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.’
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.’)
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.)
I tell white lies from time to time. I’m a white liar.
Here are some of the pale little fibs that find their way out of my mouth;
How much something cost.
Details to make a story better, funnier, scarier, etc. (Not in this blog, though, obviously.)
The actual portion size of something I ate when I type it in to My Fitness Pal.
If someone is telling me about something that happened, and they say, “He looks a lot like that actor in the show such-and-such. You know who I’m talking about?” I’m likely to say, “Yeah!” even though I have no clue. Just to keep the story moving.
When someone asks if I did something I was supposed to do and forgot.
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.
I’m not really the international criminal “type,” per se.
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?”
Quite a few people have asked where we came up with our eight month old daughter’s name—Laken.
I wish we had some super cool story with loads of meaning and an ancestor or two thrown in, but that isn’t the case (sadly!) To be very honest, I first heard the name when I was teaching in London. One of my colleagues was named Laken, and I fell in love with it the second I heard it. Any time she was mentioned at faculty meetings or in the hallway, I found myself rolling the name over my tongue again and again. It just had such a good sound to it—no matter whose voice said it.
Like all parents, Todd and I took our duty to name a human being very seriously. We wanted something that was unique and yet not impossible to pronounce or spell. Since that seemed a tad broad as a starting point, we added the requirement that it be Irish (for no other reason than just because Todd loves Ireland so much) and we both had to be 100% in support of it. Period. No compromises.
Todd’s initial pick for a name was Ireland. I just couldn’t give that big a tribute to the country, so we kept thinking.