30 January, 2008

Prince Of A Guy


Prince of a guy. Whiffs of popcorn seeping out behind closed doors. A Hollywood romance. Nothing good to say about a preposterous amount of money wasted.

29 January, 2008

When I was 25 … (Part 5)

This is the last of the five things I didn’t know back 25 years ago:

Definition of family

My forefathers all immigrated to Canada from Ireland or England sometime in the 19th century. They originally settled in the countryside outside of Montreal. After a generation or two they immigrate into the city, and then after another generation or two they moved out to the newly developed suburbs of Montreal.

The only people who left the tight family circle where those who tripped into socially unacceptable behaviour, or stumbled into criminal dark areas. Their departure from the family was silent and secret. They either went out west or down south. Their names were rarely, if ever, mentioned again.

Family was blood relations. The men were expected to be there at christenings, weddings, funerals, holiday feasts, and every Sunday after church. The daughters dropped by their parents’ homes daily or, if not, they phoned home for a chat.

It was only during my parent’s generation that sons and daughters (through marriage) left home or Canada to set out on a life of adventures. Family remained family, but they could only see each other for christenings, weddings, funerals, and as many holiday festivities as the distances would permit. Still, family was blood relations.

I moved around from country to country most of my childhood. After I finished university 25 years ago, I moved over to Germany. Up until ten years or so ago, I also thought family was blood relations. Now I realise that the mobility of my parents, the lack of roots in my own life, the forming of deep and trusting relations with others people in other countries has brought a change to my definition of family.

Family has become Chosen Family; people who share our day-to-day interests, as well as, their loving presence in times of crisis. Those dear people who are spiritually, emotionally, and physically immersed in our life every step of the way.

Family is no longer only blood, but chosen relations as well.

28 January, 2008

When I was 25 … (Part 4)

Scott Adams of Dilbert Blog wrote recently:

"When I was a kid growing up in a small town, and I imagined my future, I could think of maybe fifty types of careers. They were all the obvious ones: lawyer, doctor, veterinarian, banker, store clerk, mailman, cartoonist, etc. I always wonder how different the world would be if kids knew there are a million jobs in the world to choose from, and not just fifty. Would kids start early to prepare for careers as videographers or dolphin trainers if they knew how cool those jobs were?"

I didn’t know that sort of thing back 25 years ago. Nor did I know how things would change in:

Choosing a profession

My fellow high school graduates and I choose our future by following certain criteria:

  • Being influenced by our fathers’ professions
  • Deciding whether we wanted to go to university or not
  • What subjects we like (e.g. sciences, language, history)
  • How much status or financial success did we aim for
  • Did we want to be a part of the System or against it

I went on and danced for a few years after high school and then decided that the whole profession was too much for me. Financially, psychologically, and emotionally, it was unpredictably harrowing.

When choosing my second profession, my father advised me to add another item to the list:

  • How do you want to live in the future?

After the ballet experience, I knew I wanted secure employment (see yesterday’s post), the ability to work in different countries (wait for tomorrow’s post), make my own career decision and not have to depend upon any choreographer’s preference of length of legs, height, or type of stature.

If I see any difference between choosing a profession now and then, it is in the extra item that has arisen in the last ten years:

  • What good are you doing for our planet and mankind?

Even as teenagers, my children already have a sense of social obligation. (A concept I only developed after I had put children onto this planet.) When we talk about certain professions, global projects, and community leaders, we talk in consideration of the good these things or people are trying to do.

The fact that there is an element of altruism in choosing a profession, whether it is a social, political, scientific profession, is very different to what I experienced 25 years ago.

27 January, 2008

When I was 25 … (Part 3)

This is the next thing I didn’t know back 25 years ago:


When I was going to university, the professors talked about how to plan our professional careers smartly. They discussed the pros and cons of large corporate jobs versus opportunities working in innovate small companies. Knowing when to use a job position as a jumping board to a better paying job. Knowing when to sit down and invest some sweat and tears in a position to prove your professional mettle. What they never talked to us about was unemployment.

