10 Truths About Learning Languages: Let Me Motivate You!

My first kiss was Austrian. Age fourteen, early evening, standing at a fountain in front of a bus stop in Salzburg,  saying goodbye to my Latin-looking crush. Named Horst.

You’ll forgive me that I didn’t make it kissless to sixteen.  But talk about thrill.

Fourteen in Florence, with Maxi, Horst, Kelly, a bad perm and Hash buckle jeans

Fourteen in Florence, with Maxi, Horst, Kelly, a bad Toni perm and Hash buckle jeans

Not about the kiss, mind you, but about having understood word-for-word the sweet goodbye promise Horst whispered into my ear, as clear to me as if he’d spoken English. With that, a surge went through me – ba-shwiiing! – and my passion (even more for languages than for Horst) was ignited.

Five languages by 40, I decided right there as I hugged teary-eyed Horst good-bye, stepped onto my bus, and pulled out into the sunset and my dusky future.

Did I know what I was vowing myself into? Of course. . .naw.  But it was my first kiss, the sun was setting over Salzburg’s Festung, and, well,  forty-years-old? Humph. That seemed as far away from 14 as did my hometown back in the Rockies.

Now, well past forty, I can look back on my decades of learning languages, and share some truths I was to come to know after getting “bitten” by a love for language.  And for Horst.

First visit to Rome's Coliseum

First visit to Rome’s Coliseum

1) It’s Work

Hard work. Inevitably, there will be times your head will hurt like your quadriceps did when you hiked Kilimanjaro with a piano on your back.  Or like your biceps did when you singlehandedly pulled that boat filled with molten lead out of the bay. That kind of hurt.  Why? Because your brain is doing gymnastics. While wearing chain mail and armor. With the sheer voltage of all the neuro-transmission blazing away in the brain while you try to learn a new language, your gray matter could honestly light up Fenway Park on a Saturday might. It’s that demanding. To stick to the task, you’ll have to be pretty motivated.

(A love interest never hurts.)

2) Ego? Leave it at the Door

Our Dalton insists this be no more than #2 on the list.  Although he phrases it like this: “Be ready to be so embarrassed, so humiliated, so reduced by the mistakes you’ll make, that you want to dive under a table and pull huge brocaded drapes over yourself while you crawl out the nearest door.”  And then he goes on; “You’ll ruin any reputation you ever had of being even this smart. Be prepared to look really, really dumb.”

This, of course, happens when you’re learning languages at any stage of life after your childhood years, when you’re oblivious to people’s judgements of you and the bloopers you’ll pop out in your new tongue. Think of being stripped down as close to the bone as you can be.

Then go below the bone.

There. That’s how self-assured you’ll be while learning a new language.

My baby brother Aaron, who began learning German in an Austrian kindergarten. He still speaks it along with other languages.

My baby brother Aaron, who began learning German in an Austrian kindergarten. He still speaks it along with other languages.

3) Younger, Better

Which makes you want to learn all your languages before the age of 12 or so. (Before 8 is reported to be even better.)

My polyglot friend, Irina, will never unlearn her Russian or Bulgarian, learned at home and in primary school.  And her Czech learned from extended family from  her early childhood on? Also like a second skin. Her French, perfected during university studies in Paris, took a bit more effort because she was older, she admits; but it has become a polished – native – over the years.  English, she began using in earnest later in life, as she did Italian.

The research is extensive about how nimble the child’s brain is with regards to language acquisition.  You know this already. But did you also know that the acquisition of a foreign language (or two, or three) before puberty will increase general cognitive ability, acuity with other subjects, and lead to greater academic tenacity overall, will facilitate a closer understanding of one’s native tongue, heighten cultural sympathy, and lead to deeper compassion?

4)You Can Get By, But You Can’t Get In 

If you move to a foreign country, lucky you!  You have every opportunity to adapt to a new culture and learn a language. If you chose, however, to not integrate and not learn the language, you’ve missed an opportunity.  Of course, you might get by. Even well.  But as research proves, you cannot enter in.  By “in”, I mean into the deepest heart of any given culture without at least a rudimentary facility with the language.  Think of it like this: the language of any people is like the smell and taste and sight and sound and texture of their cuisine. Until we have it in our own mouths, chew on it, swallow it and digest it so that it’s a part of us, it’s almost as if we’re staying in the living room and never going into the kitchen where it’s whipped up. In the living room we’re in their “house,” yes. But we never really taste what makes them who they are.

First glimpses of Geneva, Switzerland, over 30 years ago.

First glimpses of Geneva, Switzerland, over 30 years ago.

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5) The More, The Easier

We talk glibly about laying tracks for language learning. But that figure of speech might not be so wrong. Once your brain has been trained (or tracked) for a second language, it is more capable of laying another language on top of those same tracks.

Beyond that, when the languages are related (Germanic, Romance, etc.), the structures and vocabulary are similar, and the learner has a distinct advantage.  For example: German, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Flemish and Icelandic are language cousins.  If you master one, you already have an aptitude for acquiring the next language cousin.

