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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Adventures in Germany, part 3

To make up for my a) latte-less and b) story-less entry today, I've hunted up another adventure I wrote home about when I lived in Germany. This happened in March/April, after my ill-fated drive to French Ikea as well as my ill-fated morning cigarette adventure in which I was locked out on the balcony for hours:

On Tuesday I did something very stupid.

It was a lovely day, spring was coming, the sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon was packing Kate up in the car and go for a drive in the breathtaking countryside that I found myself living in Southwest Germany. This day, I thought it would be nice to go for a drive in the nearby mountains of the Black Forest. While it was starting to warm up, it was not really warm enough to walk, so go for a drive we did.  I went up the twisty, narrow road of the mountain until there was snow on the road and then I decided to go back. On the way back, I turned down a different road, just wanting to explore, you know? I got about 100 metres down the steep track before I realized I was on a walking trail, not a motorized vehicle road. In my defence, there were tire tracks on the road and I didn't read German well enough to understand the sign that read, "NUR WANDERWEG FAHRT VERBOTEN" (Walking trail only, driving prohibited).

Unfortunately it was too narrow to turn around so I kept going. I got to the castle ruins near Oberkirch and in front of me there was a grassy knoll that was just a mite too steep for my crappy family VW wagon to get over. I was able to turn back around at this point because the pathway had widened, but the only course of action I had before me was to go back. Ironic when you think about it.  Going up the walking path proved much worse than going down because my descent had caused the spring mud to get churned up and cause deep, sticky ruts in the path. I just could not make it up that hill to the paved road beyond.

Starting to panic just a tiny bit, I decided that I would drive BACKWARDS the way I had come, back towards the castle because the path at this point was too narrow to turn around. I had mountain on one side and complete abyss on the other. All I could see was forest, going down forever.

I calmed my heart and began to drive backwards. But then, and this is where I just want to kill myself over my own stupidity, the path widened JUST ENOUGH that I brilliantly thought I could turn around. Yup. I got stuck in the mud. And I'm not talking like, stuck in that I couldn't go backward or forward because my tires were too deeply immersed in the mud. I'm talking perpen-fucking-dicular to the pathway stuck. Not even kidding.

Nooooo, no, no, no, no, no what the fuck did I just do? I sat in the driver's seat staring at the wall of mountain in front of me and I started to cry. There was no way I was getting out of this one by myself to blithely return home with a cheery, "Hello! How was your day? Guess what happened to me!" I felt like Gretel with a car and a baby in the back seat. I was going to die out here in the Black Forest. I pictured myself surviving on the land and eating bark and I full out began to freak the fuck out. If you have ever met me, you know I would last three hours before perishing in the wild. And what kind of wildlife lives in the Black Forest anyway? Are there bears? Was I going to get eaten? Was Kate going to die a horrible death of starvation and being eaten because her mother was a fucking idiot?

Resigned to my fate, I got out of the car to take a look at what I had done. The front of the car was wedged into mountain. Like, a fucking mountain. What the fuck? The back of the car was deep in mud and resting about three feet from a cliff of oblivion. You could say there was not a lot of wiggle room here. So, I did what any normal human being would do. I tried digging my way out. Ten minutes later, I was sweating, swearing and covered head to foot in mud. And the car was just as stuck as when I started.

So I tried shouting (read: screaming) for help. No dice. Not a soul for miles. Where the fuck was I anyway? Had I fallen into some weird, cursed story where Kate and I were the only two human beings left on the planet? Finally, I got poor, sleeping Kate out of the car and half ran, half stumbled up the path, crying, cursing, and calling for help. She, of course, woke with a start when I shouted and was soon crying and screaming herself. I got about half way up the path when I realized a) I was scaring the crap out of my kid and needed to calm down, b) I was about a kilometre from the castle ruins where there were always people at the café so it wasn't like the car would be forever stuck in the mud and I would die in the woods of the Black Forest, clinging to my child and c) I was going the wrong way on the path if I wanted to go to the castle.

