It’s a hard knock life baby, but there’s still you, and there’s still me


It’s difficult. And you have no idea, really, just how difficult it will be. To leave your country behind. To leave friends. Family. You look in the mirror and you are madly in love. Your passion and your optimism lead you to believe everything will be just fine. With love like this, your world will just keep turning around and around.

But then issues start to creep in. First his family don’t really accept you. You’re different. Foreign. You can’t speak the local lingo and you have different ideas. Different traditions. A different outlook on life. A different world view. You see life through a different set of eyes. Through a different background. Through different circumstances. He loves you, and as the dutiful husband he grows more and more apart from his family, as you do too from yours.

The children are hard work. They too have their issues. The language. The new customs and traditions. Health issues spring up out of nowhere and sometimes, they have difficulties just fitting in.

You spend hours translating homework. Hours sitting in doctor’s surgeries. And very little time at all doing normal things, like you did before and that’s an enormous loss.

You feel alone. Few people help you. Friendships are rarely deep and come and go. You miss your land, your air, your sea. Things you thought had little consequence suddenly mean a lot more.

Opportunities reduce. Exhaustion increases. Life becomes one long bumpy road. You have a lot of children, but no village to rear them, instead you are out there, alone.

Disapproving looks. Little comments. Repeated rejection. You feel it. In your heart. In your pulse. In your soul.

You begin to be less independent. Less resourceful. You cling to your husband and he takes the brunt of all your anguish, your pain, your deep seated sadness.

You love him, but you crush him. He, too, is overcome with tiredness.

Sometimes there are glimmers of hope and torches shining in the darkness and when they suddenly fail to burn or are abruptly extinguished, you plunge into what feels like a never ending abyss. And worse still, you drag everybody else with you.

Our worlds feel so different. Yet we are joined at the hip all the same. Our love, though repeatedly tested, is still as strong, maybe even stronger than it ever was. We traipse and test new pathways, together, and we falter together. Tumble together. Catch one another. Trip one another up but land joined together, hand in hand.

Another punch has hit us. But we feel the same pain. The same disappointment. The same loss. We unite in a way I never could with another. And that makes it somehow bearable. Somehow endurable.

I am with you in this strange land. With its strange customs. With its strange ways.

I stand with you hand in hand.

Through the hard stares. Through the false starts. Through every battle ground.

Hand in hand. Always.

Watch out for those wrinkly bits!


You know you married a German when your teenage daughter wanders over to you and tells you that your husband is “spachteling” around in the buff. As in completely starkers. Wearing nada. Hanging loose.

People often ask us which language we speak at home. And everyone of us always answers, “Denglish.” Which is a rather confused mix of Deutsch or German and English. The verb spachteln means to fill something in, or smooth something out. Which was in this case with plaster. As native Brits we just love the suffix -ing and half of our Denglish consists of us adding an -ing wherever possible to any German verb, which is a constant source of amusement to our German friends, and is pretty much the only reason we ourselves notice it, as to us, it just sounds so natural. They snigger when we call out, “I’m going einkaufing” (shopping). They giggle at our “spaziering” (going for a walk). And they’d crack up at our spachteling around.

I responded to my daughter that her Papa was obviously taking naturism up as an extreme sport. After all, I have a protective need to wear sturdy footwear when I’m just doing the ironing. I feel positively alarmed at the thought of using actual tools in my birthday suit.

Curious of his bravery, I later approached my husband on the subject. He explained his very simple and pragmatic approach, “I needed a shower anyway, so rather than change into my work clothes…”

No bum fun here, little lady!


Last month I had a gentleman’s fingers in my anus. And they were not my husband’s. Not that I am saying that my beloved is into that kind of thing. But I just never really imagined saying that sentence out loud when I was 20 or even 30, for that matter. And now having only just turned 48, that was the kind of congratulatory reward I found myself in for.

No party. Corona times. But a man telling that my butt is stuffed. Quite literally.

I could have told him that. Actually.

