Green, greener…

Actually, it’s funny the way “You Young” people see the world today! All those things in the following write up were done by my grandmother, mother and me until I grew up.

We did not know anything about disposable diapers, Kleenex, Tampax or pantie- liners.  The women had to buy washable pads with two button holes on either end or make protecting pads out of old panties, and soak and wash them during menstruation. Washing machines or dryers were dream years away. You’d see everything on a clothesline across the yard for drying. Families with more grown-up females had rows of those pads pecked on the line. Even as a ten-year-old kid, I thought it was embarrassing to see them. All the men and boys would know when the women and girls in the village had their period.

Clean white toilet paper? Indoor toilets? It might have been a pail in the kitchen for the younger children. They got their bum washed. For us, it was the ripped-up newspaper that was hanging on a rusty nail in the outhouse. If someone spent a lot of time in there, we knew they were reading the old “news.” During 1945/46 when there were no newspapers, we used grass… and our poor mother had to scrub panties and men’s underpants to get rid of what we called the “schiss.” Yes, we did get our hands dirty and washed them under the pump with the ice-cold water.

We did not have running water in the house. We had to bring it in from the pump outside and also bring the dirty water out. Wash day was a big all-day undertaking.

My mother’s hands were raw from scrubbing on the washboard. I still feel sorry for my mom. I love laundry day – because I don’t even get my hands wet… easy-peasy.

Heating and cooking? Hah! We had to scrape the ash out of the oven and the stove, bring it out and bring in wood and coal and kindling. Sometimes, when the wind came from the wrong direction and got into the chimney, we could not get the fire going. The smoke came back into our faces when we blew on the kindling. Life was simple. We did not know any better – so did not think about all of this being a hardship. We had a potty under the bed for the small job, for the big one we had to go to the outhouse next to the barn. God, I remember how cold that seat was in the winter! A smooth wooden plank with a hole in it, covered with a lid. A big box was underneath which my dad emptied when it was full. There was a small door where he could pull it out. He dumped it onto the manure pile and used a fork to cover it with the dirty straw that came out of the animal stalls, which we had to clean out every day. Mostly my mother did… And in spring or fall, the manure was carted to the fields and plowed under.

Going shopping, Mom took home-made little cotton bags with her. She had stitched “Sugar,” “Flour,” “Salt” and what have you on them. If you didn’t bring your own bags, you could not be served. She had a basket on her bike, and a big bag made out of an old carpet to carry her treasures home. No plastic for anything. I guess it wasn’t even invented yet. We made our own jam, had our own honey bees, but if you wanted to buy those items, even pickles, people had to bring glass containers. Butchers just put any meat on a double newspaper – unless you brought your own packing paper.

Yaaah, we were not “green,” but without knowing anything about any of the present day concerns, we lived a healthy life and ate homegrown food, we had no idea about it being “organic.” We saved our environment. If you would have asked someone about “environment,” they would look at you saying: “Environment? What’s that…?”

Actually, we were “GREENER than GREEN” back then.

Revelation of a Time Capsule and More

Stresow Church

Once upon a time, there was a small village in the eastern part of Germany called “Stresow.” A church with a cemetery surrounding it and a pub was built in the center. Those two places were also the centre of any social life of the hard-working farmers. Since women were not allowed in the pub, they would meet after church in the cemetery during their task of taking care of the graves to visit with each other and chat. To this day, the graves are planted with flowers in German cemeteries and each family tries to have the best-looking one.

Many years went by. After WWII in 1945, the states of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania, about one-third of Germany were ceded to Poland. The German inhabitants had ten minutes to get out of their homes where they had lived for generations. My own family was amongst the millions evicted, and so was the family of my cousin Joachim. With only the clothing on our back and with what we could carry, we were three weeks on the road to nowhere, slept in barns when lucky or under the stars. (the full story in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”)

I have never been back to my birthplace but my cousin Joachim has. Poland belongs to the EU, and visits are possible. Joachim has been back several times. He only lives about seventy kilometers away while I live on another continent. Joachim made friends with the Polish family who now lives in his father’s house. He had the most incredible experience in 2006. A friend of his Polish friend is a teacher in the neighboring town of Bad Schoenfliess. He is in charge of a museum and was happy to show Joachim two rooms dedicated to the “German Time.” There are photographs of Joachim’s family and his ancestors as well as of my parents and other families we know. Joachim was amazed.