So, cooler heads do prevail in these situations and I turned around, heading for the ruins, instead of the lodge I'd seen further up the path (which turned out only to be a resting/eating area for hikers anyway) and managed to get Kate talking about her little friend Manny and how we would play with him just as soon as we got home and how Daddy would be at home waiting for us and how everything was going to be JUST FINE. We arrived at the castle about 15 minutes later, Kate on my shoulders chatting away about how she was going to hug and kiss Manny and how the car was STUCK and how FINE everything would be, "Fine, Mama! Mama HANDS! Dirty!"

I would like to describe to you the looks of horror on the faces of the patrons and the employees of the café that is nestled into the side of the mountain near the Shauenburg Ruines of Oberkirch when I arrived, sweating, covered in mud with a toddler on my shoulders, but I don't think I'm quite up for the task.

I talked to the bartender and she found a nice little, old lady who spoke passable English and when she heard my story, she repeated it to everyone there (much to my equal parts relief and horror) and a man came forward and said he had a Jeep and would pull me out. He didn't speak much English, but he, Kate and I walked together back to the car. He taught me "Eine moment, Bitte" for when I was too out of breathe to keep our quick pace going and generally was very jokey and encouraging to me, which was sweet and quite calming. He said, "Don't worry, it's ok and be happy! Be happy! Alles klar" He also said, "Ah, so this, this is Schwarzwald, Black Forest. You know, like Hansel and Gretel, you are lost in the Schwarzwald. Welcome to the Black Forest!!" and guffawed loudly, but good-naturedly. How the fuck did he know I was thinking about Gretel?

He stopped short when he saw my car wedged between a rock and hard place, turned and just LOOKED at me. No words needed. The older couple who had interpreted for me in the first place came up the path and helped communicate to me that the man would now run back to the castle and call the towing company. No Jeep was getting me out of this one. They also just looked at the car to me and back to the car. No words needed.

I thought it was a translating mistake, but he really did run back, after a few jokes about getting the army or maybe the marines to come help me. The older couple continued up the path after saying goodbye and maybe it was just a trick of the echoes in the mountains, but I'm pretty sure they were laughing hysterically at me as they walked on. So I waited by the car, which Kate was now safely ensconced in and I smoked. I was leaning on the car, smoking, in fact, when another hiker came by with her dog. Where were all these walkers when I was screaming for help and envisioning dying in the woods with my innocent daughter?

She started speaking German to me and I asked if she spoke English and she said, "No, well, a little, yes, you know, this is not for cars, only walkers, you must drive up the hill to the road and go that way, this is only for walking, not driving"

Thank you. Very. Fucking. Much.

I smiled sweetly, laughed and said, "Oh ja, I realize this NOW, unfortunately too late, ha ha ha!"

The irony was my car was stuck only about 200 meters from the road I was originally on, but damned if I could get to it. After waiting for about twenty minutes, that lovely man actually came back for me with two more men (one from the towing company) and they managed to pull me out with the help of the tow truck. I tried to explain how I was trying to get back to the paved road above, but the car just COULD NOT make it up the hill because of the mud. My German is still quite bad, but at that point, it was basically non-existent, so I will blame the next part on them not understanding and not on the fact that they are men. I will charitably say that they simply did not understand what I was trying to explain because they then took turns acting the exactly the way men act in a situation like that by trying several times to make it up the hill anyway. It took a few defeated attempts but they finally resigned themselves to driving both the towing vehicle and my car BACKWARDS one kilometer to the castle before we were able to turn around, race up one last steep hill and onto blessed asphalt.

Our friend Marco is now calling me Gretel and saying "Welcome to the Black Forest Gretel!" and laughing loudly at me every chance he gets.

Yes, I do wonder why these things always happen to me...

The Daily Chai and Queen of the Land of Passive Aggressivia

I haven't left the house today so I don't have a Chai latte to tell you about. Sad. Anyone want to help a girl out?

