Friday, November 23, 2007

Reasons to be Thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, perhaps one of the toughest days of the year for me and the New Yorker. Even more than Christmas, it is the day when I miss my family the most. This year I took a break from cooking and the New Yorker hosted dinner. She did a fantastic job and I was really happy not to have to clean up the mess. I also realized how much I have to be thankful for, given that my Manic Monday turned into a Worse Wednesday.

Wednesday morning I was driving to work at 8:50am. The community center that I was driving to is 45 minutes away from my home. I was only about 15 minutes away when I started to worry a bit about the time. There was an animal food transporter in front of me on the two lane road and it was only doing 70 km/h in the 100 km/h zone.

I know that Christina and J have complained about the aggressiveness of German drivers. I feel the same way myself and usually try to stay out of their way in my little Smart car. However, I did not want to be late for work and decided to pass the truck in front of me.

I peaked out from behind the truck and there was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction. I went back behind the truck. After a few minutes I peaked again and saw that it was free and clear for several kilometer, so I decided to pass. Unfortunately, the station wagon behind me decided to pass at the same time.

A few minutes later I was pulled off onto the right side of the road and a little dazed. My first thought was, "Holy crap! What have you done!!??" I then looked over and saw the other driver getting out of their car, apparently uninjured. Everything looked okay on me and then I burst into tears. There was witness who pulled over to make sure everything was okay. He opened my door and the first thing I said was, "I am thirty weeks pregnant."

I got out and stood up and everything seemed normal. There did not appear to be that much damage to either car and I apologized profusely to the other driver. I did not want an ambulance and went into my little trunk to get a flare or warning sign. At that moment I felt a cramp deep in my left side, which almost brought me to me knees. I looked at the witness and said, "Please call an ambulance." Now that I think about it, I don't think it was a contraction but rather a swift kick from Little Dude to my kidney as if to say, "What the hell are you doing, mom!?" It was enough to make me panic and for shock to set in. For an hour I seriously felt like I had to vomit.

An hour later I was sitting in a hospital room. Thank goodness for the extremely soothing and friendly ambulance driver, nurses and doctors. I got my wits back about me and the nausea went away. I was really pale when I came in, so they put me on an IV. The doctor explained to me that they would do an ultrasound to make sure the "Mutterkuchen" was intact. I was not sure what this meant. I thought it was the cervix and looked at him in confusion. Why did they need an ultrasound to check my cervix? The doctor notice my confusion and started to speak to me in English. Turns out, he used to work at a hospital in the U.S. "Mutterkuchen" means "placenta." Yeah, that was a word I never learned in my German classes.

Everything looked good. Little Dude was moving around. They hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and there were no signs of contractions. However, they decided to keep me for 24 hours to make sure that contractions did not develop. This did not make me too happy. I just wanted to go home.

From the accident I managed to call and cancel my lessons for the day. I could not get hold of the German and did not want to go to the hospital alone. I called my in-laws. They were there immediately. At the hospital they took my papers and made sure that I got registered. My father-in-law picked up the car and drove it home. My mother-in-law went to the shop and got me a jogging suit so that I could change my clothes. Seriously good in-laws.

The German did not get to the hospital until 8pm. Unfortunately, he had left his cell phone at home and had a really long day at work. Thankfully, he came and was also a calming influence.

I got hold of the New Yorker, who cancelled all of my lessons through Monday. She wanted to cancel Thanksgiving dinner as well. I would not let her. "The one thing this day has shown me is that there are many things to be thankful for. This could have been a whole lot worse."

The German picked me up yesterday morning and I was in very good spirits. We ran some errands and then went and hung out with the New Yorker and had our lovely meal. By the time I got home last night, I was pretty tired. Today I feel like a sack and am spending most of the day in front of the TV.

Last night I thought a lot about all of the things that I am thankful for in life. Of course my parents, the German, and my friends and business partner are always at the top of my list. This year I have to add two more important things.

First, Little Dude appears to be a really strong, determined baby and only when I was confronted with the thought of losing him did I realize how very much I love him, even now.

Second, my in-laws came to my rescue twice this week. They never questioned and they never complained. They gave me warm hugs and made me feel like their own daughter. Sure we don't agree on the color of the wall paper, and they don't understand why they should call before coming over, but they are the most important family I have here. I am very grateful to have them in my life. It makes Thanksgiving a little easier knowing that perhaps family is just around the corner.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You Know It Is a Monday When . . .

In order to break up our daily grind, the New Yorker and I thought it would be a good idea to go out for brunch this morning. We could have some coffee, gossip and talk about the business for the week. Also, I had a gift certificate for a brunch buffet, which meant free eats.

This morning started off harmless enough. I actually got up on time, took a shower and got out to the car punctually at 8:30am. I walked to my car and looked in my purse. Garage door opener. Check. Office keys. Check. Car keys . . . wait a minute. Now where could those be? They are on my key ring with my house key of course, which at that moment was sitting in the hallway on the sideboard. I turned around and looked at the locked front door. I walked around the house and discovered that back door was locked, and the shades were down. Hmm.