The most significant surprise was a folder he was given with old handwritten documents, letters, and newspapers of the years from 1871 to 1896. They had been contained in a ‘Time Capsule” buried when a new church tower was built in 1896 after the old church tower had collapsed. Nobody could read any of these documents since they were written using the German Süterlin letters.  Joachim was able to read them. There was a list of twenty-four farmers living in Stresow in 1871, including Joachim’s great-grandparents. Two pastors serving the small community between 1871 and 1896 had written an account of life during those years. Joachim was able to re-write the most critical documents. Photographs of the old and the new church tower were included in the time capsule.

What an exciting experience for my cousin Joachim!

The same year he had another surprise coming. In 1945, when the family was evicted and had to leave within ten minutes, his grandmother had stuffed one hundred-forty-five photos into his school satchel with a change of underwear. These photos had been picked up out of the mud after the Russian invasion. I had picked ours up from the pile of manure in the middle of our yeard. They represent the only memorabilia of our life from before 1945. During the long walk, Joachim, his grandparents, and his mother had a chance to stay in a house for two nights. Joachim and his two small sisters played with the six-year-old son Robert living there. They looked at the pictures. Joachim’s satchel was forgotten when they left, and his grandma always lamented as long as she lived about the loss of those treasured photos from home. She died and never got over the loss.

Almost sixty-one years later, the ITS, a search service connected to the Red Cross as well as churches,  found Joachim’s sister Marianne. She had looked for and listed their dad’s name many years ago. Now, with the Internet, it had been possible for the previous six-year-old Robert, at sixty-seven years old, to find the family who had stayed with them in 1945. Robert had kept the photos in a box in his attic all those years. During a project to add on to his house, he came across it and started searching for the kids he had played with in 1945.

Joachim phoned Robert and made a reservation to visit the next day. The newspaper in Joachim’s hometown got hold of the story, and I have in my hands a copy of the one-third page with a photo of my cousin holding a photograph of himself and his two sisters. A large one at the bottom is of ten men, the artistic biking club with Joachim’s father and uncle in their sports uniform. Needless to say, Joachim in his eighties and the former little Robert in his late sixties, are now close friends.

Former WWI Memorial

Joachim exclaimed when he first related this story to me:

“You cannot pay for something like this. To get your lost treasure back after sixty years is absolutely miraculous.”

Grand Book Promotion

“Smashwords” – the largest distributor of e-books worldwide – is offering an annual huge promotion for the whole month of July. Thousands of e-books are deeply discounted at 25%/50%/75% to ‘FREE’. My books are available at 50% off – a terrific deal if you are still waiting to read about my incredibly interesting life in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” and the companion book “Forget Me Not”.

   NOW is the time to take a look at my books again. I have published the Second Edition of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” on Smashwords as an e-book. I have made slight changes within but especially with the ending, since so many of you were unhappy with the way I left it. After all the time I spent on it, I can now go back and continue writing the sequel. Actually, there will be two more books in my memoir series: This one, book I, “We Don’t Talk About That” covers my first thirty years in Germany; the second book will deal with the next thirty years in Canada, and then we’ll have to take a good look at my incredibly active ‘retirement years’ – I am not sure yet if I quite make it another thirty years! Close though…

You may even find a little ‘surprise’ when you peruse my titles! Should I tell you about it? Okay, why not! I have added a pretty little poetry book in German language. “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute”. A happy book! It was a reprise for me after the heavy duty topics I dealt with and it made me laugh, every time I re-read and edited it. Many of my older relatives and friends, who cannot read my English books, have been complaining. They have tried repeatedly to convince me to translate my books. That will not happen – friends, it is not a matter of translation, it will be a total re-writing. I don’t have enough years left in my life to tackle it. Therefore, this little book may be a “candy” – and I promise that many of the poems deal and tell a lot of my life! For those of you who have German friends or relatives, you couldn’t send them a better gift! However, I find a poetry book is something you have to hold in your hand, it does not read the same when it’s an e-book, so – I have another surprise:

Here is a link to my books on Amazon: Within the next three to five business days you will be able to order a printed version of “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute” – the Author listed is Gisela Fiting-Roeder. Since I was well known under my maiden name in Germany I decided I ought to use it. Naturally, Amazon also enrolled the book in their KDP (e-book). By the way, if you purchase the paperback copy you can obtain the e-book for free.

