I don’t really know who coined this phrase, but somehow I like to think that I had something to do with it.
It was right after WWII in 1946, in Frankfurt, Germany, when an American soldier told me that he and his friends were going every weekend dancing. Apparently, it was a dance cafe which catered mostly to the American occupation forces.
“I like to know,” he said. “How it comes that all the German girls are so pretty?”
“Hu?” I had never heard such a nonsense.
“Yes,” he maintained. “Ask any of my buddies,and they will tell you the same.”
I was almost tempted to ask his friends what it exactly was that triggered their observation, because I had no clue what an American girl looked like, when it dawned on me.
All of the American soldiers were absolutely impressive in their starched, meticulously pressed uniforms. A long cry away from the dilapidated clothing of German boys in the same age group. It was only natural that the German girls flocked to the places where they could meet a good looking guy. But, that wasn’t all there was to it. The girls also had to look their part.
“You know it’s simple”. I told the soldier. “The ugly ones know who they are. They are staying home.”
Now, I have to admit that times were simple then. Nobody ripped you apart for saying the obvious.
However, the phrase still holds true: “The ugly ones know who they are.”
Every five years, at the years end, I write a five year plan for the future years.
I have been doing this, with flickering success, for the past sixty years.
Then I follow up each following year to make sure that I am on track. So, now it is 2020 and l did double duty. Meaning that I reviewed the past years and wrote a new five year plan including, like always, yearly mile stones to strive for, to adjust as I go along, and to achieve.
I have to admit, that as I get on with the years, I find it more and more difficult to reach my yearly goals in a timely manner. To be clear, I reach my goals eventually, (most of them,that is) but it takes me a lot more time than it used too. My wife, Jennifer, tells me that this might have something to do with the fact that I am not in my seventies or eighties anymore.
“This summer you will turn frigging ninety” She informed me when I tried to discuss with her the difference of my intentions with the actual results. Maybe she is right, I thought, causing me to review my next five year plan. And, I found an interesting tidbit which I like to share with my readers.
I noticed that during the last few years I very often wrote in my plans, the phrase: “I hope” that so and so, would happen. This is in a stark contrast to my previous plans in which I more or less decided what would happen by developing and following stringent strategies. If the results were different than I intended, I changed my strategies which produced the unwanted results. This simple adjustment allowed me to zero in on my original target.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I still think that hope is spiritually very important. (I did a lot of it when I was fourteen years old, searching for my parents) But, this was at a time when I was not in control.
So, I replaced the word “hope” with “I will develop a strategy” in my plans.
I hope to be able, next year, to let you know how it works out.
See, here is where hope is important, After all, I am not in control of my life.
However, I am in control of my intentions.
Last week we received an unexpected Christmas present. One of our Llamas surprised us by giving birth to a little baby girl. I think that you call an offspring of a Llama a Cria. Anyhow, it had been raining all night and there it was. Totally drenched by the pouring rain, and no matter how much we coaxed and tried, it stood by her mother who refused to enter the shelter. We had this experience about three years ago when a different Llama gave birth in the middle of a downpour which lasted two days. At that time we loaded the cria into a small wagon and while I pulled with all my might on the handle, Jenny kept the mother from attacking me and the wagon.
This would have probably worked, because the shelter was only about one hundred feet away. However, the gestation period of a Llama is about eleven months and during this time the father Llama is not interest in the female. This all changes the very minute the female gives birth. Within less than 10 minutes the male arrives and proceeds to show his serious interest in the female. You had to be there to understand what followed. I slipped on the wet leaves and fell flat on my face. The cria jumped out of the wagon, the mother Llama ran behind her, followed by Jenny and the male. It took us over an hour to accomplish our task.
Not a fun situation, I assure you.
Now, this time I was not allowed to help. Jenny insisted that I was overdue for another face plant. So, she pulled and pushed the female towards the shelter by herself, while the eager male tried to assist her. Not a fun situation either. Jenny finally gave up, went to town, bought a large dog blanket and bundled the little one up. It worked. (to some degree)
If you think that this is enough of a story, you are mistaken.
Last night , everything started in again, when a different Llama decided to give birth. Jenny named the first one “Misty” because it was born in a rain. The second one is pitch black and Jenny named it “Ebony” . It was a heck of a week, and while I was restricted to do nothing . . . . . I have still not recovered. Go figure.
Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers.
It’s been now over a year since my last post, but nothing really changed. Just like in your life, I was faced with daily challenges which eventually got solved. I even found the old letters from my friend Harold, and personal notes which I had somehow misplaced. However, now that I found them I am greatly encouraged to resume my writing about his interesting life.
