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I am so pleased you have found my web site where I want to welcome you and introduce you to my books. After my two health related books my most recent book “We Don’t Talk About That” is a memoir of my childhood from during and immediately following World War II. After my family’s eviction from our rural home in Pomerania we were obliged to build a new life in East Germany. My education was interrupted but I eventually qualified as a Phys Ed teacher before escaping to West Germany and having to start all over again.

I am sure you will find the reviews and other information here helpful but the primary purpose of this web site is to provide photos and background stories to augment the book. You will find my family tree in the photo gallery together with a number of old photos. Please feel free to comment or add to the growing number of reviews. To receive email notices of future posts as they are made click on the “FOLLOW” button which you will see just to the right of this message or you can find me on Amazon’s Author Central – amazon.com/author/giselleroeder

We Dont Talk about That - An Amazing Story of Survival

 

That Lady Can Really Light Up A Room

Kurpromenade

Kurpromenade

The centre boulevard in the relatively small but world-renowned Bavarian Spa city of Bad Woerishofen was filled with people slowly walking to and fro. Everybody had time, nobody was hurrying. Occasionally a biker would wind his way through the throng, attracting annoyed looks because this was a walking street. Most bikers wore either lederhosen or a typical Bavarian dirndl dress, an indication they lived and worked here in one of the elegant houses or hotels. Little ice cream parlours, small cafés with lots of outdoor seating had clusters of people milling around waiting for a table. I loved sitting there, watching people. Everybody was dressed up like in the good old times. Jeans? Hardly. Elegant elderly couples were holding hands or had their arms around each other, smiling and talking, looking happy and relaxed. They had met here during their “Kur” and enjoyed a ‘fling’. They were each other’s “Kurschatten”, the ‘shadow’ who stayed with them as long as they were here. Married people just didn’t act like that…

Flowerbeds with seasonal plants were alongside a small but very fast flowing stream coming from the Alps on one side of the boulevard. Little bridges crossed for access to shopping at the elegant boutiques, offering the best of everything money can buy. Their sales people were chic and sophisticated, so much so that one didn’t even dare to enter. How do they get you to enter? There was always a sales rack next to the entrance. If you stopped to see if there was something affordable they were right there and lured you in…

Would you believe that this elegant boulevard with those enticing shopping venues used to be a mud path for the cows to come home to their barns on the left and the right? The first time I was here was in 1958 and I saw it with my own eyes. Some farmers didn’t sell out and still lived in their old, but now groomed, houses but the barns were turned into condos and townhouses or shops.

Today I was checking the sales rack of a men’s shop. I loved buying something for my grown son or the significant other in my life – if there was one at the time. For myself – I didn’t really need anything. It was more of I wanted something – if I couldn’t resist. Before I knew it I was inside this super elegant gentlemen’s shop, looking around, wanting to compare prices, but there weren’t any. If you had to ask – you can’t afford it anyway. A well dressed, above middle-age, lady stood at one of the glass counters and apparently had a hard time to choose from several beautiful ties. She held one after the other against a pale cream coloured shirt.  Fascinated I stopped and watched her. She must have felt my admiring looks at her incredible jewellery, complementing her elegant finely knitted dress. She glanced at me, gave me this tiny little smile and asked me,

“ Which of these ties would you buy?” I had already made up my mind, so I pointed to a buttercup yellow one with tiny specs of light gray in it. It looked great next to that shirt. The set would not look good on my young son, it was way too elegant. But for the husband of this lady? Or her ‘Kurshadow’? Perfect.

When I heard the price I almost choked on my own saliva but I behaved and slowly moved away. I didn’t even want to know the price of the shirt. I probably could have bought two or three suits for my son in a ‘normal’ shop. I left and was looking at a jewellery display window next door when I saw the reflection of the lady in the window. Now it was my turn to glance at her. Would I mind joining her for an ice cream? She was alone here and would enjoy my company. We spent at least two hours chatting and getting to know each other.