And now, my dear friends, happy reading!

Old-fashioned Christmas in Germany

The Christmas star

The Christmas star

Really? You want to know how Christmas was celebrated in the ‘good old days…’ in Germany? Let me go back about seventy-five years. And when I tell you how my family celebrated it, be assured it was the same way with all the families I knew. We lived in Pomerania and since Germany had many different parts or provinces it may have been a bit different in East Prussia, or Bavaria, or Holstein, or the Rhineland! Believe it or not, the people in Bavaria didn’t even think the northern Germans were Germans at all – and vice versa. The spoken dialect was (and still is) different and therefore the traditions with Christmas might also have been different. I wasn’t aware of it as a small child as my world was also small.

The exciting time started with an ‘Advents Kalender’ – a calendar with little windows for each day. Each window was marked with the date. We were allowed to open one window each morning and enjoyed looking at the picture behind the little window blind. It was hard not to open more windows to find the one gift we hoped to get at Christmas. You couldn’t open more windows because it was then damaged. On Santa’s list, it counted as being a ‘bad girl or boy’. We received this special calendar from one of our grandmas on the first Sunday of Advent.

Advent

Advent

The four Sundays before Christmas were special. Different Christmas cookies were baked each day and the house smelled wonderful. A few days before the First Advent, Grandma would take us to the forest. We would look for small pine branches to take home and make an ‘Advents Wreath’. The wreath was decorated with pine cones and four red candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas. The wreath would be hung with red ribbons over the main table or placed directly on the table. On the First Advent, only one candle would be lit, on the Second Advent, two, then three until, on the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles would be lit. By now, they were all a different length! Each Sunday we would sit around the warm tiled oven at dusk with our cats in our laps and listen to our grandma telling stories from her childhood or rekindling memories of our own Christmases past.

Shoe shineAnother part of the pre-Christmas time was St. Nicolas night celebrated with cleaning all our shoes, including Mom and Dad’s, on the evening of the 5th of December. St. Nicolas would come when we were sleeping, check the shoes and put some sweets into the shiniest pair. During the war we were told just to put one pair out to save St. Nicolas precious time. Most kids didn’t even have more than one pair of shoes anyway.

Christmas in the stores didn’t start before December. Christmas trees were sold just a week or so before Christmas. To look for and pick our perfect tree took some time. The tree was usually kept in a cold barn or shed. We children would never see it again until Christmas Eve. The parents (oh no, oops, I mean Santa!) would decorate it just the night before Christmas Eve. Even then, we still had to wait until late afternoon on Christmas Eve after the church service with the singing of the wonderful old songs, and the school children acting out the Nativity. The worst was that we also had to eat dinner with that, by now, knotted feeling in our stomach before we could even see our decorated Christmas tree. Dinner on Christmas Eve was always potato salad and wieners, or fried fish. Each family had their own special way of decorating their tree. Ours was always full of angel hair, tinsel, cookies with colorful sprinkles on them and twelve white candles. The tree was always placed on Dad’s desk. Our cousin’s tree also had tinsel but lots of colorful, different size shiny ornaments and different colour candles. No electrical lights – just real candles! They were lit with long matches and the parents always kept a close eye on the tree. There were times when Santa was too busy, so he had dropped off the gifts and they were all under the tree. Before we could touch anything we each had to sing a song or recite a poem we had learned for this occasion. It was so difficult for us children to finally arrive at the Christmas celebration.

Christmas Eve was the real Christmas for us and we could stay up past our bedtime. We would all sleep in on Christmas morning, even our dad. Poor Mother had to get up and look after the farm animals. She would also heat up the stove and the ovens to make sure it wasn’t so terribly cold when we got up. Pails full of water from the pump were kept in the kitchen and sometimes there were thin layers of ice on them. We were allowed to play with our new toys before we got dressed. We always received something for the body (socks or sweaters we needed anyway!) and something for the soul, toys or books.

