Monday, May 14, 2018


I like birds and secretly wish I could fly too.

But today, my affection for birds was severely shaken. Pigeons had designated my smaller and rarely used balcony as their outhouse. When I went to water my plants on it, there wasn’t a spot where I could safely put my foot—it was covered with you-know-what. 

The floor, the walls, the glass, even my coveted plants were soiled. With a large needle I cleaned the netting of the screen door. Come to think of it, how in the world do they soil a vertical surface?

After two hours of scrubbing and cleaning I was determined that this was not going to happen again. I googled “how to keep pigeons from nesting on your deck” and adapted some of its suggestions. Instead of buying owls, I found five plastic water bottles in my recycling bin. I painted big black eyes on them. 

Then I strung a line across my deck and hung the bottles from it—some higher, some lower. They are gently moving in the breeze now looking downright threatening. For added effect I took off my black plastic gloves and tied them to the line too, hoping that the pigeons will take them for hungry black ravens. Then I sprinkled hot cayenne pepper on the banister and floor.

I straightened my back and looked at my work with satisfaction, wondering what the condo board will have to say. 

In the meantime, one thing is for certain — pigeons won’t visit me anymore.  

Until next time,


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Getting Fit

I just came across this story a friend sent me eleven years ago. I laughed so hard I could barely read the last paragraph. Let me share it with you. I wish I knew its author.

For my sixtieth birthday my daughter gave me a week of personal training at the health club. Actually, I am in great shape having been a cheerleader of our high school’s football team 43 years ago, but I decided to give it a try.  

I called the club and made reservations with a personal trainer named Belinda, a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear. My daughter seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started! The club urged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.

MONDAY: Started my day at 6:00 a.m. Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it. Belinda was waiting for me at the health club. She looks like a Greek goddess—blond hair, dancing eyes and a dazzling white smile! She gave me a tour and showed me the machines. After my workout I watched her conducting her aerobics class. Very inspiring! Belinda encouraged me as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in whenever she was around. This is going to be a FANTASTIC week !!

TUESDAY: I drank a whole pot of coffee, but finally made it out the door. Belinda made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air. Then she put weights on it! My legs were a bit wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile. Belinda's rewarding smile made it worthwhile. I feel GREAT!! It's a whole new life for me.

WEDNESDAY: The only way I can brush my teeth today is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I think I have a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. Belinda was quite impatient with me. She said my screams bothered other club members. Her voice is too perky for early in the morning. My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Belinda put me on the stair 'monster'. Why the h*** would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Belinda told me it would get me in great shape to enjoy life more. She said some other s*** too.

THURSDAY: Belinda was waiting for me with her vampire-like teeth exposed as her cruel lips pulled back in a full snarl. I couldn't help being half an hour late, it took me that long to tie my shoes. Belinda took me to work out with dumbbells. When she wasn’t looking, I ran and hid in the restroom. She sent another skinny b**** to find me. Then, as punishment, she put me on the rowing machine. I sank it.

FRIDAY: I hate that b**** Belinda more than any human being has ever hated anyone! A stupid, skinny, anemic, anorexic little cheerleader. If there were a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would hit her. Belinda wanted me to work on my triceps. I don't have any triceps! And if you don't want dents in the floor, don't hand me the D*** barbells or anything that weighs more than a sandwich. Next the treadmill. It flung me off and landed me on a health and nutrition teacher. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like the drama coach or the choir director? 

SATURDAY: Belinda left a message on my answering machine in her grating, shrill voice wondering why I didn’t show up today. Just hearing her made me want to smash the machine, but I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel. 

SUNDAY: I'm having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can thank God that this week is over. I will also pray that next year my daughter will choose a gift that is more fun—like root canal or a hysterectomy. If God wanted me to bend over today, he would have to sprinkle the floor with very big diamonds.

Until next time,


Monday, June 5, 2017

Enjoy Life

Our Earth is a planet of infinite beauty. Visualize the serenity of a starlit night, the brilliant colors of a maple leaf, the crystals of snow glistening like diamonds in the sun. Think of the expressive eyes of a faithful dog or the inviting smell of dinner.

Do we take the wonders of life for granted? Do we get too engrossed in the paltry concerns of the day?  Are we oblivious to the joys of this world?