Kurkonzert

Kurkonzert

We parted at dinner time but made a date for the daily evening concert. Since I was in charge of my time as well we spent most of the next three days of her visit going on walks, sitting in one of the many cafés and I heard many of her life stories. Some were very shocking. I had never known anyone who had been sexually abused as a child by her father. Her mother had accused her of lying and was very cross with her, she never believed her. The abuse started when she was ten and went on until she finished grade school, ran away and then lived with her grandmother. The father had also abused her younger sister who was only eight.Their mother never believed either girl and made their life hell. “Helga” – my new friend – got married to a very nice man, they had a daughter but her husband died after twelve years. She worked as a waitress, she became an office girl, and she worked her way up and a few years ago became the secretary and then the mistress of a wealthy gemologist. His wife was begging her to keep the romance going since she does not want sex with her husband anymore. He never left his family and she was agreeable to the setup. She asked me to visit her in her hometown as soon as I had a chance.

When we first met I was in Bavaria with a group of Canadians to enjoy the health spa. Helga was intrigued and readily agreed to come to my hotel, share our dinner and meet them. I vividly remember her entrance to our cozy dining room. She stood in the door, looked over the different tables to our large one with this incredible one-thousand watt smile. All conversation stopped and everybody looked at her. She really was a sight to behold. She had this special radiance about her as if she was lit up from within. Three of my single Canadian men told me later,

“What a woman! My God, that lady can really light up a room.”

I can only think of one other who can do that: Julia Roberts. We exchanged telephone numbers but never had any correspondence. It was the late eighties. A year later I visited her after my annual group had left. By that time her lover had died of a heart attack and she was left in charge of his business with a generous salary. He had also appointed her to be the executor for his family. There were three grown children over twenty. She had tried to refuse but the wife begged her to accept since otherwise her children would pressure her for money-money-money and squander everything. The son was into betting on horse racing. One girl was into partying and drinking and the other child was still under age. The two women became quite close.

By this time, Helga’s own mother was now also in need of help and asked her estranged daughters for assistance. Her sister absolutely refused to even see her mother. Helga felt obligated to take on the deed. Her father had passed away a few years earlier. I heard more horror stories and the worst was that the mother still did not believe that her husband had abused his own daughters. Helga was totally stressed out because her mother failed to control her anger against her girls every time Helga was there. She refused to go into a care home. My common sense advice was of no use. Helga felt she needed to be there for her mom despite everything. The government could even order her to pay for the mother’s upkeep. She chose to do it out of her own free will and her sister never helped her. I invited her to visit me in Canada and we made plans. She had a cousin in New York and got excited about the prospect to visit her as well on the same trip.

It was the beginning of June the next year. I was already back in Canada from my annual trip to Bavaria and had an early appointment. I was on the way out of my door when my phone rang. I grabbed it on the run thinking it might be my secretary but it was Helga. She wanted to talk to me but I told her I had a meeting, was working all day and would get back to her the next morning because of the nine-hour time difference. She made small talk, seemed to want to hold on but I was already late. Somehow I felt guilty but really, I had no choice but to hang up. I couldn’t get her out of my mind all day. I stayed up late and phoned her at midnight, about nine in the morning her time. There was no answer. I tried several times during the day to no avail. I decided to write her a long letter. I never heard from her, no letter, no call. I tried every few weeks. Then, in September, I received my own letter to her back with a note next to her address: “Adressat verstorben” – meaning this person has died. I had to sit down. I never knew anyone who was so full of spirit and life, who was so sparkling and had lately tried to find another partner through an ad, went to dancing classes, exercise classes, had many lady friends; how could she be dead? Impossible! I had no way to get any other information since she had never given me the address of her daughter who lived with her boyfriend in another city.

Another year came around and I took my new Canadian group to the lovely spa city in Bavaria. By pure chance, I met a younger lady who came from the same city where Helga had lived and, to top it off, her mother was in the same exercise class. What I heard next shocked me and now, about thirty years later,  I am still not at peace with it. Apparently, Helga had planned to renovate her condo and had made an appointment for a representative from a construction company to come at 4.00 PM and give her an estimate on the day she had phoned me. To his surprise  the door was open, he called out and then went in looking for her. Beautiful flowers were on the table, Beethoven music was filling the room, lots of candles were lit, there was a festive mood, a wine bottle, and a half full glass was on a side table by the couch where she was resting. He couldn’t raise her and, shocked, he spotted an empty pill bottle next to the wine glass. He realized what must have happened, knocked on the  neighbour’s door, an ambulance and the police came. Too late. She was gone. Had she made the appointment with this man to make sure she was found? Alive – or dead?

