Book Moods and Reality

If you are a reader like I am, you will understand how diving into a book can affect your mood while you are pacing yourself through it. Most of the books I have read this year have been a bit desperate. Meaning, I have loved reading them they have left me feeling like the world is a wee bit depressed. I hear ya. Everyone is a wee bit depressed, including me. I think that is why I am attracted to these books. They make life feel so normal because lets face it, no one lives in a LaVyrle Spencer novel, everyone lives in a Maeve Binchy novel.

 

 

 

I loved Maeve Binchy (except her Father Flynn Series) because she wrote about average people doing mundane things in a way that left my heart aching for more normalcy. Evening Class made me want to go back to school and meet people. I did go back and met a lovely chum who is sarcastic and dark like me. We chuckle and complain yet we are the smarty pants of the group. Evening Class was plausible and that is why I liked it.

 

 

 

As much as I love watching Sci-Fi, I despise reading it. Books need to be plausible for me and quite frankly I have a hard time wrapping my head around worlds I haven’t been to. This includes countries where I have no frame of reference. I have tried the Sci-Fi genre and it just isn’t my favorite. For example, I have Read Never Let you Go and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and while I was reading them, I kept thinking…huh, not loving this so much. So, I made the choice to save Sci-Fi for TV and Movies because it becomes an EPIC adventure and save the Sci-Fi books for other people.

 

 

 

The books I have read so far this year seem to have a common theme. Their life kinda sucks and it doesn’t really change by the end, other than they are accepting of the sucky life they are living. Fair enough. I think that is real. The key is to embrace what you have and accept it for what it is and be grateful for the good stuff, because life isn’t all bad. It isn’t. There are awesome snippets of time that make up for all the crap we deal with. It’s a shame we have to deal with anything but that is what makes us smart. That is why I like reading these books. I like learning from other people’s choices. Not that I always agree with what they do, I think my moral code plays a role into these scenarios, but sometimes learning what NOT to do is just as valuable. And sometimes being a victim of circumstance all you can do is cope. I have been lucky – although luck might not be the word I am looking for. Karma has been fairly kind to me. I have done things I am not proud of, but the outcome has been the best possible scenario I could hope for…well, I hope for more but am satisfied with what I have.

 

 

 

Then I read books like The Book Thief. I am not through the whole thing yet but I suspect the family is harboring Jews during Nazi Germany. The young girl is fostered by

 

Cover of "The Book Thief"
Cover of The Book Thief

 

this family and, well, I foresee bad things. It is WWII after all and life wasn’t great then. A great insight to civilians living through WWII in both Germany and England is Life After Life. It gave me a sad, yet vivid perspective of what life must  have been like. The Book Thief is different, it is narrated by Death himself and he seems like an okay fella. I don’t fear death like I did when I was younger but reading about death has become a bit of a theme for me. I am fascinated about it and how people handle it. Perhaps it is because it surrounds me more frequently than it did when I was younger and living with a tumour makes me face it head on. Wrapping up all my personal endings for ‘just in case’.

 

At any rate, I am feeling the moods of the characters I read about. I love that about books. I love how real these characters feel to me. I know I will love Hans long after the Book Thief is over and I will think of him often, just like I think of my Grandpa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now what do I do?

Canada
Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

Sometimes I hear words spouted from people’s mouths and think… wow you aren’t the person I thought you were.

I am struggling with cultural values lately. Maybe it has more to do with society’s lack of empathy for others. It is happening at work, with friends and at home.  It very possibly could be me and I am not seeing the whole picture, but suddenly I am feeling like a minority in the way I think. This has happened to me before when I lived in Yellowknife, North West Territories.

I was 6. I was in Mrs. Long’s grade one class. I believe we were the only grade only class but I could be mistaken…I was 6 afterall. I was often one of only a handful of kids who went to school regularly – The aboriginal population would take their children off to the bush and hunt for long periods of time. That left 4 of us in class some days. Me, Maria, Admira (who was MEAN and stole stuff) and Doug – he would eat all the crayons left out. I remember hearing the teachers (who were primarily white middle class from southern Canada) talk about the aboriginal kids and if only the parents would send their kids to school on a regular basis, what a difference it would make to their future…. hmmm would it?

I hear myself saying the same thing in my classroom. This child needs to come to school everyday, what a difference it would make!

