Doing what I want, for a change…

Old Braunfels, my old band, on the streets of Munich

That headline was supposed to grab you, and I hope it worked. Having a small child, a relatively new marriage, grad school, clients and an active private life on top of all of that is utterly exhausting sometimes.

All the time, if I’m prepared to be open and candid. Which opens a whole can of worms when I deal with Germans and social media.

They don’t typically like it.

Sure, you can point to Susanne Plassmann or others who have taken to it like a duck to water, but most Germans I know? Privacy is much preferred to self promotion, and they are typically sceptical of such ego-driven tomfoolery.

What does that say about me and Susanne that we like it so much? I’m just not going to go there, but I’ll simply say that she and I are more alike than you’d think. We met when I was observing a Flirting auf Deutsch class, or at least I think that’s what it was.

It was a Mother’s Day about 7 or 8 years ago, and as a result, none of her students showed up. It’s not that my German’s perfect, so I could’ve just as easily had a private lesson. Instead we did something much more fascinating.

We talked about the birds and the bees and how German and English native speakers approach and date each other.

As I’ve often said, Susanne is my favourite actor in Munich. Does it help that I know her? Sure. We’ve got history, but that doesn’t change that I can be objective, despite my subjectivity (the friendship).

Back to what I want to do, though. Because my time is much more limited these days, there are literally weeks where I don’t even tough my guitar ’til the weekend. It’s inconceivable to me that my life has come to this, but there you have it.

I’ve resolved to focus most on the things which bring me the most rewards, and I don’t mean only financial ones. While I love my work, and my school work especially, it’s not the only thing. Even when it seems like it.

A little bit of music during the week is my new goal. Check back with me in a few weeks or months and see how I’m doing. As always, comments below are welcomed.

How do you balance the different responsibilities you’ve got in life with the things that bring you the most joy? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know.

Tell me another story about baseball…oh, the humanity

Everytime I go to a conference, storytelling is a forum people are attracted to. It’s a human condition. Our brains shut off if you feed me too much theory, but if you tell me a story? I’m all ears.

Both in our private lives & in business, storytelling is a powerful tool. We know this.

Teaching about baseball in a Cultural Studies class

When I had one of my first Cultural Studies courses, which focused on presenting Anglo-American culture to German students, I decided to try to give them a taste of my America by talking about my love for the Chicago Cubs.

Few Europeans can get into this weird antiquated game that such a small segment of society understands, or even wants to. How to present it to them, when they have little or no context?

My approach was to tell them about my relationship with my nana, who instilled her values in me while we were watching our nightly Cubs game.

The students, who neither cared about the rules or the history of this curious game, could find a connection with the relationship with my grandmother.

We all have grandparents, no matter how good or bad our relationship with them is. In many cases, our parents’ parents are the easier, more gentle family member compared to our own mothers or fathers.

Not always, but I think you get my point.

These students of mine were kids, or young adults, and they knew next to nothing about the rules of baseball, even after my brilliant presentation.

It was certainly to be expected. I’d not even bothered getting into the weeds of explaining something like a sacrifice fly or a suicide squeeze. It wasn’t as useful as talking about a relationship.

My nana was isolated out on her ranch, but she still had her Cubbies. They’d entertain her nearly nightly through the summer & early autumn. When they lose their last game, there’s always next year.

These are even baseball sayings that make me nostalgic for those times with my family, but particularly with my nana. Sometimes you lose, but how do you deal with it?

You get up off the grass, with stains on your uniform, shake off the dirt, and tell yourself there’s always tomorrow.

Like life.

When we were at my nana’s memorial, my niece Amelia and I watched a game in the hotel room. It wasn’t lost on me the parallels.

Now, when I’m here in Germany, I call my brother Michael and ask what his family’s up to. He tells me the family’s watching a playoff game.

My nana’s love of baseball has been passed on to my brother’s kids. It’s cultural. No matter how many people I hear tell me baseball is so slow and boring, I know better.

That’s how storytelling works, though. You needn’t know the particulars like the rules to get the point of the story.

My family carries on its traditions by how we spend our time together. Anyone can relate to that.

Right?

(Not losing my mind)Drive train gone getting on the A95

A view from the Road…not sure if this is Italy or Germany, though

Here’s a day in the life of Yours Truly (aka @lahikmajoe):

Was driving toward Krailling, which is a little village just outside of Munich not far from Lake Starnberg, with my car full of musical instruments for a rehearsal and my computer for a meeting with a client, when my car stopped driving.

Not even kidding.

The motor was still running, but it just wouldn’t drive. And here I was on the A95. Damn!

What do I do now?‘ I heard myself asking.

Who was I talking to?

The universe?

Myself?

The gods of traffic and or broken down cars?

There must be a patron saint of such a thing, but I must’ve missed that day in Sunday School.

