.Espresso and Cannoli.

Life is not easy. Many times it is quite the opposite. And when I feel most comfortable I usually get an open-handed movie-cliche slap in the face which wakes me back up because another challenge is waiting around the corner. My motivation is to encourage myself that I am willing to consider this game I am immersed in from a different hilltop. I want to hike to the top of joy-mountain that is not obscured by dark clouds of stress, worrying and anxiety. When I have thoughts like this, these days Celia comes to my mind. I met her for the first time at a café in my neighborhood. She looks different and reminds me of Iris Apfel.

Over time, a friendship developed and I found out more about this 75-year-old woman who lives in a residence close to my apartment. Whenever I visit her, she usually serves espresso and fresh authentic Sicilian Cannoli from an Italian Delicatessen Store. She then shows me her artwork and “arrangements” which are crafts she glues together from mostly natural materials such as dried flowers, driftwood, small sparkly rocks and spends usually a sold five minutes describing all her different projects. She explains where she found the “treasures” and finishes the sentence by saying, “Well, honey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Stop taking life so seriously! Go out and play! Go on a long walk and see what you can find!”

I love spending time with this woman. She is different and interesting. Whenever I am with her, I always bring my journal because 1) I am a writer and love to jot things down and 2) I want to remember things Celia says. I would like to share notes from our conversation from several afternoons and weeks of awesomeness that are quite inspirational:

“Daniela, stop taking life so seriously. You are going to die, you know that, right? Start living in the moment. Stop giving so many useless f**** to whatever drama encompasses your life. This too shall pass. Get over it. Focus and stay clear-headed. Ask yourself, why you live a certain way and if something bothers you figure out how you can change it. Then change it. These days, take some time noticing the cold on your face. Enjoy every tiny bit of sun. Soon, take some time noticing the wind in the leaves, the sound of the water in the rivers. Don’t get distracted by events, sounds, messages that only disturb and have nothing to do with where you are. Enjoy the search for your little treasures. Every day hold’s a new promise, a new opportunity, a new chance”.

“Don’t waste your time or be engaged in something you don’t want to do. If it feels bad, it usually is. Don’t think about your fear(s). Jump into the deep end now! The only time you will ever have is this very moment. You hate your job, quit! You don’t have a job, consider moving somewhere else or trying something else. Be open for change. Stop tapping the snooze alarm 10 times in the morning. If you do, you should probably consider making some fundamental changes to the way you navigate your reality. If you feel uncomfortable, change something. Stop worrying about what other people may think of you. Stop judging other people’s journeys. Do you want to impress someone? Impress yourself. Designer clothes have no bearing on self-worth. Honey, the contributions necessary to healing this sick world will never come with a “Made in China” label. A lot of what you hear in the news is manipulated, twisted, and skewed. Question everything. Do you know that you can shift your views and ideals of the world with a single thought? Some people’s ego is huge but is also just is a fiction they have created to provide a frame of reference to experience the world; they are usually very insecure. And those who present their entire life on Facebook usually have seats in the front row of the freak-show tent. Keep in mind that life is an amusement park that should be enjoyed, not wandered through in fear”.

I have this urge to add a conclusion to all this. Eventually, I will get to where I want to go, but only after throwing away my hiking shoes and accepting the eventuality that my feet will get full of mud. This is exactly why not too many people climb mount happiness because the path is not well equipped with safety lines and already well-worn. There are no neon signs flashing showing the way up. The adventure only awaits my willingness to embrace it with wonder and fascination knowing that there are no limits. With this in mind, I start walking in a different direction.

.Tidying Up This Mess.

It seems that everybody in this world watches the newly aired NetFlix show “Tyding up with Mari Kondo”.

I watched one or two episodes but became quickly annoyed by high-pitched seemingly set-up welcome ceremonies whenever Kondo walked into a house. It all feels too staged to me. I also cannot deal with her somewhat stubborn insistance that things have feelings. My Canada Goose Coat better keeps me warm here in Canada! Thank you, coat! I hope I don’t hurt your feelings when it is minus 25 Celsius. I choose a minimalistic lifestyle because it is a good tool to make life cheaper and easier for my son and I and to show him different values in life. My apartment is usually always pretty organized and clean. Growing up I have been taught that a house should always be in a stage that people can come over anytime and feel comfortable; meaning a visitor does not stick to things, can sit everywhere or can take a shower if necessary. I realize, however, that cleanliness of your house all depends on who you are and what your comfort level is. But I think it is just reasonable to offer a cup of coffee out of a clean cup.

Maybe you need some help cleaning without necessarily using the Mari-Kondo method who recommends “treating your bras like royalty” and refers to tidying up as a “once-in-a-lifetime special event”. I rather use common sense, which may be even crazier. Overall, I don’t want to create a personality disorder in motion.

I have read once that how your home looks directly reflects what is going on in your head. Some have the misconception that being tidy is a somewhat innate skill, however, cleaning does not come naturally to everyone because it is not a skill but rather a mindset. Start by tidying a bit every day. Put the things you used back right away. Throw away the obvious trash. If it smells and looks bad, it obviously does not spark joy but rather disgust. Get rid of your (Canadian) seasonal depression nest and remove empty beer and wine bottles. Maybe it is a good idea for you to start seeking help if wine, beer bottles, and empty food containers are in places where it is not acceptable; like all over the floor in your house for example.