It seems to me that up until fifteen years ago or so, no educated professional had to fear involuntary unemployment. Nowadays, there are very few professional, no matter what position, who hasn’t had the foundation of their trust in secure employment shaken or broken.

Eight years ago, I left a permanent work contract in a medical equipment company to work in IT. That was just before the crash. Since the crash, I’ve been fortunate to find regular employment, but no one is offering a person my age a permanent job contract any more. I’ve been fortunate to find temporary contracts, even if they run out after two or three years.

I’ve had to come to terms that with the reality that there will be weeks or months of unemployment in between contracts. Some of my friends, many of them managers, have battled with the same phenomena, with less success. In a few cases, they’ve experienced devastating long term unemployment, which they have only been able to overcome by a) immigrating to Ireland or New Zealand, b) taking on less qualified jobs, or c) changing professions.

26 January, 2008

When I was 25 … (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. This is the second thing I didn’t know back 25 years ago:

Many professions, many job positions

My grandfather and father and I all studied to be electrical engineers. We all presumed we would spend our adult lives working as engineers.

My grandfather worked as an electrical engineer in development at the same telecommunication company his whole working career. My father worked in numerous job positions as an electrical engineer in various telecommunications companies in various countries.

This Karl Fish’s video predicts that today’s learners will have 10-14 jobs by the time they are 38 years old. That seemed like a lot when I first watched the video. Then I sat down and figured out that I’ve already done 18 different job descriptions (listed below for anyone interested) in 26 different paying job positions in the last 35 five years. I wonder how many more job descriptions and positions I will explore in the next twenty years.

As the film states,

We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist… in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

In the past, I went to my father or grandfather for advice. I am struggling now, how to cut through this dilemma, or challenge, of helping my children prepare for future jobs we know nothing about.

* Here’s that list of the various job descriptions I’ve done over the years: babysitter, salesperson, waitress, ballet dancer, engineering development, IT archiving, quality control, technical trainer, product management, technical documentation, ESL teacher, crew/cook on sailing boats, media consultant/trainer, translator, layout and graphic designer, e-learning project coordinator, e-learning storyboard writer, university researcher.

25 January, 2008

When I was 25 … (Part 1)

Recently, Ronni at Time Goes By answered a meme that instructs participants to list five things in life they never thought – at age 25 - they would become.

I thought I would write five posts about personal things, as well as, social trends I didn’t know would happen 25 years ago. I was 25 years old then and just graduating as an electrical engineer.

This is the first thing I didn’t know back then:

Age of retirement:

My grandfather went into retirement in his early 50’s. He was a senior engineer at a large telecommunication corporation in Montreal. He retired in order to give the returning WWII veterans a chance of employment.

My father also retired in his early 50’s. Fulfilling a life long dream of working hard, taking risks, accepting responsibilities and getting rich. He died in his early 70’s, having enjoyed retirement for almost as long a period, as he did his working career.

I believe that my generation is going to be the first generation since the end of WWII, who will not have the privilege or luxury to enjoy full retirement. I know longer share the same dream as my father. Instead, my dream or ambition is to enjoy partial retirement for the rest of my, the gods willing, long life.

24 January, 2008

Drizzle At Dusk


I was walking home from working in the restaurant kitchen late this afternoon at dusk. The perpetual drizzle of rain of the last week persisted.

An old woman was walking towards me with her umbrella inverted upwards. She was holding the umbrella purposefully. Either she hadn’t noticed that the umbrella was cupped upwards to the sky, or, she just plain didn’t care.

23 January, 2008

Amazing Feat Of Courage


I've been following with much interest Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin's chronicles:

"For the first time in history the explorers will travel to the North Pole in the darkness of the polar night. Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin, the polar explorers, will overcome a 980 km route from the Arktichesky Cape, the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, to the North Pole."

Of course, this collage is totally wrong. First, it is lightness, and the two men are walking through darkness. Secondly, in the collage there are mountains of ice and
Shparo and Smolin are coping with thinning ice surfaces and high winds.