Sure it would. They would be able to speak English, have that advantage when learning to read, absorb my values that I deem important. Yikes… Who am I to say what this child needs? I like to think my values are typically Canadian. Girls can grow up and own property, vote, have a say in their lives. Girls should be able to run and laugh without having to worry what the boys might think. It feels like I have to fight for women’s rights all over again when all those women who came before me did a decent job…clearly it wasn’t enough.

I sat in my quite living room with my family last night talking about traveling to Eastern Europe. We talked about visiting Auschwitz in Poland. I want my children to learn about cultural oppression and feel its wrath and wrongness. A comment came up about the horrible feeling going back to Germany. Wait a minute…what? I need to educate my family on the difference between Nazis and Germans. I am German. I did not contribute to the Holocaust. I am helping the fight against wrong doing but teaching what happened to my children. I hear phrases like, how could they do that? Who the Germans or the Nazis? We don’t know what they were thinking being in that position. We can only learn from it and not do it ourselves.

Here I am in the 21st century, starting to feel like I am losing my cultural heritage and feeling helpless because the laws and policies of today are allowing freedoms of others and forcing me to be sympathetic to them…yet no one is seeing that I need the same consideration. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of political correctness while the wolves are being crafty and taking advantage of the good natured Canadians. It makes me want to leave. But where do I go?

Karmic payback for thousands of years? OR do I just not get it?

We Aren’t Lost! We Just Don’t Know Where We Are Going!

Today was one of those days where “out to lunch” had several meanings. We eventually went out to lunch for a well deserved break. My colleague drove with me on the way to the restaurant. She mentioned to me that traveling outside of Canada had never happened for her, but it was something she was eager to do. That got me thinking about how fortunate I really am. I have been all over the world, seen amazing things and had unbelievable experiences. One of those experiences was looking for a campsite in Europe with our trusty GPS Phoebe. This was one of those times where “Wild Goose Chase” would have been more productive than the tour she took the Muppets on.

We had left the Black Forest and planned to stay one more night in Germany exploring the area around the French Border. Phoebe, in her Infinite limited wisdom, led us to a campsite that had just closed for the season. Fair enough, we were travelling during “off-season” but this was the first time we had encountered a closed campsite. We punched in new coordinates and off we went again in search of a camp spot for the evening. She led us down a country road, that turned into a village, that turned into a town, that stopped in someones driveway. Clearly this was not a campsite. Okay Muppets, fear not! We shall just try again! Entered in new coordinates and off we went again! Around the corner, up the hill, past a sports field and into…a closed for the season campsite! Swell. Again, we repeated new coordinates, and we were off! This time we just kept driving until the road stopped. Just like Phoebe told us too. No road left, just a ferry. A Ferry?!?! Knowing if we crossed the river we would be out of Germany. We had no choice, the Muppets were getting hungry, it was getting late, we needed to find a place for the night. None of us were too keen on parking on the side of the road for the night, we were willing to do it if we had too but, out first choice was a camp spot. Onward we traveled. Drove onto the Ferry deck, stayed inside and across the river we sailed.

Before we knew it, we were in France. The architecture was still very similar to Germany, but now the signs were new. Being Canadian, we are exposed more frequently to French then German, not that our merry band of Muppets could understand it any better, it did look familiar. Phoebe seemed to know where she was taking us, so we let her lead. Up another road she took us. There it was. ANOTHER CLOSED CAMP SITE! That was the last straw. My mother, hopped out of the front seat, grabbed a PAPER map and started looking. Then she realized where she was.

A month earlier, the two Lead Muppets and Mrs. Statler had arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. They drove to Obernai France and camped for the night. Mom knew where she was and saved the day! She led us to the very same camp spot they stayed earlier in the trip. Best news of all, it was OPEN!

Dinner time! We had FINALLY eaten the last of the Schnitzel for lunch and decided we needed a change. Franks and beans it was. just so you know, my mother is one of the best cooks you would ever have the good fortune to meet. Franks and beans is NOT her usual fair, but it was dark, Muppets were hungry and we were thrilled it wasn’t Schnitzel. Over dinner the Lead Muppets shared stories of their last visit to Obernai, claiming the younger Muppets would love the charm just as much as the previous villages we had visited. We then discovered, the next day was market day in Obernai! We had yet to visit a market. Everyone settled down for sleep that night, tingling with anticipation of visiting the market. The Caravan was buzzing with excitement. Come to think of it, the excitement may have been due to the fact it was the last night in the Caravan for the Muppets. The following night would be spent in a hotel, in a bed that was the correct length for Honey and myself, AND there would be a shower in our room and not down the block to be shared with 100’s of fellow campers! Either was, we were excited about what the next day would bring. We were not disappointed!

