The Perilous Journey of Becoming…

‘Wrote those last two posts about becoming and then what shows up in my inbox overnight but this uplifting, funny little video on the subject! If you’re in your office, be forewarned, there’s a snappy rendition of “All of Me” playing the whole 2 minutes, 53 seconds…


Full Moon full of promise

My friend Helen is far more comfortable with her woo-woo fu-fu side than am I. In fact, most of my friends are more comfortable with their New Age hippiness than I have ever been.

Late one night, back in our senior year of college, my three roommates and I were sitting around talking and Kara shared a revelation; it was an Aha! moment. She threw her hands up and exclaimed, “You’re a hippie in normal people’s clothes!!!”

Shhhhhhhh. Let’s not tell anyone.

Since this was at one of the hippiest places on the planet, a college opened in 1970 as an experiment in education, that was pretty funny.

Anyway, I not-so-secretly like to read the fascinating info about the moon and its meanings on an AstroHippie link from Helen’s blog. I really like, if not believe in, this stuff. Parts of it anyway. The rest I skip.

Tonight is the full moon. For this particular full moon the astrologer began,

This is the Full Moon of the Guru [skipped part]. A night dedicated to thanking all our teachers, in every walk of life. An Aquarius Full Moon asks us to especially honor unique and revolutionary teachers: those who vision far out beyond the rest of us. Those dedicated to upliftment, freedom, utopianism and humanitarianism.

Pretty much all the rest I skipped, but that first bit I liked and thought about as I walked Mufasa tonight. The full moon was hidden behind Monte San Salvatore; remnants of its bright rays shot up in all directions, like sun sometimes does from behind the clouds.

I thought about teachers, the ones who’ve taught me the most, what I’ve learned from different paeople along the way. The usual suspects and unexpected teachers. I feel swing (music) from the very bottom of my soul thanks to Mr. Andrew J. Wright and picked him up a card from the Montreux jazz festival to tell him so. I had a great series of teachers in Universities — but two (Sut Jhally and Mike Tracey) were really what she described in that quote, seeing what others don’t, committed to things the rest of us lose track of along the way. They are both so controversial. Strange, that. They’re on fire for justice each in his own way. I loved that about them, but it seems like they’re way before their time, unfortunately. Maybe that’s the point.

Here’s what I was really chewing on: Even though I’m not going back to the classroom in a few weeks, even though I’m thrilled about that, I am looking for what part of what’s next will allow me to step up into that role with greater reach, to carry and create a vision and upliftment further than my eyes can see right now.

I have some ideas brewing…

Okay, that’s all the woo-woo fu-fu I can handle. Happy Full Moon to you! Give thanks for your teachers with vision.

Le lingue (Languages)

Back in Lugano it is hot again. On a walk through downtown this week I heard tourist children whining to their mothers, “It’s hooooot,” in at least three different languages.
I start an intensive Italian class first thing Monday morning — my first course since I arrived nearly two years ago. I’m a little bit worried about being in school again, mostly about having to get up and out and down into downtown with my homework complete by 9 a.m. every day!

And another thing. We didn’t so much like our French teacher in high school, Judy Stratton. When I say we I mean pretty much all of us. We took the AP exam in a nearby church. To enter the building, we had to walk under a garden archway that read, “Enter and Pray.” My friends Carrie and Joe made a t-shirt for me with a photo of that. Funny.

All of this is to say that we didn’t like her then, but I am so glad for Judy Stratton now. My French is great even after all these years. I think I’ll take a French class after Italian. My goal is to be able to put on my résumé that I speak English, French and Italian. I’d forgotten that long-ago goal. Where did it get lost? No matter, lately my experience is like, “Aah, yes! This is the life I meant to lead when I grew up!”

How cool is that? What are your long-ago forgotten goals, the things you wanted to be when you grew up that you dropped somewhere along the way? Are there any you’d reclaim today?

Favorite Photos from Lac Leman

One night last week Amy and I strolled along the waterfront in Montreux. I stopped every now and then to snap a photo. I have not altered the color a bit. One of them I cropped out a construction crane. Otherwise these are unaltered and I love them.

That night we also had a light dinner at a great restaurant right on the water, the Palais Oriental. It is beautiful — the building is a work of art in itself — and serves fine Lebanese, Moroccan and Iranian food. It was quite a cultural experience. As we were leaving at about 10 p.m. the first wave of diners dispersed and Arab families came in in droves. Next to us two young men sat quietly and watched two tables full of beautiful young women talk and throw back their shrouded heads in laughter. It felt like we were in Morocco or Istanbul or Iran, not Montreux.