Resolved to get this blog (my miscellaneous blog) back off the ground a few weeks ago, because I’ve got clients who don’t understand, yet, the benefit of creating fresh content. That means I’ve got to actually practise what I’m preaching.

Here’s some current content, which only serves one purpose. For every ten posts, it’s good to mostly focus on your readers or followers or whatever you want to call them. However, it’s also important to show your personal side.

People want to do business, or even just interact, with other people they like. It’s that simple.

What happened to me and the car on the side of the Autobahn? Had it towed not once but twice thanks to the bureaucracy of the German automobile association, what’s called ADAC.

Was I frustrated? Yes, that’d be an understatement. Did it work out in the end? Yes, that too.

Here’s my message:

When you’re building an online community, you decide how much of yourself you want to share. It’s completely in your hands. Can people comment on your material? Yes, but you can alter your settings, like I have, to only allow the comments to be published that you think are appropriate.

It’s a tool, this blog. You’ve got to spend time with a tool before you can really understand how it works. If you’re my client, I’ll help you understand your options. That’s what I do.

Getting canned & walking away

a photo I took six years back while walking the Camino

Here’s an update to let all of you know what’s been going on here, but because I’ve been gone so long…many of you will only read this after the fact. Way after the fact, if my readership numbers don’t lie.

What have I been doing, you ask? Well, that’s a funny question. Or answer, to be more specific.

I’ve been walking away. Saying no. Turning down work.

Because I’ve got too much to do?

Yes and no.

I started grad school since we last spoke. My kid turned three. Yes, three.

And oh…I lost another job.

You heard that right. I had a job for six months, and when I should’ve been transitioning from my probationary period to my contract, I found out how one gets canned in Germany. Sacked, fired, asked to leave…we’ve got plenty of ways to describe such a thing in English.

It was enlightening, I assure you.

Was I at fault? Yes, definitely. Well, sort of.

Were they at fault? When it happened I thought so. However, with distance I see their perspective better. Much clearer.

I wasn’t the right sort of employee for them, which was hell on my ego. But I could deal with it. Eventually.

Okay, maybe not. It’s been a rough ride, to say the least. So, what’d I do? My wife asked me that, and I answered, ‘Nothing. I’m not going to do anything.‘ Literally. I was so angry about how the job ended, that the thought of working for someone else again just made me angrier.

It was then I decided to walk. I’d been on the Camino de Santiago in Spain a few times for a week or two the first time and then only a few days with my mother the second. I’d always heard you should do your pilgrimage from home.

Well, home is Munich which means I got a new pack and started walking towards Santiago. For a month. With stops and starts, because after the first few weeks, I needed to be home for my daughter’s birthday.

Why am I telling you all of this anyway?

My personal blog has always been a tool for me. When my mother was still alive, I liked it that she could read about my experiences living here in this city that she had loved living in, and it still tickles me that she’d leave personal notes in the comments that a more technologically adept person would put in a text message or what have you.

In the coming months, I’ve resolved to post here more regularly and try to build my readership again, like what I had when I was blogging about tea. If you like what you’re reading, please comment here on the blog.

If you want me to write about something in particular, let me know. I’m happy to oblige, within reason.

Please help me grow this thing by interacting with me. I assure you it’ll be quite a ride. It always is, isn’t it?

Walking the Camino to Lindau first…

The shell symbol can be found all over Europe. It leads the pilgrim towards Santiago de Compostela.

So I’m packed and ready to do my second preparation day for the big day. At first I thought I might leave either Thursday or Saturday, but my wife informed me this afternoon when I returned from a decent 15 km walk that she’s planning on me leaving Thursday. Looks like that’s the big day, after all.

At first I’m walking through Andechs towards Lindau. It’s roughly a 2-hour drive there, so I’m curious how different it might be to take a week hoofing it.

I’m getting so many responses over on feckbook to this deal, while Insta? Not so much. If I were a better Social Media Marketer, perhaps I’d have an answer for why. Instead, I’m just posting lots of photos and whatnot. Let’s see what arouses interest.

If you’re on either above-mentioned platforms, please make a comment here first, if possible. It helps my numbers, for one thing, and it’s good to see lively discussion in the comments. I’ll be trying all the tricks to get you to respond both here and over on those social media sites.

In case I’ve not said it recently, thanks for your support. If all you’ve done is come to feckbook and said, ‘I wish I could do sucha thing,’ that’s enough. For now.

If you’ve liked my photos on Instagram, awesome.

Later, I’ll hit you up to buy the book. Or the audio book. Or the pamphlet. Who knows what might come of this Camino lark this time round. Stay tuned!

Forza Italia

The prodigy & her dog

Another year gone & here we are in Italy. Again. Its where we summer.

Our daughter is now talking. You should hear her say, ‘Please’ & ‘Thank you.’ Today she even started saying, ‘Grazie’ and it made my heart melt a little.

