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Author Archives: Author Agathe Von Kampen

About Author Agathe Von Kampen

Thanks for the visit to my blog. After the first ten years of my life as a refugee on the front lines, I had survived unspeakable horrors and was looking forward to immigrating to America when I was a teenager. Having heard stories about life in the United States from the American G.I'.s occupying Germany, they gave me hope that I could achieve the American dream too. But, with good intentions my mother married me off to the first American man who showed an interest in me. With unexpected, horrible results. At sixteen I found myself married to a diagnosed sociopath. After living in emotional hell for thirteen years, I found myself having to support two small children without the benefit of an education or any job skills. This led to a lot of poor choices since I had never learned to choose for myself - only to follow orders. Through a lifetime of errors I corrected one mistake at a time until now, at age seventy-eight I am now living the dream I have always dreamed of! Now living in beautiful So. Oregon, I am married to a very kind and loving man who treats me with the respect I deserve, as any human being has a right to. I live in a lovely home, nice community and have the pleasure of my children being respectable, contributing citizens of society. It has been a long journey but worth it. Warm Regards, Author, Agathe Von Kampen

Support and Encouragement

Repeatedly I hear parents tell their children “You can be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it”.  We also see this concept promoted in the movies and T.V. shows.  Frequently we see accomplishments of people with disabilities making a success of their lives against all odds.  Paraplegics painting with a brush held in their mouths, marathons run by someone with prosthetics for legs, five year olds singing opera, etc.  These are gifted people with talents and/or determination beyond the average kids growing up in homes too poor to send one of their offspring to Juliard or acquire the funds for futuristic artificial limbs that allow them to walk, let alone train for marathons.  The ones that have no particular talents – or – the support needed to persevere (alcoholic parents, lethargic mothers burdened down by everyday struggles or parents who are still laboring to overcome poverty and adversity from their own pasts).

This is where the correct encouragement needs to be present for a child to reach his/her own potential – not false expectations.  What happens to the child who has been told all his/her short life that she/he is destined to become the greatest singer on “America has talent” only to be crushed when during trials he/she hears “Go home, you can’t carry a tune”?  Or the would be artist who’s parents have paid a fortune out of necessary family income for art lessons with years spent in Paris only to return home with nothing to show for it but disappointment.

How about we practice honesty with our kids and encourage the abilities they do have with practical expectations – the gifted ones will come through with their talents – they will be selected by teachers all along. They will win the marathons and contests as they are recognized and all the rest of them will do a superior job at just doing what they choose to do and are capable of – those of us who support our nation with integrity and consistent effort.

I am not suggesting that parents discourage a child but I do believe that we are putting our children on pedestals with false expectations to succeed in areas they have not chosen.

I say “Support them in their journey of growing up and let them be kids while they’re doing it”.  You may not agree with me and that is o.k. it’s just my opinion.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in The Rest of The Store...

 

Arrogance and Enabling

Big self examination going on in my mind.  Monday was a crazy, hectic day – you noticed no blog on my site.We were planning a quick trip to a doctor’s appt. early in the morning, then come home to the usual Monday chores.  But, as happens occasionally, it turned out different.  The doctor ordered a multitude of tests, followed by Xrays, Labs, Phys. therapy, etc. in preparation for Marion’s knee replacement surgery.

Now you think in the midst of all this activity combined with worries I would have my mind on nothing else – not so.  We are also preparing for major home maintenance next summer.  While Marion is sitting comfortably in his chair, laughing at non- sense on T.V. and, in general leaving the worrying about colors for exterior paint to me (Isn’t that what men are supposed to do)? I look at every house we pass with interest as to the color – what turns me on – never mind that, what would turn on the passers by – that’s what is important – I wouldn’t want to offend any one by shocking them with a lavender house with purple trim.  Marion’s only response to my incessant questions is “Honey, if you like to paint it purple, it’s O.K. with me”.  Now, most women would be over joyed to have a husband give them carte blanche to whatever their heart desires but this freedom, too, has it’s consequence.  If I make the wrong choice who can I blame?

So we are driving around the city in a frantic attempt to meet all these appointments when I spot the house.  Here we get into the psychological dilemma.  a couple of weeks ago I fell in love with an exterior of a house on “A” St.  Came home all exited to tell Marion that maybe that was the one.  When I tried to show it to him it was gone. No, we didn’t pass it.  It was gone.  How could a house just dissappear?  “Are you sure it was on “A” St. ? He asked.  What an infuriating question.  Of course, I was sure.  I am always sure of what I say and haven’t I prooven in the last seventy years that I am always right ?  I dropped the matter and, again, I am so lucky to have a spouse who is happy to let a sleeping dog lay.  Then the house reared it’s ugly (with a beautiful color) head.  In the midst of our frantic driving aroud I yelled “There it is”.  “Where is what” he answered.  What a dumb question.  What else could it be but the house color, the all important subject that had occupied my mind for weeks.  There it was but with it came the recognition that it was on Midland Ave.  Oh, for shame, I had indeed proven myself wrong.  That couldn’t be, could it ?  I am never wrong.  “Sweetheart”, he said with a mischivious grin “Maybe they moved the house – or – maybe it just took legs and moved itself”.  WAR. ” Don’t make fun of me, I remember clearly that it was on “A” St.”  Silence.  All calmed down I said meekly “Well, I guess I was mistaken”.  Just as calmly he answered “Well, honey, maybe they painted it – it has been a couple of weeks”  he was serious.  He was making excuses for me, granted a lame one but it showed his willingness to make an attempt at preserving my integrity.