It might be a sign of aging, a trend that can be reversed. Why miss the joys of living? Life can be tough enough; we need the lift that Joy can give us.

         To reverse this trend, pretend to be an artist. Look for an intriguing detail worth depicting on the canvas of your mind. Beauty abounds all around us. Being aware of the ever-changing world will keep us young and smiling. For nothing remains the same.  We and the world around us are ever changing.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Deja Vu

Power, Party, Politics! 

Do we ever learn from history?

It seems as if it were yesterday that my father watched distraughtly as the sun disappeared behind an ominous weather front. Was it an omen of Germany’s political future? In 1939, politics was on everyone’s mind, but to discuss it, even in the privacy of one’s home, was impossible. Amidst political uproar and turbulence Hitler had risen to power. In the process, Germany had become a police state.

Father turned to Edith, his wife—his pillar of joy and strength. She was smiling, her eyes focused on her children in the garden below.

“Faster,” my brother shouted, “faster!” He was sitting next to me as we clutched the side-rail of our new rickshaw. H Peter, our older brother, was pulling us, galloping in wild exuberance up the gravel walk, across the lawn, around the rhododendron bush – and over we went! Maxi, our beloved shepherd dog was wagging his tail. We scrambled to our feet ready to continue the wild ride. But Maria, our faithful housekeeper, intervened. It was time to come in.

Moments later we joined our parents on the balcony for strawberries and cream. We were still beaming from our adventures with the rickshaw.

“Did you ride by the Forbidden City? Did you bow low to the Chinese elders?” Mother bowed in Chinese fashion and we laughed in delight.

Maria reappeared at the door, “Telephone from Berlin, Sir.”

Father’s smile vanished as he followed Maria into the house. When he returned ten minutes later, he was in uniform, wearing a long, military coat with a saber at his side. He looked handsome, but deeply somber. Even Maxi looked grave. Did they perceive the darkness that would soon engulf us? Father patted us goodbye and left- Thunder began to rumble in the distance and the first raindrops drove us inside. Why goodbye, we wondered? We were five, seven, and nine.

Three days later, World War II was declared. The curtain on our happy childhood had fallen.

Part of this piece has been taken from my best-selling book about Hitler, “The Madman & His Mistress," available on

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Signs of Progress

Progress in science and technology has been extraordinary. The human mind has created miracles that boggle the imagination.

Can we make the same claim for the human heart? Have men and women become more considerate, kinder and more tolerant? Let us glance at some random events that happened 300 years apart — in 1717 and in 2017.

Anno Domini 1717: on the American continent, the first black slaves arrive. Also large numbers of Scots-Irish immigrants due to the famine at home. Horse racing, the major sport in the Southern colonies, calls attention to America’s prime values — individualism, competitiveness and materialism. Travel is cumbersome and slow. It takes weeks to get from Boston to Atlanta, while the New Horizons probe takes just 8 hours and 35 minutes to zip past the moon.

In Europe the thirteen-year War of the Spanish Succession has finally ended. After a reign of 72 years, Louis XIV, the Sun King, is dead, leaving his people destitute. The glory of the French court rapidly fades. In the Tuileries, King Louis XV, Louis’ grandson, a seven-year old boy with pink cheeks and curly long hair, receives the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great.

Peter the Great, 6’ 7” tall, has lifted his backward and ignorant Russia to extraordinary prominence. He instituted education, brought in European craftsmen, scientists, builders and teachers. He created an extraordinary fleet, an invincible army, and subdued Charles XII of Sweden, the greatest warrior of his era.

On his trip to Paris, the always curious and eager-to-learn Tsar explores the pre-Napoleonic, narrow passageways of the city jammed with people, vendors, beggars, singers, pickpockets, quack doctors and carriages. Human excrements are freely dumped from the windows above and mingle with the odors of horse manure. For a neater appearance, the streets are covered daily with fresh straw, which at night is swept off into the river Seine. During the day, Parisian women use the river to wash their clothes. The streets swarm with prostitutes; but visitors, who don’t want to risk their health or their lives, stay away from them.

