I Can See Dead People – For Now

Can I rant about German law for a minute? So I have written about my parents before. Both are deceased, my dad passed in 1982, and my mom followed him in 1998, 20 years back. Which is why I just got mail from the cemetery management of the small town where my parents‘ burial place is located, saying that I have until the end of the year to have the tomb removed. Apparently, in German cemeteries, you only rent the gravesite, for a limited period of time, and my parents‘ has expired 20 years after my mom passed away, no extensions permissible. Am I the only one to find that macabre? I mean, the whole ritual that we do with with the funeral, and the speeches, and the flowers is designed to find closure, and it works a charm of course. But for a lot of people (me included) it doesn’t really stop there. They go and visit the graves of their loved ones, just to go see them, talk to them, connect with them, bring them flowers – whatever. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that topos in a book or seen it in a movie. I have certainly done it myself.

Since I live hundreds of miles away from that place, I don’t get to go there often. But I do feel a connection to that cemetery, and I especially love my parents‘ headstone. It’s a simple, undressed stone, and the epitaph simply says their names and the respective birthdays and days of death. The last time I was there, I saw that some moss had started growing in the crevices of the rough surface, and it made me smile, and think: Look, life goes on, even in a cemetery. So I don’t go a lot, but were I to live closer, I’m quite certain I would. It had (until I received the letter from the authorities) a certain permanence if you will, it was a place I knew would always be there. It was, after all, my parents‘ final place of rest.

Not all that final, evidently. Granted, I wasn’t the person to make the arrangements. That was my mom, when my dad passed away. She must have been told about the legal situation, not that she was probably listening, grief-stricken and in shock as she was at the time. And it never came up when she died and was buried in the same place 16 years later (well before the 20 years mark), and the management probably thought I knew. Well, I didn’t.

And now, I’m supposed to renounce this place I had wrongly assumed was mine, to make room for other dead people, and for their bereft. I guess it makes sense in a way, what with the overpopulated, aging society we live in. If you’re aware of these things in advance, you’d be well advised to not put any deep emotional roots down there, to spare yourself additional grief.

But as a migrant who has no ties to her place of birth, no childhood home I could return to and (duh!) no parents left, I can’t help but feel, once again, discarded. Also, whacked over the head, once again, with the realization that nothing in this life last forever, evidently not even a f…ing grave.

Educating myself on the web, I found it’s common procedure to either recycle the headstones (stonemasons who are contracted to remove the tombstones either remove the epitaphs from the stones and give them away to poorer families for free, or smash it to gravel that is frequently used for road-building (in which case you get a discount on their fee for removing the whole shebang) … I mean, WTF, that is just appaling, right?

Nope, not going to allow my parents‘ memory to become a piece of turnpike. I can see myself standing on some autobahn bridge or other, staring at a strip of road … I always wondered what it was people were doing who stand up there, and hoped they weren’t going to jump; maybe they weren’t crazy, but simply paying their respects to Aunt Edna or Uncle Joseph?

I’m not saying this country hasn’t, all things considered, been good to my family. In fact, most of the time, I’m happy enough in Germany. A stable democracy is nothing you can take for granted in this day and age, and I appreciate many, many things about living here. I married a German man, I have two beautiful kids, and I adore my friends.

But right now, my inner child can’t help feeling betrayed and cheated out of a thing I held very dear. Mad world …

Mad World Cover by Gary Jules


Luxury Problem

IMG_6672I _almost_ feel bad because of what I’m about to do: lament the summer vacation’s being over. Gone are the days of daily swimming, crafting whenever I felt like it, no parents rep responsibilities, actually no responsibilities period, beyond being with the kids and catering to everybody’s culinary and recreational whims. Sigh.

It sounds like a lazy time, reading through that first paragraph, and some days were certainly slow-paced enough to call them lazy. Not that we actually did _nothing_ that much. There was swimming, playing, reading, cooking and baking, and I actually managed to finish sweet A.’s sheets, check ‚em out: IMG_6659Doing the math makes me realize what took so long. I was going to have the project finished by mid July, and I was done with the crochet part by then. But: Darning in threads in 60 crochet flowers (4 apiece) takes time, and is extremely tedious work. I was done with that by early August. Then there was the color sequence to figure out. Thankfully, I had help with that:IMG_6638Once that was done, the flowers pinned to the sheets, there was the step I dreaded even more than darning in threads: stitching the flowers to the bedsheets.IMG_6691I don’t know why I don’t mind knitting or crocheting for hours but find sewing so painful – but it is what it is. Some days, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I guess that qualifies as lazy all right ;-)). But in the end, the flowers were in place and the pins back in their glass jar, so. IMG_6731Now all I need to do is pack up the sheets and send them on their way so A. and her husband can have sweet dreams in them :-).

