28 February, 2008

Off Cooking


I'm off to The Restaurant to work in the kitchen. Thursday afternoon between three and six. Preparation time. Can't do so much damage. The guys are relaxed. They don't mind that I carry out their instructions slower than a Tai Chi master.

Last week, the cook I was working with whipped up a apple tart. Delicious. Really wish I could remember some of the things I help cook. Brain is a sieve, there's no doubt about it.

26 February, 2008

Quiet Evenings

A few weeks ago, my family (actually the kids) decided that we should give Internet-free evenings a try. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are those evenings. This might not sound like much to most people, but in our family, since we hooked up to DSL, it’s a big decision.

We are still hugging down into the situation. There has been more talking going on. We also manage to agree more easily what DVD movies we want to watch together. And, there is an ease to the evenings, which isn’t there the rest of the week; when everyone is anxious to get back to doing what they’re doing on the computer.

What I have noticed, is I am back to reading books more now, even on the other days when I am using Internet. I go to bed earlier on these evenings. Yet, I still find it difficult to work up the urge to cook on the days I work late; I had hoped this would be change.

We said we would give ourselves two months and then decide if we will continue. I wonder how the others will vote on the matter.

It is a shame my children are teenagers and such decisions are now made democratically. Gone are the days when my husband and I could argue about such matters and I would always win.

23 February, 2008

Gossip Magazine Junkie

When I first arrived in Germany, I spoke little or no German: just a splattering of words actually. It was late autumn. Those first months were very lonely ones. I didn’t know anyone in Erlangen, the city of my choice (it’s a big Siemens city), but the parents of a university friend of mine.

My only diversion was visiting a local café and reading (look at the glossy photos and try to decipher the sub-print) the large selection of gossip magazines the café subscribed to for the benefit of their guests.

Now, German gossip magazines are, from a Canadian point-of-view, rather interesting. They not only contain the normal deluge of news about scandalous affairs of movie stars and fashion shots, but there is a fair amount of psychological analysis, descriptions of esoteric trends, health tips, sex advice, and nudity, as well. I became a gossip magazine junkie.

I wouldn’t buy the magazines, but I will visit the cafés and stealthily read them.

Considering that I’ve never owned a television, you’d be surprised how much I know about television series and their stars. I’m also up to date about pop stars I’ve never heard the music of. Music festivals, I’ve never attended. The list goes on. So, tell me, why I find it all so fascinating?

I’ve managed to carry on the gossip magazine junkie gene to my daughter. I’m not proud of this; actually, I sort of despair of this fact.

Yet, it is through reading these magazines that she and I have had some very interesting conversations about body image, media mania (promoting anorexia), inner and outer beauty, keeping your feet on the ground (Natalie Portman versus Lindsay Lohan), intruding upon someone’s privacy (Britney), and a lot more.

I’m not mentioning this to justify a preposterous waste of time, but to say some good arises out of this preoccupation.

21 February, 2008

Letting Light In

There are times when a crack in the heavy curtain of daily monotony lets light in and past memories shine with a radiance long forgotten. It was a lovely day today. Perhaps, the gods willing, I might have met a new friend.

I also met with an old friend, who shares many years of history with my family and me. I sat in her kitchen, as she tried to pry me with three homemade cakes. Her grown son just returned from a half a year, half way around the planet. She looks so happy to have him back safe and sound.

I don’t know if it is the season for the frangipani trees to blossom. Maybe a bit early, but this collage is in celebration for all that is simple.

19 February, 2008

A Magic Dwells In Each Beginning

A friend of mine, Tine, is such a unique person. She can recite poetry the night through. She loves poetry, has read many volumes, and she posses the formable ability to find the right lines of poetry for every occasion or topic of conversation.

The day before yesterday I was wondering about the meaning of Wechseljahre. Tine sent me the line “A magic dwells in each beginning” from Hermann Hesse’s poem, Stufen, as a reminder that every life phase is also something positive.



As every blossom fades
and all youth sinks into old age,
so every life’s design, each flower of wisdom,
attains its prime and cannot last forever.
The heart must submit itself courageously
to life’s call without a hint of grief,
A magic dwells in each beginning,
protecting us, telling us how to live.