6) Your Ear Helps Your Tongue

My mathematical skills are abysmal.

Subabysmal.

Still fourteen, and still playing the cello.

Still fourteen, and still playing the cello. Back then.

Which seems to surprise people when they learn that I love to learn languages.

“But. . .I thought language was all about math,” some say. To which I say,”If language had anything to do with math, I would have dropped out of this international lifestyle on day one.”

So how do I do this language thing?  Where I lack the head for quantum physics (or algebra), I make up with an ear for music. I was raised by professional musicians, and was a professional musician myself (a concert soprano) for years. When I approach a language, I am listening primarily for its music. I hear its cadence, its rhythm, its tones and phrasing.  And then after listening and watching everyone’s mouth while they speak it, I do what I do when I sing: I mimic. I learn languages the same way I prefer to learn music. By ear.

The grammar (or math) of a language I figure out later, osmotically. So I don’t ruin the whole melody. (And that takes  a lot of #1).

7) Stockpile.  Then Spew.

You know, of course, that children are stockpiling the rudiments of language for months – years – before ever producing it themselves.   Your snooglie-wooglie isn’t just passively watching your lips while you coo and patter away while feeding her those strained peas.  She’s hurriedly building language basics.  In the process, she’ll grunt, squeal, howl, belch and cry – all efforts to transform what she’s stockpiling in her brain into the complex coded cooing system you’re feeding her with her peas.

Then one day, it all erupts into active language: “Peeeeeeeeeeeeeas!”

And she’s off!

Chen Xihua, my Mandarin teacher, visiting me in my new home outside Geneva, Switzerland.

Chen Xihua, my Mandarin teacher, visiting me in my new home outside Geneva, Switzerland.

With adults, it’s really not much different. You’ll sit in your Mandarin Sunday School class (well, at least that’s what I did). And at first you’ll only hear a string of undecipherable sounds. You’ll watch everyone’s lips. Like they’re feeding you strained peas. And since they’re loving folks, they’ll try to spoon feed you.

You’ll manage a grunt.

Then your brain will snatch a word. A little conjunction, maybe. Or two words. You’ll squeal. You’ll howl.

The next week you’ll grasp a full phrase. (And that’s where you belch.)

Then next month, you understand whole sentences, concepts, a paragraph! You’re feeling so confident, you might raise your hand. . . to . . .to make a comment. Which you do. But you can only say a sentence or two.

That’s where you cry.

First, you stockpile the words. Then you produce them.  Don’t be surprised if you have to receive for several weeks. Or months. One day, just watch.  You’ll be spewing your own peas.

8) Not All Languages are Created Equal

Languages are different, ranking in difficulty because of size and complexity of vocabulary, grammatical structure like number of declensions, jargon, syntax, tones. A fellow blogger, Richard, has been learning Somali in his home state of Minnesota. If you want a peek at how linguists rate the difficulty of languages (and Somali rates stratospherically on that scale), stop in on his blog, Loving Languages.

Depending on your mother tongue, certain languages will be (or should be) easier than others. Nadja, my Swiss German friend, speaks Swiss German, High German, Dutch, and English. And she claims they are fairly easy for her. She studied French growing up in Switzerland and has perfected it living for many years in Paris, and also learned Spanish to serve a full-time mission for our church. Maybe – maybe? – Somali would be a challenge for her, given that it is neither a Germanic nor a Romance language, being completely unrelated in structure and tones to what she has already learned.

9) Classroom Vs. Street Language

“What you taught me was German. I trust you. But it ain’t what they’re talking at me here!”

This was a letter from a young volunteer for our church, who had been in our near-immersion courses in the Missionary Training Center where my husband and I had instructed for a combined five years.  Sure, we’d given this missionary all the rules and phrases, and had done so in the cleanest, most comprehensible High German we could.

But he’d landed in Basel.  Basel’s Swiss German sounds as much like High German as Beowulf sounds like The Nightly News. There’s some overlap. I swear it. But I’m not finding it.

My first ever visit to Switzerland. Fourteen again.

My first ever visit to Switzerland. Fourteen again.

When you learn language in a classroom, it is bound to be too artificial (and static and padded) an environment for you to have to navigate the true break-neck-speed bumper-car  world of active language exchange. Don’t be surprised when you land in Palermo and your crash course Italian doesn’t match the dragon blaze coming out of the mouth of the rabid taxi driver. Or when the three semesters of high school Russian drain out of you in a lifeless puddle as you face down a burly train conductor in Moscow’s Kalishnikovo station.

