31 October, 2018

A ten-year old rant

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I was going through my blog this morning at the unpublished drafts. I stumbled upon this one that I wrote ten years ago and it made me laugh. How simple life was back then. Obama had just been voted into office and we were all full of hope. This was written in the middle of trip I took with my two children to NYC. It was a fabulous trip and so, I can only imagine I wrote it to let off steam and decided not to publish it.

Enjoy the silly rant of a middle-aged woman, who was oblivious to all the changes heading our way…

These last few days have been full of new ideas and impressions. That seems like a natural consequence of stepping into new territory. It is nice to occasionally test that tolerance bone; the one that must cope with social change and behavior.

I would be exaggerating if I said that my little tolerance bone has only been in the “happy camper” mode since arriving here. There are some forms of behavior that make me feel very uncomfortable, irate, or plum embarrassed. Here are a few that send tiny electrical shocks through me: 
  • Many cars, pedestrians, cyclists do not pull over and stop when ambulances are trying to drive by. The ambulances have sirens, lights, and are honking their horns, and often the have to merge with the normal flowing traffic because no one moves over.
  • Cars weave in-and-out and delivery trucks park in the BUS ONLY LANE. (Seems senseless to implement such a system and not enforce it.)
  • The waitresses and waiters take your dishes off the table before the last person is finished eating. (Yesterday, my daughter got her dessert before her brother was finished with his main dish.)
  • Many children do not act age-appropriately: 5-6-year-old girls being carried around on the hips/waists of their fathers: 10-12-year-olds sucking their thumbs or pacifiers in public: 10-12-year-olds not able to use forks and knives when eating in restaurants (often using their fingers).

I’m not saying this sort of behavior is wrong, just that my reaction tells me that I have been living in Germany too long. Before, such things wouldn’t have caused even a twitch. Now, they ensue a complex series of emotions that are hard to ignore. Not a good thing.

I don't want to leave the impression that everything is hunky dory back in Luebeck. That just isn't true. It is just other things make me feel uncomfortable then before. And, for the most part, when I go somewhere new, I try to keep an open mind to the new culture and people. It is hard to hold up this mirror and see my intolerance. Got to get working on that.


Accessible and inclusive design




What a marvelous aid for those of us with seeing impairment or who have difficulty navigating ourselves through new environments. (I am one of the later.) I love how accessible and inclusive the design is.

I’ve looked at a few other videos that speak to the beta testers. It is interesting that one or two said they found it irritating or had to get used to the “chatter” in the background. What they are referring to is, the app mentions store and street names as you are passing. Brilliant! For those of us who have the feeling of being lost every time we land in a new city, how amazing would it be to have a guide saying where you are is absolutely right every step of the way.


Can’t wait for the app to work in other countries.


08 July, 2018

Who are you to say if my Johnny is right or wrong?




Oh, these times are truly crazy. Reading the daily news makes me anxious. It is hard to remain calm amongst the confusion of determining what is might be true and what is just plainly false. Whether in the US or Europe... so much of what is going on makes me despair for a sane world. 

This is why I love this video. Especially the end! It is only missing "based on a true story".

Take care and keep up a good fight.

12 June, 2018

Dipping in and out of books her whole life through…


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It is almost a year ago that my mother died. In the last weeks I have been thinking about her lifelong love of reading. She always considered herself the informed consumer, the appreciative reader, never the artist. She read (at least) one book a day all her adult life. She dipped in and out of her books the whole day through.

Early morning breakfast, she read her newspapers. She then did some chores or went off into town to do some shopping. Late morning coffee, book at hand. More reading after lunch. Late afternoon she’d meet with friends or make some telephone calls. Before dinner, she read The Atlantic, New Yorker, or the weekend section of The Guardian. Dinner. Early to bed with her book.

The astonishing thing is she would remember the stories, the characters, the plot of this immense library of books she’d read. I’d be reading a book and telling her about some aspect of the story that intrigued me, and she would talk about it as though she also just read the book yesterday. It often turned out that there were years between her reading the book and our conversations.