Why did she do it? What had happened? Did her mother drive her to it, did the early childhood years catch up because of the constant fighting? Why did she phone me? What was it she needed to tell me? Why didn’t she scream it out to me that morning… Why? Nobody will ever know. She did not leave a note. She had not talked to any of her lady friends or her daughter. None of them knew her secret. Did she tell me because I was a stranger? I feel guilty to this very day because I had no time to listen. Listen to a friend in need, a friend desperate for my ear. Or did she just want to say goodbye, had planned her exit from this world and I couldn’t have done anything anyway?

God, I wish I knew.

Retirement: DoThe Golden Years Have A Silver Lining?

Since I’m into it I always wondered about it. Wondered about the praised “Golden Years” when I finally have time to do all the things I had put off ‘til later’. When I’m retired I’ll book a fitness class. When I’m retired I’ll go on a cruise through the Panama Canal. (Actually, I did that one!) When I’m retired I’d volunteer for this and that and the other to get out and meet new people. When I’m retired I’ll have time to sort out books I don’t re-read anymore. When I’m retired I’ll organize my desk drawers and get rid of the outdated files. When I’m retired I’ll finally work on my Last Will and Testament to make sure my last will is going to be done and my earthly treasures – treasures to me but maybe not to my heirs –go to people who will appreciate them. When I’m retired…

So I thought and made plans for retirement. I didn’t know that retired people never have time. Retired people get so very busy and I did as well. I wonder how I ever had time to work and do all the things I did: Run with the dog in the early morning, keep a home, do the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, some light repairs, have the most beautiful garden on the block, was the chauffeur for my husband when we only had one car, raise three kids and make sure they had what I didn’t have, ballet and painting classes, German language school, (which they hated!) do homework with them, darn socks and fix sheets, and I even took the children to the lake and camping. How could I have done all that and more without falling apart? I bet the days had more hours back then.

I’ve been retired for many years. I have been busy and I never have time just like other retirees. Being “re-tired” looked good from a distance but now I feel I’m mostly “tired”.

Laverne Brady, a writer friend of mine who is also a humor writer for the Huffington Post comes up with some funny ideas. Her book “How (the bleep) did I get this old” is one of the best summer reads if you like smiling while you read about light – happy – seriously funny and insightful happenings that you hadn’t even thought were funny. She sees the bright side of any situation! Let’s see what she thinks of retirement.

Laverne BardyAuthor of “How (the Bleep) Did I Get This Old”? Syndicated Columnist, Huffington Post Blogger.

He’s Retired

He says it would make sense to move dishes to a lower shelf, so I don’t have to reach so high to get them. And, pantry items would be easier to find if they were in alphabetical order. Also, if I wash clothes with cold water I won’t have to separate darks, colored and whites.

I Growl

I like my dishes up high. I sit on my ass, at the computer, most of the day. The only exercise I get is reaching for dishes and repeatedly picking my cane up from the floor. I tell him alphabetizing pantry items is a good idea. When he’s done he should tape the list onto the pantry door. And, I’m pretty sure cold water doesn’t sanitize.

He’s Retired 

What he loves most is going out for breakfast. Every Morning. It was a treat the first 253 times but after eating eggs scrambled, eggs poached, eggs over easy, and eggs fried every day, I’m overdosing. Oatmeal makes me gag, and pancakes make me fat. I suggest we eat dinner out every evening, instead.

He’s Retired

Holy #$@%, he’s a morning person! I don’t remember him ever being a morning person. At least not in a way that affected me. It seems mornings are when his creativity, energy, and libido are strongest. It’s when he most enjoys talking – especially about his dreams. Whoever said that dreams only last a few seconds forgot to tell him. His unabridged versions last longer than most movies.

Mornings are when he enjoys everything noisy: practicing his flute, practicing his violin, listening to classical music, and hearing television. Not watching it. Just hearing it, as he wanders from project to project, whistling.

I don’t do mornings. I do everything I can to bypass mornings. Generally, I struggle to lift my head from the pillow after a sleepless night during which I staggered to the bathroom at least three times. Mornings are when I need peace, quite, and…in a perfect world…solitude. I don’t talk and I’m not remotely interested in listening. It’s the time of day when I ruminate, marinate, contemplate and speculate. My head is full of fresh ideas I can’t wait to write about, but I’m tired and lethargic, and my arthritic back and neck hurt. So, if and when I’m able to focus, I need silence…without interruptions. Do not talk to me. Do not play the television and do not even think about acting on your libido.

