December 29, 2009
That's my big 2010 prediction, by the way. I'll take everything else as it comes.
Our cat: For 15 years our cat was estatic eating dry food and water. In fact, if we offered him something more interesting he turned his nose up at it. These days it's a bit different. He jumps up on the table while we're eating, wakes us up early so we can turn on the shower for him (he likes shower water) and expects me to cook for him. Nothing fancy, just chicken or lamb, lightly salted.
And now a couple of short family conversations to set the mood for 2010.
K (indignantly from behind a mountain of fabulous presents): I didn't get anything on my Christmas list!
Me: Of course you did, darling. You got a math book.
(As it turned out she also later got a gold necklace from her godfather and was somewhat appeased. But I'm afraid she's concluded that Santa is totally bogus, or at least has an attention span problem.)
Ralf (during dinner): Is this Comte cheese? You've gotta be kidding me. The French piss in a bucket, sell it to the Germans and laugh their asses off. Never buy Compte again.
Me: Um, OK.
On a final note, I noticed that in this picture of Ralf and me you can actually see a Dark Shadow looming over us:
How cool is that? Ralf says it's just a shadow but I know better. If I had any photoshop skills I would change it to a golden aura. I tried making us both gold but the dark shadow remained and it looked like we were burning in a nuclear fire so I gave up.
There are times when I regret my limited artistic ability.
Friends, I wish you all a boring 2010. I would wish you an interesting 2010, because it sounds better, but it's too much like the ancient Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times.'
So let's just go with boring, shall we?
December 27, 2009
True to form, I came down with strep throat on Christmas Eve. Last year it was bronchitis, only I waited a month before going to a specialist for antibiotics and by that time I needed cortisone to heal some internal damage, including several microtears in my ribs that still twinge.
This time we called the specialist immediately so I'm already on my way back to health.
This is my first strep throat and I had no idea it was so agonizingly painful. The back of your throat swells to twice it's normal size and swallowing is a private microcosm of hurt. Technically, it only hurts when you swallow but how do you not swallow?
Still, it was a fine Christmas and I for one am heartily grateful that 2009 is nearly over. Even though there is a high probability that 2010 will get worse before it gets better, it's still nice to see the back of 2009.
Don't worry, we're all fine (well, except me, I've got my annual plague but I'm on the mend), and there have been some memorable high points, but all in all it was a very difficult year.
Anyway, enough about me. I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas season and a very Happy New Year.
December 23, 2009
I myself chatted at length with a couple of Irish investment bankers living in London named Fergus and Rory, unless they were kidding about that.
Fergus has 108 first cousins. In a tiny town like Dublin this means you run into family quite a bit. And of course everyone attends Trinity University, so you have to be a bit careful who you snog at a party.
So sayeth Fergus.
I don't have any first cousins and found this insight into large families quite fascinating.
Incidentally, word about the American girl with no first cousins made the rounds pretty fast. When we took our leave several people I've never seen before in my life expressed sincere (albeit cautious) optimism that there might somehow be cousins in my future.
Merry Christmas, people. May you have many first cousins.
December 21, 2009
Great place, Dublin.
On Sunday we had a traditional Irish breakfast at Beweley's, a popular restaurant that is carbon neutral and makes a mean latte. Which goes to show that being carbon neutral doesn't mean you can't enjoy the finer things in life.
Ironically, while in college I never wanted to visit Germany because I was afraid I'd be arrested and disappear forever, which is of course nonsense, but American elementary school education kind of stops talking about Germany after 1945 and neglects to mention that all that militant heritage is now channeled into glaring at other people's children and recycling.
Naturally, I now live in Germany, because the universe has a sense of humor.
Then I didn't want to visit Ireland because I was afraid the IRA would bomb me and I was unconcerned with factual trivia like the fact that they don't actually bomb things any more.
Happily, I made it out of Dublin un-bombed, except in a purely literal sense.
December 18, 2009
The environment is a big topic, which means no one can predict exactly what will happen. There are several schools of thought and each does their best to discredit the others.
Common sense dictates that whether or not you believe global warming is caused by CO2 emmissions or by natural planetary evolution, the fact is that there are a heck of a lot of people on this planet using up resources and causing polution and that's a problem.
Can we at least agree on that?
And yet, I find otherwise rational people making the most far-fetched arguments against there being any sort of problem at all. Key words seem to be communism, conspiracy and Al Gore.
A summary of the key defense against global warming being true:
'Al Gore lives in a nice house. Therefore he is an evil capitalist lying about global warming to make money. The global warming message is a Communist plot. Therefore Al Gore is a Communist.* Communists lie. Therefore global warming is a lie.'
*Maybe he's a Communist during the week and an evil capitalist on weekends.
Feel free to leave a comment disagreeing with me but please don't use the C word.
I mean, Communism.
December 17, 2009
Instead she carried it off with aplomb and became a Hollywood icon.
Make of that what you will.
