Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Everything went fine and the Dude is doing well. He still tugs at his ears, but wouldn't you if someone stuck a tube in it?

Last night, Christmas Eve, the in-laws came over for dinner and gifts. In Germany gift-giving is done on Christmas Eve. I made an "American Christmas Eve" Dinner: Shrimp and Grits, Hush Puppies and Apple Pie. It was great but I did not eat much because my stomach was tore up from the night before. I have discovered the lethal combination: mulled wine + NyQuil. Trust me, just say no.

You know it is Christmas in Germany when you hear Wham's "Last Christmas." It is almost comical how bad this song is and how much they play it here. The Dixie Peach can back me up.

Because the German is one of the best husband's ever, he sent me this video.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How does that saying go?

All good things come in threes? Or is it all BAD things come in threes? All I know is that I have had just about enough.

Everything with mom went really well in the U.S. As she recovered we watched movies, I cooked and cleaned, and bonded a bit with the family. I even managed to get in a day with lunch, shopping, old friends and chugging a Margarita (it will give you brain freeze). Good times. Because my work was done, it was time to head back home.

The trip back to Germany was almost effortless, but then again I discovered the secret to the trans Atlantic crossing: Coladapin. Okay, so taking anti-anxiety medication is NOT the best idea without a prescription and visiting a doctor, but a friend passed me an extra and smiled, "You will thank me." After two glasses of wine and some food, I flew from Charleston to Charlotte. After waiting in the most cramped gate area ever, I got on the plane to Frankfurt. I turned down the evening meal, took a glass of water and my pill. Just when I thought nothing was happening and I had a long 8 hour flight ahead of me, I began to feel warm and fuzzy. I drifted off. I did not sleep the entire time. I got up to go the bathroom and had some pretzels. In my half-sleep I did notice a little turbulence, but I smiled and said to myself, "Bump, bumppity, bump, bum . . ." An hour before landing they served breakfast (which I ate!), and I landed in Germany totally refreshed and relaxed. Wow.

Although, I made it safely back to Germany . . . my luggage did not. Seriously, I had one, small bag. With a large sigh, I went over to the Lufthansa counter. The woman confirmed my information, which was already in the computer. "Yes, this has happened before," I smirked. She actually looked embarrassed.

Losing a bag when coming home is annoying, but it really is not the end of the world. They had it at my doorstep that evening and it saved me the trouble of going through customs . . . where I would have nothing to declare anyway . . .

Wednesday I was just the Dude and I. He mercifully slept until 8am. We had breakfast and played. It took me 3 hours to do the dishes and run the vacuum cleaner, but I just could not stop hugging and kissing him.

"Claire, none of this sounds too bad." Oh, it's coming . . .

Thursday we took the Dude to the ENT specialist. It was a routine check-up after his ear infection(s) last month. The doctor took one look in the Dude's ear and got tense. "It iz not better." Not only was his ear worse, but now both are completely blocked. The eardrums are swollen, and no air is moving at all. The doctor estimates that the Dude has a 33% reduction in hearing with his ears like this.

So . . .

Tomorrow morning the Dude is going in for an operation. They are putting in tubes and removing his "Rachenmandel" (palatine tonsils). The procedure should take about two hours and we should be able to take him home that afternoon.

Several friends have tired to comfort me. It is "just" tubes. They do it all the time. Honestly, this does not help. The anesthesia bothers me the most; reading the "fact page" scared the hell out of me. Watching my son go through that . . . oy, not looking forward to it. I am taking it better than the German, though. I thought he was going to cry in the doctor's office.

"Wow, Claire. But that is only two bad things."

I forgot to mention that I found a cracked tooth while I was in the U.S. And it is finally starting to hurt and I cannot chew on that side of my mouth. Thus it is off to the dentist and a possible root canal in the coming weeks.

Between my mom, the Dude, my tooth. Ugh. I have had enough.

And don't even get me started on the Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Part Where My Mom Gets Abducted by Aliens

First, let me apologize for putting up a post about depression and then leaving for a few weeks. Not cool. I apologize, but then again every thing went a little crazy a few weeks ago . . . It started with a call from my mother and ended with me sitting jet lagged in front of a computer in South Carolina.

About 3 1/2 weeks ago, on a normal Sunday afternoon, my mom called. This was not too strange, as we often chat on Sundays. She told me that she had gone to the gym the previous week and had hurt herself.