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a man telling his friend: “But it is just stuff!” I found out that “the friend’s” house burnt down to the ground. It was just a faulty living room fan that sparked a fire during the day while he was at work. My question is, how do you measure what your stuff means to you, especially in a moment like that? We never know when/if we lose everything and have to start from scratch. It may be even a good thing. Don’t burn your house down now! I just want to give some food for thought to get rid of accumulated and unnecessary junk and how I did it without preaching that you can only achieve the best version of you if your house is uncluttered like an art gallery of “white-everything”. It is also not a thing to maintain a sleek, spare home by throwing out everything you own, painting your walls in “White Dove” and sitting on the floor thanking your tiny table that you have left which holds your one plate to eat.

So, what to do with all this? Doesn’t this clutter-free existence exert a constant pressure that is oppressive in its own way? What really happens is that we all swim up a stream of things for our entire life. Our mind is filled with clutter. New things come and go and they rarely bring us long-term satisfaction but are rather exhausting. Why? Because it is not only our stuff that makes us anxious. It is also our phone and the thousand messages we receive every day to like, listen, follow, react, dislike, subscribe, retweet, insta-like, join, forward and consume. We are constantly threatened with interruptions and every moment is easily erased or subsumed by some more important message or video. Sadly to say, we live in a world of past and future clutter. We are so filled up with noise and interruptions, that it is difficult to be here, now. Things don’t just spark joy but also anxiety. My computer reminds me that deadlines are approaching, the news remind me that the world is soon coming to an end, the online school alert reminds me that I have to pay the fee for my son’s field trip and also to return his library books. Can I step away from this digital pandemonium? Nope.

Can I spark joy all by myself? Do I remember how that feels? A friend told me that “All of heaven is within you and nothing lasts. Just when you start to get comfortable, things change or you may even die. And if you do, maybe only one or two things of what you left behind are important to someone else when you are gone.” Now, here you are with all your possesions. Do the things you own define who you are? Do they make you a better person? I don’t think so. Overall, we don’t need more stuff. Before purchasing more, we should rather work with what we have instead. You don’t need more than this. Now go and light your white soy candle or open a window to let in some fresh air.

.Important Questions to Ask Before Getting Married.

Melissa Kaseman

I received a plethora of questions and comments after my blog post Vide Cor Meum. “My marriage is complicated, how can I make it work? I tried all the things you suggested“, one reader asked. Her is a list of things you may want to ask yourself before getting married.

  1. Ask questions about your partner’s family. Meet the family. How do they live? Is it safe to take a shower? Can you make yourself scrambled eggs in a pan that is clean? Are there eggs? Is there any (healthy) food in the house? Is there a clean place to sit? How is the family situation? How do the father and mother treat each other?
  2. Observe weird patterns or things that make no sense to you. My friend asked me the other day: “My boyfriend starts many things at the same time without finishing one first. He spends a lot of money on stuff related to his dream house when there is not even a plan established when we start with the foundation. Is this weird?” Whenever it feels and seems weird to you, it probably is. Listen to your gut!
  3. Do you want to have children (together)? And if we do, will he/she be there to change diapers, help out, and spend quality time with the child(ren)? Only get pregnant if YOU feel it is okay for YOU. Don’t let anybody talk you into it and make you think it is a great idea. Having a child is like getting a tattoo in the face – you kind of want to be committed. Also, when you have a child, get ready to talk to other mothers. Usually, there is no way around. Sometimes mothers with kids talk to other mothers in a language that I do not want to understand because it is too confusing. I do not want to talk about what school lunch is less GMO, peanut/lactose or gluten-free. I also don’t blow my negative energy into a balloon or know the driveway rule. I just don’t. And I don’t care. I also don’t care if my child plays the cello or piano at age five but my son and I listen to a classical concert at the National Arts Center (NAC) occasionally. Ops, I got off on a tangent here but you get the point.

4. Money and debt. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out? Bail you out of what? Jail? Probably not. How much money do you have, how much money does your significant other have? Is it shared? Are there savings? How much? Enough to start projects such as a house, a family, trips, vacations etc.? How much money are you bringing into the relationship/marriage and how much am I contributing? And, you do want to make sure you see and talk about each other’s bank account statement every other month because you LIVE TOGETHER AND SHARE THINGS, right?

5. Can you deal with me doing things without you? Actually, I would prefer it. I love alone time. My sacred time to write, read and be creative. I need to be alone at times. I do not understand couples who do everything together. I prefer to have my own relationship with certain things like doing laundry alone, or cooking, or reading, or cleaning the house. I like doing my own thing and then reunite. And so should you.

6. What do you admire about me and what are your pet peeves? Do you like me if I wear my 80s vintage jeans, tank top and bangs? Do you like my laugh, my style, that I love red wine and cheese, that I want to read all the time and go to bookstores, that I love pho, that I want to travel and see the world; those little things like a cup of coffee and to read a book at a café for hours. Nobody and nothing is perfect. What are your pet peeves and can and do I want to live with them? I am 37 years old. I know what I want and what feels right and is good for me at this point in my life. I have seen and experienced a lot. I don’t dwell in the past or let my past define me though.

