.Time Travel or For V.

HomeBase, my Happy Place. But why did I erase the cat underneath the table? Wine, pasta, and that fireplace: awesomeness.

My parents still live in the house we moved into when I was five. Or six? Something like that. It does not matter because every time I come home, I have the instant feeling of comfort. And so many memories of my childhood. Hanging out with friends, playing Polly Pocket (kid of the 80s), building mazes in the field, then running away from the farmer. Life was good. Easy. There were no problems.

Then, there was school. I always loved studying and learning new things. And (plateau) shoes, lunch boxes, and sharp pencils. There were birthday- and Halloween parties, and hours of talks with my friend L. from our bedroom windows across the street. I roller-skated in my driveway and on the street in front of the house that leads to a dead-end. I walked to and back home from the bus stop on my own. No need to lock the back door when we played out front. I thought (and of course still do) my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and my father is/was a strong man who could build awesome things and always protects me. A dad who could snore on the couch as we all stood around and teased him loudly. I wish this comfortable feeling for every child on earth.

Currently, I am aware of two children who are not afforded that luxury and it hurts me badly to watch this. Many others also had houses filled with chaos and abuse, and they learned to keep their mouths shut and to stay out of trouble. I was dealt with two loving parents who encouraged me to be curious. This safety net combined with the small rebel inside of me meant I did a lot of silly things to try to make life seem exciting. Our little town of Coburg, Bavaria, is quiet and homogenous, with many small communities around, small ranch houses and farms on tree-lined streets littered with pine needles. The only thing we feared was the neighbor’s dog. Coburg is sleepy, and to a restless young girl like me, it often felt like a ghost town. I yearned for adventure and spent a lot of my youth in my own head, creating elaborate fantasies that felt grown-up. Fantasies to move as far away as possible.

Otherwise, the streets and woods around my house were a perfect setting for fake mischief. My friends and I would spend all afternoon pretending we had run away and had to live on our own. We tried to make a fire in the park. L. and I smoked one cigarette someone gave us and swore to never smoke again. We also would sneak out at dusk with a pair of binoculars and search the streets for murderers.

After school, I would do a bit of homework, eat ravenously, and then hop on my bike and coast down the streets. Riding fast and helmetless just because. I would pedal furiously up to the edge of the woods and jump off my bike to hide in the bushes imagining how ridiculous my friends would feel when they realized they had walked right past me. Again, life was good.

On long car trips up to Northern Germany (St. Peter Ording) for our yearly camping trips at the ocean, I would make my siblings pretend they were deaf while we sat in the backseat. The car was our playground while my dad drove for hours with this weird nervous eye-twitch of annoyance. We would communicate in made-up sign language as we sped down the Autobahn, in the hope that a passing car would see us and feel pity for the beautiful family with three deaf children. When you have a comfortable and loving family, sometimes you yearn for a dance on the edge. This can lead to an overactive imagination, but it is also the reason why some kids in Coburg do drugs these days. And probably even way back when but we had no clue what we were looking at.

And then, there was V. We met in kindergarten and our mothers instantly became very close friends, too. In kindergarten, she was usually dressed in a princess dress and cried all day. I was dressed in a homemade sweater (possibly even knitted), corduroys, and short brown hair (“because it is easier to maintain”). Remember, this was still the 80s, which says more about my mother’s wonderful acceptance and creativity and a bit of my weirdness and less about my fashion choices at that time. Actually, not much has changed in all these years, except my hair is long now. So, V. and I hit it off instantly and are super close to this day. We had and have each other’s backs even when other’s were talking behind them. We had the right balance of humor and pathos mixed with a pinch of weird -and craziness.

As we grew up, V. remained my comfort zone even though our ways parted for some time. This is life. Everybody did their own thing for a while, but we were always connected and updated about each other through our moms who hung out quite frequently. And then V’s mother got sick. Suddenly, the world was small and tight. “Our parents never die or get sick”, we used to say. The inevitability of death became a new nightmare. I don’t remember when I first heard of V’s mom getting seriously sick, but it was in that way young children receive news, a watered-down version that is a combination of investigating and straight-up eavesdropping. I remember speaking to V. on the phone several times and she seemed very lost but also very strong. I also remember my incredible paralysis throughout the whole thing. I wanted the whole thing to go away. I wanted us to be kids again sitting in my kitchen and eat cake while V’s mom tells us stories and takes us to the movies after.

I lived in Canada when V.’s mom passed away and I didn’t do a very good job of being there for her. I knew she was not alone and I did that classic thing of thinking I should just leave everyone alone and wait for the sad parties to reach out when they need help. I remember I felt so sad and it unlocked deep feelings and cut through my numbness that our parents will get older and eventually pass away; hopefully just of old age.

But let’s not end on this sad note. Let’s end by pointing out positive ways to feel alive. You can tell someone you are there for them and love them. You can help people who need help with real bad guys. Or you can do one of these Ironman things. Or ask for help. Or write. Because writing is more than content. More than the stories told. It is healing.

.Robots Will Kill Me.

Leg das depperte iPhone weg und hör mir zu.

In 1998 I was in high school, young and knee-deep in free time. A bunch of my friends and I stood in front of the school and one took out his cell phone. It was one of those heavy, flip-phones that looked like an electric shaver. “Nope,” I said. “I don’t need a phone. Cell phones aren’t for me. What am I going to do? Carry it around with me all day? How dumb is that?!”

