149 Of 365 (366) For 2012

[ All credit to Olivier-B, whose lovely picture may be found here. ]

“We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven,

a God who said of anything we happened to like doing,

‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?”

[ C. S. LewisThe Problem of Pain ]

129 Of 365 (366) For 2012

[ All credit to Thomas Leth-Olsen, whose lovely picture may be found here.  ]

“I was happy but happy is an adult word.

You don’t have to ask a child about happy, you see it.

They are or they are not.

Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not.

Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind.

Much easier to let it blow all over you.”

[ Jeanette Winterson ]

95 Of 365 (366) For 2012

[ All credit to alan shapiro photography, whose lovely picture may be found here.]

 

“I can believe things that are true

and things that aren’t true

and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed.

 

Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite,

that the world is run by secret banking cartels

and is visited by aliens on a regular basis,

nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs

and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

 

I believe that the future sucks

and I believe that the future rocks

and I believe that one day

White Buffalo Woman is going to come back

and kick everyone’s ass.

 

I believe that all men are just overgrown boys

with deep problems communicating

and that the decline in good sex in America

is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

 

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks

and I still believe that they are better than the alternative.

 

I believe that California is going to sink into the sea

when the big one comes,

while Florida is going to dissolve into madness

and alligators

and toxic waste.

 

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance

to dirt and disease

so that one day

we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold

like martians in War of the Worlds.

 

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century

were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis,

that jade is dried dragon sperm,

and that thousands of years ago

in a former life

I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

 

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars.

 

I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid,

 

that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly,

 

that light is a wave and a particle,

 

that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time

(although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it

it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead),

 

and that there are stars in the universe

billions of years older than the universe itself.

 

I believe in a personal god who cares about me

and worries

and oversees everything I do.

I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion

and went off to hang with her girlfriends

and doesn’t even know that I’m alive.

I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos,

background noise,

and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly.

 

I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies.

 

I believe in a woman’s right to choose,

a baby’s right to live,

that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty

if you can trust the legal system implicitly,

and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system

with anything of relative importance;

much less matters of life and death.

 

I believe that life is a game,

that life is a cruel joke,

and that life is what happens when you’re alive

and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

 

[ Neil GaimanAmerican Gods ]

85 Of 365 (366) For 2012

[ All credit to wefi – Anne Worner, whose lovely picture may be found here.]

 

“Facts and information are the nourishment, the lifeblood, the raison d’etre,

and also the bane and despair of librarians and researchers.”

 

Kee Malesky All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge ]

24 Of 365 (366) For 2012

[All credit to Jonathan Luke Cox, whose lovely picture may be found here]

 

Johnny: “It’s like the mist is what’s pretty, ya know? All gold and silver.”

Ponyboy: “Hmm”

Johnny: “Too bad it can’t stay like that all the time.”

Ponyboy: “Nothing gold can stay.”

 

[ S.E. HintonThe Outsiders ]

What Do You Mean?! Since When Is It Not Okay To Hang My Cousin?

“A child is a curly dimpled lunatic”

[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

My cousin’s fiancée is 4 months pregnant.

I know, I know this should make me happy. I mean really happy. Dancing-in-the-streets-naked-happy. Or at least running-out-to-get-some-gear-for-her-baby-shower-happy.

But it doesn’t.

Somehow, it just frustrates me.

Let me try to explain:

My father has an older sister, who has two sons. For the sake of this post let’s call them “Marc” and “Oscar” (which are not their names).

Well, Marc and I were really close growing up. The kind of close you usually find between siblings. He might have even had a chance at becoming the elderly brother figure, that holds you down and tortures you with spit, but it didn’t happen. Somehow we grew apart, before we got to the wonderful loving torture phase – I regret that.

Actually, we didn’t just “grow apart” (how does anyone age 7 – 12 just grow apart?!).

What happened was, that their mother, my aunt, decided to become a Jehovah’s Witness.

I’m not really sure why.

None of us are overly religious. I mean we are christians (the german side is predominantly protestant, where as the american side is predominantly catholic, but in all honesty the way we practice religion, it’s the same difference), but no one is really caught up about it.

Religion was never the thread that kept our family together: It just was.

My father thinks the reason his sister became a Jehovah’s Witness, is because her husband, my uncle, is a loveless, ignorant fool and she wanted to feel like she was part of a tight-knit community.