So I am getting a pump. Like a little old lady. And a sitz bath. The post birthday gifts kept coming… But the thing is: I may only be 48 (and look a mere 45) but mentally, I’m still only about 30. I’ll give it to you – physically, I concede, I’m probably more 50+. But how the hell did this happen?

Still, I’m embracing the future with much optimism. I have been told, on supposedly good authority, that my life will improve in leaps and bounds. I will be a new woman.

Halle-bloody-lujah.

I am most definitely up for that!!

Reputation Eradication


If I were to list a few adjectives to describe my own characteristics then quite a few come to mind. Like creative. Chatty. Loyal. A little bit impatient. Funny. Friendly. Opinionated. Stubborn. A little bit hot-headed. Instinctive. Passionate.

If you were to ask my husband he’d have a fairly similar analysis: creative, a right blether, loyal, impatient, hilarious, keeps chatting to all and sundry, OPINIONATED, stubborn, impulsive and hot-headed, follows her instincts/illogical, passionate. I think he’d also enumerate: untidy, a good cook, smart, thoughtful, kind and reliable. In private he’d probably also add sexy. But that’s his own, very unique, point of view.

Furthermore, were you to phrase the question to any of my kids, their answer’s would go something like this. Creative. Never shuts up. Loyal. Impatient. Funny. Social. OPINIONATED. Stubborn as a mule (which they’d say proudly). Instinctive. They’d also have their own contributions. Protective – our dragon mother. Tidies up when guests announce themselves. Has a huge laugh that was embarrassing when we were little, but was pretty cool when we got older. Embarrassing in general. A good cook. Wise. Strict. Helpful. Annoying. Unnecessarily anxious. Storytelling. Nosy.

I know all of this well. We often played a game at the dining table that the children had learned at school, where we told each other the other’s characteristics. When each kid hit a certain age group, it became an obsession.

A few months ago I was asked to be part of a panel who answers questions, mostly with regard to advertisements, but based on my own opinions about anything and everything. I get paid for the honour. Literally cents for each questionnaire (I started months ago, do a questionnaire most days and I still haven’t made my first 10 Euros). Obviously, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in for the chance to say exactly what I think. About advertisements. About corona. About supermarket policies. About the government. About holidays. About the media.

But there’s this little issue. I have very little brand awareness. I have a few brands that I know and like but apart from that I just tend to ignore them. So sometimes I’m hit with a questionnaire and I’m really rather clueless.
Then to top it all, this thing happened the other day.

I was sent my questionnaire. I opened it with glee, wondering what I’d be asked to give my opinion on now. (I’m still waiting to be quizzed on what to do about Trump, Brexit, the school system, the neighbour’s constant need to keep drilling – will our semi collapse at some point because there is no actual wall left? Though, to be fair, I have been able to direct some sensibleness with regard to environmental policies within supermarkets etc). Again, unfortunately, the subject was advertising (that one comes up far too regularly, in my opinion) but at least this time they’d tried to make it a bit more fun.
I had to play a game. It was a kind of click game, and at first I had to do practice runs which began with easy steps and then built up to the grand finale. I had to click all over diverse magazine entries. I clicked merrily away on various things that drew me.
Suddenly, my clicking frenzy was over. I’d mastered many clicks. I am after all an internet professional. And, I’ve played many a round of candy crush and am a true expert in clicking.
Swiftly a new page uploaded on my screen, with one single question.

“What was the last film you watched at the cinema?”

I was thrown slightly. I knew that I’d been to the cinema quite recently. To the drive-in cinema. It had been our very first experience of a drive-in. We’d watched a film on the enormous screen. Cricking our necks and wishing we’d brought even more cushions. And maybe some popcorn. And less salty crisps. Perhaps a blanket… What was the film called? It was German… A comedy… I remembered I had specifically looked for a German film because I hate watching dubbed English films. I get totally confused lip reading in English while listening to alien German voices. Nope. Gone. I’d have to look it up. But I had absolutely no idea what it was called. So I typed “German comedy” into the internet. Then I searched. No, no, no… “German film comedy”… No, no, no… “Recent German films”? Ah there it was. Das perfekte Geheimnis!! (The perfect secret – brilliant by the way, really funny, do watch it if it comes to drive-in cinema near you). So I typed D-A-S was that the right article? I doubled checked… Yes, ok P-E-R-F-E-K-T check no? It has an E on the end? Why do they randomly keep adding E’s or ER’s or EN’s even ES’s? Come to think of it, why do they sometimes make the simple A into an Ä? How do I spell Geheimnis? Check. Enter.

