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The Struggle is Real

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The Struggle is Real

In 2016 my daughter went through an intense hand sanitizer phase, it was sandwiched between the days of making her own slime and travel soccer. She was not alone, all of her tween BFFs were afflicted with the same disease, a hallmark of the middle school years for girls.

Such a carefree time when my biggest concern was….can they actually get drunk from smelling this sh*t? How many hours can 5 tween girls spend in Bath & Body Works? Why am I the only mom schlepping these girls to the mall? What is a reasonable amount of hand sanitizer and is that affected by the buy 12/get 82 free sale? So many questions as we navigated our way through the days of olfactory overload.

Fast forward four years and now that once annoying and inconvenient phase has gifted us with a plethora of outdated and funky smelling gel. I haven’t seen traditional hand sanitizer in any store for over two months. My supplies are dwindling so I had to put on my mom jeans and raid the leftover stash from my daughter who has since moved on to grunge, goth and her two faves Brian May & Gordon Ramsay. If you have a tween or teen daughter, chances are you have a similar stash if you didn’t get all Marie Kondo and throw them out three years ago like a responsible parent, tsk, tsk.

If you do have a stash on hand of the 2016 Bath & Body Works Collection, please allow me to provide a little guidance. Here’s a review of the three bottles of hand sanitizer that I “borrowed” from my daughter’s room earlier today.

Chill Out

Sage advice B & B W. The bottle features a penguin wearing a grass skirt on a beach with a palm tree. That would be a nice place to chill out. Trying to sort out what part of the world this penguin is from, perhaps the Galapagos?

Anyhow, the scent (inhales deeply while holding the canister in my right hand, the left hand flutters in an upward motion).…it smells like a pina colada with strong notes of Axe deodorant. That’s a brilliant move by the marketing department – 98% of the male middle school population wore Axe deodorant in 2016. Bravo!

ISLAND *MARG*ARITA

WTAF B & B W. This bottle has a boozy looking drink on it with a partial white face with blondish hair which looks Trumpian. I think someone in the marketing department may have gotten a contact high from all the product. The median age of your hand sanitizer demographic in 2016 was 11 years and 7 months. Are they supposed to drink this sh*t or are trying to sort out which parents aren’t paying attention to their kids purchases and then question their decisions 4 years after the fact. Touche, sorry I got side tracked.

The scent is (inhales once again, same hand motions)….tough to dissect this one, it’s complicated. There is a hint of lime with a suggestion of future bad decisions and a twinge of vomit. Well played marketing, well played.

The Struggle is Real

This bottle features what I can only guess is an ice cream container with a spoon. The ambiguity of the artwork is a good call since your customer can fill in the blanks – is it an ice cream container or cookie dough, what’s your comfort food of choice? And really it’s never too early to introduce emotional eating is it? It has become clear to me that you are casting a wider net then I originally anticipated. Perhaps you went into this venture hoping to appeal to tweens and their boozy and/or mildly depressed moms. Sure it was a reach but I do appreciate the effort. Whispers…my comfort food is Milk Duds.

Last time, inhales deeply (forget the hand motions, who are we fooling this stuff all smells the same)….ah…this is a familiar scent…Hawaiian Tropic Sunscreen and wait….ah yes, the tears & sweat found only in a middle school gym locker room. You’ve out done yourself with this one. You have the perfect formula for happy scent with a dash of realism. I suspect the adult version of this replaces the gym locker room scents with something like unrealized dreams and cortisol.

The struggle is real, it sure f^cking is.

No Net

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No Net

I haven’t wanted to write for months. I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with the enormity of this situation. I force myself to do the self care things that have helped  me to remain sober for more than 36 years…I eat well, exercise, start my day with gratitude, pray…yet, I find myself fighting that gravitational pull. That invisible, powerful force that wants to take me down. I don’t want to die, I just don’t want to do anything.

Early on I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t going to Marie Kondo my way through this mess. I may get around to tidying up my desk of shame in the kitchen if the urge hits. I will not be learning a new language, sewing masks (they would suck), or (sigh) writing the great American novel (or the mediocre pandemic novel).

I’m shadowboxing depression and my usual moves are tired, weak.

