30 November, 2006

Mama Scrooge

Yesterday afternoon, during our lunchbreak, a friend/colleague and I talked about the up-and-coming (already arrived) Christmas season. She loves Christmas and is already reading her two-year-old son Christmas stories and singing him about twenty Christmas carols every night before he goes to bed. Christmas is a very serious business in Germany. There is just about something for everyone: religion, tradition (music, food, drinks, rituals, decorations, literature, etc.), family, celebratory rituals… oh, heavens, don’t get me talking.

The Christmas season begins around the eleventh of November (St. Martin Day). All the little children go out on “Lantern Trains” late afternoon when darkness comes. They carry (usually) homemade candlelit lanterns and prance along in the dark singing traditional St. Martin Day songs. It’s lovely.

And it goes on from there. Can you imagine doing justice to a holiday that has a seven-week build-up? Talk about not being able to live up to the expectations.

I’m a bit of a Mama Scrooge, though with a bit of a difference. I’m all for people celebrating Christmas as they want to, but I would, if given a free choice, prefer to not to celebrate it. I respect the religious significance; yet, I do not feel any personal connection. I abhor the commercial abundance, gluttonous feasting, and the other overwhelmingly sentimental aspects of the season. My favourite Christmases were spent, as an adult, reading Jane Austin, eating Swiss bitter chocolate, listening to wonderful music, drinking excellent tea, and, very importantly, they were spent alone.

Now, my secret is out. Can you imagine how difficult it is to reconcile this idyll, with the expectation of my children, my large family of Italian in-laws, dear and treasured German friends, and all of the hype of this season?

As Mama Scrooge, my restricted repertoire during this season is light, preferably candlelight, and music. I just love Christmas music: ancient, choir, instrumental, traditional, jazzy, rocky, R&B, everything-and-anything. So, keeping with tradition I went out yesterday and bought two CDs (Christmas for Lovers, and last year’s Diana Krall). Candlelight, little chains of light on Christmas trees*, the decorative lightening along the streets and in the store windows, they all bring a deep sense of joy. But, that is more or less it.

The children’s tactic is to nurture and seek more reliable sources of Christmas spirit amongst kindred souls. Yesterday, one of our friends brought over two lovely homemade Advent wreathes for us to enjoy during Advent, which starts this Sunday. Nature Girl and a friend and her two little boys are off to a children’s Advent tea party tomorrow. Next week, my son and daughter are going over to another dear friend’s place to bake Christmas cookies. Then there is a traditional visit to the Christmas Market with another…yes, you guessed, friend. You notice a pattern here? They are our friends, relatives of choice, and thus we are so thankful for their continued warm, kind, and heart-felt holiday gestures.

Undoubtedly, my children will be visiting therapists in years to come recounting all the details of their confused and strange Christmases (amongst other things). I hope dearly they will be able to use the genius of their humour, their special intelligence, and a portion of Christian charity to forgive their Mama Scrooge and her severely limited Christmas spirit.

And finally, all the best to you of NaBloPoMa. It’s been a delight. It’s been interesting. It’s been fun. And, it’s been a heck of a ride. The gods willing, till next year.

* Many Germans use real candles to light up their Christmas trees. Having once seen a dried tree go up in flames, I’d never have the courage to use candles. Whoosh!

29 November, 2006

The Ol' Birdwatcher In Me

It was a spectacular sunny crystal clear autumn day yesterday. Looks as though the good weather front is over today.

I left work early yesterday afternoon on my bicycle and took a long luxurious roundabout route home. The route takes about forty-five or fifty minutes to ride, but it passes through a nature park on the periphery of the city. Ducks, swans, and various (for me) unnameable birds populate the river’s water edge, the empty-leaved trees and wooded areas.

It is just a delight to ride there now, because there is just no one to be seen. What a rare thing this is indeed, especially somewhere so close to a city.

My friends, T., an environmental and bird scientist*, and K., an avid birdwatcher, are probably shaking their heads in astonishment and disbelief at my complete incompetence at naming bird life. The only four birds that I can identify reliably are: a) Fried Chicken, b) Thanksgiving Turkey, c) Christmas Goose, and d) Nasty-tempered Swan. When trying to identify anything else I either say: a) oh look, a bird (honest answer), or b) if that isn’t a double-breasted triple-thigh wobbling shrill beak, then call me uncle (UNCLE!).

* I don’t know how to spell the name of this science and, after looking in the dictionary I’ve only come up with someone who puts braces on your teeth or a foot doctor. Why did they give us dyslexics a name for our disorder (don’t start on spelling and reading challenge… no PC need in this department) that none of us could spell? Why did my parents always answer, look it up in the dictionary, every time I asked them to help me spell a word? That’s like telling someone who is lost in the woods to use a compass, even though he has no idea where he is!

28 November, 2006

A Promise To Myself

I started writing this blog over a year ago. The initial reason I choose to become a blogger, and not just remain a reader of blogs, was through the influence of people like Will Richardson and David Warlick. They are educators, advisors, bloggers, writers, presenters and many more things as well. They made me realise the necessity of learning to talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to new Internet technologies, Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it.

Here are four quotes, when put together, clarify my motivation to blog, create podcasts, make collages, do IMing, place comments, and Sype my way through the present day Internet.

David Warlick (2 Cents Worth)

“... certainly our children are natives and we (teachers and parents) are immigrants to the technical world.”

“Most of the kids in our classrooms today have absolutely no conscious recollection of the 20th century: the century that raised us (the teachers). For many of them the only connection that they have with the previous, the last century, is happening in their classroom. That’s where they’re supposed to be learning about their future!”

Will Richardson (Weblogg-ed)

“We teach teachers to teach, we don’t teach teachers to learn. Even in professional development, we teach them stuff they need to be better teachers, but do we give them the skills they need to be better learners?”

Ken Robinson (TED Talks 2006)

“… we must see our creative capacities for the richness they are, and see our children for the hope that they are.”

Kevin Kelly (TED Talks 2005)

“You can delay technology but you can’t kill it.”

As a parent of two children, I need to know they’ll receive proper supervision and guidance in the uses of digital media. Unfortunately, their education system does not think it is part of their responsibility as educators to help the children learn how to use this media creatively or constructively or, even, responsibly. So, as with other aspects of their upbringing, in part to compensate for the lacking of foresight of the education system, I set out on a journey a year or so ago to learn how to walk the walk of Web 2.0, as it were.

It was a very tentative start; I produced a few sound seeing tours for family and friends, created this blog and motivated some women friends to set up the Red Tent Blog. All of this was done, more or less, in semi-privacy (i.e. only friends and family knew the blog address). This is because I was shy, sceptical, and distinctly lacking in confidence; I didn’t think I could ever produce something of interests to others.