21 January, 2008

Cooking Course January 2008

It was just a fantastic day yesterday. But, boy, am I tired today. So, just to show you guys what we prepared, feasted upon, and delighted in learning to make…

(Claudia, can you send the descriptions of each of the courses?)

Note to all, we made Everything. No opening jars, or taking out of packages… the chefs were amazing at keeping us all busy beavers, even though it must be three times the amount of work to delegate instead of just doing it themselves. Three times… say ten times.

Entré I
Some sort of liver paté (didn’t eat since I’m vegetarian) with some sort of chutney

Entré II
A shrimp thing

Not an entré but don’t know what it is called…
Ravioli with goat cheese, something, something, and parmesan stuffing, Thai asparagus

Not an entré but don’t know what it is called…
Red snapper

Main course
Quail breasts, artichoke hearts stuffed with sweet potato mix with mozzarella melted on top, a flaky pastry stuffed with a potato/vegetable stuffing (I ate everything but the quail)

A pineapple and estragon salad, a chocolate ball (when the hardened exterior is punctured, out pours liquid chocolate), and roiboos tea ice cream

A harmonious group of workers, considering the fact that we didn’t really know each other beforehand. Not complete strangers; two of my friends and I each invited two other friends and this is how the group of nine was formed.

Hats off to the chefs.

Stay tuned. The gods willing, there will be a slideshow in a few weeks time.

20 January, 2008

Cooking Course


I'm off to take a cooking course. A friend and I gathered up a group of people to attend this course. We don't know what awaits us. I might cook or I might just take photos and put together a slideshow of the course. I haven't quite made up my mind yet.

I'm still going and working in the kitchen of my favourite restaurant (also where the cooking course is being held) every Thursday afternoon. Great fun.

18 January, 2008

The Answer is...

I'm no good at keeping up any suspense...

1: True: even though I've become rollypolly in stature the last few years, I still flexible enough to put my foot behind head; thus I can scratch behind my ear with my toes.

2: True: As Fee and Susanne mentioned, I've already entertained (bored) my friends and blog readers with numerous stories of my beloved Deutschebahn (DB). Here is the story pertaining to today's post. I've got to be the oldest poster girl this company has.

3: True: Peter Ustinov and his wife just loved Grenada. They were considering buying some land to build on many years ago. My friend at that time had some land to sell, and so, he and I met the charming couple for drinks one evening.

4: False: though only by half. I met a man who gave me the name and contact address of the person responsible for setting up a British all female boat running in the Whitbread race. This fellow felt that I had a chance to get on the team because I was a) female, b) sailor, c) engineer. I never worked up the nerve to follow this suggestion because I was a) a female scared to compete, b) sailor with no sense of direction, c) a middling engineer. This is one of the few things I have not done in my life out of fear, that I rather regret.

5: True: I don't know if I would call it psychic ability. It is something that has happened about twenty times in the last thirty years. It only happens with friends or family or people I work with every day. The green smudge appears as like a bruise or shadowing. The first few times it happened, I actually thought it was a bruise and kept on persisting that the person must have injured themselves. Yet, in the large scope of things, I don't see the bruise when someone dear to me is having a crisis consistently, so it is not a good barometer to rely on.

A Quick Blip On My Blogging Screen

I'm not one for memes, but Kirsten tagged me and since she writes an interesting blog, takes fabulous photos, and is my polar opposite (i.e. a German living in North America), I’m going to quickly write five random things. This time with a twist… one of the items is a lie. Please, for my pleasure, guess which item is not true:

  1. I can scratch behind my ear without the use of my hands.
  2. The train conductor of one of Germany’s super duper fast trains from Frankfurt to Munich, once made an unofficial stop to let me out at a small station along the way.
  3. I once had dinner with Peter Ustinov and his wife.
  4. I was once offered a job on the all female crew of the round the world Whitbread sailing race.
  5. (Sometimes) I have this strange power to see when a person is ill or in crisis by the green shading on their cheeks.

