Wonderful, I will be a godmother (Gotte) – what does that mean?

“Will you be godmother to my son”, my nephew asks me…

Around Christmas, I try to calm down my nephew’s half year old son – I am his grand-auntie. Not his auntie, his GRAND-antie. Then my nephew asks me, whether I would be the godmother of my grand-nephew. I feel touched. Yes, of course, I agree.

I have never been a godmother before. Another new adventure at my – not so young-  age. I look forward to that and start to think about what matters.

After looking back to my childhood and listening to friends I think that care and love matter, being authentic and reliable, finding an atmosphere of trust, and living this by creating habits, by exchanging, by showing you are always there when needed and – yes, also – by making presents that will be remembered. It all has to come from the heart. Accept that this is a mutual relation and enjoy that. And it may become a friendship that lasts beyond the age of 20.


Looking back to my childhood: I enjoyed the love and care of my godfather and my godmother though they lived far away

My godfather was Onkel Nante and my godmother was Tante Christine.

Bilder petra

Onkel Nante must have been my age (around 65), when he started his journey with me. He was my mum’s uncle and my grand uncle. He lived in Berlin. I could feel his love in the carefully selected presents, in the letters we exchanged and during my visits in Berlin. One present I remember were the Christmas angels singing “Holy Night”. It was a music box with a windup mechanism, and after some time, the tune would slow down: H-oo-oo-ll-yyy—- n-iii… and then it would fade away. These angels accompanied me every Christmas. When I was seven, Onkel Nante gave me a skirt with a matching vest, modeled after the red-green-white Scottish kilt, and I was proud of wearing it for many years – I also wear it on the foto. Then I received a summer dress in ice rose – so beautiful. And, when I was fifteen, he had a blue costume made for me to cover my (temporary) overweight. I often exchanged letters with Onkel Nante and his wife. Both were always interested in my life. When I was a student, I traveled to Spain staying in a tent, and I sent him a travel report. The result: An angry letter to my mum: “Please give your daughter enough money to stay in a hotel – tents are extremely unhealthy!” He was more than 80 years old by then, but he was still worrying about me. When I started studying economics at university, he sat down with me, looked at me firmly and asked, whether I will be able to earn a living with that. So – what I remember, are some great gifts and his loving care. And today, I always go to see his house in Berlin, not far from the mosque, to – virtually – say hello to him (his house has been sold).

My godmother, Tante Christine, was a friend of my mum’s and lived in Köln. She always lived alone and may not have had a lot of opportunities to travel. I have not met her often. But we regularly exchanged letters, and she always selected her gifts with great care. For my birthday and for Christmas, she would send me jumpers – they always became my favourite jumpers. I particularly remember an ice blue jumper. Through the letters and her gifts I could also feel her love. One day my letters were no longer answered. I was very sad. I think she must have been lonely and sharing her love with me was also important to her.


Ernst, my husband, shared adventures with his godson

In my first summer with Ernst I heard him mumble: “My godson left a message on the answering machine. He wants to spend a few days with me. I will pick him up at the train station.”  We had a few wonderful days – I particularly remember the mini golf tournament that he won. Sometimes we all would take the camper, roast sausages, sleep near a lake in the mountains, go for hikes and climbs or visit the caves in the area. In winter we went out skiing. Every Christmas, Ernst renewed the subscription to “Spick”, a scientific newspaper for kids. After having finished school, the godson shyly said that perhaps he does not need the “Spick” newspaper any more. Now he is a scientist himself, and for his doctorate exam, Ernst promised him a globe based on his specifications… a wish that I eventually fulfilled, when Ernst was already a star watching over us. There was this regular tradition of presents and also sharing time and adventures. The relationship carried on into adulthood and I inherited it in a way after Ernst had left us.


Some of my friends add that for them regularity, independent advice and a mutual relationship for ever are important

From various friends I gathered their godfather and godmother experience.

A friend of mine had a godfather that was a farmer with nine children: “He was not rich. But every birthday and every Christmas, he gave me a five franc piece (Fünfliber). He slipped it firmly into my hand looking at me with warm and kind eyes. I loved these moments. And they came back every birthday and every Christmas, with regularity. Being able to rely on this regular gift was very important for me”, he pointed out to me.

A couple told me that they had selected a very good friend as the godmother for their daughter. It all started well, but then the friendship broke. The godmother wanted to give back her duty. But the mother said: “Well, you may give back your godmother duties, but do not tell my daughter. She is very proud of you and she loves to think of presents for your birthday and for Christmas. We do not want to take that away from her.” So, the daughter, not knowing about the problem, continued to handicraft presents for her godmother. Eventually, the friendship between the parents and the godmother was restored and the daughter had never noticed the problem… Yes, the relationship between godparents and godchild is mutual.

