Great article on German-American interaction and language

I came across a great article on the BackReaction site (linked at right) about the interactions between Germans and Americans specifically (and other cultures, more generally), and about how our expectations and our language get in the way of truly understanding each other's intentions. Now I want to read the book that the article is taken from! (Not to mention, spend a while catching up on this blog, it's fascinating!)

Banjo pickin' girl...

A friend asked me the other day about banjo playing, and I wrote up a bunch of stuff, so thought I'd post it here, too...

I've got about 4 songs I feel reasonably comfortable playing, and 6 more or so that I'm working on.

I played violin from the time I was 5-13 officially, then got to high school and we didn't have an orchestra, so I stopped playing. :( I wish I'd kept it up, and I wish I'd learned cello, too! We had a piano growing up, so I learned to play chords on there and would play chords and melody to sing along with (musicals, Simon and Garfunkle, 60s and 70s pop music...). I sang in middle school and really took it up more seriously in high school, auditioning for some regional groups and having a blast... then I got to college and didn't have time for choir. :( So performance music pretty much stopped for me at that point, sadly, except for one semester in Germany.

If you remember the dance class I was taking, the same woman I took that with is who I'm taking banjo with. It's going well, the violin background really helps, as does the ability to read music and to tune a stringed musical instrument (even easier with frets!). She said I'm starting out about 6 months ahead of the curve, which is good to hear. :) Playing is getting to be somewhat more fun but still challenging. I've been doing one 1-hour lesson/month of banjo and about a 1/2-hour of dance, but that might change (more on that below).

I took John and Anja to the Rhode Island folk festival two weekends ago, and John got to play some bass, and I got to try out a mountain dulcimer. He was so excited to be playing again, that he went on Craig's list and found a used acoustic bass and now we're having kitchen music jams, I love it! I'm also going to borrow a dulcimer from Aubrey since I really enjoyed playing it so much at the folk festival (so easy, and instant gratification!) and I'll probably do dulcimer lessons in place of dance lessons, for a while. (And I did do this, got the dulcimer from her yesterday and some music to work on!)

I'd love to go more often but it's an hour away, and she's wicked busy, and lessons are expensive. So for now, I'll keep up with that, plus a bunch of us from class (dancers and musicians) are meeting up in a barn every other Tuesday for a dance party and music jam. Anja runs around and chases the chickens and we dance and play music and sing folk stuff and sea shanties. Man, why is all this good stuff happening right as we're getting ready to move?!

Also, you know the secret I'm learning? If you have one or two good players, and 5-6 other people who can play 4 chords (D, C, F, G) or notes, you can play folk music in a group! LOL - Um, also if you can hit a drum in time with the rhythm. Hee.

Seriously, dulcimer is a great string to start on... you can pick it up and be making music in 5 minutes. Instant gratification! And it seems like most folk musicians are very willing to put up with newbies and help you learn/find instruments/etc.

Anyway, some videos (not of me) if you're interested...

Am working on this: Banjo vid and another banjo vid

Aubrey dancing: Flatfooting and more flatfooting

Some dulcimer: mountain dulcimer and more dulcimer

It's like a lovely rollercoaster...

I won't need a car!
But I won't have a car in the February sleet.

I'll get to recycle almost everything!
But I'll probably get in trouble if I screw it up.

I'll get to learn a lot of German at work and via Anja at school!
But it'll be much harder to express my thoughts.

Back and forth and back and forth, on so many thoughts, lately. I'm psyched but scared... I suppose that's how it has to be, though, right? I think a lot of it is worry about embarassing myself at work, or in front of other parents. It's one thing to be a student, and another thing to function as an adult with these kind of responsibilities! Plus we're just getting involved in all of this really fantastic music stuff lately, which I know I'm going to miss... oy.


Just like college, man.

Sometimes I really enjoy my job, and other times...

Abused my brain last night? Check.
Got less than 5 hours' sleep? Check.
Called in to rescue someone else's work? Check.
Brewed third pot of coffee today? Check.
Snacks? Check.

Staying up waaaaay too fucking late trying to keep my brain functional and pay attention to details all the while wishing I could just. go. to. sleep?