High purposed we shall traverse realm on realm,
cleaving to none as to a home,
the world of spirit wishes not to fetter us
but raise us higher, step by step.
Scarce in some safe accustomed sphere of life
have we establish a house, then we grow lax;
only he who is ready to journey forth
can throw old habits off.

Maybe death’s hour too will send us out new-born
towards undreamed-lands,
maybe life’s call to us will never find an end
Courage my heart, take leave and fare thee well.

Hermann Hesse

And for those of you who wish to read the original German version, here it is:


Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf´ um Stufe heben, weiten.

Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.
Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegensenden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden ...
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde !

Hermann Hesse

18 February, 2008

Reading A Good Book


I met a high school teacher recently, who didn't know how to type capital letters, nor where the space key or enter key were. She said it was because she had never learned how to type in school. Kind of made me wonder where she has been the last twenty years, since typing classes have gone out of mode and the presence of PCs has become ubiquitous.

Lovely productive day at work. Time to cook dinner. Going to be a quiet night of feet-up-on-the-sofa and reading a good book.

17 February, 2008


I was talking to a friend this afternoon about matters of growing up (my daughter) and growing old (me). We were discussing whether my daughter’s yearning to experience something new is stronger than those of mine for something different in my life.

So many of the women I know, who are my age, are asking themselves, “What next?” or “Is this it?” In German, the word for menopause in “Wechseljahre”. This is interesting because the word’s literal translation is then years to shift, alternate, replace, modify.

In my imagination I see menopause as a pause or a suspension: perhaps from being young. Whereas, once again in my imagination, I see “Wechseljahre” as years of transition or modification. Somehow it seems much more loving.

I know my German friends, particularly Tine and Susanne, are probably shaking their heads at this linguistically wild interpretation. For, undoubtedly, menopause is menopause whatever the language, and not weighted with any positive or loving connotations. Still, it nice to live under the illusion.

13 February, 2008

Learning Through Failure


Something has to shift in my collage making. I worked on the collage above for a few hours yesterday and just couldn't get it to work. It is supposed to be a collage about winter rain, frost, midst, and dancing lights. The blue is too forced. The golden yellow not enough. The leaves and umbrella thing doesn't work. The frosted leaves and dancing lights, only marginally. All in all a failure.

This has been happening more and more these last weeks. For every one that gets posted there are two or three that don't. Even if I am trying to be relaxed about this, I'm not.

We learn by our failures, right? Well, I'm not sure what I can do differently with this particular collage or the others that have been trashed, so I think it is time to step back and look at some Photoshop tutorials. I'm not good at following recipes of any sorts, but I can find inspiration just looking or reading about other peoples creative work.

10 February, 2008

The Hills Are Alive

I’ve just had the strangest, but delightful of days. I was asked whether I would jump in and attend a musical performance in place of the originally invited guest; who was in the hospital recovering from surgery.

I loved the musical performance. It was like going back to my youthful campy glitzy gay-friends-doing-their-Streisand-impressions days. Such camp. Such glitter. Swoon. Sniff. Chortle. My god, when was the last time I chortled?

In the storyline, there was an elderly couple who run away from their senior citizen home to elope. There was a power frau succumbing to love. There was a cruise ship with very sexy looking sailors. There was a gay couple (German Punk with Greek Adonis) proclaiming their undying love ala Titanic… It was sublime.

But, most of all there was an audience that would do a Fellini film proud. Half of the audience was over seventy years old. The rest was a colourful offset to the blue-dyed or silver streaked old folk. Everyone was clapping and singing along to the songs. Young and old alike even applauded during the gay kissing scene. Sigh! Isn’t that sweet?

It’s late. Time to do a little yoga and cast off all of that Broadway-like effervescence.

09 February, 2008

Jugend Style


Spent the day in Hamburg with my daughter and some friends. Especially enjoyed a stolen moment away from the crowds populating the street and shops, looking at a museum exhibit of furniture from the Jugend era.

08 February, 2008

Larger Than Life

A while ago, I was watching this interview with Hugh Laurie, the actor, who plays Dr. House*:

When Mr. Laurie talks of how he revered his father, my heart pumps faster. My face flushes. My eyes tear.