When I was growing up, the Weiss family was a family that had only a few electronic gadgets. We had an old home phone, a bulky TV and a microwave and that was it. But with this old TV, MTV arrived. I would spend hours watching this incredibly cool and new station. I was maybe twelve years old and received a crash course in adult life. I got to know Michael Jackson and his talent split me in half. I would dance all day listening to BAD. At that time, no one thought he was strange. No one was laughing.

There was one TV in our living room that my family shared. No TVs in the bedroom. Then, there was a computer that my dad brought home at some point: The Commodore 64 which eventually got replaced with a “real computer” and Windows 95.

Boulder Dash Mining Game: I played this forever.

I remember typing letters with an old typewriter. There was no Internet, no e-mail, no texting, no FaceTiming, no GPS-ing (there were road-maps for fuck’s sake and I knew how to read them!), no tweeting, no Facebooking, and no Instagramming. Eventually, I became aware of the existence of e-mail and considered checking “google”, but the film War Games had taught me that the computer could start a nuclear war so I decided to wait and see. In the meantime, I wrote letters (I still do!) and maintained a healthy dose of eye contact.

And now? Now my phone sits in my pocket all the time. I am obsessed and addicted and convinced that my phone is trying to kill me. By the way, when I say “my phone” I mean my iPhone and my iPad and my MacBookAir and all technological devices in general.

I am glad we have electricity and anesthesia, but I think the robots will kill us all. Here’s proof:

My phone does not want me to finish anything or do any work in general. While I typed the first paragraph of this essay, I checked my phone because I received several WhatsApp messages. I paused writing and checked the damn phone. Then I googled how to write “flip-phone”. Then I went to Wikipedia to check when the first phones were produced and clicked on first Nokia Cell Phone which reminded me I needed my hair done, so I texted my hairdresser when appointments are available. She sent me a picture of herself from a trip to Jamaica from last year and I put a filter on it with a funny caption and sent it back. What is this phone doing to me? I have a name. Dignity. It wants to sleep next to me and buzz at just the right intervals so I forget to eat or make deadlines.

My phone tries to make me feel bad about how I look. When I was younger I used to have things called “parties”. Those still exist but differently. Back then, they were fun hangouts where we would get together and talk and dance. During these “parties” I would maybe take pictures with things called “cameras”. Weeks later, I would pick up those pictures from a strange guy who lived in a tiny photography store in the middle of town. By that time, the party had become a distant memory, something that I had experienced in real-time with little regard as to how I looked. I would receive the hard copies of the pictures and throw away the ones I didn’t like. No one would see those pictures but me. No one would be allowed to comment on those pictures until I decided to physically show them. They would be a reminder of a good time but not something that kept me distanced from the experience. Now, things are so different.

My phone wants to show me things I should not see. I once read that the three things that shorten your life are smoking (duh!), artificial sweetener, and violent images. I believe this to be true. Violent images are not new and these days, for example in the U.S., violence is at a different level. I just look at the grotesque images on my phone while I wait in line at the bank. But all this is important as good wine pairing. Most of what my phone shows me is bad for my eyes. My eyes need a rest, spiritually and literally. My eyes hurt when I stare at my phone because, you guessed right, my phone wants to kill me.

My phone wants me to love it more than my child. I taught my son to swim and he was at the edge of a swimming pool. He slipped and went under. I jumped in and pulled him out right away. We were both scared but he was fine. But my phone had been in my back pocket of my shorts. My first thought was of course how awesome it is that I saved my son from drowning. My second thought right after was, “FUCK MY PHONE GOT WET!” I quickly ripped it open and started to dry it with a hairdryer at the pool’s changing area. Someone told me to put rice and the phone in a Ziploc bag which apparently pulls the water out. I spent the day without my phone, even though I had two other gadgets that allowed me to constantly check my e-mails and texts. I paced mourned hoping the rice would soak up the water (It didn’t.) I realized I might have to go out that night without my phone. I put my iPad in my purse just in case. WTF! This is the behavior of a crazy person.

Final recap and review: my phone is trying to kill me. It is a battery-charged rectangle of disappointment and possibility. It is a tautological pacifier. It can make me feel connected, happy, sad, loved and unloved, ugly, pretty, important, and unimportant, and vindicated.

I am still the controller of technology. I don’t want to become a slave. I believe in people, not machines. Life is endings and beginnings. It can be hard, this life. Beautiful, too. But, no one can do it alone because we need other people. No matter how great the machines are.

Everything is always backed up on the “cloud” and I can find my phone if I lose it. It is only a matter of time before my phone finds me.

.Age.

My birthday is around the corner. I am approaching 39 which means the big 4-0 is just around the corner, too. This also means, that I am no spring chicken but I am not an old lady either. I can party like a twenty-year-old but it then takes me a couple of days to recover. Sometimes I am a tired mother taking my son to the park, and other times I am a petulant teenager giving the finger to Frank the FedEx guy who didn’t bring me that package I ordered ten weeks ago. I idle right in the middle without knowing when middle age actually starts. According to the dictionary, middle-age is “the period of life between young adulthood and old age, now usually regarded as between about forty-five and sixty.” SIXTY? Nice try, Oxford.