Realizing that I had no way into my house and no way into my car, I knew that I had to call someone. The German was in the middle of teaching class, so he could not come home. Then I remembered that my in-laws have a key to the house, so I called them. Unfortunately, my father-in-law had just left for a doctor's appointment but my mother-in-law promised to come over as soon as he got home. I then called and cancelled with the New Yorker. And then I waited.

By 9am I was starving, so I walked into town and had brunch at a local bakery and then I did a little window shopping. I arrived back at home at 10:30am and sat in the basement, which I could get into thanks to the garage door opener. After going through my day planner and playing with my cell phone, my in-laws arrived at 11:30am. Thank goodness!

This has never happened to me before. I am happy to report that I stayed calm the entire time and then sent the German an SMS (text message). He called me immediately in a panic. After explaining the situation, he said, "We really need to put a copy of the house key somewhere outside." "Gee, sweetie, you think?"

Don't you just love Mondays.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Random Sunday Post

I do have a more interesting post coming but when I saw the quiz, "What Book Are You?" I had to know. Babar? Well, I definitly loved this book as a kid and will get it for Little Dude.

You're Babar the King!

by Jean de Brunhoff

Though your life has been filled with struggle and sadness of late,
you're personally doing quite well for yourself. All this success brings responsibility,
though, and should not be taken lightly. Life has turned from war to peace, from damage
to reconstruction, and this brings a bright new hope for everyone you know. These hopeful
people look to you for guidance, and your best advice to them is to watch out for snakes.
You're quite fond of the name "Celeste".

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I have had this song stuck in my head the past two days. It seems that my life is spinning cliches the past few weeks and it is starting to get annoying.

It all boils down to the fact good things will happen to you at the most inconvenient times. This can be said of my pregnancy. Giving birth in February should not be such a big deal, but it is turning into one. I wish I was giving birth in July. Do you think little dude could wait it out a few months? Probably not. Why July . . .?

In September I started to worry about my business a bit. Many of our company contracts were starting to run out and not too many people had signed up for our fall general classes. The general classes problem is my fault. I set the price-point too high. Setting a price on things so that is cheap enough that a customer will buy it AND you can still make a profit is not easy. Try it some time.

Therefore, the New Yorker and I were faced with finding new customers. Besides trying to get existing customers to pay on time, sales is probably the part of my job I hate the most. It really is an art. I have learned quickly not to take rejection too personally and that follow-up is the key to closing the deal. Unfortunately, I can spend months to a year (!!) chasing a client down.

We made a few calls and had a couple of inquiries and a few jobs started popping up. Then in October, the jobs started falling from the sky. We have had 5 new companies contact us and 3 of our old companies decided to sign contract extensions. Sounds great doesn't it?

However, the New Yorker and I are faced with a tough question, "Who is going to teach these classes?" We are interviewing new teachers now, but finding qualified native speakers is difficult in this part of Germany. (Ch-ard, please come back to me!!) This is where the part about my maternity leave becomes difficult. Turns out that "maternity leave" is going to turn into a brief "maternity pause/interlude." And that pisses me off.

Most women in Germany begin their maternity leave 2 months before giving birth. After giving birth a woman can take up to three years off and their employer must give them their job back. Now this three years is not paid mind you, but part of it is. If you are a civil servant your pay is even higher. The German says that when many of his colleagues at school get pregnant, you know that they will be gone well over a year.

Not every woman takes advantage of this. A good friend of mine only took six months off and then went back to work part-time. She did not do it for financial reasons, but because she wanted to get out of the house a bit and actually communicate with adults. For this she was shamed by many people (I have a whole other post about this).

My frustration has lead me to make a list of the things that I want, but are just out of my reach. Any help?

1. I want a qualified native speaker teacher starting in January.

2. I want to be able to pay my bills and stay home with my child for more than a week.

3. I want to go to Dresden this weekend and commiserate with other ex-pats.

4. I want little dude to stop kicking me in the stomach and giving me acid reflux.

5. I want to stop getting bigger in the back. (What is my body trying to balance itself out with the front??)

6. I want to stop feeling so anti-social (sorry to my friends whose emails I have not responded too) and start enjoying my friends again.

7. I want to be happier about my pregnancy than I really am.

See, frustrating isn't it? I sometimes feel like people expect me to be dancing on the ceiling about my pregnancy, which I am not. I worry about so many other things that I get distracted and frustrated.

Last night something did change. I had my first dream about my baby. In my dream, I held him in my arms and we rubbed noses. He was so tiny and had a head of dark, thick hair. I woke up with a smile on my face for the first time in weeks. Perhaps February is not such a bad time to give birth after all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

7 Random Things

Uh, oh. I have been tagged. Haddock wants to know 7 Random and/or Weird Things about me. Now, I really like reading about his adventures with his daughter (as it gives me faith that my kid can turn out okay, too), but I don’t think he knows what he has gotten himself into.