He’s Retired

Now that he’s home all day he likes to snack…just a little…not much…just something to tide him over until dinner. Like lunch. I don’t do lunch. Not for me. Not for him. I prepare one meal a day. Dinner. Sometimes.

He opens the refrigerator and asks, “Where’s the milk?” I point. He expected it to be behind the lemon juice, where it was yesterday. I remind him that the refrigerator isn’t alphabetized, and sometimes we have to move things to see other things.

He’s Retired

I’m working at my desk. I hear his footsteps coming down the hall. They’re getting closer. He knows I’m working. He enters the room anyway, bends over and plants an impromptu kiss on the back of my neck. Not something I’m accustomed to in the middle of the day. He sets a cup of hot tea on my desk…flavored exactly the way I like it. Lots of lemon. He hands me a bracelet that I’d asked him to repair…if he could. A stone had fallen out. He fixed it. Also, he says our washing machine no longer dances across the floor. That’s fixed, too. As well as the latch on the front screen door. He asks if I’d like to take a break — drive into town and hit Dairy Queen. I grin. Broadly.

He’s Retired

He has no one to play with. Yet. Until he finds a golf buddy and a weekly poker game, I guess I’m it. Which isn’t entirely bad. Maybe tomorrow we’ll take another break. One that involves his creativity, energy and libido.

——
Hah! See, there IS a “Silver Lining to the Golden Years”!

An unbelievable paranormal or psychic story

Imagine receiving an e-mail from a person you have never met who lives in another country about a thousand or more kilometers away from you. The e-mail starts with an apology and the suggestion that you may not believe what she is going to ask or tell you and, if it would be her, she would not believe it either.

“Is your aunt Johanna alright? You have to warn her as her life may be in danger. Her husband Robert is abusive and one day things may get out of hand. I know she is ashamed of the abuse and she hasn’t told anyone. Please don’t think I am crazy and do warn her.”

She went on to tell me that she has psychic abilities, works for a court in XYZ (I like to protect her identity) and has once been able to tell the police of the body of a child missing for three years. She has solved other cases and is not happy about this ability but if she can pass on a warning she feels she has to do it.

I was startled by the message, stared at it and thought how weird is this? My aunt Johanna is long gone. This must be a person who has read my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. Because her husband was abusive but he is also gone, having died in WWII. There is a chapter in my book when aunt Hanni, as we called her, had come running to my mother, who was her sister and I happened to witness her breakdown and heard her sorry tale.

After sleeping and mulling it over I decided to answer this strange e-mail and asked a few questions. I thanked her for the message and stated that she must have read my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. I could not imagine otherwise. I did tell her that I also had several unexplainable psychic experiences in my life and no, I did definitely not think she is crazy. But I am curious how she would know about Johanna and her husband Robert. I suggested she read my book – if she hadn’t done so already.

I received another e-mail, quite a lengthy one. And no, she had not read my book at all. It was a dream in which she was Johanna and experienced the abuse. That’s how these ‘experiences’ established themselves within her. She knew about a gorgeous wedding dress Robert had given her and explained it in detail. She also mentioned that Robert was somehow arrogant and felt he was better than the family Johanna came from. This was also true since at my parent’s wedding he had teased my father that he was able to give Johanna a horse if he wanted to and my father could only give his bride, Johanna’s sister, a horse whip. Johanna never got a horse but surely she experienced the whip. The dream had disturbed my correspondent a lot. She went on to Google with the two names she had, Johanna and Robert as a couple, and tried to guess the year of a wedding in Germany. She did not give up and finally her search brought her to my website and my picture gallery. She had found my e-mail address and the rest is history.

Recently I wrote to her again and inquired if, by now, she had read my book. I told her that I would like to keep in touch since I am fascinated with the topic of otherworldly experiences. She answered, No, she still hasn’t read my book for several reasons. She is very busy with work and she doesn’t want to invite other possible disturbing revelations. Life has a way of going on and hers is quite full.

I understand that. But in the meantime, I have been thinking a lot about paranormal and psychic happenings or abilities. I remember after my last experience years ago, this time in a hotel room in China, I begged God to please take this ‘gift’ from me. Apparently he did because I have never had another unbelievable thing happen to me. Now I wish I did have a “Crystal ball”.

Oh, you want to know what happened in China? Okay, I’ll tell you. It was the year of 9/11. I had a single room and was securely locked in. I woke up from a dream with a start and just knew there was someone in the room. I switched the light on and checked but all was quiet and I was alone. After my heartbeat had slowed down, I fell asleep again but the dream went on. The husband of a friend who was dying of cancer in Vancouver, Canada was in my room. I screamed at him “what are you doing here?”