I personally think middle age begins once you start looking forward to eating dinner before 6.30 p.m., or when you call the cops when your next-door neighbor has a party. I know my body feels older even though I feel I am in shape and practice Yoga on a daily basis. Sometimes certain parts hurt that usually didn’t. However, I would never let this social pressure of “staying young forever” get to me.

I can either exhaust myself thrashing against it or turn around and let the pressure of it massage out my kinks. Fighting aging is like the War on Drugs. It’s expensive, does more harm than good, and has proven to never end.

Hopefully, I have another fifty years of healthy living ahead of me before I pass from this earth either in my sleep (preferred) or during a daring rescue caught on tape the paramedics recorded. Ideally, my penultimate day would be spent attending a giant beach party thrown in my honor. Everyone would gather around me at sunset, and the golden light would make everything look awesome as I told hilarious stories and gave away my book collection to my friends. I and all my still-alive friends (which, let’s face it, will mostly be women) would sing and dance late into the night. My son would be strong, grown, handsome, and happy. I would be frail but adorable. Once the party ended, everyone would fall asleep except for me, my son, and my partner. We would spend the rest of the night watching the stars under a nice blanket my granddaughter made.

As the sun began to rise, my partner would wake and put the coffee on. My son would still be asleep. My partner’s last words would be something banal and beautiful. “Are you warm enough, my love? I want to tell you a story.” he would ask and say while handing me another blanket. “Just right, okay, tell me a story,” I would answer while feeling content.

My funeral would be incredibly intimate. I would instruct people to throw firecrackers and play Pink Floyd songs on a loop.

Did I freak you out? It wasn’t until I turned thirty-two and my son was born that I started to feel like my adult life was beginning. This was around the time when I knew how to jump-start my own car battery. I had spent so much of my twenties in a state of delayed adolescence and so much of my teenage years wishing that time would move faster. At thirty, I felt like I had about six or seven years of feeling like a real adult before my brain, and society tried starting to make me worry about being old. There is the built-in baby stuff, plus the added fascination with the new. But here is the thing. Getting older is awesome, and not because I don’t care as much about what people think. It’s awesome because I develop a secret superpower. My son would love to read all about it.

The superpower: Getting older makes me somewhat different or being able to adapt to things more easily. This can be exciting. Now that I am better at observing a situation, I can use my sharpened skills to scan a room and navigate it before anyone even notices that I am there. This can lead to me finding a comfortable couch at a party, or to the realization that I am at a terrible party and need to leave immediately. I can witness young people embarrassing themselves and get a thrill that it is not me. I can watch and listen to them throw around their “alwayses” and “nevers” and “I am the kind of person who would never….” and delight in the fact that I am past that point in my life. Feeling different means I can float.

Getting older also helps me develop an x-ray vision. I am now able to see through people more. I get better at understanding what people mean and how it can be different from what they say. Finally, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” starts to make sense. I can read people’s energies better, and this means I get stuck less talking to idiots. Gone are the days when I take things personally and internalize everyone’s behavior. I get better at knowing what I want and need.

Lastly, because I am a superhero, I am really good at putting together a good team. I can look around the room and notice the other superhero because they are the ones noticing me. Some friends I meet are highly emulsified and full of awesomeness. Now that I have a sense of who I am, I know better what kind of friend(s) or partner(s) I want and need. I am interested in people who swim in the deep end. I want to have conversations about real things with people who have experienced real things. I am tired of talking about movies and gossiping about friends. Life is crunchy and complicated and I am more about all the deliciousness instead.

Hey…. Can you walk and breathe? Yes!? Then stop complaining.

.Leiwand: Bananas are Not the Only Fruit.

via The New Yorker

I always had a job, so when I had my son I initially didn’t assume I would stop working. I took leave without pay and slowed down, which I was happy to do. I was grateful that I could. Most can’t. However, I had not planned of being a full-time stay-at-home-mom. This is not to say I think being a stay-at-home-mom is not a job or okay. It most certainly is. It’s just not for me. It may be good for you, not for me.

The whole business of working mothers and stay-at-home mothers is so touchy (or tetchy; I spent a rather long conversation with a work-buddy from Scotland the other day). The subject inherently sucks. Not a week goes by without annoying and bullshit articles claiming breast milk makes kids better liars. Many mothers torture themselves and each other, and all of it leads to a lot of women-on-women crime.

Here are some of the highlights I experienced:

I am introduced to someone as “Joel’s mom” rather than my own name, which apparently doesn’t matter.

Me, as a working mom, am at a museum on a Saturday afternoon and friends (who see me alone) ask, “What are you doing out? Where is your son? Who is watching him?”

I sat on the bench at the playground and read my book when a new mother (out of nowhere) told me how she breastfeeds her baby because she “just wants her baby to be healthy.” And if I chose to breastfeed, too. And what kind of organic food I gave and give my child.

A stay-at-home-mom says, “You shouldn’t give your son bananas for breakfast. They are full of sugar. Plus, bananas are not the only fruit. Karl loves strawberries. You should give your son strawberries.”

A stay-at-home-mom acts like she is too busy to return a WhatsApp message. I know you are on your phone most of the day. I just knoooooooow.

A stay-at-home-mom talks about how she doesn’t work because “the kids are only young once” and she doesn’t “want to miss a thing.”

A stay-at-home-mom needs a nanny, can afford one, and refuses to hire one, and in doing so denies herself some much-needed personal time and self-care.