December 16, 2009
'The heart is so icky.'
This prompted a surprisingly intense flashback. While I was getting my MA I worked as a research assistant in the political science department. That's probably why my political observations are always so spot on. Anyway, one day I was researching or smoking or whatever it was I did for a very small amount of money when another female student walked in.
We got to talking and it turned out she was a pre-med student who had just done her first autopsy and was clearly excited about it. Eyes glowing with the passion of someone who has found their true vocation, she said:
'The heart is so beautiful.'
I guess it all depends on your perspective.
December 14, 2009
"The key to victory on any of those [cooking] shows comes down to one factor: bacon. Whichever contestant puts bacon in the dish invariably seems to win."--Michael Pollan
Apparently you can wrap bacon around just about anything, and they'll go fast.
Thank you, Patty, for this timeless observation. I couldn't agree more and this one's for you:
Courtesy of Big Daddy Paul.
Also, 'chacon', courtesy of Kristina:
December 13, 2009
I finished Hornet's Nest. It was good, although the end fizzled a bit. Please read it, it's way better than average.
Two more tips for you (I'm in an expansive, helpful mood):
1) Watch the movie 'Laura', an old black and white classic with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews; and
2) For delicious and easy appetizers, wrap prunes in bacon strips and back until bacon is cooked. If you want to be classy, stick toothpicks through them. Make a lot, they go fast.
Finally, K's long-awaited Christmas wish list - she didn't bother with any sort of greeting or salutation to Santa, just the list:
1. robot horse
2. math book
3. more hermit crabs (to ignore)
4. story CD about some magic horse with a weird name that sounds like 'Sternschweif'
5. real gold necklace
6. real sivler bracelet
7. tatoo pens
8. tatoo stickers
Needless to say, she'll be getting the math book.
December 11, 2009
I'm about halfway through The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and so far ich liebe es, although I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe it's the strong female protagonist, maybe it's the whole idea of overturning a government conspiracy, maybe it's the clever, understated dialog, hell, maybe it's the fish sandwiches. Whatever, I haven't enjoyed a new book so much in a long time.
On the other hand, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in the Swedish secret police. Since the original bad guys are more or less dead, it's unclear why the new generation is so paranoid about keeping old secrets buried. Also as villains go they're pretty lame. I mean, it's convenient for our heroes that the secret police don't know seem to know the first thing about counter-espionage and have to hire a tame burgler to break into someone's apartment and don't realize the significance of PDAs and other handheld devices, but I find myself thinking, 'Really, Stieg?'
For crissake, people, I'D be a better spy than these guys. I even know someone who knows how to tap phones. But so far the plot seems to depend on them being not very good - and, to their credit, not evil enough to kill innocent people - or the book would have been over after the first chapter.
Also it's an interesting study of the Swedish political system. Even once the Prime Minister and about half the government and police force have been informed and agree there's a problem and want to stop whatever's going on, it still isn't anywhere near over because no one seems to have any actual power. It's a bureaucrat's Shangrila.
Please note that these are just my preliminary observations since I haven't actually finished the book yet. Knowing my boy Stieg, he still has something up his sleeve to tie it all together neatly and surprise me. I'll keep you posted, although I won't spoil the ending for you.
BTW for some reason blogger is not emailing me comments reliably, although I can check them directly in the posts. Is anyone else having this problem?
Perhaps they are being intercepted by the Swedish secret police, which probably has some sort of search engine looking for references to 'Stieg Larsson' and 'fish sandwiches.'
December 10, 2009
I also have one or two unpleasant surprises in store, such as that I bought an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD for the kids. I loved A & the C when I was a kid, and how Dave always yells, 'AL-VINNNNNN!' It totally rocks.
Then on the weekend Christmas will officially begin. We will acquire a tree and hang things on it. There will be music - possibly not the Chipmunks, my favorite Christmas music is Nat King Cole. We will get ready for the Christmas party we're having on Sunday. Cookies will be consumed with chai and/or coffee. Frangrant candles will be lit. Stuff like that.
Ralf and I each sponsor two children with the Christian Children's Fund and the SOS Kinderdorf. Well, actually, he sponsors two kids in Sierra Leonne and I sponsor one girl in Bolivia and an SOS Kinderdorf in Germany, where data privacy laws prevent you from sponsoring an individual child. Each sponsorship costs about $30/month and includes food supplements, education and medical attention.
Ralf read somewhere recently that it's good for the soul to give away 10% of your wealth to those in need. That's enough to notice but not enough to diminish your own quality of life. I haven't actually calculated if we actually do 10%, which means we haven't hurt our quality of life, but we definitely notice the money going out the door. So we're probably about right.
My sponsored child's name is Laura. I picked her because she has the same name as me (I'm very vain), lives in a very poor country and looked so sad in her picture. I first had the idea when L was born and I was home watching Roseanne alll day. I couldn't bear the thought of not having food or medicine for my perfect new baby and it actually tortured me to imagine any mother in that situation. So when the CCF commercial came on I picked up the phone. And once it turned out to be legit, Ralf did, too.