I go through the motions anyway, a weird automatic setting that kicks in like a worn out, haggard looking Stepford Wife. I feed my family (a seemingly endless loop of meals), I do the laundry, I get my ass outside to walk, I check in on my elderly clients and my mom, try to find the humor…I’m struggling, I mean, aren’t we all?

Mind you, I have no reason to complain. I live in a spacious house with people that are not abusive or threatening. Sure we get on each other’s nerves but I’m not in danger here. My awareness that other people do not have a safe space haunts me. Women are getting beaten by abusive partners, children live in fear of their parents, many people are hungry, cold and without adequate shelter and I feel powerless.

I worry about marginalized people, the ones that were barely making it before the virus. Minorities afraid to wear masks in public because that may be more dangerous then not wearing one…people living on the street, those scraping by paycheck to paycheck, the uninsured, the ones with no safety net whatsoever…I used to be a member of that club.

It sounds great to call grocery store workers heroes. The truth is most of them work to survive, they don’t want to stock shelves, run the register or listen to you bitch about a lack of mangoes, they don’t have a viable alternative. They prefer to live indoors with electricity and running water.

Prior to this sh*t storm it was not unusual for me to be at several grocery/specialty stores in a week, sometimes several in a day. I would take my elderly clients out food shopping, to the butcher, etc, then I would go shopping for my family. If someone wanted the Brooklyn Bread, I would drive 15 minutes to that store….croissants, no problem, 12 minutes in the opposite direction. Need Italian cookies (the real ones with an almond base and pignoli nuts), I know a place (stated in a NY accent with exaggerated hand gestures). Back in the carefree days of early March, I was the step & fetch it gal for my family for each whim and craving. That horse has left the barn and in the immortal words of Ke$ha, I ain’t coming back.

Tik Tok Bitches

By the second week of March I realized that exposing myself to multiple stores in different geographic areas was high risk. So I hunkered down to one local store, once a week (or less) and made due with what I could get. I also shop for my mother and my elderly clients, I look like a hoarder whenever I go. I tried the online shopping with dismal results so this is my new normal.

I happen to know one of the workers at my store. Lindsay (not her real name) is a friend of a friend. Sadly our mutual friend passed away a few years ago and I was the one that broke the news to her. We have bonded over our grief and are on friendly terms. I always look for her when I shop, let’s face it, that’s pretty much the only real life social interaction I get outside of my home.

I was shopping two Fridays before Easter, April 3rd. My intention was to get enough for three households to make it past Easter. It was a monster order. My large cart was overflowing and I required two carts to get everything to my car. Lindsay bagged my groceries and helped me take groceries to my car that day. I was careful, I had a mask on even though it wasn’t required yet. I have a habit of bringing hand sanitizer in my pocket when I go into the store so I can put it on before I touch my door handles. I took those precautions.

As we were loading my car, Lindsay talked about wanting a mask. I happened to have an extra one in my car. Nothing exotic, just a basic dust mask. A different friend of a friend gifted me with a 4 pack of them about a month ago. I offered one to Lindsay and she accepted with gratitude. That was the last time I saw Lindsay face to face.

On April 15th I got a Facebook message from Lindsay. I commented that I missed her in the store when I went on April 14th. Turns out Lindsay and her partner both tested positive for COVID 19, they were 8 days into isolation. She didn’t go into too many details just that it was awful and scary. I offered to shop for them, cook, anything…she declined said they were covered for now.

I haven’t heard from her in a week.

 

 

If you have the means and feel inclined, I urge you to donate to the charity of your choice during this time. Here are links to two charities that are dear to me –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can We Just Keep This Platonic?

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Can We Just Keep This Platonic?

Hi friends – Happy Whatever the hell you celebrate! Blanche reminded me that it’s been a while since she’s been mentioned in the blog (diva). I’ve been spending a lot of quality time in a recliner since my surgery in November. Lately I’ve had to reserve my reclining time as it has become a popular place (I’m getting to you Blanche, relax).

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Blanche being annoyed. Is it just me or does she radiate a stupid human vibe here…

I used to look at recliners and think “old people chair (ugly)”. A few years ago we got one for my Father In-law and this recliner has all the bells and whistles. Sadly my FIL passed away a couple of years ago and we hid the ugly chair in a garage until we prepared for my surgery. Then the ugly old people chair made it’s way into the family room (and our hearts).