While I was searching through my old documentations I noted that I had absolutely no written records of any kind from my grandparents, or great grandparents. No records about their daily life or the challenges they faced, and for sure not a single note in their own handwriting. This got me thinking how nice it would be if I could read something personal about their life, maybe even about their obligations or their hopes. Considering how easy it is to jot down a few lines for our descendants, I started to design a very simple journal which I called “My Time Capsule Journal”, and my trusted VA published it last week on Amazon.
A friend of mine wrote me the following comment (and I obtained his permission to quote him):
never thought of writing stuff like this down before so it has set me to
thinking. I have a lot of stories, word of mouth, passed down from
grandmothers that will dispensary when I am gone.
elephant who would only work to push wagons out of the mud if he was
bribed with a swig of whiskey and a chaw of tobacco. He later became a
blacksmith and was shot in the back at the dinner table one night. My
other grandmother traveled across the plains in a covered wagon, lived
in a soddy, and a younger brother died from a spider bite. All this was
word of mouth stories I was told as a kid”.
Senior citizen are complaining.
Hmm, not really, actually they are bitching about almost everything.
For starters they are constantly complaining about the younger generation. They don’t like the way the younger generation communicates, acts, thinks, behaves, dresses, looks, and talks.
Next, they are complaining about TV programs, music, fashion trends, hair styles, body art, loss of honor, respect tradition, and face book.
While the older women complain about the present mindset of teenage girls that “making it to graduation without being pregnant” spells success, it seems that men over seventy have to pull up their pants until they hit the armpits, and then complain about the government, full time.
Being over eighty years old myself, enables me to understand the viewpoints on a lot of these things. What I mean is that I understand how the viewpoints of us older folks developed, and why.
Our viewpoints have their roots in a mindset which was gradually acquired by us during our lifetime of experiences. And, none of our experiences produced a mindset that included “texting” during the family Thanksgiving dinner. It also did not include piercing our lips, and eyebrows, and tongues.
Neither do we understand why a loud noise, consisting of banging on guitars and drums is supposed to be music.
However, while I do understand the origins of our mindset, I don’t understand the bitching which goes on among us older folk about the generation gap, and the apparent disconnect with a lot of the current ways, and of life in general.
First of all, let’s be a bit honest about it.
We, as the “older generation” do not have an “exclusive” on being right on a lot of things. While our mindset was being formed by our elders, we learned to accepted a few things as being right, when in reality some of them were so wrong and ill conceived that they make us shudder where we dare to think back.
And, I am not only talking about the mindset of not too recent times, that a specific portion of our citizens was supposed to sit in the back of the bus, or was not fit to hold a public office, or be part of a management team.
Remember? That was our “older” generation . . . . and it isn’t that long ago.
Please, allow me to cite a different example from Germany. You know, of course, that Germany is the country which produced great minds such as Goethe, Schiller, and Albert Einstein. Moreover, German products were recognized all over the world as superior, and German engineers were sought out by international companies to improve their machinery.
And still, from 1936 until about 1947 the German school system decided that left handed children were “Idiots”. Period.
Unless these “Morons” were corrected to write right handed, and use their right hand for things like throwing a ball, they were considered too stupid to learn, and were therefore pronounced “Idiots”. In order to “teach” them, the children were forced to hold out their left hand, and the teacher hit the “bad” hand with a willow stick so that the hand would bleed and swell up, therefore unable to hold a pen. Talking about “teaching to an extreme”.
The subject of the disconnect between us older folks (we are always right) and the younger generation (which is always wrong) is far too extensive to discuss in a single post. However, as we grow older, we cannot simply assume that we know it all, and just because of the fact that we are older, we have somehow acquired the right to stop learning.
We have to recognize that this is exactly the mindset which produced the “disconnect” in the first place.
In summation, it becomes clear that we have a challenge on our hand, and it is also clear that “bitching” is not the answer
If we choose to set an example, we need to do better.
Well, yes, I know that my last post was about a year ago.
I really can’t think of a valid excuse for my tardiness, except that life presented me with some personal challenges (like it does to everyone). Now, please don’t think that I wish to complain, but it is true that every day gets a bit more challenging, when you are not eighty anymore. On the plus side of things,I have to say that the advancing age presents you with a mature mind. You see many more opportunities than in your younger years. Sometimes it gets downright impossible to sit down, and concentrate on writing, while you see countless possibilities slipping away. Never the less, I attempted to finish my second book of the Kellner Chronicle series in a timely manner. But, I am sorry to say that it is still not ready to be published. Give me another month, or so. Please.
Let’s see, I wanted to post about a thought provoking incident which occurred about two weeks ago.
The fourteen year old daughter, of a friend of mine, asked me for a favor. Apparently she worked on a class assignment to write about the generation gap.Somehow she figured that I looked old enough to be interviewed. Wondering about the subject matter myself, I had no objection.
