The Second Half

A middle-aged lady (or old, depending on perspective) sharing this and that with whomever strays into her digital property. Of course there are cats involved ;)

Glum thoughts re: stuffed turkey — December 17, 2019

Glum thoughts re: stuffed turkey

I suppose turkeycide in the United States has reverted to its usual levels, and Americans are done ‘gramming pictures of the giant birds they consumed during the Thanksgiving feast.

To me, this feels like a slightly weird holiday. There are many things I’m grateful for, but I won’t recite them before a group of people over mammoth stuffed fowl. To each nation its own, I suppose – many of our traditional holidays probably appear beyond weird to foreigners and, frankly, I myself find some of them bordering on the bizarre.

I care not for Thanksgiving because it concerns a nation separated from me by a continent and an ocean. Actually, no one outside the United States cares, but you can’t escape it because of the media. It didn’t make it any less funny (as in weird) to get a Facebook message from a first cousin of mine wishing me “Happy Thanksgiving.”

He emigrated from Bulgaria to the US a long time ago, and I guess he has become Americanized. Still, his message made me go, “Huh?!” I noted in my reply that people here have no such holiday, not to mention that they rarely eat turkey unless it’s sandwich slices. It’s mostly a matter of cost – what the average family would pay for a whole bird can cover several days’ worth of grocery shopping.

Anyway, I don’t intend to discuss the standard of life here. Suffice it to say ours is a poor country where the majority of people can’t readily afford turkey unless it is some plastic-packaged processed shit. But while Thanksgiving means nothing to me, I still found it interesting to read some statistics in a report that popped up in one of the newsletters I receive.

Mind you, these are projections published shortly before the holiday, so the definitive data may be some time away and possibly a bit different (if anyone bothers to follow up on the issue). Now, according to OilPrice.com:

  • Americans likely gobbled up an impressive 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving 2019;
  • The birds have been getting bigger over the years: the average turkey weighed 13 pounds in the 1930s but now tips the scales at 30 pounds!
  • Cooking the increasingly heavier fowl comes at a cost in terms of electricity: as the publication notes, preparing turkeys for the holiday “will suck up 350 gigawatts of electricity – equivalent to the entire world’s nuclear power capacity in 2012.”

But it also turns out that visiting family and relatives for the holiday significantly reduces the nation’s overall power consumption. “Estimates are that energy usage typically drops 5-10% on Thanksgiving Day compared to the November average, all thanks to that delicious turkey. And the estimated savings of that energy could amount to more than $2 billion in energy bills,” the article says.

I would have lived through another year without sparing a thought for Thanksgiving were it not for that message from my cousin. It prompted me to research the price of turkey in Bulgaria and to click on that report link. I can afford turkey whenever, but I can’t be bothered to buy any because I’m not too fond of cooking. As I’ve said before, I am a good cook but don’t really enjoy this activity – it’s just part of life, and I try to keep it to the bare minimum, which is not much of a challenge since I currently live alone.

I suppose Thanksgiving feels even weirder now because I can’t really see this person I grew up with surrounded by all the trappings of a fiercely American holiday, carving a massive bird for his gaggle of guests, and perhaps giving thanks for the new life he and his family have built in Arizona. I hope they are happy and never have cause for regretting their decision to leave home, but the latest exchange with my cousin made me sad. It was yet another reminder that I have lost many relatives and close friends to the immigrant life because we were born in a country where something like buying a stupid turkey qualifies as discretionary spending.

A shoutout to all the clichés out there — November 21, 2019

A shoutout to all the clichés out there

What a shitty blog owner I have been, right? My last post is dated March 2018 – who the heck neglects their blog in such a shameful manner?? Is it any excuse that my freelance practice took off, and I got far too busy to sit at my desk and stare through the window? A bit flimsy as excuses go, but I don’t have a better one.

My birthday is coming up, but that’s not the topic I have in mind. What I’ve been pondering lately is this: am I a cliché and, more importantly, do I care if so?

