Archive for the 'Biographical' Category

Greetings 2018

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 12:59

 
Peat winch, Lofoten, Norway

“Truth can appear as disaster in a land of things unspoken.”
Joy Harjo, “The Naming”, in The Woman Who Fell From The Sky

2017 was the year in which I was finally able to weave in loose ends. This is a meme I’ve done for seven years: at the end of 2009, the end of 2010, the end of 2011, the very start of 2013 for 2012, the end of 2013, and remembering the year 2014. In 2015 I had broken my arm at the end of the year, followed by a wild 2016; a lot of the effects of those two years can be seen in 2017.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
Visited Norway. The photo here is of a peat winch in the fog up there. I also started a new job, travelled to London for work, and rented my place in Nice.

In 2016 I ran races for the first time since high school – 5K and 10K, and I did a second 10K early in 2017.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Staring in 2013, my resolution has been to “act from a place of inner peace.” It’s proven to be an excellent resolution, including in times when peace is hard to come by. When you’ve become attuned to your own peace, it’s easier to see toxic situations for what they are and take appropriate steps.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A few friends, yes. Adorable babies!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, a dear childhood friend and her children, quite tragically. Also my sweet Susu the soot sprite.

5. What countries did you visit?
France, Belgium, Norway, England (just London though)

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
New furniture! Everything else is great, which is nice to be able to say.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Starting the new job and visiting Norway. My new job has been a collection of enriching experiences, and Norway was indescribably wonderful.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
A lot of career achievements. I won’t talk about them online other than to say I’m happy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Taking on more than I could chew at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
None in 2016 or 2017, apart from a flu in December that treated me kindly all told.
In October of 2015 I broke my right arm (I’m right-handed) while roller skating. It healed well and I recovered most of my mobility, though it still aches from time to time.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane and train tickets

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Friends’; the kind people I’ve worked with.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
This is one I’ve said for years now: xenophobia and racism. Given the context in the US, it’s sobering to read what I wrote in 2013 and 2014: “‘there’s always some here and there, but for whatever reason, [2013] seemed quite pronounced.’ Well, 2014 unfortunately added to that.” We’re all human and different in our own ways. We need to remember that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel and home improvement – finally got work done on my place in Nice, which helped find renters.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Meeting people in Norway – it was lovely.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Very much happier.
b) thinner or thicker? Same!
c) richer or poorer? Richer, for which I’m grateful.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
It was a very fulfilling year – I met wonderful people, knit, ran, enjoyed the cats, gardened, cooked… The only thing I still haven’t done and want to do is get back to sewing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stress.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Knitting with the cats. Highly recommended.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
No.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I finally got a Netflix subscription and enjoyed “The Crown”, “Alias Grace” and “Black Mirror”.

23. What was the best book you read?
“The Famished Road” by Ben Okri

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Frame drumming

25. What did you want and get?
New job, renters for my place in Nice, happy cats.

26. What did you want and not get?
It would feel strange to ask for more, and that’s how I looked at things throughout the year. 2017 was abundant on a personal level.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Absolutely 100% without a doubt “Wonder Woman“. One of my favorite movies ever.

28. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
2017 was very satisfying as is.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Understated but colorful.

31. What kept you sane?
Knitting, music, friends and the cats.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Equality and tolerance.

33. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

34. Who was the best new person you met?
They’re all unique and neat people.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017:
Listening is powerful.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“Tout mais pas l’indifférence” – Jean-Jacques Goldman

And now for 2015

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 14:02

 
Tuareg woman's veil key

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”quote by Rumi

At the end of 2013, I knew that 2014 would necessarily be a year in which my life would turn upside down; however, I could never guess the extent to which that would be true. What may seem like an organic process seen from the outside, was in reality a series of sequential surprises that, with hindsight, each seem to have prepared the way for the next, so that I gladly accepted them. Had you told me in January of this year that I would sell my Nice apartment and take the cats to live and work in Paris, I would have laughed and said “no way,” for several reasons. Gradually, each of those reasons showed to be lesser than the fulfillment that progressively grew as I settled here. “Upside down” has indeed shown itself to be “right-side up.”