A stay-at-home-mom approaches a working mom and grills her about how many hours she works. She gets really interested in what time the working mother leaves in the morning and comes home at night. Then she comments, “I honestly don’t know how you do it.”

I have gotten the last one a lot, and it got my blood boiling. When I heard those words I didn’t hear “I don’t know HOW you do it.” I just heard “I don’t know how you COULD do it.” I would be feeling overworked and guilty and overwhelmed and suddenly I would be struck over the head by what felt like someone else’s bullshit. It was an emotional drive-by. A random act of woman-on-woman violence. In my fantasy, I would answer, “What do you mean how do I do it? Do you really want to know the most insane story of my nanny’s schedule? Do you want to know how I balance child care, aftercare, kindergarten, and the different ways I manipulate and negotiate work if necessary to help me put my kid first when needed? Also, I need to work because I need an income so my son and I can survive!” Instead of my fantasy answer, I answer, “Ambivalence. Drugs and robots!” The ultimate answer would obviously be, “You don’t know how I do it. Because you don’t do it. You couldn’t. What do you do again?”

See what I did there? CRIME and I deserve punishment. There is an unspoken pact that women are supposed to follow. Some tell me I should feel guilty about being away from my child. But I don’t and I love my job. Mothers who stay at home are supposed to pretend they are bored and wish they were doing more corporate things. They don’t and they love their job. If we all just stick to the plan there will be less hate on the streets. #mothersmatter

But let me try to answer the question for real. Do you want to know how I do it?

Time management. Simple as that. Being a single parent requires a lot of planning, pushing, and pulling. I figured out a way for my son and I that works just fine. Of course, there is the occasional emergency-sick-leave day but so far I have been very lucky.

Now let me tell you about that Karate class I took my kid to once. Or maybe I should stop here. Sometimes I worry not enough people hate me.

. Can I live Without You? – Yes. Do I Want to? – No.

Let’s be honest. Sex is great. Everybody talks about it. Everywhere. I cannot say that I have seen it all, but there were some classic experiences in my life. I won’t share details but rather have some advice instead. All of this advice is meant for older people (strictly 90+). Kidding! This advice works for anybody, straight, gay, transgender, and couples, and should be common sense. Just in case this is not clear and common sense: All sex, in this instance and every instance should be between consenting adults. Are we clear on that? Thank you in advance. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Dr. Sommer Team

Stop faking it! I know you may be tired/eager/excited/nervous to please or are unsure of how to get there. Allow yourself real pleasure and not worry about how long it takes. If it makes you feel better, talk to your partner. Let him know what you would like to do. Your partner cannot mind-read. Also, women are punished with the gift of being able to fake it.

Stop being too goal-oriented when it comes to sex. You might not make it to the finish line every time. Don’t worry about it. Each part of the journey can be great.

Don’t have sex with people you don’t want to have sex with. Nothing needs to be added.

Don’t get undressed and start pointing out your flaws or apologize for things you think are wrong with your body. Men don’t notice or care. They are about to get laid! They are so happy. Men are very visual, so if you don’t want them to look at your thighs just put heart stickers on your breasts to distract them.

Dirty talk. Act like a bossy lady ordering at a sandwich line at a supermarket. “I want the Proscuitto Crudo on rye and make sure you toast it. Add some arugula!” If your partner is bad at dirty talk tell him to shut up. He might even like that. If you don’t like dirty talk, don’t worry about it. It can be pretty hot if done well but it may not be up your alley. Avoid words like “climax,” “moist,” and “mom.” Don’t speak in a fake French accent.

Don’t let your kids sleep in your bed.

Laugh a lot and try new things with someone you love.

Keep it sexy. Change things up. Surprises.

Don’t watch too much porn. If you depend too heavily on the technical or visual then you may not notice the real flesh-and-blood person in your bed.

Don’t be that person who talks about Tinder successes and that you find “Limette 69” super hot because she has huge breasts. Nobody needs to know this. Keep it to yourself.

Symmetry is pleasing but not as sexy. Steven Hawking is cool but Jackon Pollock knows what I am talking about.

.Forget the Facts and Remember the Feelings.

We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again.” – Eagels, Take it Easy

I am divorced and this is not a secret. I understand why people read so many articles and books on divorce because every second marriage is falling apart. Divorces are so common and nothing really special. When I was going through my divorce, I felt alone even though I had support through family and friends. Nobody felt the specific ways of pain I was in. Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The seemingly never-ending process of divorce is about loading up that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying that stuff will break when it lands. Of course, it broke. And of course, I wanted to find answers and comfort.

I don’t want to talk about too many details of my divorce because it is too sad and too personal. I also don’t like people to know all my shit but only the bits and pieces I want to share. That being said, divorce really sucks. But, divorce is also good news, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

Any painful experience made me see things and life differently. It also reminded me of the simple truths that I purposely forget every day or else I would never get out of bed. Things such as nothing lasts forever and relationships can end. The best that can happen is that I learned a little more about what I am able to handle and how I can stay soft through the pain. I feel a little wiser and hopefully won’t make the same mistakes again. And, maybe my experience can be of help to others. I thought about something fun. Imaginary books that may have helped me deal with my divorce a bit better. Here are some fun titles and a short summary of some divorce books I may possibly write in the future. Or not. I would rather not.

I F***ING WANT A DIVORCE!!!!!!! LIKE RIGHT NOW!