Participating in NaBloPoMo has sort of been a coming out of the closet for me as a blogger. I didn’t realise until now that there are complete strangers (still; who knows maybe that will change) out there interested enough in what I write to comment on the content. That is rather thrilling, isn’t it?

Since NaBloPoMo is over soon, I thought that I’d publicly state a promise I made to myself yesterday. This promise came to mind after attending an interesting seminar at our research institute on the psychology of Web 2.0 social networks. In particular, after reading this quote on one of the presentation transparencies:

A. Dix (source info later)

“Many people assume that because they can make information available on the web, they should. Unfortunately, because it is very easy to publish information, much less care is taken with the actual content.”

So, my promise to myself is, to pay an equal amount of attention to producing good and interesting content as I do to fiddling with all the new and free web gadgets.

27 November, 2006

Skipping Generations

If there is any one person in our family who has their life under control, it’s Nature Girl. Not something you would expect of an eleven year old, but it is true. She manages her school work on her own, she has a healthy and lively social life, she tells us how she feels, she makes her likes and dislikes noticeable, and, for heavens’ sake, she already bought all of her Christmas presents for family and friends. It’s not even December yet!

And, most surprisingly, to me, is the fact that she bought the gifts with her own money; saved from her weekly allowance (2 Euros/week) and babysitting money (noticeably more). Now, I don’t know what you were like as a kid or teenager, but I was not a Noble Soul, I would never have thought of spending my own money on Christmas gifts for others! Nooooo, any money that found it’s way into my wallet, was spent exclusively on my own person. And then, whoosh, something happens and I have two children who spend their money on themselves as well as others.

What a novel concept. Where does it come from? Could come from some distant relative I never had the pleasure to meet?

26 November, 2006

Prevention Is The Best Medicine

If prevention is the best medicine, why do I find it so difficult to effectively and consequentially introduce new changes into my day-to-day existence? Is it my particular difficulty, or do human beings in general find it difficult to live healthily?

When you think about it, we all know how. We know about healthy organic food, exercise, reducing stress, increasing the natural morphines in our brain (sorry, don’t remember what they are called), heart rate through aerobics, lowering our cholesterol, blood pressure, anti-toxins, anti-aging, … the list is endless. Basically, the health gurus, the women magazines, even Oprah can stop giving us any new information, because, when you come down to it, we reallyreally know everything there is to know about living well.

The one thing I don’t know is, and I hope I have some company here, how to actually change my daily health practices to reflect this vast wealth of knowledge and good intentions. In comparison to many folk, maybe I do live rather healthily, but I’m really not interested in comparison. What I’m talking about is conviction, consistency, and the faith to change fundamental practices (e.g. eating, sleeping, exercises, mediating) so they become an integral part of my lifestyle.

Some say tender loving care and others, iron discipline. I feel I have a good proportion of both in my personality. What is the ingredient I am missing? Gratitude, clarity, motivation, desperation…

25 November, 2006

The Red Tent Blog

About seventeen years ago, Mr. G., the head of human resources department, of the large German corporation I worked for, was asked to give a speech about “Women: Job Equality and Career Perspectives” at a prestigious meeting of business hotshots.

Since Mr. G. didn’t know anything about the topic, he sent out a questionnaire to all the professional women of the company and asked us our views or experiences concerning pay equality, possibility of promotion, work conditions in general, and working almost exclusively with men (it’s an engineering firm) in particular. The accounts returned made him blush, he told us at a later point in time, in their frankness. Basically, the women painted a very grim picture of what it was like to work in the company as a female engineer, computer scientist, etc. This did not stop him from going to the meeting and presenting glowing accounts about how the company he represents, a family company, is doing their very best to encourage women in the engineering profession.

To do him credit, the moment he returned from the meeting he offered the professional women in the company the opportunity of forming a professional women’s group. The group was to work out some viable solutions for problems related to women’s issues, such as lack of proper day care facilities, the right to extended periods of leave for women raising small children or caring for ill parents, lack of women in management positions, and networking. We were to act as advisories to the head of human resources department and the company union policy makers.

The group accomplished wonderful work for about six or seven years. We managed to make some fundamental changes in the company policies, as well as form a parent initiative day care and kindergarten, and change a few union policies. All in all they were exciting times, which made the group’s eventual demise, through internal bickering, a painful experience. Afterwards, I more or less decided not to get politically involved in women issues again. I felt that if I were ever to do anything at all, it would have to be on personal and understated level.

Then, about six years ago, I read the wonderful book, I Know Just What You Mean, The Power of Friendship in Women’s Lives, by Ellen Goodman and Patricia O’Brien. The story is about women friendships. The book is very well written, the ideas and thoughts behind the writing intriguing.

Sometime before or after reading I Know Just What You Mean, I read The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant. An absolute must read.

The concept of women’s friendships being equally significant and powerful past and present, overwhelmed me. These two books inspired me to come up with a concept for a website, and outlines for a short film and play. Once done, unfortunately, I just put the documents away and hoped eventually Something would happen, which allowed me to realise my vision.

Red Tent Blog

Last year a few friends and I started our own virtual Red Tent. The idea behind it is to create a place for women to share their thoughts and experiences in a safe and welcoming atmosphere. We don’t have to be friends, just friendly, and curious to know about the challenges other women face in this day and age.

If you’d like to write a post entry please feel free. There is a Topic Of The Month page, but I don’t think any of the writers have necessarily kept to it. If you write something, just send the text to virtualredtent(AT)yahoo(dOt)com. At the moment the entries are in English and German, but we welcome other languages.

24 November, 2006

Trying Out New Things

I’ve wanted to try out some new things for a while now. So, knowing there’s never a better time than the present… TaTa!

This album is powered by

Ok, no great work of art, but it got me thinking about how some school art and language projects could be made interesting veryvery easily. Learning curve: instant (ok, if you’ve never used Flickr, could be 5 minutes), spontaneous combustion, easy, way easy. Have fun!

My Losing-The-Keys Gene

Oh, it’s just so discouraging; I’ve inherited my father’s losing-the-keys gene! I guess I knew this all along, but in the last years, by diligently, frantically trying to cover up this disability, I almost convinced myself it was not so.

You have to understand… My father was so predictably without-keys that the moment he announced it was “Time to go” and walked out the door in the direction of the car, the rest of the family would disperse themselves in different directions throughout the house in search of the car keys, house keys, boat keys, whatever. A few moments later my father would re-enter the house with a puzzled look on his face and announce the surprising fact that his keys were not in his bag. Gosh, do I miss him at times.

