So, about that six month break I took from blogging…

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How does one start blogging again after a six-month absence? I suppose the best way is to jump back in and start posting—and also to apologize.

The last time I wrote, we were headed to Washington State for winter break and I had every intention of posting regularly the whole time we were home. But, the vacation was kicked off by Laken’s first of what became a winter of illnesses. On the airplane she spiked a 105 fever and was so out of it we ended up having a flight attendant summon doctors over the intercom. Laken was driven by ambulance to a Wenatchee hospital the following afternoon and diagnosed with RSV (a virus I’d never even heard of until she got it.)

From there we had a few weeks of health until it was a severe bout with Rotavirus (and she spent two nights in the hospital for that, too, because she lost about 10% of her body weight. The diarrhea was that bad.) Then we were on to stomach flus and colds and pneumonia and the sniffles (which she didn’t mind all that much because she’s developed a fondness for eating her boogers.)

Laken’s Game of Thrones worthy winter of illnesses aside, I just got lazy. And preoccupied with raising a toddler. I wrote blog posts in my head, but they never materialized.

But, it’s time now. My goal is to write at least once a week. I miss blogging—I miss writing and reflecting on life here in Germany. And, I miss reading other people’s blogs. Do you ever have that sudden awareness, when you pass through a crowd of strangers in some public space, that you’re most likely never going to see a single one of them again? That you’ve glimpsed their face incidentally, but you’ll never know their strengths, their intense fears, the way they take in and interpret the universe through their senses?

Well, blogging seems to me like a way to get to know some of these random individuals. To hear their story. To get their take on the quirks of life in whatever part of the world they inhabit. To hear what lessons their day dealt out.

I have lots to write about these days. For one, we just moved away from our beloved Heidelberg and will be living in Wiesbaden, Germany from now on.

How do I feel about this? I asked my husband Todd this question earlier. “Where are you right now with Wiesbaden?” I asked.

Todd ‘s fine. He said that he’s home wherever his family, TV, and beer mugs are.

I’m taking longer to get there. Right now it feels like we’re on vacation and exploring new stores and restaurants (and, BTW, it’s a freaking back breaking vacation, because we have a LOT of stuff and have been working our hineys off.)

I wonder when, or even if, Wiesbaden will go from being a place that feels like vacation…to being home? Is it just time that helps the transition along? My bet is that memories are the foundation.  Relationships are the bricks.

As we walk through Wiesbaden I admire the fact that it’s a very pretty city. There’s no doubt about it. It’s easy to see that there’s a lot of wealth here. The buildings are opulent, have a “frosted wedding cake ceiling” feel to them (to rip off a line of Fitzgerald’s from The Great Gatsby.) There are lots of designer stores on the main drag (Wilhelmstrasse) and good restaurants—we’ve already become regulars at one that makes their own tortillas and is well stocked with craft beer.

See? Wedding cake-like.

We got lucky enough to find a massive apartment right in the middle of the city. Inside it’s very quiet and the rooms have high ceilings and a balcony space covered in unfortunate pigeon droppings.

One highlight for me, so far, was to discover the Kurpark. It’s set behind the Kurhaus and Casino and trails around a man-made lake and goes on for quite a while through a wooded area and crisscrossing trails that pass by opulent mansions that sort of make you want to cry from jealousy.  (Or to stand in front of them for a while in hopes that the owners will see you, find you interesting, invite you in, and spoil you.  Kind of like parties? I still pass by parties, or picnics, or people on boats and have this weird, off base hope that I’ll be invited over.)

But Heidelberg is still home. It’s where I discovered the expatriate life, where I found a love for teaching at international schools. It’s the city I met my husband in, the city that created our test tube child.

I’m getting wordy already. I know that blogs are supposed to be succinct and I’m trying to work on that–but as I’m drafting this I’m realizing there’s so much I’ve needed to reflect on. Why do I do this with writing? Start and stop?

Anyway, let’s wrap this up.

Here are my first impressions of this new Wiesbaden life.

  • As I said, it’s a very pretty city. Does it have the WOW factor that Heidelberg did? No. But, Heidelberg is a German city that was virtually untouched in the World War. You can walk through its narrow medieval streets and marvel at baroque architecture that went up after the French burned down the city. It’s nestled in a valley. It has a castle overlooking it. Wiesbaden looks very rich, is well kept, and has a lot to offer in terms of stores and architecture. But, it’s a newer city. As far as I understand, it was leveled in the war and rebuilt in the 1950’s. But I don’t know anything about that. I’m just repeating what Todd told me.
  • I love our apartment. I’m not trying to be all braggyMCbraggerson, but it’s HUGE. We will probably never own a house as big as this apartment is. I love how quiet it is inside, and how the walls are so insulated that I can sit in the living room and type this blog post and not hear Todd’s movie in the room next door. I’m also excited that we’re doing this city life thing for a bit. It won’t be forever. The idea is to live it up in the center for a couple years or so, and then buy a house in whatever area of Wiesbaden we fall in love with.
  • I would say the majority of Wiesbaden’s population are Muslim.  This is genuinely interesting to me because I’ve never lived anywhere that had so many Muslims. The abundance of  burkas and head scarves catch my eye. Perhaps we’ll make more friends who are Muslim and I’ll learn more about regions I only know from the news.
  • There’s lots of natural hot springs here—throughout the city, actually. I don’t know much more about them but will learn and post more.

