Tag: Oma Erika

Ballueder Thinks (11) – Merry Christmas, the year in review

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2021!

2020 – most of us would love to wipe this year out. Forget about it. It is weird to think that a year ago, most of us could have guessed what was coming. However, the Western world was ignorant about the new ‘flu’ that was going on in China, and slowly spread across its borders. In hindsight, a friend of mine mentioned that he saw his work colleagues from China hardly making it on or off the plane in London – he knew it was coming. Why didn’t we act sooner?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so in hindsight I want to reflect on what was my 2020. A year that brought change, challenges but also a year that wasn’t too bad for us on a whole. We are truly grateful and hope that 2021 will be even better. There are good things that happened. Small things, like being able to book a barber’s appointment, or spending more time with the family, less of a commute, discovering the country side or just how grateful one should be.

My 2020 thoughts were all about healthier living and building my own business. I said it then and say it now, I am more of a consultant, working on different projects and that’s what I enjoy. In 2021 you will see my positioning change more towards Strategy and Leadership Consultant. I will still continue the same I have before, but my focus will shift towards a more teaching and skill based training approach which incorporates elements of my leadership research, mindfulness, counselling and coaching skills. I am brining the best of my abilities together, to build training programmes for leaders, middle management and individuals to become better in what they do.

But enough about work. I want to provide a personal review of this year, looking at each month, providing some thoughts on what I felt was important. And as I have been writing it, I noticed I got events muddled up, but that’s ok. It’s how I see it from and end of year perspective. And if you are sitting down with a tipple, you might not even notice it 😉

What I do know is that in January, I became a vegetarian. I tried vegan but without eggs and cheese, life wasn’t quite right. I also enjoy knowing this is good for the environment, and I stuck to it most of the year, with the exception of the odd piece of chicken and prawns. I would say I am 95% vegetarian, without wanting to beat myself up for eating a small piece of meat now and then. This resulted in me learning how to cook proper veggie meals, particularly whilst training for my marathon. Overall, my carbon footprint from food would have gone down massively. So that’s a good think I believe.

Thanks again for all your support this year. Without you, my friends, listeners, readers and mentors this would have been a harder year than it was. Let’s hope 2021 will be a new, amazing year!

Best wishes,
Volker

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January – I started the year knowing that my contract might be up for renewal. Things weren’t moving as expected, yet a new product with one of our partners kept us busy. So it was a bit ‘business as usual’, a lot of working from home, as gloomy January. It was miserable in my memory anyway. I just kept on working, and I was waiting to see what the year would bring. Two jobs, one paid, one for sweat equity, awaiting 2020 to shed some light on what was there to come. I also went on a retreat in Germany, which I truly enjoyed. That was my last travel for a long time, who would have guessed.

February – Mid February, just after my wife had a second wave of her ‘illness’, I got it. A day of fever, the kids off school for a day, and this ongoing cough. My throat was so sore, it kept me awake at night. When the first wave was over, the cough persisted, and the second part of the illness left me a bit breathless, as if I had smoked a few joints. People moved away from me on the train when I was coughing. As people became more knowledgable about this ‘virus’, I realised that my sense of smell and taste slowly recovered. I am certain I had the Coronavirus, but at the time, I didn’t have a clue. Maybe I should have, and I probably should have worn a mask.

Also, I had my first hypnotherapy session, I would have another one later in the year, dealing with some childhood issues. It’s fascinating what you can do with the mind, and it made me even more interested in studying hypnotherapy at some point.

March – I stayed home from mid March. Meetings were moved online, and people didn’t want to meet. Events we planned were cancelled. I received notice on my contract and was looking for a new one, yet no one wanted to commit to anything. A look around the globe gave us some warning, but little time to prepare for what was called a lockdown. The kids went off school, home schooling was a joke, and juggling a contract, finding new work and home schooling wasn’t happening at all. It all felt very surreal. We spent time going for long walks in the countryside, walks down the beach and kept ourselves sane. I am so proud of my boys, and wife, for coping so well this year. It was a hard time, yet we managed. We had outside space, running water, a toilet and enough food. We were the lucky ones, and I reminded myself daily of this.

April just became more of it. Any breaks we planned weren’t happening, ground hog day. Hustling for work, activating your network, speaking to people about work, reducing your outgoings. Yet I picked up some mindfulness training courses, and helped a couple of companies through the lockdown. For us digital folk it was easy to get used to the ‘new normal’, the video conferencing, remote working etc. I had my most creative time, and came up with new business ideas, yet nothing of those materialised in the end. But I learned a hell of a lot!

We moved from grocery delivery to click and collect; I ran half marathons on the treadmill to keep me sane. This month wasn’t the best, I want to be honest. And it ended with my birthday, a first birthday in lockdown.

