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


Halloween – Ghosts and Goblins

Pirate Day

I couldn’t believe it! It was only the middle of September when I saw the first Halloween costumes for sale. Placed close to the entrance the sales rack had stopped a number of children in their tracks. Excitedly they checked the costumes and called:

“Mom, this is exactly what I want! Come, take a look. Isn’t this cool?”

I couldn’t help watching them. With rosy cheeks they would touch this one and pull out another; they started begging their parent to buy the one they liked best. They didn’t listen to Mom saying,

“Let’s go to other stores too, you might even find something better.”

No, it had to be right now! Many little boys want to be pirates and most little girls want to be princesses. Just a few years older and they want to be witches or devils or scary ghosts and even appear to be skeletons. It is amazing how many choices there were. What I couldn’t believe were the prices. They were rather high. When my kids were small we made the costumes at home since we couldn’t afford to buy any. I don’t even know if one could buy ready-made ones in the olden days because we never checked. Times surely are different.

dsc03802Next to Christmas, Halloween is big business with the highest turnover during the year. I read that in the USA alone people spend over six billion dollars for candies, decorations, and costumes. There is also the pumpkin business, fields of large and small pumpkins by the thousands and huge cases full of pumpkins in all the food shops. When I was a kid my mother would make a desert out of the flesh and if we were very good she would allow us to carve one for a candle. We collected and dried the seeds and ate them. We did not know then but I now know that pumpkin seeds are very good for your health because of the high content of protein, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. They make the best snack and are ‘antioxidant scavengers’ – busy to improve your immune system. A little-known secret is the enhancement of men’s sexual health.

Have you ever ask yourself what are the roots for this festivity? The history goes back about 2.000 years to the ancient Celtic festivities called “Samhain “. The Celts believed the ghosts of the dead came back on the evening before November 1st, their New Year’s Day, to haunt and scare them. They would light bonfires, wear costumes to fool the ghosts into mistaking them for their own kind and, to prevent the ghosts from entering their house placed food on the steps. In the 9th century, Christianity had created an ‘All Souls Day’ and the evening before was  ‘All-Hallows Eve’ and  eventually became Halloween or Hallowe’en.

Halloween came to America through the Irish immigrants and evolved during the last few hundred years to what it is today. It is big business for costumes, candy, pumpkins and all kind of decorative ghost items. A time for scary ghosts and superstition, apple bobbing (which goes back to the Roman times) and a much anticipated day for all the children, young and old. Don’t break a mirror on Halloween, don’t step on cracks in the sidewalk and don’t meet a black cat! I remember that I would not cross the road if a black cat had crossed it from left to right. It is bad luck! I would rather wait for another person to cross before I dared to do it. If the cat crossed from right to left you were not just alright but would be lucky!

halloween-costumesHave fun but be wary on Halloween! Make sure your children are safe and check their  harvest from trick-or-treating for needles in apples and tampered chocolates. It is sad but a fact that some bad ‘witches’ are still around. They are full of hate and resentment of  all the fun and don’t mind hurting innocent children.




turkey1It wasn’t about food or a turkey feast! For us, living in a small German village, it was mainly a special day in the church calendar. Nobody ever ate turkey, not even at Christmas or New Year. It was carp (fish), duck or goose. A great part of the celebration were the children. With their parent’s help, they decorated a basket with all kind of fruits or veggies out of the  garden. I envied the children who instead of baskets carried huge bouquets made up of dried wheat, rye, barley and other grain stalks. Those were so much lighter than our baskets! The girls wore a flower wreath like a crown made up of the last of the blooms picked in field and garden. The boys had corsages pinned on the jacket or a hat. We all felt excited and very pretty!

wp_20161006_15_47_39_proThe Pastor’s wife was in charge of organizing us in front of the church while the hymn singing congregation waited inside. The smallest, youngest children, two abreast, came first and were followed by all the others according to size. With the organ playing, we would enter the church and slowly walk to the altar. The Pastor, waiting there, would receive our thanksgiving gifts and place everything on or around the altar. Relieved of our burden we could now go and find a seat with our parents in the pews. The Pastor would pray, thank God for a bountiful year and a good harvest. He always gave a rousing sermon and made everybody willing to donate even more. This ‘harvest’ was going to the poor in the village and the soldiers on the front.

