Only three quarters of the way through my daughter’s first year and already I recognise the error of my ways. At least the original idea that I’d do a moomyblog but from a dude’s perspective is just dead in the water.
The first few months were simply too exhausting. Before she was born, I had this romantic picture of sitting down to chronicle her development, as well as mine, in between feedings and the demands of daily life. I’m sure others have done such a thing and are still doing so, but it turns out documenting her development is done in starts and stops.
The other major development is that the best advice I got has become my mantra about the whole experience. My sister-in-law recommended a book written by a highly-regarded childrearing expert, and the greatest takeaway for me was:
There’s no other child quite like this one and you’re just going to have to figure yours out in your own time and in your own way.
Of course there are milestones that every baby seemingly reaches in a prescribed time. Nearly every new parent I’ve talked to has made it through this existential trial by fire with a constant question in mind, ‘Wait, is this next thing normal? How exactly am I supposed to deal with this situation?‘
However, the swirl of things that need to get done and the biological necessities that get in the way of sitting down and pontificating on bigger questions make the days long and the months short.
She’s waking up as I type this, and her impatient whimpers are my cue. I’ve been trying to find the universal in this and keep being led back to the particular of my perspective. My daughter makes me both wonder how everybody made it through infancy and simultaneously marvel at how her jaunty manner appears to have been the only possible way for her.
Another carnival ride like nothing I could’ve imagined.
Watching baseball in the middle of the night with a newborn in one arm and scattered thoughts running through my brain, I’m reaching for a decent explanation of why my digital scrawling is worthy of your (or even my) attention.
For the last several years I haven’t bothered sharing my life’s minutiae, as I did when social media was a shiny novelty. Periodically, I’d amble over to twitter or google+, before the latter was finally given up for dead, and like old times I’d try to mix just the right quip with an uploaded photo of my lunch. Or some attempt at a clever observation that easily washed by in the stream of my followers’ feeds.
Even ridiculous terms such as Twitter followers and the idea of my once having been mayor of Rotkreutzplatz on 4square, makes it abundantly clear to me that accusations of this all being pretentious nonsense was closer to home than I liked to face.
What changed? The easy answer is the above mentioned infant. Major life changes normally coincide with an assessment of one’s behavior, and a baby can easily be considered both a logistical as well as philosophical shift.
Somebody recently told me you don’t truly know German culture until you watch your kid go through the Teutonic educational system. As with most thing related to raising children, my first reaction is that some people take this whole parenting ordeal gravely seriously. It’s understandable, and perhaps this will finally be that life alteration which makes me grow up and approach at least one area of my existence with some maturity.
Hopefully not too much, though.
My second reaction, you ask? After I’ve let the observation settle and considered it came from someone who’s been here in Germany as long as I have, has teenage children and clearly speaks from experience.
Do I really want to know this culture better? Wouldn’t I rather continue to go off half cocked? Isn’t it easier to knowingly shake my head and mutter, ‘Damned Krauts,’ when I run into something that perplexes me?
Oh by the way, the baby’s been fed and has drifted back off to sleep. My second favorite baseball team is up a few runs in the fourth inning in Boston, and I’d like to get back to watching this game.
Relaunching this blogging lark with a whimper in the night. Anyone out there listening?
‘All the way from Germany, yes. I saw you got a hamster. A hamster named Alexander, right? Let me tell you about the history of the domesticated hamster,‘ I started to mansplain to my second oldest niece.
‘Got it covered, Uncle BK. Check out one of my recent YouTube videos,‘ she chirped.
Recently came across the term ‘nomophobia‘ and it couldn’t have entered my vocabulary at a more opportune moment. That feeling when you’ve made it out the door, but something just isn’t quite right. You know you must’ve forgotten something, yet you just can’t put your finger on it. Then suddenly you realise, ‘Where’s my phone?‘
That’s what nomophobia is: no + mo(bile) + phobia. Fear of not having your mobile phone. Some of you are predictably thinking, ‘Has it really come to this?‘ The easy answer is yes. Yes, it has.
On that note, I have a story for you. For quite a few, it won’t sound like all that big a deal. I’m already predicting rolling of the eyes and poorly stifled sighs. Say what you want, for me it was a horror story. One moment everything was fine. It was a beautiful sunny day in Bavaria, and I was walking through the streets with a spring in my step.