But, we were alive. We had food on the table. We did better than a lot of people in this world, again being very grateful for what we have.

May became the month of hope. We slowly came out of lockdown, and thought we managed to put most of the virus behind us. Little did we know. Some people returned to their offices, or were planning to. Other companies decided to work from home indefinitely. Things changed, opinions of right or wrong, and what to do and not to do split the nation. I started cooking more for myself, making sure I get the right vegetarian fuel to sustain myself. I learned all about veggie BBQs too, sampling every veggie sausage on the planet. My conclusion: the Richmond veggie sausages are the nicest and of course the Beyond Meat burger.

June was when things slowly normalised. We still had a long way to go, but it was as if there was a new horizon. I picked up a new contract which helped immensely, and continued to have discussions what the best way forward was for me. Even for a mindfulness practitioner, the mind f* is real. No one could help you to determine what is right and what is wrong. What should you focus on, what not. It became a time for me to look inwards, looking what is important to me, the family and how we can best make it through those difficult times. Luckily, our kids went back to school until the summer break, but a lot of people were struggling.

On a sad side, my grandmother passed away age 99, 3 months before her 100th birthday. She had a blessed life, and I sometimes think it was good for her not to understand this Covid-19 thing.

Oma Erika

July was the month it became real. For many years I fancied a tattoo. I never did it, and when lockdown hit, I decided to go for it. And when I was allowed to, I did it. My first ever tattoo. Amazing 🙂 I never looked back, and the buzz you get from getting one is so amazing. I spare you more details, but this is epic. Why didn’t I go for it in 1996 when I wanted to???

I also finished off a contract which in total lasted a year. To make my business operations easier, I decided to move all my work related stuff to www.balluederpartners.com to separate work and life emails. I don’t want to lie, it was a quiet time from a work perspective, so I had a lot of time to position myself, the company and make plans. And plans I had plenty, some which crystallised and others that didn’t.

As a family we fancied the idea of a hot tub. So we tested a few of them, but ended up with a blow up one later in the year, as we are planning to make some changes to the house and all. I guess 2020 was about making your home as comfortable as possible, knowing you would spend a lot of time in it. We still haven’t decided what to do next, but hey, there needs to be some excitement in 2021 😉

August was a month I wanted to take off. Summer holidays. The plan was to go to Germany but the government decided 2 days before our departure that if you drive through Belgium, you had to quarantine on return. Instead we drove to Scotland for a great week and stayed in Preston on the way. Not sure if the latter was safer than driving through Belgium, but given France was added to the list in the meantime, we could have not escaped the quarantine. Covid made re-booking things and changing bookings a lot more flexible. It was a also a month we started clearing out a lot of stuff. Sometimes you just need a proper clear out. Towards the end of the year I rediscovered eBay, selling my old Apple Watch (I went all Garmin in 2020) and my humidor. It never occurred to me how much money you can make by selling some of the stuff.

September brought on some unexpected positive changes. I picked up a contract which went from strength to strength since. A position I really enjoy and I hope will be a long term engagement. The kids went back to school, which was great. Don’t get me wrong, great for a) education but b) after home schooling and a long summer break with no childcare or appetite and options for holidays, it was good to see them back at school with their friends. They need the social interaction.

It was then that I saw a few doctors, for palpitations, stress related hearing issues etc. What aspired then was that I was stressed from everything that was going on which was 2020, but also the marathon. My body was knackered from the training. Since increasing my distance above 25K I had had the above problems which all disappeared after the marathon. The good things was that the NHS was great in getting tests done, and reassuring me that I was fit as a fiddle. Two doctors independently suggested to me that I should change to decaffeinated coffee. Which I did, and I have not looked back since. I discovered a variety of coffees since September that are really nice and decaf. Here we go with a healthier life in 2020.

Also I started my podcasts again. Season 4. There have been some amazing episodes since, yet I plan to take a longer break next year to revisit the show and look what’s on the horizon next. New projects etc. But not yet, we finish season 4 next summer, I already recorded episodes up to March and they are good and educational! It’s a fun journey, but I think I need to reflect on a few years first, to then fine tune it for a relaunch in 2022. We shall see.

We also had trouble with our Skoda. However, we got it all fixed in the end, but lost a bit of trust with the garage. It’s always worrying if a part breaks after they had the car for a check up. And then, once of a sudden, it gets really expensive. With the new regulations coming in for petrol and diesel cars, I am thinking we are waiting until electric cars are mainstream to get a new motor. The current one will do for a few more years, and the money we wanted to spend on a fancy new car this year is better spend elsewhere.

October was the month where things fell into place a bit. We got more of a routine. The new iphone came out and I was quite excited to upgrade on my usual 2 year cycle. I also finished the London virtual marathon in aid for the RNIB, and I got a space for the 2021 marathon in London. Fingers crossed we can run it in London and I won’t have problems again. 3rd time lucky, but recovery was quick and smooth.