7. Where do you see us in five years? Living together is not easy. How much do we talk to each other? Do we resolve problems or just suck things up waiting to explode? What did we accomplish? Which pillars did we take down to build a new entrance even though the old one looked perfectly fine. Did we take the garbage out of the backyard to plant some vegetables and fruit? Do we have some savings to go on vacation? Did we take care of the debt? Do we have our dream house? How did we grow together as a couple? What did we achieve? Do you know me? Do I know you? Does being with each other give us clean energy to move forward without projecting a misguided, rather unrealistic fantasy of the future? Or does this feeling exist that we live in this particular prison anxiety has created with a feeling to be stuck in all this forever without escape because nobody wants to make the other feel uncomfortable? These are all valid questions I now know the answers to. Do you?

.The Book Review: Sarah Pinborough “The Language of Dying”.

“People talk a lot when someone is dying.  They talk as if the person is already dead.  Maybe it’s the first step of the healing process for those inevitably left behind.  And maybe you have already started the process by pulling a few steps away from us.  The frail used-to-be man in the bed upstairs is not our father.  You were so much more than that.” (8)

Sarah Pinborough’s The Language of Dying(Quercus, 2016) is a novella about five adults who gather at their childhood home as their father reaches the final stages of a cancer that will kill him.  Pinborough’s narrator uses plain language, and that language is the highlight of the book. At 130 pages, the book is sparse but packed with meaning and gives a glimpse of characters like an impressionist painting.  It is not a detailed portrayal of the characters but an impression of them as people, filtered through the narrator. 

The story is told from the perspective of the family’s middle child, who has returned home first to recover from an abusive relationship, then to care for her dying father.  Her siblings join her as their father’s life will soon end.  The family now consists of the dying father and his five children: Paul, Penny, the narrator, Davey, and Simon.  It’s a family of damaged people who cope in different ways.  We read the narrator’s thoughts and she speaks in her mind as though she is speaking to her father.  It’s a personal and conversational style that gives us her perspective without contrivances.  Her reliability as the person closest to the situation (apart from the father) also makes her a trustworthy perspective at the beginning of the story: “I take a deep breath of the air that has been just mine and yours for months.  It’s been two days since you last smoked a cigarette, but I imagine the lingering tobacco scent filling me up and it gives me the confidence to face the outside.  How Penny came to be part of the outside, I’m not quite sure” (5-6).  This reliability becomes strained as the story progresses and the stress of caring for her father while dealing with her siblings becomes more difficult for her to handle: “I’m crying as I change the stained sheets and I don’t know who for.  Maybe for all of us.  Maybe just for me.  There is a worm in my head that whispers that it isn’t only Paul who doesn’t think other people feel and think and care.  And maybe the worm is right” (113).  

The narrator is aware that her father’s death will change the family, and one of the key elements of the story is her balance between the intensity of the moments (good and bad) and knowing that the moments will end.  Being so focused on time, death, and change, she also compares how those relationships used to be and how they have changed or will change irrevocably.  

As impressionistic as the book is, we’re constrained by the narrator’s anxieties and memories, her love, envy, sorrow, sadness, and happiness.  There’s enough there to suggest deeper lives than we see.  So much so that the unicorn might be the least interesting part of the story.  

The one part of the book that I found disappointing is the ending.  I won’t say what it is, but after the first 120 pages, I expected a more impactful end.  It’s a bit clichéd and a let down, but I’d say that the 120 pages outweigh the 10 in that proportion.

——————————–

This book review was written by Dat Tran (guest blogger). He grew up in Nepean, Ontario. In grade 10, he wrote a book report on the fate of the royal family of Troy, and Greek tragedy and mythology became his gateway into literature, philosophy, and history.  He is not good at math.

.Vide Cor Meum.

Spring is just around the corner I have been told.

“He who has no house will not build one now. He who is alone will be alone for some time. Will be wakeful, will read, will write long letters and will wander restlessly along the lanes when the leaves fall.” – Rainer Maria Rilke (originally in German “Herbsttag”)

I had a discussion about “husband” with a friend the other day. She told me that it felt odd to be married. What is a husband, anyway? As the author André Alex questions: is it someone with whom you have a relationship, a relationship that evolves because time passes and one changes? I would answer: Certainly. But in some way, I could say the same thing about a house or a dog, even (if only instinctively), I feel that a husband is more than a house or more than a dog. So my question is: Is a husband desire or love? Desire and love are way too inconstant to make anything at all, right?! I mean it in the sense that today, for example, my version of love and desire may include my husband, but tomorrow it may not. The next day they will, and then they will not. She did not want to continue the conversation further and switched to “Valentine’s Day” and what to buy for her husband.

“Then things become all at once strange”– Margaret Laurence, The Diviners

Valentine’s Day. 