Yesterday though, after a trip to the post office I came back home and discovered that I lost my keys along the way. We are talking about a five-minute journey here. Fortunately, I managed to take a circular and convoluted, but ever so scenic, tour through many crowded city streets on the way there and back, thus guaranteeing the task of finding the keys impossible.

In a moment of complete honesty, I had to admit to myself, and to my husband (who neverever even momentarily misplaces his keys because he as an Ironclad System that he neverever wavers from), that I am a pathetic key-loser. Oh, what a sad and miserable thing this is. If only it was possible to add a tinsy tiny chromosome onto my losing-the-keys gene and thus render this fault of nature distinct.

When I mentioned this dream of mine to my ever so patient Limpet of Luebeck, he said that maybe it would be better just to invent a key-dispenser and hang it in the entrance hall wall. Sort of like the coin dispensers the bus drivers have. What do you think, could that work?

If you were able to magically change one or your boy-is-this-ever-annoying genes, which would it be?

23 November, 2006

End Of A Workweek

It’s been one of those difficult workdays. Nothing went right, except that it came to a thankful end.

The Last NaBloPoMo Stretch

By my reckoning we are on the last stretch of the NaBloPoMo project/contest. What an interesting experience it has been so far! I hope they will do it again next year. This time I’ll prepare better in respect to possible topics to write about and also by setting up a sign which says “Gone Fishing” for family and friends.
Basically, I feel as if I have been “away” in a very essential, hands-on way over the last three weeks. Mentally I ‘m on a creative vacation or perhaps an intensive workshop. Let me say to you, my dear ones, that I promise to start writing emails, making phone calls, dropping by for a cup of tea, as of December 1st.

So, what have I learnt the last three weeks? First, I’ve developed a blogger’s eye; I am constantly looking at people around me, or situations I’m experiencing, in context whether they will make a good blog entry. A blogger’s eye in much same as a camera eye. It can be a very interesting state of mind to move in, but it is a distraction to a living-the-moment philosophy.

Secondly, I’ve come to realise that the more I blog the more I like it. The more I like it, the more I want to try some new topics, create collages, and perhaps change the format of the entries (e.g. maybe I’ll try to do some interviews soon).

Thirdly, some of the technical changes I’ve been avoiding or procrastinating about doing (e.g. changing from blogger to word press, learning to use comic life, bubbleshare, and finetune) are now a high priority now.

Fourthly, and most importantly, I’ve discovered some new blogs and have contact with some bloggers and feel more a part of the blogsphere than I did before NaBloPoMo started.

I hope that the lessons learnt over the last weeks will qualitatively find their way in future blog entries. Maybe I will not be writing as frequently as I’d like, but at least I can strive to make each entry worth reading.

22 November, 2006

Homage To My Kitchen Office

In this month’s Brigitte Woman (for women over 40) magazine (in German) there is an article about women choosing to have room of their own: either as a place to go to work far from the intrusion of home life or a place to escape to from the stress at work or home. This reminded me of my treasured kitchen office cum writing atelier that I had a while back.

When the children were really small, I did my writing (scripts for women computer games) on the computer in our guest room. That worked out very well. Eventually, the children grew older and more mobile and Nomad Son moved into the guest room as a permanent resident. The fact that they could or did interrupt me all the time (now on the living room computer) made me feel very closed in creatively.

I yearned for a room of my own. My usually very patient, indulgent, and sympathetic husband (aka the Limpet of Luebeck) could not understand why I wanted to physically remove myself from the family to write. Hang up a sign, close the door, wait till the kids are in bed, it’s a luxury we can’t afford, were the arguments he used whenever I started on the topic of finding a writing atelier. And after arguing the matter over the years, I really wasn’t sure whether what I yearned for was to be physically separated from the family and in the womb of my own solitary room, or just permission to be emotionally distanced and intellectually removed from the banal draining day-to-day demands.

Fortunately, I found out the answer to that question and it is the physical distance and a solitary room I was yearning.

A good friend of mine, a management consultant and business coach, had an office in an old (1678) building with a sunny back courtyard. She offered to give me the use of a kitchen she had across from her office that she didn’t use. She didn’t have to ask me twice before I was moved into her kitchen in no time flat.

It was the most beautiful room: a monastery cell with a computer, a small stereo and a view onto the courtyard. I loved it. I worked tremendously hard and well there. No phone. No Internet. No communication with the outside world: except a cell phone for emergencies that only Limpet, Nomad Son, and Nature Girl knew the number of. Occasionally, my friend would come in to make a pot of tea in between her appointments. We’d chat about her work or my work and then, ping the water boiled, the cookies were finished and she’d gracefully retreat back into her office.

A few years later I discovered that I no longer needed the physical distance, for the children were old enough not to worry when I am intellectually removed; they knew I’d “come back” in a good and beholding mood once I had written what I needed to write. And, so I gave up my kitchen office.

While I had it though, it was heaven, my creative oasis. I can highly recommend such a retreat to anyone working from home or with young children. It doesn't really matter whether you want to work or just curl up and read a good book, we all deserve a bit of peace and quiet.

21 November, 2006

Slow Living II

The other day I was bemoaning the fact that we just don’t seem to have enough time to do all the things we so dearly like to do. For a year now, I’ve been trying to think of ways to slow down my life. I believe the trick to doing this lies in finding positive methods. Unfortunately, instead of doing this I often slow down only when I’m suffering stress-related illnesses. (Let me take this moment to thank my body for telling me in undeniable terms last year that slow living is the new route for me to take.)

I mentioned a few possibilities in the first post and then a reader sent me the suggestion of walking and bicycling everywhere.
Fortunately, since we live in a relatively small German city (215,000 pop.), do not own a car, and everywhere (schools, work, stores, friends’ homes) is in relatively close proximity, we cycle or walk everywhere. I forgot that walking or bicycling is, in many countries, not the norm or even possible. For instance, you read all the time how in L.A. they don’t have sidewalks or the city is a labyrinth of overpasses. I don’t know if this is true, but there must be something to the stories.

We live in an old (1894) building, divided into five apartments. The downstairs entrance area, where once the carriages and horses rode through, houses anywhere from twelve to fifteen bicycles; more bicycles per capita than children. Everyone in our building rides a bicycle to work and walks everywhere in town.

It is one of those nice things of living here and I’ll try not to take it for granted in the future. Oh, yes, walking and cycling are wonderful ways to slow down life.

P.S. Nature Girl shinned in her elocution yesterday. She came back home one happy girl.