Borrowed thoughts on fear and anxiety.

Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.
-- Plato

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
-- Arthur Somers Roche

Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile... initially scared me to death.
-- Betty Bender

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.
-- Unknown

It has been said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.
-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of "crackpot" than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
-- Thomas J. Watson

Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.
-- Virgil Thomson

Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.
-- Louis E. Boone

Anne Frank:
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.

Gay Hendricks:
One of the first things a relationship therapist learns is that couples argue to burn up energy that could be used for something else. In fact, arguments often serve the purpose of using up energy, so that the couple do not have to take the courageous, creative leap into an unknown they fear. Arguing serves the function of being a zone of familiarity into which you can retreat when you are afraid of making a creative breakthrough.

Marianne Williamson:
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
-Henry David Thoreau

We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.
-John F. Kennedy

Swedish Proverb
Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.

"How do you know so much about everything?" was asked of a very wise and intelligent man; and the answer was "By never being afraid or ashamed to ask questions as to anything of which I was ignorant." Lord Billingsley

"To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions." Deepak K. Chopra

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward." Robyn Davidson


Woo-hoo! I won something!!

I almost never win raffles... I know that that's statistically normal, but you know how some people seem to always win? I won a raffle for the first time this past December at my holiday work party. Anyway, that's not the fun part.

On Saturday, we went to the Rhode Island folk festival... music, dancing, and more music. It was wicked fun! Anyway, I bought 6 raffle tickets, and put them all in the bucket to win 25 or 30 folk CDs. Figured hey, what the heck, 30 CDs for $5 seems like a good deal to me.

Got a voice mail today that I did win them! WOO-HOO!!! I'm learning banjo and about to start up with mountain dulcimer, so not only will these be great to listen to, but there's a lot in there to learn from, too!


Things on my mind.

I need to type this all out or I might go more nutty than I already am...

I'm hoping we can get Anja into a Montessori school. Really, really hoping. It'd be one less thing for her to acclimate to, and I feel like it's really important in terms of influencing who she is and how she develops. I know that for a lot of schools the registration was much earlier in the year, so I'm hoping our relocation agent can help us negotiate placement, if any schools are flexible enough to do that, in June/July. Getting this settled will make me feel SO much better about the whole move. Hugely.
We're looking at 2-2.5 bedroom places, but there so many factors to consider. Cost is obviously one. Proximity to our work locations and to school for Anja. Proximity to a park and public transporation (that's mandatory, since we won't have a vehicle, to be near something. Ideally U-Bahn or S-Bahn, or maybe even tram. If all else was perfect except this, bus.) Desire to live in a place that doesn't just feel like a group of white boxes tacked together, and has some character. We'd love to have some lawn, and a balcony. The need to find a place that has a kitchen already built in (EBK) and doesn't cost an arm and a leg to keep... oh, and that accepts pets. Are we nuts to think we'll find this? I hope our relo agent is FANTASTIC.
John finding a job
Anybody reading this know anybody in Munich who's looking to hire an excellent Entwicklungsingenieur? (R&D engineer)? Once my salary is figured out and John has a job and salary figured out, we'll have a much easier time of narrowing down apartments, partially based on cost, but also locations. This piece, along with school for Anja, are the two that are on my mind the most.

There are just a million things on my mind, lately, though. Those are the big ones. Other ones include:

  • finding a good endocrinologist
  • making sure to have enough diabetes supplies for a month or two in the beginning
  • buying other meds/vitamins/etc. ahead of time in bulk to ship over with our stuff
  • how to handle the selling/rental of our house, and corresponding lack of place to live during that time
  • how to handle the selling/shipping of our household goods, and corresponding lack of stuff after everything ships/sells/etc
  • how to handle the selling of our cars, and renting cars after that, to minimize cost and stress
  • who's going to watch our cats for the month or two until we're ready to have them shipped over?
  • finding trustworthy babysitters that don't cost an arm and a leg, babysitting co-ops via school?
  • when to hold our tag sale, what to do with everything that doesn't sell
  • managing our household food needs after the move - my need for wheat-free, Anja's sensitivity to cow's milk, finding a place to buy good, local organic produce and goods, getting into the pattern of how to grocery shop in small batches
  • getting involved with some music communities, me for banjo and dance, Anja for singing, John for bass
  • figuring out how to transport all this great free or cheap furniture that we won't have a truck for?
  • finding time this summer to make it to the beach as much as possible, and balancing that with all the stress mentioned above

Edited to add, I missed a few...