For those unfamiliar with the name Ali Wong, she is a stand-up comedian and one of my absolute favorites. I had no idea stand-up was such excellent entertainment – I only discovered it when I got Netflix. Anyway, in her second special for the streamer, Ali talked about mothers being attracted to glittery things, craving the sparkle “to compensate for the light inside that has died.” You know, the hardships and sacrifices that accompany motherhood and all that.

I’ve never shined brightly or dared to, but this seems to be somewhat applicable in my case. Only I crave color: my hair is pink, lilac, or turquoise these days (green and lemon yellow to be tried next), and I’m buying brightly or multi-colored clothes, shoes, and bags as if my life depended on it.

To an outside observer, this probably appears to be some sort of a mid-life crisis, which it very well may be, but it might be another thing. You see, I was quite pretty as a young woman and never lacked for attention or opportunities, but confidence and self-esteem were not really in the picture.

These days, I don’t care who thinks what (one of the perks of growing older), on top of which I’m enjoying a comfortable life. Don’t believe those telling you that money doesn’t matter – it freaking does! Not losing sleep over bills and being able to buy stupid things on a whim are empowering! These are also relatively new developments for me, so I do what the average person does when they get financially comfortable – I buy tons of stuff I don’t really need.

Back to the colors. Yes, I’m obviously compensating for the lack of self-esteem and financial stability in my younger days. I can go out now decked in all colors of the rainbow, giving no hoot about what anyone has to say as regards age-appropriate attire. OK, let me make something clear: I don’t prance around in skimpy skirts, bum-baring shorts, or crop tops. There are certain boundaries I’ll never be confident enough to cross, which is fine with me and good for the general public, I assume. The point is that I have no problem now with being bright and conspicuous.

Also, the number of my cats has grown to four, so what that picture up there suggests is a ship long sailed. This brings me back to the cliché part. I’m a middle-aged lady who lives alone with a bunch of cats. Cliché? Seems so. Does it matter? Not to me, it doesn’t. I am healthy (well, relatively, nothing unusual for a person in their 50s), family members are fine, financial worries are out of the picture, and my few friends have stuck with me through the years. Why concern myself with inconsequential perceptions?

So, I’m turning 53 next week. Wisdom is not something I pretend to have acquired, so I won’t be offering any lessons to the young people out there (not that they would listen anyway). What I can say at this juncture in my life is that being a cliché is fine if it doesn’t bother you. When you are content and appreciated, you get to own that shit.

Time to go harass my cats now – these critters owe mommy some lurve because she spends crazy money on them. Here are a couple of pictures of the latest arrival:

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By the way, his name is Loki. Yep, he is named after the Marvel character, specifically as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston.

To wrap this up, I can’t promise I’ll suddenly get my shit together and behave as a responsible blog owner should. However, I will certainly try to pop up at least once or twice a month. Maybe I’ll introduce you properly to Loki next time or divulge some shameful secret. You stay positive, a’right?

Take it back, kid, or else! — March 22, 2018

Take it back, kid, or else!

It looks as if the universe is doing its damnedest best to drum it into my noggin that I’m old. (Which I’m not, by the way.)

First, there was the recent winter episode, which I’m now convinced is the product of unwelcome cosmic intervention into my daily comings and goings. And I suspect this planting of thoughts has been going on for some time.

Then there was some nitwit trying to manoeuver his car in front of a neighboring building as I was walking by, his frustration spilling over in “Move it, granny!” shouted in my direction. What the…?! I’m 51, you twerp! I neither look nor feel like a senior (bless their souls).

But it would appear said universe has made up its feeble mind. Its latest attempt to instill a granny mentality in me materialized a few days ago, and the agent of this misguided campaign was a kid.

On my trips to the supermarket, I pass by a playground, which is a relatively recent addition to the neighborhood and still a very bright, clean, and pleasing fixture. It’s got this deep blue fence with doors on opposing sides. They are mostly decorative, not meant to keep anyone out, and are usually open, with people often taking a shortcut through the playground.