Someone pointed out to me yesterday that my blog posts are a passive aggressive way to communicate via electronic media. To that I say, yes indeedy! Sorry about that. But I like to write and I haven't for a long time. My need for expression these days has been coming out in unhealthy ways and my hope is that my posts will balance me and give me an outlet to be healthier in my everyday life. I can't guarantee they will always be entertaining, but I do so like to make you laugh, so I hope during my rants, my nonsense and my general batshit crazy girl outpourings that you occasionally chuckle and don't take anything too personally. My opinions are my own and they are based on stories I hear from people and my own experiences. If you think I'm talking about you...I might be, but I'll never tell. If something rings true to you that just means I've done my job and connected with you in this harsh, cruel world. Not a bad thing, when you think about it.

I have a whole, glorious weekend to myself in which I have not made any plans except to get drunk tonight with my friend. For a girl who is constantly moving and planning, I find this refreshing. The downside is that I don't have anything funny to write about. Maybe tomorrow, in my hangover haze, I will have some stories to tell ;)

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Daily Chai and People Who Suck at Texting

Today's grande Chai Latte is a little too hot and my tongue was scalded with the first sip. There is also too much milk compared to chai favouring. Where is my personal barista who knows how I like it when I need her? 

Don't mind me, I'm trying to invoke the spoiled, rich girl persona of a latte drinker. Sadly, I don't really have a personal barista

Clearly I did not properly heed this warning:

So...people suck at texting. Not everyone. Some people are awesome and I have whole friendships carried out through texting conversations. Which sounds sad, but in today's busy world, it's a good way to stay in touch.  Sometimes a quick text to ask a question or say "Hey, I'm thinking of you" is more manageable than an entire phone conversation. I get that. I do it all the time. I love that I can tell someone I care about that they've been on my mind with one quick text. No strings attached, no reply needed. I also appreciate getting those texts. And I appreciate the people who understand that I do not have time right this second to talk on the phone because I'm driving (I'm ALWAYS FUCKING DRIVING these days) or because Anna is asking me about her poo and Kate wants a snack.   

However, not every conversation can be carried on over text, especially when people leave conversations for days on end with no explanation. Don't misunderstand me, some texts just do not need a response and that's fine. Or you just haven't had time to even read the text, let alone form a proper response, also fine. We are all busy and we all have those days where we just want to crawl into bed and ignore the world and sleep for a week.  But when you are in the middle of a conversation and you decide you're done, a simple "I don't want to talk about this anymore, let's talk tomorrow" would work. Total radio silence in the middle of a conversation with no explanation drives me absolutely insane. It's rude. It's like hanging up on someone. Remember being so fucking furious with your boyfriend that you hung up on him? Remember how pissed off it made him? Same fucking thing. So if your intention is to piss people off, go for it, ignore that text. 

If you are bad at texting, I've included a few examples of conversations that should not be carried on over text: matters of the heart, announcing someone's death, breaking up, firing someone or letting someone know you just got married. 

So here is a brilliant concept to avoid those texting faux pas...make a phone call. I do not really like talking on the phone anymore. Which is weird when I remember the hours I used to spend talking to my 300 very best friends in the entire world. But some conversations just deserve a phone call. I'm guilty of this as well...don't worry, I'm lambasting myself as heavily as all the rest of you sinners. 

My bestie and I talk on an almost daily basis via text but it works for us because we work together and get face time occasionally at work. And we make plans to see each other as often as our busy schedules allow. But our friendship grew and blossomed because we are awesome at texting each other. It's a great way to share ideas and get to know each other, but if you don't have that essential, intuitive understanding between you, you're not going to "get" each other over text either. Plus, like I said, as much as I love those silly text convos to catch up with each other, we wouldn't be as close if we didn't see each other in person. I love her face and her laugh, she is my sister and my best friend. Text cannot convey those things. 