That might be right, but then again my father never liked her husband. It’s mutual. They can’t stand the sight of each other ever since my uncle beat my father up in 3rd grade during recess and he told on him, which in turn got my uncle into detention. There might be some unresolved anger issues there, who knows. Obviously today, they have moved on from the beating-up to the hurtful-comments-and-ignoring phase. I mean after all they are mature and civilised adults.

In any case, before my aunt became a Jehovah’s Witness, I spent a lot of time over at their house or at my grandmother’s old house with Marc and Oscar.

Marc and Oscar are three years apart in age and I am right in the middle between the both of them.

The brother’s were as different as night and day.

Marc’s the loving, caring type (or at least he was), but a bit on the slow side mentally. Oscar, on the other hand, was incredibly bright, but cruel and sly (and even though 7-year-old-Kianys would have never admitted this: “Maybe a bit scary”).

I remember watching “The Wizard of Oz” around this time (for the first time) and thinking: “Well I guess the Wizard gave Oscar all the brains and Marc all the heart.”

Oscar was the kid, that convinced his three years older brother to repair the socket in their nursery with a damp cloth and a screw driver. Marc was the kid, who would do it over and over again. And I? Well I was the kid standing on the sidelines, holding my sides laughing till my little belly hurt.

One of my fondest childhood memory with my two cousins might not even be a real memory.

I don’t know why, but many times when I ask my family stuff like “Oh do you remember when we almost strung up Oscar?”, they give me this funny look and adamantly agree that such a thing never happened. I was a very imaginative kid, so based on that there might be some allowance for doubt, but I remember this occasion. Vividly remember it.

It might be, that I am truly confusing my imagination with my memory (as Josh Billings was quoted saying – well not about me, just in general), but I am pretty sure, that they are just trying to negate this ever happened for the sake of their own conscious.

It must have been (that is, if it ever was) in the fall of 1988, making me about 6, Oscar about 4 1/2 and Marc about 7 1/2 years old.

It must have been fall, because my grandparents steep back yard was covered in yellowed and red leaves.

And it must have been between 1986 – 1992, not just because we acted like stupid little morons (I was capable of doing that way into my teens), but because my grandparents sold that house to move to a smaller place (cheaper and easier in up-keep) in the summer of 1992.

My cousins and I shared one common love: We loved old cowboy and indian stories and we loved to beat each other up (so I guess technically that’s two common loves, but they just kind of went together).

It didn’t really matter, if Marc and I were the good Indians and Oscar was the bad Cowboy and we got to tie him to the totem pole (or stake or whatever Indians back in the day tied bad cowboys to before scalping them) and scalp him or if he was the bad Indian and the both of us were the good Cowboys and we got to hang him for stealing our horses. Really didn’t.

All that counted was, that the two big one’s could mercilessly gang up on the young small one with glasses and beat the living daylight out of him (or well, you know, at least hold him down and pummel him a bit).

(Side note: I highly recommend having your safe search turned on when doing a google image search for: “vintage boy with glasses getting pummeled by two kids”Highly recommend!)

Ah those were the golden days!

Well, maybe not for Oscar and maybe all that 2-on-1 unfairness had something to do with him becoming bright and sly, but that’s just one of those redundant what-came-first-hen-or-egg-questions.

In any case, that fall afternoon of 1988 we were outside in my grandparents back yard, playing among the leaves and doing our best to keep the noise down for fear of our grandfather waking up from his nap or our grandmother fearing that grandfather could wake up from his nap. Both cases were a sure shot at the threat of a beating and no desert (the daunting part obviously being the no-desert-part: One hasn’t truly lived, until one has sampled my grandmother’s baking!)

Keeping it down in our minds obviously wasn’t the same as keeping it down in any adults opinion (but my guess is, if you ever were a kid and remember still remember being a kid today,  that goes without saying). Suffice it to say, that I can’t remember EVER hearing a car, although their house was located right on the brim of one of the main roads in town.

I might have to add that the hill behind their house was steep, really steep, I mean really, really steep and someone (my guess is my grandfather when he wasn’t napping) had attached a swing to one of the trees on the steep hill.

I have added an image to better illustrate the surroundings

(Please let us pretend this is an original 1988 picture and not something I threw together a couple of minutes ago using Paint – agreed? Great!)

In any case, this was our playground and with the exception of playing with the harmless snakes (they are called “Blindschleichen” in german – google translate translated them into “Blindworms“, but somehow I have my doubts about that translation), the “it-place” to be was on or at least next to the swing.