He started to laugh and said quite clearly: “Don’t be afraid, I just came to say good bye.”

I woke up again, switched the light on – nothing. I came home to Canada a week later. I phoned my friend to tell her I was back and asked how her husband was doing. She was slow to answer.

“He died. He had a very tough time and I am glad he is at peace.”

I was almost afraid to ask her on what date he died. Yes, it was the date when I had that disturbing dream.

Thinking is bad for you – it bruises the brain

Chilcot reportSo what is next? I keep asking myself this question and I don’t know how to answer it. There is so much going on in the world it’s almost ‘overkill’: The refugee crisis, the Syrian war, the beheadings of innocent people, mass-shootings on home soil, gun control (or lack thereof), terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul. A few days ago it was ‘Brexit’ and now it’s ‘The Chilcot Report’. Does all this digging into the past bring results? It’s shocking for sure to get to know what really happened. What if ‘they’ hadn’t invaded Iraq? Was ISIS born because of it? Was it wrong to kill Sadam Hussein who was a dictator but had “law and order” in his country before all hell broke loose? Is the Chilcot report saying, “Now look what you did! Don’t do that again…” Despite finding fault with certain people, no criminal charges are expected to be brought forward. Even if – would it change something? Doesn’t it ring a bell for what happened AFTER 1945? Churchill had warned “this war is (and later again was) the easiest to avoid…” but nobody wanted to, or did, listen to him. And history writers have a ball writing more and more books about all of it.

Iceland crowdI was talking to a friend in Germany yesterday. Soccer became the main focus of our hour-long telephone conversation. Not politics, not family dramas, not health issues. No – SOCCER! The game where 22 grown men chase a ball was, and is, the most important issue in Europe right now! The fine games the Icelanders played and how important it is now for Germany to win. ‘She’, my friend, has to watch the games because her husband couldn’t bring himself to do so, even if he is the greatest fan. Why? Because he would get a heart attack if he watched it from beginning to end. He was always waiting in the next room until she would tell him “it’s o.k. to watch now…” Discussion of other world affairs was brushed aside with “Oh when the news comes on we switch the TV off… All the politicians do is form new committees and talk and talk and have discussions but there is no end, no solution. It’s all talk…”

Bruised brainSomewhere I read “Thinking is bad for you, it bruises the brain.” So I’ll stop thinking. I’ll play with some proverbs and quotes. YOU can try to attach them to whichever news story YOU think they fit:

“…the rats are leaving the sinking ship.”
“…they want their cake and eat it too.”
“Politicians…promise to build bridges even if there are no rivers.” Nikita Khrushchev
“…talk is cheap.”
“Politic is not an exact science” (Bismarck)
“Politic ruins the character…”
“Follow the three ‘R’s’: Respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions.” Dalai Lama. (Hah! Responsibility? What’s that??)
“Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people who want to be important.” T.S.Elliot
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“It is better to be un-informed than ill-informed.” Keith Duckworth

Let me finish with something you should never do: Putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.

“When I consider life, it’s all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on and think tomorrow will repay.
Tomorrow is ‘falser’ than the former day. – “   John Dryden

Have a good day anyway! Enjoy it because we don’t know what tomorrow brings! Laughter is the cure for a lot of ills. Does it always reach the soul? No. But we can pretend. I remember a silly little joke:

Deep in the south of Texas, George asked his drinking buddy: “See those three guys at the bar?”
“What about them?” wondered Jack.
“I really don’t like the one of them ”
“Why? Which one?”
George draws his gun and shoots two of them. “See the one left sitting there? That’s the one I don’t like.”

There was a Scotsman, an Irishman and an Englishman –

These days there is hardly anybody who isn’t talking or at least thinking of the so-called “Brexit” Referendum in the UK. If you are still ignorant of what “Brexit” stands for: Britain’s Exit from the European Union. According to news tidbits, social media posts (on Facebook, Twitter and others) the people who voted for leaving are slowly waking up to the facts they claim they didn’t know: The good aspects of belonging. It is unbelievable how many people NOW Google ‘European Union’ to find out what it actually is and stands for. Why did they vote the way they did? One Twitter post was re-tweeted and reading it made me shake my head:
“I voted for leaving because I didn’t think we would win anyway. I thought my vote wouldn’t count.”