My children and my husband may also tell you that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Except when it comes to tidying. And maybe an overthinker?

The screen refreshed and the new question reverted me back to my previous clicking experience. I had to list all the objects I’d seen and all the brands.

I’d been had. They’d distracted me with a simple question and now all I could remember seeing was an onion and a radish. And I’m not entirely sure it was actually a radish. Don’t they know about my storytelling tendencies? Don’t they know, by now, that I would need time to look up the information they required so I wouldn’t make a mistake? Don’t they already know that I don’t really care about brands much at all and what I really want is to tell them, at length, all about my thoughts on Trump and Brexit and the lack of a speed limit on the Autobahn and my disdain at us still using fossil fuels, and that my new favourite author happens to be David Mitchell and that I recently read Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, but I much preferred White teeth. That I believe in the right of abortion, although I would dread having one myself and would find it a very traumatic experience. That I believe you are beautiful if you are homosexual, trans, straight, black, white, religious, atheist, male or female as long as your soul is good and kind. That I think the additional costs to move house are ridiculous. That I love travelling but don’t mind one jolt if I never ever fly again.

The next page was, in my mind, a little sarcastic. It told me that we are all able to forget things. Then it presented me with a huge list of brands and asked me which ones I’d seen in the click exercise.

Was it a trick question? Were all those brands in the game or only some of them? Besides, another of my characteristics is honesty. I actively struggle to tell any lie. So I clicked on just two.

I had to fill out my age: 48.

Sigh.

Now the survey company believes I am a 48 year old woman who has a worryingly high level of forgetfulness. But that I can still spell “Das perfekte Geheimnis”. Almost as if it were my native tongue.

The next questionnaire will probably be a health one.

Oops, I keep doing it again!!


You’d think that I have great, big, massive size nine’s. Seriously. Because I always, always, always, always manage to put both of my enormous feet right into it.

And then I dig.

And dig.

And dig.

And the hole just gets bigger.

Honestly.

And I have no way, whatsoever, of climbing out of it. I just make it worse.

Another man, had bought me a tiny present. Just a little thing. A small token of appreciation for the friendship I’d offered him. Knowing how it is to be a foreigner in a strange land.
Who knows, perhaps his thoughtful gift was even meant for both of us.

I’d sensed a slight stiffening when I’d mentioned it, in my own blase way.
So I tried to make it better. Having experienced the rising of that old green monster myself, on many an occasion. Even when there was no actual cause.

So I explained that we’d been chatting on the internet. The stiffening stiffened further and the eyes narrowed.

So I said not to worry. That one relationship for me was quite enough.

Further stiffening.

Plenty. I declared. Plenty. One relationship is plenty. One relationship requires so much effort, I’d keel over with exhaustion if I had to be involved in two…

Board-like.

You’re the only boy for me! I tried, weakly.

Boy? His eyes attempted to remain serious.

I’m too forgetful nowadays… I wouldn’t manage it. I added, deep in thought… Can you imagine, all the presents? I’d have to give you both the same gifts all the time, so that I wouldn’t get confused…
And that wouldn’t be very personal, would it?

But what I really should have said is:

Husband – I love you because you are you and I am me,
And we fit together
just like a lock and its key.

I love you because you let me be
who I can be
even when
that’s someone
who’s slightly
freaky!

And I should tell you that:

You make my world
complete –
For another
I have no need!

Because you are my soul mate!
You are my friend!
And without you
My whole world would end.

A proper pot-washer pops pots in the dish-washer


A few short weeks ago I treated myself: I purchased a brand spanking new pressure cooker.