My mother stowed away a long list of books she meant to buy in the side pocket of her wallet. If she read a magazine article that referred to a new author or book, she’d hurriedly take out the list and scribble the name down and then continue reading. This list was the only haphazard messy thing she owned. In all other aspects of her life she was ordered and meticulous. The list was written in different colours of ink, sometimes the titles or authors names were scribbled illegibly in the margins, others were crossed through after she found them.

I wish I had saved one of those lists. It makes me sad that I will never see one of them again.

11 June, 2018

A fury that sits deep inside…



Tracee Ellis Ross talking boldly about women’s experiences in the world, struck a note with me. As someone who was “raised properly” by middle-class parents, I was taught well how to put the lid on any indignation, frustration and rage that was/is brewing deep inside. It is too messy to talk about. I wouldn’t want to offend.

And then, when you add racism and ageism to the cauldron of bubbling horror, it is no wonder we are uncomfortable to lift the lid. What words might escape our lips? What shadows would this cast upon our idyllic lives? What realities would we have to except and act upon?

It would be enough for just one of those realities to bubble out, “It’s men’s responsibility to change men’s bad behaviour” and float around in the ether of our social consciousness.

02 June, 2018

Language over generations



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My two children and I were discussing recently how it is, even though German is their dominant language, they do not feel as if they possess an extensive or differentiated German vocabulary.

Their father is originally from Italy and learnt to speak German as a 10-year-old. He does not speak anymore the Sicilian dialect of his childhood. He studied to be a translator and linguist and so acquired a further four languages along the way.

The way we communicated when our children were living at home was; I spoke English, which my husband and children understand, and they spoke German the whole time, which I’m fluent in. So, I naturally assumed their German would be comparable to all their German schoolmates. Apparently not.

My daughter says she feels as if there was still something missing, some depth to the language, they never learnt. She proposes it has to do with the fact that none of her grandparents were German. Maybe family history and shared family memories are an intrinsic part of the passing on of language. What a lovely notion.

01 April, 2018

Starting out on a pioneer journey

Forty years ago, during orientation week at the University of Waterloo, one of our professors looked down at Myrna and I, the only two women in the freshman year of electrical engineering, and said the following,

"Though women are very much under represented in the lecture halls of this university. Please know that you are welcomed. It is my personal experience that the women we have had in our program prove to be as ambitious and more skilled than all the rest of you guys. So, take note!"

Being one of two women amongst hundreds of male students was terrifying. I knew that I was not as ambitious as the other students, and I was most certainly not more skilled. In fact, I was completely puzzled why the university accepted me at all considering that I was missing two academic years. My feeling on that day, hearing those roaring words of confidence was, "He is crazy. That is not going to happen. I will be lucky if I can muddle through".

And muddle through I did. Always in the lower half of the class. Always having to work my ass off to compensate for those two missing years of high school calculus, physics, and chemistry. 

Yet, I did receive an honours degree, albit by the skin of my teeth. And then I decided to go and try my luck at finding a job in Germany in medical equipment. And there it was again. "We have never had a woman engineer working in our department. We have never had a foreigner working here in this position. We don't know if you will be accepted." 

In the last 35 years I have done my darnedest to navigate my way through, at times, a very patriarchal, misogynous, and xenophobic corporate working environment. Considering this was a time when the ideas of micro-aggressionsanxiety gap#metoo were completely unconceivable, I did manage to muddle through quite well. I did not navigate the halls of the corporate world gracefully, but nevertheless I did manage.


Last week, something miraculous happened. One of my favourite companies that I work for as an external consultant and trainer, offered me a full-time permanent job position. It will be exciting work. There is a very engaged team. Their offices are in walking distance from my home. There will be travel to their foreign offices world wide. And even though all of this is rather exciting, it is something else that excites me most.


As mentioned in the video above, multi-generational work groups is the future working environment. One that my grown children will probably find themselves working in more and more as the years go on. Currently, it is not so. Ageism is, in my opinion, one of the least mentioned vulnerable minorities when it comes to representation and diversity. So it is with great pride and elan that I am setting out at the age of 60 on this new career path. This time I have the ambition and skills to shine.


22 March, 2018

Best Idea Ever: Maid Marian Tax (rebate)


As a working mother who has worked for the last 35 years and someone who is very conscientious that there was never any pay parity in the positions I worked in, I have an idea about what can be done right now to erase the bitterness and resentment in the hearts of all working women of my generation. I would like to introduce an idea I am calling The Maid Marian Tax (rebate)*. This is how it works.