One of Ralf's sponsored children is truly poor. Her mother works in a different city, her father has some mysterious health issue and she lives with her grandmother in a small hovel. She once had a goat but it was stolen. Early pictures of her looked like she was jaundiced but since then she makes a healthier impression. One picture showed her at school - standing at her desk because there were no chairs. The other, a boy, lives in a Kinderdorf. His parents are dead. We receive occassional pictures and he looks very well-cared for.
My sponsored child is older (she's 8 now) and her family is less poor. Her father is a carpenter and her older siblings attend some sort of college. Once when I wrote to her and mentioned seeing a Harry Potter movie she wrote back to say she had seen it, too. Still, they are far from wealthy and there's no doubt with four children a bit of extra cash comes in handy.
Earlier this year I had a small crisis of faith about giving away my hard earned money. Last Christmas I sent Laura $50 as a combined birthday and Christmas present. It was a lot but I thought she could put it away for emergencies, higher education, what have you. Instead she bought a new designer bicycle.
This bothered me, which also bothered me, because a gift giver doesn't own the recipient. But my own kids drive used bicycles and their presents added up to about $20.
After thinking it over I decided I wasn't upset with Laura - who could blame her for wanting a flashy new bicycle? - but with the CCF that advises the family. Finally I wrote them a note explaining that they shouldn't assume I'll always have an extra $50 to give away and they should have encouraged the family to save the money. I added that I signed up with the CCF to fight true poverty, not buy luxury items.
They wrote back about how much Laura needed a bicycle and how used bicycles break faster and how excited she was. And there the matter dropped.
I still sponsor Laura, although I rarely hear from her these days. I remind myself that I was a lousy corresponent when I was 8, too, and trust she's enjoying school and life. The money I give to CCF benefits the entire community, not just her, making school and medical attention available to more people. So it's all good.
But this year she gets $20. Same as my kids.
December 8, 2009
A word about the trilogy's heroine, Lisbeth: She is a genius with a photographic memory. She is perfectly peacable as long as people leave her alone. If they try to harm her, she takes over their computer, then kills or maims them.
It's easy to see why these books are so popular.
Tournen is fun to watch because there's just nothing cuter than a bunch of little kids gallumping around giggling. I have great respect for the teacher Ingrid as well - because, let's face it, the job is like herding cats.
Because I was filming, K was on her best behavior. She repeatedly hugged her sister and helped her balance on a bench they were supposed to walk across. Not that she's usually mean to L, she's actually pretty decent as big sisters go, but yesterday she went all out.
This means she has figured out that it pays to act nice when people are watching.
December 7, 2009
While I was making dinner for the kids I overheard this conversation:
L (4 years old): Santa is just a man in dress up.
Ex-cuse me? Where did that come from?
K (6 years old): You're not supposed to say that. I know it, and Mommy knows it, but Papa doesn't know it.
K: You can't tell Papa or he'll be sad.
Poor Ralf. I'll have to try to find the right moment to break it to him.
December 5, 2009
It often surprises people to hear this - I guess because I'm kind of loud - but I am an introvert. Some of you may already know this, but being an introvert does not mean you fear people or spend all your time in creepy chatrooms while hacking into the national security database. It simply means you recharge when you're alone, as opposed to extroverts, who recharge in the company of others.
Before having kids, I used to spend several hours a day alone, or at least incommunicado, mostly reading with a cup of coffee (add a fish sandwich to that and I could be mistaken for a Swede!). If Ralf or some other boyfriend wandered into the room, my curt responses soon drove them off again, unless they came bearing food.
If I didn't get this downtime I got kinda cranky.
Fast forward to married me with a job and two kids. I've adjusted my expectations and no longer expect to spend two hours a day reading with no interruptions. Which is good, because I'd be very cranky indeed all the time, instead of just mildly cranky.
When Ralf is gone the girls get to sleep in our bed with me and the sound of their peaceful snuffly breathing fills me with such deep happiness I can't describe it.
But when everyone is gone for a day and night, I get to be me again. Here are the exciting things I've done since last night:
1. Fixed a tray of bread, cheese, prociutto, grapes and a glass of red wine.
2. Watched 3 episodes of Buffy, season 5. I've seen them all before but still enjoy them. Riley recently took off and Buffy's relationship with Spike is evolving. I miss Riley, he's competent and clean cut like Ralf, but I like Spike, too.
3. Went to bed at 10:30 and woke up at an extravegant 9:30.
4. Enjoyed 2 cups of hot, fresh coffee and homemade biscotti in absolute silence while reading The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. Despite everyone being a bit slow to follow up on various leads, it's an excellent read.
5. Although not particularly religious in a churchy way, prayed for Stieg Larsson and thanked him for providing me with such a peaceful and enjoyable morning.