It’s still ugly but it’s also useful and a bit decadent. It has a remote control to move the chair up and down and not just the unfolding foot section. This gal will take you up to a standing position. As if that’s not enough it also has heat and massage, a girl could get used to this (and a girl has gotten use to it).

The first few weeks of ACDF recovery I spent a lot of quality time in this chair. I slept in it the first few nights and I rested there with elevated feet and a warm backside. Blanche was respectful during this time, giving me space to heal. She was still a devoted companion and we moved her bed to be near the chair during the first couple of weeks.

Now when I sit in the chair each morning before the other humans wake, I am greeted by Blanche. My 90 pound dog has decided that it’s a 2 person – make that 1 human/1 large dog chair. I find it amazing that she waited until I was far enough in recovery to accommodate her.

Blanche: Make room I coming up.

Me: Um…, OK I wasn’t quite – OK, welcome aboard.

Blanche: Leans in to lick my face.

Me: Can we just keep this platonic?

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I wuv U.

Fed Up!

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Fed Up!

Everyone is in full on crazy mode right now. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, weather has been a complete mess for a large swath of the population and I still need to figure what to get my Brother In-law.  Since my surgery last month I have become pretty good at saying – “nope, not doing it” and Christmas is no exception.

I have gotten gifts for my kids, the hubs and my nieces and nephew…I’m just not stretching much beyond that this year. I may attempt to make biscotti, maybe not. I tried to bake something last week and it made me awful to be around. I go into a weird rage when I attempt to bake, it isn’t pretty.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the pressure, a local mom posted this picture in a Facebook Group –

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Sure, it’s all fun and games until little Timmy goes to school and starts discussing how Snowball landed on his dinner plate and it takes a few beats for his first grade teacher to realize that mom has probably been hitting the eggnog a little too hard this year. Or perhaps the offspring of this stressed out parent is observant and wonders why Snowball’s right leg is longer than his left (inquisitive little monster). Then dad has to come up with some convincing backstory on the fly about a sledding accident in 2004. I tend not to lie simply because it’s too exhausting.

It’s not just the holidays making me nuts, it’s the recovery from my ACDF. The other night I went to a women’s networking holiday party. It was great to get out and feel human again. Bonus I ate a meal that I didn’t shop for, cook, serve or clean up – that is always a plus. I got a bit panicked when it was time to leave because a snow squall had come through and I was afraid of slipping on ice and snow. My friend graciously walked me to my car as I held on to her arm (just in case). Then I had a white-knuckle ride home on black ice. I am usually excellent about driving in the snow – since the surgery I’m afraid of getting into a fender bender or skidding off the road. I’m sure this will calm down as I get further into recovery but right now I’m feeling fragile and it effects me in ways that never have before. I don’t like this new version of chicken-shit me, not one bit.

I went back to a modified work schedule a couple of weeks ago. The modifications mean I do not drive Rob and Laura around anymore, not for the foreseeable future. Instead I visit them at home, run solo errands and do some cooking for them. This has been working out except one day last week when Laura forgot I wasn’t driving them anymore. You haven’t lived until a 93 year old woman is pissed off because you won’t take her to the laundromat. Luckily a driver was coming the next day to tackle that task.

One of the new chores is to assist Rob with the spraying of the fruitcakes. I didn’t know this was a thing until about a month ago. Rob made 22 fruitcake loaves and one wreath back in November. Since then, he sprays the bounty every Wednesday. The loaves each get 5 sprays of brandy and then they are sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in an airtight container. The wreath gets about a dozen sprays. I’m fairly certain the wreath is an alcoholic, it’s a broken mess. I didn’t get the specifics but I did see the results and I explained what a smash cake is to my friends. We have deemed the boozy treat a smash wreath and that should totally be a thing.

This week was special because it was time to remove the cheesecloth. Pieces of liquored up fruit were falling off like a drunken avalanche. Rob (a non-drinker) was scooping up the bits like a kid who just busted up a Pinata. I’ve never seen a 95 year old move with such cat like reflexes. After a few fistfuls his aim was off on the spraying and the right side of my body smelled like a bar at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve. Luckily I made it home without getting pulled over. I may need to change my sobriety date.