So, there I was, striding along and flipping through my mental list of daily groceries. (Side note: I do the shopping every day or every other day, mostly because I need the exercise – working at a computer gets you all crampy and you need some leg-stretching.) On that day, I decided to take the shortcut through the playground. On approaching it, I saw the doors were open and a kid – a girl of about five – was romping about. Her mother sat on a bench, reading or something. The girl saw me draw near and made a dash for the door, shutting it under my nose.

Now, I’m not the type who turns to goo at the sight of babies or chuckles indulgently at the boisterous shenanigans of toddlers. So, I gave this kid a contemptuous look, opened the door and headed for the one at the other end, which the pesky girl had also shut in the meantime. I exited the premises and was about to resume my walk to the supermarket when I heard the child let rip an indignant scream, then run after me, slam the door in my back and squeal reproachfully, “Hey you, granny!” I hope it’s clear that her tone absolutely implied “bad, mean granny.”

I admit it: I was so shocked I froze in my tracks. Really?! OK, I get it, I’m no spring chicken. I qualify for “auntie” but “granny”??! It took me a few seconds to unfreeze and then, of course, I stooped to her level by responding, “You’re an ill-bred little shit, aren’t you?” Then I turned around and walked away.

I have a pretty good idea what most of you would say. It would be either “Shame on you!” or “Give it a rest, woman, it’s just a dumb kid and every adult looks old to them.” In fact, I don’t blame the kid; I blame the universe, which was obviously using the little oaf as its mouthpiece. Well, the universe has really gone and screwed the pooch this time, and I’ll be exacting my vengeance forthwith.

Here’s how things will unfold: since I’ve apparently been chucked into granny territory, I plan to enjoy the special privileges that go with it. So, from now on, I’ll be taking every opportunity to lecture any person under 30 who crosses my path. I’ll be harping on about manners, respect for seniors, wrong life choices, and whatever promises to annoy the most.

And you know what, my dear readers? I’ll be laughing hysterically on the inside because I’m in no way, shape or form qualified to lecture on any of those things. I’m civil enough, but I certainly can’t claim to have impeccable manners. While I respect my seniors, I’m not willing to let them always have their way or rub their perceived wisdom in my face. Wrong life choices? Heck, I could write a book about mine!

And I won’t stop at lectures – no, siree! I’ll demand a seat on the bus (dang, I’ll have to start using public transport!) and the right to jump lines. I’ll begin all conversations by detailing the havoc that the weather is wreaking on my old bones and will scrupulously list all my pains and aches.

I think I’ll start with the neighborhood kiddies to get a bit of practice, and then I’ll upgrade to annoying teenagers and smug young parents. Maybe I should join some silver surfers’ forum to prep for sermonizing…Good luck to me!

Of winter and old farts — March 5, 2018

Of winter and old farts

Can winter make you realize you’ve grown into an old, crotchety fart? Quite so, I assure you.

See that above? It’s what the landscape around these parts has looked like in the past few days. When I woke up on the morning after the first heavy snowfall, I glanced out of the window and my first reaction was, “Holy cow, this is marvelous! So white, peaceful, and clean!”

And a few seconds later: “Bloody hell, how am I supposed to wade through this to go get beer??!”

Yeah…

When I was a kid, the first heavy snowfall brought jubilation, with squeals of delight echoing around the neighborhood all through the day. We were outside till dark – sleighing, staging snowball fights, making snow figures, or just wallowing around in the white fluff, then rushing home to change into dry clothes and dart back outside for more fun and games.

Now, in my early 50s, I look out of the window on such days and the first few seconds of wonder are quickly replaced by thoughts such as, “Huge electricity bills again…I probably need to buy new boots, the old ones seem to be giving up the ghost…Will trains run on time?…Eff it, I’ll have to do without beer today cuz I’m not going out in this!”

I catch myself thinking these thoughts and I feel sad. When did I get so old, in spirit, that is? Why doesn’t the sight of this sparkling white canopy compel me to bolt out and make snow angels or engage in some other frivolous activity? Ah, never mind, I’m sure learned people have produced countless volumes to answer such questions.

But I’m not totally depressed. You know why? I can still remember how it felt and the longing lurks in there, so maybe one of these winters I’ll throw decorum to the wind, sprint out, and act in a completely age-inappropriate way.