grain-lady-3Yes, we surely felt very thankful for every potato and carrot. We were still safe and were not starving. I remember these years during WWII so well. Life has changed a lot after the war. The number of church-goers is down in the big cities but, I can imagine small villages may still be celebrating Thanksgiving this way. The church and the pub provided the social life during my childhood, and it may still be the same. Since I have been living in Canada for the last fifty-three years I have no idea if the Germans adopted the turkey eating tradition but I’ll find out! I used to believe it was a healthy tradition since turkey meat contains tryptophan, a relaxing amino acid which forms the base of serotonin and gets converted in the body into melatonin making you sleepy. I’m disappointed to learn now that it is a myth because chicken and cheese also contain the same amino acid. On Thanksgiving, it is the mass of turkey with all the trimmings (and alcohol) we consume that makes us lazy and sleepy. Personally, I like the dark turkey meat. Restaurants hardly ever serve it because of its high content of cholesterol. On Thanksgiving Day I couldn’t care less!

Feel grateful for the bounty we still enjoy. And share. So many have nothing; millions do not even have a home.

The Last Supper

767 Dorchester Wpg.

767 Dorchester was an old house with a wonderful interior layout located in a quiet neighbourhood of Winnipeg. It was white with green trim and had flower boxes under all the many windows. I needed ninety-eight geraniums for planting the boxes every spring. It was a sight to behold. I would plant a hundred pots with cuttings and have those on the wide window sills indoors in preparation for the next season. Just imagine how long it took every day to water all those. In full bloom, they made the house look ‘rich’.

A bright hallway and a wide stairway leading to the second storey were the heart of the old house. Through French doors on either side of the hallway, one entered into a huge dining room on the left and on the right into a most charming living room with lots of windows and an open fireplace. A built-in breakfast nook in the kitchen was one of our favourite spots. All our family meals were served here. It was the children’s place to do their homework while I was preparing our meals. There was an ancient sink in the middle of the long counter, an old ‘rounded’ fridge and a more modern stove.

1-image0-001All of us loved this old house! Mr. Moffat had rented it to us. He not only came to collect the rent every month but occasionally stopped by to say ‘hi’ and chat. He always complimented me on the work I did in the garden. Spring flowers were followed by colorful summer flowers and big sunflowers stood guard. The tomatoes, thriving along the sunny side of the garage, still tasted like real tomatoes.

One warm July day Mr. Moffat turned up and was greated with welcoming smiles. But that day he seemed uneasy. He even sat down for tea and after a few minutes, he told us he was selling the house. He was giving us three months notice to find another home. I lost it and completely broke down. I cried and begged him to sell the house to us but, sadly, it was out of his hands. A lawyer had bought up the houses next to us. Our house was the last in the middle of all the others. Mr.Moffat said he had held on as long as he could. The houses would be demolished to make room for an apartment block. What a shame. It was heartbreaking.

We went house shopping and in the end decided to buy a bungalow from a builder in a suburb called ‘Southdale’. We were promised the house would be ready for move-in on October the first. The children started school in our new neighbourhood in September. Driving the kids to school each morning I loaded the car with ‘stuff’and brought more boxes in the afternoon when I  picked them up. Our friends Inge and Peter had offered their garage as a storage place. They had also bought and lived there already. Only our big pieces of furniture remained for the moving company.

Our last meal before the big day consisted of leftovers but I had baked an apple pie for desert. I had left the baking oven door slightly open so that the heat could dissipate but I did leave the pie in it. For the children, playing outside, the backdoor was always open. My husband and I drove out to the new house with the last boxes. When we came home I closed the baking oven door and started cooking. The family was sitting around the table in the ‘nook’and chatted excitedly about moving and sleeping here for the last time. I served dinner and switched the baking oven on to warm up the apple pie. We loved hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream! At last, I could sit down and start eating myself.