10) Promoting World Peace

I’ve noted that visitors in a new culture who say, wincing with disdain, “Oh, that’s soooo French/German/Italian/Norwegian/Tanzanian/Russian” are most often those who’ve not made the effort to speak that language. They’ve chosen, in effect, to remain outsiders, the ones left standing in the living room, never eating the feast.  (#4)

Learning another language besides your mother tongue allows you to look at people in a totally different manner, as real, complex, multifaceted and fascinating creations. And once you really have it swirling in your cells, it becomes part of who you are, and your judgements of that culture and of its people will be altered profoundly and permanently.  You will have melted down the rigid walls of prejudice, xenophobia, rigidly destructive hyper-patriotism, and will be on your way to becoming an active agent in healing the too many breeches in humankind. You will be a vociferous defender of those people and their culture. You will – imagine this – sincerely love them.

Even more than I thought I did Horst.

Salzburg, Austria, 1978. View over the Festung.

Salzburg, Austria, 1978. View over the Festung.

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What truths about learning languages would you add to this list?

What languages have you learned, and how?

What has learning languages done to your view of yourself, others and the world?

Heard Yet? Global Mom and Global Mom Are Splitting Up

With my new Facebook Page devoted exclusively to Global Mom: A Memoir, (release date: July 15th), I’m happy to be able to declare this website the space dedicated to things. . .

Global Mom: A Melissa.

Global Mom writes. . . of passage

Global Mom writes. . . of passage

Curious about the release of the book? Then go here, to Global Mom on Facebook, where this coming week I’m starting a vlog visit series with a string of other global moms. They have vastly contrasting stories, have lived in all corners of the planet, and have survived to tell you about it.

lunchin' bunch o' global moms

lunchin’ bunch o’ global moms

I’m also keeping you updated there on the ins and outs of recording the audio version of the book.  Go to that address to be updated on all other booky stuff. Love your visits and appreciate your comments!

Then come here (like. . . truly, literally here-here, no hyperlink needed) for conversations with me about, yes, writing and being a global mom, but beyond that, what touches me as a person in this writing/living/nomadding lifetsyle. . .and everything else.

And there’s a bit of “else.”

Events, ideas, struggles, disappointments, mini-triumphs, local travel and on-the-ground responsibilities – all aspects of my behind-the-book personal life. This is the gamut of writing I’ve not adequately shared with you while I’ve been posting excerpts of the book or otherwise introducing you to the crew (publisher, editors, PR people) teaming up for Global Mom’s release.

What is “everything else”? Things related to:

1) Integrating in French-speaking Switzerland (Want to see why Switzerland is so clean? I’ll show you live footage of the guts of its garbage disposal system.)

summer over Lac Léman

summer over Lac Léman

Canton de Vaud, countryside

Canton de Vaud, countryside

2) Negotiating yet another new school system (Who wants a seasoned insider’s peek at international schools? And do you want a quick-‘n’-dirty on the famed International Baccalaureate degree? What’s it like to educate your kids multilingually?)

German, French, Italian, English. But where's the Romansch?

German, French, Italian, English. But hold on – where’s the Romansch?

3) Raising teenaged boys on the global road (Make that a bumpy global road lately. . .I’ve been seriously wondering what in the world we were thinking signing up for this, and what we’ve done to our children.)

Luc takes up snowboarding

Luc takes up snowboarding

4) Having our daughter serve as a full-time missionary in Italy (From run-ins with the local Mafia in Sicily, to gypsies stoning her in Rome. Santa patata and honest to Pete.)

Sorella (Sister) Bradford (r.) with missionary companion at Trevi Fountain, Rome

Sorella (Sister) Bradford (r.) with missionary companion at Trevi Fountain, Rome

Sorella with friend

Sorella with friend

Modern Christianity in Italy

Modern Christianity in Italy

5) Continuing the lifelong adaptation that follows having buried our oldest son. (It just never ends, my friends. Never. But then, neither does life.)

Our four

Our precious, irreplaceable four

Those kinds of things.

It’s here I can share and process all that, and I am truly hoping you’ll help me through.

Then there are the other things:

6) Travels to farther destinations. (Didn’t I mention Paris? Watch very soon.)

heading through our old neighborhood

Our old neighborhood

7) Visitors from abroad. If you follow me on Twitter (MDBGlobalMom), you know I just had some favorite relatives here. And soon I’ll host a whole gang of favorite friends.  (One ultra-talented visitor will be here shooting the trailer for my book.)

8) My volunteer service overseeing a delightful group of the local leaders and adolescent girls of our church, all through the Geneva region and into parts of France. (Google-map it: from Chambéry, France, to Morges, Switzerland).

9) The signed contract to write a book with Randall on Strengthening Long Distance Marriages. (Coming in 2014)

10) And finally – and most sweetly – the signed contract to bring you my substantial book on Grief & Grace. (Watch for it: Memorial Day 2014)

See you here!

Or there?

Or everywhere.

Come With Global Mom To London!

Back Camera

So many things happening in June, our dense ramp-up phase leading to the July release of Global Mom: A Memoir. 

This month I’ll introduce you to Christopher, my  publisher extraordinaire, and Familius, the cutting-edge media company.

You’ll meet Maggie, my word surgeon editor.

