Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Things That Make Me Happy

* Thick bagels toasted with cream cheese

* Channel surfing through some 200 channels and they are ALL in English

* Watching my beloved, yet terrible college football team on TV LIVE while eating chips and salsa and drinking root beer

* Going to a book store full of English books

* Tacky Halloween decorations

* Tall, de-caf, non-fat latte - to go

* Being able to use my debit and/or credit card to purchase something under $10 (no shoplifting here!)

Oh, yes, I love being back in the States. But, seriously, the cars here are HUGE. Why does the petite little real estate agent need a Hummer? I don't get it. Two years ago the German asked me why Americans have such big cars. I responded that some of them are probably contractors or farmers or some other occupation in which the transportation of heavy items involved. Since we have been back in Detroit, every time we see an SUV he says, "Yup, there goes another farmer."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I am a "Role-Model"

This past week I did something that I am not proud of. However, it seems that on occasion in life there are simply things that you cannot predict. Apparently shoplifting is one of them.

Wednesday was another wet, miserable fall afternoon in our fair town. I spent about 20 minutes walking around in the rain going from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for a place to get my prenatal vitamins because my regular place was out. After finally locating them, I went to the grocery store to buy a few things. All I wanted to do was get some things to bake a cake for an English class I had the next day. Nothing more, nothing less.

I went to the check-out counter. As the cashier scanned my wares, I was putting my items in the plastic bag that I also wanted to purchase. (Note: In Germany you must either bring your own bags with you or buy them at the check-out.) As an impulse buy I had thrown a candy bar on the counter in hopes that the chocolate would lighten my mood, even if it does not lighten my weight.

My total was around 7 Euros. I pulled out my debit card and continued to pack up my items.

Lady at the Register: Oh, no! You can only use debit cards for purchases over 10 Euro.

Claire: Yes, but I don't have any cash.

Lady at the Register: Then buy something else.

Claire: But I don't need anything else. I just need this.

She stared at me. I stared at her. I was mortified. There was a line forming behind me. It was clear that I would have to leave everything there. I shoved everything towards her and kept mumbling, "I'm so sorry," as I tried the leave the store as quickly as possible.

Half way down the street I realized that I had accidentally put the candy bar in my purse and had not given it back to the lady at the register. I stopped in the middle of the street and stood in the rain and tried to decide what to do. Which is more humiliating, accidentally stealing a candy bar or going back to admit that you stole it?

I told the German the story when I got that home that evening. With a totally straight face, he looked at me and said, "You are a thief!" My mortification doubled. Then he started laughing. "What did you do with the candy bar?"

"I ate it. I figured that after all that trouble I deserved a bit of sugar." He laughed even harder. "I guess I will never be going to that store again," I said.

After reading this story, you might think that I need of a vacation. You would be correct. Which is why I am happy to report that I am writing this from . . . Motown! That's right; the German and I travelled to the U.S. yesterday and are going to spend the next two weeks doing absolutely nothing.

Our flight was okay but a little bumpy over Canada. However, when we landed in the U.S. two strange things happened. First, at passport control they looked over the German's passport and then mine. They asked the normal questions: where are you going, how long will you stay, why are the two of you together if you have different last names. Then the agent asked me if I had ever lived in Philadelphia. I was completely shocked. "Um, no." The agent then sent us to another line where a very intimidating man wearing a gun asked a few more questions and punched a lot of information into the computer. Then they let us go on. It all only took about 5 minutes, but was very weird.

German: What was that about?

Claire: I have absolutely no idea.

Then, for the first time ever, we were stopped at customs. They did not look in our bags but they did x-ray them. The agent asked, "Are you sure you don't have any tobacco or alcohol products with you?" I wanted to say, "Dude, I am 6 months pregnant, why would I have that stuff with me?" However, the one thing that I have learned from all of my international travelling is that you should NEVER make jokes at immigration or customs. I just looked at him as seriously as possible and said, "No, sir." Then they let us go on.

German: What was that about?

Claire: I have absolutely no idea.

The German turned to me and smirked. "Maybe they know that you steal candy bars."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Rose by Any Other Name

First, let me take a moment to thank everyone for their very kind thoughts. I should definitely try to keep things in perspective, but it is hard sometimes when you are tired, overworked and looking at your thighs in a fitting room mirror. This too shall pass as they say.

Part of my mood is definitely to blame on the pregnancy. I do not want to blame Little Dude because I do not want to give the kid a complex before he is even born. However, pregnancy hormones are . . . well . . . tons of fun.

Speaking of Little Dude, we are 112 days away from the Big Day and it is time to get serious about some baby names. This is the one issue that is proving difficult between the German and I.

There is one big requirement. The name must work in both German and English. This would seem to narrow the list of possible names and make the process easier, however, it does not. Everything the German likes, I do not and vice-verse.

The struggle for baby names is made even more complicated by the fact that there is a list of German approved names. I have never actually gotten my hands on this official German names book, but I hear that it actually quite thick. On the other hand it is also full of names I would never use (i.e. Adolf, Fritz, Siegfried). I knew an African woman of Liberian descent who wanted to name he son after her grandfather. She had to petition the government for permission and prove that it is an actual name.