Paris is the best-lit city in Europe thanks to some 6,500 candle-lamps that are refilled each day. Around midnight, however, one by one they flicker and die, plunging the city into darkness. Anyone who values his or her life is behind locked doors.

We fast-forward to the year 2017: In the USA a highly controversial president is inaugurated. In Bangladesh a law to end child marriage and to force underage girls to marry their rapists is about to be passed. Our pets are mercifully granted death if severely injured or sick. But in most states of the US no such mercy is granted to people no matter how much they suffer. Scientists keep warning us about overpopulation and the depletion of our resources; nonetheless, our lawmakers oppose a woman’s right to have an abortion. A hate-motivated arsonist burns down a mosque in Bellevue, WA, leaving its Muslim community without a place to pray. But not for long. A close-by church offers them a large space free of charge.

There is no doubt, science and technology have progressed enormously. Can we say the same about the human heart — has it expanded in wisdom and understanding? Searching for evidence among my friends, I’d say yes, and yes again!

But other evidence belies my findings — little girls forced to marry their rapists; women denied the right over their body; arsonists motivated by hate; thieves waiting for darkness and killers for opportunity. And who knows the motives of lawmakers — power, wisdom, goodness, or celebrity?

Now as then, the world has harbored people of every description — some heroic, some wise and co-operative, some talented, generous, and good. And yet, there are plenty of others who are not. For in the last analysis, yesterday, as well as today and tomorrow, it is always up to the individual to strive for a better self.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Resolution

It’s the day to make our New Year’s Resolutions, a plan to improve ourselves, to set laudable goals. I’ve done it many times.

And yet, it seems to me that all of my resolutions have tended to evaporate into thin air by the end of January.

I finally gave it up.

Why is it so hard to keep New Year’s resolutions well and alive until December? Could it be that 365 days is just too long a time?

It might be easier to set a short time frame and tackle small tasks. To test my theory I made an unorthodox New Year’s resolution today:

In 2017, every Sunday I shall make a resolution for the coming week. It will be a small task that I can easily accomplish. After all, it’s more fun to succeed. And I want to keep doing it all year, maybe again the following year. Just to make sure I won’t forget I've marked my calendar with a reminder, “make resolution.”

I’m already anticipating the satisfaction of each weekly accomplishment: to clean out a drawer, discard ten garments for the Goodwill, walk a mile five times that week, read a Spanish book, plan and invite guests for a dinner, or do some project I’ve put off.

True, they are easy tasks, but imagine the joy to get each one accomplished — effortlessly — but one every week.

Happy New Year,


Monday, September 5, 2016


Who doesn’t long for happiness?  

All of us do.

Some see happiness in the promise of a raise or in the winnings of the lottery. Some fancy a new wardrobe, others a shiny Tesla. Some visualize traveling to distant shores. Some dream of finding the perfect mate who will shower them with everlasting happiness.

Some do indeed reach their goal.

But how long did their happiness last?

Maybe higher costs sapped their raise? And the lottery funds? Were they gone within the year? A new wardrobe’s novelty is bound to fade in time, and so does the newness of a Tesla. Our travels to distant shores may bring us joy galore, but eventually we’ll be home again.

What then?

Maybe the perfect mate is the answer. Yet life is like a river, it keeps rolling along, keeps changing, is unpredictable. Can you maintain your happiness and make it last throughout the ups and downs of daily life?

The answer may lie in the essence of happiness.

Happiness is something personal. It is something that we ourselves create — that we plant and cherish deep within ourselves. We cannot find it in the outside world. Only when we enshrine it in our heart and soul can we be masters of our happiness and sustain it.

It may be an arduous task to rid our mind of all that is incompatible with happiness.  Feelings of hatred and revenge are its archenemy. Nor can we acquiesce to jealousy or being fraught with desire. Happiness withers when exposed to mean and petty thoughts, just as temper and impatience gnaw at its foundation.

When we have shed these odious burdens, happiness will quietly take root and blossom.

What then is happiness?

Happiness is being grateful for being alive, for appreciating what we have.  Happiness is being content with our lot, and accepting our friends and relations the way they are, with all their faults and all their blemishes—we have them too.

Happiness is accepting ourselves. When we do, we can love and accept anyone else.

Until next time,