I was restless and got up again. My husband was annoyed. “Why don’t you finally sit still and eat, you drive me nuts…”

767 Dorchester entrance

Just to prove something I went to check the pie. I opened the baking oven door and stumbled back screaming as our neighbour’s cat jumped out of the hot oven and almost into my face. The cat ran like crazy for the back door, scratched the screen and meowed loudly. What if – oh my God!

The pie was half eaten. The other half went into the garbage. Luckily the cat lived and there was only vanilla ice cream for desert. I was so shaken up that I was in no condition to even eat my dinner.

Change of Seasons….

Not Just the Colour of the Leaves

Leaves - Changing Colours

Leaves – Changing Colours

Nothing touches my emotions more regarding the change from summer to fall than a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, titled “Herbsttag” = “Autumn Day”. I see myself wandering the lanes, looking down and pushing millions of colorful leaves, yellow-orange-red and even a bit of green left over with my feet, thinking of my long gone childhood days, and my children digging themselves into piles of raked up leaves. My mood turns sentimental, even sad. Life seems so short looking back. There was the happy worry free time I have shared with my great grandmother and my grandparents, the years when I was loved, protected and guided by my parents. I see myself with my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Three generations… How many wonderful people I met throughout the years! In retrospect it seems I only did have very little time with any of them. I am thinking about how fast the generations have gone and how few of my loved ones closer to my own age are left. I am next in line, just a leaf blowing in the wind. I think of the many things I have done; the many things I wish I had done and the many things I might never be able to do now.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke expresses these sentiments beautifully:

‘Lord, the time has come
A beautiful summer is gone.
Your shadow on the sundials changed
you let the winds blow over the fields.
Help the last fruit to ripen,
give them a few more, warmer days,
let them fulfill their destiny
and put the sweetness in the heavy wine.

Who has no house – will not build now.
Who is alone now will remain so, long.
Will lie awake, will read and write long letters,
will restless wander up and down the lanes, –
when the leaves are drifting….’

I can’t make Rilke’s poem my own. No translation does it justice. Other than in his words one cannot express all he himself felt when writing it. I feel him with me when I read it. I see myself sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner of a cozy room, watching him write it, a green-shaded lamp on the desk in front of the window, he himself bent over, his paper the only bright spot in the surrounding shadows. I feel he wrote it for me. When I came across it for the first time I choked, I knew I was receiving a message. The poem evokes many feelings, feelings about the past, feelings about giving thanks for the bounty of a season past and feelings of loneliness, of impending doom, of death and still, – feelings of hope invade my thoughts. Hope for another autumn day when the sunlight brightens the color of the leaves, makes the reds deeper, the yellows brighter and turns the already dying ones to copper. I shall push the leaves under my feet until they fly up into the air, feel like a child again, I want to laugh but feel too silly knowing there are people watching me. I look at the remaining colorful leaves on the trees and marvel about nature. An endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and every season has its own colors. As every generation has and still, they all are blending into and are part of our life.
‘Lord, the time has come….’
The time has come to sort out your harvest, to put the garden to sleep after planting next years crop, to reset the thermostat for more warmth and take the winter jackets out of storage. The time has come to be closer together with your loved ones, invite the lonely, share a warm drink and listen to each other’s memories, the stories of the ever-changing seasons of life.

An Interview with Don Massenzio

Giselle readingBelieve me, this on-line interview was an interesting experience. It was done by an accomplished writer, Mr. Don Massenzio. He ‘invented’ a couple of very imaginative detectives for his first book, “Frankly Speaking” and, you guessed it, his book found readers who liked it so much that those two detectives are now appearing in a series. I have read “Frankly Speaking” and was amazed by the twists and turns of the story but especially impressed by Don’s knowledge of the intricacies of law and order, computers and people in high places. It felt as if he always consulted one of his detectives…and I forgot that HE was the writer!

Don sent me 20 questions to answer. You can find the interview by clicking on this linkhttps://donmassenzio.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/20-questions-with-giselle-roeder/

9/11 – Just an Infamous Number?

twin-towers-nycFifteen years ago the world stood still for not just moments. Nobody could understand what happened and why two planes would fly directly into the Twin Towers in New York. Many people, when watching it later on TV, thought it was a scene developed and shot for a movie. I had been in New York some years before and was taken into one of those towers. Today I want to write about what I felt at the time when they came crumbling down.