My friend from Munich (now also in her sixties) told me that she has just visited Tante Bärbel in the hospital. She is her godmother and is now in her nineties. The friendship with the godmother lasted far beyond her childhood – beautiful.   And her husband added that he valued the advice of his godparents that added an independent view to the opinion of his parents.


So – let me try to live up to that…

… and I do hope that I will be able to accompany my godson into his adulthood.


Kairos and serendipity – catching the moment of chance or the happy accident

You are twenty years old? Your life is ahead of you and it will offer moments of chance and happy accidents

You are reaching the age of 20? The whole life is ahead of you? Many moments of chance and many happy accidents are waiting for you. Keep an open mind and catch them.

There are two pictures that support me to continue keep an open mind discovering the world, learning from it, and reinventing my life: First KAIROS – he is the personification of the moment of chance – and second “serendipity” – this is “the happy accident”.

Let me explain why these two pictures are important to me, the baby boomer, and why they may be important for you as well.

KAIROS – he has a tuft of hair and is bold at the back of his head

About 30 years ago, I visited the pretty fishing town of Trogir in Dalmatia. In the local museum I came across Kairos. He has wings and he flies around – fast. When we accidentally  come across him, we must immediately identify him as THE opportunity and snatch him at the curl of his forehead. If we do  not catch his tuft of hair, KAIROS flies by and we have missed THIS moment of chance. It is not possible to snatch KAIROS from behind, as the back of his head is bold. I was impressed and bought a copy of KAIROS engraved in stone. Later I gave it to friend that had given the name of “KAIROS” to his newly founded company.

Kairos Source: Wikipedia about Kairos

In March 15th 2013, my NZZ newspaper published an article entitled “Master KAIROS – trying to capture the moment of creativity”.  The article relates KAIROS with insights that often happen accidentally. In science, in art, in the career or when finding the perfectly matching house and partner in life. The lucky individuals just see the chance and catch the tuft of hair, when they happen to run into KAIROS.

There are opportunities, when we do not expect them. And because we do not expect them, it is difficult to see them. It needs an open mind, good observation and astuteness to recognize these short moments of chance and they can be easily missed. KAIROS is the personification of the good opportunity. In German we call this “Schicksalsmoment” which means “fateful turn of life”.

Three princes in the country of Serendip

The NZZ article continues with an old Persian folktale. It is about the three princes of Serendip that “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of” (wikipedia for serendipity) – and this is where the term “serendipity” is based upon. In 1945, Robert K. Merton wrote the book “the travels and adventures of Serendipity. A study in sociological semantics and the sociology of science.” Wikipedia illustrates serendipity with the pileated woodpecker that the photographer did not notice, when taking the picture, but only afterwards, when looking at the foto.

serendipity Source: wikipedia for serendipity

Discoveries happen in a state of intuitive attention

The principles behind serendipity and KAIROS are the basis of some great discoveries in science. Discoveries such as Penicillin happened by accident or as a by product of research. They happened in a state of intuitive attention and after having worked at a topic for a longer time. They have not happened out of nothing. For these “productive sideways of creativity”, says the NZZ article, Alfred Jarry has created a new word and a new discipline: “Pataphysics” which is dedicated to researching exceptions. Jarry claims that the exceptions are an irregular space that follows its own roots. Pataphysics does think beyond “what is” and explores “what is not”. This is called the “sense of possibility” or in German “Möglichkeitssinn”.

I believe social platforms have the potential to support creativity and innovation

I think that KAIROS, serendipity and pataphysics are also related to the principle of “emergent collaboration” that McAfee identified for social platforms (coined “enterprise 2.0”) where relations and discussions take unexpected turns and lead to new findings. I experienced that on the enterprise internal social platform, when still working in a global company. And now that I am no longer part of that company, I observe this in the Internet, and also in the WordPress blogs that I am following. Of course, discipline and good filtering are needed in order to focus on relevant information.

Yes, you are twenty years old. Your life is ahead of you and I am confident that it will offer moments of chance and happy accidents

KAIROS and the princes of Serendip may support you to catch the right moments – for finding the right friends and the best partner of life, for finding the best matching formation and for setting out on a career path that creates satisfaction and acknowledgement (which I think has to do with remaining independent, social, open-minded for discoveries as well as creative and innovative).

When life hits back hard at you, look up, look ahead, and pay attention to KAIROS and the princes of Serendip that will offer new moments of chance and happy accidents.