Most of her questions were direct, and simple to answer. Then it got more complicated.
“How old were you, when you got your first phone?” She asked.
“I never got a phone” I answered. “I saved my money until I was able to buy one.”
I must have hit a sore spot, because she exchanged looks with her father. “How old?” she repeated.
“Twenty five,” I answered truthfully.
She rolled her eyes in disbelief. “What are your first memories?” she continued her questions.
“Do you mean my first memories, or my most dreadful ones?” I asked in return.
“I mean your first ones,” she maintained.
Her insistence caused me to think hard. There were birthdays, but I could not exactly remember when they happened. Then it came gradually back to me. “I remember cleaning and polishing my dad’s shoes, every evening, before I was permitted to go to bed..”
“You did what?” she asked, with open disgust all over her face..
“You know, keeping my father’s shoes in pristine condition. This was not an option or expectation. It was the normal, and the first thing that a father demanded from his son. You have to remember that this was 1934 and in Berlin,Germany.”
There were no more questions, and I don’t know what she wrote in her report. However, a few days ago, her father told me that she received an “A” on her assignment.
Generation gap? Anyone?
You would think that I should have posted an announcement before I published Postwar Survivor.
Well, yes, this would have been the normal thing to do. However, I knew that my trusted V.A. Chris Haas, would send an announcement to my loyal readers, to offer them the opportunity to obtain the book at a discounted price. I wasn’t worried that anyone would be forgotten. Whoever had subscribed to my newsletter, would be notified.
However, what did worry me, was the fact that I wrote this particular book in response to my reader’s request, to follow up on Karl’s life, after the war. As I mentioned many times before, I didn’t think that there was much to write about, and I wondered how this uneventful book would be received.
Now, after numerous emails, and questions, from many of my new found readers, and loyal friends, I feel a lot easier. A whole lot, matter of fact.
Let me get right to some of the questions: “Do you still eat sugar filled rolls in the morning?” Yes, of course I do. The only thing that could possible stop me, would be my wife, Jennifer. However, now, after nearly forty five years of marriage she has either gotten used to it, or, she has given up to educate me. Don’t really know what it is. I suspect, that the fact that my weight never changed, might have something to do with it.
“Do you still eat mostly potatoes and noodles? “ Yes, as long as they make potatoes and noodles, I will not even try to stick something else in my mouth. The problem is mostly, that I don’t know how to get rid of it. Once it is in your mouth, what are you going to do with it? Swallowing is not an option. No way!
“Just like to tell you, that vinegar and salt works, to clean copper. I tried it on my old copper watering can. It looks now like new.” Right, but it does not last forever. You have to clean it on a weekly basis.
“You touched on the topic of declining family and moral values. Was there more to it than you mentioned?” Yes, a lot more. Plus the incompetence of the newly elected officials. However, there were exceptions, If they were indeed, competent, they were corrupt beyond imagination. Maybe this was a job requirement, I don’t know. But, I do know that it went hand in hand. Had something to do with human nature, I guess.
Did it changed during the past seventy years? (I am sometimes asked when I am a guest speaker.) I don’t know. Your call. It is also your choice, how you wish to look at things. Sometimes I am told that the present climate is the price of freedom.
No, I shake my head. Wrong terminology. It is the burden of freedom.
I tried to write a balanced account, about times which were not only difficult within themselves, but also difficult to understand. Based upon the comments I received, I know now that I came pretty close. Close enough to encourage me to continue writing about Karl as he came to this great country of ours. In the meantime I also started to write the second book of the Kellner Chronicles.
Thank you for all your comments, and please feel free to ask questions about these forgotten times. If I can, I will answer. And, thank you, for your loyalty and reading my books.
Yes, the time has finally come.
I finished my fifth book, Postwar Drifter, a few days ago.
Well, that’s not exactly correct as I wrote the final chapter several weeks ago, but after reading and rereading it seemed that the flow in the last three chapters needed some adjustments. This turned out to be a very time consuming undertaking. Once you start correcting yourself there is no end to the changes you want to make. I will never, ever do that again. Rewriting I mean.
Last week I received the last chapters back from my new editor, Melodine Reese, and I dumped the whole load on my trusted VA, Christina Haas, to read the story and create the cover art. True to form she came through not only with an excellent cover but also in record time. (She knew I was more than late) And then she really stepped on it. She wrote the foreword, the blurb, the historical note and did the keyword search which is important and which I still don’t understand. Then she put in a night shift to format the book and submit it to Amazon.
Thanks Chris! Without your unrelenting effort it would still be nothing but a manuscript.
But now it’s finally published.
