Maintenance

A mealy bug fell from my running shoe, as I clapped the pair together. It made me wonder if my writer’s brain was also starting to decompose, due to inactivity.

With my integration course over, I’ve found myself with a 3 month backlog of housework.

When we rented this house, it was perfect for us: a big yard, nice countryside, enough compartments to stick each kid and canine into.

But I live in a place where you could play golf on the hay fields, and with my schedule, I’m lucky to get to the grocery store before they close.

So, we’re moving to the city where most things are within walking distance and our yard includes miles of trails, maintained by other people. I will have a small balcony where I can kill helpless plants, and each kid can escape to his or her own room, or with the threat of a new Paleo Lifestyle, downtown to the ice cream cafe.

I’m pretty sure it’s written in a book somewhere that matter decays over time.

Houses, running shoes, gardens, friendship, love. If you let something go unattended, nature will do its damnedest to turn it back to dust again.

Maintenance doesn’t always require a ball gown and makeup. Sometimes you have to wear rubber gloves and fight the urge to vomit.

You walk through messes made by other people, so you clean it up and open the window and breathe in the air and admire how fresh things look again.

Maintenance requires sweat and heart and soul.

Disrepair requires nothing.

But when you tend something truly well, it gives you an intimate look at the thing; and if you’re attentive, you can enjoy it in a way that fills the soul.

It’s time to experience the beauty of maintenance.

 


Ausbildung

Heute, kann ich nicht auf Deutsch schrieben. Das Thema ist zu tief und meine deutsche Wörter zu wenig.

Therefore, today I am sitting on my gender-free sofa, not worrying if I am at the computer or on it,  and using present continuous to my heart’s content.

I have been sitting across from Mohamad, Remus, Vlad, Andy, Gosia #1, Gosia #2 and Jolanta for months now, so I know their faces well. I can see, sometimes, the pain and fatigue hidden behind their eyes; but better is the gleam of humor, that begins a class-wide uproar. It is a near mutiny when Vlad is on a role with his subtle quips.

While I don’t know the other faces quite so well, I could probably describe them well enough for an artist to sketch them with some accuracy.

Then there is our teacher, Oksana. She says she doesn’t have children, but I think every 6 months, she has about 20 new ones.

Like a good parent, she takes us firmly, yet gently by the hand and leads us from our verbal infancy to a more functional role in this new society. She has struck, with us, that magical balance between loving her, and fearing her enough to give her the respect she’s due. Her job is not easy. It does not pay well. But she puts her heart and soul into it; and like children, we strive to see that look of pride on her face.

The integration course is not simply about learning language or politics, it is about living a better life. The teachers understand our struggles, and they care about how we are living and working and interacting with the people around us. You cannot pay someone to put such heart into a job. It is something that must be within them already. And I am thankful they chose this line of work.

I know I will stay in contact with our group, but it will never be the same again. We will never be so scared and so freshly ignorant about this country. We will become fluent, settle into routines and find our paths in life.

I will miss Janna, to my right, with her direct manner and sharp humor, and I will miss Thao, to my left, also direct, but with a sweetness that makes everyone want to adopt her. I will miss the China/Thailand banter between Xu and Pattraporn.

I will miss it all.

With any challenge, whether it’s learning German or a Workout of the Day or running a marathon, you feel bonded to the people around you, because you can empathize with their struggle and share in their success.

I am so proud of our class.

Today, we have our oral exam, and while Oksana will be pacing the floor like an expectant parent, I know we will all succeed. She had taught us well; and she can now let go our hands, and take hold of the new arrivals.

Meine Freunde, ich bin stolz auf euch.


Student Teachers

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 6.43.47 AM

Someday this will be in German!

 

 

All teachers should be students.

It could be learning Chinese or basket weaving or handstand push-ups; it doesn’t matter, as long as you are acquiring information that has never before popped your neurons.

As teachers, we can forget things such as that deer-in-the-headlights reaction when your name is called or the maddening frustration of failure.

As students, particularly as students of a foreign language, we magically go from educated to illiterate when the bell chimes 08:00.

We make a thousand little mistakes that pelt us like freezing rain. It is hard and humbling; and it is perhaps the best lesson a teacher can learn: the art of failure.

Slowly, too slowly it seems, this gelatinous mass of information begins to take shape. Soon, we find ourselves making new errors, and so the learning continues.

As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than to see a student use knowledge you helped him acquire. To watch a student go from stuttering to eloquent in a matter of weeks or months, is perhaps one of the reasons many teachers love their profession and put up with the unpaid hours of work that go into it.

Students, quite often, are too steeped in their studies to be objective about their own learning. As students, we tend to see only our failures and not our triumphs. We look to the next area we can improve, rather than looking back to where we began.

Being a student has helped me to be a better teacher because I know exactly how my student feels when he uses the wrong preposition or gets hung up on finding the ‘perfect’ word, which he suddenly can’t remember.