The New Yorker

Today, I had the most amazing dinner-date at a local Italian restaurant with my five-year-old son whom I love so much. As far as relationships, I believe, a partner does not need to be a constant presence, a shadow, or a version of myself but rather an equal, not an idea, a nuisance or habit to fix or constantly nourish (a project), but rather someone who can challenge me on an intellectual level, a shoulder to lean on, someone who has no fear of change, has confidence, spontaneously invites me to a romantic dinner, has good and not only one-sided conversations with me, plans a fancy night out but is also comfortable talking on the couch with a cup of tea, has good emotional intelligence, has a sense of self awareness, someone who can make me laugh and has similar goals and dreams, invites to spontaneous bookstore dates and at the bookstore comes up with the idea to pick a book for each other – that element of serendipity and then we go out for dinner to talk about all things bookish. Someone who is curious and is willing to read aloud to me (especially when I cannot sleep). The basics. In my head, a couple is made up of two opposites, centered around some passion and attraction that mystery causes. Both are curious about and drawn to each other because of their dissimilarities to ourselves. In a healthy relationship, I am fascinated by my counterpart, and I can learn a lot by spending time together. If I do not feel this, I have to move on. Firstly and more important, however, is self-love and the relationship I have with myself before I can fully open up to someone else.

In addition, it is important to learn to argue properly. We all get annoyed and stressed out from time to time. We can be nagging, grumpy, irritated, stressed out or all of the above simultaneously. No couple is perfect, even if some try to make us believe it by posting “happy couple” pictures on Facebook or Instagram. The key is to argue in style with no tension left afterward. No name-calling, no dishes throwing. I want to add to also be apologizing and forgiving. This way it is easy to move on. The air is clean. Overall, having the same rhythm is more important than I often realized. Going to the gym together, or climbing, or jogging. Having the same sleep/read cycle or how both get inspired by the same author. Whatever it may be for you; just feel the same beat. And if you don’t, then sometimes leaving is the only reasonable thing to do and to give energy to relationships that are deserving of it instead of draining.

I celebrate Valentine’s Day every day so this day has no significance to me. But it is 9.45 pm on the actual Valentine’s Day and if you are freaking out because you do not have anything for the love of your life or you forgot this day altogether, I have some emergency tips for you to make up for it tomorrow. (Him/Her = Them)

Take them for a long walk to reconnect. Look at things together. Go to a museum. Talk. Laugh. Get coffee or tea. Surprise them with a little gift just because it is NOT Valentine’s Day anymore. Read together or to each other. Suggest and start a project together, i.e. train for the half-marathon or any other adventure. Sit them down on the kitchen counter. Pour them a glass of wine and kiss. Put on some Jazz. Cook dinner. Repeat every two weeks. SHOW them you love them. Telling is not enough. Give them a “Sunday”: A whole day carefully planned, no kid(s), Spa, brunch, wine and a movie at night on the couch. Be generous: with money, with matters of the heart and with time. Conquer the world together.

Or alone.

.How I Wrote my Book.


I always had this dream that I would write a book, if only a small one, that would carry one way, into a realm that could not be measured nor even remembered.  I imagined a lot of things but overall I love to write. I would dwell bareheaded and a summit turning a wheel what would turn the earth and undetected, amongst the clouds, I would have some influence and be of some avail or change. Everything contained in this book is true and written just like it was. The writing of it drew me from my strange build-up lethargy and I figured that in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy. Let’s begin.

I worked on my manuscript for years and knew it needed a lot of work since English is not my first language. Systematic Functional Linguistics taught me that even the Theme and Rheme (the part of the clause in which the Theme is developed) is sometimes reversed in German.

Do you want to publish a book? The first thing is to write an official proposal and send it to publishers. At least this is how it is done in the U.S. and Canada. The proposal is a document telling the publishers about myself, the book I want to write, some sample chapters or essays, the audience I target, pictures, biography etc. Of course, I hoped this was something I can spit out in an afternoon. I looked at samples publishing proposals online and I was blown away: they were asking for 80-90 pages that won’t go into the book and actually are supposed to be mainly about myself.  Isn’t the proposal a book in itself then? Anyway, I started typing. What initially sounded like boring schoolwork turned out to be so much fun. With a tight schedule at school, I usually worked on the proposal at night or on weekends. I felt like my creativity just popped off again whenever I started to work on it. Overall, I had a lovely time. I was done in about four weeks and after a bit of back and forth and correcting my “charming English” I sent it off to publishers in the U.S. and Canada. Since I am not a Canadian citizen, I cannot publish my book here in Canada, however, I do have resident status in the U.S. so I targeted publishers there.

If you are a new author, sending out proposals can be a devastating time (almost as annoying as sending out job applications waiting for a response). All I initially received were rejections. “It sounds good, but ….”, or “We are sorry, but….” were usually the answers I got. Then one publisher said that my book sounds great and they would like to publish it. Usually, when a publisher agrees to publish a book, they give you a timeframe when you have to hand in your first draft or when the bulk of the work needs to be done. Since my manuscript was written already, I of course needed to edit it which was so much work. My publisher mentioned that I need to change many sentences and structures and came back with the copy editors notes. Changing 80% to his suggestions but he said just keep your “German style” in the rest for “personality reasons”. ” It makes the book more charming. We do not want to take the German out of you”, he said. So the book has 30% of Daniela/German-ism in it, be aware. 😉

I quickly realized that I have to do most of the work at night because I was in school full time and have a 5-year-old son who wants to be entertained. A book project like this takes up mental and even physical time. I knew that I can manage it since I have done so many other complicated projects in half the time and writing is my passion. I actually was not worried at all. All I had to do was to add up a million ideas that I have in my head in a  cohesively and coherent way.