 

 

I renounce thee, Amazon! — January 29, 2018

I renounce thee, Amazon!

Do you have those moments when you slump into your chair and start howling something along the lines of “Ay, ay, I’m the lowest of the low, a spineless entity with the IQ of a really, really dumb fruit fly!”

C’mon, you must have hated on yourself now and then. I don’t mean for real – gosh, no, I hope you all love and treat your good selves right. But once in a while, we disappoint ourselves in some not-quite-significant ways, like doing something common sense screams at us not to. Or maybe we act in a manner that reveals we’re not the rather splendiferous characters we like to think we are. I recently had such a chair-slumping, howl-inducing moment and the trigger was Amazon.

Let me make it clear right away: I am not a fan of Amazon! Any company that seems intent on devouring the world is a villain in my book. Yeah, all right, hats off to Jeff Bezos for building an empire, but let it go already, for Pete’s sake!

Anyway, I had long resisted even browsing their site, let alone buying anything. Why would I do it? It’s a foreign company, and I’d have to pay a crapload of money to get my stuff delivered. I could get the object of my desire from a local online store, and it wouldn’t be more expensive when you factor in exchange rates and delivery costs.

So, I knew all that, common sense told me so, my aversion to Amazon told me so. And what did I do? Having listened to my friend Mona sing Amazon’s praises for quite a while, I caved in and made an account. I did the same thing with Titanic and Avatar: I’d sworn not to watch them and then they came on TV, and I was just too bloody lazy to change the channel. I quite enjoyed Avatar, truth be told, Titanic not so much, but that’s beside the point. I’m an oath breaker – an amoeba would have more willpower!

And Amazon is dangerous for me!!! You see, I have this maniacal desire to buy stationery, mostly pretty notebooks, preferably in bright colors. It’s probably a medical condition – these beauties never get used, I stack them up in a bookcase, go admire them from time to time, and that’s it. Con-di-tion, OK? No need to roll your eyes. And yep, it’s what I bought on Amazon.

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Ah, the excitement!
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Even Poofie got excited!
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And the anti-climactic revelation…

They cost me a LOT and the delivery charge was hair-raising (I ordered via the UK site). I mean, it’s not money I can easily afford and besides, my English friend Lee said they were indeed expensive, so it’s not as if I’m looking at it from the perspective of an impoverished person.

What can I tell you? I’m not exactly displeased with my purchase. The notebooks are of excellent quality. That said, I expected five different colors, and I got a green duplicate, so four colors. Moreover, I was looking forward to a red notebook, and it turned out to be orange. Of course, I was a newbie and it didn’t occur to me to browse the comments section: I would have found out that many other people also got duplicates of one of the colors. Frankly, I doubt I would have parted with my money had I known such a risk existed.

The thing is that I must grow a spine and really steer clear of Amazon. On top of my dislike for the company in principle, it’s a hazard for people with an obsession like mine. So many notebooks, in all sizes and colors, sitting there, taunting me, reaching out to strip me of my hard-earned cash…Brrr!

So, here is my resolution: I won’t go on Amazon again until they set up shop in my country. That, however, is something I fervently hope to never see in my lifetime! Hey, I’m not calling for a boycott or something. I’m sure it’s a great option for many people otherwise Bezos wouldn’t have the money to do his imperialistic thing. But for this lady in Bulgaria, no number of devastatingly gorgeous notebooks will be temptation enough to return there. I’ve spoken!

Why not? — October 27, 2017

Why not?

It’s been a month since my last post so you could say I’ve been slacking. Am I ashamed? Erm…not really.

And you won’t really be getting an article today. I mean, it IS an article but not the type I write for my own pleasure. It wasn’t intended for this blog but what’s the harm in sharing? Might as well use it to inject some life into this place. I’ll be back tomorrow with a proper article (I think). Cheerio!

http://appiral.com/how-to-fail-at-freelancing/

 

 

Special birthday girls, Part 3: B.B. — September 28, 2017

Special birthday girls, Part 3: B.B.