Now for this year’s installment of the meme I’ve done for five years: at the end of 2009, the end of 2010, the end of 2011, the very start of 2013 for 2012, and the end of 2013.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Whew! Where to start? Lived in Paris, took the cats on the TGV, put my apartment on the market, ate work lunches in restaurants, dismantled my bike to haul it from Nice to Paris, negotiated a job transfer, walked to work, visited the Louvre more than once in the same year…

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
In 2013 my resolution was to “act from a place of inner peace,” which I decided to continue for 2014, as well as riding my bike. I did my level best to find that inner peace through all the changes in 2014, which is how it all managed to work out in the end. On the other hand, I didn’t ride my bike as much as I wanted, but that’s mainly because I was instead walking around Paris.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not in 2014.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Several people I didn’t know as well passed away.
Edited to add, once I remembered: actually, my “French grandfather,” who I’d known since 1997, passed away in November. It was of natural causes and quite peaceful. He was a wonderful man: clarinetist in the Lyon national orchestra, owner of a printing house, well-read, profoundly humanist, and member of the French Resistance in Lyon during WWII. We often talked about literature, jazz, and classical music.

5. What countries did you visit?
France? :)

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
The only thing missing from 2014 was stability, but what I was able to do this year laid the foundations for it. I’m sure 2015 will bear the fruits of 2014, and am very happy to be able to say that.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Goodness, the entire year. It was a turning point on every level.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Last year I said “progress on the job, which, reaching ten years in 2014, I could probably start calling ‘career’.” This year I can confirm that: it is indeed a career, and one that’s become genuinely fulfilling. With it, I’ve been able to widen my horizons, and am deeply grateful for the opportunities.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Allowing myself to get too stressed out at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
None in 2014, apart from a couple weeks of voicelessness during the March peak in pollution.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Shared experiences :)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Friends’; the kind people I’ve worked with.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Repeating from last year: xenophobia and racism. It was even worse this year. Last year I wrote “there’s always some here and there, but for whatever reason, [2013] seemed quite pronounced.” Well, 2014 unfortunately added to that. Thankfully, though, I was with people who could talk and laugh about it.

14. Where did most of your money go?
OMG. Everywhere except my bank account. Mortgage and rent (two apartments!), travel, clothes (it’s colder in Paris than Nice), shoes, food.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Life!

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
A colleague-friend introduced me to Jacques Dutronc, who I’d known-without-knowing. This classic of his sums up my year well:

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Very much happier.
b) thinner or thicker? Thinner, from all the walking.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, for which I’m grateful in the still-sputtering economy.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Cycling, hiking, sewing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stress.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Walking around Paris.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No comment.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I don’t have a TV, but usually I watch series – this year I didn’t have the time.

23. What was the best book you read?
“Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
As mentioned earlier, Jacques Dutronc.

25. What did you want and get?
A promising future.

26. What did you want and not get?
My stinking bathroom renovation in Nice.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Qu’Allah bénisse la France“, a luminous, humanist film that reminds you cinema is an art form.

28. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
2014 could hardly have been more satisfying.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Sleek and colorful.

31. What kept you sane?
As last year, friends and creativity, Kanoko and Susu (my cats).

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Equality and tolerance.

33. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

34. Who was the best new person you met?
Still no comment.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
As long as cats have a perch, their toys, and love, they’ll be fine with a move.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Nouvel élan 2014

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 17:48

Moose calf

In French the New Year is called Le Nouvel an. Un élan is both a moose (also called elk in Europe, although they’re quite different in Pacific Northwest language) and used as a word in English that means enthusiasm. It’s often used in French to denote a “zest” for something, for instance “donner un nouvel élan à la vie” means “to give a new zest for life”. There’s also a joke often used at meals when one asks for the salt: “avec ou sans élan ?” The best response is to laugh, because if you say “avec” you’ll get the salt thrown at you – avec élan means “with vigor”. If you say “sans” you may never get the salt. Long story short, here’s to hoping that 2014 will be a nouvel an avec élan.