20 November, 2006

Public Reading

Nature Girl just finished practicing reading a text passage out loud from Philip Ardagh’s book, House called Awful End (in German). She has to read it out loud in school today. Her sixth grade class is participating in the regional public reading contest. Which, eventually leads to the national contest.

Her father, an Italian immigrant, managed to make it to the national finals in his school days. It’s lovely to see how the tradition carries on.

I know they have spelling bees in the States (see recent films, here and here), but what I’d be interested to know is whether public reading contests, debate clubs, and spelling bees are still popular in other countries.

Originally, weeks ago, Nature Girl chose a passage out of the German translation of Margaret Atwood’s Princess Prunella and the Purple Plum fairytale. Nature Girl is an absolutely brilliant reader and she reads this particular piece beautifully. She practiced diligently for the last four weeks. Then she comes home on Friday in tears and tells me that she can’t possibly read the piece out loud because the guys in her class will mock her. The piece is too baby-like. Arrrrggghhh! Her friend, M., read out of a children’s book and the boys laughed when she was reading the text, even though the text wasn’t funny. (Oh, how I despise these mean and vindictive boys (it is always the same three boys in her class) who posses no talent but that of being able to mock bright and intelligent girls.)

So, it was Friday, and Nature Girl had two days to pick out a new text, practice it, and feel confident enough to shine on Monday. Talk about a drama (she is part Italian). I won’t go into the trials of our weekend. There were many tears of frustration (mine), defeat (hers), and, did I mention frustration (the whole family really) until a good alternative text was found.

I would like to express my thanks to Philip Ardagh and the translator, Harry Rowold, for writing such a wonderful series. The four books of this trilogy (go figure) are each in their own right brilliant. And even though it was difficult to decide which passage from which book, once done, Nature Girl did shine.

Cross your fingers that she will read well and feel she managed to do her best.

19 November, 2006

Beautiful Autumn Weather

It’s a sunny Sunday! What a lovely occurrence that is.

Just looked out our living room window and saw a group of homeless making their way to the cathedral around the corner from our place. The eleven o’clock mass is nearly over. When the congregation leave the church, the homeless are waiting with their hands held out asking for money. The first time I saw this I was rather surprised. I don’t know quite why; after all, the homeless are asking for Christian charity, something they’ve been doing for centuries. I wonder whether this also happens in front of churches in other countries.

I have to return my friend’s BBC Pride and Prejudice DVDs today. So, you guessed, I watched it again in its entirety yesterday. Even on second viewing it was a delight. Sigh! Colin Firth was (is?) very good looking, wasn’t he?

Have you ever noticed what a real test of manliness is to get dress up in the trousers of that time and not look disadvantaged? If you can look good in them, then you can really look good in anything. Wickam had terribly skinny spindly legs and no butt, and Mr. Darcy’s friend, Fitzwilliam, was quite hippy. And, rather disconcertingly, there were these odd dangling bits to be seen at times. I guess men didn’t wear jockstraps then. (Maybe it is the old ballet dancer in me who prefers everything a bit better packed.)

Sorry, it’s Sunday, must think of more sober things. Or do I mean spiritual? Whatever. So I will now spend an hour in thoughtful occupation and go take a long walk along the canal with a friend and breathe in the beauty of this fine autumn day.

18 November, 2006

Pick Up The Phone

Saturday morning has just arrived. Time to go to sleep. Time also to put in the collage I’ve been working on the last few hours into my blog. Topic of the collage doesn’t make any sense; it is just a patchwork of images. Doesn’t really have to work, does it?

Spent long hours talking to family and friends in far off places and in between I just dabbled with Photoshop. I think I have to go beyond the quiet meandering I’m doing at the moment. It’s time to study some good tutorials.

Have you ever noticed how far off places make communication sometimes difficult? My sis and I figured out that email doesn’t necessarily make the grade. Our laborious attempts to make ourselves understood in emails, or with skype (I’m still too self-conscious), or IM-ing, remain just that, laborious. None of these media work as efficiently as just picking-up-the-darn phone. Ironically, this is something we figured out at the beginning of the 90’s, yet we somehow have to figure it out fifteen years later.

P.S. Do you remember when email was separate from Internet services?

17 November, 2006

No Time

Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

Does this definition make any sense to you? Do any of us know what time is? In the last years, I have the feeling that most of the people that I know, myself included, only know what No Time is and not what Time is. Which is odd when you consider how many expressions of time there exists:

Father Time, allotted time, available time, time used, need more time, a waste of time, doing time, the first time, a good time, a rough time, in time, time planned, scheduled time, timed to go off, perfectly timed, to be timed, about time, against time, ahead of time, ahead of one's time, all the time, at one time, at the same time, at a time, at times, before time, behind time, behind the times, for the time being, give someone the time of day, half the time, have no time for, in (less than) no time, in one's own good time, keep good (or bad) time, keep time, lose no time, no time, in no time, on one's own time, on time, out of time, ran out of time, pass the time of day, time after time, time and again, time and tide wait for no man, time immemorial, time is money, the time of one's life, time out of mind, time was, (only) time will tell, ahead of time, ahead of one's/its time, all the time, at one time, at the same time, at times, behind the times, for the time being, from time to time, in good time, in time, many a time, on time, time after time, ofttimes, spare time, free time, part time, full time, scheduled time of departure, estimated time of arrival (ETA)…

More and more we are living our lives with a sense of having absolutely No Time on our hands. Last year, I reread the delightful novel, A New Kind of Country, by Dorothy Gilman. It is the story of Dorothy, a middle-aged newly-divorced American suburban woman, who move up to a small village on the Canadian east coast to reassess her life and priorities. Somewhere in the book she contemplates this idea of time and writes a long rich list of words focusing on time.

In her list she used the word “spare time” and I registered a flash of mental recognition; in the sense of – I once knew what that word meant and even used it myself in normal conversation. But that was before I had Nomad Son sixteen years ago, the first of two children. Since then I don’t think I’ve used the words, spare time, once. Which is a shame.

As far as I can gather, this whole concept of having No Time has evolved in the last twenty years or so to a degree that is utterly idiotic. We all doing so much, working so hard and so many hours, running around like a chicken with its head cut of, burning the candle at both ends, desperately trying to meet deadlines, sleeping less, being stressed out, burnout... What message are we sending out to our children, family, and friends? Most likely, that we have no control over our time; we are not the masters of our time on this earth… pathetic really.

It takes courage to reflect upon your day-to-day existence: stand naked with all your mismanagement, disorganisation, false priorities, and unrealised resolutions. It takes courage to invest time and effort in learning to Live Slow.

