Jan 292007

I’m always amazed at all those food bloggers. Not only do they cook magnificent things I’d never dream of trying, no, they blog about it and make gorgeous photos. My attempts at photography are *cough* mediocre at best, and my attempts at food blogging best go unmentioned. (But you can see them in my post about mega menu-mailer. Yeah, that’s me. take a bag from the freezer, thaw, cook still frozen and be happy to have something remotely edible.)

I stumbled over Meeta’s blog on blogher because she is living in Germany too. And not only does she have a food blog (and really gorgeous pictures), she also hosts the “blogger postcards from the world” event. I’m glad to participate in it for the second time.

This time around there is a theme to it: “Valentines”. I’m not much into Valentine’s day, because, in Germany at least, it seems to be an invention of a big chain of flower shops, but as Germans love anything American, of course, nowadays Valentine’s day is celebrated too. On the other hand, my feeling for gross commercialization notwithstanding, it is always good to spread the love around, and so I decided to make my own Valentine’s postcard to be sent to a yet to be unnamed recipient. I first thought of drawing a big heart and write something on it, then I couldn’t find a red sharpie. Then I thought, well, why not browse flickr and find some cute photo to use. There I saw a picture of several Valentine’s postcards. I almost used that and then I thought of my Peanuts collection. Ha! What would be better than a self-made peanuts Valentine’s card. Then my son came back from a friend, life happened and I had to try again today.

I went out and bought a postcard which you can see below.

As the one I sent as part of the first BPW event it will travel halfway around the world. But I won’t tell you where right now. All the bloggers on the list will blog about the postcards they sent today. Then we’ll wait. In a few days or so everybody who received a postcard will blog about it. And then you can see who got mine. Or who sent me a postcard. I hope my postcard travels safely. Right now my husband is going to the post office.

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Jan 272007

I’m really happy that I have more students to teach. Really. More students mean more money. I no longer have to pinch every penny. And I like teaching. But one can tell that some things have suffered. The blog for example. Since I have been posting a lot of my to-do-lists here, I thought I’d just make it a little more visual this time. So, you can tell that I have been teaching more by:

My congas waiting to be photographed so I can sell them. (Anybody wanting some fabulous Michel Delaporte-congas? They are quite rare.)

Catalogue waiting to be browsed through, note waiting to be given to my husband, books waiting to be put back on shelf. (I fetched the Terry Pratchett book looking for a quote about the monks of cool, because I wanted to write about feeling cool. Well, the quote actually was in another book (the internet told me so), and the post never happened.) Couple of receipts waiting to be entered into computer for budgeting.

Stuff my husband used to polish the aforementioned congas so that they look better in the pictures waiting to be put away.

Wastepaper basket waiting to be emptied. Look at all those candy wrappers. Right where my students can see them. Either it has been a very long time since I last emptied it or I see for the first time why my weight has been going up again. Now venturing outside my room into the living room:

New shelves for DVDs. I put them together, but they are waiting to be installed on top of the ones we already have.

This was given to me for Christmas. I have to put some new wire to it and hang it up.

Kitchen: Toast waiting to be put into freezer bags and to be frozen.

Basement: Laundry waiting to be folded and put away.

Bedroom: More laundry waiting to be ironed, a glass waiting to be recycled, books waiting to be disposed off. Maybe I put those children’s books up for sale too.

My son’s room: projects and pictures waiting to be put away in a tidy manner.


So now you know how I will spend my weekend. What will you do? I hope your weekend has some family fun time in it.

And who knows, maybe there will be some real post from me tomorrow.

And you know what, today is my 39 1/2 th birthday. Only six months left until the -0.

Jan 172007

Just a few words to tell you that I feel almost normal again. Thanks for you concern and comments. I had wanted to write something longer and more profound, but the day turned out completely different from what I planned. Instead of writing and making music, I spent the morning running errands with my husband and then eating Chinese food. And then he made me happy by saying, “You know, I never told you, but though I criticize you all the time, I love you just the way you are. Even your faults.” Wow.

Jan 152007

(Just when you think you don’t know when to blog again, a student calls in sick. I hope she’ll be well soon, but this was my present for today.)