Without further ado, or moose, here is this year’s installment of the meme I’ve now done for four years: at the end of 2009, the end of 2010, the end of 2011, and the very start of 2013 for 2012.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
– Founded my little publishing house and published a book, which has since done well
– Bought my first road bike and cycled Riviera city roads for the first time (had kept to cycling lanes when using the Vélo Bleu rentals)

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Normally I don’t make resolutions, but last year I did decide to: “Act from a place of inner peace.” Happy to say it worked out very well. For 2014, continue doing that… and riding my bike!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Loads of babies and pregnancies in 2013!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
A very sweet tuba and bass trombone player I knew from our high school jazz band. He was only 40, and left behind his wife and five children. He died of leukemia just a few days before Christmas. We hadn’t been in close touch, but I’ve always remembered him as the archetypal big and kind-hearted tuba guy, and he’ll remain that.

5. What countries did you visit?
My trip to Australia with a stopover in Qatar was just before 2013… this year I actually didn’t visit any other countries!

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
I do wish I could have a pay raise so that I can finally afford to get my bathroom plumbing fixed and, ideally, travel outside of Europe.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
– Autumn and winter on my bike through the Riviera! Beautiful.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Progress on the job, which, reaching ten years in 2014, I could probably start calling “career”.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Again!! I didn’t manage to get my bathroom water damage repaired. I got the quote done, and a month later my kitchen flooded. All of my funds went to repairing that. Sigh. Someday I’ll have a real shower.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Last year I said “I hope 2013 will be healthier!” and it was indeed.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
You’ve probably guessed, right. Yes, my road bike.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Friends, as well as the kind people I’ve worked with.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Xenophobia and racism. It was pretty bad this year. There’s always some here and there, but for whatever reason, this year seemed quite pronounced.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, plumbing, bike, food.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Every single time I prepare for a bike ride, heh.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
This is kind of an in-joke, but “The Witch” by The Primitives.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? About the same.
b) thinner or thicker? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, again, and though that’s not saying much in terms of numbers, it is something for which I’m thankful as the economy continues to cough and sputter.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Sewing. I put it off for several months while working on other projects, but wish I hadn’t.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I’m thinking about this and can’t come up with anything, just as last year.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Eating delicious food and enjoying board games with friends! “The Witch” may or may not have to do with my implausible winning streak in one.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Stopped looking for it last year, and continued enjoying the friendships and love already surrounding me.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
“Xena: Warrior Princess” which I finally finished watching. I had seen two seasons in the States before leaving fifteen years ago. Seeing all of them was great.

23. What was the best book you read?
“Witchcrafting” no wait, that’s a mistake!! ;-)

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
My collection as listened to through my new stereo receiver. It has been lovely to rediscover rich sound.

25. What did you want and get?
That new stereo receiver, my bike (of course), happy cats continued being happy and healthy, and my “new” vintage sewing machine, which sews beautifully.

26. What did you want and not get?
My stinking bathroom renovation.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
“Pacific Rim”, though I also discovered one from 2010 that I can’t get enough of: “Trolljegeren“.

28. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
2013 was wonderfully satisfying as it was.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Libre

31. What kept you sane?
As last year, friends and creativity, Kanoko and Susu (my cats).

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Marriage equality! So happy to see it reaching more and more places, as well as France this year, of course.

33. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

34. Who was the best new person you met?
Several, at the client in Cagnes. I’m going to miss them.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
Sometimes the best response is none at all.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“She beckoned to me but I was scared to go; and all around was a weird and wonderful glow…”

Voyageons, voyageons

Posted in Biographical, Journal, La France, Travel at 21:10

In France, companies with 50 employees or more are required to have a comité d’entreprise, CE, works council, which not only serves as an apolitical employee union (in addition to external, non-company-limited unions), but also organizes activities, outings, tours, voyages and such, all at discounted prices since they can negotiate group reductions. My company’s CE organizes national and international trips, most of them to large cities I’ve already visited, but this year they offered a 3-day trip to the Camargue region. I’ve been to the area in the past, but it was 15 years ago, and have often wanted to return. It was all finalized recently, and having bought my TGV tickets, it’s been bringing back a wave of travel memories in France!

Very, very long-time readers (I know of at least one *waves to Chris*) may recall that back in 1995, I started writing web pages about France, the French language, and cross-cultural issues. The web has changed so much since then, veering from backlash against personal pages (I fondly recall receiving emails in the 90s treating me as a madwoman for thinking I had any business writing about France as an individual and mere student of French, the horrors!), to an influx of “blogs” viewed with a mix of incomprehension and mild derision, to what’s now seen as so normal that the phrase “get your own blog” has entered our vocabulary and people enjoy random photos and videos of cats.