A small basement type bookshop in Dundarave (West Vancouver, Canada), loved by readers and writers alike, had a section with comfortable chairs where one could peruse the newest books and another section with small tables and chairs where herbal tea was served. This is where I was sitting, sipping my chamomile tea. I don’t remember if they served cookies or something to nibble on. Another reader joined me since there was no other empty table. It’s weird, but in Canada, everybody tries to sit at their “own” table. In Europe, people would ask to join someone to have and maybe also provide company. They relish meeting new people. We chatted away about the books we had just checked out when all of a sudden the clitter-clatter and the noise of the boiling water at the serving counter and even the soft background music stopped. It was eery, still, and the person at the kettle stood there, with a white face and wide open eyes, staring into nowhere. Just a few minutes ago she had gone to serve someone on the little outside terrace.

She half whispered, “Oh my God! They have bombed the Twin Towers in New York. Maybe Vancouver is next. The USA is at war.”

Everybody stared at her and it was me who finally broke the spell and asked: “How do you know?”

“The radio. Someone outside is listening to a radio and it was just announced. Both towers came down and thousands of people must be dead. There are so many offices…Some airplanes flew right into the buildings. Suicide bombers. They tried the Pentagon too but I don’t know more…” She changed the channel on her music system and turned up the volume and we all heard it announced. At first, we all sat there like deer caught in headlights and then all hell broke loose. People jumped up from the tea as well as the reading section and crowded the poor lady, we all wanted to pay as fast as we could to get home and watch the news on television. To make it faster some just threw dollar bills onto the counter, not waiting for change.

I ran out the back door to the Seawall, a wonderful walkway along the Pacific Ocean since it was faster and closest to my apartment building. I met my friend Inga on the way and she knew a bit more already. She had left her apartment after watching the news. She just couldn’t stand it indoors. She was more than excited and started talking about an interesting book she was in the process of reading. Apparently, Nostradamus had predicted this and other events back in the fifteenth century. I asked her if I could borrow the book when she was finished. She promised to lend it to me providing I gave it back after three days. Then we parted.

I sat glued to my couch for the rest of the day and watched the news over and over and over again. The announcer explained that a couple had taken a video while standing on the balcony of their hotel not far from the towers. By chance, they caught everything on their camera. They had handed the video over to the New York News team that soon turned up at the scene. They were interviewed and couldn’t even fathom what they had just photographed. And no, they didn’t want any money for the video. Those planes flying directly into the towers and the towers crumbling was hard to stomach. It really could have been a horror movie.

I remember how the news people tried to put a spin on the news about why, and who, and what, when they showed a clip of President Bush sitting on a small bench in a Kindergarten class in Florida, surrounded by kids. A man, maybe a bodyguard, came in and whispered something into his ear. President Bush’ face was uncomprehending, his mouth fell open, his eyes had an empty expression. It was not a picture anyone would want to see of their President. He seemed helpless, shocked, did not know what to say or do.

The World Towers prior to 2001

The World Towers prior to 2001

Now fifteen years have come and gone since this horrible happening. The place where those two towers, once so important for the New York skyline, stood is a wonderful rebuilt area with a Museum and other attractions. What shocked me today was the information that there are still people who maintain that it was all pre-planned and organized by the government with President Bush involved; even to the extent that the two “planes” were just holographic images.

Just recalling his expression in the Kindergarten when he first heard of it I feel strongly that this is absolute rubbish.

“Hoarding for WWIII” – What and Why?

19 Jul 1945, Berlin, Germany --- Berlin: Germany: German citizens can be seen walking over a bridge amid the ruins of buildings. Twisted metal frames are visible through the walls of bombed buildings along the streets of Berlin. A bus can also be seen crossing the bridge. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Please forgive me. I just couldn’t come up with a better title. I have been thinking about it for several days now and, you know, ‘thinking is bad for you, it bruises the brain.’ Remember, I used that title for one of my latest blogs. I must admit, all this thinking gave me quite a headache. We have lived such a peaceful life for over seventy years now, the younger generations have no idea what it is like if there are ration cards or how you sometimes have to go hungry. Yes, certain areas of the world have wars going on and it is bad. It’s very bad. Millions of people are fleeing their countries, risking their life in the process. Surrounding countries are ‘overloaded’ already, others try to take as many refugees as they can and some others say “go back where you came from”. The political threat to send people, who have lived, worked, raised families and paid taxes in other than their birth countries, back to their ancestral homelands is frightening.