I recently went out for a beer with a good friend and she shook her head when I told her about some of my texting complaints and the complaints I've heard from others. Her response was, "The next relationship I have, I will make it a rule that there will be no texting." I'm not sure I myself could abide by that rule, but maybe there needs to be a "one phone call a day" rule to your significant other. Just to touch base. To hear their voice. Because honestly...if you don't want to talk to them, maybe that is a warning that you don't want to be with them either. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Daily Chai and the Power of Dance

Today's grande Chai Latte is perfect. Spicy, not too milky, hot and delicious. The only thing that would make it better would be an inutile bacon wrapped Canadian maple donut, but I have a feeling that is a whole different blog post. 

Feeling nostalgic and to soothe my soul last night, I downloaded Pink Flyod's The Wall (remastered for iTunes!). When I was a teenager, I would play the CD on repeat every night to fall asleep. I realized last night that I must have been more crazy as a teenager because as the strident chords of Goodbye Cruel World came out of my phone, I thought, I will never fall asleep to this. I remember this being much more peaceful and calming. Maybe I just played Comfortably Numb on repeat? However, the brain works in mysterious ways and suddenly it was 2:00 a.m. and Pink was lamenting about Vera Lynn and wondering what had become of her. I sat bolt upright in bed, rummaged like a drunken sophomore for my phone on my bedside table and turned the music off. Enough Pink Floyd for one night. Dammit, I just realized I had it on shuffle. I think most people will agree that you can't listen to the epic story of The Wall on shuffle. Just isn't done. 

The girls and I like to listen to music in the morning at breakfast and dance or sing (loudly and tunelessly) along. I don't play kids' music though, it's usually top forty type of stuff (they are currently crazy for Taylor Swift's Blank Space). Today, for a change of pace, I quietly put The Wall back on and hummed along while I made sandwiches for lunch. Anna came over to to me with her arms in the air, did a spin and asked me if that was ballet. 
"Yes, pretty much. You got it sister." (I can hear the dancers howling with indignation). 
Says Kate, "Not really Anna. Here, I'll show you. Mom, does she die at the end of Swan Lake or does she just fall asleep?"
"She dies."
"Oh. Ok. So Anna, we're going to pretend she goes to sleep because it's inappropriate for you to pretend to be dead. So. You come out on the stage on your tiptoes with you hands over your head, spin three times and then fall gently to the floor, asleep. That's the entire play, okay? Let's practice. "
And practice they did. To the completely inappropriate, but classic Run Like Hell. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Daily Chai and Dealing with Disappointment

Today's grande chai latte tasted pretty good but sadly was not hot enough so I drank it in about five seconds which meant all the foam got left over and had to be eaten like whipped cream with a spoon. Fortunately, I like whipped cream so today was a good chai day. I liked it a latte. Did you see what I did there?

On to philosophical matters. I wrote recently that I've come to a crossroads. I took the left pathway and it's been a bit rocky. I've debated how much of this I can write about here as I have funny ideas about publishing deeply personal stories. On the other hand, a blog is just that, a public diary of sorts where others might find comfort in identifying with my struggles or laughing at my embarrassing mishaps. 

So here goes: four months ago, after months and possibly years of inner turmoil and debate, I decided I had to end my marriage. It wasn't a decision I came to lightly, but once it was made, I couldn't turn back. It was like trying to believe in Santa Claus again, once you know the big man doesn't exist, you can't retrieve that wonderment back into your soul. I wasn't in love with my husband anymore and we were both deeply unhappy with our lives, both together and as individuals. There is a lot of resentment and bitterness on my side that I work on every day to resolve. It's hard to be with someone for that long and not have those negative feelings build up when you are both shitty at communicating. Most of the time I was suffocating with words unsaid and I felt like I was drowning. You tell yourself that this is life, that this is marriage and it has its ups and downs. No one is perfect and as many beefs as I had with my partner, I know he had the same amount with me. So you let things go, you soldier on, you hope things will get better, you have good days together and you tell yourself that bad patch is finally past. Until the next time you are up all night crying and wishing for the strength to say you want a divorce. The thing is with those white nights, everything looks better in the morning. So you soldier on. You make school lunches, you help with homework, you count the minutes to bedtime, you look for the positive and suppress the negative. You compartmentalize until all the bad feelings are safely put away in the file folders of your brain, marked "Do not read." You tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself to keep going. 