La roue tourne ! So it is that as I rememorated my travels in France, my 1995 writings also came to mind, and I realized that in all that turning of the wheel of Internet fortunes, a record of my past travels had fallen into the ether. I would like to do a series of posts while approaching the trip to Camargue, beginning with a look back at my travels in France that have preceded it.

1995
In the fall of 1994, I started my university studies as a double Russian (yes!) and music performance major. I finished a semester of Russian language and literature courses, then decided to focus on music performance. At the same time, I continued to be intrigued by the Internet: I had first gotten online several years earlier, as a mere pre-teen, via Prodigy and a local Freenet dialup that offered UNIX accounts. Those where the days of wheezing, beeping modems, BBS, and gopher. I had a thing for gopher, because you could connect to library collections across the world, in foreign languages – utterly fascinating for an up-and-coming language and literature nerd. In my forays into foreign libraries, I met people I got along with well enough to get into IRC.

Thus my first trip to France was born. I met students at a top telecoms engineering school (university level) in Brittany, got the wild teenage idea that I could up and go with cashiering money I’d earned, and so I did, in the summer of 1995. To make a very long story short, I landed in Paris, never really saw the inside of the city, and boarded a train for Lannion. Later I took trains to the opposite side of the country, Mulhouse, through Paris again, but only seeing its métro while moving from one train station to the next. The métro blew my countryside Oregonian mind. I had never even taken a public bus before! Later my hosts in Mulhouse showed me most of Alsace, as far north as Strasbourg, with hikes in the Vosges.

That fateful trip led directly to changing my major to French. I had studied it since the age of 10, stopping only for that first year of university, then fallen definitively in love with the country during my short visit. I changed my music major to a minor, threw myself into French studies, and loved every minute of it. My web presence reflected both: with Chris, the friend I waved at earlier, we ran our university’s web presence for the School of Music and especially our marching band. I also wrote pages on France, curated a list of links (back then this was something many people did), and also wrote personal entries from time to time, before “blogs” were a thing. Thoroughly enjoying my studies helped keep me at the top of my class, and so it was that I earned a scholarship and a spot as a direct exchange student for the final year of my BA.

1997-1998
Once again, I arrived in Paris but saw only the inside of a hotel in the middle of the night, waking up before dawn to catch a TGV to Lyon. I had met a French student there, whose family lived in the Ain, and with whom I got along very well. We all loved the outdoors, hiking, travelling, literature and language – it was a wonderful time. They drove me to Chamonix, Annecy, Bourg-en-Bresse, Gex, Ambérieu, Chambéry, Grenoble, Valence, and innumerable other villages, most of them in the Rhône valley. We went on hikes in the foothills of the Alps, and the mountains themselves. I’ll always remember taking the cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi, near Mont Blanc, and seeing the glacier. We would return some years in the future, and the glacier’s rapid disappearance was easily visible. My mother-not-quite-in-law also invited me on a week-long hike through all the peaks of the Swiss and French Jura mountains, where I took some of my favorite photos… with my old Nikon 35mm!

Our university also organized outings, my favorite being to the châteaux de la Loire. Not long afterwards, my adoptive host family drove me to southern France, passing through Marseille and Arles, and on to Nîmes. It was sensory overload – I had never seen so many incredible Roman ruins and stone castles in my life, and the countryside was simply stunning. To top it all off, my father-not-quite-in-law and I both enjoyed the same types of wines: strong reds and hefty whites, so he took us to dozens upon dozens of vineyards and filled the trunk of the family Volvo with 5-liter casks.

I saw Paris for the first time in the summer of 1998! Where Lyon was a lovely concentrate of fabric arts, cinema, and literature, Paris was everything.

In the fall of 1998, I joined my French partner, who had found a job earlier in the year in Helsinki, Finland. I did love Finland, but am focusing on France in this entry, so we’ll skip two years ahead!