I’ll tell you all about Crystal and Kim, my super-savvy public relations team from BookSparks PR, who’ve thrown some lighter fluid on the charcoals to make a bonfire out of this book release. We’re linking to a Facebook page just for Global Mom: A Memoir, and I’ll be (gulp) Twitter-pating my life.

At about the same time all this is happening, you’re going to meet a whole string of friends via a series of vlog visits, whose stories (global, familial, nomadic and unedited) will give you an honest portrait of what it is about this kind of life that, well, keeps us living it.

(Why not be one of the first to subscribe to my YouTube channel? Go ahead.  I’ll wait here while you pop over there and click.)

With every blog and vlog, I’ll tell you about the blessings and stressings of living globally, but right now we’ll focus specifically on the peculiarities of living Swissly. In each vlog I’ll show you around my current Swiss stomping grounds. It’s truly one big technicolor wrap-around postcard.  Really worth your visit.

And if you stick here with me, I’m thinking of taking you  – should I give this away?  Oh, alright – I might just tuck you in my glove compartment and drive with you up to Paris.

But first, come with me to another magnificent metropolis, one of the most diverse places on the planet:

Blogueuse Relooking

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Which means, roughly, that I’m a female blogger (French: blogueuse), and I’m going to spruce things up (French: re-looking).

I thought it only fair to warn you.  Don’t freak out.  You’ll still recognize me.

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Next time you visit here, you won’t find the lugubrious blue-gray background, the flashy hot yellow-to-vermillion-to-hot yellow strip along the top, the calendar and Goodreads list and other cluttery widgets. Maybe you won’t even find my come-hither grin on the left hand side of the screen, I’m still deliberating.  (Although please, I do sincerely want you to come hither. Or, uh, come here.)

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What I hope you’ll find is a brighter, fresher page – so subtly tucked, so gently stretched, with a lift and a plump and still all the warmth and candor and depth and spirit I hope you have come to expect when you click for a visit.

Why all of a sudden this relooking? Age, quite frankly.  This blog is coming up on One Year Old.  In blog years, I think that’s over the hill.

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But more salient than the age thing, I’m making a shift.  We have spent two solid months of posting exclusively on my book entitled Grief and Grace: Collected Voices on Loss and Living Onward.  As you know, but as I should probably explain to newcomers, that volume is a manuscript born out of our family’s ongoing experience with catastrophic loss. I’ve written at length here at the blog and elsewhere about the realities of traumatic loss, acute grief and the droning underscore of absence that have been our family’s journey since July 2007.  That was when our eldest, Parker, then 18 years and 5 months old, lost his life while attempting at saving another’s.

While I think a lot and deeply about the experience of loss, (my own and others), and while I’ve researched and written extensively about what major and permanent loss means in our lives, (both intimate and communal), it was the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school that flipped a major switch in me.  I simply had to post on only this topic for a while. I’m certainly not done with it – neither with my own grief and burden of absence, nor with writing about it – but I find it necessary to shift this blog’s focus to other topics for a season.

But first, here is where I want to thank you, my readers.  Some of you have come here loyally without posting comments publicly. Instead, you have written to my private email address.  I need you to know that you have taught me life-altering things in your tender and stark messages.  You’ve confided sacred things in me.  You’ve sent, a few of you, pages of  straight-from-the-gut writing, and I have read them with respect. It is hard to know how to thank you enough.

Others of you have posted comments for all of us, mostly strangers to one another, to sift through. Not easy, especially when the topic singes nerve-endings and cuts right down to the marrow.  I honor your experiences and appreciate your trust in sharing such personal treasure in a public forum.

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As I re-look the blog to something slightly cheerier and hopefully easier on your eyes, I hope the content will follow suit. You know already that my book, Global Mom:A Memoir goes to press. . .GOES TO PRESS?. . .(goes to, gulp, press). . .tomorrow. . .and will be in your neighborhood bookstore (and on Amazon) as of June 1.  Between now and then, I want to return to posting from that manuscript. I will be picking up from where we left off ages ago (does it feel like ages ago to you, too?), in Versailles on our way to Croissy-sur-Seine, a village outside of Paris, where we lived for a while.

Then on to five other addresses/languages/cultures/homes.

Here’s what you can anticipate over the next few months:

-More frequent but shorter posts, mostly excerpts from Global Mom: A Memoir. (I’ll try to post 3x a week)

-Lots of photos from my archives (which, of course, will not be included in the printed book. So you get the exclusive illustrated version!)

-Behind the scene peeks into the process of writing and editing this book; what it’s been like working with an exceptional publishing/design/editing team in a cutting-edge boutique publishing house; you’ll meet some of my online writing/cheerleader friends (so you might meet yourself); and you’ll get an inkling of how my family has been (stupendous!) through this all.

-Glimpses into what’s happening now in the real Global Mom’s world, namely: what does spring in Switzerland really look, smell, sound and taste like?

