Cologne, we have to talk… 

Cologne, we have to talk… 

I have to admit I made myself scarce in the last few years. My visits are short and limited to special occasions: dropping by at my parents or parents-in-law, an appointment with the ENT doctor, or paying a visit to the summer festival at Pit, Staff & Co. It has been a long time since I came by just to be with you.

And yet, I have known you since I was born. My parents lived in your south the first years of my life, near the University. When my father finished his studies and started his career as a teacher at the same school where he used to be a student himself, we moved to your north. My father taught German and History, he wanted to show me your many faces and the people that shaped you over two thousand years. 

We used to stand on Hohenzollernbruecke near the impressive Cathedral of Cologne. While the passing trains caused the bridge to tremble, I looked down on the river Rhine and wondered  where the boats were going, places like the Netherlands or Switzerland seemed so far away. I saw how small you were at the beginning, and how much you grew over the years, even to the other side of the river Rhine. From the beginning, you welcomed people from far away: roman soldiers, merchants, migrant workers.

You offered many cultural activities, I loved it. I don’t know how many hours I spent at museums, the opera, one of your many theatres, the movies, learning to play the flute or taking riding lessons.

Your population always resembled a melting pot. I was invited for lunch by the turkish families of my classmates, and many of our neighbours came from other parts of Germany or foreign countries and brought with them other ways of living. Something new waited at every corner, so many opportunities.

I watched as you continued to grow and became a big service metropolis and it made me proud that you made a big impression on tourists.

When I wanted to move in with my now husband, you showed a very ugly side of you: housing was either non-existent or non- affordable. Today even more so than back in the middle of the 1990s. With a heavy heart, I left you. Getting used to living on the countryside took me a very long time. But I visited you every day, when I went to work. Often I stayed a bit longer after work to shop, have a cup of coffee, or to stop by at my parents or my grandma. And you made me smile every morning when I arrived at the central station and saw the Cathedral.

Since my daily visits stopped, everything I know about you comes from the media or third parties. Of course I know about the terrible things that happened on New Year’s Eve 2015, or that there are now “no-go areas”. But everything really sunk in on New Year’s Eve a few days ago. I thought I had stepped in a kind of war zone. So many police men, so many road closures. I was relieved when we were home again. I never thought I would say this to you. 

Until now I was certain I will come back to you when I am old. When I am no longer able to drive and be happy that public transport is available at every corner. But I am not so sure any more that this will happen. You changed, that’s the way it is, but you lost your warmth and humanity on the way. But please, be a  safe place for our parents.

And still, I love vou.

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A Christmas to forget

A Christmas to forget

This Christmas was everything but contemplative and quiet. On Christmas Eve my parents came over. At first Sam was restless and kept barking, but we knew he would settle down eventually. He did, and everything seemed  fine. 

When my mother stood up from the table to follow me into the kitchen, Sam jumped on her.  She lost her balance and hit a doorframe with her elbow. She will see a doctor about this today, so I know it hurts pretty bad. 

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, or my back, in this case. The straw that had kept piling up since Sam came to live with us. Every time I had to put him in a separate room to keep him from attacking postmen, neighbors, friends or relatives added straw. Every time he kept pulling  on the leash during our walks so my husband and I ended up tense and nervous and I struggled to keep up with the pack (I am using a walker) added straw. Every time he barks wildly at the door or the windows when a car or a neighbor passes the house added straw. Every time he tried to attack bikers or joggers added straw. Right now, I don’t care that Sam is sweet, affectionate and cuddly with us. I don’t care that my husband takes the blame for what happened on Christmas Eve and says he didn’t pay enough attention to Sam. I don’t care everyone says we are Sam’s last chance. It never should have happened and I feel so discouraged and helpless and don’t know what to do.

On Christmas Day, we drove to my sister-in-law, who lives a about 115 km from here. As a christmas present we were told she is seven weeks pregnant. Bummer. We are involuntarily childless, so this announcement reopened many old wounds. A hasty retreat wasn’ t an option, we all had been invited to stay the night. Because of the events of Christmas Eve, I was even more tense and had a close eye on Sam. The guest bed was really hard and uncomfortable, we called it a night at five thirty in the morning and tried to leave the house silently to drive home. The car had other plans, the battery was dead. When we rang the doorbell to get in again, we woke everybody in the house. My husband managed to sleep a few hours after that, my night was over. About nine in the morning, my brother-brother-in-law helped us to jump start our car from his own vehicle and we finally were on our way home.

From today until New Year’s Eve it’s business as usual, my husband has to work. I really hope nothing else happens and my nerves can calm down.