April 2000
I had a job interview as a web designer for a startup in Sophia Antipolis. I flew from Helsinki to Nice, and still recall my first sensation on exiting the plane: “Wow, it smells wonderful here…!” I took the bus to Sophia, the very same bus I still commute in to this day. The interview went fine, but the position wasn’t very well-defined and all the interviewers were young and terrifically ambitious, so I politely declined. Like so many web startups of the early oughts, it skyrocketed for a year or two, then floundered into nothingness.

June 2000
I returned to Nice, working as a freelance translator and interpreter. I’ve visited innumerable villages in this southeastern corner of France, as well as in Provence. My favorites are the fortified hill cities so typical of this part of the world, and our sparse yet fragrant forests. When the spring and summer sun comes out after rainfall, you can smell what I now know is a lovely mixture of pine needles, wild lavender, thyme, and rosemary.

September 2002
Corsica requires a mention of its own! Like the Rhône region, the island reminded me of my home state as soon as I set foot in Ile-Rousse. Wild, rocky, mountainous and wooded, with wild boar and goats roaming the countryside, it felt like seeing what the French Riviera must have looked like before its wild coastline was tamed into an immense, unbroken city. (Travelling from Nice to Cannes, there is not much separation between towns.) It was also the site of a rocambolesque horseback ride in which I started out on a horse who had wanted to go to stable for the evening. He made his displeasure at the change in schedule known by flipping his ears back at the prospect of carrying me. After much nipping of other horses’ rear ends, going straight down steep hillsides rather than using switchbacks, and stopping to nibble Corsican greenery, his final mischief was to piss off a couple of red long-haired cows. The irritated bovines took their own revenge-nips at my horse’s behind, he reared, I grabbed on for dear life, his neck couldn’t hold me, and so he managed to set me down gently, feet in the air and helmeted head on the ground, my back against an ancient stone shepherd’s lean-to while the other riders gasped and laughed.

The digital age
I forget exactly when I got my first digital camera, but starting around 2004, most of my other travels have been photographed and put online, with a few older film photos scanned as well.

Growing up, it seemed wild just to imagine visiting European capitals, much less the joyful peregrinations I’ve had the good fortune to experience in reality. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming Camargue trip since it has been so long since I’ve been elsewhere in France, other than this southeast corner and Paris. The southwest is one part of l’Hexagone that I still haven’t seen much of.

Belated New Year 2013

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 20:19

Seaweed

Belated due to traveling by air, land, and water (see above)! Here’s this year’s installment of the now-traditional meme I’ve done for three years: at the end of 2009, the end of 2010, and the end of 2011.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
– Visited countries in the Middle East and in the southern hemisphere, neither of which I’d set foot in before. (More to come on those visits soon :) )
– Wore a significant amount of clothes that I’d sewn myself – before it had been one or two items, but in 2012, probably 20% of what I wore was handmade.
– Wrote a book – more to come on this soon as well!
– Voted in two presidential elections (dual citizenship): France and the US

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Normally I don’t make resolutions, so there weren’t any to keep from last year. However, this year I do have a resolution:
– Act from a place of inner peace.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not of a child, no.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My UO School of Music Dean (from when I attended, 1994-1997), in horrific circumstances: Anne Dhu McLucas. No one who knew her would ever have imagined such an ending for her vibrant, warm personality.

5. What countries did you visit?
Australia and Qatar, with an absolutely wonderful time with a friend and other friends made once in Australia.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Last year I answered “I’m at a place where I genuinely don’t feel I’m lacking anything important.” At this beginning of 2013, that sentiment has actually increased, for which I’m immensely grateful. I would hope that 2013 continues to build on friendships and peace.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
– My Christmas-New Year holidays in Australia, without a doubt.
– Visiting Villa Kerylos and Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Personal growth

9. What was your biggest failure?
Again… I didn’t manage to get my bathroom water damage repaired. This is a priority for 2013, really honestly seriously, heh.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
2012 was not so great in the illness department. Lots of flus and colds, as well as a couple of nasty infections. No injuries, however. I hope 2013 will be healthier!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My media cabinet! It has been so nice to have a put-together living room, finally.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
In the two previous years, I answered that of my friends. This year, one friend in particular stood out: Sue in Perth, who so generously housed and fed me as well as showing me her part of the world. Thanks to her, I have warm and enjoyable memories for a lifetime.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
This goes together with the answer to 8, personal growth: this year I learned how (and most importantly, why) not to let others’ bad behavior get to me so much. So, no one in particular very much stands out in the negative, since I was able to move on from the consequences in good time.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, travel, food, sewing patterns and fabric.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Visiting Australia, naturally!