The fatal day, I am referring to, is when Oscar wasn’t sitting on the swing, but instead had been placed standing upright on it with a make-shift noose (using my grandmother’s clothes line) strung around his neck.

No doubt the evil indian had stolen our horses and we were about to make him pay: Wild West Style.

Marc was still trying his best to get the other part of the clothes line attached to the branch and we were all quite intrigued with the task at hand.

Suddenly, out of the blue, my grandmother stormed up the hill in her house dress, curlers in hair. She grabbed Marc and slapped him right across the face with one hand while holding on to Oscar’s legs and lifting him of the swing with the other hand.

As usua,l I was the “innocent” bystander, witnessing the events wide-eyed and shocked. My grandmother never slapped us! She would wake up our grandfather to give us a royal spanking, but she never layed a hand on any of us. Something big must have happened, which I wasn’t able to grasp.

Somehow the three of us hurried down the hill back towards the house. I remember Marc being dragged, but I just walked with them quietly. The thing that stuck with me most was Oscar bawling, kicking my grandmother and all the while whining “But they have to hang me, you stupid cow (we never ever insulted my grandmother either), don’t you understand?! They have to hang me!”

Not sure, how all the rest of it played out, but to this day I can still smell the crisp autumn air and hear my grandmother huffing and puffing out of breath, glaring at us like some arch-angel avenger came upon us from the heavens.

So what has all of this got to do with my cousin’s fiancée expecting a child?

Well, children grow up and sometimes strange things happen to them, when they do.

My cousin Marc got married at 18 and they had a son within two years of their marriage. His wife obviously was a Jehovah’s Witness as well.

Then 10 years later, they got divorced, which ment Marc lost all contact to his family (brother, mother), because Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t stay in touch with people, if they break the rules of their faith, even if they’re their own flesh and blood.

Marc was engaged within a couple of weeks of the divorce and him and his fiancée bought an appartement together.

Weeks before the wedding it was called off with no reason given and Marc moved out and in with a new girl.

This new girl, barely 20, is now pregnant and they are engaged and it was a planned pregnancy.

I don’t know, to me it feels, like we are all playing pretend again, except this time, it’s Marc standing on the swing with the noose around his neck and there is no one there to pull him down.

Is Happiness A Waterproof Heart?

“Happiness and sadness run parallel to each other.  When one takes a rest, the other one tends to take up the slack.” 

[Hazelmarie Elliott (“Mattie”)]

Maybe it comes with the weather outside being wet and cold. Not the kind that glistens in the moonlight, more the one that creeps in under the doors.

Maybe it comes with talking with boyfriends past and making amends for at times treating them badly.

Maybe it comes with the new year fast approaching and the wonders it promises, always promises.

Maybe it comes with this being the last day of Christmas and books and a desk awaiting me in the morning.

But this I wondered: Is happiness a waterproof heart? One that can’t be drenched with tears cried at night?

Mind you, there are tears of happiness as well… .

Or maybe happiness isn’t a waterproof heart, untouched by feelings, but just one that dries quickly in the sunlight of the new day.

However, I love this little poem by A.  A. Milne – maybe it’ll make you as happy as it makes me.

Happiness

John had

Great Big

Waterproof

Boots on;

John had a

Great Big

Waterproof

Hat;

John had a

Great Big

Waterproof

Mackintosh –

And that

(Said John)

Is

That.

[A. A. Milne]

Life Lesson Learned: Foolish Pride Makes For Lonely Christmas (And A Headache)

” The best Christmas of all

is the presence of a happy family

all wrapped up with one another”

[Unknown or at least unmentioned on my favourite quote page]

I wasn’t planning on writing a christmas post this morning. I was planning on being extra-good (the kind of good that you believe gets you extra loot under the christmas tree) meaning studying.

I really, really was.

But then two things happened:

  1. I woke up and remembered, that I had “tired-commented” on the lovely Miss von Furstenburgs post (Tired commenting to me is the equivalent of drunk-dialing w/o a phone and minus the off-chance that you would have the good fortune of forgetting all about it the next morning.) In any case, I checked back to see how much of a fool I actually made of myself last night and was immediately side-tracked by her new “Liebster Blog Award” Acceptance Post ( yes, I guess I am one of those “ohhhh, shiny object” – people). So, curious as I was, I immediately took to checking out the new nominees… .
  2. This is when the second thing happened: All of them had christmas posts up (duh?!) and one of those posts which I love-adore-am infatuated with was quick one-way-nostalgia-ticket off to childhood christmas in the 80s – yay!