-And with all that, some extra fun travel in and around central Europe.  I envision a little Poland rather soon, some more Italy, probably some Austria, undoubtedly a whole lot of France. I’ll take plenty of pictures and even video footage.

-Speaking of video footage, I’ll be adding much more of it, and will link to You Tube.  I want you and others that you tell about this blog and the book, to get to know Global Mom on the road.

-And then, of course, anything else that happens to pop up on the journey.

This should be so much of fun! Thanks to each of you for being here and for making my world an abundant place worth living in.  With you, I want to dig into it with both hands,  my head on straight, and my heart wide open.

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Swiss Strolling

Let's take a walk. . .

All images © Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2013

. . . through my village overlooking Lac Léman. . .

Let’s take a walk. . . through my village overlooking Lac Léman. . .

. . .past the cold and withered vineyards . . .

. . .past the cold and withered vineyards . . .

. . .behind Swiss strollers. . .

. . .behind Swiss strollers. . .

. . .into Nyon, minutes from my door . . .

. . .into Nyon, minutes from my door . . .

. . .too late for lunch. . .

. . .too late for lunch, too early for dinner. . .

. . .into the old town quarter. . .

. . .into the old town quarter. . .

. . .with skies the same color as stone. . .

. . .under skies the color of stone. . .

. . .chimneys, tile roofs, solar panels. . .

. . .chimneys, red tile roofs, solar panels. . .

. . .the African refugees running from local police. . .

. . .and African refugees running from local police. . .

. . .the loudest sound in the street is the click of my camera. . .

. . .the loudest sound right now is the click of my camera. . .

. . ."to sort is to show you value something": compulsory recycling bags. . .

. . .”to sort is to show you value something”: compulsory recycling bags. . .

. . .late afternoon, the steeple of the primary school. . .

. . .late afternoon, the steeple of the primary school. . .

. . .your common housetop ornament. . .

. . .your common housetop ornament. . .

. . .Nyon's trademark yellow street lamps. . .

. . .Nyon’s trademark yellow street lamps. . .

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. . .her daily shopping. . .

. . .her daily shopping. . .

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. . .five bells toll from the church. . .

. . .five bells toll from the church. . .

. . .Nyon was once Noviodunum, a Roman outpost. . .

. . .Nyon was once Noviodunum, a Roman outpost. . .

. . .view over Lac Léman. . .

. . .view over Lac Léman. . .but no view to Mont Blanc today. . .

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. . .along the ancient ramparts. . .

. . .along the ancient ramparts. . .

. . .Château de Nyon. . .

. . .Château de Nyon. . .

. . .Château and the newest church in town with its belfry. . .

. . .the Château and the newest church in town with its triangular belfry. . .

. . .view upwards from the lake front. . .

. . .view upwards from the lake front. . .

. . .lake front. . .

. . .lake front. . .

. . .Lac Léman. . .

. . .Lac Léman. . .

. . .and the Swiss stroller. . .

. . .and whom should we meet, but the Swiss stroller. . .

. . .Goodnight, moon. . .

. . .Goodnight, moon. . .

Freshly Pressed?

Here we are, five of our six. I'm including today a selection of my favorite photographs from my previous posts.  All of them, with the exception of this one taken by Rob Inderrieden, I took. Enjoy! So glad you're here.

Here we are, five of the six Bradfords. I’m including today a selection of some of my favorite photographs from several of my previous posts. All of them, with the exception of this one taken by Rob Inderrieden, I took. Enjoy!

Hello, everyone. It is great to have you here.

Judging by the variety and number of readers this week’s Freshly Pressed incident (and what doyou call it?) has drawn here, we’ve got some rich times ahead. One of my readers suspected that I probably didn’t fully “get” what it means to be Freshly Pressed, but that reader was gracious in suggesting that it was probably best that way.

And I didn’t.

And it is.

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I don’t mind this little flurry of recognition. It would be false to say much else, since we serious writers ache to create something someone will find worth reading. And we’re a bit tired of being that Someone, reading to ourselves. (Oh, the echoing drone of one’s own voice in the caverns of one’s head.)

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So it’s heartening to have you here, reading as you apparently are. Your presence is invaluable to me, and I want to honor it with vivid, meaty material that will invigorate thinking and stir feeling, and open up the possibility of a nourishing connection between us, all of us.

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I write because for me, writing is a physical and spiritual imperative. Is it also like that for you? If the significant happens – in my world, or in The World – I feel compelled to engraven it, pin its largeness down, trap it somehow. Then I lean close and marvel at watching its complexity or simplicity crystalize on the page. My readers, I hope, share in that marveling, not, of course, because I am marvelous (although my husband seems to think I am, dear guy), but because the potential of our human reach irrefutably is. Words stimulate and facilitate that reach. Almost all of us, when we were babies, reached – and touched and connected and established ourselves as a teeny but proud pinprick part of humanity – first with words.

So. Here we are. May I explain some things?

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I write long.
You’ll want to get a drink. And oxygen tanks.