Okay, I’m going to stop with this but more is to come! I’m sorry for the leave of absence. And, I’m sorry for blaming my child’s immune system when it really just comes down to a lack of motivation on my part.

My blogging goals are to keep on from here, to be open and honest, and to reflect on this major life change.  I have some personal goals that I’ve set, as well, and this blog will help me to work through them.  In no particular order they are;

1.) Get super fit and look 25 again. 😉

2.) Immerse more in German culture.  Do whatever it takes–join clubs, speak German as often as possible.

3.) We’ve been in a rut.  We need to travel more, explore, be involved.  We need to get out there.

4.) I am notoriously antisocial at the schools I teach at.  I chat all day with the kids, but avoid staff rooms and raising my hand at meetings.  I want to change that.

Until next time!

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On Being Unable to Reach the Fifth Stage of Grief

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I felt this election in my bones.

I’ll be honest–this is the first political race that I’ve ever lost sleep over, that affected my mood, that made me feel uncontrollably combative towards the ‘other side’ even when I tried very, very hard not to. I know I’m far from alone in this.

I desperately wanted to be an activist–if we were in the States, I can guarantee I would have donned my very own coordinated pantsuit and gone door-to-door, making quite the impassioned case.

Even though I once promised myself to avoid all political talk on Facebook and stick to family pictures or light updates on the state of my being, for the past month or so I just couldn’t help myself. I poured a glass of wine as soon as I got home from work and thought, no, no, stay away, stay awayno one’s mind has ever changed from a goddamn Facebook post—but was unable to help myself.

I seriously COULD NOT stop; it felt like the only way to grab people by the shoulders from afar and shake them. You’re making a huge mistake! Click, click: Look at what he said! Look at what he did! Please, consider what he’ll do!

Yesterday when Todd woke me up with coffee and the announcement that Trump was winning, I thought he was joking. And, if so, I thought it was the least funny prank, ever. Over and over I insisted it wasn’t true until I put in my contacts and checked the news for myself.

And, yet, there it was. ‘Trump Triumphs,’ I read.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a great morning.

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Putting My Zombie On Your Porch

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On Halloween we had three trick-or-treaters, which means the holiday is becoming wildly popular here in Germany! (After all, that’s three more trick-or-treaters than we’ve had other years.)

I was curious about when Halloween was introduced to German culture so I looked it up and, according to Der Spiegel, celebrations began in 1991 (reason being, Carnival was canceled due to the Gulf War.) So. it’s only taken about twenty-five years for things to get rolling in our Heidelberg suburb.

Nevertheless, Todd and I were well prepared with three jumbo-sized bags of American candy bought from the commissary on base.   After all, you never can be too prepared.

When the trick-or-treaters arrived I opened up, mixing bowl filled of goodies in hand, and the kids dutifully chanted, “Suesses, sonst gibt’s Saures!” which roughly translates to, “Give me something sweet, or else you’ll get something sour!”

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The Man Behind the Tree.

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A man was waiting for me behind a tree.

I didn’t know this, yet, as I unlocked my bike after watching a World Cup game on a big screen outdoors at Marstallhof with friends back in 2006. I had no idea what was coming as I rode along the Neckar River and followed the curve of the bike path over to Bergheimerstrasse. It was reaching 9 p.m. and it was June, so there was still some daylight refusing the hug of encroaching nighttime.

I remember that I rode fast, and even stood up on my pedals as I crossed over a bridge—like a child—so that I could rise above my handlebars and face the wind head-on. I looked to the left, over at the distant hills, and then below the bridge where the train tracks were. I saw fluorescent lights, the clean platform, a few ICE trains like long white bullets resting on the track.

There’s so many bike rides that I forget. Even now, I ride my bike home to and from work every day and often get so lost in thought that I barely remember the journey from point A to point B.

But, I’ll never forget this particular ride.

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Turtle Cancer

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Last week I went to visit my doctor (Dr. Sieben, or “Seven” as it means in English) for a preemptive cancer screening.  The week prior I’d been summoned in to have blood drawn so they could test my thyroid, and this was my sit-down with the doctor to discuss the results. (They’re all about preventative health care here, and I appreciate everything about that.)

After he called me in to his office, one of the first things he asked me (after the reassurance that my results were fine and my blood pressure, may I just boast, was “perfection”) was about cancer in my family.  In other words, who had it and what type did they have, etc.

I told him about my aunt’s breast cancer and then moved on to my uncle.

“Er hat…” I hesitated, “Schildkroete gehabt.”

Even as I said Schildkroete, I knew it wasn’t the right word.  This happens a lot when at doctor’s appointments, simply because new vocabulary (in the form of symptoms or illnesses) come up all the time.

I was searching for the German word for ‘lung’ and it only occurred to me after ‘Schildkroete’ came out of my mouth that the word meant ‘thyroid.’