On Tuesday Amy worked in the afternoon and our Australian friend, Jen, and I walked around in Vevey, headquarters of Nestle and where she lives. Great town.

Le Temple on the Border

Last Saturday A and I crossed the border from Switzerland by car to do the party preparation grocery shopping in France. This because the Swiss have some sort of cartel and regulations that make red meat crazy expensive. You can buy a certain amount of meat per person and bring it back over the border, and that is just what we did. Amy actually told the nice border guard that we had douze saucissons(twelve sausages). The grocery store was enormous, what the French call an hypermarché. LOVED IT. I could fantasize all night now about tragically getting locked in there with all that paté, cheese, fresh bread and pastry. Ooh. La. La.

In honor of that little expedition last Saturday let me share with you the first major business you come to over the Swiss-French border. It just seems right to leave you with the Temple of the Cheese. That is actually what is says. I did not make that up.

A Week on Lac Leman

Mufasa and I headed for the hills, and my friend Amy’s house on Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Leman.

She lives in the small town of St. Gingolph. This is the view from her yard. Montreux is across the lake there. The south side of the lake is much less populated, it’s referred to as the French side because the French border falls much further east there. The North shore of the lake is in Switzerland all the way to Geneva.

The French border is steps from A’s house and when we walked in the evenings, we’d go right across. Nobody was even there.

This is a strange shot I took of the front of her house… hers has the lime green shutters…
She had a great garden party last Sunday. It was amazing how many nationalities were represented. When little kids would come in, adults would say, “Do you speak English or French?’ and they’d say, “Both,” like it was totally no big deal.

One funny thing about getting there is that it’s not far as the crow flies, but the easiest way to drive there seems to be on the Swiss highways and that means travelling in a giant inverted V almost the whole darned country (over a whopping 4.5 hours, far for Switzerland). So I went through the St Gotthard tunnel, past Lucerne, Bern, Fribourg and down into her region, past Montreux, around the eastern edge of the lake and she is literally where the pink curls around and ends on the southeastern tip of the lake. ‘Drove through three different languages and cultures in the span of a few hours. Weird.

In the midst of it I pulled over for gas and came across Cindy’s 1950s Diner on the highway. Strange.

It was a jam-packed week. We found a GREAT kennel for Mufasa, marking his first leash-free romp with other canines in years. He stayed there for five nights, behaved like a perfect gentleman and made lots of canine and human friends.

We went to a fabulous thermal spa called Lavey-les-Bains and shopped in the very French-seeming little village nearby, Monthey. Cute little place with wonderful shops. This was a great day I would recommend to any traveller anywhere. I wrote a little bit more about that over at Fine Things.

What’s happening

What’s happening these days is that it’s hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. There’s an intricate system of opening and closing the windows and shutters at just the right times throughout the day to maximize airflow and minimize heating up the rooms inside. I don’t quite do it right and Rina, who’s in her 70s but seems 100, tsk tsks and instructs me. In Italian, of course. I understand, nod, and smile through gritted teeth. It’s always something with Rina.

What’s happening is that it rained and rained, too much in May and June, and now there are mosquitoes everywhere. We all try not to turn on lights at night because the bugs are drawn indoors (the windows and shutters are open to let the cool air in all night), but they must seek out body heat, too, because my legs are covered in bites.

What’s happening is sunflowers and the roses’ second bloom of the season and grapes growing fuller on the vine.

What’s happening is I’m letting Mufasa off the leash on our walks so I can stand in the shade while he wades into tall grasses to do his business. He wanders off in the mornings and comes back quickly but last night he snuck away purposefully; I saw him duck down into some bushes… to have a little adventure of his own.

I used to let him off the leash more. Last year he ran away and found a place not too far from our walking path where there were bones — I think the guy who owns the land is a hunter. Clearly Mufasa remembered the bone place because after a few minutes he emerged on the path in the woods with what appeared to be a picked clean, bleached human femur! For a dog allergic to everything, who can’t have so much as a Milk Bone dog treat, you can imagine the pleasure. He didn’t drool; he didn’t chomp; he would not put it down to have a drink of water at the town fountain on our way home, as he usually does. Oh no. His jaw was perfectly still around that bone til he laid down on the back patio to commence gnawing. I didn’t let him. I took it away immediately and put it in the garbage. To my surprise, he has not been hunting around the house for it. He probably suspected I would do that.

What else is happening? Blackberries are everywhere, the bushes growing wild, thorny branches jutting out into the walking path, scratching up my ankles as we go.