Summary: If you have a small child you will understand this book. It deals with the fact that most people who divorce with small children still need to see each other every day. Any good parent will try to put their children’s needs first. This book will help teach you how to deal with a hardcore verbal fight and still attend a kid’s birthday party in person and not to just send a sad gift through Amazon. How lame. Are you in your early twenties and recently broke up with someone via WhatsApp? This book is not for you. Have you heard that your ex is re-building a run-down hotel and you rolled your eyes at how stupid this idea is? This book is not for you. This book is for the people who choose to work together and co-parent or at least show some interest.

Possible chapters to include: Fake smiling. How important is it to have the last word? Stop buying so many toys because material things won’t buy real love. Ever!

GET OVER IT! BUT NOT TOO FAST!

Summary: When you are going through the trauma and drama of divorce, you will learn who your real friends are. They guide you and take care of you and save you from your darkest days. This book is here to remind you that even though you are in pain and still in transition, everyone else has moved on and is a little tired of your situation. This book will remind you that unless the juicy fight continues or your ex-spouse actually ends up staying with his new girlfriend, most people don’t want to talk about it anymore. This book will teach you how to move on, but not too fast. Be upset, but please keep it together. Don’t end up in a mental institution just yet.

Possible chapters to included: She doesn’t cry enough. Why is he reporting me to the Immigration Office? He seems like a psycho to me. I am sorry to interrupt, but when do you think you will get over your anger/pride/attitude, take aside what we both went through and show some interest in your child(ren)?

DIVORCE: OR TEN WAYS TO NOT CATCH IT!

Summary: Divorce is contagious! It is like cancer but worse because no one feels really that bad for you. This book will teach you how to discuss your divorce with your currently still married friends. I mean those friends who have the perfect marriage and will never ever get a divorce. This book will help you not to strangle them when they both stand in front of you and talk about how great their relationship continues to be. This book will point to ways you can talk about your divorce without feeling like it is a real, fancy fur coat that people like to try on but then throw back at you in disgust because they would never wear something like that. They prefer only fake fur.

Possible chapters to include: [Illustrations of happy couples looking at you with pity] Divorce is not an option for me, but I am really happy for you. C’mon who hasn’t cheated? I just couldn’t do that to my kid(s)! We choose to stay together because of our kid(s).

HEY, LADY! THANK YOU FOR FUCKING MY HUSBAND! ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR CHOICE? TELL ME IF YOU ARE STILL HAPPY WITH HIM AND HIS CRAZY IDEAS AFTER ONE YEAR! [This could possibly be a New York Times Bestseller]

Summary: Newly divorced and attending a wedding for the first time alone? This is the book for you. Inside you will find ways to deal with the strange stares and drunk accusations that come along with not having a date. You will find a lot of tips on how to gently break it to women that you don’t want to f*** their husbands. You will find more tips to not get involved in other people’s weird relationship shit. You will read about the experiences of other men and women who bravely attended events and came out alive. Check out the special section on what to do and say when your ex shows up at the same event. With or without his new girlfriend. Extra bonus chapter: This book will help you navigate through all the details that people want to know, such as, how you broke up, where he is living now, what exactly happened, and who wanted it more, and what is going on with the kid(s), and how you told the kids, and if it was sad. Also, if he is mad and if you are sad, if everybody else knows, and who we can tell.

Possible chapters to include: No one is as great, wonderful and full of himself as you, Mr. Ex! It is not hard to be at a wedding withouth a Plus-1. I have never looked better. I am so glad he is not in my life anymore.

GUYS (AND PEOPLE) TO AVOID AND THAT YOUR MOTHER WARNED YOU ABOUT!

This book just contains a list of assholes, a picture, a short description, and why you should avoid them.

Maybe this will help you. Maybe it will make you laugh. Maybe it will help you navigate through a shitty time. Someday, happy couples won’t make you feel sad anymore. Someday you may be in a relationship again. Someday you will wake up and feel happy and slowly but surely like yourself again. Forget the facts and remember the feelings. The future is now.

.The Missing Link.

I am a moon junkie. Every time I look at the moon, I feel less alone and less afraid. Of course, the movie Moonstruck with Cher and Nicolas Cage is one of my favorites. I tell my son that moonlight is a magic blanket and the stars above us are campfires set by friendly aliens. I track lunar cycles on my iPhone and sometimes I take my son outside when a moon is new or full or blue. We call this “moon hunting” and we bring tiny flashlights.

During one full moon a couple of years ago, we drove to an open field and climbed into sleeping bags and howled at the night sky. As we drove to my preplanned spot, my son once again reminded me to stay in the moment and stop overthinking. He kept pointing at the huge moon, shouting, “Mama, it is right there. We don’t have to drive to the moon. It came to us!” We pulled over and I abandoned my previous plan. I spread out a blanket and we snuggled together. We both made wishes. I wished that my son would be kind and happy and I would wake up healthy. My son wished that everyone in the world was a robot. And more Lego.

Who is this little guy who follows me for almost seven years?