On this day, a silver screen legend turns 83. But what does it matter? They say myths are ageless and Brigitte Bardot is every inch a myth and then some!

I thought for a moment there to say “the quintessential silver screen goddess” but it immediately felt wrong. Oh, Bri-Bri is a goddess – no argument there or at least none that I care to hear. But she is too unique to fit into the confines of any description. Silver screen goddesses were thick on the ground during the golden years of cinema, but Bardot was in a league of her own. Besides, she never thought much of the profession and never sought the adulation.

What was the hysteria about then? Sure, she was insanely gorgeous, physical perfection personified. But then again, there was a horde of other actresses beautiful beyond words.

It certainly had nothing to do with her acting abilities either. Bardot herself once declared, “I started out as a lousy actress and I have remained one.” Film critics say she did well in a couple of films (Le Mepris and La Verite), but she is generally considered a mediocre actress at best.

I have to agree: she usually seemed disinterested and somewhat disdainful on screen, as if the whole thing was an annoying chore. This inevitably translated into wooden, forced performances. Bardot never claimed to love acting. On the contrary, she consistently voiced her dislike for the profession and vowed to leave it when she’d truly had enough. B.B. kept her word and bid cinema adieu in 1973, devoting her life entirely to the animal rights cause.

But this woman had a presence so powerful that you couldn’t tear your eyes away from her! She could just sit in a corner and sulk, stare vacantly at a wall, or smoke with a supreme air of boredom and you would still feel compelled to gaze at her, entranced and spellbound.

The magic of Bardot has virtually nothing to do with the quality of her cinematic work. Her films are mostly light fare, sometimes downright silly and occasionally boring to tears. But people kept flocking to watch her. Why the abiding fascination?

The pursuit of the answer made Brigitte the subject of cultural, sociological and feminist studies. Another French icon, Simone de Beauvoir, explored the appeal of B.B. way back in 1959 in an essay titled “Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome.” Here is an excerpt from that work:

“When Marlene Dietrich exhibited her silk-wrapped thighs while singing in her husky voice, she was casting a spell . . . Brigitte Bardot doesn’t cast spells; she acts. Her flesh doesn’t have the generosity that symbolizes passivity. Her clothes are not fetishes and when she undresses, she reveals no mystery. She simply shows off her body, which is in constant movement. She walks, she dances, she moves. In the hunting game, she is both hunter and prey. Males are an object for her, as much as she is an object for them. This is precisely what hurts males’ pride.”

Another prominent woman of French letters, Françoise Sagan, made Bardot the focus of a book in 1975. “She was success, money, love incarnated and she didn’t see why and who she should reimburse. She wasn’t ashamed of herself, she didn’t apologize for her absolute triumph whereas so many others apologized for their half-victories. And this is why she scandalized everyone,” Sagan wrote.

Brigitte refused to bow to conventions at a time when such dissent sparked public outrage and moralistic diatribes. This is a woman that the Vatican once denounced as the personification of evil by using her image at the 1958 World Expo in Brussels in its pavilion hall to depict suffering, hell and the devil, and lasciviousness. There’s an irony somewhere here because Brigitte remained a conservative at heart throughout her life. She was, after all, brought up in a wealthy Catholic family that upheld tradition.

Controversy has always surrounded Brigitte, nowadays mostly for her far-right inclinations and nationalistic views. Many in France revile her for her stance on immigration in general and anti-Muslim sentiments in particular. She’s been convicted several times of inciting racial or religious hatred. And while claiming to have many gay friends, Bardot has spoken some ugly words about homosexuals.

On the whole, the French have mixed feelings about their erstwhile screen goddess. Many hate her for the things mentioned above but many also praise highly her immense contribution to the fight for animal rights. Quite a few admire her refusal to follow in the footsteps of actresses her age who desperately fight the passage of time by resorting to cosmetic surgery and often end up looking ridiculous. Bardot looks every year of her age, all wrinkled and frail, limping along propped on crutches.

