Sunday, March 28, 2010

Third Grade Math: Circumference

I finally have a meeting with a school counselor on Monday to go over the results of Ryan's test scores.

But I don't need a test score to tell me that she doesn't understand basic concepts. She has done phenomenally well in school for a child that obviously doesn't have a clue as to what it's all about.

What a brave kid. She has been following the rules as best she can without really knowing why. Pretty smart to be able to cover up as well as she has been able to.

Little things give her away. Things that the teachers don't bother to pick up on. She has average scores and that's good enough for them.

But just LOOK at the work, ladies, not at the final grade.

Circumference for example. She is busily, and happily, counting the squares AROUND the shape, the way she thinks she has been taught in school. Not realizing that she is, in fact, supposed to be counting the lines and boxes that make up the outside of the shape - ie, the basic concept of circumference - but actually counting the entire row of boxes SURROUNDING the shape in question.

The entire CONCEPT of circumference eludes her.

The concept of length as been an enigma since second grade. She still has no concept of mms vs cms vs meters. Anything with a 65 in front of it is obviously bigger than something with a 5 in front of it. The CONCEPT of length is missing.

Shouldn't the teachers have picked this up when she couldn't correctly identify the lenght of a bus versus the length of a person versus the length of an eraser in second grade?

But I keep getting told that I'm expecting too much, that I am overambitious and that not all children are the same.

Well, yeah, but... is it expecting too much for them to be able to tell an eraser from a school bus?!

Ryan has memorized the entire multiplication system without knowing what multiplication actually is. Good enough for the teachers, but not good enough for me.

Im frightened. Not that my child has a learning disability but that none of her teachers seem to care.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Random Thought: Sand

Sand is not dirt.

Tracking sand into the house is a sure sign of spring.

It brings a little beach into my home.

(And yes, this picture was taken in April. It is really THAT cold here.)

Random Thought: Puzzling with Twins

Nothing like a pair of twins to turn a jigsaw puzzle into an extreme speed-sport.

I'm exhausted. (Go ahead. You try to do TWO 48 piece puzzles side-by-side with two impatient little men screaming at you with puzzle pieces in their hands. See how relaxing you find the whole thing.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nice Germans

The lady at Edeka last week who let me cut ahead of her in line when she saw I was only buying 2 bars of chocolate. (Prudent move whenever you see ANY woman just running in for a chocolate fix but nice just the same.)

The lady at Subway who WOULD have waited patiently behind us as all four kids picked out their Subway meals. I was glad to see her served and enjoying her meal while we were still deciding on toppings and sauces.

The man who called to sell us a monthly wine subscription today and was pleasant even when I told him we were Mormon. (Just kidding, but I did tell him we don't drink.) He stopped his sales pitch immediately, asked how I was enjoying the weather and told me he was sure it was bound to get better soon. Huh?

All the folks at the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch last Sunday (it's a chocolate factory) who commented on my children as the filed past in single file. "Oh. Look how cute they are. So happy, each with one bar of chocolate." My kids ARE cute. Anyone who appreciates this is automatically placed in the superior person category.

The coaches and trainers at the indoor swimming pool in Boeblingen who actually came over and got down on their knees to explain to Aidan and Matthew - all ready to swim with boards and towels in hand - that there was a swim competition going on. And then mentioned the Ritter Sport factory as an alternative.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I hate it when someone else has the same thoughts as I do and writes them down just that much more succinctly.

Here I've been bitching and moaning and psychoanalyzing myself for a year.

Why don't I fit in? Why I am different? Why is it just so damn hard here?

And then I read Stefan Theil's piece in last week's Newsweek (March 15 edition, Waiting for Merkel) and he sums it up in two sentences.

Okay, he's talking international politics and I'm talking personal fulfillment, but I think we're both on the same page.

"Over the two decades since its reunification, Germany has turned into a sated and inward-looking power concerned more than anything with preserving the status quo. Merkel has become Germany's most popular leader since World War II by promising Germans continuity, and won reelection in September 2009 on a platform of avoiding change and reform."


Thanks for waiting with that bit of insight, Stefan. I would have been a boring person without all the inner turmoil and conflict.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Thought: Spring Cleaning

What a joy to finally be able to leave the doors and windows open today and watch the spring breeze chase all those winter dust bunnies out of hiding!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lucky 13

I gotta admit it, I was pretty psyched when I got home from Florida a few weeks ago and saw I had a new fan.