"Man my abs and stomach area hurt so bad, I could not get out of bed the next morning."

"Good for you mom! That is a good workout."

"Not really. I went to the doctor thinking it might be a ruptured cyst. She sent me for an ultrasound and I am going to in for the results tomorrow."

"That does not sound so bad, Mom."

"Well our conversation went like this . . .

The Doctor: We found something on the ultrasound.

Mom: What is it?

The Doctor: I am not sure, but I do not think it is life threatening. I want you to come in soon. Is Monday morning okay?

Note to doctors everywhere: Never tell someone that you "think it is not life threatening" on a Friday afternoon and then make an appointment for Monday. This does not make for the happiest of weekends.

The next day my mom called me back. The doctor thinks it is a tumor. On her ovary. A 10 cm tumor. My mom was, understandably, a little freaked out and had in her hand a referral for a surgeon that specializes in gynecology and oncology. She went there on a Friday.

That doctor was very optimistic. There was nothing on the ultrasound besides the one "growth" but we would never know until it came out and so that needed to happen and soon.

The Monday before Thanksgiving (this was last week, ya'll!) my mom called me with her surgery date: Monday, November 30. After much discussion, the German and I agreed that I would fly out to SC. Not only did I want to take care of my mom and hold her hand, there were other things that needed to be done, which I could help with. Last Wednesday I bought a ticket. On Thursday I fed the masses with a 12 pound turkey. On Saturday I taught all day and administered an examination. On Sunday, I took the Dude to my in-laws, kissed my boys goodbye and flew to the US.

That brings us to two days ago. Dad-squared and I sat and sat in the waiting room. When I get nervous, I clean. So I kept wandering around the waiting room putting away magazines and throwing away empty coffee cups. It drew stares.

A few hours later the doctor came down. It was the first time I met him. He looks just like Steve Colbert and he gave me some of the best news of my life.

"It's not cancer," he said with a wide grin. "But it also was not on her ovary."

Um, say what?

Upon entering the abdominal area the doctor found a perfectly healthy ovary. Looking to the side he saw the tumor growing on the inside of the abdominal wall. He gave us pictures, ya'll! Pictures! I think it looked like a testicle, a ball hanging in a sack. (For those worried, I did get permission from my mom to use that description!) after taking it out both he and the pathologist agreed that it was a fibroid tumor. Smiles all around.

My mom stayed in the hospital overnight and after sneaking her out for a cigarette, I was able to take her home yesterday. I will be here the rest of the week taking care of my family, a roll that I never expected, but happily assume.

The doctors have no idea why these kinds of things develop. Our theory is that my mom was abducted and impregnated by aliens.

This entire incident has brought up feelings and anxieties that most ex-pats face. Who will take care of my parents when they get sick? My parents did so much for me as a child, especially my mom. It not only my duty to take care of them, it is an instinct, a pull that I feel. Just as I want to sooth and reassure my son, I want to give my parents the same care when the time comes . . . so when I go home, I may have to start converting the basement into an apartment, because you never know what the future will bring.

Until then I am going to enjoy my parents, curl into bed with my mom, watch really bad TV and drink tea. We always joked that my mom had balls of steel, given all of the things that she has experienced and accomplished in life. I just hope that we have not removed the source of all her superpowers.

Oh, and the pictures . . . this year's Christmas card, baby!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Face of Depression

This is the face of depression.


Robert Enke (1977 - 2009) was a professional soccer player (for Hannover 96, not our favorite team but one we favor because they are our northern neighbor), and goalie for the German national soccer team. He was strong and fought hard. But behind his smile, he also suffered from depression. Last week he took his own life.

Only now are reports emerging that this man, who appeared so determined, kind and full of life, struggled. He struggled to fulfill the expectations laid upon his shoulders. He struggled to cope with the death of his two year old daughter. He struggled to hide the dark feelings inside.

I, and the German, were both shocked and touched by Robert Enke's passing. If a man who appeared so strong had problems, who else do we know struggles everyday? How alone did he feel that he could not go on? No one should have to feel that alone.

But depression is a scary, dark secret that no one talks about. It is dealt with behind closed doors. Often society demands that you "deal with it" or "get a grip on yourself." For those who suffer from depression, this is easier said than done. No one wants to admit that they have a problem and seeking help for that problem is even more difficult.