  • Granting my dad power-of-attorney so that someone here has that
  • writing official wills, just in case
  • figuring out automatic bill pay for student loans via our EuroBank setup
  • to keep or get rid of our local bank acct?
  • letting all relevant financial institutions know our new address, once we have one, and figuring out billpay for CC, etc.

I'm sure there are still more, of course. Wheeee!


Monetary Freakout

Or, $7,350?! Are you freaking kidding me??

So, that was the approximate estimate we got... we had someone come out a couple weeks ago to do a cost assessment for the transportation of our stuff to Munich. Bear in mind that we have a 900 sq. ft. house, and a lot of stuff *isn't* going. I told the guy who came to do the assessment that I'd like to do two appraisals, one including the cost of our furniture and one not, as we're more than willing to replace, second-hand, virtually everything in the house. He assured me that it was more cost-effective to ship stuff. I don't believe it.

They came back today with the estimate of 3,000 lbs of stuff, a 20' box, and a cost of $7350!! There is no WAY that we could not replace all of our furniture, used, for waaaay less than that cost! I wrote back to ask for either a re-estimate, excluding large furniture, or an itemized estimate so that we can determine what's "worth it" to take, and what's overhead.

We are already planning to leave a lot of books with my mom... we'd sell our furniture and buy used stuff over there, since we're not that attached to anything, and we're planning on staying there for at least two years. Poor John, he got the brunt of my outrage at this... but then, he knows I need to freak out about things for a couple hours and then I'll calm down and we'll figure out how to handle it. And this is just one company, we will of course be getting more estimates.

I know that we will find a way to make it work. Honestly, I'd be willing to move with pretty much what fits on our backs and a couple extra suitcases that we paid the airline fees on. I've done it before. :) We could put more of our stuff into Rubbermaid totes to store with my mom, things like books and mementos and things that if we moved back, we wouldn't have missed for the two years, but aren't ready to part with, you know?

But I think we're going to end up storing more stuff than we'd originally intended, either with my mom or in a storage unit. Furniture we're not taking, we'll sell, as we're not really attached to it. I *like* our bed, but it's from Ikea, and we could easily replace it with the same or similar, or I'd learn to like something else. Really, the stuff I care about taking: clothes for each season (favorites, give the rest to goodwill), shoes that I really like, some favorite books, my pottery for the kitchen, artwork that we own, some amount of pictures, some movies, a bunch of music, and a bunch of Anja's toys and stuff so that she can feel more comfortable with the move... the rest of it, I'm willing to part with for a couple years, or for good, really. The things I missed, living there last time, were really not material things that can be packed, more like foods and places and such. I need to remind myself of that. I also need to get more comfortable with just giving stuff away to get *rid* of it, instead of trying to wring money out of everything, as I'll make myself crazy that way!

A couple friends also suggested splitting the cost of a container with someone else, if we cannot get a smaller container, so that's something else to keep in mind... whee!

In happy news, banjo playing is going well, and I have every-other-Tuesday dance party tonight!!


Goodie Balls - from the LLL Whole Foods for the Whole Family

So, I go looking for this recipe online once in a while and never find it... so I'm going to post it here so I can't lose it any more! It's from the La Leche League cookbook, my mom's edition (1981), and I grew up eating these... talk about comfort food! Instant flashbacks, in the good way. :) Berk's mom used to make them for us all the time, too.

Goodie Balls (unbaked)

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 T. peanut butter
2 T. honey
2 T. dry milk powder
1/4 C. sunflower seeds
2 T. chopped nuts (I like cashews the best)
1/2 C. unsweetened, shredded coconut

optional: wheat germ or coconut for topping

Mix all ingredients together. Shape into small balls. (about 3/4" in diameter). May be rolled in wheat germ or coconut (I use wheat germ). Refrigerate. Vary the amounts and ingredients according to taste!