Don’t we all do this at times ?  To protect some one from embarrassment we make up some excuse to keep everything pleasant – and thereby – encourage that person to indulge in their arrogance more.  Silently I blamed it on a “senior moment”.  When I was younger I insisted on being correct only when I was sure because my memory was intact – or was I mistaken?

Time to take some humble inventory.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in The Rest of The Store...

 

Surprise Gift

Last Tuesday was one of those days that presented itself with joy and sadness simultaneously.  Bad news first, right ?  At our monthly Stonecroft Women’s Ministry luncheon we were informed that this was the last meeting of the Grants Pass group.  That is going to be a great loss for those of us who remember years of fellowship with the sisters.  But that is progress – the younger generation of women have various different interests then fancy lunches.  And that is how it should be.  We need the independence of providing ourselves with the things that are important to each one individually.  For me personally the connection was somewhat different then most of the others.  I was given the opportunity to travel around the country being one of their speakers when the first release of my book “When The War is Over” was released and again when the second publication of my autobiography, now titled “The Chocolate Bar” came out last year.  Many ladies who had purchased the books became e-mail friends and it warmed my heart to see the empathy they showed concerning my eventful life – eventful as in suffering as opposed to success or happiness.

The second thing – the good thing, that happened at the luncheon blew me away.  One of the ladies had just returned from a trip to Israel and brought me a present.  Now, mind you this is not a close friend, just a fellow Stonecroft acquaintance.  I really like her and given the right circumstances we could become friends but she is not some one who I would expect a gift from.  When my mouth dropped open at the sight of a big package of Halva (A popular sweet delicacy in the middle east)she explained:  “When I saw this available at all the stores there I remembered reading  in your book that Halva was one sweet treat you still remembered from when you were a child”.

Now, for her to buy me something that is almost impossible to find in my area of residence is astonishing enough but for her to remember one little paragraph in my book is the greatest compliment.  Something every author craves because it shows that my words made an impact – what a gift, thank you, Tina.

You never know what each new day might bring.

 
 

Possession Obsession

I have become truly American.  My favorite form of recreation is spending a day at the mall.  “Just looking” I tell myself – but I always come home with some new acquisition.  No, I’m not a hoarder.  I don’t want things just to have them and I don’t buy trinkets or useless items.  I carefully analyze what my needs are – and sometimes I even indulge in a want providing it’s purple but no, my house does not look like a warehouse as some of my acquaintances’ homes are.

I have a system as all extremely organized people have.  Once I have my interior decorated to my satisfaction after each relocation I leave it alone, except for an occasional vase I can’t resist – but (And here is the key) for every item I bring home I discard whatever I have replaced – and in my defence, it does not happen very often – except, yes there is always an exception, for clothes.  I am addicted, what else can I say.

I love, fashion.  I love fabric.  I love a good fit, which is a challenge at my age and size (so of course, when I find something on sale that fits it is hard to resist) and I looooooove color, especially purple.  Since so many people my age blame their love of things on the fact that they went through the depression, maybe I can use the same explanation for my addiction to clothes.  For the first ten years of my life I wore one thing at the time – and whatever garment my mother would scrape together was made from old army blankets left behind by some unfortunate soldier who no longer needed anything.  Never mind if it was summer or winter – and, of course the color was always a gray or faded green.  

So, the other day I returned from a shopping trip with three new tops – I have a closet full of tops but I decided a few years ago that if a new top makes me happy and fits into my budget why not ?  Now I had to put three used ones into my charity box because that is the rule – a rule I made myself but that’s o.k. – I love rules and I love an uncluttered house, including my closet.  

I will never become a hoarder because I can enjoy these things as long as they give me pleasure and then let go of them without feeling deprived since I know I will always have enough as long as I keep observing the need versus want rule.

So, I can blame my addiction on the war and my indulgance in the addiction on my affluent American life.  Isn’t that what we addicts do ? blame it on others or on circumstances.

Oh my, is this another area in my psyche I have to work on ?  As Scarlet O’Hara said in “Gone with the Wind: I will think about it tomorrow”. 

 

Pet Peeves

I was happy watching a sit com.  Here I have to stop and enlighten you young people who might be reading this.  When we older ones watch mindless T,V. it isn’t because our mental faculties are unable to enjoy the more advanced material ( In fact, I wish there were more programs containing some wisdom – or , at least more entertainment, but alas, we are stuck with what’s available ).  So, “Fill your time with something useful”, I often told my girls as they were growing up.  Good advise to teenagers with unlimited amounts of energy.  For us seniors the energy and enthusiasm goes to sleep by early afternoon – for us early risers who get their work done in the morning.  The other variety sleep til noon and become known as sundowners.  But enough about us oldsters.