I can happily tell you that it is dishwasher safe! That is, except for the rubber ring and the very clever detachable handle. I really like things that can go in the dishwasher as I am totally useless at washing up. I’m the one who misses bits. Even rather large bits. As the oldest in our household, I make the most of it and blame it on my aging eyes. And then, when there are things that can’t go in the dishwasher I encourage other household members to get involved. Scrub a pan. Lift a finger. That kind of thing.

So I got my shiny new pan and I started using it right away and as I did so I informed the household: detachable handle and rubber ring do not go into the dishwasher.

Last night, as usual, my husband went to bed before me.

I took my medicine, put the dishwasher on and shovelled washing into the washing machine. Then I headed to bed. Woke my husband up to tell him some important fact or other. Don’t worry, he always falls asleep straight afterwards, as is one of his many talents. I brushed my teeth and then climbed into bed. Where I contemplated how to get to sleep and came up with the only answer I could think of: I stalked estate agents for a bit.

I woke up this morning. Bright and early. Because, of course, it’s a Sunday. I tried to curl up and get back to sleep. Then I lay there for a moment or two envying my out for the count husband. Finally, I admitted defeat and shuffled out of our bedroom.

Downstairs I pottered for a bit. Then hovered over a few other estate agents’ websites. After that I contemplated what to purchase on Amazon. Was thrown by the sheer volume of choice and so did a puzzle instead.

My husband rose and shone. Being less of a potterer than me, he headed straight to the dishwasher. He’s a get the job done kind of a guy.

I heard him shout, “Somebody’s put the rubber ring from your pressure cooker into the dishwasher!”

“What?” I shrieked.

Panic rose within me.

Then he carried the lid through. “They didn’t even dismantle it from the lid. Look!” I heard the disdain in his voice. I blinked and looked at the pot. Rubbed my head. Thought.

“It was me,” I whispered. “It was me.”

As it turns out: luckily I hadn’t actually remembered to switch the dishwasher on…

My husband dismantled the ring. Offered to make me breakfast. To reorganise my world. Then I heard his voice again, probing from the kitchen:

Somebody’s put washing up liquid in the frying pan and just left it like that. On the cooker.”

I know exactly what that “Somebody” means.

It means: one of our teenagers has done this. I am not sure which one. But I am incredulous. I do not understand them. Why have they done this?

My mind races. I retrace my steps from last night. The dishwasher… A quick rub down of the tabletops… The washing up liquid… The pan… The water? The water? Nope. No water.

“I’m sorry. It was me.” I swallowed.

He looked at me. Kind face. Wide eyes. “You must have been tired, ” he said.

And I just thought, bloody hell, I’d better go and check out the state of the laundry room.

Tick tock says the clock but will there be a beep?


It is 2am! And there’s been a disaster! A calamity!

Sorry. I’ve swallowed a Mr Man book  been reading Mr Men books with my youngest students. Which 30, God no… 40 years on… seem rather more inappropriate. Though, just like me all those years ago, my students adore them.

But I digress.

It started off like this:

My husband abandoned me in the living room.

OK. OK. He left me  watching TV on the sofa. Where I started to nod, then drift… And the next thing I knew, I shot, bolt upright, only to discover that I was splattered with my own dribble.

I staggered through the living room, into the kitchen and desperately tried to remember exactly which medicine I should take and in which order. And not to take any of those correct medicines twice. Or even thrice. And not to take anyone else’s medicines by mistake. After all these years on the planet, I am finally getting used to myself and my own funny ways. I staggered and I blinked and I filled a glass with water. But in the time between the glass moving from the tap to my lips, a suicidal fruit fly had nose-dived into my water and appeared to be drowning.

I blinked a lot more. Yes. It was definitely a fruit fly. So, I calmly emptied the glass, rinsed and repeated. This time, luckily, without the invasion.

I wrote  a quick note for my son, said goodnight to a 20-something, fed the bewildered dog and pottered upstairs to the bathroom where I got into an argument with my own pubic hair. Don’t ask. It was all a bit icky.

Then I tried to find my bed in the dark.