Likewise, the best coaches are the ones who also train. Maybe they have years of knowledge and experience, but unless a coach is also in the trenches, respect is a little difficult for me to muster.

When I lived in the country, the village hunter would drive his little car along the dirt road, his dog running alongside. This was also the hunter who recommended I bite my dog’s ear, to get him to submit. These are not the teaching methods that inspire me.

I am not learning advanced chemistry or particle science here–it’s only German. I think millions of people probably speak it, and in time, I will too.

But as long as I’m a teacher, I want to be learning too. I never want to forget what it’s like to be illiterate or to be the person doing push-ups against the wall (yes…that’s what I did 2 years ago).

I feel like the universe is smiling at me when I make the same mistakes in  German that my students make in English. It’s amusing and frustrating, but it gives me a new way of understanding how I can help my students achieve their goals.

And now, my time is up.

I have to go to school!

 


Shoulders Back: Why Honest People are the Best

“Shoulders back, Keri!”

Immediately, my shoulder blades sprang back, as far as they were willing.

Where the hell had Johannes come from? It’s like he can instantly teleport himself from one end of the gym to the other–as if he has some innate awareness of when I have bad posture. It’s gotten to the point where, if I THINK I see him out of the corner of my eye, my shoulders fling themselves back.

He is the Pavolov of correct shoulder tension.

Damn it. Sometimes I just want to stand there cock-hipped and drink my water.

However, after two years of Crossfit, and at least a year of Johannes’ intensive Pavlovian Conditioning, I can finally do toes to bar.

*Toes to Bar: T2B: noun: to hang from the bar in pull-up position and quiver while other people actually bring their feet overhead and touch the bar. 

At the Box on Tuesday, my feet magically touched the bar. The mysterious connection between mind and body had finally been rewired, and was functioning.

I was giddy.

As always, I contemplate these little life lessons, and I realized that the best coaches, teachers and friends are the ones who are honest with you.

At first, it was humiliating when Johannes would appear from nowhere, like some phantom of the Box, and remind me of my sagging shoulders–especially when I thought they WERE back already.

I would get so mad at myself. But had he not said anything, I would still be dangling from the bar, wishing I could do a rep.

Learning German is the same way. Without Frau Hoppe, pleasantly, but firmly correcting me, I would never learn.

German is a frustrating language, and the basics have been sitting on a dusty shelf in my brain for nearly 15 years.

Sometimes I feel like I am the worst student in class–that I should just give up–that I’ll never learn all the damned articles and conjugations and how to forget my English grammar.

I often have to say things in German that would be completely wrong in English. It’s like I’ve stepped through the mirror and into a linguistic World of Opposites.

The Mad Hatter adding verbs to the ends of sentences and randomly adding gender to nouns.

Sometimes I make mistakes that make me blush–but it’s ok. The best friends laugh with me about it. If they never corrected me, I would continue offending people in German the rest of my life.

Life is like this too.

I have a friend, let’s just call her Tiger, who is the kind of person who will tell you if you have spinach stuck between your teeth. You don’t even try to lie to her, not just because she could beat the shit out of you, but because she can read your face like the front page of die Bild.

Because of these friends, coaches and teachers, I can finally see bits of light through the cracks of this shell I’ve put up. It fills my heart in a way that’s almost terrifying.

There’s nothing better than to feel comfortable in your own skin. To live your life. To take a risk and step out of the shadows. To realize your opinions matter.

Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone learns from them.

Learn.

And move on.

Every rep counts.

 

 


Pattraporn, machst du keine Diät!

*Achtung! Mein deutsch ist schlecht. Wirklich. Wirklich. Wirklich schlecht. Entschuldigung Sie mich bitte!

Meine blog post heute ist für meine neue Freundin Pattraporn. Sie ist eine schöne Frau aus Thailand. Sie ist lustig, freundlich und sehr intelligent. Aber, das Problem ist, dass sie immer sagt, ‘Ich bin fett. Ich mache Diät.”

Das ist falsche, Pattraporn. Du solltest nicht Diät machen. Nein. Du musst nicht Diät machen. Diäten sind für Menschen die zu Hochzeiten oder Scheidung Gericht gehen.

Das Wort ‘Diät’ macht mich wollen in einer dunklen ecke verstecken und essen eine ganze Schokolade Kuchen.

Auf Englisch, “Diet” ist gleich “die” was bedeutet ‘sterben.’

Stimmt!

Meine berate:

  • keine Diäten! du musst eine Art zu essen für dein ganzen leben finden.
  • du solltest viel essen: Gemüse, Fleisch, etwas Obst. wenn du hungrig bist, essen etwas gesundes, natürliche Lebensmittel.
  • manchmal, etwas süß essen: Geburtstags, Umzug Parties, Freitags:) und so weiter. Das ist okay.
  • Wirfst die Waage in den Müll: Gewichte ist nicht wichtig. Du solltest gesund sein.
  • Denkst du positiv–nie negativ. Jedermann kann ein gesundes leben haben, aber verändern beginnt in der kopf.
  • macht sport. Ja! laufen, Pilates, yoga, karate, wandern, windsurfen auf dem Brombachsee, einkaufen;) Crossfit (der beste)

Jeder Teil deines Lebens ist verbunden: deine Meinung, Körper und Geist.

