Words of Wisdom from Max Ehrmann

Sometimes I am faced with hard situations in life in which I find myself questioning how my life is unfolding, and am I really following the right path. 

In these times I take into consideration the inspirational words of some wonderful people who have come before me. For example I really enjoy “Wear Sunscreen” by Mary Schmich, or “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Charles Swindoll helped me through trying times in the past with his motivational prose, “Attitude” which reminds me that it doesn’t matter what someone does to me… the only power I truly have is how I react to what they’ve done.

By contrast, Desiderata is for me more of a list of attributes I aspire to.
I would be interested to know what others look to in turbulent times. Please feel free to add to the comments section those writings which you use for reflection.

Desiderata

— written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s —
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story. 


Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 


Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 


Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. 


And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul. 
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

And for those who are more … visual

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NiO

I’m going to vent a bit here.
This morning on my way to work I was blown away watching the behavior of two of Charlottenburg’s Ordnunsämter.

For those not in the know, the Ordungsamt is a bit like a police agency who have the lovely “meter maid” type duties, e.g., ticketing people who park illegally, cross the street against the light, dogs shitting on the sidewalk without the owner cleaning it up (oh, excuse me… that is indeed illegal, but it is laughable to think that the Ordungsamt actually does anything about that), if the behavior is “out of order”… thus “nicht in Ordnung”, these guys are the ones you have to watch out for.

Ordnung is very important to the great majority of Germans. If you witness someone falling and you ask if everything is OK, the most likely response (if they are actually OK) will be “alles in Ordnung”. Another important phrase is “Ordnung muss sein” (there must be order). The stereotype holds true for most of the Germans I’ve known… they want EVERYTHING in order.

Which makes the following even MORE silly when you realize that it happened on German streets with people specifically beset with the challenge of keeping OTHERS “in Ordnung”.

There is a school zone on one of the streets I travel every day. In that same area is what I believe to be a Jewish school or Synagogue. I know this only because there are two Berlin policemen standing at the door every day. The only other place I’ve seen ‘da po po’s hanging around would be the Mayor’s apartment.

Often I watch with a smile on my face and a healthy bit of Schadenfreude as cars fly by me, completely ignoring the school speed limit until they get to the place that they can suddenly see the police, then immediately the brake lights come on and they end up going the school speed limit for the next few meters, having little idea that the policemen couldn’t actually care less about the speeding infraction because they are there for a different purpose.

Experience has taught me that only the cars which ignore the speed limit completely and actually go faster than 50 will make it to the next light before it turns red. I know that no matter what, Mimi the scooter and I will NEVER make this light even if the school zone speed limit is not yet valid (too early in the morning, or late in the evening), because I can’t go over 50 even if I wanted to.

This morning as I was sitting in “pole position” at the red light before the school zone street, I looked to my left and saw in the next lane a car from the Ordnungsamt. I recognized the passenger as an Ordnunsämter who about a month ago went to the trouble of leaving the street and getting off his bicycle to give me hell because I drove (instead of walked) my scooter 10m (10 yards) on the 15m wide walkway as I parked it legally (in this same area) one rainy morning (with no pedestrians in sight, mind you).

As the light turned green I realized that it was a moment to see how well these men in charge of order actually remain “in ordnung” because we would be coming to the aforementioned school speed zone very quickly.

While passing the sign they didn’t slow down at ALL, in fact, still accelerating WAY past the 30 restriction and putting a big distance between themselves and the cars behind them. Then I saw their brake lights come on suddenly and assumed they had realized their error. No, that error was mine. They were slowing down to wave at the two REAL Berlin police officers I talked about earlier. As soon as the wave was returned, they sped up again and made it to the next light JUST in time to go through it as it was yellow (turning red AS they were in the intersection).

Basically I want to know WHY I HAVE TO OBEY THE RULES, YET THEY DO NOT?

Been reading:

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Truths for Mature Adults

The numbered sentences you are about to read were shamelessly stolen. However, I’m certain it wasn’t the first world-wide occurrence of Internet theft this month, this week, day, minute, or millisecond for that matter.
The blog I’ve victimized is normally written by Maria of “just eat your cupcake“. Very rarely does she copy/paste her entries, and the rare meme is usually popped back out as a question for her readers.
Hers is a blog which is written directly through the outwardly guarded heart of a 50-something, American Mid-western mother in a long-term relationship with a woman she met in college.
She has a talent for unfolding her past and exposing her present for us to see, and doing it beautifully I might add. She can turn a phrase and tell a tale. I dare you to read this entry which is a primer for Maria’s life. It is bit long for the average Netizen, but at least take a tour and see if you like. 
Back to the thievery. I’ve stolen one of her posts and added some other things I’ve had locked away for some time. 
Number 11 is my favorite of all, I think. (Bad decisions make good stories.) Isn’t that the truth? Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met have made some of the biggest life f**kups I’ve ever heard of.