We found parking and walked through yet more donkey cart sized streets. The vendors were just setting up for the day. We had expected a dozen or so stalls filled with farm grown food. That was indeed there. But there was everything you could possible imagine! Mushrooms to Mattresses, Vegetables to Violets, Brand name clothes to Beniets, anything you could think of, it was available! There wasn’t just one street filled with market stalls, there were several streets, people filled the square and lined the street looking at things to purchase. The Church bells sounded to signal the start of the market and people filled the streets.

Once again we had stumbled upon the most amazing adventure. Purely by accident. Thanks for not being so helpful Phoebe, and thanks for being in complete control mom!

A Plumbing Museum? I Can’t Wait!

I am willing to bet the majority of you have no idea there is a plumbing museum in Germany. I KNOW! I can just hear your excitement building as you realize this may be the topic of this blog entry. Fear not, the only one who is faintly disappointed is Honey.

We left the Camping Platz with the knowledge that Chatterbox must have a cuckcoo clock before we left the Black Forest. That was the mission of the day, the Muppets were all on high alert in search of a cuckcoo clock shop. It was very important for several reason, 1> she would not stop talking about how important it was to her 2> did I mention we wanted to stop hearing about how important it was to her?

The first stop of the day was early morning around 9:00 AM. We entered into a little village called Schiltach. Charming little place that was filled with steep hills and gingerbread type cottages. We would find our way through the cobblestone streets to discover tour bus and caravan parking was a gazillion miles away from the village square. Fair enough, out we would go for a walk. The charm of the place was adorable. We came to the village water well, where we imagined women fetching water to bring home. Behind the well was an outdoor cafe! We all desired a beverage on the crisp morning. Pots of chocolate for everyone, except two elder Muppets, their beverage of choice was coffee. There was something so quaint and very European about sipping our hot beverages at a table that stood in the middle of a cobblestone square.

This was when I heard Honey exclaim, “LOOK AT THAT SIGN!”

Huh, it was a blue tourist sign that read “Hansgrohe”. What was the big deal about Hansgrohe? For those of you that don’t know, my Honey works in the plumbing industry – no he isn’t a plumber but is handy with a leaky faucet. Apparently we were at the Head Quarters for the amazing shower-head company. Not that I knew how amazing these shower heads were, because you know the old adage “the cobbler’s wife has no shoes”. Yes, that is me with not a fancy shower-head in the house. Best part of all? THERE WAS A MUSEUM! Off ran Honey and Genetic Offspring to the museum, they would meet up with us later. The rest of the Muppet Crew decided to pass on that particular adventure. To his incredible disappointment, the place was close. Awwwww. He did thrill us with tales of the size and scope of the place, then he talked about other fascinating bits but my mind wandered off at this point. I did try to listen, I really did, but I just don’t understand the inner workings of hardware. Sorry Honey.

Time to move on! We had other places to see. Yes we were still in search of a cuckcoo clock shop for Chatterbox. Next stop Vogsbauerhof the Black Forest Open Air Museum. We had no idea what an open air museum was. Fresh air was a special thing here? No, lots of it was around. Curiosity go the better of us so away we went. We saw a VW Beetle with big red balls on top. We weren’t sure what those were, I suspect cherries but if any of you know, please tell me! We found the place to be very similar to Fort Edmonton or other outdoor museums we had visited back home in Canada. It struck me that farming and pioneering efforts in the past 500 years hadn’t changed much. Not much to see here people, keep moving!

Then it happened. The Cuckcoo Clock Shop was spotted! Slamming of the brakes followed by the Muppets running across the street leaving the driver in a cloud of dust. We had found the very place that Chatterbox had desired. Honey, of course made friends with the owner Adolf Herr and invited him to visit us. Genetic Offspring was looking to buy beer-steins for all his friends but settled on hats. Honey bought a blown-glass Christmas Ornament in the very place that is famous for them. The rest of us thought we would save our cash for Paris. My mom informed me this was the very place we had been to years before when I was 10. The very shop where I had purchased my own Cockcoo Clock that had proceeded to annoy me for years to come.

Now Chatterbox owns one that annoys us all.

When we got home, I was presented with a Hansgrohe Shower-Head, and it is awesome.