When I think of the sorrow that was in Robert Enke's heart, it breaks mine. If you know anyone in your family or a friend who you think may suffer from depression, talk to them. Get them help. Do not let them turn away.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making Me Giggle

Sure there are lots of thing I could blog about, such as the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall or the passage of a health care bill or the devastating suicide of Germany's soccer team goalie. Seriously, watching the news these days is exhausting.

But there are many things that are going on over here, most of which involve health issues. It leaves me tired, preoccupied and worried. Over the past week I have wanted to write, but during my free time I wind up sitting in front of the TV with a cup of tea in an attempt to turn down the voices in my head.

However, something caught my eye this morning during my coffee and made me giggle. I had to share.

Toyota is no longer the worlds largest automaker. Guess who is? Volkswagen.

So what? Why does that make you giggle, Claire? It makes me giggle because I bet that you did not know that one of the partial owners of Volkswagen is the State of Lower Saxony. That's right, the governor of the state that I live in is actually a board member. We tax payers are partial owners.

Hm. Does that mean that everything government run is bad, not competitive, threatens freedom, etc.? Or does that mean that everything run by the AMERICAN government is bad, not competitive, threatens freedom, etc.? Or does it mean that people who make arguments about government run things are just blowing smoke and do not actually do their research?

In case you are wondering, the state of Lower Saxony almost never interferes in the business decisions of the company. They let the businessmen do their jobs. However, they do make sure that the company does not ship all of their jobs to other countries and generally look after the welfare of their workers.

You know. It is good for a giggle.

Read the entire story here:

http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/autos_content_landing_pages/1161/volkswagen-steals-toyotas-crown-as-worlds-largest-automaker/

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Post Election Bash: We have no idea what we are talking about edition!

So, there was this election in the US yesterday. When I was not looking, the ENTIRE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY was going to be decided by the governors of New Jersey and Virginia. Is it just me, or has the media gone a little overboard? Don't take my word for it however. My boyfriend, Jon Stewart, is more articulate than I.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 - Reindecision 2008 And Beyond
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween

Do you remember the Thanksgiving episode of Friends where Monica decides that she does not want cook and Phoebe uses reverse psychology to convince her to do it?

"That's okay, Monica. Last year wasn't so great. I think she is losing her touch."

"What! That's not true! Thanksgiving is on!"

"Monica, you will be in competition with yourself."

"That's my favorite kind!"

This was went through my head when I decided to host my second Kid's Halloween Party. This time I downloaded recipes, decided kick the food up a notch and wear my own costume. God, I can be stupid sometimes.

The decorations were similar to last year. I did jazz up the place with some orange candles. This is a big decorating step for me as I HATE the color orange. However, it was Halloween, so what can you do?


For food I baked chocolate chip cookies and spent entirely too much time decorating cupcakes. The German did his part and made a delicious pumpkin-potato soup. After reading Martha Stewart's Halloween magazine, I attempted Savory Pumpkin Puffs, puff pastry stuffed with cheese, which did NOT look like the picture. Because I was so stressed near the end, there are no pictures of the soup and puff pastry, but you can take my word for it, they were delicious!




Last year and this year I struggled to figure out activities and games to entertain the kids. They are simply too little to play classics like musical chairs and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Martha suggested a Pinata. Hm. That could work, I thought. Kids love to pound stuff. I spent two days figuring out how to put that Pinata together. It took the kids 15 minutes to tear it apart. Then they turned on each other with the stick. What is it about the best laid plans . . .


As it was last year, the party was a success; even if it did add a few grey hairs to my head. The fact that I started teaching a brand new English seminar in another town from 9am to 2pm and the party was at 3:30pm might have had something to do with that.

Naturally, Halloween is not complete without a costume. My little frog's smile makes it all worth while.


Postscript: There is no photographic evidence of me in my costume, the Buccaneer Beauty. I put on the costume and was struck with panic. I looked at the German, "Do I look like a pirate?" "Um . . ." "Do I look like a hooker??" "Well, um, . . ." I stuck it out, but made sure that the cameras stayed far away from me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Return to Deutschland

After what turned out to be one of our best trips to the US, we all came back to Germany about 11 days ago. The trip back was in some ways frustrating (NWA has changed their luggage allowance policy, only one per person on intercontinental flights) and also better (the Dude slept most of the way).

Getting over the jet lag was difficult. For a week the Dude would go to bed peacefully at 7pm only to wake up at 9pm and cry for two hours. Someone said to me, "Well, you know it is only two hours and at least it is still early in the evening." Right. But when you are exhausted yourself and only want to go to bed, it can be the LONGEST TWO HOURS OF YOUR LIFE.