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I write books.
Two are in either the editing or legal approval phases as we chat right here, you and I.

The first to be published (with Familius and later this spring) will be Global Mom: A Memoir, and is about our family’s 20+ years on the international road. I’ve been posting excerpts of that manuscript here every week for some time, now.

GLOBAL MOM COVER

The second book is an anthology (with a chapter-long essay as introduction) on loss, grief, and adaptation. Its title is Grief and Grace: Collected Voices on Loss and Living Onward. Here, I post liberally from its 300+ pages of wise and varied voices.

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I also write short.
I am a published poet and will post some of my (long-ish) shorts here. I’ve posted several pieces already; dig a minute and you’re bound to find them.

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I also write creative personal essays.
Some have been published in journals and other blogs, and one recently garnered an award. I’ll post excerpts of them here, too.

I am beginning a children’s book
It will address loss and living onward and will be done in collaboration with a gifted illustrator. I’ll ask for your input. You’ll meet the illustrator if and when she’s ready to be revealed. Her work alone is worth hanging around for.

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And finally,

I am a poser of a photographer.

I’m learning to blend my newfound wonder for photography with my life-long and hard-core passion for the written word.

That’s this cozy sky blue/ocean blue blog you’re sitting in the middle of right this very moment.

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What else, you ask, can I expect when I come here to visit Melissa? (Besides, you mean, long-ish, probing posts that sometimes leak tears and sometimes crackle with laughter?)

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The last posts, as you’ve perhaps read by now, have treated some “Don’t Do’s” of co-mourning: Don’t judge or preach, don’t disregard or disappear, don’t enforce arbitrary deadlines, etc. Over the coming posts, you can expect me to examine the nature of “Can Do’s” in the face of great grief. In two posts from now, for instance, I’ll tell about the necessity of “Continuing” by introducing you to Antonini, a family friend, who was the last survivor of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Enough to reduce to moltenness any brittleness in our spines, that post should not be missed.

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Through the posts beyond that, and with your help, we’ll delve into the experience of the death of a beloved. What does it mean to a mother? A father? A sibling? Grandparents? A friend? An extended community? Strangers? What are the implications of tragic loss for our faith? For our non-faith? In other words, what can we learn, broadly and specifically, from death and other losses? What meaning do we deliberately or indiscriminately assign to suffering, to “mortality’s primary companion,” as one insightful reader here put it?

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At that point, I’ll update our Table of Contents. By then, Global Mom will be ripe for public consumption and you’ll probably want to return with me to those excerpts and our family’s years living in Paris, (where I last dropped off my readers somewhere on the rainy cobblestones near the Louvre), then continue to Munich, then Singapore and finally to where we live now, in Switzerland.

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There’s plenty to share with you about Switzerland, as there is about Sicily, where our daughter lives as a missionary (really – who’s going to believe this?) among the Mafia.

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And I will faithfully update you on news on Grief and Grace.

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Before we all finish that morning cup, stretch our arms and brush the wrinkles out of our pants, a parting quote from Peter Wehmeier’s, Picasso und die christliche Ikonographie.

If I can claim a personal mantra as a writer, this would be it:

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In the face of death, art’s duty – indeed, her raison d’être – is to recall absent loved ones, console anxieties, evoke and reconcile conflicting emotions, surmount isolation, and facilitate the expression of the unutterable.

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Again, thank you for coming here. For all the reasons listed in that quote, I hope you’ll come often.

2012: A Year’s Passage

Christmas Day 2011, Tanzania

December 2011, Tanzania

December 2012, Switzerland

December 2012, Switzerland

Like you, winding up a year makes me look back, unwinding it.  While you’ve been with me for half of 2012 (I launched this blog in May), having strapped yourself in just in time for the second part of the year’s ride, (that big move from Singapore to Switzerland, if you remember), you missed out on the entire front half of the calendar.  That’s kind of a shame, really, because there was stuff going on, friend.  Are you interested in seeing a bit of that passage?

Christmas week, 2011. . .

Christmas week, 2011. . .

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Before I get carried away, though, may I insert a small, smiling caveat?

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As you visit here throughout December, would you please keep something in mind? It’ll help so that I don’t feel too crippled by self-consciousness and you won’t feel sludgy or arrggghy or slumpy. Or slap-toppy.

(That stinging state of mind when you slap shut your lap top, resenting what you just saw inside it.)

Not that you would slap shut on me. But in case.  Since you know, things happen.

Please hear my whispered voice saying that these posts are all given in the spirit of sharing between friends this riotously colorful and complex globe we live on. These posts are about nothing but that: sharing, celebrating, being whooshed away with wonder.

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So consider today’s post a jiffy Table of Contents for what you can expect to read here throughout December, this last month  of 2012.

There was an extended trip to Tanzania, Africa.  I will post several times on that and explain why we were there in the first place, what things I observed, why I want to return.  The photos alone are worth clicking in here once in a while. (I didn’t take them; my men did.)

Then there was Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand.