On the plus side, I still have my sense of humor and luckily I’m not the only one….this gem popped up on Facebook the other day. I like this an unreasonable amount. Happy-whatever-you-celebrate! 80406706_1768755406589367_978716565929197568_n.jpg

 

Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

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Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

If you are a regular reader of the blog (all six of you), you may recall that I named my inner critic Ethel. I’m pretty sure we all have an inner critic, that asshole in your head that makes you second guess your life choices. Sure sometimes they make a valid point, for instance, meth is always a bad idea. Other times it’s less obvious like beating yourself up over that new bold haircut (psst…they rarely go well) or that second slice of chocolate cake.

I visualize my inner critic as an elderly prairie dog named Ethel. Ethel has bifocal glasses that lean so far down her snout they are in danger of falling off her face. She wears hand crocheted sweater vests in terrible color combinations like orange and fuchsia with a splash of brown. Her right hand is on her right hip in that universal condescending stance. Her nose is scrunched in judgement and as a means to keep those glasses from sliding off her sour face. Oh and she’s fat but we don’t discuss that because fat shaming is wrong. She wears sensible brown shoes (to match the vest) and she has a broken pen behind her left ear. That pen hasn’t worked since 1992. Anyway, this post is about a different Ethel, but wasn’t that a fun distraction.

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A nude shot of Ethel. You have to imagine the ugly sweater vest, bifocals, brown orthopedic shoes and broken pen.

Last night I stayed with an almost 92 year old lady named Ethel who prefers to be called Jane (keep UP). Her son in-law recently passed away and the family was at his wake. Ethel, I mean Jane, is one of those fun feisty nonagenarians. I didn’t have to do much except bring her food and follow her cues as to how social she wanted to be.

She’s fiercely independent and very lucid with the occasional lapse of judgement. At one point she wanted to ask her daughter about how the Thanksgiving turkey was cooked…not a great idea to call during a wake. I tried to distract her but her will won out and then she felt bad. I assured her it was fine, that the phone was likely on silent and I got the answer via text. In case you’re wondering, the bird was cooked for 14 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt wrong to ask for more details than that.

Jane gets a glass of wine promptly at 7pm, Chianti if you’re curious. After the vino my new friend started spilling family secrets. It’s amazing how much one glass of Chianti can yield, perhaps governments need to change their tactics when dealing with hostile prisoners. We’d probably get further along than we do with water boarding…but that’s an entirely different kind of post.

I will keep the family secrets in the vault but I can share one amusing tale. Jane was in Ireland on vacation with her daughter in-law (Debbie) and a friend (Ann). They were on their way to Trinity College in Dublin to see The Book of Kells exhibition.

For those that don’t know (including myself until 5 minutes ago) The Book of Kells was created around the year 800 and contains the four gospels. The emphasis of the book is on the 340 folios made from calfskin vellum. The book is primarily visual as much of the text is either truncated or erroneously repetitive. So it’s basically a fancy biblical picture book y’all! Here’s a link in case you find yourself in Dublin – The Book of Kells

On this particular trip, Jane discovered a deep dark secret about her friend Ann. Ann was (in the CIA – that’s Catholic Irish American, not the other CIA) a closet smoker. Jane caught her smoking a few times and pretended not to notice (much like I pretend not to see people I know at the grocery store).

Years earlier her other travel companion, Debbie, lost an arm to cancer. She had a prosthetic arm but it was too heavy so she usually went without it. The three of them were walking in a spread out single file line on their way to the exhibition. Debbie, the youngest, was far ahead. My new friend Jane was in the middle and Ann, the closet smoker with undiagnosed emphysema, was the caboose.

Jane: Ann if you don’t slow down….so help me God I will rip off your good arm and beat you over the head with it! Miss smokes-a-lot can’t keep up!!!

True story.

 

 

The Oh Sh*t List!

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The Oh Sh*t List!