I’m reading again — during the school year it seemed I couldn’t be still and quiet long enough to read much, but you’ll note the addition of the “Books by the Bed” links at left. I liked these books all for very different reasons. The third in the Ya-Ya trilogy sounds like my heritage. It was all little vignettes, somewhat disjointed, but she makes me laugh and sounds like the South and it felt familiar on some primordial level. The Lady in the Palazzo was the third in Marlena De Blasi’s trilogy of memoirs about moving to Italy. In each book you get a sense of the three different towns in which she’s lived, but neither of these books compares to the sheer writing skill displayed in Anne Tyler’s Digging to America. It’s the novel of two families in Balitmore — one Iranian, one typically American — who adopt Korean babies that arrive on the same plane. Tyler captures the human condition and delivers it in snippets of dialogue. Finally, I picked up a memoir by Carole Radziwill in Target a few weeks ago. I didn’t know who she was. I just started it last night and will keep you posted…

It seems summer is restructuring time and a few places in Gentilino are being completely renovated. One is surrounded by scaffolding; this lovely villa’s being gutted inside. I wonder where the family has gone while all the work is being done. **I heard them tonight on our walk — they are living in the top floor!**

Finally, Stefan’s stuff was delivered yesterday and has consumed parts of the house. So the things are here, if not the man! Mufasa and I are going to Lake Geneva for almost a week tomorrow to visit a friend who lives in a small town, St Gingolph, on the southeast tip of the lake. We will go to the Montreux jazz festival Thursday and Friday nights, I think. I’m hoping it will be cool. Not like hip, happening, now, etc. but fewer degrees farenheit or celsius. Right now, none of the rest of it really matters.

Other happenings can be found at Fine Things…

Ladies Who Launch

Oh how far we’ve come from the days when you got a degree, a job, an office, a bigger and better office, an award or two maybe, slightly longer vacations and then a retirement party and a gift-wrapped watch. I was just reading this article in the New York Times, “Women Build Businesses Their Way,” and found this quote interesting:

Women follow their instincts and build businesses that stem from their lifestyles. They seldom begin with a business plan or financing. They multitask the many parts of their lives, hatching companies on the side while working in other jobs or raising families. And their careers rarely follow linear paths.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Frances Mayes did it. Marlena de Blasi’s doing it. Laura Fraser didn’t even move here and she’s done well off her vacations in Italy. Lots of people have made a living sharing about their experiences moving, or even just travelling abroad. So I’m trying to figure out how to get paid for what I already love to do. I’m living this rollercoaster adventure — there must be a way to tell the story that will entertain, make a difference, contribute to people in some way.

The second step seems to be creating a team around it. Do you know anyone who specializes in Web marketing? How about someone who’s built a similar business? What kinds of information and/or stories would you like to see? At this point I’ve pretty much got them all… from sneaking Mufasa over the German border at Christmas without his papers to getting him a Swiss passport of his own (and I don’t even have one!); how to get insurance when you’re unemployed in a foreign country, why dating French and Italian men became out of the question, how Italian men use online dating sites… the best places to eat and stay in and around Italy …and on, and on, and on.

Now what to do with all this information? What do you think?

On Funding the Adventure

I got myself a coach. Like if I wanted to learn how to play golf, I’d probably go down to the local course by the Agno airport here and find a pro to teach me some basics and watch me practice, give me feedback, etc. I got a coach for shaping the next part of my career. She’s from New Zealand and lives here in Switzerland but I met her online on Xing because she was offering free sessions through a women’s networking group.

Anyway, I got on the phone with her for my first call and we were just getting to know one another and already, about 7 minutes in, I was having these Aha! moments. She had seen my profile on Xing where I listed past jobs, interests, experience… but after I’d spoken for a few minutes she exclaimed all surprised-like, “You’re really creative!” I realized immediately that I separate out the creative parts of me from the work parts of me as if the creativity, it’s just for fun… but work, work is serious stuff; it’s where the money comes from. Interesting.

Then she asked, “Okay well you have a little time to put this all together. If in four months you could be doing exactly what you want to be doing, what would it be?” And here’s the revelation. It sounds so simple now:

I’ve wanted to do exactly the same things since I was a teenager and I’ve done other things instead. Over and over and over and over. And then they’re not really what I want to be doing and then I wind up at exactly this crossroads again. And here we are. You know what I want to do?

Sing. And write my own stuff and talk about it with other people.

So we’re making a plan, she and I. One thing she said was that it doesn’t have to be an either/or. I don’t have to either do the creative things I love or do the safe things that make money. I could do both at the same time. That’s probably how this will happen for now.

There’s a set of videos on YouTube about a guy named Paul Potts. His story starts here. If you click into other videos you can see what happens to him. It reminds me to go for it.

What about you? What do you reeeeeaaaaalllllyyy want to do with your time, with yourself? What’s your dream? And how do you think I could make money off these random musings? How to fund the adventure?