I saw less of some friends over the vacation weeks than I would have liked, and more of others than I would have thought, and, oddly, I did not miss the city one bit. I’ve been back for a couple days now, and although I appreciate the restaurant and organic foods situation, as well as being able to hit the stores for my kids who managed to grow over the six weeks like you wouldn’t believe, I can’t help wishing I was back at the cottage and packing up the swimming gear,IMG_6676goofing around with my baby girl

or baking with my boy

Instead, this morning my husband took the red-eye, the kids trotted off to school heaving long-suffering sighs at having to be up at the ungodly hour of 7 a m, and I have a translation to sink my teeth back into. I also am really and truly all by myself for the first time in weeks.

Although the heat called for a lot of fruit and salad, cooking did occur. For instance, I made a somewhat unorthodox quiche-like affair with store-bought puff-pastry dough:IMG_6441Leeks, chanterelle mushrooms, cashews, cheese, eggs and cream, and no crust to prepare – that was one easy dinner right there.

My new favorite salad is this:
IMG_4868It’s boiled green beans, blanched and seeded tomatoes (great for using up tasty, over-ripe ones that have become too squishy for regular salad), a chopped shallot and olive oil. Salt and pepper. Lovely as a side dish for barbecuing, or with a pasta dish, or all on its own.

Also worth mentioning because it’s such an old favorite of mine I had all but forgotten about: the Taco Salad :-). Our friendship stems from my healthy-diet-be-damned, happy-hour-after-work-heavy advertising days in the Nineties. Every once in a while, it’s a very happy Tex-Mex indulgence, even though I wash it down with iced tea instead of Margaritas, these days.IMG_6207.JPGIt’s easy enough to make, if you want to try.

Tempting Taco Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into strips

5 tomatoes, cubed

1 can chili beans

1 can corn

1 store-bought salsa

1 bag corn chips

large handful of grated cheese

1 container sour cream

200 g ground beef, browned in olive oil with a chopped shallot, a handful chopped cilantro, seasoned with chili flakes, cinnamon, cumin, salt, sugar and pepper

After browning and seasoning the meat, layer (in a glass bowl for a better visual, if you have one) from bottom to top:

shredded lettuce


chili beans



sour cream



one half of the chips, crumbled

Decorate with a row of whole tortilla chips all around the rim of the bowl and sprinkle with pepper. Serve with extra chips & salsa, queso if you’re so inclined, and guac.

There. Now my lunch-break is officially over, and I’m hungry. Go figure!

Have a great week everyone, and smile at a picture my kids took after I failed to clean up after myself like I usually scold them for doing:IMG_6671No worries though, my legs are still their regular shape :-).IMG_E6727To Berlin-based readers, happy first day of school, and to everyone, enjoy another week of this spectacular late summer.


The Way They Were


First, I have a question for you: Do birthdays make you all nostalgic? Do you feel like looking back and remembering, whenever someone turns a year older? Or do you wake up in the morning all eager for anything the new day/year may bring? Maybe birthdays are just like any other day to you?

For me, birthdays tend to be busy (baking, cooking, organizing parties). The days after the fact, however, are often filled with quiet reflection, and this year is no exception.

My birthday last week was a sunny, summery day spent swimming in the lake, barbecuing things and hanging out with friends on the shady lawn after. I got wonderful, thoughtful presents, I felt loved and cherished, and I had a really good time. Since it was a Sunday, we started around noon and people went home early because they needed to work the next day. Lawn and kitchen were cleaned up by 10 p.m., and the day ended in the hammock with my teenager, and a little substance abuse. That was memorable in and of itself obviously, but the conversation was even more so. You know the rambling way people talk when under the influence, which can feel so profound but actually is mainly losing your filters. So we had a fascinating chat about sex, and love, and the way this new generation’s approach to both is somewhat different from my own generation’s.

As much as I commend the way they’re open to experimenting, I’m also a little bit weirded out by the cavalier attitude towards what I consider to be intimacy (‚for science‘, as he put it). Well, I guess as long as you talk in advance and make sure everyone’s on the same page. I know I always preached to be open about things, and not have any hang-ups, so I guess this is what the outcome is :-).

It was all very interesting, and it’s certainly remarkable how these experiments went on without my husband and me even realizing. I guess we must be very trusting individuals. Which is actually what I’m applying as a strategy for bringing up my teenager: Trust in him (thank you so much, Jesper Juul!), and get him to talk (figured that out all by myself). Thank God we don’t really need weed for that!

I made no grand speeches, I hope, but I did point out the importance of making sure nobody gets hurt (you may feel all casual about messing around with someone, but he or she may have feelings for you, so you better be sure it’s the same empirical interest (read horniness and curiosity) driving both partners before you engage in anything). I also said sex with a person you’re actually in love with is a whole different ballgame, and there’s still a lot to discover (or scientifically research) when that is the case. He’ll get what I was talking about when that happens, right? For now, it’s safe to say we’re not in Kansas anymore. Evidently, my son is a sexual being, bizarre as it may be to me as a parent. Who knew?IMG_E6368Thoughtfully leaving this place today without even mentioning food or crafts, sorry not sorry :-).

Those of you who have older children, talk to me about this stuff, for right now, I’m just flying by the seat of my pants. I’m sure I’d benefit from some, well, experience.