Ok, that’s it. Which one?

17 January, 2008


half hearted

Made another half-hearted attempt to tackle the mountains of paperwork on my desk and the floor beside my desk and inside of the cupboard next to my desk. Not today...

16 January, 2008

Ideas That Vanish Later In The Day

As I was standing under the shower this morning, two brilliant new ideas came to mind to discuss in this post. Actually, at one point, the ideas carried on a conversation about who merits most to be presented in today’s post. As far as I remember, it was a lively discourse.

Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can’t remember any more what the two topics were. It’s only been three hours since that lively discourse. This incident wouldn’t be so worrisome if it wasn’t for the fact that this has been happening unsettlingly more and more often.

Part of me says, it is…

  • The lack of light during this dark time of year
  • Stress related, due to returning back to work
  • Hormonally related, due to menopause
  • Just being perpetually scatter-brained
  • That darn genetic predilection passed on by my father

My current bout of forgetfulness stems, in all likelihood, from any one, or a combination, of these reasons. The fact is though, this morning’s situation does make me wonder about how my brainpower is diminishing. I'm more worried about this than I was five years ago. Heck, I'm more worried about it than I was five months ago.

It makes me wonder whether the recent wave of brain exercising tools coming out on the market are a cure for such difficulties, or they primarily exist just to still our fears.

We know so little about our brain and how itworks. Thank heavens there are people like Jeff Hawkins out there exploring this problem.

14 January, 2008

Two Weeks In

About two weeks ago, I started out on the very enjoyable venture of woyopracmo. For the month of January, about two hundred persons or so have set a goal to do yoga every day. It has been a very interesting experience so far.

First, the woyopracmo community is very light-hearted and supportive folk. I’ve never participated in a web community before. Inside of these two weeks, I come to understand the benefits of such a platform, as well as the addiction factor.

Many of my friends have tried unsuccessfully to get me on MySpace or Facebook. The only reason I even have a Facebook account is to read some friends’ pages. On a day-to-day basis, I just don’t think I can do this sort of back-and-forth exchange with all sort of people who I don’t know IRL.
Secondly, doing yoga every day is like receiving a large dose of sunshine. Why did I not know this?

Last, but not least, this venture has got me thinking about what else is possible to change in my life. One thing for certain, yoga, social networking, and creative expression of mind will be a part of what is to come next.

13 January, 2008

Lacking In Subtlety, But Effective

My husband just reminded me of two road signs they have standing along the road near my mom's home in Grenada.

The first sign states, in large print, “Don’t look at me!” In the background there is painting of a woman standing at side of a road. The problem is, normally you drive by so quickly that you only can read, “Don’t look at me!” Which is really funny thing for a sign to say.

The second sign says, “Undertakers love Overtakers!”

12 January, 2008

11 January, 2008

Complete Conviction

My yoga teacher is a wonderful human being. She’s someone to learn yoga with, as well as learn how grow old. She has this grace, sensuousness, playfulness that is delightful to observe.
My yoga teacher often talks about spiritual and practical aspects of death and dying. Yesterday, she spoke about our life energy and how it is something infinite. How this energy/spirit/force/soul is there before the moment of birth and remains after we have died. She spoke with such conviction and clarity; she opened a door in my mind.

This made me realise why I’ve been so interested in Barack Obama these last years. It has been so long since I’ve heard someone speak with conviction and clarity. Yes, his speeches are scripted. And, yes, he is just trying to do his job to convince voters to vote for him. Yet, he seems to do it from a deep conviction and that can open people’s mind to new possibilities.

09 January, 2008

Fishbrains Wrapped In a Bamboo Leaf


I just love this poem, Wheelchair, by Elaine Feinstein. Mrs. Feinstein has a beautiful upright sort of British voice. Not my usual cup of tea, but in context to the subject material that she is writing about and reciting, perfectly fitting.

The poem explains so well the intricacies of a long marriage. There’s pathos, humour, tolerance, patience, and adventure. There is “… hundred year old eggs and fishbrains wrapped in a bamboo leaf”.