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Chemical Brothers music and the theme to Downton Abbey.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier, which I honestly didn’t believe possible.
b) thinner or thicker? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, again, though that’s still not saying much :)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Playing my digital piano. I’ve been out of habit for so long that I still neglect it too much.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I’m thinking about this and can’t come up with anything, just as last year.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Hot. Very hot. 43°C/110°F hot. Meeting neat people and drinking stubbies (beer) in Toodyay, Western Australia. We had a great time!

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Stopped looking for it and enjoyed the friendships and love already surrounding me.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
“Downton Abbey” in spite of all its rose-colored upper-class faults.

23. What was the best book you read?
Do sewing patterns count? :) If so, definitely Vogue 8808 (this links to the dress I sewed from it).

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Nothing really stood out as memorable, although I did discover some new stuff, of course.

25. What did you want and get?
Meeting new friends and reconnecting with old.

26. What did you want and not get?
My stinking bathroom renovation ;)

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
The new Bond, “Skyfall”.

28. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Wow, 2012 was wonderfully satisfying as it was.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Independent and soul-searching; self-made

31. What kept you sane?
As last year, friends and creativity, Kanoko and Susu (my cats).

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Voting in not one, but two presidential elections: France’s and the USA’s

33. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

34. Who was the best new person you met?
Last year I answered “Sue! We need to meet IRL too :)” and this year we actually did meet!

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
Taking the time to act with integrity towards my values and emotions is absolutely worth it.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
This year is instrumental, no lyrics. Acid Brass: What Time Is Love?

Bonne année 2012 !

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 14:53

Ruinart brut champagne box, open

This is a meme I’ve done for two years now: at the end of 2009 and the end of 2010.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
– Became a French citizen (dual US citizenship)
– Finished my Masters degree in comparative literature at the Université de Nice… with honors! (I still can hardly believe I managed it)
– Started sewing seriously, for my own wardrobe, rather than just one or two pieces a year
– Subscribed to the opera in Monaco Monte-Carlo

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I decide things as I go.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, a childhood friend! Also, more colleagues had babies. All are happy and in good health, though one delivery was a bit scary.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
A grade school classmate early in the year, yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
Italy, but only briefly, and only Ventimiglia, which is on the border with France.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Last year I answered “peace”, which was abundant in 2011, I’m happy to say. Right now I’m at a place where I genuinely don’t feel I’m lacking anything important. I do hope that others missing that peace could experience it.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day I freed myself from a man who turned out to have been dishonest all along. As happens with that sort, his false self fell apart all at once. Having experienced that before (not in such a close relationship, though), I knew to just let him drop and move on. I’ve been terrifically relieved since then, thankful for friends and happy for my independence.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Clearly, finishing my Masters degree with honors, in French, while working full time. I was so nose-to-the-grindstone that three months after my thesis defense, I’m still cleaning up piles that formed in my apartment!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Due to school expenses, again I didn’t manage to get my bathroom water damage repaired. This is a priority for 2012.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
2011 was remarkably healthy for me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Sewing patterns and fabric. I’m set for the next few years. Also, my new cycling shoes. They’re so great, it’s like having a new bike.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Definitely, without a doubt, the same as last year: my friends’. Their presence, sincerity and kindness meant a great deal to me. I feel blessed to know so many neat people, who value empathy and trust.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Appalled – he knows who he is and why. Depressed – not for very long, paradoxically. It reassured me of the value of honesty, responsibility, and empathy. Seeing people who are so fundamentally dishonest that they can convince you of sincerity for a short while (with a well-practiced false self), is more depressing for their own account. They’ll never know what it is to trust another, nor what it is to trust themselves, even. Any joy and attachment they may display are naught but a camouflage for profound alienation.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, food, and books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Finishing my degree and riding my bike!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
This one, posted by a friend in response to a joke I made about being a cannibal (my Oregon university’s mascot is the Duck, and I baked a free-range duck for Christmas):

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Much happier.
b) thinner or thicker? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, again, though that’s not saying much :)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Bicycling and playing my digital piano, but that would have meant spending less time on my studies.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I’m thinking about this and can’t come up with anything. Everything contributed to healthy growth, even the negative.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At home alone, but surrounded by Christmas cards and well-wishes from friends :) And not entirely alone, thanks to my two feline sweethearts.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I thought I was falling for a bit, but nope. Instead I learned to better appreciate trustworthy friendships; the love that already exists in life.