I had a new follower on my blog, number 13, and let me tell you, as much as I say I am writing for myself, it felt really fantastic that someone I didn't even know had signed up to read me regularly.

I've also kept some good reviews - from Lynn-Anne, Liz and Sylvia - just for when I'm looking back (fondly?) on the early years.

There's also a little thrill - and a sense of gratitude - whenever Catherine or Babette or Sue or Anita mentions that they read something of mine. When Amanda comments from the USA or Maarit mentions a piece over the phone.

I guess I gotta apologize to readers 11 and 12 too, because darn it, I couldn't figure out who you were to email you and thank you. I'm pretty sure one of you may be Laurie, only because I googled "twintensity" a few weeks ago and found out I was one of the ten most popular blogs read in Haiti.

ONE OF THE TEN MOST POPULAR BLOGS IN HAITI. Means more to me than my sarcasm shows. I thank my one follower there. (I will NOT cry and make sad comments; I will NOT cry and write something melodramatic.)

I've been writing this blog for over a year now. In that time I have become a writer. Because I have to write. Because I love to write. Something I lost, or gave up, almost twenty years ago in order to pursue the more practical and serious pursuits of life and veterinary medicine, has become a part of me again.

(Insert memory of pretentious twenty year old at Cornell University telling her creative writing teacher that she wouldn't switch from premed because she wanted to live and experience things, have a real life, and not just "settle" into writing as an undergraduate. Ouch. And duh. Arrogant little snot. Serves me right.)

Number 13 introduced herself to me at English group last week. I think I might have blushed. It was almost like learning that the cute guy with the really great biceps one seat ahead of you in highschool geometry class likes you too. (For the record, I got a "C" in geometry, but I still remember the biceps!)

Writers often claim to be needy and insecure. Yup. I don't need EVERYONE to love me, I just want MOST everyone to at least like me a little bit. Oh, who am I kidding, I want you all to find me as clever, witty and insightful as I find myself.

Number 14 joined recently - silently, during a time when I didn't have access to my computer. And the thought, once again, that someone I didn't know found something I had to say even remotely interesting, or perhaps just kinda funny, inspired me to learn how to access my blog from my netbook.

I write. I have some fiction I am working on. I have some ideas on a collection of personal essays. But honestly, I'm just as thrilled to share my thoughts and ideas with those of you willing to read them.

Nice to meet you. I like you already. You are obviously brilliant!

Lost Boys

Another story that may expain why Germany isn't doing as well as they would like in the international scholastic rankings.

Background info: Kids here start kindergarten when they are three years old and continue until they are six. Although German kindergarten encompasses that last year most other countries consider kindergarten, the year before first grade, children are not taught ANY letters, reading, writing or math.

Our kindergarten is very proud of a program they carry out about once every three years.

They take away all of the toys, all of the previously scheduled activities such as circle time, singing and arts and crafts, and basically all of the daily routine and structure that the kids have gotten used to. All of the toys, including paper and crayons, wooden blocks, dressup and make-believe.

Then they just sit and let the kids run wild.

The first year Ryan and Andrew participated in the program (because its either that or keep them home for three months) I went to the parents night and watched a film on the successes of the program. The film showed children eating their snacks on the floor, building forts out of the furniture, stacking the chairs to reach the ceiling (these were three and four year olds) and jumping off the tables.

The teachers were beaming with pride.

I was more skeptical. All I could think was that five to six year old children in the USA and England and just about everywhere else in the world were sitting and learning the alphabet, counting, early reading, and basic manners. And my six year old was going to learn how to jump on the furniture. Honestly, she could do that at home!

Germans are really really scared to let the kids learn anything at all in kindergarten. It is strictly taboo. Ostensibly this is because they want the kids to be kids a while longer. They don't want to pressure them too soon. Problem being that most of the five year olds I know are INTERESTED in learning; what a perfect time to start. And hey - news alert to Germany - learning doesn't have to be boring, drudge work. IT CAN BE FUN.

I don't see the point of letting the kids run around wild until first grade and then - bammo - smacking them with how hard school work has to be. Great, you bought em that extra year. How about making the next twelve more liveable too?