The woman has endured, that’s for sure. Her style has been copied avidly through the years, but no-one has even come close to the original. She was a being apart, floating in her own universe: an incomparable body moving with animal grace, a shock of blond tousled hair, a pout the likes of which the world had never seen and has yet to see, an unapologetic attitude, and a total disregard for the trappings of fame.

She has symbolized many things in her life, among them France, sexual freedom and women’s liberation. It didn’t seem as if she cared much about all of that. Brigitte often claimed she was happiest in La Madrague, her villa in Saint-Tropez, next to the sea, surrounded by her swarm of animals and away from people. They say that Saint-Tropez became the jewel of the French Riviera after word spread that Brigitte had taken up residence there. The city is now honoring its famed denizen by unveiling a statue of Bri-Bri on her birthday.

Bon anniversaire, Brigitte! Be well and stay happy doing your thing, even if that happens to be nothing more than feeding the animals in your yard and puttering in the garden.

 

 

(Featured image comes from Brigitte’s official Facebook page.)

 

WTF, Switzerland?! — September 19, 2017

WTF, Switzerland?!

Somebody in Switzerland can shit money!!! Like, literally! So far, the unidentified individual has pushed tens of thousands of euro out of their craphole!

Don’t suppose that fooled ya, did it? No, of course not. This is what a four-year-old might be inclined to accept as fact. There’s no excuse for grown-ups unless they are partial to mind-altering substances, in which case the idea of people shitting money wouldn’t appear out of the ordinary. So, let me tell you what all this is about and what happened in the aftermath.

Bloomberg (love you, guys!) reported this week that Geneva prosecutors were investigating how wads of 500-euro bills found their way into the toilet pipes of three restaurants in the vicinity of a UBS branch. For those not particularly interested in financial matters and the institutions that rule the market, UBS is Switzerland’s biggest bank and one of the world’s top sector players: it has operations in more than 50 countries and a global workforce of close to 60,000.

It might also be appropriate to mention that UBS has been involved in a fair share of controversies, some of them resulting in criminal charges. It was one of the financial institutions that held on to Holocaust victims’ assets and claimed them as its own. In more recent years, the bank has been accused of aiding tax evasion in several countries, violating US trade embargoes, colluding with certain peers to manipulate Libor and currency benchmarks, and quite a few other transgressions.

But it’s not my intention to hate on UBS. To prove that, I’ll also tell you that it consistently gets recognized by industry bodies, especially for its wealth management services, equity research, and employment practices. On the other hand, I didn’t set out to produce an article about UBS so let’s move on.

The bank had to be mentioned because the first discarded bills turned up in a bathroom close to a UBS vault full of safe deposit boxes. Within a few days, banknotes had made their way into the toilet pipes of those restaurants, the result being thousands of francs blown on plumbing repairs. Switzerland has no law against destroying banknotes but Geneva prosecutors believe the incident merits an investigation. UBS has yet to issue an official statement on the matter.

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It figures that melted cheese (fondue) would be Switzerland’s most famous dish.

All right now, we know Switzerland is a rich country but come on!!! This was one of the first things to cross my mind when I read that piece of news. Then I got to thinking this is one frigging weirdo of a country. Cuckoo clocks, mountains, cows, cheese, fondue, chocolate, bank secrecy laws, neutrality during World War 2 – that more or less exhausts my knowledge about Switzerland.

Then the usual happened. You see, when I read something and it intrigues me for whatever reason, I want to find out more. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not always in pursuit of quality information – sometimes I just want to be entertained. I was leaning towards levity on the day I read Bloomberg’s article so I set out to unearth weird things about Switzerland.

Do you have any idea how many things are against the law in this country after 10 pm? I mean routine, run-of-the-mill things, not some outlandish activities. Check this out: flushing the toilet, taking a shower, washing your car, slamming a car door, or peeing standing up. Apparently, the first two are encoded in laws that allow interpretation. Come Sunday, don’t you dare hang your laundry out to dry, wash your car (yourself, that is; going to a car wash is perfectly legal), mow your lawn, or dump bottles and cans in public recycling bins. And forget about reciting poetry while you ski down a mountain slope!