Somehow it was almost cinematic the way it unfolded. Wish I could say a black cloud darkened the sky or a menacing bird entered the frame, but in reality there was nothing that could have foretold what would happen next. Instead it was a film in which the absence of trouble made you all the more uncomfortable.
Now that I look back on it, I can say something was definitely about to happen, but that’s unquestionably a matter of seeing it in retrospect. Instead, it came out of nowhere. One minute I had my phone in my hand, and suddenly time slowed to a crawl. As if a scene that could only have been created with CGI effects, I could see my phone with its pristine screen fly out of my hands and take on a life of its own.
Through the air it flew, the music swelled to a crescendo and then BAM. It slammed to the ground and right at that moment time returned to normal. The screen was covered in a spiderweb of cracked glass. There was no amount of wishing that was going to turn time back and make this one right again. If it was a car, you’d say it was totalled. The screen, at least. The phone itself seemed fine.
Luckily, there’s a place in downtown Munich that replaces phone screens while you wait. Yet that’s where the second part of the horror story comes in. The woman at the shop said I’d have to be without my phone for an hour and a half. No sweat, right? Easier said than done.
Another exercise in the fluidity of time occurred at this point. I stumbled out into the late afternoon sunlight and looked ahead at the vast expanse of time in which I’d have to interact with the world in analog. Just me and the street and all its goings on. I had a camera in my bag, but what use was that to me if I couldn’t immediately share the photo on just one of a variety of platforms? Wish I could say that was a rhetorical question, but it was a genuine conundrum in that moment.
Self reflective, I could certainly chuckle at myself and think back to a time when most of us weren’t carrying mini computers in our pockets. As easily as I could laugh at myself, it was still quite an uncomfortable position to be in. The hands on the clock of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) at the Marienplatz were barely moving as the tourists stared up oblivious to my plight.
It’d been only ten minutes since I’d left the repair shop, but I was tempted to ask a Japanese woman with a selfie stick if I could commandeer her phone for a few moments. This was ridiculous. Calmly, I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I could get through this.
Remembering countless inspirational talks about the reframing of a seemingly overwhelming situation, I resolved to see this as a unique opportunity. Free of my shackles, from this new perspective I could savour a newfound independence. For a little more than an hour, my time was all mine. No one could interrupt my thoughts or demand my time.
All of a sudden, I was like one of those ‘simplify your life‘ articles in which my existence was magically transformed by simply eschewing some form of technology that made the rest of us slaves to the machine. Looking ahead, I imagined writing this text about the myriad inspirations and epiphanies I would encounter in this new caveman life in which I was immersed.
I wish I could say that my visions sped up time or made all of it more bearable. Sadly, it wasn’t the case. Some time in a nice café with a copy of the local paper, which kept me wonderful company, was my saving grace. Oh, and the last thing I did before relinquishing my mobile to the screen doctors who calmed me by assuring they’d ‘make it all better’ was to text a friend where I was going to be for the next hour or so.
She met me there, I set the paper down, we looked into each other’s eyes like people in old movies used to do and then we had a conversation. Just like that. It was pure decadence.
This isn’t a horror story, after all. Got the phone back, of course, and sent a few messages assuring folk that I was still among the living. Happy ending, right? Well, more than you might think. A few times since then, I’ve just left the phone at home.
Can’t you just see me? Walking in the park with the dogs? Like a genuine person. Somehow I think the Information Superhighway will survive me taking the off ramp more regularly. Believe it or not, I can’t wait.
Suppose I could blame the full moon. Or the pots full of tea I drank before I should’ve gone to bed. Maybe even the fistfuls of chocolate I was shoving in my gob at some point hours ago.
Yet whatever the reason, here I am up in the night not even trying to fall asleep. It’s even past the Witching Hour, whatever that is.
Friends in Australia were just waking up as I sat down and started writing earlier in the evening. They kept me company virtually as I shot off an email to a list of my regular readers, and for the most part they went about their day. A few night owls here in my timezone were up in the night with me, but I’m assuming all of them went off to dreamland long ago.
There are still plenty of my people stateside who’re still awake and have taken turns chatting away while they go about their Saturday evening. Some on the East Coast are holed up for this year’s annual Blizzard of the Century, while others strewn across other parts of the America look on smugly at how mild winter is for them…at least in comparison.