For all Millennials and post Millennials who are currently employed and paying income tax, there should be a box in the income tax form that asks “How many years did your mother work?”. Depending upon the number written down in this box, the applicant would receive a sizable tax rebate according to the years their mother worked without fair pay.

Not how much your mother earned. Not what level of education she received. Not the number of employees under her management. No, none of that. Just how many years did she work.

If I knew that my son and daughter would receive financial benefits for the rest of their working careers because of all the years I worked and toiled for less pay than my male counterparts, that would still the beast in my belly roaring, knowing I will never see the money that is morally owed to me. I would be happy to know that all children of working moms would know their mother’s contribution continues to influence their quality of life for a long long time ahead.


* The reason I call my idea the Maid Marion Tax comes from the RobinHood Tax campaign (sometimes referred to as the FTT (financial transfer tax)) that started 8 years ago. Please go to their website and sign the petition.


09 February, 2018

All dancers are fighters, all fighters are dancers



Love, love this video. Sorry, I have not posted in the last months becasue life has been a battle ground of grief for the passing of a dear friend, health challenges, and trying to juggle the day-to-day work load.  But, I am dancing/fighting my way along and feeling stronger every day that the sun comes out!

Will be back more. Take care.

28 December, 2017

Current Podcast Favourites

This afternon I was enjoying some end of year podcast listening. It is strange how my playlist is constantly evolving.

The last time I wrote about podcast favourites was in 2013 (1,2). So much has happenend in the podcasting world since then! Surprisingly, the only two podcasts I still listen to are Writers and Company and On Being.

My podcast app has about 40-50 podcasts on it at any time. Though the podcasts on the list are always changing. I will give a new podcasts a few weeks or months and then if my heart does not go pitter patter when a new episode appears... I unsuscribe. 

There are some podcasts that my son recommended and their content adds regularly to our conversation over the last years. Most noticably:

Hello Internet (I've been a fan/Tim since the first episode)
Cortex
Adam Savage's: Still Untitled
The Nerdist

Then there are those podcasts that I share with my daughter. She is a loyal listener and always up for a debate or discussion on social issues:

Stuff Mom Never Told You
Still Processing
Represent
Code Switch

And others that I plain love:

Longform
Politically Re-Active
The Nod
The Daily
Pod Save America
Adventures in Finance

I have drastically reduced any time spent on social media sites since November 2016. I was so disgusted with the time I lost following the fiasco of the last US election that I deactivated, cancelled or put these sites on the back burner. This has opened up a lot of time to travel and listen to podcasts.

Hoping your year 2017 has been kind to you.

25 November, 2017

Gamechanger (update)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the shock I felt after finding out how detrimental it is for our health to spend each day sitting for long periods of time.  So, I decided to become more conscientious about moving throughout the day.




This game changing strategy has proven very simple to carry through. For moving is fun! Often, I listen to podcasts. It is lovely to get through my weekly library of downloaded podcasts. It is a satisfying feeling to reduce their number and become smarter at the same time.

When I am not listening to podcasts, I listen to and sing along to the songs sung on Playing for Change channel. It nice to swing my hips. It adds pep to my steps.

17 November, 2017

Callisto


When my daughter was in university , she was a board member of the Ethics and Equality Committee for a few years. Since the university had over 70% foreign students from 110 different countries, the committee members handled cases of inter-racial conflicts, as well as sexual harassment or assault. Yet, these later cases were the most difficult to know how to manage. It seems that Callisto would be an ideal tool to help survivors and those working with them. 

In Jessica Ladd’s TED Talk, she explains how Callisto could help campuses and companies possibly prevent 59 percent of sexual assaults just by stopping repeat perpetrators earlier on. How empowering would that be for survivors to know their statements would be heard and acted upon?

15 November, 2017

Another fine moment



Amongst all of the bad news, there are fine moments when we, as a collective, make the right choice for the right reasons.



To all the 61.4% of you Aussies out there, thank you for your support in stepping up and voting and trying to eradicate civil unjustice in your country.