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 And Indonesia and Hong Kong.

And that morning spent diving with dolphins in Mauritius. 

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When not posting on the past passage of 2012, I’ll keep you abreast of the current passage, what we are experiencing in the here-and-now.

“Here”: Central Europe.

“Now”: right about. . . now. This alone will keep us busy, as we’ve planned a couple of family outings.

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Come with us to Vienna to hear these talented boys sing…

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Drive with us to Strasbourg for the Christmas market that dates from the 1500’s…

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Take the TGV with us to Paris

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Then get some retrospective Paris with a few excerpts from Global Mom: A Memoir where most recently we’ve been looping back to Norway but we’ll now return to France.

Only to leave France briefly.

Only to return to France for a few more years.

All to keep you thoroughly confused and a bit transfixed.

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And finally, come share with us our first Swiss Christmas. They promise to be deeply, whitely, purely holy days.

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Paysage Intime

Today, another walk.  Tonight, a different poem.

Paysage Intime

Melissa Dalton-Bradford

 

Reckless fecundity this spherical here

with its fugal loop of falling and fruiting

and its persimmon tree’s jeweled danglings of rubbery flame

and its pregnanted soil so upholsterously greening

the moss tresses draping over

worn gutters racing into

ancient creeks gushing for the

spongéd earth’s guzzling.

 

The whole scene a blister, haute pression

its elastice the very verge of burst.

The whole seen by eyelidded roofs of shingled browns

like these horses whose manes streak and rust with the spill of rain

neighing, newing

and the succulent heifers astroll on the bosky ooze,

stepping, steeping

silvered nostrilling through this plein-air mysterium.

 

And here, I must stop before the resilient silence of pliant

row after row after row of crucified pommiers

who grow to yield, seed to cede, stretch to droop,

leaking their burden.

Heavy drops of red eversoak our distended-unquenchable canon.





La Belle Suisse

To give you a short breather from Global Mom: A Memoir, and to remind myself of where I live, I stepped away from my keyboard for an hour this week. This meant peeling myself from my office with its writing chair and this laptop screen with all the words, words, words that have been my work from predawn to past midnight days and weeks on end. I needed to shake some blood into my limbs, breathe some air into my lungs, get some daylight on my face. So I took a short drive along our local jogging and biking paths.

Because I know these are beautiful paths, I also wanted to take this camera and my visiting parents (Hello, Donna and David.) Our boys Dalton and Luc were already far ahead of us on their bikes, since they know the area by now and have marked out their favorite routes.  They are quiet and postcard bucolic — not Dalton and Luc, but the routes — and I think the photos will give a better rendering of what we see when we drive, jog, bike or walk them than my words ever could. Consider this post your personal invitation to visit.


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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Blogglobal Mom

. . . Which should not be confused with Bloggable Mom, a different concept entirely.

A bloggable mom is a gal with children whose life is worthy of the kind of online pics and self-narrated captions that other people, for all sorts of reasons, “follow.”  Blogs have followers, I have only learned very recently, and ardent followers of blogs, (which I am not because I’m still so new to this blog world), know by instinct what is bloggable, blogworthy.

My son Dalton, I’d say, seems to have an instinct for what is bloggable.  He’s the one who came up with the name for this blog,  as a matter of fact, and subsequently feels part owner of its intellectual property, partly responsibile for its content.   Lately, he’s telling me a little too often for me to be comfortable, that the thing we just did (or saw or heard or burped) was a full-on “7” on the bloggable scale of 1-10, (10 being CNN-worthy).  Or it’s just a paltry “4” on the bloggable scale. Hardly worth having lived in the first place.

This is Scary with a capital “S” — also for Scream and Strange — and is worth returning to in a separate post.  For now, I’ll just say that this tendency to live with an imagined audience always in your peripherals, was the #1 reason I was one of the planet’s last blogging hold-outs. It took 10 years from the first time someone suggested, “You should  really have a blog,” to the day I launched this one.  Kicking, though politely. And Screaming, but with a lower case “s”.

(Ha.  Fancy that.  Particularly after my last post that was sooooo long, so “into it”, a friend and reader told me he’d have to sue me for damages.  He had to scroll so much he got reader’s, not writer’s cramp, and swears following my blog has given him an irreversible case of carpal tunnel syndrome.  I told him I was so terribly, truly sorry that I’m no lite blogger.  I do have a weigh with words. )

So, these 8-on-the-bloggable-scale topics Dalton is suggesting?

“Why not Cow Cat?” he asks me today at our kitchen island.   Cow Cat is this vagrant, overstuffed , black and white cartoon of a Holstein feline, a blimped out Cat in the Hat sans hat, that skulks across our low stone wall every afternoon at 4:50, reaches the same spot, stops, sits, stares. Lifts his tail to the air like a sailor lifts a finger checking for wind. Then Cow Cat sniffs.  Turns.  And skulks away just as he came. “Cow Cat, Mom.  He’s bloggable.”

I would surely hope not.