Brexit mapDid they vote for leaving because they believed the politicians who were yelling loudly how much better off they would be if Britain is on its own again? “The Donald” smiled and assured them: “Now Britain can be ‘great’ again.” He also reported home after his arrival in Scotland that “the Scots are ecstatic about the outcome.” Did he not know that the Scots were the smart ones and voted for ‘stay’ and now are once again talking about separating? They knew on which side their bread was buttered…and so did most of the Northern Irish. And it seems so did most of the younger and more educated English according to coloured maps on the Internet.

What was the immediate fall-out? Look at the Stock Market – affecting not only Britain. Our already weak Canadian Dollar lost more than 1.5 cents over night. The pound fell to its lowest since 1985, the forecast looks at rising prices, especially for airfares, vacation packages – and those are just the items not everyone uses anyway! What about the validity of the EU passports and the related health insurance, no free borders, no moneys from the EU to help with certain projects… Can we get back in? No, says the EU. Prime Minister Cameron resigned, wanting to stay on until October, an uncertain future as to who will lead the country. The EU saying “Finish this as soon as possible. Get it over with.” Now people have started applying for French, German, Spanish and other passports. The proud Brits do this? Yes.

The “Brexit” is a sad affair. It will affect more than just “Great Britain” and I wonder what it will take to make it “GREAT” again. It has not only destabilized the UK, it has destabilized the EU too.

On a lighter, less serious, note let me tell you a hardly known story that someone sent me by e-mail:
“His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.
‘I want to repay you,’ said the nobleman. ‘You saved my son’s life.’
‘No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,’ the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.
‘Is that your son?’ the nobleman asked.
‘Yes,’ the farmer replied proudly.
‘I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.’
And that he did.
Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time?
Penicillin.
The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill … His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.”

Someone once said:
What goes around comes around.
Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like nobody’s listening.
Live like it’s Heaven on Earth.

And the Irish wish for us:
May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
And may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil
knows you’re dead.

Wind on backI really like that last line!

But I remember a dear Irish friend who said “May the wind be always on your back…”

A Different Type of Addiction

McleanMe? Addiction? Can’t happen to me! You know I am into history, reading and writing about it, telling you about the books I read and how I learned more from reading history books than I ever did in school. One day I came across a review of a book called a fantasy-thriller, science fiction  and, because it mentioned kayaks paddling under the Burrard Bridge, I went to Amazon.com, put in the title “The Gift: Penance”, clicked on ‘Look Inside’ and read as much as was possible. After that I even wrote to the author, J.P. McLean, and the rest is history. My book reading history changed.  I read the whole thing, a genre I have never ever even given a thought to. My webmaster did too and we were both ‘hooked’. One day we met the author. Jo-Ann McLean lives on one of the Gulf Islands nearby and we exchanged books: Since I had read the fourth book of her “Gift Series” I was happy to receive the first one, “The Gift: Awakening”. After reading it I can’t wait to read number two, “The Gift: Revelation”. And you know what? I know I will then go on to book number three: “The Gift: Redemption.” I have read book number four (The Gift: Penance) already but I know there is now also a book number five. These books take me away from my own writing. I apologize for not having written a blog for several weeks, I just couldn’t! My mind was occupied with weird stuff. Sorry, folks. Forgive me.

Gift awakeningI am addicted. If this is what addiction is like: Thinking about it all the time, even a few weeks after I finished reading the book, trying to figure out how the h… anybody can come up with the ideas, the ‘invention’ of something that may even one day be possible with the way the technology is going; thinking back to the time when we didn’t have trains, planes, submarines, bikes, cars, washing machines or vacuum cleaners, radios or television, telephones, cell phones, computers, i-Pads or even self-driving cars, safer than any driver could drive.  Even more astounding was the first man on the moon and, if we have enough money, now booking a future trip to Mars. So how did Jo-Ann come up with the idea of a human being able to defy gravity, lift off and fly, doing somersaults in the air, having fun and in this particular scenario even be able to be invisible…

As a growing child I loved reading fairy tales. As a teenager I started to realize that fairy tales carry a subliminal message, not really thought for kids but for the grown-up who reads the story to the child, or later for an adult to finally understand it. One of the best books in this kind of genre is “The Little Prince” (by author A. Exupéry) – his love of his prickly rose, his travels to planet Earth, his encounters with different types of people, how could any child understand what all those stories mean? Anyway, I started to collect Fairy Tale Books from all over the world. For quite a number of years I lived in a “Fantasy World”. But now, in my senior years, I should start reading thrillers? Science Fiction-Fantasy? I remember my son writing an incredible fantasy story for his English class when he was thirteen years old. I wish, oh, do I wish he or I would still have that story! It was something similar to Star Wars…and a bit like what J.P. McLean is writing about. I remember being absolutely engrossed and fascinated by it when he read it to me. He has the mind to be able to write something like it but he is too busy living, working, and what else people in middle age do.