When the writing is done, the font of the text is next. The publisher gives you several options and suggests what works best. Then the publisher works with you on the design of the book. I wanted a picture that my friend Judith Lockett took as my front cover. The rest of the book was designed by the publishing company. I emphasized that the ecstatic of the book is important to me and that the book, in the end, represents me and what I am all about. 

My first book was out. If you had told me this ten years ago, I never would have believed you. I wrote since I learned the alphabet. Writing was and is my passion. Initially, rejections make me think that I was not meant to be a writer. Dejected several times, I never stopped and feel tremendously lucky to have gotten here. 

What I love most about writing? That I can be creative. I baked about a million inside jokes into the text, created mean fantasy boyfriends named Gabriel, many lovely characters but also evil witches. Mining the contents of my memory makes the writing process so much more fun. Sometimes I can just write and have no idea where this all came from.  When I have a very good day, I can write for hours which almost feels like blacking out it pushes me in sort of trance. 

“You have just published a book. This is amazing and a success, ” my friend S. told me when I said that my life was a disaster last summer. Well, she is right. I am proud of myself but I also realize that most books do not earn back the expense it takes to produce them. Writing a book is not fancy. I mean, I am not J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or Andre Alexis (His new book coming out on February 19th!) who probably make the majority of money for publishers while every other book ends up shortly on the Chapters “80% off-sad-pile” close to the washrooms. Honestly, I am glad my book is published and I do not care too much about how many copies I sell. This may be weird to some but to have the book on the shelf in the store means so much more to me. Success for me is when I feel immersed in my work and that I am getting better at it. 

Lastly, I want to add that reading and writing is equally important to me. I know that I become a better writer by reading more. I read everything I can get my hands on, some voices that are similar to mine and voices that could not be more different, such as Hemingway. I read a chapter in a book on Quantum Physics on my friend’s kitchen table while waiting for coffee and then asked him 10,000 questions, a memoir by Elizabeth Hay or poetry:  The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot. Read. Read. Read.

And then, I get very quiet, sit at my desk and let my own voice speak. I take a deep breath and start typing. My best essays usually come when I am not forcing it and trust my instincts. I work on launching my new book project  “What If This Is Enough” for fun before sending out proposals to publishers on www.kickstarter.com soon if you would like to check it out. 

. Turning Toward.

Does this scarf look good? Photo credit: Konrad Weiss

Let’s say my eccentric brother Thomas would give me $20,000 for my birthday. There is only one catch. I have to invest the money for six years with one of two IT companies my brother suggests. Company A is super well respected all over the world for its ethics and its returns and most clients are very happy even with a sometimes modest gain. Company B guarantees that they will blow my money out of the window and then blame me for it. Which company would you choose? 

Or let’s say I get diagnosed with a rare infection that kills its victims within a couple of days (I may have watched the movie “Contagion” a couple of weeks ago). A friend of mine, let’s call her Diana, had that exact same infection and knows of the only two doctors in the world who work with it. One doctor is into research, testing, and new treatments and is curing patients with rather great success. The other one is an alcoholic who cannot even spell his name, beat her up several times, saved one person and she had an affair with him. Which doctor would you choose? 

Or let’s say it is my wedding day (ha!), and the universe sets some sort of giant stopwatch for five years. When the stopwatch goes off, I will either be divorced or I won’t. I have recently heard the rumor that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Let’s say my friend Diana knows a strategy and secret that makes me stay married while others would guarantee that I get a divorce before the timer went off. Would you want to know Diana’s strategy? 

Of course! You would invest with company A, choose the sober doctor and would do whatever it takes to protect yourself from divorce. But my friend Diana is really onto something. There really is a secret. Doctor Gottman conducted a study with newlyweds and then followed up with them six years later. Several had remained together; many had divorced. According to Dr. Gottman, all the couples that stayed married were much better at one thing: They turned towards instead of away. At Gottman’s six-year follow-up study, couples that had stayed married turned towards one another 86% of the time and couples that had divorced averaged only 33% of the time. In a nutshell, the secret is: turning toward if possible which is easier said than done sometimes. 

I think this is an awesome piece of data that suggests that there is something we can all do today that will dramatically change the course of our relationships. Or more importantly, it suggests that there is something that you cannot or should not do that will lead to its demise. Big questions: How do you turn toward instead of away? I guess in order to understand turn toward, I have to understand the “bid theory” first. My bid-theory is pretty much any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. These bids can show up in simple ways such as a smile, a wink or in such things as asking for advice, help or requests. According to Gottman, women make more bids than men (duh!), but in a healthy relationship, both partners are comfortable to make all kinds of bids without feeling bad and even recognize many. These bids can all become pretty tricky, too. Sometimes I miss a couple of bids. But men struggle in this regard even worse so it is important to pay attention. Bids usually have a secondary layer. A what? The true meaning is behind the word or you may call it the difference between text and subtext. Yes means no and no means yes? A few examples: 

Text: Does this outfit look good? Subtext: Can I have your attention? 