I’m staring at the moon and enjoying the sleepiness that’s finally creeping upon me. There are so many old photos saved on my hard drive that I could easily go through the archives and find plenty of visual content with having to produce anything new for a good long while.
That’s how this blogpost started, incidentally. Not that it’s such surprise, is it? Start with a photo and see where your thoughts take you. There are certainly more creative ways to come up with content. However, for this early morning with an evening of reflection already behind me – this is how it has to be.
Well aware that this isn’t the best photo I have of Ella and Louis, I’m bit pressed for time. See, it’s their birthday and I’ve been rattling on about these exquisite hounds via social media and responding to queries about them from people who haven’t been following them for years. Which is hard to believe if you think about it.
Numerous people have told me they started reading my stuff only after getting pulled in by images of those two red dogs.
If I wrote a blogpost about them every time they touched my heart, this would be a blog devoted entirely to the smart one and her less than bright brother. That’s all I’d talk about, and there could even be a number of you who’d prefer that anyway.
Here’s the thing, though: how do you get across just how important these two are to me? How might I adequately express why I get choked up at the thought of anything happening to either one of them? The people who are already nuts about dogs already get it. I could write this for them, and they’d nod their heads and insist this is a perfectly reasonable passion for nonhuman beings.
That’s too easy for the likes of me. Instead, I’d love to find the right words to even win over those who shake their heads and say, ‘Why would anyone devote so much time and attention to such creatures? It’s just a dog, after all.‘
Just a dog? I know. Why would I want to reach such a person in the first place? Good point. I often say to myself that these two give so much more than they take. Once again, that’s only going to make sense to the already converted. Preaching to the proverbial choir, as it were.
I even want to persuade cat people about these two. I know, I’m mad. Truly off my rocker.
So, Ella’s sitting behind me as I sit at my desk writing about them, and she just gave me a look that said, ‘You see the irony of blathering on about how much you love us, but here we are NOT GOING OUTSIDE, which is all we really want. You do see that, right?‘
Yes, Ella. I get it. It’s time to go out. Has been for a while.
For those of you who see a photo of Ella and Louis and insist that you want MOAR photos in addition to the one I just shared, today’s for you too. I’ll stumble over to other platforms and do some unrepentant spreading of the canine adoration.
Happy Eleventh Birthday, you two. There’s a celebratory Schweinsohr in it for you.
The sky seems to have moved in closer, and the day slams shut so much earlier. Knowing that sundown is creeping towards us makes me want to pack as much into those depleting moments of sunlight.
The leaves that are left are somehow racing to the ground now – they pile up and make their annual bed. I kick them relentlessly and swear to myself that I’ve never enjoyed autumn as much as I have this time around. If I allowed myself, I’d just hold my photo-taking devices out in front of me the entire time I was out there. As if it were my first digital camera. Or even more preposterous: as if I’d never before seen the these changes of seasons.
On these days, I’m like one of my dogs when it comes to going outside. I imagine the keys rattle and remember I promised myself a walk. I accompany me down the stairs and out into the crisp air and say repeatedly, ‘No need to take a photo of every single thing. You’ve captured that exact shot again and again and again.‘
Most of the time I can keep walking and stay focused on the moment. Most of the time.
In German this season is called Herbst, which is a fine word. It rhymes with ‘flair‘ or ‘stare‘, which seems entirely fitting from my vantage point. So often I hear people whinging about the passing of warmer weather. Remembering how rainy fall days can be, they simultaneously dread the long cold days of winter.
While I can intellectually comprehend what they’re talking about, I feel increasingly foreign in their company. I see the words form on their lips, but my thoughts are meandering outside into the already decaying foliage. My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth.
“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
[Letter to Miss Eliot, Oct. 1, 1841]
This text was shared with me by one of my favourite people, who I only know via social media. She knows I adore autumn, and sent this excerpt of a letter along to me. Thanks Shirley!
I used to go into bookstores demanding to know why George Eliot wasn’t shelved in the Women’s Writers section – luckily, I think having such a section in a bookstore was a trend that came & went years ago. Now her & other women’s literature is thankfully shelved with everyone else’s.
It’s a bit odd that the above-mentioned letter is known to have been written to Eliot, but the author of the letter was curiously left out. It’s a fantastic text, though. That someone thought of me when she read that means I must be doing something right.