We have to gather our inner resolve and go on the offensive. The first step towards claiming our time for ourselves is to stop saying expressions such as “Sorry, no time, I’m terribly busy, etc.”. There was a time when, “Sorry, I have no time” was considered a rude response. Did something change along the way? Has it really become socially acceptable to say such phrases?

The second step I’ve started to take is, what I call, the “Lower Your Standards” step. Don’t laugh. I am very serious! There are so many things that we feel we have to do, but in reality if they don’t get done, our world, or our family’s world, will not fall apart. So, given the choice of clearing up the messy hallway or chatting with Nature Girl (my daughter) or sharing a cup of tea with a friend, I tend to chat or drink tea. And I don’t stay up later that evening and clean up the hallway; which means our hallway is pretty messy all the time. Lower your standards.

The next step I am learning is the “Learn to say No” step. This is a hard one and I am nowhere near being able to do it, but I think it will be a great time saver. Don’t you?

Can you come up with other steps I could take in this journey towards living slow?

16 November, 2006

My Bad

Last week, during a meeting at a women’s club I belong to, I got my fingers slapped by the club president. Another member, who lives in Hamburg (over an hour away) sent out a general invitation saying, if anyone felt like it or had the time, she was giving a brunch the next weekend and she’d love to see us. I didn’t respond to the invitation because we get general invitations from various people or other clubs all the time; other than going to our monthly meetings, I am not interested in attending other activities.

It turned out that not directly responding to the invitation was a nono. During last week’s meeting, the president spoke sharply to us all (looking the whole time directly at me), basically saying the invitation warranted a response and “even a child would know better”. I reacted as I always try to when I make a mistake; I apologised and said I hoped it wouldn’t happen again. Then I dismissed the matter. The fact that the president was quite bitchy about the situation didn’t concern me; it was her problem after all.

Last night, a good friend of mine (who was not at the meeting) said another friend of ours (who was at the meeting) called her up and ranted on to her for two hours about a situation. It seems that this ranting friend assumed I hadn’t registered the insult and she was really upset at the president for using such bitchy tactics. This resulted in our ranting friend carrying around her upset for the last week and having to talk herself blue before letting it go. I am not sure what is more of a insult, the bitchy critique on the part of the president or my friend’s underestimation of my language competence.

P.S. I've just reread this story and it does seem wandering and convoluted.
P.P.S. After living and working in Germany for nearly 25 years, my German is fluent, though grammatically inaccurate. Unfortunately, my command of the English language has diminished abysmally over the years. Oh, how I wish it were not so!

15 November, 2006

Almost Halfway Point

Well, we are almost at the halfway point with the NaBloPoMo project/contest. I decided spontaneously to participate in NaBloPoMo because I hoped that an intense writing spurt might stir up new ideas and steer me away from just writing mundane uninspired entries in this blog.

It’s harder to blog than I originally expected it would be. I’d written a diary relatively regularly for upward of twenty years and I’d also written and read quite a few ship logs. When I heard about blogs, I thought it would be like writing a ship’s log with a personal flair.

My blogging experience has been more like living a day-to-day relationship than the above-mentioned mental exercise: it takes a lot of love, patience, kindness and tolerance. Those rare moments of lightness and effortlessness have to be wrestled out of the domestic tedium. I’m surprised at how effectively writing everyday is helping me to get the creative juices moving.

Yesterday, snoskred of Life In the Country wrote about (here) how she and her friend/partner, Sephy, are trying to go through as many of the NaBloPoMo blogs as possible and leaving behind comments. What a lovely idea this is. It’s a way of encouraging others as fellow shipmates and not competitors. I’m going to try and read through and comment on a few blogs as well.

14 November, 2006

Wonderful Trailer

Just saw this trailer to the movie The Painted Veil with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in the main roles. What a fantastic trailer it is. Or can it be a good trailer to a fantastic film?

Certainly making good trailers is an art from in itself. I’ve seen good trailers for bad films: where all the noteworthy jokes are comprised into the trailer making the task of viewing the film superfluous. And, I vaguely remember seeing trailers that didn’t do the film justice. What I’d really like to know is which great films had great trailers?

Becoming Invisible

The other day I mentioned my mother’s theory of Mr. Wart-and-All. Now, I’d like to mention a phenomena my mother told me about growing old. She said, about the time she turned 60, she started to get the impression that she had become invisible. A special type of social invisibility: lack of notice, lack of inclusion, and lack of interest in her wellbeing by her fellowmen. When she walked down the street, people rarely looked at her; when standing behind a store counter, salespersons often ignored her; flight attendants began to give her looks of impatience or even a gesture of general rejection when she requested a drink; and, in particular, young doctors’ eyes spoke out blatantly “Well, what can you expect?” whenever she resited symptoms of an illness.

She felt the change didn’t so much have to do with the people themselves, but with a society that obviously finds elderly people unattractive, uninteresting, annoying, or financially undesirable. She said at first she was very annoyed at the fact, but as time went by, she just turned sad and discouraged.

I’d love to be able to tell you that she discovered a wonderful and useful method of attracting attention and is presently living happily ever after. No, this didn’t happen. Instead, the sadness and discouragement slowly wore away at her self-confidence. She resigned herself to the fact that other than people she knew, others didn’t acknowledge her existence, and then she started becoming invisible to herself. Now, fifteen years later, she doesn’t want to be photographed, she never ever looks in a mirror, and she does not welcome any attention or complement about her appearances.

This is a sad and discouraging development. And so I’ve been contemplating what sort of alternative strategies I can use in the years to come, which might produce another outcome. For instance, last week I stopped looking at younger women and concentrate instead on women my age or older. It’s amazing how much I’ve discovered in this short period of time. What “works” when it comes to being attractive and elegant and fashionable when you are older is accessories, accessories, and accessories.

If your glasses, shoes, purses, and scarves are (relatively) new, attractive, and elegant, then so are you. It’s not about age or figure, but more about presenting yourself authentically. Oh, I forgot haircuts. Go and get a haircut at a chic salon where you can count on them giving you a beautiful modern cut. Also, I saw some coats and jackets which were made with really interesting material, and not bought off the rack at the nearest department store. They made the women (and one man) very stylish looking.

My dearest wish, given the opportunity to grow old, would be to learn to experiment with my wardrobe. Something I haven’t managed to do up to now. So, I am going to adopt a you-never-know-until-you-try attitude, instead of a can’t-teach-old-dogs defeatism.

13 November, 2006

A Discredit To Womanliness

I spent the whole day watching the 1995 BBC TV mini series of Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Frith and Jennifer Ehle in the main roles of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. What a completely silly indulgence this was. And, oh, how I enjoyed it!