Text: Let’s put Joel to bed? Subtext: Can I have your help? 

Text: I spoke to my family today. Subtext: Will you chat with me? 

Text: Want to cuddle (kiss)? Subtext: Can I have your affection? 

Text: Want to play cards? Subtext: Will you play with me? 

Text: I have had a terrible day. Subtext: Will you help me destress? 

According to Gottman, to “miss a bid is to turn away” and turning away or rejecting can be devastating. Rejecting a bid at least provides the opportunity for some type of engagement and repair but missing the bid altogether may result in diminished bids or even worse, in making bids for enjoyment, attention, affection or some other crazy stuff. I think it is really important to learn and recognize those bids and to commit to making them to each other in a relationship and then turn towards by paying attention. To simply listen to each other and talk and recognize what the partner is saying may open doors to responses. If the partner has really paid attention, he/she will have recognized and responded to both the text and the subtext. Also, keep in mind that some bids can get more complicated and you may head into more vulnerable territory. However, this will all not be a problem if you built a solid friendship first and have a good foundation from the beginning. If you are committed you can stay focused on this ONE relationship or marriage you are in and make it work if it is worth it by turning toward instead of away. My eccentric brother Thomas and crazy friend Diana would be so proud of you. 

.Struggles.

“We are all just walking each other home.” —  Ram Dass

Oh’ Canada and your insane freezing cold. The other day, my son and I walked to school and avoided frost bites in our face with ski masks and scarves. “You have to embrace the cold, ” the crossing guard said. Very reassuring. Today it was not as cold but we fought our way through tons of snow. This nebulous nature of winter is very pressing and adds to my overall moodiness, anxiety, and sadness. Worries about my seemingly stagnant career bother to the point that not even a lavender oil bath or a massage can make me feel better. Overall fears are gnawing and real to the point that I do not even know if what I am doing here is right and that the decision to move to Canada in the first place was rather rash, impetuous or altogether wrong. There is for some reason this growing feeling and certainty that I made some really dumb decisions in my life.

Thoughts that I have not landed my dream job or have a job at all in this country popped up. I have not bought a house and even my previous relationships seem like things another version of me did. A version saying, “Yeah, sure I understand the serious implications of attaching myself to this person even though alarm bells are ringing. I can make this work though!”

Today, on our way to Kindergarten, we walked through masses of snow and then the strangest thing happened. Joel ran ahead to catch up with his friend and they chatted about a tree house they want to build in spring. I let my thoughts wander; I am thinking a lot these days.

My family in Germany is going through a pretty rough time. There will be a double-funeral next week. One grandfather passed away on Tuesday this week, the other one today and out of the blue, I remembered something a friend of mine told me a long time ago: “I am not scared of death because once I am dead, I don’t feel anything. I am just not here anymore.” When my mother described how her father took his last breaths and what she told him, I started to cry. She simply told him that it is okay for him to leave, that everything is fine, that he is safe and can meet my other grandfather on the way so they can leave together. With these words, he opened his eyes one more time, took three slow breaths and died. My mom and grandmother held his hand which was still warm for a while after. I felt like I stood over a precipice looking down when my mother and father told me that my grandfather passed away. He is not here anymore. And this is somewhat scary to me. Where is he? Just nowhere? Just nothing? It is over? Is he flying on a cloud in heaven as I tell my son he is? Even though it was expected, it is very sad for everyone. My mind is wrapped around death for the last couple of weeks and these cold, gloomy winter days are not helping.

I know death will also happen to me. Hopefully not today or in the next months, but it WILL happen. I have seen many dead people before when I was a Police Officer but when family members die it is so different. Before, I knew that I will die at some point but I was also ignoring the whole thing by not giving it too much attention. When I was in my twenties, I certainly did not think about death. I thought about a career, traveling and such. I subsequently figured that many awesome things happen before I die and that I don’t have to worry about it because it is so far away.

Recently, a friend of mine struggled with cancer which instantly began to challenge my cool-headedness because I related to her. She passed away shortly after being diagnosed and left a 5-year-old son and husband behind. This made me start to grapple with my own mortality. I do not feel invincible as I used to in my twenties. This friend also told me that I should listen to life advice from people in their 80s and 90s because they are staring death in the face for years. About two years ago, I had a conversation with my grandparents about a school assignment I was struggling with. I told them that I just cannot get through some assignment because it is so much work and sometimes wish my life is over so I don’t have to do this stupid work anymore. “Never wish away your life,” my grandfather told me quietly while shaking his head. Back then I struggled to understand and wondered why he got rather upset but now I see what he meant and I am starting to grasp his point. Soak it all up, even the hard things. I am still alive. He is not.

So how can I move forward without freaking out about death and dying? It works for me when I simply reframe things so that I see life instead of death. Barbara Ehrenreich in Natural Causes writes: “You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and see it as a brief opportinty to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”

My family is incredibly strong and I love them. Our close relationship grounds me. They listen, understand and give me an anchor that holds me to the present, that keeps me from floating away on thoughts of an unknown future. Even though my world has changed I am not afraid. I am loved. They are alive.
 