Still feeling a little low. Though I haven’t written here, I still have time to think. And I don’t like the phrase “I don’t have time”, because it isn’t true. I did lots of things during the past days, but I didn’t sit down and wrote anything. Maybe that’s my punishment. I had a writer’s meeting on Thursday and everybody went, “Oh, I just don’t know what to write about on my blog.” and I bragged, “Oh, having ideas is never the problem for me. Following them through is.” So for anybody interested in a topic, the topics I have waiting in line are: handicapped, sleep, transitions, life coaching, self-sacrificing mothers. Feel free to write about them if they appeal to you.

But for now I’ll write about the thing that is occupying me the most and that is depression. Maybe that is a “social justice” topic. It surely should be. (And I don’t really know where the line between personal and social is. They blur into another anyway.) I’m hesitating, because I don’t feel qualified to write about depression. But I don’t find another word to describe the mood I am in. It is like the problem I had when I found out I had an eating disorder. I watched TV and there were a couple of overeaters describing their eating patterns. They described my eating patterns exactly. Only I didn’t weigh 300 pounds. To this day most people who have known me for a long time think that I am a hypochondriac when I label myself as a former emotional overeater.

So I have light bipolar extra-light. Whatever. Currently there is a part of me that has gone numb, wants to go numb, a part that is constantly sitting in a corner wrapping her arms around herself. It feels like I’m wading through mud and rolling a boulder uphill all day long while having a vortex in my stomach. I’m tempted to feed the vortex food, chocolate in particular. And numb it with staring into the computer or TV. My energy is very low, I haven’t been sleeping well, I have been eating more than usual, especially more candy, I’m cranky and when my husband points out something to me that I forgot – and that happens a lot these days – I burst into tears.

And then there’s the other part of me, the aware and mindful part, that’s quite happy. The new conscious part of me that loves the sunshine and goes on exercising and doing housework, the part of me that goes out with friends and makes jokes and cares about herself and others. This is weird. I keep thinking that if only can immerse myself in that happy feeling the heavy rock in my stomach will melt. As it will, as it always does. It’s not that I’m depressed all the time.

When I still lived alone I treated this mood as if I were sick. I went to bed and didn’t get up for days. I went out only to get more potato chips, jelly beans, liquorice and chocolate. I’d sleep long enough to make me feel even weaker. I’d withdraw completely. Now I live with my family and this is no longer possible. I’m very happy about this, because not doing anything makes me feel even worse. I feel better, when I get out of the house and walk through the woods. When I eat real food my mood lifts a little.

In a comment to my last post Esereth wrote that there are deep reasons for depression and that I can kill it when I find out what’s causing it. So far I only have been able to find triggers: visiting my parents, not sleeping enough, not making enough music, staying indoors too much, listening to daily talk about the end of the world (okay, that was exaggerated). And who knows, maybe there is a part in me that loves this mood. I suspect this is the counterpart to the part that wants to have a highly streamlined, efficient, goal-oriented life. The hyper-organizer in me. And of course I haven’t played enough. There is the voice in me that once was my mother’s voice (and occasionally still is in real life) that says, “Who do you think you are?” There is the fact that there is winter and light is sparse. There is the fact that I am exhausted and overwhelmed. And there is the fact that I have been in manic overdrive mode for weeks without realizing it. That’s usually the main factor.

So, if there is a reason it may be the one that this lifetime around it is my turn to learn how to be persistent. I am not good at this. I’d like to live life in bursts and crashes. Work like crazy for a couple of weeks and then retreat to bed and do nothing for a couple of weeks. Either be the center of the party, shining, laughing, dancing, singing and telling funny stories or to stay at home and be alone. I could do that. I have done it often enough. The only catch is that it makes me neither happy nor content. So I’ll have to learn the “boring” path. The one where every day is the same as the last one. Where you work constantly without burning out.

I have a friend who told me that she feels slightly bipolar too. I asked her, “And what do you do about it?” She said that she just tries to enjoy that manic streaks and to treat herself as well as she can, when she’s depressed. I can’t accept that for my life. For one, real bipolar disorder is dangerous when not treated. The depression gets deeper and longer, and there are people turning suicidal. I don’t think that my mood swings qualify for a real disorder. I’m sure, if I’d go to a doctor with this, he’d laugh out loud. (And I have done the tests in my bipolar disorder books, thank you.)