TRUTHS FOR MATURE ADULTS

1) I think part of a best friend’s job upon your death should be to immediately wipe your computer history.

2) Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

3) I totally take back all the times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

4) There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

5) How the hell are you supposed to reasonably fold a fitted sheet?

6) Was learning cursive really necessary?

7) When asked, no one knows the origins of their metal coat hangers.

8) Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blu Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection… again.

9) Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

10) I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I call back immediately, it rings six times and goes to voice mail. What did you do after I didn’t answer? Drop the phone and run away?

11) Bad decisions make good stories.

12) People who eat at hotel restaurants, don’t deserve to visit other countries.

11) You never know when it will strike but occasionally there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12) I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

13) I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

14) Police officers always ask you questions you both know the answer to.

15) Bluetooth headsets look completely moronic.

16) Good music was made (and continues to be made) in every decade. People claiming otherwise tend to have stopped listening to music in whatever decade they say was the best.

14) Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

15) I wish Google Maps had an “Avoid Ghetto” routing option.

16) I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

17) Everybody lies, but it doesn’t matter since nobody listens.

18) When you go into court you are putting yourself in the hands of 12 people that weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

19) When you have 10 channels, you can always find something to watch. When you have 500, you complain there’s nothing on.

19) Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie/read a book/listen to a song that I ran across when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw/read/heard it.

20) I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

21) Even under ideal conditions people have trouble fishing their car keys out of their pocket or locating their mobile phones. But I bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

22) Is it just me or do high school kids get dumber and dumber every year?

23) Flight deals continue to be reported without taxes included, even though everyone hates this.

24) Double-Stuffed Oreos should just be called Oreos, and regular Oreos should be called Diet Oreos.

25) The first testicular guard, the “Cup” was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is important too.

Hey, remember to visit Maria’s blog.

WEBMU WE-BUM Whatever…

Well, I could spend this whole blog post talking about the Whiny Expat Blogger Meet Up in Hamburg which happened… oh what… 4 weeks ago? But you know what? Others have covered it quite succinctly and may I just say that I assume they remember it better than I do anyway. What I DO remember is the great time I had. I would like to thank our wonderful hosts, Ian from Letters Home, Mandy from No Apathy Allowed, Emily at Transkitten and PapaScott

People ask me why I always have a camera in my hand… it’s because dammit, I want to have SOME recollection of what happened!

Seriously, even Claire of Cheeseburgers and Sauerkraut has hammered out some time to talk about it and the poodle had been AWOL for a long time, you know?

So here is what kept occurring to me while exploring the city of Hamburg with a lovely, noisy, interesting, smart and funny group like this one. If I had met these people in other circumstances, would we have become such fast friends?

I will admit that there are blogs I read regularly, and others that get my time if I have the time. Some of them are classified as “my peeps”, others are people I read because I know that my peeps read them. Does that make sense?

If we were not all sharing this same experience, would we want to get to know each other like we do? Would we really be grasping out for others “like us”?

I’ve come to the realization that my Sweet (German) No is not going to understand the odd American reference. She simply doesn’t get it when I throw something out like, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin“, or “Give it to Mikey, he won’t eat it, he hates everything“, or how my bologna has a first and second name, or “If they take my stapler, then I’ll set the building on fire“. American pop culture references are lost on her as her German cultural references are lost on me. Yes, I know about “Der Struwwelpeter“, (only because I read it in my search for that spark to get me into the German language/culture) no I never heard of the book outside of this country. After 5 years in Germany I know all aboutDinner for one“. But my German friends still don’t seem to understand that just because it is in English does not mean that every English speaker in the world knows it like the Germans do. Why the oft repeated phrase “Same procedure as every year” should be funny was lost on me until December 31, 2005.

Music is another experience which she and I simply don’t share. Since coming here I’ve been exposed to much more of the pop music she grew up with, so yes, I know how to exclaim “Who the fuck is Alice?” at the appropriate moments, or when to jump up and down while dancing to that silly schlager song.

I don’t work with Americans, and although I have a few American friends here in Berlin, I really don’t see them often. So being with this group in Hamburg was an experience for me, as always. Not only am I assailed by so much English around me, but the cultural references grab me and put a smile on my face.