I honestly think the main reason they won't introduce the alphabet and reading and math preparedness into the German kindergartens is because they don't have the money. The kindergarten teachers are not certified teachers. They are nursery school providers. And to restructure that system is going to cost a lot of cash.

Instead, German kids start at least a year behind the rest of the world, go to school half the day, and have a two week vacation every 6 weeks. Yeah, that's working.

I digress. Back to the kindergarten with no toys and kids jumping off the tables and stacking chairs. I actually agree with the basic premise of the program. It is meant to foster independence, creativity, improve language skills and prevent drug addiction. This later because the kids are forced to use their minds and really on themselves, not on external substances (the toys) for enjoyment. It's very 70s, very free-thinking liberal hippy-type stuff. So I SHOULD really like it.

Problem is that the kids run wild. For THREE months. And the teachers sit and drink coffee. Because, you see, the kids are supposed to be doing all this on their own. The teachers are supposed to step back. That's apparently the whole point.

Tuesday Aidan and Matthew both came home in completely different outfits than they left home in because they were discovered - too late - playing in the bathroom sinks with their two best buddies Lukas and Baris. All four boys and the entire bathroom floor was soaked. They must have been having a blast in there. Frankly, I'm proud. Certainly creative. Certainly independent. And lots and lots of fun. Whose fault is it that nobodly missed FOUR three and half year old boys long enought to notice they were flooding the bathroom?!

Today we were informed that Aidan and Matthew went missing for a bit and were the subject of a frantic kindergarten-wide twin hunt. Until it was discovered that they had both taken off their slippers, put on their winter boots and winter jackets and marched out the front door to play on the playground. Once again, independent and creative. The boys saw nothing wrong with it. After all, they had't sneaked out. And they have had all the usual rules thrown out the window. And, once again, where were the SIX adults in the building when TWO of the children were able to take the time to change outfits in the central lobby and march calmly right out the door?

I'm pretty impressed with the project.
Can't wait to see what my creative, independent spirits come up with next.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Do Believe in Fairies

Today, she cried.

I've been trying to cover up my frustration - and frankly, my disappointment - in her since I got back from Florida.

She has no friends over, isn't invited anywhere else and has been to a total of two birthday parties the entire school year. She has dropped all activities except for horse back riding, doesn't want to practice the guitar, and doesn't leave the house unless I drag her. All she wants to do is watch H20 (Australia's answer to the High School Musical crowd) and anything at all as she sits comatose on the couch.

Until today I thought she was lazy and disinterested. Now I know that not only is she aware of her isolation at school, but that it is tearing her up inside.

It's only now, as I list them, that I recognize the hallmark signs of depression.

Forgive me Ryan. You are only ten years old. How could I have failed you already?

In the story of Peter Pan, a fairy dies every time a child says they don't believe in them.

I feel like I'm killing my fairy every day I send her into a classroom I know is no good for her.

I did speak to her teacher this evening, and, since I mentioned depression and a meeting with the principal, she is taking this seriously. What pisses me off is that this classroom situation has been a horrible one for close to four years now, that it has been horrible for almost every child in this class and that is has gone largely unacknowledged this entire time. What kind of a system puts children together for four years? Look at what happens when that group doesn't get along. And, since this same system ranks the kids as early as it does, this class dynamic (or lack of it) could potentially affect these kids for the rest of their lives. It's unforgiveable. I feel sorry for all the kids that are stuck here.

I'm more pissed off at myself for trusting the damn system, having faith that they were doing what was best for my child.

Seems like the only one who really gives a shit about your child is you.

The good news on fairies is that they apparently come to life again as soon as you believe in them.

I've just gotta get her outta here before it's too late.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nursing Twins

It CAN be done. But not by everyone and not exclusively.

La Leche can send the nursing mafia hit men after me, but someone has got to stand up to them.

When Aidan and Matthew were 8 weeks old we took them to Mallorca, where everyone had the privilege of watching me nurse one or the other of them continuously the entire time. Europe and a bikini. I don't know how you'd do it in America. We were also bottle feeding while my body sent out for more milk.

I ate three full buffet meals daily, including chocolate covered pancakes for breakfast and a slice of cake and icecream for desert at dinner. And I didn't gain an ounce.