Since we couldn’t go away for half term, we spend a long weekend visiting Dover Castle and staying in the pre-booked Premier Inn for our planned Germany trip. A change of scenery was great, and we had lots of fun as a family, creating memories. Positive memories in 2020. We tried really hard this year to make it as positively memorable as possible for the kids – and ourselves of course.

I also joined a charity to help them as a volunteer, which hopefully leads to a trustee position in the new year. This is another focus for me moving forward. Giving back and helping others with my experience. Ideally, I want to join companies as a non-executive director next year, helping them to understand digital transformation, marketing and sales as well as positioning.

November saw me finishing up a smaller contract but also discussions around new opportunities. The good thing about consultancy is that if you loose one contract, you normally have another one still. The bad thing is that you still need to find new ones all the time 😉 It’s about networking, knowing people, connecting to people.

Lockdown 2.0 saw some personal plans shattered, yet schools continued, and really it was just miserable due to the darker days, daylight saving, rain and all. And, you couldn’t plan anything. So having a hottub, and enough food, log fires, wine, and cheese fondue boosted our morale. I am not sure how often we said that we are grateful for everything we have. The kids seem to suffer too.

I also attended my first funeral, losing one of my mentors to Cancer.

Also, Apple released the M1 chips in their new MacBooks. Unfortunately, when I got my MacBook 3 years ago, I thought 8 GB of RAM would be enough. Working as a consultant, having different programmes, millions of browser windows, and two external screens to power, 16 GB are a must. So it was a nice coincidence to combine the upgrade of RAM with the upgrade of a new processor. I was astonished how much of a difference it made.

December was another month where we came out of a lockdown. So the mood was more positive. As I got into artwork this year, this was the time to add more, and finally I was allowed to do it. Finally something to look forward to. I also completed the first half of a diploma in counselling and learned a ton about inner conflicts. This year has really been about learning, about looking forward, looking inward, and making it work. Particularly the latter, you come up with so many ways to spin a positive story, to keep the kids entertained, to make it through this year. Helping others, helping yourself, and supporting each other.

We made it in the end. We are still alive. I will have 2 weeks off which are desperately needed. New ideas for 2021. New hopes. New plans. And on top of that, we are so grateful for what we have. I don’t know how often I cried this year, but more often, and more often for good reasons.

A quote I read was ‘maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

This sums up 2020 a bit for me. I looked inwards a lot, and I discovered a lot in there too.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas. As you might read in my newsletter, I am not religious. So however you want to spend this Christian based holiday, spend it with your loved ones, and enjoy some quiet time.

Maybe look back at 2020, see how much you have learned and what you can be grateful for, and make some plans for 2021.

For me Christmas is about time off, nice wine, cheese, food and log fires. Time with the family and sharing the love. No excesses this year. We want to be humble.

If there is ever anything I can help you with, don’t ever hesitate to reach out.

Have a great 2021.

Love and Kindness, Volker

Ballueder Thinks (3) – Goodbye Oma Erika

It is with great sadness to announce the death of my grandmother, Erika Störmer.

Oma Erika

I wanted to write something personal, yet timely. So let me start with Covid19 which killed hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. It is sad to see what happened in our societies, how things were handled by some states and some leaders, and how intransparent things were handled by some. We all have a personal story about Covid19, from job changes, job losses, hard times, home schooling, working from home, and so on. I wrote a daily diary for a while. And yet, the world will never be the same.

Oma didn’t die of Covid19 – as far as we know of course – but she was old. 99 years is quite an achievement. But I wanted to put Covid19 into perspective with what my Oma went through.

Imagine you were born in 1920. On the back of the 1st World War you were raised in Europe. You grew up on a small farm in the heartland of Germany before you somehow ended up living more central in Germany, marrying an older man, and raising three daughters, with the oldest being born at the end of the 2nd World War, 1944. Just imagine for a moment that life wasn’t plain sailing, and nothing as ‘comfortable’ as ‘staying at home’. It must have been incredible hard work, not a lot of technology either. Manual labour, rebuilding a country, and then seeing it being destroyed again.

Your husband didn’t have to go to war. He made tents for the German Army, and therefore was needed on the home front. You ran the books and an ironing business, owning a huge rotary iron. I remember, when I was a young boy, that she worked hard to do other people’s ironing, big sheets. Hence, my mum always ironed her bed sheets too. As far as I know, these businesses hardly exist these days, at least I haven’t heard of many people ironing their bed sheets anymore. But that was her business, long until she should have probably retired, long after Opa died.

