On being happy

This evening, I witnessed a friend’s daughter memorizing a poem for her German class. As I sat there and watched her close her eyes, then peek one eye at the text and stumble across the sentences, I had a flashback to my younger years. J. was complaining that the text was old-fashioned and made no sense and she only needed to have it memorized for tomorrow and then she was ‘allowed’ to forget it.

I majored in languages and literature at university; German, Russian, and Spanish to be exact. In my 2nd year Spanish class,  we had to memorize poems. I was given a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Tonight, as J. sat there memorizing, I thought back to my poem and could actually recall the first two lines. I came home and looked them up on the internet (thank goodness for the internet!). To my non-surprise, the title and remaining words of the poem appeared on my screen within a mouse click.

The poem is called El Remordimiento or Remorse. It’s funny that this is the one poem that I should remember some 24 years later. I remember back then thinking that it was such a dramatic and tragic poem. Now, being a grown-up, I can relate. What a shame it would be not to take every opportunity in life to be happy. Even small things are worth being happy about. I hope my son grows up to be the happiest he can be in whatever he chooses to do.

On that note, I thought I would share the poem here. Happy reading!

Jorge Luis Borges

El remordimiento
He cometido el peor de los pecados
que un hombre puede cometer. No he sido 
feliz.
Que los glaciares del olvido 
me arrastren
y me pierdan, despiadados.

Mis padres me engendraron para el juego
arriesgado y hermoso de la vida,
para la tierra, el agua, el aire, el fuego.
Los defraudé. No fui feliz.

Cumplida no fue su joven voluntad.
Mi mente 
se aplicó a las simétricas porfías
del arte, que entreteje naderías.
Me legaron valor. No fui valiente.

No me abandona. Siempre está a mi lado
La sombra de haber sido un desdichado.

English translation:

Jorge Luis Borges

Remorse

I have committed the worst of sins
one can commit. I have not been  happy.
May the glaciers of oblivion
take and engulf me, mercilessly.

My parents bore me for the risky
and the beautiful game of life,
for earth, water, air and fire.
I failed them, I was not happy.

Their youthful hope for me unfulfilled.
I applied my mind to the symmetric
arguments of art, its web of trivia.
They bequeathed me bravery. I was not brave.

It never leaves me. Always at my side,
That shadow of a melancholy man.

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It has finally arrived…

November in Germany is always a test for my sanity. I mentioned in a previous post that German Gray should be an official color. It would be a dirty gray with splotches of brown, sprinkled with a hint of puce at day’s end. Not a pretty color.

My inner sunshine is being put to the ultimate test today. This is the condition of my normally well-kept garden (I am not responsible for that horrible green fence thing!)

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and this is the color of the cold November sky

Image.

I fear I will have to use up some of my sunshine reserves today.

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A Friday Tribute to Sunshine People

In honor of Friday, I would like to say a special thank you to all the Sunshine People out there. You know who you are. When you enter a room, it lights up. You make us feel warm and fuzzy without even trying. You make us smile whether we want to or not. You are the sunshine we look forward to everyday even when the sky is gray. And you give us so much that we carry a reserve for when we need it most.

So let’s here it for the Sunshine People. Cheers! And thank you for being you!

 

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Game, set, match!

Sometimes, the Germans have a fantastic way of saying things. For example, only in German speaking countries can one suffer from Kreislauf problems. The word ‘Kreislauf’ could be mistaken to mean circulation, but that definition doesn’t do it justice. If you stand up too fast and get dizzy…Kreislauf problem. If you sit down too fast and get dizzy…Kreislauf problem. If you’re late for a meeting and had to stop to get a donut…Kreislauf problem. If you’ve had too much to drink the night before and you don’t want your boss to know that you are hungover…Kreislauf problem.

But this post is not about my Kreislauf problems (yes, after 18 years in Germany, I also have Kreislauf problems!). Today, I discovered that I’m not a Sportmuffel afterall. Sportmuffel is another one of those German terminologies that means so much as ‘I hate sports and if you make me do sports, I will get Kreislauf problems!”