We have decided on a middle name: Charles. This is a big name in my family, which is why I wanted to use it. However, the German says that Little Dude needs a first name that can be used in German schools. We are leaning towards a first name, but I will not reveal that just yet.

So, I am opening the floor for suggestions. What should we name our baby?

_______ Charles Sch. . .

Remember, it must be a boy's name (I am now 99.9% sure that it is a boy given the pictures in last week's ultrasound) that works in English and in German. Also, you should know that the German and I are pretty traditional when it comes to names. Let's see if baby's first lesson in popular referendum is a successful one.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pregnant Women Should Have Warning Labels

I have been grumpy and depressed and depressed and grumpy for over a week now. I think it is starting to take its toll on the German. He is at a total loss about how to improve my mood. I wish I could help him.

First, although business is doing okay, money is very tight at the moment. My mom asked me the other day if I liked being self-employed. For the most part I do. I like being able to set my own hours and pursuing the projects I find interesting. I DO NOT enjoy the fact that some of my customers take their sweet time about paying. After a few discussions with a few friends (I know a lot of self-employed people / business owners), I began to realize that this is the biggest problem we know. Unfortunately, when you work in the service industry, there is no way to repossess the knowledge gained once it has been taught. Sometimes I wish I had a magic ray gun to suck the brains out of some of my non-paying students.

Not getting paid is starting to impact my attitude during my lessons. When a student gets a bit argumentative with me, I begin to wonder, "Why am I doing this?" (For the record, I have taught 100 hours over the past 6 weeks and have been paid for 10.)

Also, the physical strain of teaching is taking its toll on my body. When I teach, I am "on." It is like performing. The energy of the teacher can impact the entire lesson, so I try to keep my energy up and positive. Try doing this for hours on end with an extra 12 pounds strapped to your stomach, which starts kicking you in the bladder when you write on the board. Not fun.

Also not fun is climbing the stairs at one company, which does not have an elevator but lessons on the fourth floor. When I emerged out of breath on Thursday, I mentioned to the receptionist that they should get an elevator. She smiled and said that I should join a fitness class. I was soooo offended. "Sometimes when you are 6 months pregnant, you have no choice. You tend to get out of breath." I later saw the receptionist smoking a cigarette at her desk. No fun at all.

Pregnancy is starting to take its toll on my body. I only wanted to gain 25 pounds. I have already gained 18 and I have 3 months to go. My doctor told me this week to lay off the cake. Let me tell you, it did nothing for my mood. So, this week instead of cake I opted for cottage cheese.

Today I did not have to teach, so I went to the hair dresser (thanks for the gift certificate, Chad!!). Usually this brightens my mood, but I just sat there feeling ugly and fat. I went and bought a skirt at H&M that I could not afford. I bought it because I have a meeting with my most important customer on Monday morning and did not want to go in one of the only two pair of pants that I have.

While I was trying on clothes, I bent over and got a look of the back of my legs in the mirror. I almost sat down and started crying. The back of my knees are unrecognizable to me. I do not consider myself a "beautiful woman," but I was always pretty proud of my legs. They were my best asset. I put on my clothes and looked in the mirror and my grumpy, depressed mood filled the room.

So, here I sit on a Friday night. The German is playing soccer to release the stress of his equally crappy week and I am working. That's right. I am preparing lessons for the class I have to teach tomorrow and editing something a professor asked me to look at. And how was your week?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

The German and I often take good natured shots at each other about our respective "cultures." I make fun of schlager and the German rips apart country music. American movies are too patriotic and German movies are depressing. Everything is usually said in fun and we never really get upset about it. However, yesterday night while watching TV, I threw down the gauntlet.

It was Saturday night, and we stayed in (as we usually do when I work on Saturday). Of course there was nothing on TV except that good ol' German standard, Wetten, dass (Wanna Bet That. . .). This show is over two hours long and involves normal people who bet that they can do something "extraordinary," i.e. stupid. For example, last night a Swiss guy bet that he could put 5 large ping-pong balls in a basketball net using only the exhaust from his old timer tractor. The various celebrity guests bet whether or not this dare can be accomplished. If the celebrity loses, he or she has to do something. Last night Jamie Foxx had to yodel after losing a bet.

Wetten, dass is 26 years old and the "most popular TV show in Europe." Germans love it, including my German. Last night I decided definitively that I do not.

First, I find the host, Thomas Gottschalk, supremely annoying. After watching his wacky grin for two hours, I really needed a drink. He has weird hair and even stranger clothing. He is also known for putting his hands on the knees of his female guests. Second, I find some of the bets just dumb. Last night a girl could identify puppets blindfolded by just smelling them. Finally, it is too long. It can be anywhere between 2 and 3 hours with no commercials. Ugh.

When I announced my opinion of the show, the German looked at me with surprise. "But, it is the most popular show in Europe." "So, I still think it is too long and the host is annoying." I truly think that he was offended. I felt like I just destroyed some German national treasure. However, I am standing by opinion.