One of my WEBUM roommates (u know who u r) would whistle half a bar of a tune and my ears would pick up on it immediately. This is not to say that I don’t get to hear music, or that the Germans aren’t exposed to lots of American music… just that whistling the tune to 867-5309 in my vicinity kinda makes me jump a bit. I’m not used to someone actually sharing my culture, in fact I find that I really like it in a nostalgic way.

OK, so let’s get back to the topic. Is simply being an expat enough of a basis for a friendship? Is the fact that we have moved to this country from the same country a good reason for us to get buddy buddy? Trust me, I’ve met some expats here in Berlin that I would NEVER hang out with, and certainly wouldn’t have given them the time of day “back home”, but we run in the same circles… thus we bump into each other from time to time. ugh.

At the same time I’ve found that I really enjoy spending time with Yelli, even though in our former lives we probably would have never met up. For one she is a teacher, of science no less. Next division is that she is a mommy of two really cute boys. (gotta mention the scientist hubby is really a great guy and I really enjoy spending time around them both). Although I really don’t feel that it divides us, it should be mentioned that she is straight and of course I’m a lesbo, ya know?

The point is that even if we had lived in the same town in America, it is highly unlikely that we would have become buddies, as we really don’t have so much in common. I’m just not hanging around in many playgrounds or science labs and I seriously doubt that she’s put in a lot of time in gay places or wherever else I would spend my free time. Yet we meet up once in a while and I really enjoy chatting with her. Since she continues to call me for meet-ups, I assume that she’s enjoying our time together as well.

So please, what do you think? Do we American expats become such fast friends because we have the expat thing in common? Are we searching for someone with our own culture as a way of staving off Heimweh (homesickness in German), or is the German stereotype correct when they say is it just the American way… making fast friends and abandoning them when maintaining the relationship is no longer convenient?

Been reading:

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Too old for… ?

Goofball over at Goofballsworld has tagged me in a meme.
Don’t close the window yet… give us a chance. 

Normally I’m not into memes, but this one struck me as interesting.

“It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, we all do stuff that we are secretly too old for: stuff that we’d rather not want the others to know because they’d not consider it suitable for our age. So what are you too old for but what can’t you stop doing because you like it that much?”

Well, here I am at the commonly accepted “middle age”. The 40’s have just begun and I must face that the downward spiral has also started on many facets of life. There are things which I simply will never get to do. No, I won’t be partying with AC/DC anytime soon, and that teenage dream of owning a penthouse over Manhattan, I don’t see it coming true either.

According to society I should have settled down at least in my 30’s and started having kids. Well, pffft on that. I should have bought a house or at least an apartment. Pfft. I should have a comfy retirement fund started or at least some heavy guilt (OK, so I have a retirement fund… no pfft there).

Looking at life from the perspective of what society deems “normal” for each decade of life, I would have to say that generally I buck the system at every chance.

So why should acting my age be something I actually do?

Why is it that we allow society to decide what is right to do at what time of life? Goofball talks about how she loves to swing on swing-sets. She discusses the fact that the sizes are most generally geared to children, thus it isn’t so easy to use them in the same way… BUT, she still loves the sensation… and I’m sure she can still fit IN the swing. Why should she feel badly about enjoying something so natural? Just because society tells us that she’s too old?

I say Pfft!

  • If I want to play video games all night long, I’ll do it.
  • If I want to buy the BIG LOLLIPOP and suck on it until I’m down to the stick, I will do it… and I will hold the sticky stick however I want!
  • If I want to wear a Mickey Mouse Watch, I will do it.
  • If I want to eat desert before the main meal, why not? Life is uncertain. Eat desert first!
  • If I want to sit on the floor at the bookstore and enjoy going through the stacks while crawling around, I’ll get my pants dirty.
  • Bubble gum, you bet!
  • Rainbow Koosh Ball on my work desk… sure!
  • If I want to blow off a meeting to lie in a park enjoying the afternoon sun on my face, I’m going to do it.
  • Dancing like a wild thing at festivals… oh yeah!
  • Eating “Kiddie Cereal”… you bet!
  • Riding Screaming Mimi the bright blue scooter as a 42 year old…? Why the hell not?
  • Air guitar in the mirror… yup, I’m that girl.
  • If I’m flipping through channels and come across a Muppet Show re-run, I’m going to watch it because it’s funny.
  • If I want to listen to heavy metal at full volume while wearing my headphones, why shouldn’t I?
  • If I want to have a flag pole on the back of my bicycle, I’ll do it! (Note, get a flag for the bicycle – it sounds cool)
  • If I want to go to a theme park and ride every damn ride there is, as long as there is no puking involved.. I’m in!

I don’t care what people say or do, and no one else should either.

Whose life are we living?

Are we really here to gain the approval of others?