All of the above had me thinking of Christmas’-past and there is one Christmas that especially comes to mind.

- not!

You see, my father and I had this special christmas tradition of cleaning to house to an immaculate shine on the 23rd, then grabbing all the Christmas gifts for our family in the US, flinging them into the trunk of the car along with an overnight bag and making our way to my grandparents in Baden-Wuerttemberg (the state just north of Bavaria) with a quick stop along the way to mail the US-headed Christmas gifts.

On a side-note: I actually do believe that my cousins got a kick about opening christmas presents in march – april, well at least I hope they did because that’s how long it usually took them to get there: Right in time for easter!

Obviously all of this last-minute-christmas-activity usually resulted in one or the other quarrel between my dear ol’ dad and me – usually about something vital like if the living room floor had been properly vacuumed or needed a doe-over.

"Through the black forest and across the bridge to grandmothers house we go"

Usually, it was not a big though, because the minute we hit the free-way everything was forgotten listening to rock christmas songs on the radio and dreaming of my grandmother’s divine baked christmas goods (All praise be to the healing effect of the german “Autobahn” on Christmas!)

Except for this one year… .

Admittedly, the details are blurry. I am not even sure what year it was. My guess is I was 16 (but I might have been 17) and I had reached the eclipse of my good-girls-gone-bad-phase and we argued about something.

In all honesty, I can’t even remember what we argued about, but at that time it seemed like more than the usual  pre road trip bitchiness, so when my father told me to get in the car, I refused.

I remember looking at him and telling him, that I was “sooo over” this “Christmas – phoniness of having to be all forgiveness and smiles just because it was the 23rd of december, what is a date anyways?!”

My father tried to persuade me to swallow my pride, quit being a self-indulgent brat and get into the car, but in the end it got later and later while I was self-righteously sulking away in my bed-room and finally he just left.

The first couple of hours were a feeling of utmost triumph and exhilaration: I had won an important battle! I had stood my ground! Finally, he would have to accept me as an equal adult and not just a little girl he could boss around!

I celebrated this with loads of christmas candy and even more christmas TV. It was christmas and heaven on earth to me.

Slowly it got darker outside and when I looked out of the window I could see the faint glow of light christmas trees in other people’s houses. We, obviously, hadn’t put up a christmas tree, because we weren’t planning on being at home for christmas.

The excitement started to ware off.

I decided to bundle up and go to christmas Mass at our church, thinking that following religious christmas rituals would give me a sense of warmth and belonging and all in all just the spirit of christmas.

The church didn’t help. Actually it made things worse. It wasn’t the sermon or the people there, everything was lovely and peaceful and the people were joyous. Standing there in the middle of the church I suddenly realized that I was the only one there that was all alone on Christmas Eve’.

All

Alone

On

Christmas

Eve… .

As the words sunk in (each one pronounced like its own sentence by that little voice inside my head), I was ready to cry. I didn’t feel “all grown up” anymore. I felt small and scared and lonely. I wanted nothing more than to be with my father and my grandparents, curled up in blankets, sipping a hot cup of cocoa and munching on some special christmas cookies.

So I fled the church back home.

There I waited for something to happen. My father to miraculously come back. My grandparents to call and to order me on the next train down to them.

Nothing happened. No one called. No one ever called our house on christmas because we were never there.

So in the end, adding stupid decision onto to stupid decision, I raided my dad’s bar.

I think I downed half a bottle of Bailey’s coffee cream, before the world started to spin before my eyes and the gooey – sweetness of the liquor made me horribly sick.

I don’t remember much after that.

I do remember waking up on christmas morning on the cold bathroom floor with a splitting head ache and an awful taste in my mouth.

I distinctly remember lying there thinking that I would trade all the presents in the world just to be with my family.

I remember picturing them at the breakfast table, cheerful, clad in sickening-sweet christmas sweaters, just celebrating the wonders of christmas and the privilege of having one another.

Later that day my father and my grandparents called to wish me a merry christmas and see how I was doing.

I didn’t mention any of the above, I never did.

I feigned high spirits and maybe even a bit of annoyance regarding their disturbance of my peace and serenity. I’m not sure why, but my guess is (and that’s a pretty safe guess) it was pure juvenile pride that kept me from coming clean.

However, when my father returned the next day, I didn’t really care for the gifts he was bringing home.

All I cared about was a long, long hug: And I got it!