(PS The fact that the German and I were sitting on our sofa on a Saturday night drinking tea and eating fish sticks while watching "Wetten dass" is a definite indicator that we are a) broke and b) old.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Don't Understand

Men and women are different. This seems to be a fact that almost anyone can agree upon. Why we are so different covers a wider area of debate. A small research / self-help book industry offers us theories, but no real solutions to the conflicts that occur between men and women. From Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars, to Why Women Can't Read Maps and Men Don't Ask for Directions, there are no shortage of experts willing to tell us why they are right.

When I got married I actually received the latter book - twice; once in English and once in German. It basically says that biology and evolution explain the differences between men and women. It did not, however, have any good recommendations for those moments when I look at my husband and wonder, "Who the heck are you?"

Anyone who has read my blog before knows that I love the German. He is a dear man who does a lot for me. On the other hand, he does things that drive me bonkers. One reason that I am so committed to my marriage is to find out the reason for his quirks. Over the past week, a few of my favorites have popped up.

1. He does not turn things off before he unplugs them. This is mostly a problem with the hair dryer and the vacuum cleaner. Instead of turning them off, he just pulls the plug out of the wall. This leads to a little spark when I plug it back in the next time. Not only does it drive me crazy, but I also find it slightly dangerous.

2. He often leaves the TV and radio on when he leaves the house. The German loves to listen to talk radio in the morning with his coffee and toast before he goes to work. Unfortunately, I sometimes come downstairs after he has left, and the radio is still on. For a man so concerned with saving energy, I do not understand why he does this.

3. He leaves his dirty clothes on the floor in front of the empty hamper. I know that I am not the only wife that complains about this, but I just don't get it. The basket is there. The boxers are in your hand. What biological difference could possibly explain this behavior? Another version of this problem was the dirty coffee cup sitting on the counter next to the empty dishwasher. I finally broke him of that habit, perhaps the socks are not too far behind.

4. Last week he did something truly perplexing. I had left some clothes drying on a stand in the living room (no, we do not have a dryer). My thoughtful husband took the clothes down, put them in the basket, put away the stand and took the clothes upstairs to our bedroom. That evening I was very touched, even if he had not folded them. But as I sorted through the clothes I noticed that he HAD folded them, well his anyway. But he had not put them away . . . in the wardrobe . . . which was next to the basket. I almost took a picture of the laundry as I was so baffled. I went downstairs to ask why he folded his clothes but not mine. "Well, you get very touchy about your clothes and I don't want to mess with your system." Okay, so he is right. I am a little anal about my laundry. But, why didn't you put your clothes (i.e. t-shirts and boxer shorts) away. He just shrugged his shoulders.

5. My husband's hunter and gathering instincts must be really strong, because a lot of things find themselves in the inner depths of his office. Cell phone chargers, pens, the cordless phones, dirty coffee cups. Chances are, if you are looking for something in our house, it usually in his office. The hilarious part is when he asks me where something is. "Sweetie, have you checked your office?"

I suppose these are the things that keep marriage "interesting." I am not sure about that, but it does keep me on my toes.

Do not mistake me for a saint. I do things ALL the time that bother my spouse. He really hates how I wash the pots and pans under running water instead of filling up the sink with water. However, because he leaves the radio on, I think that makes us even in the wasting energy department. Also, I get pretty irrational and anal about the dumbest things. This is partly due to hormones. I admit it. I get hormonal. However, these hormones enable me to have his children. Sigh. Seems that you cannot beat biology.

The 3rd Whiney Expat Blogger in Germany Meet-Up

The date has been set. People are buying their tickets. Every one is getting ready for the The 3rd Whiney Expat Blogger in Germany Meet-Up. It will take place in Dresden on November 17 18, 2007. You can find details here.

I am afraid that I must report that I will not be able to attend. I teach an intensive English class on Saturdays. It was SUPPOSED to be finished November 10. However, because I am going to the U.S. in October, I have to make-up a few dates.

I am really bummed. This is what happened last year. I wish I could skip the class, but baby needs a new pair of shoes (and a stroller and a crib and a car seat and a changing table, well you get the idea).

I am wondering about a meet up in the spring; perhaps here in the north. That way, we don't have to wait until November again. Also, the north is very nice in April. Anyone interested?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

In Search of an Answer

Last week was perhaps the longest of my pregnancy. After working too many hours from Monday through Saturday, I had a good friend visit from California on Sunday and Monday. I was looking forward to the next three days off. I was thinking swimming, blogging, reading, etc. Unfortunately, I am now thinking humidifier, tea and sleep.

Yesterday I had a sore throat and stuffy nose. I woke up at 1am so stuffy that it was difficult to breath and I could not go back to sleep. I wound up on the sofa with a cup of tea and watched Monday Night Football (which is Too Early on Freaking Tuesday Morning Football here in Europe).

I am tired. My joints hurt. My throat hurts. My nose is all stuffed up. And as a pregnant woman, I can take . . . nothing.

Seriously, can anyone help me out? Any good home remedies for colds in pregnant women?

PS None of this seems to bother Little Dude, who has been getting his groove on all morning.