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Times I Was Confused in America

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I’ve been living in Europe, now, for the better part of sixteen years.  And yet, it was only this summer that I experienced the phenomenon of realizing I was more in tune with how things work in Germany, my second culture, than I was with how it’s done in America.

This wasn’t really the case before now.  I’m wondering what it was about this summer—I mean, I hadn’t been away from America for any longer than normal.  I’m not even immersed in German language or, let’s be honest, German society as much as I could/should be?

So, is sixteen years away from where I grew up my own personal magic expat number? Is this the specific amount of time it took me to feel more integrated into one culture than the other?

Example Number One of a Time I Was Super Confused in America

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The Weekly Spazieren: Mannequins, Suggestive Foliage, and Snow White’s Dwarf on a Roof

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Last week I fell off the blogging wagon.  I’m not sure why–all I can say is that every time Laken went down for a nap and it was my usual writing time I either suffered from writer’s block or found something incredibly important to do.

But this week I’m ready to be back on track, and I have pictures to share as part of my definitely-not-regular feature called ‘The Weekly Spazieren.’ I think by weekly I meant ‘taken throughout any given week of walking’ and not ‘I promise to post this every single week, as in I’m making a definite commitment to you right here, right now.’

I’m not normally a commitment-phobe, but am becoming one as of late.

In fact, on Monday we’re leaving for the States and I’m already wondering if I’ll be able to keep up the blogging habit while we’re gone. Todd and I tend to be pretty decadent while we’re on vacation. We’re prone to eating at restaurants three times a day (I mean, it’s the States–can you blame us?) and filling in the gaps with beer breaks in the backyard.  I might be too stuffed/drunk to feel creative.  But, I’m going to try my very hardest to continue writing on a weekly basis.  After all, I love doing it.  And, at least in my world, all it takes is one little break and it becomes a lifestyle.  Story of my last six years.

So, let’s go spazieren, shall  we?

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The Weekly Spazieren

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The German word for walking is ‘spazieren’ and they’re really into it here. I know walking is a universal pastime, but Germans get all decked out in matching Jack Wolfskin outfits and use walking sticks to navigate the suburbs.  It’s definitely on another level, let’s just put it that way.

In fact, on Monday I was waiting for my tram and a teenage girl and boy approached. They were reading an ‘Eppelheim Info’ sheet and the girl said (in German, obviously) “Look! There’s an organized walking group leaving from Cafe Creme tomorrow. Maybe we should check it out!”

I don’t know much, but for some reason I can’t imagine your typical teenager getting so hyped up to go on an organized neighborhood stroll.  But, there you have it. (And I think it’s awesome!)

Since I’m on what was supposed to be a paid maternity leave this year, I do my own fair share of ‘spazieren.’  Every day Laken and I take at least one walk around the neighborhood.  And, I’m always spying quirky things.

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Asparagus and the Art of Delayed Gratification

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Asparagus is a great word. If I was a vegetable, I wouldn’t mind being called asparagus.

(I bring up asparagus—sorry, the word deserves a space in each of the three sentences I’ve written so far—because it’s in season right now. Just an FYI, the German word is ‘spargel’—pronounced ‘shpargle.’)

asparagus-823785_1920

Not the most attractive vegetable.

The fact that it’s in season over here in Baden-Wuerttemberg might not seem like a big deal to most people reading this, but I’ll tell you what. It’s a big freaking deal. Germans refer to it as ‘white gold,’ if that gives you any idea of the value they assign it.

I was curious about why it’s known as ‘white gold’ so I did some intensive Internet research and learned that it all goes back to Louis XIV who decided he had a hankering for the vegetable. It was served to noble people at lots of fancy- schmancy dinners. And, for the longest time they kept it all for themselves and wouldn’t share because they’d claimed it as a rich person’s veggie, like the rutabagas or sunchokes of today. (I have no idea what rutabagas or sunchokes even are. So, I assume they’re reserved for rich people. Bastards.)

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A Success Story for the Infertility Boards

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(This is a piece of creative nonfiction that I did this week.  I really felt like writing about the fertility treatments we went through, and once I started I couldn’t stop! A lot happened–it was an intense time in life.  Anyway, that’s why this is just a bit longer than anything that would qualify as a ‘blog post.’)

Recently I was out walking in the nearby fields and saw this chalkboard set up in front of a plant shop. Top left it says, “Mein groesster Wunsch ist” which means, “my biggest wish is.”

I read through the wishes and noticed that ‘Schnuffis’ appeared twice. I’d never heard of the word, but since two people on one board used it to describe their greatest wish, I figured it’s important. I could only find it on Germany’s Urban Dictionary and it means, “A combination of kissing, nuzzling, and sniffing all at the same time.” Which sounds interesting, I guess.

The sample sentence they offered is, “Every day I give my fat bunny a good schnuffing.” Um, okay.  Awkward.

Anyway, among the wishes for money, healthy grand parents, and a random thought about someone named Nils being an ‘ass face,’ I was especially touched by the one to the very left, just below what looks like a pointer finger tied over with string.

It says, “Ein Baby mit meiner Partnerin!”

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