But then there isn’t only healthy and sick. There are shades of grey in between. My first step now is to acknowledge that this is something I can’t control. No power of will can make me feel happy. If I ignore it, it comes back and hits me over the head. While at the same time I think that we can choose our emotions, I’m not yet able to do it constantly. And I think the main problem for me is to avoid overdrive mode. So my problem boils down to: How do you know whether you’re slightly manic or just extremely busy? And if I suspect that I’m in overdrive does that mean I cancel everything? Like my son’s kindergarten Christmas party? The trip to my parents that was higly anticipated by them and my son? Christmas? NaNoWriMo? And I can’t turn to my husband to help me, because he is showing symptoms of exhaustion too.

Thanks for listening to me. I’ll go to bed on time today. I promise.

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Jan 072007

I got fabulous Christmas presents this year, but I didn’t get a single book. And that got me thinking. I already knew that I had been reading less books in the past year, because I have started watching DVDs every night. In case you’re curious, I got a pen from my parents (it pays to tell people exactly what you want), the DVD of “Mirrormask” a film David McKean and Neil Gaiman made together, which my sister picked from my Amazon wishlist, and my husband surprised me with – DVDs.

I knew that he had picked a present for me way earlier than usual, because he told me not to check his e-mail, Amazon account or bank account. He then added, “I was able to buy more of them that I thought.” More of what? I concluded that he had either bought me more Buffy-DVDs or sets of oracle cards which are on my wishlist too. Imagine my delight and surprise when I opened the package to find season 1 and 2 of “Deep Space Nine”. Yes, I am into Star Trek too and my husband and I agree on “Deep Space Nine” being the best of all the series. (I know that we might be the only two people in the world to hold this opinion.)

Back to the books. I sat there on Christmas Eve and looked at my wonderful presents and got confused. No book! Well, I thought, I’m just not a book person anymore, I have started to become somebody who watches films. Back home I realized that there still are quite a few books around. There’s a pile on my desk, there are bookshelves aplenty, maybe there was something I had overlooked. So I decided to look into my book database to see how many books I had bought or been given in 2006. Yes, I have so many books that I need to file them on my computer so I won’t buy doubles or never find them again. Okay, are you ready? I got 21 new books in 2006.

Then I thought, “What about ebooks?” That was a little harder to find out, since I don’t record them in my database (which is a little weird, come to think of it, as if they didn’t count.), but finally I got the number down, I acquired 9 ebooks in 2006.

So, how many of those books have I read? I read 11 ebooks in 2006, because I had bought some more at the end of 2005. I read 16 of the real books I have gotten in 2006, I started reading 5 or 6 more. The reason that I thought I no longer am a book person is that most of these books are non-fiction. I read two books on finances, one on abundance, three books by life-coach Cheryl Richardson, one organizational book, two about improving your relationship (“Getting the love you want”, which is excellent and one other that I don’t remember given to me by a friend that wasn’t telling me anything new.), a fitness book about T-Tapp, three books about songwriting (the third is a book of exercises that I only have begun), two books on bipolar disorder, and a parenting book (only one?) “Playful Parenting” that I highly recommend. Oh, and I re-read at least partially “Writing down the bones” and “Creativity rules!” in preparation of NaNoWriMo. Phew. I spare you the titles and details of all these books. Now to the fiction, because that’s what really counts:

“Dark Tort: A Novel of Suspense (Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries)” (Diane Mott Davidson)

I have loved the Goldy Bear mysteries for a long time, but I have the feeling that they get a little weaker. But then, it is hard to write a series with all strong books. I don’t think, I will re-read this.

“Strange Travelers: New Selected Stories” (Gene Wolfe)
I’m still not quite finished with these. They are marvelous, but not easy reading and it wasn’t the best choice to buy this as an ebook.

“Destroyer (Foreigner Universe)” (C. J. Cherryh)
I love every single book of the foreigner series and they keep getting better. I’m eagerly awaiting the next one coming out in paperback.

“Cat’s Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries (Paperback))” (Rita Mae Brown)
Okay, though I couldn’t say anything about the plot anymore. There seems to be problem with mystery series here.

“First Meetings in Ender’s Universe” (Orson Scott Card)
Good read, but I read it more for the closure of reading everything in the Ender Universe.