I had my very first tennis lesson of my life. A very energetic woman that I made acquaintance with this summer talked me into taking tennis lessons with her. She had already tried with pilates yoga, but that didn’t work out. I couldn’t get the hang of holding all of my limbs in the air at the same time and hearing “now relax and breathe easy”. Not so easy to breathe when you are concentrating on not hitting the ground in a twisted mess head first…

Tennis was not much different. I had a vivid picture in my head of not only my Kreislauf breaking down, but my whole body. I envisioned tennis elbow, knee, back, foot and anything else with moveable parts on my body. I’ve watched tennis matches on TV before and I am always in awe of the player that puts his head in the way of a ball flying anywhere between 112-185 kmh (70-115 mph). My car hardly drives that fast and I wear a safety belt in it to prevent permanent damage. In tennis, it’s just you, a cute little skirt (no that’s not the reason I wanted to play), a racket and a partner waiting to slam a ball at you… no protection offered.

How wrong I was! Within 60 minutes, I became addicted to the sport. I ran, I hit, I gathered little yellow balls with the enthusiasm of a child in a candy story rushing to the counter to pay. I tigered back and forth on the balls of my feet and slam! I hit the ball again. It was like magic. My adrenalin had been activated for the first time in my life. (Okay, only my sport adrenalin had been activated. There are still other activities that encourage my adrenalin to kick into full gear :-)).

During one of the breaks, my trainer asked me why I decided to come for lessons. I told him that it was sista girl’s fault for dragging my middle-aged self onto the court. His comment, and I do quote, “I guess when you reach the age of 40, you have to make a decision: either I’m going to do something or sit around and get a fat butt.” Okay, he didn’t say butt (and I am over 40), but let’s keep this blog rated “G”.

He’s not right about my rationale for starting with tennis, but it doesn’t matter. I know now that I am not a Sportmuffel and my Kreislauf will suffer one day again soon (it’s almost winter and there are all kinds of things in Germany which can send your Kreislauf into a spiral such as heater from the radiator, underfloor heating, not opening the window enough when it’s minus temps outside, etc.), but not because of tennis!

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Autumn foods

Like most people, I also have a favorite season. My season is autumn. I love the colors, the smells and the flavors. Although I woke up on Saturday morning to falling snow and this morning I had to scrape ice off my windows, it is still technically autumn.

Though I grew up eating sweet potato pie and loathing pumpkin pie, today I can appreciate many recipes with pumpkin in them. Last week, I made Nigella Lawson’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry. It’s pretty much a staple on my table during pumpkin season. It’s so easy to make and tastes fab!

The week before, I made pumpkin chips and served them with Maldon sea salt. I say “serve” like it was a dinner party. It was just me, the old beat up pan I baked them in and a happy fork.

Tonight, I ventured past pumpkin to peas. I was one of those weird children that actually looked forward to eating split pea soup. And now I have turned my own child into one. I’m old enough to know what life was like before there were all these fancy chunky soup brands. But it didn’t matter. I even ate the watery stuff. But now, I will never, ever, ever eat another canned soup.

Who knew that it was simpler than simple to make your own split pea soup? It was so delicious and so autumn. The dab of creme fraiche on the top wasn’t necessary, but it was a nice touch. I won’t bore you with the details. The recipe is from Epicurious.com. I did alter it a little (as I inevitably do with most recipes), but since I don’t have a comparison to the original, I’ll just say that mine was fab! The proof is in the picture. If you’re squeemish about peas, do not look at the picture below! If you can appreciate the beauty of a perfect green pea, enjoy!

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You know you’re a Southern Girl…

when you admit that you love someone more than grits. Now that’s love!

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Society, society on the wall…

who’s the fairest of them all?

It seems that all the money I’ve spent through the years buying mirrors was completely unnecessary. There’s hardly a day that doesn’t go by where someone or something hasn’t reminded me of the color of my skin. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but really? Don’t these mirror people have anything better to do?

When I wake up in the mornings, I usually stretch. Amazingly, every morning the same thing happens: two black hands attached to black arms stretch out in front of me. I’ve yet to be surprised by this, but I can’t say that I really take notice of the color. They are just my arms and hands.

When I peer in the mirror as I’m multi-tasking brushing my teeth and plying the sleep out of my eyes, I only see me looking back. It never occurs to me that a black woman is staring at me. There are so many moments every day where I confront a mirror and almost never do I think of the fact that I am black. But I don’t need to. Society has become my mirror. I hope someone remembers to clean that mirror every once in a while. It’s beginning to get smudged.

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