There were many highlights to the trip, one being the Detroit Zoo. I know, I know. I also thought, "Detroit has a zoo? How good can that be?" Turns out pretty darn good. The Detroit Zoo is one of the oldest in the US and was designed by the same German who designed the Hamburg Zoo. We went in the afternoon, in the middle of the week.

It was pretty empty (and a bit windy), so we had prime viewing of the animals, who were actually awake. The tigers, lions and bears all were moving around and kept looking at us like, "Hey! Where's my dinner?" The best was the polar bear exhibit, which features a pool and Plexiglases so that you can watch the polar bears play. The male bear was swimming up to the glass and splashing around. The Dude giggled and patted the glass; clearly having no clue that the bear could probably swallow him whole.

The Detroit Zoo . . . pretty awesome. Who knew!?

Since being back I have had a bit of what I call the "blahs." No desire to work. Sick of cleaning and ironing. Weather is not good enough to take the kid for a walk. Just blah. I have to say, it is a little frustrating as I actually have work to do and am hosting a Halloween Party on Saturday . . . maybe time to get off my duff?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Life on Mars

Two weeks ago I actually did begin writing a post about the outcome of the German election. And then, things happened. Nothing overly dramatic, mind you, however it was all distracting enough to pull me away from the computer. The German, Dude and I are currently on our biannual family vacation in Motown.

We have been here for about a week and everything is going pretty well. The flight was as I expected . . . long. The Dude only slept 1.5 hours out of the 8.5 hour flight. That was . . . fun. But it turned out for the best. After playing a bit with Grandpa when we got to the house, he crashed at 8:30pm and slept until 7am. Within two days he was over the jet lag.

This trip has been a bit odd, however. For the first time, I have come home, looked around and thought, "Have I landed on Mars??"

I first had this thought as we drove past all of the empty strip malls. The bumpy roads had pot holes the size of my Smart. A drive through my Grandfathers old Detroit neighborhood was down right scary. The German thought it looked like Sarajevo. We went up to Kmart to get a few things, and the very nice woman at the check out line was older than my grandmother. Seriously, she could have easily been 68 (the German guessed 72).

As we left, I turned to my husband and said, "What is she doing here?! Shouldn't she be at home playing with her grand kids or drinking tea with friends. Isn't that what you do in retirement? Hasn't she worked enough?" It really upset me.

But the best was yet to come . . .

The Dude got sick on Monday. A small cough got worse and worse, and even though he did not have a fever, he was clearly not feeling well. On Thursday I decided to call a few pediatricians to get him an appointment.

The first place turned me away. They informed me that they could not see us because we do not live in the area.

"I am still a Michigan resident. I have a driver's license and bank account. Besides WE HAVE INSURANCE."

"Will you insurance cover you here?"

"Yes! We can go to any doctor in the world and we are covered. I pay enough for it."

"Sorry, you will have to go to an emergency room or free clinic. We cannot run the risk of the bill not being paid."

OH MY GOD. Are you kidding me? In the greatest country in the world, a sick child with insurance cannot get a doctor's appointment?!?

So, I called the next doctor on the list. "Sure, we can take you. Could you we send the bill to your dad's house?"

"You know what, can I just pay cash? I can get reimbursed by my insurance company later."

"Come on down!" (For my readers, future reference, "cash" is the magic word in the US health insurance system.)

The doctor was actually quite nice and the nurse was fabulous. She was so good with the Dude. Turns out that the baby was not just being fussy. He has an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection. Nice. They called in a prescription.

When I got to the pharmacy, I was told, "We cannot fill this. You do not have insurance on file." "Can't I just pay cash?" "Sure!" (There's that magic word again.)

The entire cost of a doctor's visit and antibiotic in the US: $190.

This entire experience has left me absolutely dumbfounded. It proves that in the US it is difficult to get access to affordable care, even for those with insurance. The costs are outrageous; the same bill in Germany would be less than half that in the US. How can anyone look at this system and think that it does not need to be fixed? What is wrong in the US?

I posted this on my Facebook page and naturally one of my more to the right friends (I am trying to be nice) said, "I love the US. Always have. Always will." What does that have to do with anything? I love the US, too. I actually believe that it is one of the best countries in the world. But health care is a problem. My friend also said that being ranked 14th in the world is "okay," what are people complaining about? This is also the problem. Those that have not had any of these experiences and have not gotten sick do not understand what millions of Americans go through everyday.