“Shadow of the Giant (Ender, Book 8) (Ender’s Shadow)” (Orson Scott Card)

Very good.

“Mona Lisa Overdrive (Bantam Spectra Book)” (William Gibson)

I decided to buy the whole Neuromancer trilogy again in English. I had only read them in German before and was annoyed with the translator’s habit of putting footnotes in to explain things like “cursor”. One has to keep in mind though that these were originally written in the 80s.

“I Had Brain Surgery, What’s Your Excuse?” (Suzy Becker)
Here we have the biography section. I seem to be reading more and more of these lately. This one is fun and entertaining despite the heavy subject.

“Composing a Life” (Mary Catherine Bateson)
This one I ordered because Suzy Becker had mentioned it.

“With a Daughter’s Eye” (Mary Catherine Bateson)

Well, obviously I had liked “Composing a Life”. This one is a memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Since I once also studied anthropology, it was a must read.

“Shadowmarch: Volume I” (Tad Williams)

I love Tad Williams not least for the fact that his books are huge tombstones. This one was a little slow to get into, but I’m already waiting for part 2.

“Floor Sample” (Julia Cameron)

I have read almost everything by Julia Cameron who is one of my heroes. This memoir (yes, another one) was very interesting to read and showed facets of her that one can’t see through her other books.

“Wintersmith” (Terry Pratchett)

Terry Pratchett is the only author, apart from J.K.Rowling, whose books I allow myself to buy in hardcover because I can’t wait for them. I love, love, love his books. Especially the ones with witches in them and so, of course, I like the Tiffany Aching books too.

I know that I re-read at least the three Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett, but I may have re-read a couple of his other books too. I usually re-read the whole discworld series from time to time. When I read C.J.Cherry, I re-read a couple of foreigner books too, and I know that I re-read all of the Mrs. Pollifax novels, two other novels by Dorothy Gilman (about a psychic), and at least “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy L. Sayers. The thing that made me feel like a non-bookish person was the fact that I read less fiction than I used to and that “Until I find you” has been sitting on the shelf for half a year. I remember finding it in a real bookstore (as opposed to Amazon, where I do most of my book shopping), and anticipating reading it. Then, every time I had to pick a new book, I thought, “No, it’s to heavy, I’ll pick something else. Currently I’m reading “Running from the deity” by Alan Dean Foster. I’m not finding it that thrilling, but since it’s part of a series…

Actually I’m lying when I say, the book I’m currently reading, because the books I’m currently reading are: “Take Time for Your Life”, “Ask Your Spirit Guides”, “Head First HTML”, “Handbuch Buddhismus” (wow, one in German!), “Getting Things Done” (highly recommendable) and “History of Early Witchcraft”. Um.

So, how many books did you read last year? Anything interesting? I find it quite amusing that I only read about two books in German. No wonder I’m blogging in English. Sometimes I’m even thinking in English. What do you think, should I write about the books I read? My writing buddy Adrian does this, and I always find it intriguing to see what books the people I like hold dear.

Jan 032007

And this time “almost” really means almost, not half. (I wrote a post about my tendency to leave things “almost finished” only to discover them to be only halfway done later.) The food I’m referring to had been prepared in advance at the end of October. In an attempt to make the holidays more enjoyable and to survive NaNoWriMo intact, I tried doing Mega Menu-Mailer for the first time. I bought one of the Mega Menu-Mailers from Leanne Ely’s website, bought tons of fresh ingredients, chopped them up and assembled everything into freezer bags. Into the freezer everything went and we ate those meals since the beginning of November. There are two more meals left in the freezer, but I feel confident they will be as good as the last 18.

Sweet and sour fish
(the only meal I remembered to take a picture of)

Before I forget it, here are the two single most important things that I learned about the whole thing: spread everything real thin before freezing. If you make nice fat lumps of meat before you put it in the freezer you end up with frozen food that’s still not thawed after 48 hours in the fridge. There was not a single meal that wasn’t cooked partially frozen. So, hear my advice, make flat packages. The second thing, and of minor importance, is: Really measure the ingredients, don’t think, “Oh, this might be half a tablespoon of garlic, who cares.” and end up with most meals being too garlicky and several where you had to hurriedly substitute garlic powder, because you run out of the fresh one.