Hello friends, I haven’t posted because things have been kind of icky and who wants to read that mess. For those that have been following along my neck surgery is next week. I went for all the pre-op tests yesterday so it feels real at this point. I haven’t been stoic about this situation but I’ve tried to keep the public bitching to a minimum. I’m struggling a bit, I suspect some of my emotions are to be expected. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything through this process but I have made some observations along the way…

I have really good friends. I’m putting together an “Oh Sh*t List” – this will house the names and phone numbers of people that have offered to drive, feed and/or shelter my kids while I’m in the hospital and during recovery. These are people that mean what they say and say what they mean…they will show up if needed. Some of them will show up even if they don’t get a call. I hope you all have friends like this in your lives, I am profoundly grateful for mine.

It isn’t just about meal prep and Muber (Moms that Uber for free) some friends are just there when you need them. Last Saturday I texted a friend around 5pm and asked her if she wanted to go see a local production of Rocky Horror at 9pm. My daughter bailed and I didn’t push it because I thought it might be inappropriate (spoiler: it was COMPLETELY inappropriate).

Me: Any chance you want to go to Rocky Horror tonight?

Lisa: Daughter Bail?

Me: Yup

Lisa: Sure. What are we wearing? Sedate Janets or wild Rockys?

Me: I don’t think I have the wardrobe for either. I can probably put together a party goer outfit…black pants/jacket, shiny shirt (maybe) and an obscene amount of makeup. What have you got?

Lisa: Corset, high heel boots, red wig?

Me: Of course! I need a wig.

An hour goes by as I frantically search through the Halloween boxes looking for anything that will pass for Rocky Horror fabulous. What I find is Thing 1 & Thing 2 toddler costumes which makes me want to smile-cry and sends me to my bedroom closet which leads to…wardrobe disappointment. I did manage to find a cool jacket I purchased in Turino, Italy in 1996 and a hat I wore last year when I went to a party as Captain Obvious.

Me: I look more steampunk middle-aged hooker than Rocky Horror party-goer.

Lisa: Sends me a picture of herself looking fabulous in a zebra inspired pimp hat, gorgeous long deep purple velvet jacket, red wig, corset and boots for days. Too much?

Me: Hells no you look awesome! I put eye shadow on with a Q-tip. I’m not fit to be in your presence.

We had a great time at the show!

 

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Another observation…your family will squeeze every drop out of you until you make them stop.

Yesterday I had to drive to Philly for my pre-admission testing. The drive wasn’t bad and I managed to score street parking which is a bargain. I walked 4 blocks to the first appointment (Cardiologist) then had to get to the remainder of my appointments another 4 blocks away. Naturally it was raining and did I mention I woke up at 2:30 that morning just for giggles. So I was tired, cranky and in considerable pain. I find it ridiculous that people need to jump through these physical hoops for medical procedures to fix an orthopedic issue. The other patients I encountered yesterday were in tremendous pain and having to navigate city blocks and multiple buildings was a lot for their worn out broken bodies. Seemed like an unnecessary obstacle course – put it all in one building preferably on the same floor, oh and GET OFF MY LAWN (just threw that in because I sound like a grumpy old lady).

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Any way after 5 hours of that nonsense I was looking forward to a nap cuddled up with my heating pad. I just got my self nestled in when I hear footsteps approaching my bedroom door…next thing I know my mother is barging into my bedroom.

Mom: Your husband told me you were resting. How are you, are you OK?

Me: I’m in agony mom, I just want to nap. I’ve been up since 2:30 this morning, long day.

Mom: Oh so it hurts, huh.

Me: Yes, yes it does. Is there something you need?

She then rattles off two things that she needs which causes me to get out of bed and go downstairs. I gave my husband strict instructions to lock all the doors from now on and set the alarm.

Naturally Rob and Laura are concerned about me and wondered how they would manage while I’m out. Super woman friend, Vickie, saved the day. She met the family and shadowed me one day this week on outings. Rob & Laura will be well cared for in my absence.

So my – Oh Shit List – is filling me with gratitude. The people I encounter in real life and my cyber friends have been very supportive. Seriously, you need these types of friends in your life.