My son has a dark eye color that I can get lost in. He loves to run around and strongly identifies with Harry Potter these days. He recently told me, “Mama, do you want to know something funny about me? I am afraid of little things and not afraid of big things.” I think he was talking about bugs and elephants, but I understood what he meant in a very deep way. He is delighted when I laugh at him, but he is no ham. He is sensitive and stubborn, and as of now, wants to become a paleontologist or a doctor. Or Iron Man. He asked me the other day, “Are you sad that you don’t have a penis?” I told him that I was happy with the parts that I had. I then reminded him that girls have vaginas and everyone is different and each body is like a snowflake. He nodded in agreement and then looked up at me with a serious face and asked, “But did you once have a penis and break it?” The bond between mother and son is powerful stuff. I firmly believe that every boy needs his mom to love him and every girl her dad to pay attention to her. My son needed to figure out if I had ever owned and operated a penis. I get it. His penis is important to him. Anyway, he starts college next year. Just kidding, he is six. He recently asked if he could marry me and I said yes. I couldn’t help it.

When my son was two or younger, we used to take naps together. We spent part of one summer in Germany with my parents and every afternoon we would snuggle together as the breeze blew in. I was holding my baby and count those naps as some of the happiest times in my life. I imagined a peaceful and quiet life with my son. I pictured kissing his head as he obediently put himself to bed, as in a John Irving novel. I was so stupid. Everything is loud now. He wants to wrestle and bump and yank. He wants to play lion cub, rolling around and destroying the furniture. He jumps off couches and buzzes around with his scooter. He swings sticks and tells people “food goes into your stomach and turns into poop.” He loves dinosaurs and superheroes and thinks that I am Wonder Woman. Everything is physical and visual and some things are expressed by Patrick Swayze’s “roadhouse” kicks.

I love my son so much I fear my heart will explode. I wonder if this love will crack open my chest and split me in half. It is scary, this love. When my son arrived, he broke open everything about me. My mind flooded with oxygen. My heart became a room with wide-open windows. I laughed hard and I cried hard. I thought more about the future and read about global warming. I realized how nice it feels to care about someone else more than myself. And gradually, through this heart-heavy openness and the fresh brown eyes, I started to see the world a little more. I started to care a teeny tiny bit more about what happens to everyone in it. My son needs so much holding. Kisses and hugs and food and clothes and touch. He needs everything. Sometimes the enormity of what he needs is intense but I give it to him unconditionally. Because I love him and I am here for him.

Single parenting is not easy but I am pretty good at it these days. Also because I was lucky to have met someone who gently gestures for me to follow him down a path that allows me to feel a little less stressed out and to see all the advantages I have in life. I am a lucky woman indeed.

When relationships or marriages end, it is hard at first to stay in a setting you used to share. No one wants to be the cat scratching at the door that won’t open. Sometimes, people are very bad. Sometimes they are very good. A little love goes a long way. My partner and I are riding the same wave of awesomeness. He used to make the same mistakes that I made, which is to close the eyes and hope the storm and crashing waves will go away, miss me, or hit something or someone else. Whenever I feel I am drowning, he dives in, headfirst, to get me out. When I look at him I hide nothing.

The other day I read something that stuck with me. It went something like this: There are small promises. Look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. What truly heals is gratitude and tenderness, and love.

I realize how lucky I am and how awesome my life is. Nothing is missing. I lay in bed and thought about time and the past, and how many different people live under the same big, beautiful moon. And if we are really lucky, we are able to meet the One who adds a tiny link to unconditional happiness.

.From A to Be.

Every time I commence a change in my life I receive it as a marker. Something uncertain and new but awesome. Uncertainty means that there is always a blank canvas in front of me, but each new chapter creates a frame. I can arrange life only to a certain extent because it constantly happens around me. Lately, and especially throughout this pandemic, I view this new “normal” as a chance to start anew, change or improve. I also want to see it as a chance to truly take notice of what is happening. A friend of mine usually says, “Today, I will give you some food for thought”.

I might not be able to control events or the outcome of my efforts, but I can put myself in the world and take note of what I learn along the way. I learned to hold plans lightly and to pay attention to what’s on the periphery. The plans for myself can lead me astray because sometimes I don’t really know if I want something until I try it. I am not afraid to experiment with something and change course if it is not for me. Taking action is more important than figuring out what is the right decision. Obviously, it can be helpful to survey the options available but it is when I get caught up in determining which is the “right” decision I can get stuck. Even with hindsight, it is impossible to trace my current life back to one specific choice or opportunity. With this in mind, I rather focus on the process than the outcome of my decisions.

I don’t believe in the parameters people make for me. When I sent out the draft for my first book it got rejected about a million times. But I don’t believe when people tell me I am “not cut out” for or capable of something. Instead of taking their advice or so-called insight at face value, I test the parameters. I went on to write more articles and essays and experimented with my creativity.

I say what I want. I tell people to get to the point. To talk slower or louder. I tell people that they look great and are beautiful. I ask people if they walk the walk instead of talk the talk. I tell them to stop complaining. Also, to stop whining (about anything, really). I tell them to ignore what others think.

I notice when I am caught up with a fantasy. When it comes to failure, be it of a relationship, marriage or a work opportunity, often what stings the most is the loss of a hoped-for future, which can quickly become a lingering obsession or fantasy. My head can say “it was for the best” but my heart can keep me stuck in the past. I learned not to miss what is here for me now. I stopped chasing a ghost a long time ago by focusing on what my current day contains. I am simply neither ahead, nor behind. I am where I am meant to be. And, even more important, the more I do what I want, the less likely I am to compare. I let comparison or envy be a guide for what I most want, and then create that for myself in my own way.