Revere to “feel deep respect or admiration”.

What an outdated concept. Imagine living a life of such magnificence, honour, adventure, courage, humility, beauty, or honesty… that you grown child revere you? And yet, there were many of these larger than life figures in that generation. My father was one of them.

Today is the 8th anniversary of my father, David’s, death. A day to reflect upon his life, express gratitude for all the love and affection he showered upon his children and grandchildren, reminisce about his outlandish ways, and feel veryvery sad. I feel particularly sad that despite him being larger than life, he couldn’t live forever.

* Never seen the Dr. House show, but have enjoyed seeing Hugh Laurie and Stephan Fry in various bits and pieces.

07 February, 2008

Spring Whispering


I heard geese flying overhead today. Geese flying from Africa on their way to northern Sweden or Finland. What a joyful sound. Spring whispering in our ears.

06 February, 2008

Outer Space Cow

It’s raining tigers, vampires, princesses, spies, and other mini-sized Hollywood figures. The school children are out in full regalia, celebrating Carnival. I nearly got skewered by a witch’s broom on the way to work today.

So, here’s a Carnival confession of a negligent mother…

One year, when my son was in first grade or so, he had two carnival dress-up parties to go in one day. The party at his school had the theme, Findus and Peterssen: a series of books about an old man and his mischievous cat living in rural Sweden. At my son’s day care, the theme was outer space.

Other moms were sewing costumes for their children weeks beforehand. I was specialising in procrastination, while they were honing their sewing skills. Two days before the deadline, I had to admit to myself that two costumes were not going to miraculously turn up on our doorstep and so I went to a local shop that sold a variety of costumes.

Since it was so late in the Carnival season, all the good costumes were sold out. The only thing remotely Findus and Pettersen that I could find was a floppy hat made with black-and-white cow patterned cloth with two horns attached. I figured my son could wear this with his black warlock wrap from the year before and… voila, he could go as a Swedish cow.

Later that evening, in a moment of desperation or inspiration, I thought to add some bobbles and copper wire to the hat’s horns. Thus ingeniously, I thought, creating a Hey Diddle Diddle outer space cow. My son was quite sceptical about the metamorphosis of a Swedish cow into an outer space cow, but relented in the end.

Unfortunately, Germans children do not know Hey Diddle Diddle. They do not know about a cow jumping over the moon. They do know though how to tease an outer space cow orbiting in amongst spaceships, astronauts, Martians, and shooting stars.

I’ve already saved up a bit of money to pay for that session on the couch of my son’s future therapy. It is the very least I can do.

05 February, 2008

Gratitude Fed By Inspiration

A fellow, Chris, I met recently is searching for a way to be more grateful and less critical with his life. I suggested to him that it is easy to feel gratitude when you feel inspired or excited about your life.

As many of you know, I get inspired by listening to inspiring people talk about their passions. A dense source of such talks can be found at TED Talks. I originally told Chris I would send him a list of four or five of the TED Talks presentation, which are my favourites. Below is a list of seven of them. And, honestly, they are only a drop in the bucket of excellent talks. My favourites list composes of probably 20 or more. Obviously, I can't suggest all of them. So, here are seven off that list:

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Jeff Hawkins: Brain science is about to fundamentally change computing

Larry Lessig: How creativity is being strangled by the law

Evelyn Glennie: How to listen to music with your whole body

Majora Carter:Greening the ghetto

Vilayanur Ramachandran: A journey to the center of your mind

Lakshmi Pratury: The lost art of letter-writing

02 February, 2008

Postcard From Far Away


My daughter told me that she and a friend of hers often go into the department store down the road from our place to try on clothes. They pick out the most outrageous and ugliest stuff they can find and end up in stitches of laughter when they try the clothes on. I wonder if the salespersons think it is equally as hilarious.

01 February, 2008

Stormy Weather


My day-to-day life has just caught up with my internet/blogging/woyopracmo life. Full force. Stormy weather both inside and outside my door. Friends calling, emails arriving, trips still to be planned, kids needing to be fed, and just a general sense that it is time I face the music on some matters that have been sadly (nah, not so sadly actually) neglected since sometime around the beginning of November (nablomo).

Got to go. We'll see each other when we see each other.