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but caring for the man I shared 17 years of my life with, who I created the loveliest human beings with. I don't look at our marriage ending as a failure but as a journey that has come to an end. It's a sad end and there have been many tears in both sides about it, but what's the use of hanging on to something that no longer makes you happy? That, in fact, makes you unhappy? I look at the future as a bright possibility where we can both have the chance to begin something good, healthy and whole. Someone once told me that the easiest path isn't always the best one and that the harder the path, the better the rewards. That all this will be worthwhile. I hold on to that thought every day. And I soldier on. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Daily Chai and Sex Ed

Today's chai latte was a grande and there was a little too much milk compared to the chai but the temperature was perfect. Hot, milky chai just scalding my mouth and throat a wee bit as I sucked that puppy back. 

So now that you know how my chai was I'm going to rant about people who don't want sexual education in the classroom. Sex is just another word for reproduction which is what the human body was built to do (if you choose to use your body to reproduce). The human body was also built with a heart that makes your blood flow, muscles that make you move, eyes that make you see and ears that make you listen. These are all natural functions of the human body, just like sex. There is nothing wrong with teaching children how the human body works, in fact, understanding your body and how it works is essential for a healthy, long life. That includes understanding sex and how sex can affect your health, both mental and physical. 

The changes children endure during puberty are also natural functions of the human body but they can be scary and unnerving if you don't understand what's happening. Some parents just can't talk to their kids about it and I get that. I freaked out a little when my oldest started growing boobs at the age of seven. And, when I told her how babies were made not that long ago (she is 8, for the record, and knew babies grow in mummy's uterus, but how the baby got in there was still a mystery until one fine day...) it was a pretty squirmy and uncomfortable conversation on both sides, I'm not going to lie.  But now she knows and can ask me questions about it. It's up to me to help her get through the emotions and confusion she might feel when she starts going down that path. And I'll tell you, as much as I'd like to take a shotgun to the first guy that touches her, she WILL go down that path one day. Am I going to send her along with no knowledge and watch her crash and burn? No, I'm going to educate her to help her make good choices when she walks it. 

Let's be clear. Teaching children about puberty and sex is not a gateway to promiscuity. I can guarantee you, without even looking at the curriculum, that teachers aren't going to be giving your children tips on how to pick up at the local nightclub. They will be teaching them how their natural bodies function and what to expect over the next several years from puberty. 

Some of you might say, "But wait! They are too young for this knowledge!" Sad to say, studies show that girls are developing breasts and getting their periods much sooner than when we were young. Someone I know recently told me her daughter's classmate got her period at the age of seven. Was she too young to get her period for the first time? Probably, but if she'd been taught at school at the age of six that this is how the human body works and why, she would have been better prepared to deal with it. 

So my point is this, if you are uncomfortable with sex ed in the classroom, get over it and accept that this is a natural process that we all need to know about. Talk to your kids openly and honestly about sex. The classroom is going to teach them the mechanics of all this stuff but it's up to you to prepare them for the emotion that comes with sex. Do you want your son to sleep around, breaking hearts? Do you want your daughter to "give it up" to a boy that tells her she's pretty? Probably not. You know yourself the complexity of a sexual relationship, educate your kids so they are ready to take that on and deal with it with brave and kind hearts. The classroom is only going to tell them how it works, it's up to you to give your child the emotional support to make good choices. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Daily Chai and the Beginning of Something Profound

Today's Chai Latte was a grande. It was the perfect temperature so that I was able to drink it in normal gulps instead of baby sips that burn my tongue. The chai to milk ratio was also perfect. All in all, a good chai day. 

Having reported my daily chai, here is my philosophical thought for the day. 

Contrary to popular belief, the most dangerous animal in the world is not the lion, the tiger or even the elephant, but rather a shark, riding on an elephant's back just trampling and eating everything they see. 

Crap. That was One of Jack Handy's Deep Thoughts. Better luck tomorrow.