What I really enjoyed beyond Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle’s performances, the performances of nearly every other cast member, the costumes, the photography, the sets and locations, the dancing, the music… have I missed anything? What I enjoy beyond all these major artistic merits, is the fact that the only female actor who was a skinny was Mary Bennet a decidedly miserable, unattractive, doomed for spinsterhood, younger sister of Elizabeth. All of the other women in the series were nicely formed and nicely featured… young women possessing womanliness.

I do not want to do Keira Knightly any injustice, but her retched (Freudian slip, I mean wretched) skinniness should have disqualified her for the role of Elizabeth in last year’s movie production. It is as if a producer for historical movie about the famous Ethiopian long distance runners decided to cast Anthony Anderson for the part of Abebe Bikila.

The only women who were so thin in Jane Austin’s time were overworked, grossly undernourished, sick, or dying. No one during those times (and a majority of us in these times) would have found such a skinny person attractive.

When will Hollywood ever get it? If a woman’s rips are showing both from the front as well as the back, if her collar bones can act as ski jumps, if her hands are red from lack of circulation, the woman is not fashionably thin, she is sick and dying. And if she says she eats like a horse, don’t believe her; she’s lying. No matter how good these women are at acting, get them help, but don’t cast them in a role of an intelligent, feisty, womanly woman.

12 November, 2006

Mr. And Ms. Warts-And-All

Many women, in their middle-years, when looking in the mirror are often, unpleasantly, confronted with an aged stranger: their own bodies… Ms. Warts-And-All. Once confronted with this stranger, we look the other way: much in the manner of looking the other way in a bus when someone begins to rant and rave in an un-seemingly manner. Or we have a jerk- knee reaction in a cover-it-up-and-it-will-go-away sense. We cover up the grey hair with dye, our thinning hair with artificial curls, our sagging breasts with armoured bras, hide our expanding waistlines underneath long potato sack linen blouses, the list goes on.

When I mentioned this fact to a friend a few weeks ago, she said we have to learn to accommodate ourselves to our changing body. This notion of accommodating something or someone reminded me of something my mother told me many years ago.

My mother, now 77 years old, said, in her generation a woman married one man and then woke up in bed with another. The Canadian women of those days tended to marry their Prince Charming. Their Hero. Someone who promised to save them from being an old maid; swept them away from their restrictive parental homes; promised them that they would never have to go out and work; make babies with them; and basically assured them a happy and contented life.

Eventually though, they’d wake up one morning and there lying beside them was Mr. Warts-And-All instead of Prince Charming. Then they were faced with the task of getting to know and, hopefully, love this new person. Sometimes the women were lucky, sometimes not.

My mother said they learnt to “accommodate” themselves. She would say this as if I, a young single woman at the time, could understand what this meant. (I assumed it had something to do with sex, and, like most young women, did not want to think of my parents having sex, or any other middle-aged people either.) Now, thirty years later, I still don’t quite know what she meant with “accommodating”. Did it have to do with fitting in and compliancy or more with adaptability and willingness?

The children of these marriages were very conscious when their fathers, Mr. Wart-And-All, didn’t measured up in the eyes of their mothers. They made their resentment known about how their Prince Charming vanished and left an unwelcomed stranger behind.

And knowing this made me realise that I do not want Nomad Son or Nature Girl, and especially Nature Girl, to think that I carry any resentment towards my aging body. What I’d like is to learn is how to accommodate my new, evolving pre-, post-, right-in-the-midst-of-things menopausal body. Is it impossible for me to look at Ms. Wart-And-All and say, this is exactly as I would have it? For, no matter what type of body I might dream of having at this point in my life, I wouldn’t change one little detail of my being… it is a dear old, wise old, cranky old love of mine.

11 November, 2006

Growing Old Gracefully

Did you ever wonder why western society makes “growing old gracefully” a difficult task? If you ask practically any adult, whether young or old, what this expression means, they probably don’t have much positive to say. Which I find so odd, since the alternative, not having the opportunity to grow old, is such a daunting prospect.

Let me break down this commonly used expression a little:

Growing: grow into (result of a natural development), grow on (gradually become more appealing), grow up (advance to maturity, arise or develop)
Old: having lived for a long time, long-established or known
Gracefully: having or showing grace or elegance

Can you explain to me why we are doing everything (emotionally, physically, cosmetically, artificially) possible to avoid, prevent, or delay this journey? Isn’t this a great disservice to those people who have served society in general, raised families, and survived many decades of constant change?

No, I am not stupid. I know how difficult, arduous, painful, sad, tragic old age can/will be. Yet, does this excuse us from freely partaking on the journey? If you read any women’s magazines you would think aging naturally must be avoided at all costs.

It’s discouraging, with first page titles such as: “10 Tips to looking 10 Years younger”, “Today’s 40 is Yesteryear’s 20”, “Botox Brunch, the latest Hollywood Trend”. Or some such nonsense. Why shouldn’t a 50 year old want to look 50? And isn’t Botox considered the most poisonous naturally occurring substance in the world? (Wikipedia)

Over the lasts months, I’ve contemplated ways of creatively and constructively celebrating the transition from middle age into old age. I’m not quite sure what form this creative endeavour will take as yet.

Stay tuned…

10 November, 2006

Fickle Nature

Oh, I’ve got something to confess. This gal is as fickle as fickle as can be.

Not, having a television, I’m a late bloomer to the DWTS (Dance With The Stars) fan club. Surprising really since Nomad Son has been ballroom dancing for over two years now. Nevertheless, better late than never.

So, here’s the scoop: I’ve recently been trying to decide whether Mario (here and here), with is sexy loose hips, is better than Emmitt (here and here), with his amazing sense of confidence and fun. Hips, fun, hips, fun… and then enters Mark Ramprakash in Strictly Come Dancing (here and here). Oh, the silent type… inside of twenty-minutes of youtubing (new verb here in the making) this gal with a fickle nature has decided Mark, the cricket player, has my vote.

What do you think? After seeing Mark, doesn’t Mario come off as a bit slick? Emmitt is still powerfully sexy, but, thank heavens, Mark is not only having fun, he also has those slinky hips.


Last summer I turned forty-nine years old. I thought I would take this year and just say almost-fifty instead of forty-nine whenever I mentioned or was asked about my age. For almost-fifty, in my mind, denotes fearlessness (the ability to say the f-word), a reckless indifference to age (what’s one year plus or minus), and, most importantly, almost-fifty represents a generous gift of time for me to get accustomed to the up-and-coming milestone. What I dearly wish for, standing here on the cusp of a new decade, is the time to dance slowly, tenderly, wisely, buoyantly, with the changes. Something, I haven’t managed to do before in my adult life.