Red, White & Blue (privilege)

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Red, White & Blue (privilege)

Red, White and Blue, the colors of Old Glory. America is such a mess right now. It takes determined concentration to not get sucked into the propaganda on either side. My country has turned into a dysfunctional family gathering where some guests have clearly been over-served and the quiet relations are hiding in the corner trying to remain invisible. Meanwhile the host is getting dinner on the table three hours late lamenting about the state of the world and how things would be so much better if we turned back the clock to 1957. Better for whom?

Precious few are willing to listen to people with a different political view because they believe their side is morally superior. There are sides now, definitive lines in the sand, us versus them, red against blue. We need to be one country again. Country before party and all that. What scares me the most though, is that this type of divisive ideology is simultaneously happening all over the world.

The colors of America’s flag represent different ideas to me now. Please know this is my version of stereotypes of extremists on each end. I know that there are rational, compassionate Republicans and Democrats. I still believe we have a lot of overlapping common ground we just need to commit to finding it.

Red (privilege) – The ability to actively and passionately care for an unborn fetus while simultaneously being OK with brown kids getting separated from their families for an undefined amount of time at border crossings. God-loving Christians who would rather spend money beefing up the military then covering entitlement programs like WIC, Welfare or Food Stamps. Who will financially support those fetuses that grow into children that need food, clothing, shelter and a stable home? While hand-wringing over the unborn, the reds turn a callous eye away from the epidemic of gun violence that claim thousands of lives each year (approximately 11,000 in 2017 according to the BBC). WWJD indeed?

White (privilege) – Imagine if President Obama made public statements encouraging Russia, Ukraine and China to dig up dirt on a political rival during a campaign. Oh what’s that, you can’t imagine a world where that’s possible. OK then, imagine if Obama was accused of a dozen or so variations of sexual assault. Better yet, switch out Obama for Trump in the infamous Access Hollywood tape and then imagine him getting elected after that…would never happen. Yes my friends that is (rich) white privilege.

Blue (privilege) – You claim to be the party of compassion, pro choice and ultimate Democracy yet you stop talking to people if they disagree with your political views. You want to rid the world of bullies and tyrants yet you go full on beast mode if someone questions your vaccination choices. Live and let live unless someone is living in a way that you find offensive. You need to give people a chance to catch up with each new iteration of socially acceptable behavior – the rules change daily. Better yet, allow space for people to have a different belief. Some religions don’t support homosexual life styles. Yeah, it’s sad. I’m here to tell you that I can eat some Chick-fil-A without being a LGBTQ hater. As Freud once said, sometimes a nugget is just a nugget, not a political statement. I can’t pull up a manifesto for each corporate conglomerate before I order lunch. Everyone is a bully if they aren’t your brand of “woke”. Full stop.

The point is there are extremists on both sides – two wings on the same bird. The bird flies better if the wings are working together. If the wings are constantly flapping in opposite directions it’s a death spiral. I’m dizzy from the constant, chaotic circling and that hard crash landing is getting closer.

I hope we can get back to a place where we place country over party. Where morals matter all the time, not just when it fits a specific narrative. I want decent, compassionate, intelligent leadership. I want well thought out policies, not impulse driven, reactionary decisions via Twitter promulgated by a constant stream of political pundits shouting over each other on red and blue networks. The people, you and me, we are the only ones that can fix this mess. The politicians sold us out decades ago, it’s all on us now.

Berlin

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Berlin

Berlin, Germany is an odd place to visit for a few hours. It’s not nearly enough time to get past the painful palpable past and reconcile that with the vibrant metropolis it is now. It was an ambitious excursion from our Baltic Sea Cruise. Once again I went with Alla Tours to be our guide.

The trip required us to be on a bus just past 7am to embark on a 3 hour ride. We stopped once for a bathroom/snack run as we made our way on the autobahn toward Germany’s capitol. Our tour guide was named – wow, I can’t remember his name. If I’m honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. He tried to be witty but the sarcasm was too heavy (even for me) and it didn’t play out well with the devastating history we were unfolding.

Our guide let’s call him, Hans, pointed out various buildings and the shopping district. There was some disappointment that most stores were closed because it was a Sunday. I didn’t mind since we wouldn’t have time to shop, plus it lightened the traffic a bit. One fun fact that Hans mentioned is that the public trees in Berlin are numbered, that way if there is an issue the person in charge of trees knows which tree to attend to. I would’ve thought Hans was joking if I didn’t see numbered placards on trees throughout the day.