Here we are in the land of Forza Italia. The country where people ask you how you are & how you’ve been…when they ask, they truly mean it.

The villagers saw her when she was a wee pup. They smile & coo. She smiles back.

Somehow even though Germany is where she was born, this is her home. It’s where her mama feels most alive.

You could say it was the food or the wine. You might tell the story of our little corner of Liguria. You would turn blue in the face if you tried to list all of this place’s attributes.

And ultimately you’d never quite get to the point. The whole story.

Forza Italia. European Champions. We love your passion. We’ll miss you in our rear view mirror. But not yet.

A few more weeks of homemade pasta. Excellent coffee. And always leave room for dessert.

Don’t even get me started on the dessert.

12 June is Loving Day and I can’t stop thinking about Jungle Fever

www.instagram.com/p/CBU5ZyWqiAD/

My friend Billy up in Berlin posted early in the day over on Instagram about a significant anniversary of the landmark case Loving v. Virginia, and I’ve posted the link above for two reasons. One is he sums it up succinctly and even provides a link if you want to read/learn more.

The other reason is that you should be following @DharmaAddict over there anyway. He’s an inspiration on a lot of levels. Truly.

I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the Supreme Court in the U.S., so even though I know about the case and the aftermath and the fact that it was cited in the case that eventually paved the way for gay marriage in all the states, I can imagine that’s not all common knowledge.

So many stories today are about our institutions failing us, so I love to remember sometimes things turn out right. Of course that’s my perspective, and I spend a lot of time online trying to stay above the fray. Try to engage with people I don’t necessarily agree with and be an open-minded and teachable person.

All those things coming from this son of a recently-deceased rather liberal Christian mother, so you’ll forgive me if I’m also writing in her honour as I try to get these thoughts out right.

Civil Rights are a sticky and uncomfortable subject, especially these days, and love is particularly hard to talk about. I’ve been watching the news stateside and for the most part I’ve tried to wait until tempers cooled before wading into any such topic. Enough people have said anglos should just listen for a while, and I heeded the warning. I’ve listened. I’m still listening.

However, it’s no accident that a white woman and black man marrying was somehow more palatable in those tense days in the late 60s. I’m not questioning that this ruling was landbreaking, but my resolution after listening as long as I could was and is to share honestly and from my heart about racial issues.

Although I was raised in a race conscious home, like many white kids my age I’ve learned a lot by being a Spike Lee fan. I’ll go into it another time how Do the Right Thing made an impact on me, but I’d rather talk about Jungle Fever here.

A black man and a white woman being together had been lynching material for generations, and that Lee was willing to confront the topic wasn’t lost on me. I went into the cinema knowing I’d be jostled. Knowing I’d be facing some of my own prejudices.

That’s how I look at my own racism, you know? Despite how woke or evolved I might think I am, my belief is that until I face my own racism – my own personal struggle with this insidious learned white supremacy – until I see that I’m unintentionally part of the problem, then I can’t truly understand where my well-meaning brothers and sisters might be coming from.

I don’t think I can fully explore such a topic in such a blogpost, but I can say I walked out of the cinema suitably upset that Wesley Snipes’ character had been unjustly treated. I’m purposely not giving a synopsis or even a nuanced review of the rest of the film. Not my point.

My point is that the film opened my eyes to something I’d only vaguely thought about. Love, especially romantic love, is such an essential human emotion, and the film made me think about how unfair it’d be if I loved someone of a different colour, but then I couldn’t express it. Express that truth in myself. Share it with even my family or the outside world.

It was a seed. It’d been planted. I’d already been pretty open on the topic, so it’s not like I had some Saul to Paul moment. Yet this piece of art had gotten me to really feel for this man. How he had to struggle with all the conflicting emotions of a man loving a woman, but with the added burden of racial discrimination. It hurt for me to imagine it and this was on top of all the other ways I’d already sympathised with my black brothers, and now? Now my understanding was deeper.

Perhaps more nuanced. Perhaps just more authentic. Not even sure anymore.

While I was listening this week to all the noise on all sides of the political spectrum, I vowed to myself that I’d share personally. Honestly. About my own struggle. About how I’m showing up to honour my friends, who happen to be black.

Yet that truly is my privilege. I get that. I knew it, but it’s even in more starker contrast now.

It’s hard to believe there was a time when Mildred couldn’t marry her bethrothed Richard just because of the colour of their skin. My mom would point out how far we’ve come. She’d quickly say we’ve still got a long way to go. She’d be right.

I’ll say a little prayer tonight for the couple in Virginia who were finally allowed to express their love for each other openly and legally. One of gratitude that that arc of history is, in fact, bending toward equality for all.

Thank you, dear Lovings. If you see Mother Martha up there, tell her we’re sure you’d all get along. That’s if she’s not already found you herself.