Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Interview

My dear blogging friend Dixie was interviewed by her dear blogging friend, Shiela. Dixie's answers were thoughtful, honest and revealing -- and when she offered to throw out some questions to her faithful readers, I took her up on it, having no idea what she might ask me. Leave it to Dixie to ask some pretty thought-provoking questions... at a pretty thought-provoking time in my life!

Now, shall we? (I'm so nervous!) Here's what Dixie asked me:

1. You have the opportunity to spend the day with a relative who has passed on and who you've never met. With whom will you pick to spend that day?
This one's easy. My aunt Ulli spent the past few years translating letters written by her mother, Irmgard (my grandmother) to her grandmother, Adele (my great-grandmother) between 1905 and 1944. The 600-page collection, called Letters from Chemnitz, chronicles the life of a German family before and during World War II. What made my father's family somewhat unique was the fact that his father was Jewish (though not religiously; he was brought up as a Christian) and his mother wasn't, making the children, my father and his siblings, "mischlings" -- the Nazi era equivalent of a "half-breed." Between the early-30's and the early-40's my father's family went from living the lives of an an upper-middle class banker's family with servants, cooks and chauffeurs, to a family that was struggling, starving and fearful of every passing moment, wondering when my grandfather would be taken... and what would happen to the rest of the family. Irmgard was, in a very real sense, the family's "protector," since her non-Jewish status gave the family the status of "privileged mixed marriage" which apparently meant that my Jewish grandfather and his mischling children couldn't be taken by the SS. When Irmgard died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1944, the family was left unprotected.
It sounds like my father's family's experiences should be chronicled in a book, doesn't it? Well, my dad is in the process of writing that book, and as a first step he began a blog to find out if people were interested in reading such a proposed book. (In fact Dixie was one of his interested readers!)

So, to get back to Dixie's question... I wish I had met my grandmother Irmgard and my great grandmother, Adele and I'd love to spend a day -- or a week or a year -- with them! Irmgard's letters were always full of deep love for her family, absolute adoration of her children, and a generosity of spirit that must have warmed those around her even in the bleakest of times. She was kind, funny and caring, never angry or vengeful in any way, no matter what. I remember reading her loving words for and about her children and marveling at how she was never angry or frustrated with them. My father was only 16 when he was orphaned (yes, his father died in an American air raid less than a year after his mother died) and my aunt was only 12. But I believe that it is because of Irmgard's and Carl's (I think I was named after him; I hope I was! Dad?) loving parenting that my father and his siblings grew up to be such kind, optimistic and loving people -- and such wonderful parents -- themselves.

2. When things get tough, what characteristic that you possess can you rely on best to help you through it?
You mean like... now? :-/

I think my tenacity gets me through a lot. I'm pretty focused and driven and when I set my mind on something, very little can stop me. I'm a list-maker and a methodical organizer and once I start a project I'll be up at dawn and work until midnight on it -- as long as I see purpose in it and as long as I feel an emotional attachment to it. If I don't, it's busy work and I lose interest quickly.

That said, I've felt kind of lost since being laid off last week. I'm questioning my talents and skills, second-guessing my goals, and wondering whether I've been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole lately. Normally I'd have re-written, re-purposed resumes ready to go and distributed by now, I'd have some interviews scheduled, and I'd be forging ahead with great... well, with great tenacity. But that's not happening at all. I'm questioning everything. Do I want to work for any boss -- even for any company or organization -- again, or do I want to work for myself this time, and be my own boss? Do I want to focus on educational technology... or just on education? (I admit it -- I'm not a fan of technology UNLESS it's integral to the product, and then I do fully embrace it... but there's something to be said for just a damn good tabletop game!) Do I want to work for kids... or with them? I feel paralyzed and insecure and gun-shy right now.

But that's another post, isn't it?

3. You've got 24 hours at home alone with no kids and no husband around. What are you going to do with your day?
There was a time when I had four kidlets under the age of five, and during that time and the ensuing 10 years or so, I'd have had a long dreamy, oh-if-this-would-only-happen-just-once sort of answer to this question. But these days it's quite a regular occurrence that all four kids are off working or in school or with friends and I don't see them for a day or two, and then I'm alone all day (well, lately anyway!) and Tom and I are alone in the evenings.

This question reminds me of the promise I made to my kids waaaaay back when we had little or no break (who in their right mind is going to offer to babysit for two babies, a toddler and a preschooler?!). I promised myself -- and made a silent promise to them -- that when they have kids we'll just TELL them and their spouses to take off for a weekend and leave the kids with us. They won't have to ask; we'll just offer. I soooooooo wished someone would do that for us during those crazy years!

But I digress.

If I had 24 hours of total solitude, and no other worries of any sort, like (ahem) unemployment, I'd travel alone to a cottage in the woods somewhere near a beach and immerse myself in two activities: I'd start scrapbooking Alek's and Kat's high school graduation and Peter's college graduation
scrapbooks (see, I even feel pressured to do the fun stuff!) and I'd start writing the novel I've been meaning to write and just can't seem to get started. And I'd listen to lots of good music, sip some good wine, and take a few long walks in the forest and on the beach.

4. Is there anyone from your past to whom you wish you could extend an apology? Tell who and why if you wish.
I've really wracked my brain on this one and I have to say that, as far as I know, I don't think I've ever hurt someone really badly or done something awful that begs forgiveness. I have tried to live by the Golden Rule, sappy as that sounds, and I hope that I've done a fairly good job of it.

5. Is there a film that's a little cheesy/trashy/raunchy/dumb/sappy or any combination thereof that you secretly like and will watch at any opportunity? And tell us which on it is!
OK, this is embarrassing. But I am a hopeless romantic. I will watch Under the Tuscan Sun, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and The Bridges of Madison County (stop snickering!) any time I have the chance. Yeah, I know -- there is a thread that runs through all of them... and yes, there's a part of me and a part of my life in all of those movies. Now if I could just start that damn novel!

How's that, Dix? Did I do OK?

And just so I play this game correctly, I'll quote Dixie with further instructions: "Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” I will respond by asking you five questions in the comments here on this post so check back here. I get to pick the questions. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions."

Ok, who's next?

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Dixie said...

I don't know if I asked great questions but the answers were fascinating. I was hoping you'd mention your paternal grandmother as the one you'd want to meet. She must have led a fascinating life.

I think your tenacity will help you land that next job. You may not be feeling too tenacious right now but maybe you need a pause to regroup. You goal-getting self well get into the swing soon enough. How do I know that? Your list of what you'd do if you had 24 hours alone. You listed so many things - more than I'd list if I were going to be alone for a month! I see glimpses of your go-get-em self peeking out!

Bridges of Madison County? Oh Carol! You're right - I can't stop snickering! :)

jen said...

Those were some cool questions and great answers.

Seriously, BofMC is kind of wretched, but i can see it as a guilty pleasure.

I'll do it. I'm so deep into computer set up, I have not a creative bone in my body. Interview me.

Carol said...

Oh goody, Jen! I was hoping you'd ask!

Here goes...

1.) What 5 things do you miss most about San Francisco and the Bay Area? (You know I HAD to ask that one!)

2.) Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest? As a close friend? As a lover? (Permission granted for this question...!)

3.) Tell me about your most memorable dream.

4.) If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or quality, what would it be?

5.) Describe the most significant "fork in the road" of your life.

Oh, and pass it on, of course!

jen said...

great questions. I've been thinking about them all day. Hitting the keyboard now!

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