Before I review the meals (not in detail, no worries) I have to tell that I didn’t do anything right – as always. Everything that had to be grilled was fried. Everything that was supposed to be cooked in a crock pot was done in the pressure cooker. There are neither GladWare containers (whatever that might be) or jarred sauce Alfredo in Germany. And not realizing that there is tinned salmon even in Germany I mistakenly substituted tuna. And a word of caution: Never try to fry anything coated in honey! The honey instantly turns black and burned. Nonetheless the meat tasted good, only the sauce was, um, not fit for human consumption. And: If you decide to do the Crock Pot Pork Jambalaya in the pressure cooker, don’t, and I repeat, don’t put the orange juice mixture in. It was burned totally. The pork had a distinctly smokey taste. Good, but smokey. That time we could replace the sauce, because we had all the necessary ingredients in the house.

We haven’t eaten all of the menus yet, because we did something else in between and because since we are only 2 1/2 persons here, we usually eat two days on any of the meals. Everything tasted good to delicious, apart from that Chicken Pot Pie Lasagna. But I won’t blame Leanne for this, since I made up the aforementioned sauce Alfredo out of a wikipedia entry and had to substitute milk and butter for half of the cream because I hadn’t bought enough. Then we spiced that up with a fight during cooking, lunch served too late, and my husband refusing to eat it because of the fight and the fact that there was milk in it. (No, he isn’t Jewish, this has something to do with Italian cuisine where you never put milk in anything not sweet.) We ate that one for two days and then threw the other half out.

As I said, everything tasted just fine, but all in all it was a little too much meat for us. Especially too much pork, since we don’t like to eat pork. Also I have the dawning suspicion that I should have ordered only half the pork chops and steaks, since they were real big. One time we had the Cashew steak one day, then cut the rest of the meat up and mixed it with peppers and ate it Asian style with rice and the day after we ate it with pasta.

So, for anybody out there wanting to try it, I can recommend it, it made cooking and menu planning much easier. Oh, and the actual cooking took about half an hour per meal. That’s okay with me, and for the second day it took less, because we were only reheating. Since we still have something left, it was totally worth the effort to put it together. I think we’ll be doing it again next year, only maybe we’ll do it at the end of September then and cut up bunches of vegetables with it to make instant vegetarian meals in between. Next time I’ll definitely use my food processor. I feel very stupid for not having thought of it, but I never use it since it is enormous and only good for processing vast amounts. If you’re baking two or three cakes at a time it’s marvelous. If you bake one, the blender only scrapes at the flour. Also, next time I’ll take the time to convert all the measurements beforehand. Fluid ounces to milliliter, pounds to kilogram, and so on. And then I’ll write it on the sheet so that I’ll never have to do it again.

Now I’m back to my old method of menu-planning. On Wednesdays I sit down and try to think of five to six healthy, tasty meals which don’t take much time to prepare, and then we end up eating pasta or frozen pizza for three days of the week. I’ll miss having a whole freezer packed with things I only have to pull out. 24 hours before, which is quite a feat. You end up every meal with a discussion about what to cook the next day. (In our house everything turns into a debate.) But then you already have something ready. And if something happens and you don’t cook it the next day, no problem. Since it was frozen perfectly fresh you can cook it the next day. Especially when it’s still frozen in the middle.

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Dec 222006

I’m off to see my parents tomorrow. I don’t think I ‘ll be posting then, but I take the laptop with me. I wish you all the best and see you back next year.

Dec 182006

Dear son,

yesterday you turned four years old. As you told me on our way to kindergarten this morning that means that you’re now much bigger and can do everything better than before. I hope you won’t be disappointed on this. You have been waiting for this birthday the whole year. After you turned three you said that you wanted to have a birthday party and we promised you’d have one with your friends when turning four. So yesterday was a little overwhelming. Only two days before you had the kindergarten’s Christmas party, where you played one of the Christmas trees. (And how proud I was when you lead all the little trees on stage and said your surprisingly many lines even though you were hoarse, and then when you went to the buffet as one of the firsts and got yourself food and drink even before your parents entered the room. You really are your mother’s son.)