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Our first stop in Berlin was to see the Berlin Wall Monument which included a Topography of Terror Exhibit. So much for getting your feet wet, dive right into the genocide of millions of innocent people. We only had 20 minutes here, 20 minutes to read how more than ten million people were exterminated and killed at war (spoiler: lots of people died in horrific ways). Twenty minutes to get a glimpse into the horrors that Poland went through and the bravery with which her citizens resisted the Nazis and the Soviet invasion. It’s a somber place.

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About five years ago I visited a woman on hospice. I was there as a volunteer, we sat for a few hours and she told me about herself, I just listened. Jadwiga was born in Poland in the 1930’s and she had a sister. She and her sister lived with their parents until they were all relocated to a camp when she was nine years old. They spent at least two years in that camp, only she and her mother survived. Her father and sister died of starvation which was sadly not uncommon in the camps. Here’s the twist that I didn’t expect, her family was Catholic. The people of Poland had Germany attacking from the east and Soviets invading from the west. Many civilians were killed immediately, many more were sent to camps or relocated to remote locations including Siberia.

Sometimes I’m stunned by how much I didn’t learn in school. Hitler viewed Polish people as inferior. His plan for Poland was to colonize it leaving some Poles to do manual labor and assist with the war effort. In an attempt to reduce the chances of a rebellion, Polish people that were seen as intellectuals or having the ability to persuade an uprising were killed – teachers, priests and members of the “leadership” class. Oops, our twenty minutes are up, time to get back on the bus. I bought a pretzel from a street vendor and we moved along. If you want to learn more here’s a link – Polish Victims of Nazi Germany

The next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous border crossing along the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to slow the defection of Eastern Germans to Western Germany. At the time, Eastern Germany was struggling under communist rule and Western Germany had much more robust economy.

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The separation of Berlin began after the collapse of Germany in 1945 when the country was divided into four zones. Each zone was headed by a superpower – American, British, French and Soviet. In 1946 the allies of the Western Zones (American, British & French) came together during a break down in reparation agreements, leaving the Soviets in the Eastern Zone. The allies wanted to build a new economy in Western Berlin, Eastern Berlin was under communism. This all played out during the Cold War (1947 – 1991).

So we basically got let out of the bus near Checkpoint Charlie and were told to be back on the bus in half an hour. It was lunchtime so we went to a cafe to find some food, we wound up at Coffee Fellows. I’m just going to out myself as someone who previously believed the stereotype that German workers are efficient, this place cured me of that. We spend 22 of our 30 minutes waiting for a smoothie and a sandwich, that left us 8 minutes to explore.

In that 8 minutes we browsed souvenir shops and street vendors who were all selling gas masks in various shapes and sizes. There was also the image of two men kissing, that image was everywhere – mugs, bags, posters, pins, magnets, t-shirts, any standard souvenir item you can conjure. Naturally I had to find out who these two men were and what the significance was…

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In October of 1979 Regis Bossu took the famous photo of Leonid Brehzhnev and Erich Honecker. Apparently the men got excited over a ten year agreement of mutual support which involved ships, machinery, fuel, along with chemical and nuclear equipment. Explosive stuff no doubt. The “Fraternal Kiss” photo inspired a painting titled – My God, Help Me to Survive this Deadly Love – by Dmitri Vrubel (1990). His painting remained on a section of the Berlin Wall until it deteriorated and was repainted in 2009.

Time’s up back on the bus. Hans kept pointing out buildings and making snide remarks about Angela Merkel. I was getting tired of the bus and my daughter was sick. We got out a few more times, once in what used to be East Berlin and then back to the western side to wander near the museums and visit a street market. Did I mention that it was a thousand degrees that day?

About 6 hours in we went to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. Hans explained that Hitler’s bunker was in that general area, he was not keen on pointing it out or directing foot traffic in that direction. The prevailing thought is that Germans did not want to commemorate or lend public space to Hitler so the bunker is inaccessible. I opted to spend my time at the Memorial and as was the case all day, there was not enough time for this sacred place.