Let me tell you: If you want to dive, sorry, fly into another world, read J.P. McLean’s first book of the series, “The Gift: Awakening”. It starts a bit slow, at times your mind rushes faster forward than your eyes can read, but this author has a ‘gift’ herself for spinning a tale like a net and you are in it. Trapped! The setting, the characters, as during the story more and more enter the plot, the danger, the love scenes (oh my goodness, I could never write anything like it!) and as I said before, you will want to go on to the next book.

Maybe you are stronger than I am and will not become addicted.

 

Imaginary Friends To Talk To

image1 Some people write letters to a friend but never mail them. Some others write in a diary or address it with “Dear Diary”! Still others have an imaginary friend they talk to or they talk to themselves. I have done that. Mumble is more like it. Does that make us crazy? Some so-called ‘normal’ people might think that or even say to us with a straight face: “You are crazy!” I have had some unexplained experiences which frightened me and I talked to God and asked to take this ‘curse’ away from me. I know for sure: There is more between heaven and earth than meets the eye. Even Albert Einstein stated that. Let’s ask ourselves: What is ‘normal’? Is normal only the one who wants or needs to know that which can be scientifically explained? And the more he knows the more he wants to know and the only thing he knows for sure is that he can’t know it all, there is always MORE to discover.

ScanWe attended the play “Harvey” by Mary Chase in the charming Chemainus Theatre today. Full house, too! I had a chance to read the explanatory notes in the programme before the show and was surprised to learn that it was written over two years and opened in November 1944 and was, at that time, a smash hit and ran for 4 ½ years with 1775 acclaimed performances on Broadway. It was even adapted to film and made friends across the continents. What is it about? “Harvey” – naturally! But who was Harvey? Harvey was the imaginary trusted friend of ‘Elwood’ who never went anywhere without him. Harvey was a huge 6 ½ feet tall mystical rabbit, a ‘Pooka’ – just like ‘Puck’ was Shakespeare’s ‘Pooka’. Most children have imaginary friends with names and parents would be well advised to take those ‘friends’ seriously to keep the trust of their offspring.

In this play, Elwood takes Harvey with him at all times. He takes him to concerts, bars, and parties and ‘introduces’ him to the guests. He would book two places and to ‘normal’ people they see an empty chair next to him.  He always checks with Harvey if something is good, alright or if he agrees in conservations. Harvey soon became such an annoyance to Elwood’s sister that she wanted to book her brother into a sanatorium. Explaining this giant rabbit and claiming she has even seen him at the dinner table the psychiatrist decides that she is the crazy one. When Elwood comes along and in a logical, quiet voice and with his own brand of humour talks to the doctors they are puzzled. What is ‘normal’, what or who is crazy? Elwood is such a friendly fellow and invites everyone he meets to come for dinner or at least to a drink and promises they would meet his wonderful friend. After a night of drinking with the psychiatrist, this man is so disoriented that he reveals to Elwood that he has one place where he can relax: His cottage. There, a young woman would be present who doesn’t talk. He would drink cold beer and more cold beer, and he showed Elwood how he would take the hand of the young woman and with it stroke his cheek and his old head. He would talk to her, tell her everything – but no, he doesn’t want her to talk at all. So there – for the audience and all to see – even this man, knowing of human frailties has his imaginary friend. But, in the end, when his sister talks Elwood into letting the doctor give him an injection,  the taxi driver who had been left waiting comes to request his money. She has none and had to call on her brother. The taxi driver explains to her how those who get the needle change from friendly people who see sunsets, even when it’s raining and give big tips to bullying, screaming people who never tip and just become so normal that he rather have nothing to do with them. That changes the sister’s mind and, finding her coin purse in her handbag where there was no money before knows it was thanks to Harvey. Elwood is rescued before he gets the injection and the sister decides that they can all live happily ever after – with Harvey.