Of course, when we got home and I had to sprint to kindergarten and school every morning and afternoon to pick up Ryan and Andrew, well, I just didn't have the opportunity to sit and eat that way anymore. Let alone sit at all. Sleep was also a rare commodity.

I did my best for six full months, running around Altdorf without a bra (must have been a beautiful sight to behold!)and drinking malt beer. Til someone compared it to trying to nurse while playing professional basketball. My body just didn't have the energy for both.

I guess La Leche's definition of "mother" is right up there with "cow." Cows stand still and eat all day in order to produce milk. Sorry La Leche, but most definitions of mother also include older children, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, the soccer/ballet run and a husband. (If you are lucky; my hats off to anyone who raises twins as a single parent.) I'd say you need to find time for yourself too, but let's face it, in the beginning that just translates to more time to SLEEP! Or playing Monopoly with the older kids.

You do the best you can. And you give your children more than milk.

You only have so much of yourself to give.

A mother is worth more than her milk alone.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


''What is the address you are calling from?'' I'm doing three things at once, talking to the 911 operator, running outside to get Doug and Ray before they take the boat out, and reassuring Grandma that everything is going to be okay. She's already passed out in her chair so I concentrate on getting the address correct. ''And the phone number you are calling from?'' I am surprisingly clear-headed. When she asks me why I called I tell her that my 91 year old Grandmother has collapsed. My voice catches but my body still knows what to do. I cradle Grandma in my arms – she is so tiny now that it is like holding a large child – and keep her head up. The 911 operator wants more information but she reassures me that she has already sent the ambulance. This is Florida, the retirement center of the world. Her finger was on that button the second I mentioned the words 'Grandma' and 'collapse'.

I know Grandma is afraid to die. You'd hope that getting older would prepare you for it, but Grandma is not an adventurous soul, not big on change and surprises. She's a devote Catholic and knows with certainty that there is a God, that Jesus died for our sins, and that there is a heaven waiting for her. If only Jesus had left directions on how to get there. Something more concrete than lead a good life, be good to others, commit no sins, and pray for forgiveness. Something more along the lines of

''When your soul leaves your body and you are looking down at your granddaughter cradling your head in her arms, take a sharp left. Head straight until you hit the Elysian Fields. They will be properly labelled. You can't miss them. Take a second left at the tunnel entrance and keep going until you hit the light. You will receive further, detailed instructions at the light. There will be someone there to assist you further should you have any questions.''

Grandma would still be worried, but she'd be so focused on getting the directions right that she'd be less anxious about the final destination.

My biggest fear is that Grandma will think she's all alone. Doug and Ray and I were supposed to be taking the sailboat out this afternoon. ''It's alright, Grandma. I'm right here with you.'' I say. Ray nods in approval as he checks her pulse. He's been through this with both of his parents already. Doug is outside waiting for the ambulance. I imagine Grandma's consciousness might be locked up in a sensory deprivation box the same way mine was the first, and last, time I inhaled nitrous oxide. If it is, then she is feeling scared, and I just want her to know that I am there for her. It doesn't occur to me that I couldn't hear anyone in my black box. Although I don't believe in God, or heaven, I have no doubt her consciousness is around here somewhere.

The paramedics come and load her onto a stretcher. There are about eight of them. And a fire truck and some police officers. Had I mentioned that Grandma passed out and now we were going to set her house on fire?

In the end, this is not the end. Grandma's soul does not take that second left at the Elysian Fields. Soul and body are coming home tomorrow.

For the record, Grandma never saw a tunnel or a light. She didn't look down upon her body from on high. But then again, she never did stop breathing either. (My Dad, a confirmed atheist, was really bummed he didn't see anything when he collapsed fifteen years ago. He had stopped breathing. He's been threatening to sue the lawyer who resuscitated him ever since.) Grandma doesn't remember anything I said to her as she lay in my arms. But Ray appreciated the sentiments.

Grandma hasn't showed me how to die. But she has reminded me how to live.

Throw out the damn road map.