At 15:00 I'll go to my Nike Fighting Fit class, then pick up the girls. Tomorrow we'll hang out at home and watch Year Without a Santa Claus together.
I wish you all a peaceful weekend.
December 3, 2009
About a year ago I noticed that L'Occitane had a line of expensive facial creams containing olive oil. I reasoned that if the key ingredient is olive oil, I could skip all the costly parabens and go right to the source.
That's right, I tried putting a light coat of olive oil on my face before bed and the results have been at least as good as using some $50 cream full of carcinogenic ingredients and neurotoxic fragrance. (Oh, you didn't know the FDA doesn't regulate 'fragrance'? Watch The Story of Stuff if you haven't already.)
Anyway. I don't do this every night because it makes me shiny and, um, hungry but roughly a couple of times a week, especially in winter when everything's so dry. It absorbs pretty quickly in winter.
The only drawback is that olive oil comes in such large bottles, completely unsuitable for toiletteries, so I recently purchased some sweet almond oil for travel.
This works almost as well, although Ralf says I smell like a big marzipan.
I'm not sure if that's better or worse than smelling like a bread salad.
December 2, 2009
Disclaimer: If you're more of a potato chip or salty snack monster, this diet obviously won't work for you. Sorry.
December 1, 2009
Accordingly we dressed her up in a cute little skirt and tights and even brushed her hair. Then Ralf set off for the party with the girls and I headed out to the gym.
When I got home K was still at the party but L came running to greet me. Apparently she was not allowed to stay at the party, for reasons Ralf was unable to explain satisfactorily. So we read some books and played Memory until it was time to pick up K.
Yesterday during gymnastics after school Tina's mom approached me. "Sorry I couldn't invite L to the party this weekend," she said. "But it was really for older girls. I think K had a nice time, though."
I assured her that I totally understood.
She continued: "My youngest daughter didn't want her there. She doesn't like L."
I found this additional explanation unnecessary and somewhat offputting, but allowed that chemistry is important at parties.
There was more: "K and Tina get along so well. Maybe we could do a playdate at our house. Just K, though, since my youngest daugher detests L."
Please note that 'detest' is my translation of, 'Sie kann L nicht leiden,' and is probably harsher than intended.
I managed to respond that play dates are fun and omit any reference to flying pigs.
Later I reflected that I may have been too hard on her, at least in my thoughts. She has three small kids and the last thing she needs is an extra kid in her house that her middle child won't play with. And it's not like I've never been so intent on explaining something that I offended somebody about something.
But still. Who could resist this sweet little schnookums???
November 29, 2009
November 28, 2009
I've been doing this all morning. Apparently I am incapable of learning a new physical habit. Fortunately the kids are at their grandparents this morning so I have all the time in the world to be inefficient.
On a side note, if you're feeling a bit unfit (fat) after Thanksgiving gluttony, or starting to think about Christmas presents, check out these shake weights.
November 27, 2009
November 25, 2009
To be honest, I'm a little off my game since K started school. She leaves at 7:30 AM and L doesn't go to Kindergarten until 8:30, so we get up at 6:30 and it's almost 9AM before I can start my actual day. It takes its toll.
During this extra hour L is thrilled to have me all to herself and we read books, play games and sometimes fold laundry. Her favorite game is memory, which is probably because she wipes the floor with me. Seriously, I don't let her win, she totally kicks my butt, usually with a pair ratio of about 4:1, or make that 2:1 on rare occassions when I'm really on my game.
This morning I caught her turning over a third card when the second card was not the one she expected.
'Don't cheat, darling,' I said.
She stared at me with those ginormous blue eyes, confused.
I explained: 'You don't need to cheat to win this game, Schnuggie.'
I tried again: 'You should only cheat if you're losing.'
That cleared it up.
November 23, 2009
It's a smart book, well written with good dialog. The main character Mikael Blomkvist is plausible and likable. There's a gripping plot with a murder mystery and a twisted serial killer. There's a mysterious violent background. There are politics and high tech and big business.
All the elements, in short, of a best seller.
There is also an intriguing aura of 'foreigness' that permeates the book, possibly due to the large quantities of coffee, extramarital sex and fish sandwiches enjoyed by most of the characters. I'm not saying there aren't Americans that drink a lot of coffee or cheat on their spouses or even both - but fish sandwiches? I don't think so.
The book is the first of a trilogy. I just ordered the second book.
Sadly, the author is dead, after stating he knew exactly which literary elements to include in a best seller and then writing said best seller.
That seems wrong to me.
November 20, 2009
Two personal favorites:
1. Nov 9, when Republican Representative brings baby in to 'talk' about health care.
2. Nov 5, when political correspondent responds to the question, 'What are you hearing from the Republicans' on Capital Hill?'
John Stewart doesn't take sides. He doesn't just pick on the Republicans, who can't get their act together with any meaningful argumentation and resort to their usual emotional one-liners ('It weighs 40 pounds!') and random Holocaust pictures (Nazis = National Socialists = Socialist Medicine, get it?).