I’ve eaten thousands and thousands of carrots in my lifetime. But they have done me absolutely no good. I have basically no night vision. Normally, I repeatedly switch my Fitbit on in an attempt to shine a light on the whereabouts of my bed (which helps somewhat, although I still stand on or walk into various items in the room, just less regularly. But that’s not so bad any more as my clever husband now wears earplugs to bed and so is rarely disturbed by my frequent shrieking/swearing/banging). But I had accidentally left my Fitbit charging in the car…

I clambered into bed and slapped around my bedside table in my nightly ‘alarm clock search’ routine. As usual, I knocked over the clock then picked it up again and pressed the snooze button down to see the time setting. Due to my acute night vision deficiency this is a repeated action. Without it, I can’t see the buttons or the changing numbers.  I altered my wake up time and I wanted to double-check I’d got it right. I’m a double-check kind of person. The simple fact is that I don’t trust my own brain.

I pushed on the snooze button and the snooze button stayed pushed. As in, it didn’t pop back up.

I pushed and I pushed and then, in desperation I attempted several pulls, with varying techniques. I even put the actual bedside light on to help me with my situation. But to no avail. The pushed button remained disconcertingly pushed.

Would the light remain on?

Would the battery wear out?

Would the alarm go off or would it believe, that in that very moment, when it had intended to beep, that I could possibly have simultaneously hit its snooze button?

And if that should be the case, would it live in some kind of limbo? Convinced that my finger hovered over its button?

Black Friday over by just a mere two hours and I had managed to incapacitate my alarm clock.

I looked over at my Mr Fix-It. Sleeping soundly. I didn’t dare to wake him with my conundrum.

Especially as he’d reminded me, before he went to bed, that I had woken him up at some ungodly hour, excitedly showing him a few early Black Friday deals.

Will I wake on time in the morning?

Should I brave the minus temperatures in my nightshirt and rescue my Fitbit from the car?

Will I ever get back to sleep?

Such a misfortune! What a calamity! A bloody disaster!

 

 

 

February


So it’s February. Already. I always think of February as the month of love. Probably because that’s when Valentine’s Day is. And I always spend the first half of this short month wondering how to best impress show my adoration for my husband.

I’ve decided that, as there are many new readers to this blog I will introduce them properly to my family. They are, after all, the people that I love and cherish the most. And, for those that have been following me for longer – it’s a reintroduction. Children, after all change and grow. They become teenagers.

Besides I need to get back into writing. I have been working on my book, sporadically, for ever. But the problem with book writing is: there is no instant gratification. I keep re-reading re-edited chapters to the children and they keep telling me, “Mum, I know that story already!!” Then they look at me ungratefully when I try to show them that I changed a word here and moved a comma there and then march off to go about their own business.

Happy February.

Happy reading.

The first one is actually not going to be about love.

It’s about my very strange sense of humour…

It’s almost finished. I’m just re-re-re-editing.

Saying goodbye to 2015 with openness and honesty


Sometimes I think, I don’t know what happened. Sometimes I think, how did I get to be right here, right now, right where I am?

It’s like, I am in some kind of blurry confusion. Or like I landed on my bum with a thump. I wasn’t expecting it and I am sitting there all kind of dazed and amazed.

The hours tick by and roll into days. The days tick by and roll into weeks. And I tumble and roll with them. I keep attempting to pick myself up and stumble on but I seem to lurch from one impossible situation to the next.

Some days, standing in front of several huge piles of washing feels like enough to be classified as an impossible situation.  I look at the mixtures of red and white and black and blue, which should, technically, have all been sorted out into their appropriate baskets, according to my own rules of the house. I stare at those never-ending mixed piles and I despair.

Some days, I focus on the enormous list of things I expect myself to do that day, and I realise I am in an impossible situation. I can only disappoint myself because no earthly being can possibly tick off each of those designated tasks in just one day.

Some days, I find myself pondering over a blank piece of paper. It seems like my impossible situation is to actually find enough energy to draw up the day’s list in the first place.

Instead, I drag my lazy butt over to the sofa and distract myself with the TV, or a game or someone else’s news.