Winter solstice

Winter solstice

The picture above shows the result of my last OT session. I have to admit, it took more time making the cookies than eating them. Oh well, Christmas is not the time to watch the figure, I think… 

Finally winter solstice is here, meaning the days get longer. It will take a few weeks before this becomes really obvious, but I am relieved nonetheless. It doesn’t bother me that January is the coldest month. Waking up to bright light outside gives my depression-addled brain a boost like nothing else!

Here we snow again… 

Here we snow again… 

My gait is unsteady and I use a walker, so snow and icy roads are not my favourite weather conditions and I keep a close eye on the forecast. Yesterday evening I told my husband that my News-App issued a snow warning. He checked his weather App and said: “I don’t think so.” This morning I was greeted by 10 cm of fresh snow. Unfortunately I had been right. But everything went back to normal pretty quickly.

When I was a child, I loved snow. We lived on the outskirts north of Cologne near a park. Much room to roam around, many friends to play with, it was wonderful. There was a small hill, and this was where we all met in winter.  Everybody brought a sleigh, and we stayed there in the cold for hours. We really romped about, but nothing really bad happened. I never went home before I was chilled to the bones. Then I changed into dry clothes and sat near the radiator to get warm. After that, I went out in the cold again. There was one day when school was cancelled due to bad weather, we were so happy: One more day we could spend outside in the snow.
As grown-ups we have to stick to a schedule and often miss the magic of Winter Wonderland. But when I look out of the window and see the snow-covered landscape, for a short moment the enchantment from decades ago is back.

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Spirit of Christmas

Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is next week, but I don’t feel like it. A white Christmas is unlikely in this part of Germany, and so the Christmas decoration is the only thing reminding you it’s the third week of December when you go shopping. The air is full of stress, while everybody buys presents like there is no tomorrow, or as if the regular occurence of Christmas comes as a big surprise. This year was a hard one, I just want to take a breather. Maybe my mood will get better next week, when I prepare for my parents’ visit on Christmas Eve.

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Occupational Therapy, Part 1

Occupational Therapy, Part 1

This is just my side of the story and no medical advice!

When I was discharged from the mental hospital this fall, OT was recommended to help me structure my day.

I have had OT before. At this time, I had problems concentrating at work. Every telephone ringing or collegue talking would disrupt my train of thought and I would have to start all over again. That made my work as an accountant extremly difficult.

In OT, I would be shown short film clips and had to answer questions after that, like, “How many cars were driving down the street?” Or we would play memory games, the  kind where cards lie on the table face down and you have to find the matching pairs. Once we created a mandala.

The therapist came to the conclusion everything was alright with my ability to concentrate. I disagreed with this assessment. During therapy I told her more than once that the quiet enviroment of the therapy sessions could in no way be compared to my hectic workplace. I didn’t develop any coping mechanisms, I was glad when it was over, I didn’t ask for a follow-up prescription and was angry about the co-payment.

Fast forward to the present. Same  therapist’s office, new therapist (living in the countryside means limited options. Also the therapist’s office must be accessible by public transportation). And a different starting point – coping with everyday life, not work.

This time we considered many therapy options during the preliminary meeting. The angel in the picture was suggested by my therapist. I had fun making it, and it is nice to have some tangible proof of my work. I like to cook and bake in my OT sessions, too, because this is so difficult for me to do on my own at home. My husband looks forward to me bringing home those goodies, and I am glad to see him happy. It is an upward spiral and I feel more motivated. This time, I will ask for a follow-up prescription, and I don’t mind the co-payment at all.

I just can guess why the first try turned out to be such an epic failure. Maybe my expectations were set too high, or maybe we did the wrong exercises.

My opinion is, OT can be a valuable tool because it offers many options. But it is important that the patient is very precise about the therapeutic goal at the beginning, and that adjustments are made if necessary.

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Let it snow…

Let it snow…

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It began snowing yesterday evening, resulting in icy roads. This morning about 20 cm of fresh snow had piled up. We would have enjoyed the weather by drinking hot cocoa or taking a walk, but we didn’t have time for that. My husband had to go to work unexpectedly and I was busy keeping the sidewalk in front of our house reasonably snow free. My back didn’t like this at all.

As far as our furbabies are concerned, the snow came up to Jackie‘s tummy, so she briefly sniffed the crisp air and has been staying in warm places ever since. Sam doesn’t care, and Janet loves it. We were really in for a big surprise the first winter she lived with us, watching this then so shy dog playing in the snow with abandon. Things haven’t changed, and it warms our hearts every time when we watch her racing around in the snow bright-eyed and happy.

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