If we don't accept and embrace change and uncertainty as a part of life, it is going to be damn hard to meet the biggest change of all with anything but fear, dread and uncertainty.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Travelling Light (Things of Value)

If someone gave you $300 to prioritize what in your luggage is of most value to you, you'd do it pretty quickly. I had five minutes to open up my suitcase and make it ten pounds lighter or I would be charged that much in overweight fees. From 60 pounds down to 50 pounds, with a line forming behind me and the plane already at the gate. Piece of cake. I'd been through worse than this before.

The toiletry bag was on top. Heavy but not heavy enough. Books for the kids - I could carry them in my arms if I had to. Grandma's sweaters. I could wear a couple and wrap one or two around my waist. Sandals would be tougher. More books. I was underweight. Sandals back in.

I have a hard time getting rid of things I might be able to use again. But the $300 made it a no-brainer as I chucked face soap and tonic, an almost empty jar of moisturizer, a full bottle of hair gel that I never ever ever ever use, a five year old tube of sunscreen and the half-full bottle of contact solution in the trash on the way to security. I hoped they'd let me keep my perfume. I really like it.

But honestly, hair gel I never use and an almost empty bottle of face cream. What the hell am I thinking?

I happily tucked the children's books into the now almost-empty toiletry bag, threw on one of Grandma's sweaters, wrapped two more around my waist and marched contentedly through security.

My need for stuff, for almost-empty toiletries and hair gel that I might just one day decide to use, is a need for security. I want to be sure I have it, that I don't need to run out and get it again. I do the same things with the children's art supplies, or with the medicine cabinet. As if the walls will crumble if I don't have enough sparkly glue or glitter on hand on any given day. As if I'm not going to go to the doctor for a prescription anyway if the kids have anything serious enough to warrant me bothering with any sort of medication.

Like many of us, I fear the future. I want to be prepared, to be in control and ready in the event of...well, frankly, in the event of the future.

This has to stop now.

We've all heard that we can't take it with us. Not even if we pay $300. And yet we still hold onto it, out of fear, out of insecurity, out of a need to define ourselves by the things we surround ourselves with.

Of course it's all an illusion anyway, as demonstrated by the millions of Americans who have lost their homes and their retirement savings in the last two years. As depicted even more graphically by the Haitians who have lost everything they had in the earthquake. Really puts my half-empty toiletries or glitter glue supplies in perspective doesn't it?

We're planning a pretty big move, to another continent, in a few months. The mantra has been ''If it ain't worth the cost of freight, then its time to say good-bye.'' It is easier said than done, especially when it comes to children's things. We want to give them everything. What happens if we get rid of the bikes and then can't afford new ones right away when we get over there? What happens if we can't give our children everything?

What happens if we give up everything we have and start over?

I'm terrified, I really am. Not of a new continent, but of going over there with nothing.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti fifteen years ago, I would pack a small sundress, two pairs of underwear, some sunscreen, bugspray, water and a flashlight and head off into town for an extended weekend. I didn't need things to know who I was.

As I buried myself under children and the possessions that accumulate with them, I lost sight of that. I traded adventure for security. I gave away the moment for the future.

I don't need $300 to know what's important to me. It's time to rid myself of empty baggage and travel light. When you think about people who really have lost everything, you realize that what's really important doesn't fit in a suitcase.

Coming Home

''There you are.'' Grandma greets me at the door. I'd flown out of a blizzard in Germany, catching the last flight out into Paris. From there, I'd flown into a snowstorm blanketing most of the United States, spending an extra twenty-four hours stranded at the Atlanta airport. Logistically, I had no right to be where I was. And yet here I was.

Home. I'd been having a hard time finding out where that really was. Despite all of the introspection, or maybe because of it, I'd been missing the point entirely. Home isn't about where I am from, but about who I am from.

There are bits of me all over Grandma's house. I see myself in the five shampoo bottles she has lined up on the shelf next to the shower in the yellow guest bathroom. They are remnants of what my family brings with them on visits, but declines to take home. The Freeman Botanical Hawaiian Ginger has been there close to twenty years. I have a hard time getting rid of things I might be able to use again too. Especially if I can line them up neatly on a shelf instead.

My mother wouldn't understand this.

I see myself in the piles of newspapers she has lying next to her favorite recliner, the one she bought for Grandpa before he died. She'll get to them later. And in the unfinished hookrug she is making for cousin Lisa's baby.