08 January, 2008


Pssst! The gods willing, knock on wood, pleaseohpleaseohplease, there is a good chance that my daughter and I will be flying to NYC in a few weeks time. New York City is exciting enough on its own, but we are going, the gods willing, knock on wood, pleaseohpleaseohplease, to visit some dear friends of mine.

I’m trying to be very Zen about the whole thing, but my daydreams are filled with walks and talks and good food and hot tea and excellent wine and a plenitude of laughter… so much so that I am giddy already.

As some of you know, I am very superstitious, so I am not actually telling you this news out loud. It is just a bubble of a whisper that escaped from out of my bottled up “Vorfreude”.

Note: Vorfreude translation is a pleasant anticipation, but the word stems from vor (before, pre-, ahead) and Freude (joy). So, it actually, in my opinion, means that wonderful joy you feel in anticipation of something wonderful to come. And, what could be more beautiful than that?

07 January, 2008

Looking Forward

This is definitely a film I am looking forward to seeing. I love any movie that has to do with dance, but after seeing the incredible dance documentaries like Rhythm Is It and Rize, I'm addicted to movies that introduce a social cultural element into the film.

05 January, 2008

Shrimp Death

Pam of Nerd’s Eye View used to have the following statement in her profile,

I don't eat four legged animals - it's just a preference, not a political act.”

Which is the sort of vegetarian I’ve been for the last thirty-five years of my life. It is a choice I made as a teenager and I just never got around to changing it.

Since I am the cook of the family, this means that we eat a lot of vegetarian meals. No exclusively; I do cook up the occasional meat dish, but probably only once or twice a month. I rely on my husband and children eating a good piece of meat when we go out to eat in restaurants.

When the children were in day care, they ate meat every day. So, I always assumed they weren’t squeamish about killing animals for meat.

That is until my five-year-old my son practically broke down one dinnertime as we were eating a rice, vegetables and shrimp dish. When I asked him what was wrong, he said pathetically, “I don’t know if I can eat this. It makes me sad to think of how they kill shrimp.”

Unfortunately, I think I started laughing. If there is one being on this earth whose death doesn’t make me wince, it is shrimps. Do they even have brains? At least I didn’t express what I was thinking when my son told me about his qualms, which was, “If you think that is bad, just wait until you find out about chickens, calves, lamps, pigs…”

04 January, 2008

Crazy Mom, Crazy World

It’s a rainy, dark, cold winter afternoon in Luebeck. My children are going antsy. It has been one of those Difficult Afternoons. True, my two children have played some. We have even experienced a few fleeting moments of quiet. But, basically the hours are taken up with bickering, screaming, yelling, whining, and other marvellous techniques that allow my children to express their discontent.

It’s four o’clock: another two hours, at least, before I can possibly start the eating-dinner-taking-a-bath-and-voila-off-to-bed routine. Oh, how I wish I could start cooking dinner and drag it out for those two hours before putting the children to bed. No, two hours is too long. There has to be something I can do. Out of desperation I take them off to the steak restaurant down the street for an ice cream.

This restaurant’s ice cream special for children is perfect. It comes on a big Mickey Mouse plate with fruit and some Smarties, various decorative umbrellas and swivel sticks, and it is little on ice cream. The whole ice cream production is Much Too Do About Nothing. The children love it though, and I love it that there is only one very small sugary scoop of hyperactivity in a forest of decorative knickknacks.

Wonders of wonders our favourite spot to sit is free. The three of us climb up on the bench at the bar without any quibble of who is to sit next to whom. I place my order for a cup of tea, my son places his for an ice cream, and then my daughter looks over at the elaborate salad bar and says she wants a salad.

The ensuing conversation goes something like this…

Mom: We came here for an ice cream. What flavour of ice cream do you want?
Four-year-old: I want salad.
Mom: We are not here for dinner. Just ice cream. What flavour of ice cream do you want?
Four-year-old: I want salad.
Mom: You have to have ice cream.
Four-year-old: I want salad.
Mom: No, you can’t have salad. You have to have ice cream.