It’s a weird and wonderful play. It makes you think. We are not as perfect as we think we are. Some can accept the things beyond reality and the senses while others are ‘normal’. In my mind, I have turned the story over and over again. I dare say there is even more to it. We all talk to someone unseen by our eyes, be it a ‘Harvey’, ourselves, a dearly departed aunt or – even God. Think about it. How often have you thought: Oh my God. – Oh, dear God, why do you let this happen. –  Oh God, help me. – You might even have discussions with Him in order to make up your mind about something. When we can’t talk to ‘normal’ people we do need a “Harvey” by any name.greetings-from-the-white-rabbit

Diaries, Journals, And Letters

When I was a teenager I wanted to keep my private thoughts and experiences my own.Were they so special or interesting? No, not really, but important to me. I think it was an aunt who gave me my first diary with a little key to lock it for my birthday. It became my best friend, my confidante and I kept no secrets from it. I wrote about all that happened, my thoughts and my feelings. Especially all my thoughts and feelings! I trusted it with my first kiss and also the first names of the boys I allowed to kiss me after the first one. I even told my diary that I didn’t like  tongue kisses at all and always broke off a friendship before it could even develop.

DSC07693My diary was the only one who knew when and how I had fought off a boy who had tried to get more than just a kiss; everything he said, I said – well, you get the idea. No, I did not share my body with anyone during those years. I truly believed in ‘saving’ myself for the ONE that I would marry. The ones of you who read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” know about that part anyway when it finally happened and not in the way I had hoped it would.  I filled that little diary within four years. I was close to twenty when I bought myself a new one. Number one was locked and under some underwear in ‘my drawer’ in a chest, which I shared with my sister. Sadly, I had to escape to another country and when I finally had a chance to come back many years later and looked through my drawer, everything was still there. But I was shocked to see my diary lock had been broken. When I confronted my mother she admitted that she had read it all. Why did she do that? I would not do that but then I am probably one of those rare creatures who is absolutely not curious. I do not have the diary anymore since I burned it back then. I was hurt and angry. It tainted the relationship with my mother for the rest of her life. Broken trust is not easy to fix.

Do I ever wish I could read it again, now in my advanced age… I still have diary number two. I very recently read it. Half of it is empty. I had stopped writing in it when my life fell apart after twenty years of raising a family. But the happy times are there for posterity. I also have a travel journal from a three week trip in 1973 with my two stepdaughters and my baby boy from Canada to Germany to visit the three sets of grandparents: My husbands, my own, and the girls mother’s parents. A very interesting trip and time in my life. I never saw the girls as my stepchildren, they were my own and this travel journal really proves it. Often I had to smile when one of them made some funny remarks: The older one spoke mainly English, the second one, just fifteen months younger, spoke and understood German quite well. She had been raised for three and a half years by a great aunt of her mother in Germany before she joined our family.

After my immigration to Canada in 1965, I wrote regularly to my kayak friend Christa in the former East Germany. She kept all my letters from 1955 to 1996 at which time I started to telephone her rather than write. By that time Germany was reunited. It was easy and nice to have a personal conversation. At a visit four years ago she handed me a big package – and to my surprise, she had saved forty-one years of my letters and gave them to me with the words:

“I hate to let go of your letters. I read them all again but I think they will help you when you start  writing the second part of your memoir.”

I just finished reading the letters up to 1961 when the Berlin Wall had been built overnight. What an emotional rollercoaster! Forty-five years came alive as if it all happened during the last few years and not half a lifetime ago.

Another journal I started in 2010 was an account of all my doctor visits and prescription medications as well as X-rays and other tests. This journal proved very important during the last couple of weeks. My doctor had prescribed a new medication and it did not sit well with me. Looking through my ‘Med-Journal’ I found that I had been taken the same pills a few years ago and also had to be taken off them. I can only urge you to write a ‘Med-Journal’. It may one day save your life!

And, if you don’t have a shoulder to cry on or a close friend you can share all your troubles with, get a diary. Or, start writing letters to an imaginary friend. You will be surprised how much more of yourself you will reveal because you are absolutely sure your most inner thoughts and secrets stay secret. Maybe until your heirs read them after  you have gone to the pearly gates. In my case – I think that would serve them right! They will finally know how much I loved them and how often they hurt my feelings, probably not even realizing it.