Yesterday you received a huge amount of presents even though we had tried to keep it small. Of course you kept asking for more the whole day long. Just wait a little, next week it will all start over again.

In the last year a lot has happened. At your last birthday we told you that you’d get a drum set and lessons this year, when you still would be as interested as then, but though you practiced “stick technique” every day for weeks your interested has paled a little. Instead you have been building fantastic Lego-structures, and then, a couple of weeks ago, you started drawing and crafting every day for hours.

You started kindergarten in February. At first you went only afternoons and since the beginning of the month you stay there from morning ’til afternoon. Your kindergarten teacher told me that you are a fantastic child, very good with language and intelligent, you like to play with the other children and when you have enough you go off and play by yourself. When we were at your medical checkup two weeks ago the doctor beamed at me and told me what a joy it was to examine you. How great your language skills, how intelligent you are, how well behaved and smart, how good you can hold a pen when you draw, she was full of praise.

I’m a little envious when I see how easily you draw people to you. Even as a baby you charmed everyone. Your less charming sides you keep strictly for family. Especially we two have been desperate and sad because we couldn’t stop fighting so much. No day went by without you and me screaming at each other. But it is getting better at last. We are both becoming more reasonable and patient and your long day in kindergarten makes you less restless.

When you turned three you still took a nap, although reluctantly. And now you don’t need any diapers any more. You have grown a lot, 5 cm (about 2 inches) taller and 2 kg (a little less than 4 pounds) heavier than last year. In spring you had middle ear infection after middle ear infection, but I’m glad that you didn’t need antibiotics. At the end of May you learned to ride your – and here you see me speechless because I didn’t find an equivalent for “Laufrad“; imagine a kid’s bike without pedals pushed by his feet as if he were running. – Next spring we will be having the pedals put on your bike and you’ll learn to ride it for real. At the end of last spring you gave up your pacifiers. Your interest in reading and writing grew and you found out that when one is able to write O, A and M, one can write “OMA” (granny).

You’re still loving books and are slowly enjoying also stories and not only non-fiction. You were especially interested in astronauts and space travel. For weeks you wanted to watch only the video with pictures of the moon landing and the Gemini missions. This video has a soundtrack of sixties hits and you’re still singing songs like, “She’s got a ticket to wear.” In fact you started learning English in Kindergarten this fall, but so far you only have learned things like “What is your name?” and the names of some colors and animals there.

My beloved son, I’m enjoying you every day and miss you every time I haven’t seen you for an hour. You so eloquent, intelligent, charming and self-confident. You have a vivid imagination that I took for granted, because I thought everyone’s like that. But then I learned that there are boys out there who spend their days pushing toy cars and making car noises. Boys who don’t wake up saying, “I’m an astronaut, I have to fly to the moon today.” or “I am a penguin. This is water. Teddy is a polar bear. Now I’m stuck under a rock. Teddy, save me!”

Every time somebody tells me I should live in the moment like a child and stop thinking I have to think of you. Even when you were only a few days old one could see your mind working. One day before your birthday you told me, “This will be my second birthday.” Me, “No, your fourth.” You were right in a way since this was the second that you were conscious of. You thought for a while, counted on your fingers and said, “No, it is my third.” Me, “No, your fourth.” We started fighting about this again, and then I told you, ” When you were born you were not a year old. Only after one year a child turns one year old. that’s the first birthday. then the second, the third and the fourth.” You still insisted on it being your third birthday, then you turned on your brain, counted on your fingers again and said, “No, tomorrow is my fourth birthday.”

Your teddy bear is still your best friend, but in the meantime there are dozens of stuffed animals sharing the bed with you. Every time I have the feeling that I’m maybe not a good mother, I look at you and see that I can’t have been doing much wrong. I’m curious what the next year will bring,

your loving mother.

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Dec 122006

That’s how I feel these days. Ms. “I do all the organizing around here single-handed.”. Blah. You know I actually don’t like organizing, tidying and having huge to-do-lists, though one can’t tell when looking at my life. For the past few years I have been trying to trim down Christmas. But that’s been real hard. And with a child in the mix it is even harder. He loves Christmas. Even I like some Christmas traditions.