Satisfaction with mediocrity is not an option; maybe on Mars but not in the US.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Alive!

Today is going to be a two post day . . .

For those who are interested, Smarty Jones lives on.

Thursday afternoon we discovered that if you crawl through the back that you can open the door from the inside; well the passenger door, not the driver's door, which the German had broken. The battery was okay, but we still could not get the car to turn on. Hmm.

My father-in-law, KH, got back from vacation on Thursday. When we informed him of the situation, he immediately said, "I'll fix it!" In my head I thought, "I think the car's computer needs to be hooked up, but okay."

KH and the German circled the car on Friday afternoon, ready to pounce. After trying many things, the German went inside to look something up on the computer. He came out and said, "Someone in an Internet forum suggest resetting the computer by disconnecting the battery completely and then reattaching it." And . . . it worked! I will be darned if the car did not start right up!

That only left the problem of the door. On Thursday, the German went to the Smart dealer, who told him that he probably just needed a new cable. On Friday, the German and KH took the door apart and fixed the cable. 28 Euro and a few hours later . . . done!

We did not call the ADAC. We did not have to get the car towed. It just cost 28 Euros and a few hours (and a little bit of pride to get it fixed). I am a bit disappointed. "New car for Claire" negations and discussions had begun and have no stopped. Come on, Sweetie. If I get a new car, I promise that I won't let the Dude touch it.

For those who are on the "terrible mother" bandwagon. I am sure that the Dude is going to break something else in the future. Strangely, we took the entire situation pretty calmly. Isn't stupid stuff part of being a parent? Also, the Dude is ALWAYS in eye sight. I know what he is capable of and I try to keep him out of trouble. And finally, I did not get mad at the Dude nor did I yell at him. It was my fault. I am the adult and take responsibility for what happens. I always have.

So, now that that saga is over . . . later today . . . Post-Election Bash: Germany Edition!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh . . . no . . .

Yesterday a series of unfortunate events unfolded at our house which may have resulted in us sending the Smart to automobile heaven. Comically, every single person in the house is responsible for the outcome, including the baby.

The Dude loves to press buttons, light things up and figure out how it all works. My car, the Smart (or Smarty Jones as I like to call her), is now one of his favorite toys. He can spend an hour sitting in the front sheet, shaking the wheel and going "brrrrmmmm!!" He can turn the lights on and off and once in a while even honks the horn. I probably shouldn't, but I let him do this every now and again when I need to have both hands to do something.

Yesterday, after running a few errands, I parked Smarty outside the kitchen window. I went inside the house to put lunch on the stove and let the Dude explore the car, while watching him through the window. Around 11:30 I brought him and gave him lunch. He went down for a nap without a peep and I wrote a blog.

At about 2:30 I got him up and ready to go to day care, which he does three times a week in the afternoons. When we got in the car, there were no lights and the thing would not even crank. I looked around trying to figure out the problem. Mother F***er. I noticed the headlight switch on. The Dude must of turned it on, and when I brought him in, I forgot to turn it off. The battery was D-E-A-D.

I stuck the Dude in the stroller and walked him to day care, and with a hint of panic in my voice called the German. "No worries, I will jump start it when I get home."

The German got home and pushed Smarty into the garage. He hooked everything up and jumped into Smarty, shut the drivers side door and got the battery going. All the lights immediately came on, but when he put the key in, the car would not start up.

I must pause at this point in the story to explain something, Smarty is . . . fickle. The car can only be unlocked using the electronic button on the key (there are no locks. How weird is that!) Sometimes she will not start if you have had the car unlocked and in park. However, if you press the key and lock the doors and then unlock them, the car starts right up. We knew this when we got the car, and it even came with a sticker in the owners manual.

Okay, where were we? The German was in Smarty with the drivers door shut. The passenger side was open (as that is where the battery is). The jumper cables got electricity to the car, but we could not actually get it to start.

We both knew that we needed the keys to lock and unlock the car again. We tried both keys furiously for 10 minutes before we realized that for some reason the computer was not recognizing the signal of the key. Perhaps the memory had been erased? Just then, the doors on the car automatically locked, locking the German inside the car.

The German got a little frustrated and yanked the handle on the door in an attempt to get it open. The handle came off. At this point, my mouth was hanging open and I was at a loss for words.