He also makes fun of the Democrats for being unable to pull together a smart, succinct piece of legislation that inspires confidence in their ability to govern. Which is so sad I don't even have the heart to make a cartoon about it.
I mean, I did try, but the Republicans are just... funnier.
Do you think my caveman looks too happy?
November 18, 2009
Little do I know they soon won't be.
Ralf got a nice email from the blond guy who corrected me about the Sousaphone, saying that it was really nice talking to me.
This is why I love German men and probably would have married a German even if Ralf had been better at resisting my charms. I mean, can you imagine an American man writing an email to another American man saying how great it was to talk to his wife?
Nope, me neither.
November 17, 2009
November 15, 2009
November 12, 2009
Scarred from my last encounter with Ziege Lady I let each magazine drop VERY carefully as I finished them and they landed in a neat little pile next to my Stairmaster.
Toward the end of my workout a pleasant looking woman came over and inquired politely if she could take one of my magazines.
'Sure, take 'em all,' I said. 'I'm done.'
She knelt down and. . . I guess the word is 'rifled'. . . through my neat stack of magazines, selecting several. When she was finished my nice pile looked like a cat had scrabbled in it trying to bury its poo. Without bothering to restack them, she headed for her own machine.
Two seconds later Ziege Lady walked by, eyed my explosion of magazines with disapproval, and CLICKED HER TONGUE at me.
She did not, however, call me Ziege.
I think she's starting to like me.
November 11, 2009
November 10, 2009
Ralf was getting tense. He'd checked and double-checked every single appliance in our home and couldn't figure out why we were consuming about 30% more energy than we should have been, according to Wattson. Which adds up to about 600 euro a year.
But why? Was there a problem with the meter? Vanishingly unlikely and expensive to verify. Was it our expensive new heating system that has not been without difficulties? Everyone had assured us this was not possible.
Finally, Ralf took Wattson down to the fuse box in the basement and turned everything off, one by one, as the Wattson readings dropped modestly. The very last fuse was the magic fuse that explained the delta between what we should have been using and what we were actually using.
It was labeled: Dachrinnenheizung.
You will never believe what that is. It is an electric heater installed in the rain gutters on the roof to keep them from freezing. It's on all winter. It's like having a space heater on all the time.
We turned it off.
November 9, 2009
But they are also like real friends in the way they are always ready with an encouraging word if you're sick and sometimes have useful advice or information, like when Patti posted the NSC code for Saybrook Sage or Kristina helped me create my own church sign proclaiming my righteousness or the Dental Maven offered free dental advice or Sara explained how to drain a pond.
And I hope I've been able to help all of you with my frequent reminders about how society's going to collapse when we run out of oil and I'm still not seeing any solar panels so why the h-e-double-hockysticks are we talking about health care?
But anyway, occassionally a blog post stops me cold with either a wish that I'd written it or its relevance to my own life. The first time this happened was Kristina's New Year's Resolution post.
That was a darn good post.
I've had quite a few 'Wow' moments since then but most recently the Ask a Dead Person series over at Jezebel has captured my attention. The idea is that you send in a question and dead people like Freud and Kafka weigh in with advice.
I LOVE that!
A recent post ponders how to keep one's bratty daughter from alienating one's rich boyfriend. Well, that's just spot on in it's relevance to my life. Or, it could be if I weren't married because I would naturally only date rich guys. I found Jack Kerouac's advice particularly helpful. This is blogging perfection and I'm kicking myself that I never thought of having dead people guest post on my blog.
Of course, to pull that off you have to, like, know stuff. About history. And people. And what dead people are likely to say.
Anyway, if you want to help me look good on my other blog, which is being considered for the next Carnival of HR, please click here and leave a comment or two.
Or, if you want to know how to explain to your friend that her poor mothering drove her daughter to suicide, click here.
I know. Life is about tough choices.
November 8, 2009
November 6, 2009
This is a place we stopped for lunch in the mountains.
The Fall foliage was amazing. My pictures don't do it justice.
Nice place for a picnic, isn't it?
Mountains above Clausen.
November 5, 2009
November 4, 2009
If only I had my own dedicated creative services team.
But he has a good excuse - he had four wisdom teeth removed yesterday.
Our dentist is great at gory dental surgery but has a couple of odd scheduling quirks. For one thing, the person responsible for scheduling surgery is never there so calls back at totally inconvenient times when you don't have your calendar available to schedule you.
And they have this trick where they call you on some random day before your appointment to invite you to come in THAT DAY to take advantage of a cancellation.
This happened when Ralf and I were in California recently. His iPHone rang at 3AM and it was The Scheduler. She was so excited I could her her voice from under my pillow. 'I have excellent news. There's been a cancellation so if you like, you could have your wisdom teeth operated today!'
Isn't that awesome?? If we hadn't been in California we would have totally jumped at it.