You wouldn’t believe the passion Switzerland has for animal rights! In case you are considering a guinea pig, a mouse or a ferret as pets, you’ll have to get at least two or you’ll be guilty of animal abuse because these are social species. On the other hand, the country doesn’t seem to care all that much about cats, which definitely gets my goat!

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No guinea pig is lonely in Switzerland (unless its owner is a law-breaker)

Most of its weird laws are intended to keep Switzerland clean and safe. That it is and then some! It may be the only country in the world where heads of state and government members use public transport and do so without any bodyguards in tow. Mind you, this is a country where men have to keep their rifles after their compulsory military service. So, lots of firearms around but no itchy trigger fingers.

What else made me go “WTF”? Switzerland allows discrimination on the basis of gender, age, or nationality, as well as assisted suicide. It also has no problem with illegal downloads but sharing the content is a no-no (huh?). You can go nude or start a campfire in public without fear of legal repercussions. And if you happen to be a wealthy foreigner, you can haggle with the authorities to get a flat tax rate.

So, dear readers, I now have a wealth of more or less useless information about this interesting country. Allow me to take a minute to thank Bloomberg and Reuters, whose daily newsletters keep me amply supplied with all sorts of information. Some of them carry serious stories, like world, business, and financial news. Some deal with plain goofy stuff. But you know what? They keep my curiosity alive and very often provide me with writing material. Granted, this article may not have much of a worth but I enjoyed the research and the actual writing. And I think I now want to visit Switzerland one day and cavort in the mountains among the cows, munching on a chunk of cheese and reciting poetry. Since I won’t be skiing, I don’t expect to run afoul of the law.

P.S. Remember how the Internet went ga-ga recently over the “[insert country] Second” campaign? With Trump stomping his feet and screeching it will be “America First,” a swarm of countries began jostling for the second position. The Netherlands produced the first video, setting the tone and style for the rest. Not all of them are good, but Switzerland’s is, without any doubt in my mind, one of the top three. In case you’ve let this hilarity slip unnoticed, grab a spare set of undies and then check out how the country sought to win over POTUS.

Special birthday girls, Part 2: Mona — September 10, 2017

Special birthday girls, Part 2: Mona

Buckle up now because a human tornado is coming this way! That would be the other birthday chica, whose name is Simona.

Most call her Mony but she looks and feels like a Mona to me. Mony is fine and all, but it’s kind of a girly, wimpy sobriquet. Mona, on the other hand, packs a solid punch and perfectly reflects the pluck and pep of the person. Of course, the association could be in my head alone. Whatever…moving on.

To this very day, it remains a mystery to me why Mona thinks so highly of yours truly. We used to work for the same company before plunging into freelance waters and she goes on about having learned a lot from me or some such. You know what I think? Beer is at the bottom of it all. Our shared passion for the frothy, golden elixir (we favor lager) tuned out to be a great foundation for our bond. Laugh all you want, but far crazier things have brought people together.

How should I start my introduction to Mona? Maybe by telling you that she is an acquired taste. I didn’t take to her right away and her intensity and oomph still send me running for cover sometimes.

You wouldn’t believe the force of nature this girl is! She fears nothing and no-one and pursues her goals with dogged determination, even if said goals are no loftier than procuring the latest pair of sneakers that have got her all a-tingle (she’s a sneakers fanatic, this one).

 

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You do realize that’s just a teeny-tiny fraction of her collection, right?

 

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How deep does her passion for sneakers run? She calls her favorite pairs “my precious”…Need I say more?

 

 

Mona is also clever, witty, loud, obsessively neat and frighteningly determined. Yeah, yeah, I know I mentioned her determination, but I really need to drive the message home!

Mona keeps going on about how lazy she is, but I allege that’s all a massive ruse. If she’s not working, she’s cleaning her flat or her car, reading, out doing stuff with friends, traveling to some place, having quality time with her angelically cute little girl, or sorting out family messes. I swear to you I get dizzy and exhausted just by listening to the accounts of her activities!

And Mona is a fighter! She fights for everything and everyone that matters. She fought like a champ for what matters most: life. Mona grabbed breast cancer by the privates and squeezed until the vile thing screamed for mercy and slunk away! You can’t help but be awed by such willpower and lust for life.