We disconnected the cables and the German climbed out on the passenger side. We were putting things away and discussing the key and door problem when he called out, "Don't shut the passenger side door, otherwise we will not be able to get into the car." I looked for the bike so that we could pick up the Dude from day care and the German walked over to me, but not before absentmindedly shutting the passenger side door. At this point I was laughing hysterically.

Smarty is currently sitting in our garage. We can not unlock the doors and get in the car because the keys no longer work. Even if we could get in the car, the drivers side door is now broken. Once we get in the car, I am not sure what shape the battery is in.

Any suggestions?

In a completely unrelated event, the Dude said the work "sh**" for the first time. Great. As if I did not feel like a bad mother before, on my 19 month old's first 50 words is profanity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Nazi" Really Is a Four-Letter Word

Whenever the topic of "health care" and "United States" come up in this household, the German gets a perplexed look on his face, looks at me and says, "I do not understand why Americans do not want health care?!" These feelings found their way into his comments on the video yesterday. This seems to be the only thing that is talked about these days, and has made its way to our dinner table. It is about time I tossed in my two cents.
__________

President Obama, and all of those currently promoting health care reform, seem to have the best intentions. In fact, they have very good reason for taking up this cause. The facts are shocking.
  • The number of uninsured in American increases every day. In a newly released report, the US Census Bureau estimates that nearly 46.3 million people in 2008 had no health insurance. I have read critiques which argue that the estimate contains individuals who are "not citizens," and thus the number of uninsured Americans is actually lower. Um, okay. If you want to look at the number that way, then there are "only" 36.8 million uninsured Americans. Gee that number is so much better. (Despite what critics say, you should take a look at the new Census Report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance. It really is eye opening.)
  • People in the US ALREADY die waiting to get treatment because they are either denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or refused referrals to specialists.
  • In the US hundreds of thousands of people go bankrupt because of their health care costs. One recent report from the American Journal of Medicine estimates 60% of 1.5 million bankruptcies (or about 900,000).
  • Americans spend more on health care but are not any healthier and do not live longer. In its 2000 report, the World Health Organization ranked the Unites States 24th in terms of life expectancy (Germany was 17th). In almost all of the rankings I looked at, the US was never in the top 10, and in one ranking ("health performance") was even 72. You know who was almost always at the top: France.
  • For more facts, you should really check out the National Coalition on Health Care Fact Sheet. They use a lot of different sources.
__________

Is this really a system worth saving? All of this begs the question, what have the reformers proposed and why are some people so against reform? Let's talk about a few details, which President Obama laid out in his speech to congress.

1. All Americans must have health care.

This proposal is shocking to many Americans. "You can't make me have health care! If I do not want coverage, that is my choice. Live free or die!" Um, okay. The problem with this argument is that one person's "choice" might actually cause me to get sick, or worse cost me money. In Germany everyone is required to have health care. It is not negotiable. This month the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 individuals die every year because they do not have health insurance. Also, requiring people to have health insurance is good for business. Think of all those new customers!

2. Reform would make it illegal for health insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or to place a cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. It will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. It would require insurance companies to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms.

Yeah. I do not have anything to say about that. It all seems good.

3. A possible public option that would provide health care to those who cannot afford it.

This has been a sticking point for many. "It is SOCIALISM!" Calm down, people. First, in a socialist country there is no public "option" there is only the public plan. A public option might be able to provide the vast majority of uninsured with health care. It also is not directly opposed to capitalism. By providing an affordable option, the system would increase competition and force private companies to provide better coverage.

If you think the government should not be involved in this kind of "socialism," should we also get rid of medicaid, medicare and social security? If the government cannot provide good health care, then what is it providing to its military or government employees? I often hear people say, "He's got a government job. Good benefits." Hmm. What benefits are they talking about?
__________

Now, much of the opposition to health care reform has involved shouting and pointing and disparaging remarks, none of which ARE ACTUAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST HEALTH CARE. However, we do need to think critically about reform and what the best way is. Mr. Wilson, when people get upset with you because you yell at the President, it is not because you yelled, it is because YOU LIED. There is a provision to ensure that illegal immigrants are not covered. Mr. Wilson, no one wants to muzzle you, but we would like you to stop grossly exaggerating and lying in order to produce fear and actually act like an adult and engage in reasonable debate.