When I was 19 years old, I went through a long and agonising crisis, which resulted in my quitting my ballet career. Eventually, I went off to study electrical engineering and then moved to Germany, but I didn’t have this Plan B in my back pocket at the time.

At 29, I went through what I like to refer to as a premature midlife crisis (PMC). No lover (let alone a partner), no children, no career perspectives (try being a female foreign engineer in a large very conservative German corporation)… life was more than grey. It was as bleak as bleak could be. To acerbate the situation even more, I decided to quit my job. Plan B: I went off sailing for a year.

Fast-forward another ten-years to my 39th year. Once again, I plunged headfirst into another crisis. You notice a pattern here? This was mainly brought on by chronic sleep deficiency (Nature Girl, at that time one-years old, didn’t sleep through one night the first three years of her life) and a growing dissatisfaction with my profession. Yes, you guessed, I left the engineering profession behind and started out on a new venture.
So, even though I’ve always been a slow learner, this time around I’m well warned. Almost-fifty I am and I can’t even tell you what Plan A is because I’m already working on Plan B.

Note: this entry was made available through Nature Girl, who cooked dinner tonight while I wrote.

09 November, 2006

Land of Oz

Are the doldrums still getting you down? Why don’t you plan a fantasy or dream trip as if you really mean to take it? Find out who flies to your destination, which travel agency deals in such trips, what are the costs, the best time to go there, contact persons, name of hotels, etc. Something wild and wonderful: travel on a container ship between Africa and China, go sea-kayaking on the west coast of Canada, work as a volunteer on an archaeological team in Tibet. Who knows, maybe your dream trip will come true!

08 November, 2006

An Artist Hero

Imagine how wonderful it would be to start a blog entry with “Maira Kalman is one of my favourite living artists, and also a friend (though she was a favorite artist before we became friends)”? That’s exactly what Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics did (here). What an enviable man.

Maira Kalman is one of my artist heroes and you can look at her spectacular artwork for free on the NYT Select section this week. I allowed myself to be bullied/enticed into paying a yearly subscription because of Maira Kalman (admittedly, also Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and Judith Warner as well). If you want to to brighten up your world, horizons, and/or spirit take a look here.

Cookie Bake

The best way that I can think to give your sense of smell a big pick up is to bake cookies. Baking is still a very big tradition in Germany. The further south you go, the more they bake.

I used to visit a friend’s family in Frankland (middle-south) on weekends. My friend’s mother would get up early Sunday morning and bake up to three cakes, which the family ate for breakfast (I kid you not) after everyone returned from mass. These were not mix-and-bake cakes; they were starting-from-scratch cheesecake, marble loaf, plum torte, and black forest cake.

The most wonderful and creative baking though is done when mothers, grandmothers, colleagues, friends, neighbours, and children bake up cookies for Advent. These are masterpieces of variety and they are place prettily in tin boxes. Every time you sit down to tea during Advent there is usually a plate with a wide assortment of cookies in the centre of the table.
As all of you know, I am a miserable baker, though I am an enthusiastic cook. Come November, my bad conscience starts to feel the twinges of inadequacy, stupidness, and even-a-child-can-do-this. Nearly everyone I know, old and young, male or female, have started bringing out their Christmas cookie cutters, their grandmothers’ favourite recipes, and traipsing off to the spices stall at to the Saturday market to buy new spices.

Having lived here for ions, I developed two tactics for dealing with my baking inadequacies during this very festive baking season. I either buy expensive English shortbread cookies to serve to friends when they come over and pretend that traditionally my family did the same when I was a child. (A complete lie. Our paternal grandmother made her own Christmas fruit pudding and miniature mincemeat pies and our maternal grandmother made up a marvelous assortment of Christmas cookies). The second tactic is to get my children invited to my friend, C.’s, place and let them do the baking.

The children come home with tins and tins of fantastic cookies and our friend is left a kitchen whose every surface is covered in flour and dirty dishes. Yet, I never get the feeling of being the winner because the children have also left behind the memories of baking together in a warm and cheery kitchen with every single millimetre filled with wonderful smells.

07 November, 2006

Rest Your Eyes, Clear The Clutter

Those of us living in the northern hemisphere tend to spend a tremendous amount of time indoors during the winter months. Therefore, in keeping with my project of coming up with ideas of how to rid yourself of the winter doldrums, how about cleaning up some of the clutter that has built up in your home or office? Not an easy or fun task, but oh is it good for the eyes and soul to look at a bookcase cleared of those books that you will never read again, or a bathroom cupboard where you can actually can see all the products sorted sparingly and orderly on the shelves.

An elderly Swedish couple I know live in an apartment totally without clutter. He was an architect and therefore everything they own or keep in their place has both design and practical meaning. If you open up their cupboards, the content literally looks like something out of a interior design magazine. Until I visited them the first time, I always presumed the homes portrayed in these magazines were artificial set up. The concept that architecture and interior design is something you live and not just something you put on paper was a new idea. Not that I managed to internalise this idea (hee)!

I continually despair over the sheer amount of Things that we’ve amassed over the years. I am not a hoarder, but just living in a four-person household (two of whom are forever growing taller and whose interests are constantly changing) means clutter forms everywhere as effortlessly as dust balls under beds. No matter what measures I’ve undertaken in the past, we couldn’t hold back the tides.

A few months ago, I asked a friend of mine to help me systematically clear out our apartment with me. This is a paying venture; I sort of hired her as my personal clutter-clearer trainer. She is a tough, goal-oriented, strict drill sergeant. We agree beforehand on a date, time duration, and location (i.e. kitchen, living room, etc.) for our next training session. And like all good trainers, she doesn’t except any lame excuses (it’s my period today), manipulative strategies (there’s a sale going on at your favourite store), or weak attempt on my part to seduce her away from the task at hand (hey, don’t you want to go and sit in a café instead). No, Iron Woman, comes punctually, ignores my moodiness and bad humour, and persistently asks me the tedious question of keep-give-away-or-throw-away.

Over the months we have gone through a few rooms and what a joy it is to relax my eyes on tables, shelves, and cupboards free of clutter. Mind you, at the present tempo, we might just have to start over again at the first room we did right after we finished the last room. For, as in life, no change, even the clearing of clutter, is permanent. Flow and ebb, flow and ebb.

06 November, 2006

Writer's Burnout

Two bloggers I read regularly (here and here) seem to be finding blogging everyday as part of the NaBloPoMo event difficult. Coincidentally, both bloggers are authors who’ve recently finished writing books. Could they just be experiencing writer’s burnout?