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Back on the bus this time we were let out near the Brandenburg Gate where Ronald Reagan made his famous “Berlin Wall” speech. The gate was under significant repair so I didn’t get a decent photo. There is a placard where President Reagan stood for that famous speech. It’s also close to the German Parliament building which features a glass dome. Hans also pointed out the Victory Column, affectionately called – Chick on a Stick.

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We started making our way back to the autobahn which would lead us back to port in a mere three hours. It was an exhausting day. Berlin deserves at least a week to explore, I would have liked to get to know her better. Her history is so heavy yet I saw glimpses of whimsy and chic within the city, I hope to visit again.

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Noga Yoga

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Noga Yoga

The yoga people are getting carried away. In the past six months I’ve received approximately 1,395 spam emails trying tempt me to go to yoga. They have gotten creative in their class offerings, including:

Goat Yoga – Yoga with goats – Yay! For $40. a class, you can do an activity you hate with an animal you like that may or may not kick you or butt you with their little goat head. Petting zoos are way cheaper and they have more goats, skip the yogi middle-man.

Dog Yoga – Yoga with dogs – Yay! For $40. you can take yoga with dogs that may or may not annoy you in ways that vary from how your own dog annoys you at home. Whenever anyone dances or hugs in my house our dog rushes in like a Bouncer in club who just witnessed a client get too handsy with the club owner’s girlfriend. It keeps public displays of affection to a minimum.

Bunny Bliss Yoga – Yoga with Bunnies – Yay! Oh FFS how many animals must we go through for the yogis of the world to realize that not everyone likes yoga. Pssst…if you can put together a baby hedgehog yoga, I’ll convert.

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Rage Yoga – Apparently there is a yoga class where you can swear and drink bear…I can swear for free at home and I don’t drink beer, pass.

There’s also destination yoga. Because you should go on the road with an activity you loathe –

Beach Yoga – Get sand in places you couldn’t reach when you were 4.

Farm Yoga – Stretching with cows mooing and the pungent scent of manure as you breathe deep.

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga!!! – You watch the Her Sister’s Shadow episode of the Brady Bunch on repeat but instead of saying – “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!!” you say “Yoga, Yoga, Yoga!!!” 70’s inspired workout wear is optional, Cindy Brady pigtails are mandatory (even the goats must comply)

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I will not yoga in a barn

I will not yoga on a farm

I will not yoga on the beach

and stretch for places that I can’t reach

I will not yoga with goat

I will not yoga on a boat

I will not yoga when I swear

I will not yoga anywhere

Stop spamming me yoga fans

I will always have other plans

So keep your goats, bunnies and dogs

I’ll only yoga with hedgehogs

 

 

Cheeky

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Cheeky

Parenting is hard…you have to keep inventing new ways to troll your teens. A few weeks ago my DD begged for some jeans. Having just spent our budget on the back to school wardrobe, I wasn’t too keen on the idea. She was relentless (she really needs to become a lawyer she digs in and will not let go). Anyhow after two hours of bantering (alright 10 minutes but it FELT like 2 hours)…I decided to barter.

DD: MooooooHoooohm, please, PLEASE, PLEASE, I really need some more jeans.

Me: You do not need new jeans we just went shopping, you want new jeans.

DD: OK, I REALLY want these jeans AND they’re on sale buy 1, get 1.

Me: Yeah, that’s how they hook you make it seem like you are getting a bargain by charging $60. for one pair of jeans and get a second pair for free. Where are the $30. buy one get one jeans, I’d be down with that.

DD: Nobody sells $30. jeans it’s 2019.

Me: Alright you want the jeans you need to weed – 6 hours of weeding $10./hour.

DD: Ugh, I hate weeding.

Me: Same. Pinky promise?

…and with that a pinky promise was made and jeans were ordered. This past weekend the jeans arrived and I left the package unopened on the back bench. DD snagged the package and placed the jeans in the wash.

I am now holding the jeans hostage until the weeding is done as agreed. I text DD pictures of the jeans she begged for with notes that say “Save Me” and “Pull The Damn Weeds Already!”. The jeans happen to be called “Cheeky” well, I too can be Cheeky.