Hmm. This was harder than I thought, as I don’t think anything about me is weird . . . maybe that is the point. Here, we go.

1. I also don’t have a middle name. On my birth certificate my first name is listed as “Claire-Marie.” That’s right. I am a hyphenate.

2. I was called “Marie” until I was about 8 or 9 years old. However, I hated the name for a long time. There were three “Marie’s” in my kindergarten class who always picked on me. When my parents moved and I started a new school I took the opportunity to change my name and listed “Claire” on all of my forms and told people that was my name. I went home that afternoon and announced the change to my parents who were like, “Um, okay?” I still have aunts and uncles who call me “Marie.” I don’t mind it so much anymore.

3. When I was a little kid, I insisted that my sandwiches be cut on a diagonal. I believed that this made the sandwich bigger. Even though I have taken geometry and calculus, I still insist on eating sandwiches this way.

4. I always wear socks to bed, even in the summer.

5. The only class that I ever got an "F" in was spelling. (shocking, I know :-)

6. I will not let anyone (and I mean ANYONE) do my laundry except myself. When someone even touches my laundry, I can get very upset.

7. I did not get my driver’s licence until I was 21, almost 22. I had an accident when I was 15 and had a learner’s permit. It scared the heck out of me and I could not get behind the wheel of a car. When I graduated from college my mom gave me driving lessons as a gift. After about a month, I could not get what the fuss was all about. I cannot imagine my life without a car now.

Here are the rules which you must abide by if you are tagged.

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 3 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

I am tagging:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Can you go home again?

“Um, Claire, so what gives? No blogging for like 2 weeks?”

Yes, it has been a while. Yesterday afternoon I got back to Germany in one piece, even if I am still not sure what time it is.

The past two weeks will definitely be on my list of my best trips back to the U.S. Actually both trips this year were really good. As you may remember, in March we visited mom and dad-squared in Charleston, SC and this time we visited dad and mom-squared in Ypsilanti, MI. The trick to these perfect trips: don’t do both cities at once. Driving from Charleston to Ypsilanti (and it is always a round trip) just blows and takes two days. Our trip was pretty uneventful. I did not write or talk to anyone except my family during the trip. I just wanted to enjoy my time away.

We spent one gorgeous day at the Henry Ford / Greenfield Village. Normal people collect stamps or coins. Henry Ford collected houses. You know, for fun. All of the historical sights and homes that he bought are reconstructed in a “village” outside of Dearborn, MI. It is a taste of Americana which includes the Wright Brother's bike shop, Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, and the Firestone Farm. The weather was perfect the day we visited: 68 degrees and sunny. We walked around for four hours and the German could not get over the beautiful colors of all the leaves.

Doing tourist stuff was not really high on our agenda. We spent our days walking in the park, visiting the mall, going to the movies, etc (not all in one day mind you). I drank one too many lattes and watched enough TV for a month. The German went to his first college football stadium. He watched UofM at the “Big House” battle for the Little Brown Jug. Unfortunately it rained the entire day. That evening we also went to a UofM hockey game. I am currently trying to deprogram him after his “conversion” to UofM.

We did take a small road trip down to my old stomping grounds. Although I graduated in 2005, my old university has changed a lot in 2 ½ years. They have built two new buildings and have started on extensions to the law school and engineering school. Also, they took out a major road through the university and planted a park and trees. The German has a mildly amusing video of my standing in the middle of the park, looking around and saying in a rather dumbfounded tone over and over again, “This used to be a street.” During the trip I had coffee with my old advisor. It was really nice. I often worry that I have disappointed my professors by getting out of academia. I told him that I felt like I had to choose between a career and a family and I choose the latter. He told me that I made the correct decision, which was reassuring.

Finally, we did drive to the Land o’ Cheese and visited my Grandpa (he who sometimes comments on this blog) and dad-squared’s family. As always, they are a pleasure to visit. As always, this trip was too short.

When the German and I left the U.S. on Friday, I was really sad. I could also see that my dad was sad. It was one of the first times that I have not wanted to come back to Germany. The funny thing is that I am starting to feel a bit disconnected from my life back in the states; my “old life.” There were times when I felt like I just did not fit-in any more. However, I often do not feel like I fit-in here in Germany either. These feelings are extremely difficult, and yet typical of the ex-pat experience. You have one foot in each country, which makes “home” a difficult place to define. Because of my mixed feelings about coming back, I have picked several fights with the German. I am not sure why I do it. I suppose that it is because he is the closest person to me and I cannot manage to keep my trap shut.

Life goes back to its “normalcy” tomorrow. Time to get back to work and pay the bills. Already the U.S. seems so far away.