Fashion Sense

Much to my dismay I do not have any fashion sense whatsoever. It is pathetic really. When I was a teenager we were told that intelligent and smart (meaning anything from quick-witted to resourceful to someone possessing street-smarts) girls did not need to exploit their sexuality. Fashion was for women who didn’t know better or couldn’t do better. What a shame this was.

As a result I never learnt to express myself though fashion; I never showed any interest or enjoyed learning about fashion trends (here); and I have only lately begun to appreciate the art of dressing intelligently, smartly, and with style (here). I am very hesitant to actually do anything about it yet (i.e. experiment with my wardrobe). Instead I spend my time looking at fashion magazines every time I find myself sitting in a dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room, and I’ve started fashion gazing while sitting on the bus or looking out of our large first-floor living room windows onto a major shopping street in Luebeck, Germany.

In this city, there is a large population of residences from the Middle East and Asia and some of the women have the wonderful ability to mix the European with traditional touches. This cultural juxtaposition is so welcomed at this time of year, more than any other. For instance, yesterday I saw a woman who covered a dark winter coat with a vibrantly colourful silk, linen wrap draped around her arms in a stylish manner.

If I get courageous enough to venture out and try and flex my weak and atrophied sense of fashion, I’d love to be able to do something like that woman yesterday.

05 November, 2006

Taking A Bath In The Dark

Try taking a bath in the dark or else with a very little bit of candlelight. It is a lovely sensual experience. Use scented oils or bubble-bath-salts and luxuriate in all the sensations and smells.

An Interesting and Provoking Idea

I am reading the book, Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt. As with Angela’s Ashes, I am overwhelmed with the eloquence of style and his forgiving nature. It is hard to imagine someone who has suffered a childhood such as his growing up and becoming an elderly (he was 66 years old when he published Angela’s Ashes) man with such a grand and generous heart.

He wrote one of the most brilliant prologues in Teacher Man. It starts with:

“If I knew anything about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis I’d be able to trace all my troubles to my miserable childhood in Ireland. That miserable childhood deprived me of self-esteem, triggered spasms of self pity, paralysed my emotions, made me cranky, envious and disrespectful of authority, retarded my development, crippled my doings with the opposite sex, kept me from rising in the world and made me unfit, almost for human society…

… I could lay blame. The miserable childhood doesn’t simply happen. It is brought about. There are dark forces. If I am to lay blame it is in a spirit of forgiveness. Therefore, I forgive the following: Pope Pius XII, the English in general and King George VI in particular…”

Frank McCourt

… (more).

04 November, 2006

Turn On The Lights

To lighten your spirits, experiment with lightening a room in your home differently: a living room filled with candlelight, a bedroom with a hundred tiny white light chains, a colour light in the bathroom.

I also been wondering whether or not it isn’t smart to buy some extra lamps and take them out and distribute them in the living room and bedrooms during the winter months. We don’t have air conditioning in Germany (neither at work or in homes) and so it is very common for people to by fans, which they bring up from the basement storage area during hot weather. Why shouldn’t we bring up “winter lighting” as we do the Christmas lights? The lamps could take the place of the bouquet of summer flowers.

There was a Red Room in the fitness studio I used to belong to. This was a small room with a wooden bench to lie on surrounded by several infrared lamps. The infrared lights are used for relaxation, boost-your-immune-system, and anti-stress therapeutical purposes. Has anyone of you used or heard of this new trend? Does it make any sense to you? Infrared lamps are used here a lot by the medical profession to help patients with chronic sinus problems.

03 November, 2006

The Perfume Department

I personally am not one to use perfume that often, but I do like to walk occasionally through the perfume department at the large department store down the road and just go “scent shopping”; as others go window shopping. After smelling three or four perfumes, my nose usually goes in overload, but it’s a fun thing to do.

Other times, before I go into the store, I think up a combination of three words (e.g. lemony, minty, fresh, or silky, spicy, sultry, or feminine, fickle, intelligent) and then ask one of the salespersons what perfume she thinks would fit these words. Some look very bored with the prospect of trying to find the right perfume, others have a wonderful time with the experiment.

02 November, 2006

Deliver Me From The Winter Doldrums

We set our clocks ahead an hour last Sunday. And as if on cue, the days are turning colder (from 18 degrees C to 3 degrees C inside of one week), the sky is a constant moult of grey clouds, and the days are shortening in an alarmingly accelerating manner. I’m trying to breathe deeply and not panic about the approaching winter doldrums. Oh, how I desperately need some light, or colour, or something else in my life. Otherwise, I am going to go all Ingmar Bergman like and that would be the last place I should go.

A while ago I was reading a blog entry, where the blogger posed a question to her readers on how to overcome winter doldrums. A good friend of mine decided to do the radical tour and head off to New Zealand for the next five months. Very nice idea, but not practical for those of us who can’t take a sabbatical from our professional or personal lives. The best way I can think of is to initiate various rituals or experiences that creatively stimulate our senses.

My theory is that the fundamental reason we feel depressed during the winter is due to a deprivation of our senses. We wear so many clothes that our movement is restricted: our skin literally curls/dries up with cold and lack of humidity: our sight is dimmed by insignificant lighting and drab colours: our tastebuds must suffice with processed or imported food: our hearing is muffled under layers of wool… I’m sure you get my meaning.

In the next days, I am going to try and come up with some practical suggestions about how to creatively incite our senses. Not in a fly-to-Hawaii way, but rather in a quiet, sensual, loving way.

I am going to include six senses: smell, sight, touch, hearing, and taste, as well as imagination. For, imagination when stirred up surely is the greatest sense of all.

What I’d like to do is try and experiment with are rituals or experiences that concentrate on one or two senses and not the whole spectrum. For example, doing something that excites your senses taste and smell and minimises sight and sound.

If you have some suggestions about how to do this, please send your ideas to me at virtualredtent (AT) yahoo (DOT) com.

01 November, 2006


One of my favourite bloggers wrote about NaBloPoMo. The idea is to write a post in your blog every day in November. To some this must sound impossible task, to others, hopefully me, it will be fun.

Our wonderful guests left early this morning. At this very moment they are probably walking through the door of their home in Erlangen. It always amazes me how our apartment, daily routine, and the dishwasher can be expanded to accommodate nearly double our normal number. I don’t know how this happens. You’d think that chaos would ensue, or that “someone” would feel very put-upon for having to do all sorts of extra chores, but this doesn’t happen. It must be magic.

Have you ever noticed how, when friends leave, they leave behind a hole thiiiiiiieeeeeiiiissss wide?