22. How many one-night stands?
I’ve never had a one-night stand and dare say I never will. I think I’ll delete this question next year, it’s kind of pointless.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
“Sense and Sensibility” (the BBC miniseries, which I only just watched this year, and loved).

24. What was the best book you read?
Roots of Survival: Native American Storytelling and the Sacred by Joseph Bruchac.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
1980s punk rock. I missed a lot of it as a kid.

26. What did you want and get?
An excellent graduate education.

27. What did you want and not get?
I suppose this could have an obvious answer, but it doesn’t, really. Sometimes, when you don’t “get” something that you thought you wanted, you discover that you’re surrounded by things that are just as wonderful, in different ways.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I didn’t really pay attention to movies, what with my studies.

29. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed a bit from work and studies.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
The year was immeasurably satisfying as it was; I’m happy with it.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Independent

32. What kept you sane?
Friends and creativity, as well as Kanoko and Susu (my cats).

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Occupy movement.

34. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

35. Who was the best new person you met?
Sue! We need to meet IRL too :)

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Being responsible, compassionate and assertive is very invigorating.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Who needs lyrics when you have rock, a muscle car chase, explosions, and CATS? (There is also a dog.)

Tout va bien

Posted in Biographical, Education at 20:26

It’s been a long while since my last post. Thanks to all of you who patiently return to my site! As you can imagine, I’ve been busy working, whether at my job or on my Masters thesis.

I finished the bulk of my thesis a few days ago, and am now wrapping up translations of cites that were in English originally. Not an easy thing to do, since French is not my native language. I didn’t start learning it early enough to gain as much fluency as in English, beginning only at age 11. Just soon enough to have a good spoken accent, but not quite young enough to soak in an instinct for French phrasing. I really notice it in my French writing. Where in English I barely have to think twice, or when I do, it comes relatively easily and I know how and why, in French it’s a bit like pulling teeth. The demoralizing bit is that I can see that it doesn’t “read French”, but I don’t exactly know how to tidy it up.

My thesis defense will be sometime this month, in any case before the 30th since that’s the final deadline. Having picked a subject that I love, and having thoroughly enjoyed the research and writing, even when it gave me headaches, I’m actually looking forward to it. Oral presentations were my bugbear in youth, but having lived in three countries and fumbled around in several languages has served to wash away most of my embarrassment when speaking. Why worry about a subject I enjoy and discuss happily, when I can remember shopping in Finland on arrival and the only words I knew were “kiitos, kiitti, anteeksi”? (“Thank you, thanks, excuse me” respectively.) Why worry about mutual comprehension in a language I’ve spoken for decades when I can recall talking like a 2-year-old and entirely enjoying “discussions” I had in basic Mandarin Chinese with taxi drivers and artisans? Years of traveling have taught me the golden rule: try to speak their language, listen, and recognize that all humans know what it is to feel silly. Trust that they’ll relate, and the vast majority of the time, they will. Those who don’t, or who make you feel uncomfortable, are giving you valuable information – namely, to find someone else to speak with.

Life aside from my studies has been going very well too. I’m finally in a place where I’ve been able to start relaxing and enjoying the fruits of years of hardship and sacrifice. Where I can just sit in my adorable apartment with my adorable cat and enjoy life.