I see what I haven’t done yet as a possibility, but not as a failure. Years ago, I had this inner dialogue that I was incomplete because my to-do list was incomplete. At some point, this just became overwhelming and ridiculous, so now I simply see how everything on my list is a possibility.

There will be ebbs and flows in my days and my career but I have to see the beauty in a plateau. I am very fortunate to have this job, especially in Corona-times. There will be times when I am winning and times I am losing. Simple as that. And I believe nobody really knows what they are doing in this game called life. Everybody has sleepless nights, dull days, abandoned projects, experiences rejections, and battles with self-doubt. Nobody and nothing is perfect. Ever. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

There is no such thing as balance, only balancing individual moments. Again, life is movement, not a perfect or stagnant balance. Rather than striving for balance, I work on mastering the art of balancing, which allows for more flux and change in any given moment.

Wrapping this all up, keep in mind that you will never get “there”, and that is a wonderful thing. What does “there” even mean? The problem with goals is that it is easy and tempting to keep moving the goalpost. But, I learned that I never arrive in life. Things will always shift beneath my feet. Life will always throw another curveball. Just duck in time when it flies in your direction so you don’t get hit. And if you do, get up and keep moving forward.

Last, but maybe most importantly is love. Love is complicated. It can be fantastic. Obsessional. Love can bring worry, love can bring hurt, love can be challenging, love can be lost, love can be rejected, love can be unrequited. And I know I should love for all those reasons and more. Because love has a lightness. These sweet moments of delight.

All we can do is to learn, learn from our mistakes, from our successes, from others, from what we have kept with us and what we have let go. Figure out what you want. Say it loud. Then shut up, listen, and wait.

If it’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.

.Running & Time-traveling Up that Hill.

I walked past one of my favorite coffee shops the other day. It just reopened the other day and has been closed since March 14th. I could barely recall what it was like to go there. I used to grab a coffee on my way to work. If I ever missed a morning, the shape of the day was incomplete. And here it’s been two months without it. I tried really hard to remember what it was like going there and then experiencing the simultaneous thrill of being dressed to go to work and the anticipatory buzz of imminent caffeination, and, for some reason, I even recalled this one memory of sitting in the back of the shop, writing and reading.

While thinking about this, I experienced a new sensation where suddenly, life BC (before corona) was not a memory the same way all the other ones were. It was a different entity. Almost like someone else had lived it. There was no through-line, stringing past experiences together with current reality, weaving it into the sweater called Me. Have you felt this way at all? Now that I think about it, I bet this, the finite separation of time: before calamity/after calamity, is the way a lot of people feel after they have encountered a significant bout of isolation and loss of “things”. For me, I am able to recognize who I was before this loss and I am still connected to who I am now. Things have changed but it is all good. #f***thatfacemaskthough

But the reason any of this is noteworthy at all is because I am not grieving or suffering. At least I don’t think I am. Am I? Do I really miss movie theaters? I have known for at least the last four weeks to throw the term “back to” away when discussing the topic of “normal”. There will be no going back. Only toward, forward, to something ….. I guess, New? Different? I am not really sure. Maybe this sudden red-sea-split of time is necessary, I thought while doing my daily Power Yoga Hour at home trying to gaze at my navel in Downward-Facing-Dog. What I am trying to say here is that I liked how a lot of things were in my life; my life before the pandemic. I would not mind going “back to,” instead of “toward.” Not all of it, but some of it. One thing I know for sure though: I won’t stand in line in front of any store to patiently wait to clothes-shop. Because I like to stop and think and sit still and discard the excess that I owned which Corona made me realize again.

But you know what? I have been doing all that while still missing some things in my life. And keeping this in mind, I am good. We are good. I am tired of excavating even though it served me well for a while. At least I am harvesting what is good, thinking less about the things I want to change, the things I look forward to change, and more about the things I had and knew and liked before the lockdown. Like, for example, work: colleagues, friends, the “team” – all of it. This world I get to have that is mine and independent of my “family duties”. It adds dimension and perspective and endurance to the relationships between these walls I call my lovely home. It also adds a bit of a thrill. The extent to which I used to look forward to Friday/Saturday nights to go out for dinner. Damn, we had it good.

No, still have it good. We went to the recently re-opened Zoo in Vienna last weekend. While my son played, I sat on a bench and watched someone’s child collect branches and then rub them against the soil, cleverly turning a stick into a pen to write in the dirt which reminded me of a Kurt Vonnegut quote I find myself coming back to every time simple pleasures trump complicated thoughts: “If this, the stand-alone satisfaction of sitting on the grass with my kids, isn’t nice, what is?

Time is different now. And maybe I am grieving how it was before because I know it won’t be the same. It can’t be. Even if I tried to restore the past, it is not only too far removed from the present, but it is also too foreign a concept. Talking about time, after ten weeks of quarantine, there have been quite some changes in my head. A minute used to be sixty seconds long. My “After-Corona”- brain thinks this could be spiced up a bit. A minute can now either be one hour or two seconds. A day used to be 24 hours. Remember that? Now it seems like the day is over as soon as I first ask myself, “What time is it?” Do you know this feeling when it is still ten in the morning and you are on your phone and suddenly it is eight at night? The weekend is almost over but it actually didn’t exist anymore for the past ten weeks. I might have found myself going to bed on Friday and I would wake up on Monday with a vague memory that I might have watched all seasons and episodes of “Workin’ Moms”.

