gone off in front of me about sabin's trip to russia are really and truly signs. and if they were and i didn't listen to them, how will i ever live with it? but what if they're not and my expectations to the professionalism of a flock of amateur clowns who normally spend their days playing pool after school with a bunch of quasi-teenagers are simply too high? how do you decide? and how do you live with your decisions afterwards? arrgh!

a friend told me to have is i maven - ice(cream?) in my stomach, if i literally translate. but i don't think it has anything to do with courage, it's more a question of trust. do i trust these people to take care of my 12-year-old daughter in st. petersburg when they can't actually communicate properly or provide me with a simple flight itinerary?  i really don't know what to do about this. are they just a bunch of amateurs who venture no further than a german bunker on a danish beach during their own vacations, so they have no idea what information they should provide? will it all be ok once they get there, because after all, they are used to spending time with young people and even accustomed to traveling with them (to places like berlin, copenhagen, paris and norway)? or will they be as condescending and arrogant with my child as they are towards me? i really feel i don't have the answers to those questions and they certainly aren't forthcoming with the details i've been asking for either. is it the biggest sign of all that they can't even spell st. petersburg in what little correspondence they have had? when is a sign a sign?

send in the clowns

ahh, it's a day and a half until the school group departs for st. petersburg. still no visas and still no flight details, tho' we did, late thursday evening, get a more detailed itinerary as to the actual sights the kids will see. we were told they have to be at the airport at 4:30 a.m. on tuesday, tho' no flight number or time or anything to accompany that enlightening little fact. we were given a link to the air baltic website and a reference number so we could check in online. sadly, since it's a group reservation, i cannot actually access flight numbers, flight path or flight times (e.g. an itinerary) and it's still too early to check her in, so i can't see it that way either. so i wrote back and said that i thought that the flight information was missing on the information we received. 

the clown who sent it responded, "what specifically is missing?" 

i answered, "times, flight numbers, airline, just the usual flight itinerary, like any normal trip." then i further explained that i couldn't see it on the air baltic website, due to it being a group reservation. i said i couldn't imagine there were direct flights between billund and st. petersburg, so there must be at least one flight about which we lacked any information at all.

then, while impatiently waiting for an answer (he had answered quickly the first time, despite it being sunday, so i expected an answer just as quickly), i thought i'd dig out an old flight itinerary and show him what i meant (tho' in this day and age, imagining that someone hasn't seen an airline's flight itinerary is a bit of a stretch). so i sent him an old one from my days of traveling with SAS (they once owned Air Baltic, so i figured the same systems would be in place). and since his tactic is to treat me as if i'm a small, dull child, i carefully explained it all to him:
"When you travel, the travel agency or even just the airline provides a PDF with all of the flight details on it. I have attached an example, in case you're not familiar with these. It contains all of the information needed for the flights - flight number, airline, departure time, terminal, arrival time, how much luggage is allowed. All of this information is included for each of your flights. Everything you need to know about your flights if you (or more importantly, your 12-year-old child) are going on a trip to another country. Depending on the airline, it's even available electronically, so you can use Passport on your iPhone as your ticket/check-in.

I expect to receive such an itinerary tomorrow morning at the latest. Specifically."
he initially responded that he didn't have such a detailed itinerary, but that he would look into it.

then, a little bit later, he sends this:
BT146 Billund - Riga
BT442 Riga - Sct. Petersborg (sic)
BT445 Sct. Petersborg (sic) - Riga
BT145 Riga - Sct. Petersborg (sic - believe this should read Billund)
we're getting closer, but still no flight times or the actual dates of the flights (tho' the dates i more or less know, since a previous 8-mail conversation finally revealed those).

why be so difficult, i wondered and so i remarked "no times/dates? very mysterious."

then he has the nerve to answer that they were included in the previous mail. which they were not. if they were, i wouldn't have been asking in the first place.

and i couldn't help myself, i had to ask:
I sincerely do not understand why getting this perfectly normal, logical information out of you is like pulling teeth. What possible reason would you have to keep essential details like this from us? It was the same way with the changed dates, it took 4-5 emails to get the new dates from you. I don't think I'm asking too much or for anything out of the ordinary. I am a parent who wants to know the details of her 12-year-old daughter's trip.
and funnily enough, it's been nearly and hour and he hasn't answered. and i still don't know the actual flight times of these flights. tho' now, with the flight numbers, i could look it up and probably will. we have exchanged ten mails and i still don't have the information i need and it's not like it's something special i'm asking for, just a simple, normal flight itinerary, which every travel agent or airline provides when you make a booking. i just wonder why it has to be so hard? 

i would have canceled this whole thing long ago, but somehow i want to see how it plays out. and if we cancel, sabin's friend is left alone on the trip without anyone she knows and we didn't want to do that to her. i'm still holding out hope that it won't happen because they won't have the visas by 4:30 a.m. tuesday morning, but only time will tell. 

i'll keep you posted.

update: i finally got a response from the clown, he said, and i quote (translation mine), "i have read your mail and have nothing to add. that's it from here." 

* * *

"Society is telling us, like, be true to yourself, authentic, develop your potential, be kind to others. It’s kind of what I ironically call a slightly enlightened Buddhist hedonism."
--yup, zizek has still got it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

the joy of jumping

all dressed up for their first gala party at school. last week, all of the classes made films and last night, they had an "oscar" party to award the best ones. through our connections in the states, we ordered up dresses that no one else would have and spent some nerve wracking hours in various malls last week, looking for the perfect shoes. it was so much fun helping them with hair and a touch of makeup (mostly mascara). they looked so pretty and joyful and excited.

but i don't wish myself back there, not even for a second. nor do i fear the years ahead and what they will bring. it was just lovely to see them all dressed up, happy and excited for their party in the here and now. they were bubbling with energy and happiness and it was wonderful. we have to enjoy these moments as they come and leave all of the worries and regrets for some other day. and yesterday, in the presence of the bloom of youth, it was easy to do just that.