European Deportation was Imminent had Duct Tape not Saved the Day

The Merry Band of Muppets arrived in Germany in one piece, barely. It had nothing to do with the speed traveling down the Autobahn, it had nothing to do with eating Ikea 5 star cuisine, nor did it have anything to do with being kidnapped by my neighbor‘s cousin’s sister.

We almost ran out of duct tape.

My dad is a genius, not the Wiley E. Coyote kind, a real honest to goodness one. Or he is just an experienced traveler. I vote for genius because Christmas is coming and I want to remind him I am his favorite daughter. (thank me later Dad!) Mom and Dad brought Mrs. Statler to Europe 2 months before the rest of the Muppets showed up. My sister arrived to travel around with them a short time later. Then our Muppet Cast showed up. The important thing to remember is, my family is filled with seasoned travelers. We each have a “just in case” case. In Dad’s is a mega roll of Duct Tape.

Duct Tape is not the prettiest form of adhesive in spite of the fashionable colours. Dad likes to think of himself as a well dressed man, just like Johnny Cash, so Black Duct Tape was his colour of choice.

When we arrived in Paris, we were greeted by my mom at the arrivals gate, we were shuffled in to the Caravan as it screeched to a halt. We quickly jumped in and sat at the table beside Mrs. Statler. I looked around the tiny space that was to be our home for the next week and I noticed black squares of duct tape placed in a random patterns all over the inside of the caravan. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need too. I knew I was traveling with the senior section of the Muppet Cast of Characters. For some unknown reason, things always run amuck.  Between you and me, I believe it has everything to do with the caravan being made of cardboard and string, and nothing that has any barring on the Senior Muppets.

By the time we reached Germany, every cupboard and drawer in that place was broken. The cargo net on the upper bunk, broken. The pull-out steps to escape the caravan, broken. The Fridge Door, broken. Dad’s Camera, broken. Main window shade, broken. Duct Tape fixed everything. Including holding the batteries inside Dad’s camera. Even Phoebe needed to be taped to the dashboard. When we arrived at Bacharat in Germany, the roll was nearly empty. We had discussions around the need to secure more, but in the end, we decided to have a little faith.

In the end we did indeed have enough. Dad went home with a very tiny piece of duct tape.

When in Doubt, Hang on Tight!

Have you ever driven you vehicle and came across a sign that made you question why you were there or what the sign meant in the first place? I did, the entire time we were in Germany. I am not talking about the language. For some unknown reason, I can read German and pick out enough words to figure out the meaning. I was either a reader of German Literature in another life, or I am a genius. I am going with genius.

After the Muppets had their fill of meatballs from Ikea, we loaded back into the Caravan and headed for the Rhineland in Germany. My Dad handed Honey the keys and said “you drive for a while”. WOW! This meant I got a break from boomerang fish, singing chickens, and Fozzy’s knock knock jokes because I could Navigate! Remember I had packed my “just in case” case before I left. In it was our trusted GPS Phoebe. We call her Phoebs for short. She isn’t too bright, she likes to think she is in control, she prefers the Autobahn and she talks too much, but mostly I liked her company and was very happy she joined us on the trip.

Let it be known I prefer country roads. It gives me a better sense of the country of origin’s culture. Motorways and Cities seem to be the same all over the world, fast, large and loud. Apparently Phoebe likes fast. She must have been in consultations with my mom earlier in the day. Mom and informed us over breakfast that this was to be a driving day. Great! I couldn’t wait to get to Germany! The route Phoebe took us on was straight and fast. But the signs were puzzling. Dad had given us some advice before his nap, he said “if you see a windsock sign, whatever you do, HANG ON TIGHT!” Sure, sure dad…whatever you say. How bad could it be? We weren’t near the Alps, we weren’t very high up. No problem, right? HA! We came to a bridge on the Autobahn that was so high up, I could not see the ground below. It span was wide and there were windscreens on the bridge itself. Phoebe was having a great time going as fast as possible, while Honey and I said, “Zoinks Scoob!” (not really but this is a family blog). We held on for dear life! Obviously we made it safely to the other side, but it was nerve racking and a very exciting! I am a prairie girl from Canada, this kind of speed and height is just not a common occurrence!

Phoebe brought us straight to Baden-Baden, showing us a few signs that were new to us:

As we were driving lightning fast down the Autobahn, we thought we were travelling in circles because all roads lead to Ausfahrt.

Of course we figured out that meant EXIT! So maybe I wasn’t a genius after all, but now I know more today then I did yesterday!