Here is what I heard that, once again, prompted me to voice my disagreement – as those of you who know me – know it in my D.N.A.  “You can do anything you set your mind too”, she emphasized to a disabled child.  In my opinion she is giving the boy false hope which can only lead to emotional problems when reality sets in that he will always be in a wheel chair – so, “Anything” would include walking to a six year old.  Later on he will understand this to be a lie – the disappointment in others and distrust can do more harm then the mother foresees.  Empty words.  Yet, the long lasting effects can do life long psychological damage.

The other thing that always makes me respond to the T.V. is the commercials, about weight loss – my favorite subject since that is my curse.  “If I can do it, you can do it”  B—s—-.Everybody has a different metabolism.  Some people respond to one diet, others to a different approach, and still others find it impossible to loose weight.  No matter what they try and saying things like that to a person will only heap guilt on their already overweight body.

I could go on with many examples but I am sure you get my implications.  Now it is my turn to take my own advise and mind my own business and let the advertisers and sit com writers do theirs.

BUT minding our own business is very difficult for us seniors to do – after all, our gray heads are filled with wisdom, right ?

Thanks for listening.  

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in The Rest of The Store...

 

Balance

I need routine – I mean, I really, really need things (including time) in order.  I need to get up at precisely the same time every morning, including weekends, meal times are at the same time every day.  I have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly chores.  Most people think that kind of restriction would put them in a personal prison – for me it spells security.

Many years ago, when I first noticed the difference, I traced my need for order back ,again, to my early life as a refugee.  We had no home – as we know it here.  Usually the government provided some sort of shelter – not always – but most of the time we survived in bombed out train stations, make-shift camps or placed with local people who had no choice and therefore resented our presence, so we mostly tried to stay out of their way quietly.  Fortunately it was always just a short time before the war front would drive us out and they became homeless just like us except it seemed easier for us since we were used to it.  We had no closet which did not matter since we had no clothes to put in it anyway – we owned only what we could wear or carry.  We had no kitchen – or even a pot to cook food we didn’t have.  We had no beds to sleep in, we were lucky to have a blanket or coat to cover up with.  At any moment orders would come directing us to start marching to the next place.  Life was completely chaotic.

Then we immigrated to America.  The accumulation of things began, requiring proper dwellings with kitchens, closets, bathrooms and beds.  I was sixteen and arranging all my possessions, as I acquired them became a pleasure.  My neighbor gave me out-dated magazines and I devoured them with pleasure.  That is how I learned english – and – how to make a bed properly, how to cook from recipies, how to use patterns to sew on my neighbors old Singer, how to combine different pieces of clothing to look fashionable, how to style my hair – in short, I became American.  And, with the help of all this information I became extremely organized.  Betty Crocker would be proud of me.

I like living that way and it always amazes me that, since I learned these skills in America most native Americans don’t.  Most of my friends and neighbors value their freedom of choice, freedom of will, freedom of doing things their way, in their time – being free.

Is that what freedom is – I guess so.  I am so happy I can enjoy my last years of life in a country where no one dictates me how to live.  I guess I am the one who is guilty of dictatorship in how I raised my daughters – I am just glad that they remember the love I lavished on them in the process more then the rules.

So, now that I realize the necessity of both living styles I will try to grow wings and learn to fly.   

 
 

Culture Difference

“You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy”.  So the saying goes.

I am proud to be an American – and I have integrated myself into the American life style as much as possible.  And yet, there are still areas in my life where the German heritage can’t be extinguished – or so it seems.  I value the American culture being one that emphasizes sensitivity and just plain, niceness.  I also value honesty and, I think in the pursuit of being nice we sometimes fall into lies when, in my opinion truth would serve the purpose better.  For instance:  When some one tries to break off an ill fated romance he or she will say something like “It isn’t you.  you are the nicest guy/girl, it’s me.  I’m just not ready, etc.”  Well, maybe you would do that person a service by pointing out what annoys you.  He/she may learn not to do whatever it is in the next relationship.

Recently my young friend confided to me an incident at her job that was disturbing her – she wanted my opinion because she knows that I would tell her the truth even though it might hurt her.  As she told me that the designated person to choose the staff they wanted to work with in a group setting did not include her or, more to the point they actually requested to not have her included.  “why would they not want me – every one likes me” she told me and it is true, she is a very likable person (As I said, Americans put a lot of value in being likable) – then, her supervisor told her “Oh, don’t worry.  It isn’t you. They probably just want to get even with me about something”.  Now, wouldn’t it be better to just be honest and put the cards on the table ?

Now, here is the other side of the situation.  I come from a culture where people are not afraid to tell it like it is and let the cards fall where they may.  Granted quite often that creates hard feelings, especially in America but eventually a person becomes strong enough to handle the truth – and, as Dr. Phil keeps saying “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”.  I think sometimes it takes a painful truth to motivate a person to make necessary changes – or simply grow.

And so, I will continue to sometimes offend people with my unintentional bluntness because it’s in my DNA and my friend, along with most other Americans will continue to be nice and have their feelings hurt when, on occasion, somebody does not seem to appreciate their sweet personality.

Viva La Difference. 

 
 
 
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