.Premature Grief and then Tears Fall.

When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit in the dark with you” — Alice in Wonderland 

Death is part of life and a completely natural process. There is nothing to be afraid of, right? “I don’t want to live anymore”, one of my grandfathers said many years ago. The other one said, “Let happen what happens. I am old and had a good life”. Both of my grandfathers were very resilient to this point in their life; they are in their 90s. One was very puissant back in the days being a photographer for a big German company. He never gave up photography either which was amazing. The other one loved to roll around with us on the floor, sing songs, tell stories and build caves and forts with blankets. 

I am going through a very rough time these days and need to write some of this pain I experience off my chest. Without going into too much detail about what happened but both of my grandfathers are about to pass away. Strangely, they were both admitted to the hospital almost on the same day which was devastating even though sort of expected. One grandfather has been ill for quite some time but the other one was okay. “I am so confused in my head and I feel this dull pain; I am not sure where I am,” one grandfather used to say when he still recognized Joel and I. My grandmother thought back then that he had already escaped. And so did we. Nothing was the same anymore and things drastically slowed down. My grandparents usually call me once a week and every time I spoke to either of them I heard their voices a wee bit smaller to the point where my grandmothers took care of all the talking. Watching a loved one suffer through pain and agony is horrible. “Grandpa is sleeping most of the day now because he is very tired and cannot be on the phone”, my grandmother said. 

When I found out a couple of weeks ago that they are both hospitalized, I was full of premature grief. Or was it grief in anticipation? I am 8000 km away and cannot be with them since I am stuck in Canada. I knew I could provide help and support for my parents because they really need a break. They are the strongest people I know and it is amazing to see how they deal with it all the way they do. They are my pillars; they always will be. My mother and father both put a pretty strong shell and armor around themselves to protect from being too emotional while dealing with doctor appointments like crossing off checklists. 

Even though I was never particularly super close to either of my grandfathers, they are people I love who became lights in my life. What happens when the lights go out or the flame gets smaller? One grandfather, for example, has a brilliant mind and a wonderful sense of humor. He said a couple of days ago that he has “a little bit of cancer” but it will be okay soon. He will never get out of the hospital again. I am crying while typing this. These days, his mind is all over the place but he used to answer questions I had about life. He had knowledge, books and so many interests. Initially, he joked about the hospital and how tedious this all is and how happy he will be when it is time to go home. My heart broke yet again. 

I do not know how much longer they both have to live but I am actively griefing because I cannot be there, cannot help or see them one more time. My parents say it is better that way and that I should remember them the way they both were but I kind of need to say my own goodbye to them no matter how they look or feel. I speak to my mother almost daily and some days the grief feels all-consuming. Some days, I cannot see or think clearly and I am totally bound by it all. It is almost physical pain. I have never experienced anything like this before and I hate that I am not in control of my feelings. Sometimes it is hard to simply breathe. I speak to my closest friends about some things and how I feel but my friend and his parents are incredible and know the entire story. They allow me to just be in that grief, be me and are supportive with everything else I am going through these days. I am very fortunate and they are my rock here in Canada. 

Both of my grandfathers influenced me and added something to my life which is a wonderful thing. Since they have been hospitalized, it has been a lot of waiting. Waiting for answers, waiting for treatment, waiting for possible care and transport to a different department in the hospital, nursing homes, palliative care, waiting for doctors and nurses to comfort them, and waiting for people to tell what to do and how to do it. And then, in the end, you just wait to say goodbye and hope you won’t miss your last chance to do so. I did not travel back home to Germany that often. Maybe once or twice a year but I was always well aware that every time I said goodbye (especially to my grandparents) it may be the last time. When I saw both of them last year telling them I won’t be back home for some time now they both shook their heads like children and told me again, “no, no, no you will be back again soon”. I hugged them, said goodbye, left and believed deep inside that there would be another chance to see them both again. 

In June last year, my grandmother told me that my grandfather looked at a picture of his brother who passed away a couple of months ago and said, “I will see you soon and be with you again”. The last time I saw both of my grandfathers was March 2018. I wish I would have a chance to see them one last time. I am afraid of this deep, hollow ache when they pass away. I read somewhere that grief never goes away, but life gets bigger, so sadness doesn’t feel as big. Their little flame is still on and I will make sure to keep their spirits alive.

“You will lose someone and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Anne Lamott

 

My grandfather believes that this is the song they play in heaven.

.Weird Things German People Do – The Ultimate German Guide.

All countries have their own weird traditions and behaviors and Germans are obviously no exception. I am German myself and a lot of these habits I only realized were completely bonkers after I left Germany and moved to another country. I just thought, this is how people behave; it’s human nature all over the world. But I realized quickly, that this is not the case. It is time to roast my own country people and myself obviously and call them out on their strange and embarrassing habits. Let’s get to the bottom of this and demystify the Germans. Keep in mind that the list below may also save your relationship or marriage if you are involved with a German person.

