Dear Santa, define naughty

In German, the word here you might not know is ‘ungezogen’

We royally screwed up both our German & our American Christmases. It turned out alright in the end, but my plan was to use this as a dress rehearsal for the real show.

Our kid is only a year old, so although she understands ripping gifts from their wrapping which she got a lot of practise doing the last few days, the whole Christkind (Christ child) &/or Santa Claus bringing presents is still a foreign concept.

She’s small. She’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

So, was she naughty? Not exactly. She has developed a taste for refined sugar that she didn’t have before.

The other day, Miriam & I resolved to give her less sugar than she’s been mainlining during Xmas. Meanwhile, what was she doing?

Our daughter was in her crib silently planning how to obtain more sugar.

Define ‘naughty’.

God bless our dentist. She’ll have extra work now that we’re all three addicted to the stuff.

Oh well. Life goes on.

Happy second day of Christmas!

Oversharing & who’s reading anyway? Go back to your family in the other room…

Miriam, der Günter, the progeny & myself

Having been informed I overshare, I’ve decided to observe myself & perhaps modify my behaviour. The time between the years, as I’ve heard this post Christmas until Epiphany period referred to, is ideal for assessing such a situation.

How one lives one’s life is rarely easy to modify, but before you even get there, an honest appraisal of the situation is necessary. Although it’d be easy to chalk it up to cultural differences or what have you, how much one shares and what one shares about in social media might be a private choice, but the result can turn into quite the public spectacle.

We’ve had a lot of loss this year. If you’ve not been following our serial, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Miriam’s mom passed in July & while it’s been devastating to lose her so quickly & unexpectedly, at the same time it’s been inspiring to see her husband/Miriam’s father manage the memorial and his life without her.

This geezer was married to her just over 50 years & had to learn everything in the household from scratch. Watching him washing his clothes & keeping plants alive & even maintaining the cleanliness of his bathroom is a marvel. Not an exaggeration – this guy’s inspired me.

Then a few months back, I lost my dog. If I’m really blunt, Ella wasn’t the easiest with Miriam. Especially in comparison to her brother Louis, who completely adored my new wife and all of her ways.

The way Miriam loved & respected Ella, even in the face of this dog’s reticence, says everything about my wife’s character. It’s of course a grieving process, so I’ll likely be oversharing here about missing Ella. It’s kind of the point.

Which comes to the hardest one. Miriam & I got some bad news just before Christmas. It’s private & I’ve resolved not to go into detail, but let’s just say it was tough & on top of all the other difficulties this year, it felt like another hammer blow at the end of a Mahler symphony. The analogy is quite fitting, but I’m not going to say anymore.

If you see Miriam in real life or communicate with her online, please be gentle. I’m one to talk, to be candid. I should take my own damned advice.

As I regularly say here, hold your loved ones close & try to savour the time you have together. You never know what’s coming next, but mortality is always lurking in the shadows.

Merry Christmas all of you wonderful people. If you’re still reading, I’m touched that people want to know what I’ve got to say.

If you’re not reading? Well, you’re ok too. Who am I to judge?

break bread like you mean it

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This was taken when I was sitting across from my mom at the café across from the Durham Cathedral and the Durham Castle. I’ve been meaning to write more about the particulars of this trip. There was so much we saw and did. You’d be surprised how well Fafa gets around.

The card that says, ‘Its all my parents fault,’ often makes me laugh.

It’s meant to be ironical folks. I blame my parents for very little. I used to, but eventually realised it was a waste of time. At some point one has to simply grow up.

You know what I blame my parents for? How decent I turned out. What a stand up guy I am? That’s Martha Frances and Bill Auvenshine’s doing.

I learned from my dad that you can show up for life. Even when you don’t feel like it. He was the kind of person who was there when he said he was coming. Actually, he was regularly early. And if I was late? It was ok. He had a book to read.

Time was fluid with him. As long as he was punctual, that’s all that mattered.

From my mom? What’d I learn?

You really want to know?

I learned and still learn from her that it’s never too late. Never. Forgiveness is still possible. There’s still hope.

She was a widowed before my birth and a single mom with my brother Michael just a few years later.

She persevered.

Did she blame her parents? She did not.

They did the best they could. Really.

While you break bread with your family this holiday season, cut your folks some slack. They won’t always be around.

Try being grateful for a change. Would it really hurt to try a bit of gratitude?

Five things to harass the Dying

thoughts of mortality are understandable especially when one’s on a Greek island like Astypalea (photo from 2010)

Recently, I was handed a German article about five things one should or could say to the dying to help them in their journey to the afterlife.
Never to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, I’ve decided to write my own list. Here are Five things to harass the dying:
  • Remind them what they’ve done or what they did
  • Point out to them that this (their life, their family, everything good and bad that they’ve done) will eventually be forgotten
  • Whatever palliative medicine they’re receiving, take it away and no matter how they beg for it, don’t give it back
  • Invite each of their enemies over (unexpectedly) for one last little chat
  • Make as many references to your plans once the dying person is finally gone

Now, I realise this isn’t the nicest of lists, but I have one very pointed question for those of you who may or may not be offended.

Why are we trying so hard to make things easier for the dying?

Certainly, if they’ve had a good life and made some sort of peace with everyone in it, then the above list will be useless. It won’t touch them. They’re immune from my machinations.

Lucky them.

Please don’t think I’ve done any of these things on my list. I’m actually quite pleasant and caring to the people in my life who’re at death’s door. I learned quite a lot while watching my father slowly die of complications related to his diabetes.

He died six years ago last week, and lately my thoughts’ve been swirling around topics of mortality. It’s actually quite understandable.

So, what’d possess me to make such a heartless list of cruelty like the one above? What’s wrong with me?

Well, I’ve got a simple answer for you in the form of a few questions.

Why? Why should I forgive what’s been done to me? What benefit does it serve?

I know a bit about Buddhism, and I know the tenet that carrying around such bitterness is akin to taking poison. Not only am I aware of this, but I even try to practice forgiveness. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it. Most of the time.

But like an irregular French verb, there are always exceptions. And what to do with those? Aren’t there some things that’re unforgivable? I believe that the jury’s still out on that one.

the worst name he could think of

he already knows about this family

Part of the pleasure of visiting family, if you can wade through the rage and resentment that tends to ensue, are the stories you hear (to be fair, there hasn’t been much rage or resentment, but there’s still a week left – it’s not too late).

Recent stories (I live a long way away; there are some tellings of events that don’t make the intercontinental journey) and older stories. Accounts that I’ve heard many times, and then some that’re completely new to me.

Although it’s my maternal grandmother who recently died, it was my mother’s father’s family that we talked about a lot. The stories are plentiful. I figured I could blog about something important going on in the world, or I could tell you a funny family story. I’ve chosen to go with the latter.

I’ll just let my mother tell the story. In her words and all that.

‘Aunt Helen (my grandfather’s oldest sister) married Roger (name redacted). He would later go into the navy, but at that time he had no job.

As a result, the newlyweds lived with her parents, who still had four younger sons living at home. 

So here was the deal: Grandpa loathed Roger (name redacted) so much (thought he was no good) that he called him ‘Cedric‘.

Why ‘Cedric‘?

Because it was the worst name he could think of.’

Apologies to anyone called Cedric.