The house they owned was old. It had a small basement with lots of homemade jam, covered by loads of spiders and spider webs. The office for the business just above. Her husband, Wilhelm, liked his cigarettes, beer and a good laugh. That’s what I was told, as I never had the chance to meet him. He died at a young age of 68, 6 years before I was born. He would have lived through the 1st world war as a teenager. Hard to believe. Erika, his wife, and my grandma, lived by herself in the big house ever since. Until of course, over 20 years ago, she moved to an elderly home.

The only bathroom of the house was half way up the stairs, with the kitchen still being supplied by gas from a gas bottle in the outbuilding to the back. That outbuilding burned down at some point, as some insulation material must have caught fire by the sun shining through some glass. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There was also a big chicken coup. We played in there as kids, years after the chickens were gone.

Oma had three daughters, and 6 grandchildren of which 5 are boys and 1 is a girl. Her great-grandchildren came to 14, with interesting enough a 50% split in gender. Not that it really matters, however I find it fascinating to look at that data, coming from a household of two boys, being the youngest, having two boys of my own, and my dad being the youngest of two boys. Family history is fascinating I find.
Oma taught me how to make pasta, bought me sweets and Kinder Surprise eggs, and when I stayed with her at her place over my Easter vacation, I was allowed to sleep in her bed, watch TV and we went swimming a lot. She had this fish tank which I enjoyed looking at and we went for walks, and ice cream. We spent hours in the little Italian ice cream shop, talking. We went to the graveyard most days, where Opa was buried, and I must have asked a lot of questions about him. I vaguely remember visiting other people who were extended family, and they told me about Opa’s brothers and family. Some of those stories never made sense to me.

The town she lived in was close to the German border. Imagine. Not only did Oma see the aftermath of World War 1, lived through World War 2, she also saw Germany being split und and re-united. What a time to be alive. When I was a bit older, I was put on a bus to see my other grandparents who lived about a twenty minutes bus ride away, even closer to the German border. Oma sometimes drove me in her Golf 1 which, when she stopped driving, only had 40,000 km on the clock and was in immaculate condition given it was 14 years old and kept in a garage. Every time I sit in a new Volkswagen, the smell reminds me of her car. And it always will. The bus took me along the German-German border. Along the cherry trees so famous for the area, and my grandparents would pick me up at the other end. They didn’t have enough room for me to stay over night, so I stayed either with my cousin or took the bus back. No one had mobile phones, GPS or any worries about me doing that, being probably about 10 years old. Sometimes Opa would drive me too. His Jetta couldn’t live up to Oma’s Golf though 😉

Can you imagine, Oma never went on a plane in her life. She never visited me in the UK, and had a hard time selling her family house in Mühlstrasse number 13. The number 13 always meant luck to us, just because it was her house number. And now, I cannot come and visit her to say goodbye, because of travel restrictions.

I am sure she was lonely. She understood that there was ‘an illness out there’ which she didn’t want to catch. Hence she didn’t leave the elderly home during lockdown and after. Of course, being almost 100, you are in one of the most vulnerable group. She didn’t like her food in the end, and like many old people didn’t remember everything. A day was a day and a visitor a visitor. It became more difficult for her to differentiate between people and what was going on. I believe if she had turned 100, it would have been for us more than for her, as I am not sure she would have fully understood.

She was in hospital a few times, scaring us every time, but she always recovered. Oma was tough. She was hard working, organised and what I would describe a very well structured person. She looked after others and was looked after by great staff in the care home. She never went beyond a TV in terms of technology, a mobile phone or a smart watch wouldn’t mean anything to her. She never had an email address or send a what’s app, played computer games or knew how to use Excel. The meaning of global warming was a term she probably could just understand, but whether she really ever grasped what Covid19 meant and how it might change the world forever, I don’t know. Probably she didn’t, and she didn’t have to. And I am glad she didn’t. There are so many things that I am glad she might have never seen, or has to see.

She cared about her family, and I only have very fond memories of her. I of course remember her being angry, and I am sure she had good reasons for that, but that’s what happens with children and their grannies I suppose. When she retired she worked for a charity, always giving back.

Close to 100 years is a damn long time to be on this planet. Particularly the last 100. So much change, and yet, we might say the same in 60 years time. Will we live that long? Will the planet survive? Will we move to space?

It doesn’t matter to us today. Neither did the technology revolution and the internet matter to Oma.

Let’s enjoy the moment we can feel, understand, and comprehend.
Let’s enjoy every single one, and make this the most important thing in our lives. Ever and forever.

I will miss you, Oma Erika.
I will keep you in my memories. Forever.
For my boys you will always be the ‘old lady in Germany’ and it is a privilege for them to have met you.
You are a cornerstone of my family, and I hope that in years to come, my grandchildren will look back to me, read this article and think the same about me.

Goodbye and Amen.