  • Be very direct. Do not expect British level of small talk. As a matter of fact, cut the small talk, and say it straight. “Pass the pepper” will do nicely and does not come across as impolite for Germans. It may take some time to get used to it but in the end, you will realize that it saves quite a lot of time and is not impolite at all. Wearing an awful shirt? Germans will tell you. Gained a bit of weight? Germans will let you know. The good thing about this is that you always know where you stand. The bad thing is, your soul may be crushed. One may experience a certain type of initial German “coldness” or emotional distance toward other people. There is no fluffing around. Germans take some time to build a solid foundation with others rather than a shallow one.
  • Get used to all the German Fairy Tales and don’t be scared. You may leave your light on at night.
  • Germans love to discipline. If you are on a bus and put your shoes up on the seat, Germans will first look at you suspiciously and then lean over and tell you to put your feet down on the floor
  • As a pedestrian, do not (under any circumstances) cross the street if the traffic light signals red for pedestrian crossing (hell will freeze over!)
  • Germans love to send bureaucratic threatening letters and make everything official. You forgot to pay a part of your electricity bill, your landlord won’t talk to you but rather send a letter of immediate eviction without warning if you do not pay.
  • Germans are very impatient and self-control is very important. If you are in line at a cafeteria, you better choose your food quickly if a German stands behind you. If you take to long, they will freak out.
  • The German accent. It sounds funny, but do not make fun of it too much. They will get angry. Why? Because according to Germans, we learned British English in school and talk normally. “Zis is a dog and ze dog looks angry because ze dog lost it’s bone ja. Zis is not cool.”
  • Meat & Food. Many Germans love meat. Surprise a German with sausages, braten, cold cuts or any other meat-dish and they will love you. Try to prevent any meat-loving German from enjoying their schnitzel and you will be removed from the community or even deported from the country immediately. Germans eat “quark” all the time but cannot explain what it actually is. Half cheese and half cream? Nobody will ever figure this out.
  • Alcohol. Talking about the top-German foods, I have to continue with the beverages. When in Germany, you will find (strong) beer everywhere and everybody drinks it all the time. Beer in the evening, beer in the morning, beer after work with colleagues, beer alone at home and you can buy it everywhere, too. Even at the gas stations.  Fun fact: there is actually a thing called “Fusspils” (Wegbier). Germans drink on the streets quite a lot and some people carry a beer for the way (Wegbier) to the bar. Sounds like we are all a bunch of alcoholics. Also, you better look the other person straight in the eyes while clinking beer glass. Germans are pretty strict about that, too.
  • Germans are highly organized; especially socially. There are visual signs everywhere that direct the public to follow rules and regulations to monitor and protect how to exist in Germany. Signs such as “Do not throw your trash here”, “Do not stand here”, “Do not walk here” etc. make things run smoothly for some reason. There is also no garbage on the ground; not even in the subway. You could eat off the ground.
  • When children have their first day of school which is 1st grade (otherwise it is called kindergarten), every child gets a large cone, almost as big as the child themselves, covered in decorations called “Zuckertüte/Schultüte” (Sugar/school cone). In Germany, it is normal to give your child a five-kilogram cone filled with sweets and treats on their first day of school. Kids hold on to that cone during school and then are allowed to open it at home that day in the evening. #sugarshock

  • Polterabend which is smashing a ton of porcelain before you get married. Couples announce the date of their Polterabend in the local newspaper and then usually friends and family from the town or total strangers show up in an open space outside which is usually on the street in front of your house and bring all sorts of porcelain (sinks, cups, plates whatever they want to donate) that they then smash and the soon to be married couple has to clean up the mess. Of course, beer and appetizers (meat) are served.
  • Nudity. German people love to be naked especially in places like local saunas, beaches, and lakes. People look at you in horror if you wear your bathing suit in a sauna. They might actually ask you to leave.
  • Work ethics: Germans have on the average 6-8 weeks paid vacation per year and are very hardworking. They try to avoid mistakes and also work on an issue until it is sufficiently solved. Things need to be perfect.  All this happens usually without asking for help. They also take “Feierabend” (the time after work) very seriously. Germans go home when the clock ticks beer. Germans are health freaks and  usually have hundreds of health – and life insurances so nobody needs to worry or stress out in case something happens #GermanAngst
  • Punctuality: Germans get nervous when they cannot be at least 10 minutes in advance to get to an appointment
  • Don’t “you” anybody unless you are formally encouraged to refer to them as “you”. You call people Herr (Mr.) X or Frau (Mrs.) X until the older one tells you to use the informal “you”. The german language will just blow your mind.
  • Dinner Parties: You invite someone to dinner at 6 pm, they will expect dinner to be on the table and ready at 6 pm. No small talk before, no waiting, no appetizers or anything unless specifically stated that this is scheduled before the actual dinner
  • Other fun facts: The original Octoberfest actually starts in September. Germans ritually return recyclables and collecting the deposit. Especially plastic bottles, beer, and wine bottles. Germans simply love recycling.

It's like a challenge.

And last: you can use the word “Bitte” for many things:

Something to add? Did I forget anything? Does this list save your relationship with a German person?  Feel free to leave a comment below.