''Can you believe I have all this stuff to sort through?'' She apologizes for the basket on the floor next to the newspapers. It's full of old magazines, advertisements, Christmas cards, some free socks and a bottle of hand lotion. Believe it? I am it. What a relief. Here I am.

Grandma's kids, my mother and her siblings, want to know if I think Grandma's losing her mind. She does forget what's in the refrigerator two minutes after you've told her, and she can't hear her alarm in the morning, but other than that she seems to be fine. The alarm is waking me up early enough to greet the Florida sunrise and there's always sure to be fresh fruit lying forgotten in the refrigerator. I am pleased. I tell them I don't think she's losing her mind any more than I am. Which doesn't seem to reassure them.

''Hello? Mom?'' Aunt Diane calls to see how we are. ''Nope, it's Christine.'' I reply. ''My goodness. You sound exactly like her.'' she says. I am her. But Aunt Diane wouldn't understand about the shampoo bottles either.

My mother tells me Grandma has a hard time understanding that my sister's cell phone isn't a landline. Grandma doesn't seem to get it that she can call my mother's cell phone just as easily as Laura's when she is out there to visit. I laugh. The next day I look up Laura's number in Arizona and call her on her cell. Trying to reach my mother. Who's laughing now?!

Which isn't to say that Grandma and I are exactly alike. ''How old are you again?'' she asks. I didn't fold the sheets down on the bed correctly. ''When I'm with you Grandma, I'm about seven or eight.'' I reply. Later, I grab a plum out of the kitchen and eat it. ''Oh. I hope you washed that.'' she says. ''Of course I did Grandma. Sure I did.'' She sighs. Some things never change.

Home is Grandma. As a kid growing up in Germany, I couldn't wait to spend the summers with her in Connecticut. It was a magical place. She and Grandpa lived in a sprawling two-story colonial with rose bushes out front and a couple of wild acres out back behind the in-ground pool. There were treasures in the attic and mysteries in the basement. It was the house of my dreams.

It almost broke my heart, and hers too, when she and Grandpa moved to Florida when I was fourteen. How could she leave that house? It was weird to visit her in a two-bedroom bungalow, where everything was new and had its proper place.

Twenty-five years later this is still the new house to me. But it's no longer strange. This is where I find Grandma. This is where I call home.

''Here I am, Grandma.'' Here, I am.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I gotta be honest here; coming back from Florida SUCKED. I had two weeks with Grandma, in my own bed, in my own room, with Grandma's caretaker (Jenny!) making meals for us. I ran on the beach. I went to a nature reserve with Uncle Doug. (And a gun shop - but that's another essay!) I went shopping with Aunt Joan. (I really love Walmart and Bells.) I went sailing with Ray and Patty. And I got to sail. I bought a Netbook and figured it out myself. I wrote. Or not. Whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

Oh yeah - there was also the sun (although it was cool, it was still sunny and nothing compared to winter in Germany.), the beach, the wildlife, the nature, and all of the friendly Americans. I'd forgotten about that. Do they ever stop smiling or asking you how you are? Where you are from, what you are doing here, and the rest of your life story as if they really care about you? What about all those polite people in the stores helping you out with a smile, anticipating your needs, acting as if they really wanted to be there, with you, helping you shop? And everyone holding open doors for eachother? And looking eachother in the eyes? Direct eye contact and friendliness. Really really nice.

So that I was less than thrilled to have to come back to reality.

I'm making a point to notice the friendliness over here too. Okay, it is definitely more isolated, certainly NOT a cultural phenomenon, but it exists and we need to notice it exists so that we can nurture that small spark into a larger flame.

One interesting thing is that Germans are friendlier in America than they are here. So that not noticing that other people exist around you is not a genetic deficiency inherent to those of German descent. (And, let's face it, a large part of Americans are of German descent.) America's friendliness infects them too. I not only had eye contact and conversation with a German man in his thirties at the departure terminal in Atlanta, he kept it up well into the flight, his sparkling blue eyes glancing a few rows back at me every few minutes to confirm that the two of us did, indeed, both have an entire row to ourselves. He just kept winking and smiling.

I also helped an elderly German woman who had been visiting her friend in Florida for a month. And heard all about her grandkids and her home in Munich.