Jetzt ist mein kopf leer. Ich gehe ins Bett. Am Morgen ich habe Deutsche schule (danke Gott! meine deutschen freunden sagen).  Ab Mai kann ich über meine ersten deutschen blog post lachen–oder es löschen.


Arschlöcher gibt es überall: A Letter to my Critic

Dear “TonyT,”

Thank you for reading my blog. You would have received my response twice already, had you given a valid email address.

If you had come up to me on the street and uttered those comments, particularly the abusive words aimed at my kids, I probably would have pepper sprayed you and called the police. If, however, you had a rational argument, I would have been happy to discuss it.

I can understand that to the outsider my blog might look shallow at times. That is deliberate. The details of my 20-year marriage are private, and to protect our family, I chose not to elaborate. This blog is about finding peace, contentment and overall health. 

Because your IP address is from Washington, I’m assuming everything you know about my situation comes from the blog. Likewise everything I know about you comes from your comments. So, if that’s the basis of our discussion, let me see if my estimation of you is accurate:

Your marriage was perfect, until your wife became ego-centric because of Crossfit. When you asked her to stop, she chose Crossfit over you.

Here is a life lesson: there are assholes everywhere.

They are in Crossfit, they are in step aerobics, they are in Zumba, they are in line at Wal-mart, they are at the table next to you at IHOP, they leave dirty coffee cups in the kitchenette at work, they are Democrats and Republicans and atheists and conservative religious zealots, they even go to Disneyland.

Go to any country in the world, and you will find an asshole. 

A wife who leaves a healthy, loving marriage because she feels she’s ‘better than’ her husband is an asshole.

You have been wounded, and I am sorry for that. I don’t like to see anyone in pain. But if we allow anger to take over, it will ruin us. It will destroy our personality, our character and our potential for doing good in this world.

Hatred is a fire that feeds on itself–and no one should live that way.

Life should be a balanced thing: holistically healthy.

It’s what I wish for people everywhere, and it’s the ultimate goal of my writing.

Peace, TonyT. Seek it. 


A New Year: Making Potential Real

squats

Streaks of gunpowder in the snow mark a perfect ending.

Fears and worries blasted to hell with firecrackers.

2014 was like a long, painful birth. No quick push and it’s done. This labor lasted 365 days. And now that the pain is subsiding, I’m left with relief and a heart so full of joy, it has to be shared.

This life I hold in my hands, pristine and unscarred, will grow stronger every day. There’s so much to learn and experience.

So much potential.

The word makes my heart race.

I love that word because it “generally refers to a currently unrealized ability.”

Pause, and mull over that definition.

Unrealized ability.

This means you don’t have to rove the world looking for it–whatever “it” might be for you. It means, you–your soul, your mind, your SELF, contains these incredible abilities already. They’ve just not yet been set into motion.

So, I was wrong about something: you cannot become a new person. What you are inside, is the only raw material you have to work with. You can mold it and shape it and smooth out the imperfections. But what you are, what you really are, is there already.

That person who is 10 kg lighter, she’s there. Don’t make a resolution to find her–be her. Every day. Make the food choices she would make. Does she have cake on special occasions? Great. But it’s probably not on her breakfast menu. How does she carry herself? How does she react to temptation, like a plate of fresh-baked gluten-free cookies?

That woman, who squats 15 kg more, runs faster, does pull-ups without stopping–she makes time not excuses. She starts over with a lighter weight and jumps on bumpers because the plyo box still freaks her out. She spends five extra minutes after class trying to get her chin over the bar and repeatedly whips herself in the ass with the jumprope until she gets a double-under. Then she goes home.

The author, writing her novel. She’s there too. Clicking away at the keyboard every day. She makes choices. Five fewer minutes on Facebook. Five more minutes staring at her blank screen. And she writes something–anything. Even if it’s just one stupid, run-on sentence that will most likely be deleted.

What potential exists for you? What goals and dreams are inside, waiting to be realized? 

I’m not making resolutions this year. I am just being myself. Being, not doing, as some dear friends of mine like to say.

Living. Loving. Staying aware of every little thing in this crazy life. Letting the good things fill my heart and soul. Letting the bad things drift away like a dying firework.

Thank God 2014 is over.

It made made me stronger.

But you couldn’t pay me to endure it again.

2015 has arrived.

Living.

Breathing.

Beautiful.

Crying out.

Kicking with potential.

Watch in wonder as it develops. Laugh when it does something new. Gasp when it stumbles.

But cherish it.

Embrace it.

Kiss its lovely little face every day.

 

Wishing you a happy New Year! 

May you live your potential!

With love,

Keri

 


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