12 November, 2017

Women Warriors


Watching this (far too) short interview between two highly successful and powerful women warriors was a delight. It was interesting to know that Anna Wintour was a great friend of Katharine Graham and was mentored by her. Wouldn’t you have loved to have sat in on some of their conversations over the years?

It was also interesting to hear Meryl Streep mention researching Katharine Grahams’ relationship to her mother and posing the question about what our mothers do to us. It is a profound question that we should ask of our mothers and children alike. It is essential to look at how this relationship empowered or destroyed our ability to speak out and be heard.

Now more than ever, we need to speak the truth. One of the most discouraging things about reading the reports over the last weeks (years) that expose the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment in the work place, is not that these men exist, but that they show no true contrition. How are we as individuals, let alone as a society, going to start an honest dialog about the hurts and indignities, the taking away of our humanity, as a result of predatory workplace behaviour if there is not contrition?



--> It is reassuring that Meryl Streep believes this moment in time is thrilling. That the exposure of these famous men’s behaviour will positively affect us all. That it will no longer be for people to conduct their lives as they have done so in the past. Let’s make sure this happens. Let’s speak up and make ourselves heard.

10 November, 2017

Gamechanger



Having thankfully hit the 60 mark in (relative) sound mind and good shape, I have been thinking the last weeks about what self-care program I should pursue for the next years. The video above was a wake up call. Being self-employed means that there are days that I am running around and standing up and moving a great speeds. But there are farfar more days that I literally sit at my computer at 7 am and work online until 6 or 7 in the evening.

That has changed completely/radically since I watched this video. Every 50 minutes I get up and walk around or climb stairs for 5-10 minutes. That is self-care for my bones, arteries, skin, and brain!

17 July, 2017

Immigrants get the job done (remix)


To all those getting their jobs done:
Whether that is putting food on the table,
Trying to find a roof to put over their heads,
Sending their children off to schools,
Learning a new language though
No one wishes to speak to them,
Navigating their way through
Hostile hateful public encounters,
Feeling despair and worry they will
Never be allowed a safe harbour
Nor will they every be able to
See their family and friends again,
Waking with the night terrors
of all they experienced along the way
to this new place they wish to call home.

11 May, 2017

Early morning loveliness

Oh, how lovely it is to travel on a train through the springtime countryside.

22 April, 2017

How to make the perfect cup of tea


One of the most delightful aspects of living in Germany is their cafés. Every city and town has numerous cafés to while away in. They all serve a wide selection of beverages, though admittedly, most fuss is made around coffee. Unfortunately, the majority of people working in cafés are not tea drinkers and therefore they often make a miserable cup of tea. I’ve lamented this fact over and over again. This is what prompted me to make these three videos.


I’ve tried to keep the tone light and not be too disparaging about the current state of affairs. I might add a video in the future about “what not to do” when making a cup of tea, so I can out my bitchier self. Things like: don’t put the lemon slice into the boiling water before the teabag, or if the tea cup is so small that the tea bag takes up half of the space – the tea is going to be bitter…. The possibilities are endless.


I’m going to work on the German version soon. So, if you have the time and see any mistakes or needed changes, please write a comment. Thank you for your help.


Hope you enjoy watching the videos. 

10 April, 2017

The right attitude: school is good


Years ago, I was working in a university research institute developing projects that focused on how media can be used constructively and creatively in schools. We did a few cross-cultural projects with schools in Germany, Kenya, and Canada. Since the projects were research projects, we gave out questionnaires to the participants and their teachers before and after each project.

The questions of the pre-trail survey established current practices of media use and what did they like or dislike about going to school. The questions of the post-trail were focus on the children’s experiences, team communication, and learning motivation during the duration of their project. Even though this sounds very academic, it was really interesting to read the stories of the participants through the numbers.

Most notably, was the difference in children’s attitudes towards going to school. As in the case with Jonathan in the video above, his attitude of “school is good” was prevalent in all the responses of the school children in Kimilili, Kenya and the inner-city school children in Toronto. Whereas, the children in Germany often saw having to go to school as a chore and not a privilege.

What a disservice parents and society are doing towards our children, if we cannot communicate how marvellous education is. We need to tell them how proud we are that they are working hard and are doing well. Not the marks on the report card, but the day-to-day effort they extend towards learning all that they can.