Then there's the older gentleman who I passed as he was coming out to get his morning paper. HE greeted ME and then commented on the chilliness of the weather. (For those who don't know; this is how strangers pass eachother in America; it's hard for us NOT to make a connection with someone.) When I replied that this was nothing compared to Germany he delightedly replied that he was German too. Then proceeded to tell me about his first business in Canada, a relocation to California and how his daughter now lives on the neighboring island with her two kids, ages 2 and 4. Within thirty seconds.

Okay, this last guy wasn't German anymore; that's what you call an American who was born in Germany.

Or Michael at the DAZ, who I called up today for some brief information and who I ended chatting with for ten minutes. He spent three years at Cornell, most recently three years in El Paso Texas, has worked as a journalist, has two children and was most impressed that I had a "real" job as a veterinarian, even thought I am currently not practicing. What a nice guy. German. Although obviously an odd one! (Which is obviously meant as a compliment!)

It's not easy here. It is cold and it is gray and everyone is huddled up in their own misery.

But not everyone. The check-out ladies at Real in Stern Center are mostly really nice. And that guy I literally almost ran into coming through the door - we were in hysterics together.

Okay - he wasn't German. And the checkout ladies might not be either. But Michael is. And the little old lady from Munich. And my winking guy on the airplane.

But it really shouldn't matter. Nice people come in all sexes, shapes, sizes, colors, religions and nationalities.

We aren't going to notice them unless we look.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

I'm sorry Claire, but my favorite blog of all times is the one you posted on February 3 last year. The one where you rose to the "challenge of changing your life" and knew that "having children means relinquishing control and accepting that you're not the only force directing your life." Beautifully said.

Ain't it a kick in the pants that you got pregnant with twins?!

Okay, you may not be laughing yet but I got another one. My blog on February 11 of this year, the one where I mention a little bit of snow in Germany and the USA and laughingly tell them to "Go ahead, pile on the delays. Make me take off my shoes. Do a strip search."

I wasn't strip searched.

But I barely made it out of Stuttgart, had to overnight in a snowstorm in Atlanta and spent 8 hours the next day standing in line at the Atlanta airport.

I believe I got the last seat out of Stuttgart when I started shaking so hard that I had to grip onto the counter. (They had told me the next flight out was in five days.) I went boldly where I never had any intention of going again - through Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris - and arrived in the middle of a snowstorm blanketing the entire USA, every state except for Hawaii.

Claire - listen to me now - NEVER EVER EVER EVER go through Charles De Gaulle with those kids alone. NEVER EVER EVER. Unless you can figure out a way to carry that double stroller up the steps alone. Or all three kids, since sometimes they take away the stroller too. I think it's a little game the French like to play with us. Although I still love the language, the culture and the smiles - Charles De Gaulle has got to go! (Really Claire, ask Gaeton for me, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!)

I raced through a tight connection at CDG (Go figure, the flight was a l'heure.) and made it only due to those fantastic new security procedures they put everybody through at the gate. No strip search, but a nice pat down for EVERYONE. Got held up as they were double-checking the credentials on the elderly lady in the wheelchair from Morocco. "Oh good" said the elderly American lady behind me. "They're profiling." No go - they pat down elderly American ladies now too. (Felt a little guilty as the Moroccan lady "Salaamed" us all later upon arrival in the USA but hey....)

Atlanta was blanketed in snow, they weren't making that one up. But it was still all a great adventure, right down to the eight hour wait at the ticker counter the next day. I was so thrilled to be on the right side of the Atlantic and come on, be honest here, if you had to spend the day in line at the airport with a bunch of strangers, would you rather do it with a bunch of Germans or Americans?

I wrote a lot and learned even more; some of it being that everyone has a story to tell, that in a crisis your fate is governed by random chance and that if you have to be in a crisis, it's best to do it surrounded by Americans. I also met a man from New Jersey (via Bangalore, India) who enlightened me on Hindu philosophy and how the Buddhists got it wrong - and set me my next path of spiritual enlightenment! (He couldn't believe I'd already read the Bhagavath Geeta and I couldn't believe I was finally beginning to understand it!) Never a dull moment, I tell you.

So that, in the end, we both were right Claire. "There is honestly no amount of torture they can put me through that will compare with that of travelling with a large family." (me, Feb 11, 2010) and "Great things can happen while you weren't getting what you wanted." (Claire, Feb 3, 2009)