Peanut Butter and Butter, and What it Taught Me About Presents

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Quinceañera

I take the giving of gifts seriously.  In a way it’s a personal challenge—can I pick out a present that’ll be rewarded with the oh, WOW, I didn’t even know that I wanted this! But I do! 

My favorite is when the gift is for someone who isn’t expecting much of me.  Maybe we don’t know each other well, or they didn’t ask for anything in particular so they assume I couldn’t possibly have picked out something they really want. 

Now, just because I care about gift giving doesn’t mean I’m any good at it.  Sometimes I’m really “on” when it comes to what I pick out, but just as often I’m completely, well, off.  People are too polite to say they don’t like their present, but it’s obvious. And it bothers me.

It takes me back to a fiasco back in second grade at summer day camp.

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No reason to be sad, no big goodbye’s.

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“There’s no reason to be sad.”

That’s the line I use to reopen this conversation I’ve been having with my parents for fifteen years and counting. On average, it comes up every third day for the duration of the time I’m home for a visit (with variations in the talking points depending on my life situation and level of alcohol consumption.)

I’ll write the most recent version of this conversation. I had it with my dad while we strolled Laken around the Buffalo suburb I grew up in.

Here’s me, revving it up: “There’s no reason to be sad.”

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Thirteen Flights: An Ode of Sorts

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I was going to write about my second visa “strike” this week, but that’s a very long story (with back stories, and back stories to the back stories, and back stories to the back stories to the back stories…) so honestly that might be a “Resettled in Germany” assignment.  Feeling as tired as I do, it’s hard to imagine finding the motivation.

Laken and I are entering the second half of a two-week visit to Buffalo, New York, where my family lives.   Since I’m on maternity leave for the year, it made sense for the two of us to take advantage of offseason prices.

Todd misses us, terribly, and looks a bit like Grumpy Cat when we see him on Face Time, but he gets why we’re here. And why we generally spend five to seven weeks here a year.  And why 99.9% of my salary goes directly in to the “Trips Home” pot.

See, when Todd and I first got married, one thing I gave him fair warning about is that I don’t just like to fly home a lot—I need to fly home a lot.  Truly, I’m that person who, if I didn’t live 4,000 miles away from my family, would probably own a house on the same block and stop over at all hours of the day to steal canned goods and, as my dad says, “shoot the baloney.” Living internationally is a very big stretch, even fifteen years in.  The only way I can hack it is with frequent trips home.

The need to make these trips home is a thousand times truer now that we have a baby.  It’s crucial to us both that she knows her cousins, her grandparents, and our close friends.

So, Laken—who is nine months old—is already a seasoned, passport-holding traveler with no less than thirteen flights under her baby belt.  (I’m counting the intermediate flights between Frankfurt and Buffalo, where my family lives, and on to Washington, where Todd’s family is. We also did a weekend trip to England over Thanksgiving.)

Since our baby has reached teenage status when it comes to traveling by plane, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share thirteen thoughts, experiences, or tips in honor of each flight we’ve survived thus far.

One: Plane Rides Are Just Zippy Marathons. Continue reading

Visa Baseball

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I’m not really the international criminal “type,” per se.Screen%20Shot%202013-12-16%20at%202.40.23%20PM

Not that I’m a total angel, either—I’ve definitely had my moments (mostly in my late teens/early twenties) that make me look back now and say, “Whaaaaaat was I thinking?!”

Adulthood, expat life and teaching have brought out a more outgoing version of me. But, at my core, I don’t think I’ve ever fully shaken that timid, over-the-top obedient child I once was. I was the one voted “Most Likely To Be A Librarian” in the class yearbook. Every. Single. Year. I don’t think people knew me well enough to vote any other way.

Throughout childhood I spent a lot of time at the local fire hall with my best friend at the time.  (Her dad was a volunteer fireman.) She invited another friend to join us, once, and I was so shy that the girl finally came over, poked me in the arm (not in a mean way—she was just genuinely curious) and asked, “Are you mute?”

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