On Christmas Day, we would either have relatives visiting for a noon dinner consisting of either carp with white parsley gravy or goose and red cabbage. If the relatives didn’t come to us, we would go to their house. Either the visitors or we would stay for coffee and cake, munch on home baked special Christmas cookies or crack nuts. Each child also received a “Bunter Teller” for Christmas. That was a colourful plate with cookies, candies, nuts, apples and oranges which we could eat without asking if we could.

My signature tree

My signature tree

Boxing Day was what we would now call “open house”. It was a day when friends and relatives just dropped in for afternoon coffee. Since all our Christmases were white, we children would be out with the sleighs to pull them up the mill hill to race down screaming “Bahn frei” – warning kids coming uphill to keep clear.

I don’t think kids nowadays would be happy with this kind of life. Do you blame me if I kept to some of the traditions during my adult life and am still dreaming of ‘my kind of a white Christmas?’.

 

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/

Curious about the stories in ‘Forget Me Not’?

Book cover

Book cover

I don’t blame you. I would be curious too. Often I’ve gone to Amazon, looked for the books I wanted to know more about and clicked on “Look Inside”. Occasionally I was frustrated when I came to the end of what I was ‘allowed’ to read – and you had to either give up – or buy the book. If I would have bought every book I liked I would have a huge inventory and could open a library!

This, I have never done before – but I will do so now! I am way too excited about the stories in this ‘Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories’ not to share them with you. Thinking of you reading the titles of my stories puts a big grin on my face. Why? Because all of them came straight from my heart. I know you will like many and really love others. Each one is educational – either from a historic point, from understanding odd situations in life or has an ending you don’t expect. Or, perhaps, it carries some kind of a message you may want to discuss with your family or friends.

“Forget Me Not” is for readers from ten to ninety and beyond. You can’t go so sleep without reading a few pages? And then get your brain engaged in wondering what the ending of your book is going to be? You need willpower to NOT read the ending? My stories will help you. You read just one and you’ll KNOW the ending – because it ended! Now you can go to sleep without all that “wondering”.

I ought to get an audio book of this for the people who have vision problems or are too weak to hold a physical book. “Forget Me Not” is also a beautiful gift from YOU to friends you don’t want to forget YOU! Just imagine yourself unwrapping a little gift package on Valentine’s Day, your birthday, Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day; any other special occasion or even as a surprise and your eyes are greeted by the message: “Forget Me Not”. Who do you think of? The author? No way! You think of the person who sent it to you. That’s the idea, my friend!

I haven’t revealed that there are photos with some of the stories – and poems to use some empty pages between the stories.

How about this one:

What am I? A cat or a mouse…

I feel like a mouse
In a room with a cat.
I like to hide
Far in the back.
I want to curl up
And sleep, and relax
I seek the quiet
Not hear the fax.
No radio, no cars, no TV
And no noise –
I need to tune in
To my inner voice.
I have to find out
Where I am at –
Am I a mouse
Or another cat?

~~~~~~~~~

Table of Contents
Preface
Prologue
1: Charming Village Life
2: Granny and her Fairy Tales
3: Horses – and their Shoes
4: Magic Hands
5: Winnie the Pooh
6: Pineapples and Spaghetti Grow on Trees?
7: WWI – 100 Years Since and Counting
8: Start of World War II
9: VE Day – May 8th, 1945
10: Churchill’s Incredible Foresight
11: Dutch Clogs and a Nazi Flag Dress
12: Work in an Office?
13: Uprising of the Sheep
14: Learning to Kayak
15: What Happened to Them?
16: Escape from your Country?
17: J.F.Kennedy Assassination
18: She got Away – but only ‘just’
19: Olympic Games
20: The ‘Beheaded’ Rose
21: A Heart Wrenching, Sad Love Story
22: Cuba, Cora and Secrets Revealed
23: Coffee? Black, White, Cookie?
24: “Would you like to marry me?”
25: A Letter to Cindy
26: I own this Joint
27: Desperately Wanted: A Baby
28: Spring – The Ice Was Starting to Melt
29: A Beautiful Rose for a Beautiful Lady
30: “May Day, May Day”
31: It’s Part of Ageing
32: “Blue Hawaiian”…Hula and Aloha
33: One More Try and You’ll Make It
34: Flying On Points
35: The House is Empty
36: It Was the Wrong Date
37: Hope You’re Not Superstitious
38: Oh my, an Affair with Omar Sharif ?
39: My Friend, the Green Turtle
40: Candies and Cookies
41: Dog Days or Other Miserable Days
42: A Russian Rape Baby
43: My Earthquake Experiences
44: Vancouver Island Living
45: Change of Seasons
46: For You, Giselle, Anything!
47: I live here – what’s your excuse?
48: “Too bad it’s Canada”
49: Lest we forget. I can’t
50: What if
51: The Weeping Angel

And now my friends – have fun. If you want to read some stories – go to http://www.Amazon.com – find “Forget Me Not” and click on “Look Inside”, or, if you want the eBook version you can find that here.

Saint Nicholas Day

Children in Europe get very excited on the evening of December 5th. They do something their parents for once don’t have to remind them of:

Shoe shineThey clean their boots and shoes! And polish them until they shine.

Why would they do that? Only on this particular day, December the 5th? It is a tradition. Once upon a time, way back in the fourth century, there was a kind Bishop with the name Nicholas. He was the Bishop of Myra, now called Anatolia in Turkey. He had the gift of bringing children back to life or cure terrible ailments. He loved children. He gave them little gifts or secretly dropped coins into their shoes. After he died on December 6th 346 he was canonized and became a Saint, a Saint to protect the children. The people had revered Bishop Nicholas because he was so kind to their children. They celebrated his life on that day. To keep Bishop Nicholas, who was now Saint Nicholas, ‘alive’ in the minds of their children they would put little gifts or sweets into their cleaned shoes. If the children were unruly or had not been good they would put some dry branches or a stick into their shoe to remind them of a forthcoming punishment from Saint Nicholas. But Bishop Nicholas had never punished the children. The dry branches or the stick were the invention of the parents.

The tradition for children cleaning and polishing their shoes on the evening of December 5th has lived on, especially in Germany, Austria and Poland. Saint Nicholas is known by other names, – in German speaking countries it is Sankt Nikolaus; in Switzerland it is Samichlaus; in the Netherlands it is Sinterklaas and there are many more. The American Santa Claus or the Father Christmas in the UK is derived from the good old Saint Nicholas. For commercial reasons they now turn up at Christmas, Christ’s birthday. He is depicted a little differently in each country where the morning of December 6th is anticipated by the children and they look forward to find something in their shoes. They do what children have done for hundreds of years:

They clean their boots and shoes and put them outside their door. Some children are told to just put one shoe out in order not to look greedy. I can tell you from my own experience that we always put both shoes out to show Saint Nicholas how well we have cleaned them. But it is true there was only something in one of them. I remember, later in life, when I had no small children around and I would slip into my shoes or sometimes even my slippers in front of my bed my toes would touch something unusual: A wrapped delicious piece of chocolate or nougat and the warm rush of surprise would be flooding my body.

Did I believe it was Saint Nicholas who brought it? Yes, naturally. Sometimes I had taken over Saint Nicholas’ deeds and sometimes I think my teenagers had also been hired as helpers. Saint Nicholas’ Day is not replacing Santa Claus at Christmas at all. Not in most countries.

Give it a try. Tell your small children about Saint Nicholas and have them put their cleaned and shined shoes out on the evening of December 5th and enjoy their excitement on the morning of the 6th! It is magic to find something in one of your shoes…especially when you are not anticipating it.

Have Fun!

How Reading and Writing Influenced my Life

An on-line interview with Tina Frisco:

‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Rapunzel’ were the fairy tales my grandma told or read to me many times when I was a small kid. They stuck in my head and I believed they were true stories. These stories had a huge influence on my imagination. Even today I take some television shows to heart in such a way that I lose sleep over murders or behaviour unexplainable to me and I have to be reminded: “Don’t get upset, – these are just stories…”

Tina Frisco had definite questions for me and she made it easy to give her open and honest answers. Maybe for you, my reader, they provide a glimpse into my “inner workings”. Enjoy!

http://tinafrisco.com/blog/guest-authors-artisan-garden/giselle-roeder/