“Then what about the trash, Mom?” Luc asks, dropping his apple core in the compost bin, his cracker wrapper in the colored plastic paper bin, and his crushed-and-firmly-lidded water bottle in yet another  bin.  Which would be the crushed-and-firmly- lidded-water- bottle bin. “Swiss trash is serious,” he says. “It’s bloggable, dontcha think?”

Serious, yes.  But I would never put you through that.

Randall yells from the living room. “How about one on plugs, honey?”

“Plugs? What do you m–?”

“You know? About how I’ve had to cut the plug heads off of all our electrical appliances every time we’ve moved countries? Then splice the wires? Rig all those new heads? For the different plugs in every country? A post, honey. It’d be great. About all these chords, you know, that keep getting shorter and shorter?”

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask, leaning around the corner.

Then I see what he’s up to: cross-legged on the living room floor, paring knife in hand, six lamps —two short, four tall — lined up against the wall, their wires a tangle of what looks like your little brother’s bangs when you trimmed them with your round-tipped Crayola scissors.  Frayed ends everywhere.

“See?” he says,  holding up a white triple-pronged plug into which he’s trying to feed the wires of a shorter-than-normal chord. “There should be a blog for this.  And some mathematical equation for the correlation between the number of countries you’ve lived in and the number of inches your lamp is from the wall.”

He’s got something, my handyman. And it’s now I see that our table lamps have turned to floor lamps, and our floor lamps to wall lamps, shoved up to one socket like skinny boys at a junior high school dance clustered as if glued next to the light switch in the gym so, while they’re not out there dancing, they can get their jollies by switching the lights on and off.

(Those guys were in your junior high school, too?)

Electrifyingly bloggable or not, I’m not going to invite you all the way to this blog just for minutia. No plugs and sockets, nuts and bolts from me, friends.  Oh, no.  I am a Gesamtkunstwerk kind of blogger, if you hadn’t noticed. No sippy cup posts from me, I’m afraid.  If you come, plan on having to guzzle.

Unless, of course, there’s a fig tree in sight.

‘Cause figs? You bet. At least a 6 for bloggability.

Still, still. Bloggable Mom is not what this post is about.

It is about Blog Global Mom. About Blogging about Global Mom. About my forthcoming book, to get to the point, which has, as publication looms closer and closer, finally found its official (and not just “working”) title: Global Mom.

No. Not Earth Mother.

And no, not Mother Earth.

Global Mom, A Memoir.

Well. Sorta Kinda.

Global Mom, A Memoir: 8 Countries.

Yes, something like this. . .

. . .And this. . .

 

. . .And this. . .

. . .And some of this. . .

. . .And this. . .

. . .And this. . .

. . .This. . .

. . .At times, this. . .

. . .Others, this. . .

. . . Many times, this . . .

Never once like this. . .

Sixteen Addresses.

Yup, plenty of this. . .

. . .A few times, this. . .

. . .Once, as I recall, like this. . .

Five Languages.

. . .English, French, German, Norwegian, Mandarin, and . . .

One Family.

That’s some birthmark, lady

This is the book I have been writing in fits and starts on every possible surface and at all hours underneath all the living that has crammed these last many months ramping up to this, our 16th big move.

No, actually, it’s the book I was writing with a fountain pen on the graph paper of an orange Schülerblock thirty-five years ago when I was first a student in Austria.  And with a Bic in a spiral notebook twenty-four years ago when Randall and I lived in Hong Kong.  Then on a big awkward desk top Apple computer twenty years ago when we first arrived in Norway. Then on my oversized lap top fifteen years ago when we moved to France. And on a smaller lap top years later in Germany. And on my iPad years later in Singagpore.

And now, on a sleekish MacBookPro (or, when sitting in a waiting room, on my iPhone) in Switzerland.

I guess I was perhaps always writing this book.  Now, finally and thankfully, I’m not going to be the only one who reads it.  (Luc, at least, has promised he will.)

All of this segues us back to Blog Global Mom, because the whole reason I launched this blog in the first place, if you recall, was to introduce you to the book (then called 21st Century Mother, a title my publisher and I have concluded was not in harmony with the scope and color of my narrative), as well as to get daily practice honing concepts, exploring narrative styles, building chapters, and above all, getting your expert readerly feedback as to What works? What rings true? What reaches you, my readers’, nerves, minds, guts, hearts?

Blogging about Global Mom helps me to know what to  graft into — or take out of — my material before November 1, when the full submission is due and then the furious work of editing gets underway.

All leading up to a top-of-2013 publication.

Which sentence, as I reread it on my screen, makes me, oooooh, it just makes me want to blog my heart out.

Next post, I’ll tell about my publisher and how I found him.  I will also share with you, once a week for the next several weeks to come, trailers of Global Mom, A Memoir.

Just one last thing: “Blog Global Mom” should not be confused with Bloggobble Mom.

Or with Blogglowball Mom.

Both of which are something else. Entirely.
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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.