Anyway, I drove him there yesterday morning at 9AM. The plan was that I would drink coffee and jot down some design notes in a cafe while he was under the knife, then pick him up at 10:30. However, perhaps as punishment for not flying back from California to extract the wisdom teeth earlier when that golden opportunity fell into our ungrateful laps, it turned out that we were an hour early.
Which meant I had the undivided attention of the guy who makes technical decisions at our company at a very timely moment. He usually fends off such attacks with a strategic mix of conference calls and children.
Me: Darling, as long as I've got you here. . . I have a prototype I'd like to show you. I was just working through my notes and we have a couple of UI requirements to make this work. We're meeting with the UI folks but you might as well be in the loop.
Ralf (groaning): On any other day, I'd say, 'I'd rather get my teeth pulled.' But that seems beside the point today.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is for THIS moment that I perfected the raised eyebrow.
Me: Well, that's funny, because on any other day I wouldn't be able to ask you if you'd prefer to discuss this before or after you get your teeth pulled?'
Mwa ha ha ha ha!
November 3, 2009
October 29, 2009
October 28, 2009
October 26, 2009
Well, not so much. The naked tush in question belongs to L, my baby who turns 4 next week.
While Ralf and I were in California for our conference L and K stayed with their German grandparents. On the last night a pair of wet PJ bottoms was discovered carefully hung over the side of the bath tub. Upon further investigation, a naked tush was discovered air drying in L's bed while the rest of her was completely buried in blankets. New PJ bottoms were put on and the blanket was adjusted to a more normal position.
Fast forward 2 hours and a second pair of PJ bottoms was found lovingly hung next to the first pair and the same scene greeted her grandparents in her room, i.e., naked tush in the air.
She's not even Generation Y.
This is the sort of thing you miss when you travel.
On the plane home I read Scarpetta, the most recent Cornwell installment involving freak mutations and an inside job. In the last book I read by her, one bad guy had a condition that made him look like a werewolf and the other bad guy (who turned out to be his brother) was an inside guy in the FBI special forces. So I kind of stopped reading Cornwell books until this last one and was annoyed by the similar plot.
I mean, you can't always have the cop being the bad guy, it undermines trust.
Other than that, however, it seems I missed a lot: Benton is alive again, Lucy is filthy rich, Rose is dead, Fielding's still bitching about life, Marino is into clean living and Kay Scarpetta, the gifted forensic specialist who once solved a case by knowing about some rare disease that makes you smell like maple syrup, has evolved from moderately attractive to a famous, gorgeous CNN spokesperson that now goes by her last name.
Kind of like me, although if you ask me, Honeypiehorse is way cooler than Scarpetta.
October 23, 2009
October 21, 2009
It was kind of liberating not speaking all weekend but that's all over now and I'm now at a conference in San Francisco. Talking rather a lot, actually. Presenting, even.
So, did I notice any life changing revelations during my silent meditational weekend?
No, not as such. I'm still pretty much the same. Maybe taller.
However, I do suddenly seem to be able to remember everyone's name, even people I just met. For example, I see someone I don't know very well and their name just comes to me. So, I'm clearly transformed in some way because I'm usually hopeless with names.
Maybe shutting the heck up for a couple of days cleared out my short term memory....
October 15, 2009
I expect to return completely refreshed and enlightened from this so stay tuned for the new me.
October 13, 2009
Yes, you see the problem. Working parents scramble to get a rare state funded spot in a Hort, where they feed and help your kids with homework until you pick them up. Failing that, you might get a non-Hort childcare spot, where the kids play in the basement of some school until you pick them up.
And failing that, parents can send their kids to private school, get a nanny or the mom can quit her job. Actually I don't want to be sexist here, there are at least three stay-at-home dads in Germany and maybe more. Ralf would love to stay home but he earns more than me.
Before we moved to California K was in a Krippe, or preschool that accepts babies. The other baby in her group was Korbinian, a solid, mellow baby with a distinctive thatch of curly blond hair.
When we returned to Munich from California we ran into Korbinian's parents, who own a local business specializing in IT firewalls, and they (like us) were pondering what to do about the lackluster after school programs in our town.
Their solution? What anyone would do, really: Build an on-premise Krippe, Kindergarten and Hort at their place of business and get the community to pay for it.
Now, you've hopefully read some of my writings about the difficulties of getting stuff done in Germany, where everything's a problem until it's been done so many times it's a process, so I'll leave it to your imagination what sort of colossal undertaking that was. But they succeeded while we were back in California this summer and even managed to get the all-important and elusive signature verifying that they have enough toilets for each child.
This is where L goes in the morning and K joins her at lunch time in a private shuttle that is included as part of the overall package.
You might think that such busy people wouldn't have time for their children but au contraire. Somehow in the midst of all that running a business and opening new schools, they also have plenty of hours to spend with their children playing games, building a life size castle out of cardboard and reading Faust.
To give you an idea, on the first day of the school Korbinian, who is 6 like K, taught one of the childcare professionals how to play monopoly.