At this point in the dispute, I look up at the waitress waiting to take our order and I am confronted with her look of complete and utter stupefaction. What sort of mother refuses her child a salad? What sort of mother forces her child to eat ice cream? Has the world gone crazy?

After note
: This is true story that occurred about eight years ago on a day just like today.

03 January, 2008

Quiet Occupation


Yet another in my yoga collage set. All relatively simple in content, but filled with layers. The technique of these collages reminds me of silk screening more than it does of clipping and pasting.

02 January, 2008

First Day Back At Work


Just about to return to work, my old office, my old job. Feeling very happy about this. There will be only me and one other colleague in the institute today, which will give us plenty of time to catch up on all that has happened the last three months.

I'm going to start bookmarking all the hundreds of sites I've collected over the last while. Been vacillating between del.icio.us and magnolia. Can anyone help me decide?

01 January, 2008


Ian of Letters Home wrote a strange-but-oh-sooooo-true post about the German (frenzy)/tradition of lighting masses of firecrackers on New Year’s Eve. Please take the time to read the post and look at the photos. Except for the murdered teddy bear, all of the other photos could have been taken in any city in Germany today.

Lost Cousin

My husband’s family is a family of boys. Something my mother-in-law likes to point out, with pride. John the oldest is a mean brother, as sometimes older brothers can be. He is aggressively competitive, big of ego, small of heart, and tight with his wallet. He trumpets his numerous successes as a dentist, and amateur athlete. And, he never loses an opportunity to belittle the achievements of his younger brothers.

Isaac, the youngest, still dreams of being John’s favourite brother. Even though, deep down, Isaac knows John only loves one person on the face of this earth; and that is John. Still, he asks John to be his best man at his wedding. He believes John will take over for their father, who has not been invited to the wedding because it would mean inviting “that slut” and Isaac couldn’t possibly do that to their poor abandoned mother.

I’m Isaac and John’s sister-in-law. I’m married to Joseph, the black sheep of the family. Who would have thought, a middle child being a black sheep? When we receive the wedding invitation, we toss a coin to decide whether we’ll go or not. Tails… we’ll accept.

Isaac and Julia, his bride, hire a Big Wedding. They hire a large conference hall, catering service, DJ, and even a local dance group to put on a performance part way through the buffet dinner. Hiring the dance group was John’s idea.

There are six dancers in the troupe. None of us quiet know how we should behave during their performance. Should we keep eating while they dance? Should we applaud after every piece? Are we allowed to go up and get more food from the buffet table?

One dancer, Elsa, is the head of the troupe. She’s beautiful, exotic looking. John leans over to me at one point during one of their performance and informs me that she comes from Venezuela, which was where I was born. I wonder why he talks about this fact with pride, much as his mother does about having a family of boys.

The last dance of troupe is a tango duo between Elsa and her very handsome, but effeminate, partner. It doesn’t matter that the man is not a man’s man, or actually, is a man’s man; Elsa pours in enough erotic sensuousness for the two of them. When the tango dance is over, John is up on his feet applauding, much to the embarrassment of his wife and family.

Isaac thanks the dancers and invites them to stay awhile. Only Elsa remains. She dances one dance with each of the brothers, and then stays on the dance floor with John: dancing well into the night.

Later that night three cousins are conceived: Isaac and Julia’s son, Joseph and my daughter, and John and Elsa’s son.

No one knows the name of Elsa’s son. Nor, where she lives. The dance troupe left the city. One presumes Elsa as well. John’s wife “forgave” him his affair. They also have a son, about six months after our John’s illegitimate son is born.

I wonder sometimes where my daughter’s lost cousin is. I light a candle and send him my blessings and hopes. Perhaps one day he will come back. He might not have a father, but he does have family.

After note
: This story belongs to a friend of mine and is based on true facts. I am telling it as if it was my story, but this time at least, it really did happen to someone else.