No, the topic as mentioned in the heading surely wasn’t my idea. My thoughts are going back to the nineteen twenties and thirties when Hitler made his way into world politics and power. Lately, speeches with screaming and promises to clean up racial issues and make America great again reminded me of the opera “Tosca” by Puccini. In the first act, there is a lovely song: “Wie sich die Bilder gleichen“ – “How alike these pictures are…” This expression is now not used for pictures but especially for happenings of a similar nature.

Why do these kinds of thoughts trouble me? I started thinking even more about this scenario after I received an e-mail regarding predictions found in the Bible. Something is supposed to happen at the beginning of this September which, towards the end of the month, leads to WWIII. I do not know the Bible well and, despite having been told what to read or where to find these predictions I am inclined not to look for it. I just haven’t got or don’t want to spend the time. Maybe I don’t want to know. Apparently, there are also listings on Google. How could knowing about it change anything? My correspondent recommended stocking up on groceries as she has done, expecting to feed her neighbours as well. Buy shares in companies who deal in metal. Metal is needed in a war. If you can, emigrate to one of the advertised ten safest countries in the world.

I remember reading a book about Nostradamus’ predictions after 9/11. The author had tried to change the 15th-century language to a kind of picturesque ‘translation’ for the reader to understand what was meant. I skimmed over the last few hundred years to the 21st century. I must say that I was impressed because a number of things had already happened. Starting in 2012 there would be lots of unrest in the world and 2017 would see the start of a very devastating war that would turn Europe into ashes through powerful explosions. Nothing would grow for a hundred years etc. etc. It was quite unnerving. But at that time I didn’t think I would be alive in 2017. And my children and children’s children would have to deal with it like we did with the horror of WWII.

I lived through the devastation of Germany during WWII. I learned as a child what it was like to jump out of my warm bed when the air raid alarm was howling, hear the noise of the bombers, saw the ‘fire in the sky’- heard the constant rumbling of the canons, and the daily crack-crack of the shooting when the last few German soldiers were fighting the mighty Russian army in our neighbourhood. Yes, I also saw the dead and the body parts nobody was allowed to bury in the frozen earth of February 1945. Do I want to even think of all that again? I have written it all down in my memoir, “We Don’t Talk About That”. Maybe that book can become a kind of Bible on how to deal with, and survive, a war.

But, here is what I like to tell the people who are starting to hoard groceries. Did you think of how to cook when there is no electricity or gas supply? Do you plan to buy enough BBQ gas containers? If you have a wood stove, can you even get wood? Keep matches? What do you do when the supply runs out? What do you do if you have to leave your house and the enemy gets all your provisions? That happened to us. A new WW is not going to be a tame animal. Missiles reach across continents – nobody knows where they will land. What if some angry person in power presses a certain button? What if you make it to next spring but you have no food? How do you grow something? In my memoir I talk about how we found ourselves wishing for seeds to plant a garden, seed the strips of land along the road or balcony boxes or even plant in any pots. If it makes you feel better to prepare, (I am also thinking of the predicted “Big One” – an earthquake) make sure you add seeds to your supply, especially of plants that allow you to eat the tops as well as the roots. We survived on turnips and many people of my generation hate the very thought of them. Bread made out of turnips, soup made out of turnips, a stew made out of turnips. Sometimes we found tiny bones in our meals and were wondering if they were from birds or vermin. Every day we went looking for edible weeds, so learn to know what they look like and where they grow.


We also never saw any pets around and when my mother was given the great gift of a (slaughtered) rabbit I remember how she looked at it and said:

“It looks much more like a roof-rabbit to me.” Sadly, she meant a cat.


That Lady Can Really Light Up A Room



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.



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.