Reading and writing

Posted in Biographical, Cats at 20:26

09/07/2011

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy, working both at the office, and at home and at the university library on my Masters thesis. Above is a photo of the pile of books currently at the foot of my sofa – several others I’m also using are sprinkled judiciously throughout my apartment. This pile actually has 15 books in it, and there are another three around the corner, not quite in the picture. The fall semester of my Masters degree had three courses, two of which I’ve received grades for, and I’m happy to say it went very well, with grades (“notes” in French) of 16/20 and 17/20. In the humanities, it’s practically unheard of to get 20/20; a grade of 19/20 is extremely rare, 18/20 is quite rare, and 17/20 is, well, very good! When I was in the fourth year of my bachelor’s degree as an exchange student in Lyon, I had an average of 14/20, which was already very respectable for a non-French student, and good for a French student too. I honestly didn’t expect I’d do better than that in this Masters program, so it’s a very pleasant surprise, and has definitely motivated me to work even more carefully on my thesis.

Kanoko checks in on me from time to time, poking his head in the open French doors to remind me that there’s a life outside, and by the way, if I could refill his treat bowl with tuna, that would be mighty fine. Recently I decided to stop giving him pre-made wet cat food as treats, and instead buy canned fish, which is healthier. (He already eats good “carnivore” dry food, mainly Orijen and Acana.) As a result, I bought one can of every type of plain, non-seasoned fish at the supermarket and did a week-long taste test, one at a time. He disliked mackerel, found sardines only mildly acceptable, liked salmon, and, naturally, adored tuna. So now he gets tuna and salmon during the week, for his evening treat. (For info, cats shouldn’t be fed a tuna-only diet since it lacks taurine, which is essential to feline health. Kanoko’s dry food gives him everything he needs, and the fish is a perk.) It’s fun to watch him eat it because he’s very methodical: first he licks the fish dry, without eating any of the meat, then he saunters outside to enjoy some fresh air and watch birds. An hour or so later, he comes back inside to eat half the fish. Another hour later, he comes in to finish it off, and has a sip of water. Just a few days ago, he then began crouching over his empty treat bowl to meow at me weakly and sorrowfully, as if to say that without a refill of fish, he might faint. I call him a silly cat, he looks at me, nonplussed, and returns outside, his weakness suddenly gone.

Je suis Française

Posted in Biographical, Journal, La France at 16:53

Today I received a letter from the Ministère de l’intérieur, de l’outre-mer, des collectivités territoriales et de l’immigration that begins with: “J’ai le plaisir de vous faire savoir que vous êtes Française depuis le 13/12/2010.” Translated: “I am pleased to let you know that as of 13 December 2010, you are French.”

Nice Christmas present, eh!

I can now vote in French national elections, as well as European Union elections, and will no longer have to worry about ever-changing immigration laws for non-EU citizens (which I was, until the 13th of December). I have kept my US citizenship, mainly to continue voting and participating there as well, so I have dual nationality.

700 years of ancestry mapped

Posted in Biographical at 23:05

Inspired by a great modern Swedish/Finnish folk music group (Hedningarna) while fiddling with online maps, I had the idea to map the Norwegian side of my ancestry. The result is great! I gave each point its town/city name, and in some cases listed people from certain locations. The two points in Latvia are odd ones out, corresponding to just two people. All the others form a very clear line into Norway, namely the Lofoten Islands and Lenvik, in Troms. All towns/cities without a stated country are in Norway, while the others have a country name tagged on. Holding your mouse over a point in the left-hand list will also highlight it on the map.

The family tree is here, and records go back to 1308, with the deaths of Eindrid Hvit and his wife Birgit Bårdsdatter. It was fascinating to map these: their history came to life in a way. One of the main lines descended from a Swedish knight named Karl Pedersson Schanke, born in 1360, whose family largely remained in Häckås, part of Jämtland County, which was then part of Norway (now in Sweden). Then there are several people from the Rist family, who seem to have moved around Germany a lot. They and others who weren’t already in Lenvik or Flakstad eventually congregated in Trondheim, for the most part. The family from Flakstad seem to have been rather active in Flakstad church, and ancestors on my great-grandfather’s side included a few priests, in Denmark (St. Petri, a German church in Copenhagen) and Norway (Astafjord). In addition to working the land (which many owned) and sailing the seas, others included two sheriffs, a watchmaker, a legal scribe, and a diocese scribe. I suppose that makes me an internet scribe, these 700 years and 23 generations after Eindrid and Birgit passed away.

I made the map using VirtualEarth — I had to create an MSN account, but then I could create a “Collection” and save points to it along with notes for them.