This girl is 18 years younger than me but I often feel like an immature brat around her. And don’t get me started on the debt of gratitude I owe her: Mona was the one who delivered the precisely timed, vigorous kick in the derriere that sent me flying from a dead-end job into a whole new work dimension.

Mona is a giver, plain and simple. She generously shares her time, energy and money, rushing to the rescue and tackling your problem with the abandon that characterizes everything she does. Trust me, you want Mona in your camp when tough times come a-knocking. Actually, you want her in your camp no matter what: this one is also great fun and a party animal the likes of which you rarely see.

 

mona middle
Striking a “moody, cool dudess” pose

 

Let me wrap it up by saying this: You overwhelm me, girl, and I mean that in the good sense! Sending you love, kisses, hugs and the best of wishes on your special day! Don’t ever let up because the world might go down the crapper if you do!

Special birthday girls, Part 1: Ina — September 9, 2017

Special birthday girls, Part 1: Ina

Yaaay, it’s September! Why the jubilation, eh? To begin with, this is the month that ushers in my favorite season. Besides, it will provide me with some writing material as quite a few special people were born in September. Some of them move in a different world, like French film icon Brigitte Bardot – the most captivating woman to ever walk the Earth!

However, I won’t be taking you into the realm of decadent luxury, swoon-worthy men, ravishing women and jet-setting lifestyles. Nope, we’ll remain firmly planted in real life. But who says special people don’t cross our path every day? In their inconspicuous way, they achieve extraordinary things, touching the lives of those around them.

I’m lucky to count two such not-quite-regular people among my friends. These girls were born in September within a day of each other, both turning 33. I got to know them as colleagues first. Sadly, we don’t meet in person very often as they live in another city, but that doesn’t make them any less important for me. Anyway, enough of the preambles, let’s get down to the essential bits.

Today is Ina’s birthday. Everything about this girl is delicate. She’s slender and soft-spoken and her presence breeds serenity. Ina radiates tenderness and kindness. When I’m around her, I feel at peace and all is right with the world. Even when we indulge in gossiping, bitching and venting, she does it in a way that makes these vulgar pastimes seem almost decorous.

Ina often tells me she has a short fuse and sometimes flies into rages worthy of a Homeric narrative. I’m yet to witness such an outburst but I’m sure she remains every bit the lady even in those tempestuous moments.

 

ина и бонбони
Aren’t they just dazzling??!

 

You only need to observe her little boy for a while to see the impact Ina has on people. Yoni is a sunny child; he was constantly smiling and gurgling happily from the moment he became aware of his surroundings. It’s a joy to watch the video clips she sends me: the two just make you want to smother them with kisses and hugs!

Hey, don’t you make the mistake of thinking that Ina is some meek lamb who walks about with a beatific smile plastered on her face, rainbows and unicorns shooting out of her orifices. Hell no! There is a steely layer beneath that velvety facade. Ina will tell you in no uncertain terms what she thinks and will stand her ground with iron resolve. Yes, there’s a tigress lurking inside this delicate doe.

And just to dispel any doubts that Ina is a great gal, I’ll tell you that she’s heaps of fun to be around. You can sit down with her for a few beers and laugh the evening away, talking about anything and everything, acting as imbecilic as you want without fear of being judged or frowned upon.

Ina is the type who would give people the benefit of the doubt and is quick to focus on their strengths, never missing the chance to praise and encourage. I can’t count the number of times she’s boosted my confidence, be it with lavish compliments on an article, peals of laughter over some lousy joke I’ve cracked, or relentless insistence that I look amazing even when I’m actually in one of my fat periods.  It may not sound like much, but who doesn’t want to hear nice things when they most need them? Ina dispenses them generously and her natural goodness precludes those whiffs of insincerity we often catch when others say the same things.

My love and best wishes for your birthday, you lovely girl, and may it be a memorable one! Keep smiling, be happy and never change because you’re perfect just as you are!

 

 

семейна
Yep, the whole bunch are too adorable for words 🙂

 

 

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