But I don’t like to have that much to remember and to do. I already have almost all the gifts for Christmas, I don’t do Christmas cards, but still I have to remember dozens of things to bring to the kindergarten’s Christmas party. On Friday at 5. Again I had to ask two students to come in on Thursday so I could go to that kindergarten thing. I thought I was smart when I signed up to bring only juice and water for the buffet. I have to remember to dress my son in a beige t-shirt and beige leggings to go with his tree costume for the Christmas play. We’ll bring the guitars. For this I will have to actually practice Christmas songs because I’m not that good a guitar player. But at least I refused to bring my keyboard. I was very proud of me when I told the other parents that not only I refuse to act in a CHRISTMAS PLAY THAT THE PARENTS ARE DOING FOR THE KIDS, I also told them that I couldn’t attend the rehearsal. Because that’s the time when I will be teaching the students I can’t teach on Friday.

What I’m really pissed about is not the fact that obviously other parents have either far more time (which I doubt) or far more Christmas spirit (for sure), no, what I’m really pissed about is that every single parent that I spoke with didn’t want to act in the play. None. So I was real clever and suggested just singing a few songs and be done with it. Then I didn’t go to the meeting the parents had in the bar and the next thing I hear is, “We’re doing a little something so that the kindergarten’s owner won’t be angry at us.” WHAT? I’m not a kindergardener anymore. So let her get pissed at me. She won’t kick out my son for that. And the very next thing I heard was, “Oh, we thought you could just be the (I don’t even remember what role they had in mind for me) and we’ll be meeting on Thursday at five.” Well, you might, but I won’t.

What I don’t get especially is that both the PTA women organizing this whole thing are single mothers with jobs. – Maybe they don’t need to sleep. Or they are just very bad at saying no. For which I’m quite grateful, because otherwise maybe I would have had to be a member of the PTA. Just when I was about to foolishly volunteer for it the queen of the kindergarten picked another mother by saying “You look like you want to volunteer!” with a big fat fake smile on her face.

But the frelling kindergarten Christmas party is not the only thing on my mind. First I have wisely picked this time of year to start eliminating my energy drains. I have asked De of sober briquette to be my partner in crime and have been working on my anti-procrastination list since last weekend. Then my son happens to have the very convenient birthday of the 17th of December. This year there will be a children’s birthday party in the mix. This will be my first. The past few years we kept it simple. I bought a cake, defrosted it the night before, there were birthday candles, cake breakfast and the unwrapping of presents. Later my MIL would come down, refuse a piece of cake with shouts of “How can you eat something sweet for breakfast! I could never eat cake in the morning!” (Never mind that about 75 percent of the nation eats something sweet for breakfast.) Then comes the ritual “But only one piece! Well, if you insist I’ll have one in the afternoon.” complete with more unwrapping of presents. That was it.

This year there will be five other preschoolers in the mix. I bought paper napkins and some decorations. I will have to bake a cake this time. My son wanted chocolate muffins with m&ms and that’s what he’ll get. Then, on Monday there’s the cake to bake to share with all his kindergarten friends. And then on Tuesday I will have to have the big suitcase packed so that hopefully a nice man can bring it to my parents. Because we’re going by train and this time I’d like to travel without all my son’s Christmas presents on my back.

So this is my timeframe:

  • tomorrow we’ll borrow my MIL’s car and got to the big city to try and get the audio mixer repaired on warranty (bought back in February, wish me luck)
  • I also will have to look up muffins recipes and to make a grocery list for everything we’ll be needing until our departure in ten days
  • the rest of the day I’ll teach (blissful structure)
  • on Thursday I’ll teach from morning until evening and in between I’m going to do the big grocery shopping
  • also I’ll practice playing that frelling christmas songs on the guitar (Oh, and transpose a couple of them, they are way too high.)
  • on Friday I’ll completely panic, think about what to wear for two days and then decide that it’s too much of an effort to change
  • then I’ll teach,
  • afterwards the frantic struggle to get to the party on time with everything we’ll need
  • on Friday evening collapse with drink after putting over-excited child to bed while screaming (child, me or both – we’ll see)
  • on Saturday start panicking wildly and bake cakes
  • decorate house at midnight
  • on Sunday have usual birthday celebrations
  • then totally freak out
  • have lunch with overexcited son
  • between 2 and 5.30 have five other over-excited preschoolers in the house (I think time will be passing quite fast at this point. Just getting all of them to wash their hands and got to the toilet before having cake and juice might take up to 20 minutes. Of course I’ll see to it that they got to the toilet first and wash their hands afterwards – with soap.)
  • after cleanup and putting now really over-excited kid to bed I’ll
  • decorate yet another set of chocolate muffins
  • on Monday morning find a way to transport said muffins to kindergarten (again juice and water, maybe I’ll take the bike trailer)
  • then go home and try to find clean clothes to pack
  • pack
  • panic
  • teach students
  • on Tuesday: spend whole day waiting for the guy who’s supposed to fetch my suitcase
  • Wednesday: don’t forget to bring 2 € to kindergarten for puppet play the children are watching that day
  • Thursday: start packing for Christmas travel
  • Friday: teach endlessly
  • Saturday: get up at dawn, pack rest of things, catch train (This includes the traditional fight between my husband and me on our way to the train station. A nice tradition we shouldn’t miss.)
  • Then sit down in train. Change trains at big city, relax, eat lunch on train, change trains again, and again (special holiday connection)
  • arrive at parent’s home
  • mixture of mild panic and boredom until we return a week later(which reminds me to put my groceries for our traditional New Year’s eve meal on my grocery list for this week)
  • begin New Year,
  • make a vow never to stress that much during Christmas season again.

Repeat again next year.

But you know what I’m grateful for? That this year I’m not the one who has to organize the actual Christmas stuff. No tree, no decorating, no grocery shopping, no wrapping of Christmas presents, no cooking – nothing. Because for the first time in years we won’t be spending Christmas at home. That might be a good thing. And even though my son thought different, we won’t even have to pack the Christmas tree.

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Dec 082006

Well, sort of. I have a huge to-do-list sitting on top of my desk, I’m a little hungry and there are a million things I “should” be doing right now, but I have been called by my friend De and of course I have to show up.

What wedding do you ask? Well, it’s about making a commitment to change the world. Which I already have done. So I don’t think, my husband will mind my polygamy in this case. Since we’re both already married to each other and the music, well, I wouldn’t mind if he was about to do this either.

The wedding gift should be a post about whichever social cause we feel passionate about. You know that I never write about things social or political. That doesn’t mean that I’m not passionate about them. And gay marriage is not even in the picture anymore, since it finally is legal in Germany. (And I was wrong about gay marriage not being possible in Bavaria. It is. And the couple in question is now expecting a child. I’m so excited!)

The social causes that I believe in are quite abstract. I believe that every person should be able to have choices. That every human being should be fed and sheltered and loved. That we all should strive to become more spiritual and kind. That the only way to change the world is to change me and become a better person. I believe in non-violence. I’m a feminist.

What really hit home with me was the Margaret Mead quote. Jen wrote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Yeah. Among other things I have studied cultural anthropology, and that gave me the hope that social systems are not just set, they are created by people through mutual agreement. This means that people have the power to change them. As a German it has been very important to me to believe that people can make a difference. You know, I come from a long line of people who didn’t stand up for anything. The people who maybe didn’t agree with the Nazis but they didn’t do anything against it either. I can understand their fear, and I don’t know if I would stand up or not. I even hope that I never have to find out, but I pray for the courage not to shut up and look away. The most courageous things my one grandfather did was not joining the NSDAP. That was a courageous thing to do. Just imaging. He was a communist, but he never talked about it. My other grandfather was a baker and he gave bread to people who didn’t have the coupons for it. Nobody left the country, nobody was thrown in prison, they all just ducked and hoped it would be over soon. And it is. Fortunately.

But I feel that this is one of my biggest obligations towards the world. As a German I have to see to it that something like that can never happen again. I belong to a nation that caused World War II. Teenagers today don’t think about that at all. I don’t think they know much about the time of their great-grandparents. Or the war. And I’m glad that they don’t. I really am relieved that I can travel abroad and don’t have to meet people telling me they hate Germans in general, because they fought my grandparents. But I think it is important not to forget. To speak up.

Wow, who would have thought. I don’t know if this is a social course but peace is a very precious thing and worth living for.

So count me in at the wedding, as I said. We’ll drink champagne, we’ll dance and sing and change the world for the better.