Will they be beside us at our deathbeds saying how right we were to obey all of society’s rules?
No.

Do I want to get to the “jumping off place” only to have regrets about the way I’ve lived my life?
No.

“I want to die young at a ripe old age.”
– Ashley Montagu

Remember:
Ageism will catch up with you.

So what do you do which defies society’s ageism norms?
Come on… you know you do… or at least you WANT to!

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Judgement call

Saturday night Sweet No and I had a lovely dinner at one of our favorite haunts with a couple of friends. The food was wonderful as always, the atmosphere is quite nice, the wait staff friendly and helpful. Normally I would give the place a plug because generally I am so very happy with them, but what follows might not be so nice.

First for any folks who aren’t knowledgeable about German restaurant paying traditions, I will let you know how we go about these things. After the meal the diners must track down and sometimes almost tackle the waiter/waitress to ask them for the bill. If paying as one, then the bill is settled right at the table. The server will produce a printed receipt and the customer will state a figure they are willing to pay, usually rounding up to the next Euro to add a tip, or if there are several people, include a few extra Euro. Then the waitress says thank you for the tip and gives the appropriate amount of money back.

But if you are in a group with people paying separately, this is where it becomes interesting. The waitress comes to the table with a printed receipt and asks what the first payer had through the evening. As the customer declares their part of the bill, the waitress makes a tick mark, eventually adding up all the ticks for a grand total for that customer. Then they are charged, tip is exchanged, and move on to the next person at the table until finished.

Back to Saturday night. Our bill was to be split into two sections, one for our friends across the table, one for No and Snooker. As our friends paid first, this meant that we would normally just pay the leftovers, making it a simple matter of subtraction of the total minus what our friends had already paid.

When I suggested this instead of the tick situation, the waitress frowned and said this wasn’t possible, that part of our order was not on this bill. It seems that she had brought the receipt yet the most expensive part was not on this bill. My meal, over 16 Euro, was not included. I gave the young lady a face which let her know I wasn’t happy, and she asked with a puckered-up face if we really needed an official receipt. As No answered that wouldn’t be necessary, I watched the cat’s ass face turn back into a smile. Eventually it was all figured out, money paid and she went away.

Immediately after she left I asked if I had missed something in that conversation (she dealt with No, the conversation was mostly whispered in German — and let’s face it, I was at a disadvantage there) that explained WHY the most expensive thing on our bill didn’t happen to be on the receipt. No one else had an answer either, just that the lady had said it was not on the bill and would need to be added.

Ahem, I worked retail for more years than I care to admit and this smells fishy. It was my job to pour through the receipts of the cashiers and try to figure out how they were stealing money. Lots of people got their walking papers because I was able to prove that they were using self-clipped coupons to get cash for themselves, or were playing scratch off lottery cards with no money on the HOPE that they would win and pay for the game… talk about gambling.

Another lovely little trick was for the cashier to take a common item with a simple price and just add it to the total they would request from the customer. Candy bars were a common tool for this ploy. The cashier would enter the items by hand, not including the candy bar. Once she had a total, she would add the cost of the last candy bar (say .75) to the sum of the customer’s purchases. This way the customer was paying the correct amount of money and would not fuss. Then she would pocket that .75 for herself, causing the store a net loss of .75 cents. Done many times throughout the day, this would merit some nice pocket change and be attributed to shoplifting.

Of course this could also be done through the simple “no sale”, where a customer would buy only the candy bar and hand a dollar to the cashier. The cashier would hit “no sale” which opens the register so that she could give a quarter back to the customer, then take out her three quarters. Skimming is probably the number one crime in retail outlets. But the smart ones didn’t do this too much because the register makes note of every time the button is pushed. You would be surprised how many never understood that I could see what they were doing quite easily. This is why if you ask for change AFTER the sale at any Wal-Mart type place that they have to call a “key person” to come open the drawer.

Which leads me back to our Saturday night and 16 Euro which passed under the radar for the restaurant. The woman who brought our ticket was not the same young girl who waited on us all night, but instead was a slightly older and more experienced woman who I would consider a “head waitress” or something similar.

My questions are thus:
Did the head waitress do this on purpose?
If so, is she pocketing the money, or is the overhead going directly back into the business for some reason?
Why was the head waitress the one who came for our money? Why not the original waitress? Does the restaurant keep the tip money, or maybe split it themselves between waitstaff, bar tenders and clean up crew?
If they do split this money, do the staff actually get to see the correct amount of the money we give them?
Am I just being too suspicious?
Are years of doing this for a living having an impact on my bullshit-o-meter?

What do you think about it?
Anyone care to speculate?

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