Lastly, let’s mention a month. Months used to be pretty inconsistent. Some months were 28, 29, 30, or even 31 days. This seems all too confusing, so now every month is four days long. This way we will all get to the end of a month and think: Wow, that felt like it was only four days, which used to be one day of a week, but is now just 1/90th of a week because a week is a year and a month is four days.

Hysterical but life is so weird sometimes. And with this in mind, everything will be alright after all.

.Okay is Eh’ Okay.

What’s grinding your gears these days? Is it that you feel you look like Bruce Vilanch and don’t feel hot anymore? For those of you who don’t know who he is and are too lazy to google it, just picture an owl wearing a blond wig. Is it the lady impressing her fingerprints on every apple at the grocery store? Or the mask that conceals your deeply felt facial reactions?

For this post, I added some most pressing reader’s questions that popped up in my email account. Imposing my own etiquette framework on any stranger these days is a gamble and not necessarily one I would encourage. My first suggestion is to find a way to maintain a well of patience during this time. A virtue, sure, but I think patience is actually a skill which can (eventually) bear fruit in all compartments of life, and what better time to refine it than now? Wait, do I write an etiquette column or a horoscope?

If you live in a place where interacting with strangers is commonplace, the most polite solutions seem to be reframing this as an educational opportunity. Rather than asking someone to pick up the pace, I can teach them my tricks for selecting ripe produce and those apples from six feet away. Can you assume the role of a kind stranger, even if your motive may be ulterior? Either the slow-shopper will be appreciative of my generosity of spirit, or they will look for the quickest way to exit this social interaction and take those f***ing apples and get out of my way.

Question: When it comes to shaking peoples’ hands and greetings in work environments, what will we be expected to do? – Handshakeaddict

Dear Handshakeaddict,

The handshake has gone into retirement for the foreseeable future, and I cannot envision an elbow bump performed in a professional setting. Is this an unpopular opinion? Hey, I am Team “Firm-Handshake”. It is my opinion that a succinct, friendly wave will have to sub in for the meantime. Instinctively, most people will follow this with a self-conscious shrug that says, “I am sorry I have to wave at you from six feet away or six feet under.”

Question: Can I have my breakfast at Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings? – Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise

Dear Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise,

Sadly, no. Not cool. Coffee, yes! Nothing has proven the truth in the saying “too much of a good thing” like video get-togethers or mandatory online meetings. While face-to-face time is just awesome, there should never be more than four screens allowed in one conversation. Or no screen and mic on mute. Sadly, not everyone abides by this rule I have unofficially set, so here we are. Maybe, just mute your mic just in time before your kids scream in the back or you say out loud to your partner what you really think about this meeting. And put on pants because you just never know.

Question: As a smiler, I am feeling anxious about how to convey politeness (or any emotion actually) through a mask. Especially when interacting with cashiers, I want to know the best way to let them know I am appreciative, without removing my mask. – Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,

my inclination is that we now have to use language and tone of voice to compensate for what is concealed when wearing a mask. This means being more vocal than usual, for some people, and practicing over-communicating until the correction feels like second nature. In the recent instances when I found wearing a mask to be a social roadblock, I found myself articulating things like, “I just smiled, sorry, I forgot you cannot see it, ” when I realized I might be coming off as cold, arrogant or angry. Adjusting your overall posture and body language are certainly valid ways to communicate friendliness, but I find them more difficult to control than speech.

Question: I find I am more extroverted than I ever realised and craving whatever social time I can get, but I worry about putting something extra on friends who aren’t feeling the same way and are finding it difficult to socialize right now. What do I do? – Constantworrier

Dear Constantworrier,

What a conscientious question. In this scenario, I recommend taking cues from a tennis pro, and feeding the ball into your friends’ courts (30-15). You can send them an open-ended invitation to talk for example. I feel pretty confident that they will take you up on that offer, now or in three weeks. If you have enough of these tennis balls thrown up in the air at once, your social calendar will fill up in no time.

Question: How do you maintain relationships with some “special” people you work with? – SpontaneousInteractions

Dear SpontaneousInteractions,

just send this:

Question: How do I last-minute cancel virtual plans when everyone knows I have nowhere to be and nothing to do? – FlakyFranklin

Dear FlakyFranklin,

I think we should avoid last-minute cancellations to the best of our abilities. I feel that I cannot suggest ways to politely cancel fast-approaching plans. Last-minute-cancellation should be reserved for only the most necessary situations like your child is sick, something at home went unexpectedly haywire and you are in tears because the sauce for your pasta did not turn out the way you wanted it. Consider your plans before you set them in stone, judging them against the criteria of how you anticipate you will feel when you hear the ping of the calendar notification 15 minutes before the start time.

Question: I have been baking bread for the last couple of weeks. Do you have a sourdough recipe that is bulletproof? – BreadforPresident

Dear BreadforPresident,

It seems that baking bread is a consistent activity in this Corona-madness. In Vienna, there was no yeast available in stores for days. But who cares? Who needs bread? Who needs to bake bread? Okay, baking bread opens you to a world of opportunities like fancy-ass toasts or sandwiches. But what is this obsession with baking bread? Check out this recipe.

Okay? Because Okay is Eh’ Okay.