Then I leave the house at the very last minute to pick up my daughter, because even though, I feel incredibly lonely, I can’t bear to face the other mums. With their happy smiles or their problems or their invitations or their requests.

I attempt to hide in the driver’s seat of my car. And if they approach me, I feel the panic rising from the pit of my stomach.

Occasionally, there are days when the impossible situation is just to make it through the day.

On those days, I bite my lip, swing my foot, pace the floor, hug the dog, think of the kids, go back to bed in an attempt to wake up in a better mood, call my husband and just try to breathe in and out and tell myself that tomorrow is a brand new day full of brand new possibilities.

I’m still an optimist. Deep down inside.

2015 has not been my finest hour.

In all honesty, it’s been really bloody tough.

It’s been the accumulation and aftermath of: three burnouts, Crohn’s, a million doctor’s appointments, sick kids, diagnoses, arguments, a suicide, PTSD, continuous headaches, sleepless nights, stress, guilt, loss, panic and pain.

So I decided that the only way to turn things around was to go into a specialised clinic at the local hospital for a while.

It was the right decision. I talked and cried and laughed and painted and danced and beat the hell out of drums. I made friends and cried and talked some more. I listened. I hugged. I walked through the forest. I remembered things I’d ‘locked’ away. I talked about them and cried and then ‘locked’ them away again. Because it’s just not healthy to let those things consume your life.

Above all, I realised that my own driving force is low self-esteem, guilt and fear.

So all these years, I’ve needed to do my absolute utmost, to prove to myself that I am worthy, and to reduce the feelings of guilt that I carried around for things which I had always believed were my fault but actually weren’t. I needed to protect my family from all eventualities, because in my own experience bad things actually happened again and again.

I feel like I’ve been knocked down and built back up again. Albeit, loosely.

I can’t tell you that I feel ‘well’. I would more describe myself as feeling ‘fragile’. Sometimes, some days, still bring their impossible situations.

But I can tell you that I have more energy and that I am looking forward to Christmas more than I have in years.

And that I am hoping, ever the optimist, that when I look back in years to come, that I will see 2015 as a turning point in my life.

And that 2016 was a new beginning.

Wishing you all, from the bottom of my heart, a wonderful Christmas. And a 2016 full of hope, enlightenment, love and strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may wish you were a fly on the wall in my house


I sometimes wish I owned a dictaphone to record those ‘special moments’.

Like yesterday, when we visited the local shopping centre. It wasn’t a planned visit. We ended up there because I was really sure we had an appointment at the local hospital. But it turns out, that my racing through town, in desperation to get one of my loved ones there on time, was a bit over-zealous. As the appointment I dragged everyone to is not for another two weeks.

So we found ourselves within the centre of town, with nothing to do. And the rain started. So I suggested the shopping centre. Some people wholeheartedly agreed that it was a good idea. One family member did not. But we jumped back in the car anyway and continued our journey at a more leisurely pace.

Lori, Akasha and I browsed a couple of the shops while the grumpy one stood outside, looking, well, grumpy.

In one of the smaller boutiques Akasha, who as you might remember, is eight, blurted out, at full volume, I should add: “Is this shop so small because it’s not successful?”

I did my best to blissfully ignore her question by pointing out a top to my picky and in-need-of-clothes teenager. But she informed me, in no uncertain terms, that the said top was “ugly”. She did not whisper and the shop was, as I’ve clarified, quite small. We were also the only customers in it, so the assistant was clearly focussed on us. I decided the best option was to make a quick getaway.

Back to the grumpy one.

The summer holidays are drawing to a close and there have been oh so many of those moments.

Like just a few short minutes ago.

Akasha (the creator) bound into the room and jubilated, “I made myself a necklace from my pants string.”

Indeed, around her neck she wore a piece of knicker elastic. Removed from the panties she’s currently wearing creating a ‘matching outfit’ effect.

My teenage son, (the health and safety officer) analysed the situation and noted, in his usual very matter-of-fact tone: “A health and safety person might describe that as a strangulation device.”

To which Lori (our quick-witted ninja) replied, “Like my hands!