The book is about the life of Harold under the tutelage of the Russian Commissar Godunov. Due to his very unusual life I decided to write several books about him and his covert activities during the cold war and beyond. I have to give Christina Haas credit for suggesting the name of the series: “The Kellner Chronicles”. You might remember that Harold’s last name was “Kellner”.
Since I had many readers asking me to also write more about Karl’s life I started in the mean time to write a book about his years after the war.
However, right now I bake myself a cake, or maybe cook some noodles with milk and then cover it with several layers of sugar. As soon as the first layer melts you have to add another layer of sugar until it doesn’t melt anymore. This way you can hear it crunch when you eat it.
I know, I know, I heard all the comments how the sugar is supposed to be bad for your health. Well maybe, for somebody.
However, I am now close to 86, enjoy the same weight, 140 pounds, as 50 years ago and always enjoy potatoes and sweets. That’s just the way I roll.
A day ago I received a comment from one of my readers which raised a subject that triggered the thought for this post. I contacted the reader to ask for permission to quote him and he graciously agreed:
” During the late 1960’s I was an American soldier serving in what was then known as West Germany. I had a German friend who told me on several occasions that I could not understand what those times were like for those people. I am still trying to understand that and other things he told me. Just finished Children To A Degree and find that you have advanced my understanding remarkably. Thank you so very much. I definitely want to read the other books in that series. Gary”
The core of Gary’s comment was something that I encounter very often. People ask me or write to me that they have a hard time to understand the Germany of the 1930’s.
When I wrote my books I never considered that there would be questions in this regard. Please let me explain. First of all, the 30’s are now about 80 years behind us and as a reader of today we tend to look back with the combined knowledge of today. In other words we take phones, radios, television, internet and other means of communication and INFORMATION for granted. Not to mention the social networks.
Secondly our upbringing was totally different from today. I will try to paint you a picture.
All of our information came from Newspapers which were controlled by the government. Free speech was unheard of and there was zero tolerance for offenders. As a role model we had only our father or grandfather ( from fathers side of course, because our mother and her line of parents would never be considered). Female authority figures was a contradiction in terms. Radios were extremely expansive. I didn’t know of anyone owning a radio, besides my father. We were taught to respect our father and grandfather. However, to ask any question was a privilege which had to be earned. Speaking without being asked was unthinkable. None of my classmates parents nor my parents owned a telephone. Religion was not being taught. In school we were not only expected to excel, but is was demanded. Any kind of a slacker was severely punished, bordering on cruelty, or for that matter simply expelled from school. I could, without great effort, paint you a grimmer picture, but then you might think that I am pushing a personal agenda.
Not so. I merely try to point out that all of the above was the result of the mindset of our elders, and the rigidity of their upbringing made the atrocities of the Hitler regime possible. The technical lack of communication was another contributing factor.
Presently, I am working on a book which deals, in part, with the culture shock Karl experienced when he came to the USA. Not only in terms of the unbelievable wealth of the ordinary citizen but also in the freedom of expressing opinions.
Fwiw. My first book of “Harold” named “Postwar Drifter” is now with the editors. However, I am still struggling with a fitting name for the series.
Since I published my books I communicated with some of my readers of my age who were born or still live in Germany.
This communication resulted in some specific questions (from me) and the results are astonishing.
My first few questions were simple enough: Did you had a bout with Diphtheria in your preteen years, specifically between 1932 and 1937?
My follow up questions were more specific, but I will not bother you with the details. However, the answers are pretty astonishing.
All of my readers who underwent hospitalization during their illness had the following in common:
1) They never needed a hospital stay for any other illness.
2) During their lifetime of over 80 years they never needed any kind of medication, except some blood pressure prescriptions.
3) None of them experienced or is subject to any allergy. No hay fever or any kind of food intolerance’s, such as gluten or lactose or glucose intolerance.
4) None of them likes or drinks alcohol. Except, maybe a glass of wine with their meal.
5) None of them had the need to see a physician during the past 70 years. Except for an injury, eyeglasses, or as I stated above, for blood pressure observation.
6) While none of them could remember any birthdays or other specific events before the age of four, they all had vivid memories of their illness (high fever hallucinations) and their hospital stay.
7) None of them is a diabetic or has a problem controlling their weight. In other words, none of them is overweight.
8) And, finally, all of the people I asked are still in vibrant health and active. Mentally as well as physically.
Yes, I know, this is not a comprehensive study and it wasn’t intended to be, but it leads to the question if the treatment of Diphtheria, in Germany, in the thirties, caused the interesting similarities, or was it the illness itself?
Or, is this all coincidence?
Hmm, coincidence? I know of two ladies who instead of wasting their years solving crossword puzzles, started to learn another language at the age of 83, just as I decided to embark on a new career as a writer.