L went to a birthday party for their younger son this weekend and came home not with the ubiquitous goody bag and sloppy handmade crown but an actual stick horse they had made themselves. A stick horse! With hand grips! And a red felt mane!
Who thinks of having twenty 4-year-olds build a stick horse?
The Joneses have nothing on these people.
October 9, 2009
I remember once when she was still quite small we had lunch with a friend of mine who had two pre-teen girls. I expressed worry that I would never be able to stop kissing K's feet, the tiny toes of which I thought looked like rose petals.
'It'll be so embarassing when she's a teenager!' I exclaimed. 'What if I can't ever stop??' My friend smiled with French urbanity (she's French) as she sipped her coffee and said, 'I wouldn't worry about it too much. Eet... changes as zey get older.'
And so it does. I no longer feel any uncontrollable desire to kiss the bottoms of my 6-year-old's feet or refer to them as 'petal toes,' although other parts of her are less secure from physical expressions of maternal adoration. But I'm still awfully proud of my grown up girl and the way she's adjusting to school life.
There's a little notebook the teacher uses to communicate with parents and you have to check it every day. Typically there's some request for the next day, such as: 'Please create a such-and-such out of a match box and send your child to school with 10 pressed Autumn leaves by tomorrow.'
What am I, McGiver??
Today there's a Fall Festival at school which parents are invited to attend. This morning we told K how excited we were to see her in her first play.
K's response: 'Oh, please, I'm just holding up a dumb piece of paper the whole time. It's totally lame!'
Alrighty then. She's only 6 but she's already lived in two countries and vacationed in several others. I guess you can't expect her to get all excited about holding up a piece of paper in the school pageant.
I tried again: 'Well, I'm sure you'll be the best paper holder upper ever!'
K's response can't be captured in print because she just rolled her eyes at me.Ah, yes, our lifetime journey of parental dorkiness begins. She will never believe I used to have an iota of coolness in me. . .
October 7, 2009
Like what, soap? All the German men I know are neurotically clean. Because German women will chase them around with disinfectant if they're not.
According to this survey, most of my boyfriends have been the world's worst lovers. Alas.
Don't get the wrong idea, I haven't been working the 'world's worst lover' list or anything. For one thing, every time I get near a Swedish guy a little voice in my head starts chanting, 'My name is Jan Janssen, I live in Wisconsin,' and I start giggling like a loon.
But what's a girl to do? I'm taller than most of the Spanish, French and Italian men I know. I remember hitting a night club in Paris when I was young and fetchingly annorexic. I was immediately surrounded by tiny little smoking men waving their cigarettes around as they paid me extravagent compliments.
It was fun (and surreal) but it just didn't do it for me, you know?
Incidentally, where the heck are the Israelis on this list? Have you ever watched a troop of Israeli soliders march by on the news? Hello! And Israeli men are so extravagently and sincerely offensive in casual conversation it makes my toes tingle. In a good way.
Maybe Israeli women have too much class to participate in this lame survey.
October 5, 2009
October 2, 2009
Damn. I'm usually so good about stuff like that.
So, if I ever have another baby girl, I will consider calling her:
Placenta (or maybe Placenta-Marie);
Aphrodite; or perhaps...
Or better yet, a German name, like Bundesliga.
Of course, no contest if it's a boy:
Gaylord. I love that name.
September 29, 2009
September 28, 2009
I asked Ralf yesterday how he votes, since I can't vote here. 'Are we fascists?' I asked hopefully, trying to sound informed about modern German politics. 'Green party,' was his response.
I've lived in Russia and I've seen first hand how much Communism sucks so I'm all for the free market. However, I also stayed awake long enough in economics class to learn about the Tragedy of the Commons, which states that unless restrained, multiple individuals acting rationally in their own self-interest will ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen. Not might, will.
Anyway, although the CDU currently enjoys a political majority, the FDP scored an unprecedented number of votes in yesterday's national election, leading me to wonder why people always expect the same thinking that got them into trouble in the first place to get them out of it again.
Ironic: This may sound nitpicky but that song 'Isn't It Ironic' by Alanis Morrisette bugs me, not just due to its highly irriating melody but because in a long litany of things that are supposed to be ironic few of them actually are. I mean, rain on your wedding day is not ironic. Neither is an airplane crash with a passenger who fears flying. Anyway. The other day my yoga instructor Carolyn read a nice passage out loud about the enormous amount of energy women put into their appearance and how if they would channel that same energy to some higher purpose it would be enough to change the world. Incidentally, Carolyn is very attractive and looks amazing in white spandex. Now, THAT'S ironic!
Impossible: Several months back I bought a blender and two weeks ago it went up in flames while I was pureeing organic strawberries. I no longer had the receipt so I told Ralf he would have to return the blender because I knew he would succeed where I would fail. During the course of trying to return a blender to a German store with no receipt the word 'impossible' was uttered at least a dozen times by various store employees. Ralf patiently worked his way up the management chain and informed the store manager that having an easy return policy is the lifeblood of commerce. 'This is why people buy lots of shit they don't need in the US,' he explained. 'Because they know they can take it back, no questions asked. And the stores know that when they do, they'll buy more shit they don't need. Now, give me back my money for this piece of shit fire hazard you sold my wife!'
Finally after about 40 minutes of this the manager told him in a hushed voice that if he wanted his money back he would have to sign a legally binding testimony that he had bought the blender at Marktkauf. The manager seemed to think Ralf would chicken out and head for the hills once he heard this news. Instead Ralf laughed and said, 'Bring it.'
Yes, my modern day he man did get our money back.
September 26, 2009
September 25, 2009
What I didn't realize when I called my Senators is that Senator Murkowski's first name is Lisa. For some reason this really bothered me. I figured anyone who wants to weaken the EPA must be an overweight white Republican male from Arkansas who plays golf with former GM executives.
Sorry, Arkansas, I know you produced some of the most liberal thinkers of our time but I seem to be prejudiced as well as chauvinist. It's just that it's been years (decades, even) since geography class and when I try to think of a Southern state I always come with Arkansas.
Senator Murkowski actually is from Arkansas. And Republican. Presumably white, weight unknown. But definitely female unless she's a transvestite or something. Probably not, though, since she's a Republican in public office.
I'm not proud of my chauvinistic assumptions. Well, OK, I sometimes am. But I realize that women are as unlikely to recognize the environmental challenges we face as men.
Intellectually, that is. In my gut I expect women to know better. And it's not because I think women are better or smarter, but because women are the gatherers, the nurturers, the more future-minded. We worry about what kind of world our children will inherit and we guard their well-being more jealously than our own. Of course men do this too but it's different.
Remember that episode of the Brady Bunch where they go camping and the boys don't catch any fish but it's OK because the girls brought a picnic? That's what I'm talking about. The boys intended to catch dinner so they didn't bother with a back up plan. The girls knew better.
BTW, speaking of Republican men, who DID shoot JR??
September 24, 2009
It should only be full of one rock, a rock I took away from the wonderful boarding school I grew up at. Before they built a bunch of hideous mansion homes on it, generations of students lived there, went to class, rode horses and enjoyed other juvenile pursuits.
It was like Hogwarts with rodeo instead of magic.
I sometimes hold this rock in my hands when I feel doubt. You see, this rock is a physical connection to an earlier time when I had absolute confidence in myself and the world around me.
Today I'm not exactly a self-doubting shrinking violet but when I need a burst of confidence I hold my rock and imagine the warm Phoenix sun beating down on my face and the comfortable shape of Camelback Mountain.
But alas, when I cleaned out my purse yesterday I discovered not one rock but three, a bunch of hazelnuts and one fairly lame twig. And now I don't know which rock is my rock. I assume my kids snuck them in, because I'm definitely not the sort of person to go around putting rocks in my purse.
Well, OK, yes I am, but just the one.
I guess I'll be lugging around three rocks for the rest of my life.
September 23, 2009
Actually, no one has technically asked me this. But there are pictures below so stay with me.
Yesterday the Environmental Defense Fund asked me to call my Senators to protest the Murkowski amendments to the Clean Air Act being debated.
I called - and I hope you will, too - but that's not what this post is about.
Basically the amendment wants to let oil companies off the hook. There's a video you can watch here to learn more. The girl in the video kind of looks like Sarah Michelle Geller.
But anyway. There's a lot of media hype out there and it gets confusing so let's make it real simple:
Laura's Easy Two-Step Program to Navigating the Environmental Debate:
First of all, ask yourself: WHICH IS MORE LIKELY?
Option 1: Our planet is endowed with finite resources that are being used up as the population steadily increases. We are completely dependent on cheap energy. Increasingly scarce energy sources like oil can not remain cheap. Solar and wind power, if we invest in them now, will never dry up and we don't have to buy them from people who hate our guts. Building up renewable energy sources will also provide a new source of economic growth. If we miss this narrow window of opportunity to be collectively smarter than a slobber worm we're totally screwed.
Option 2: Exxon and other corporate executives want only what's best for you and don't need a bunch of pesky legislation to do the right thing. Seven billion people can use whatever they want, whenever they want, and it will have zero impact on our planet or our environment because God decides everything. Planetary resources that we use up are replaced by magical elves while we sleep. Environmentalism is somehow linked to abortions and same sex marriage.
So... I'm kind of leaning toward Option 1.
However, that still leaves the problem of how the heck to vote when things that sound great are secretly bad.
Let's face it, legislation is way too tricky to figure out on your own. Unless you're Lawyer Mom.
So, the second step is to ask yourself: WHO DO YOU TRUST?
I mean, more?
Oh, and if you too would like to call your Senators and chat with a staffer who sounds about 17, click here to look up the numbers.