These lies about reform have got to stop, as they lead to the hate filled comments, which are the worst. When many of my Democrat friends called President Bush a "Nazi," I called them out. As you may expect and understand, where I live, calling someone a "Nazi" is about the worst thing you can do. The right-wing movement, however, seem to have latched onto an idea and are not letting go.

What is it about health care reformers that makes them "Nazis?" Do you mean the LIE about death panels?? Nothing like that is going to happen! Do you know where is actually DID happen: Here in Germany.

The German's Opa has told me some stories. His mentally retarded sister (aunt? I am fuzzy about this detail as Opa speaks Plattdeutsch and I cannot always understand) was actually taken by the Nazis to a "hospital." Opa's father came home from work and found out. He immediately went to where his daughter was held, shamed the soldiers there (he was a field officer in WWI, so pulled a little rank), and got his daughter (sister?) back. When I think of some of the things that the German's family has been through (including Oma's escape from Prussia, fleeing from the Russians, and Great-Grandmother's rape in a refugee camp), then I have to look at some at these posters and right-wing accusations and say, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!"

That's right. I just used all capital letters. But, I hope that you see where I am going with this. End of life counseling is NOT THE SAME as a gas chamber. Demonizing someone and using vile language is not an argument. It does not convince me, nor the majority of Americans.

Now there is an argument against reform that is pretty good. Um, Mr. President, how are you going to pay for this? I was not totally convinced by the statement, "Reform will pay for itself." I think I may need to see some numbers first.
__________

When it comes to reform, I am sometimes not sure if this is the right time for it. But then I am reminded of a quote, "If not us, who? If not now, when?" The German told me something very interesting the other day. "Health care is like roads and clean water. It is a public good. You should not be allowed to make a profit from it." If only more people thought that way.

So, that is my two cents . . . for what it's worth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health Care Reform is Funny

Remember people, health care reform can be funny. Okay, not so much health care reform, but some of the arguments against it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Help my Parents?

After watching this, I am may just have to air lift my mom and dad-squared out of the state.

Oh, and I will get to you this week, Senator. In the mean time, I need to go stand in line for my socialized medicine which I get for free.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Help the Dude

I have so many, MANY words to say about the health care debate in the US, as well as some of the overheated rhetoric going around. But it is Friday night, I am tired and have to work all day tomorrow. Let's get back to that next week. I am sure that problem will still be there.

For now, how about a little bit of the Dude?


He is getting big . . . and strong. And in a few weeks we are jumping the pond to visit my Motown family. Technically the Dude is only 19 months old (but don't tell him that). Travelers are not required to purchase a seat for their child until they are two. The German and I discussed the pros and cons and finally decided to purchase the kid a seat. I can barely hold him still for 15 minutes in line at the grocery store; a nine hour plane ride to Michigan . . . um, no. Also at 410 Euro per person round trip, we can actually afford it. (KLM October sales rock!)

Our next problem is the seat. I want to take my car seat on the plane, because child please, that little belt is not going to hold the Dude down if he something interesting and wants to chase after it. Also, the Dude likes sleeping in his car seat, so I am hoping that by strapping him in he will actually get some shut eye on the plane.

Naturally our car seat is not the kind permitted on the plane. This is where you come Internet. Do you know anything about car seats and which ones travel well on planes? Any suggestions for activities to keep him occupied? Word of warning, portable DVD players is out. TV will only hold his attention for about 15 minutes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Comment So Good It Deserves a Post

I got a really interesting comment / question on my post about the German election, Colors:
Would it be accurate to assume that the German election has not held your TV hostage (i.e., like the non-stop campaigning advertisements in the U.S.)?
NO IT HAS NOT. And there is a very good reason why. In Germany political parties are only allowed to campaign in the six week period preceding the election. That's right, BY LAW, no ads, no campaign posters, no events that are campaign related are allowed until six weeks before the election. Certainly German parties get around that by holding "general events" or "topical, issue speeches," which we saw a lot of this past summer. However, even these are pretty limited. These are not federal laws, but rather regulations set by the states and which all parties generally abide by.

In regards to TV, political parties cannot buy up a ton of time like US parties. It is illegal. Each political party is allotted an equal share of air time to show ads. That is all the time they get. Although the party must pay to produce its advertisements, the TV time space is free. The US Library of Congress writes:

The length of election campaigns is not defined by federal law. State and local laws limit campaign billboards to a few weeks before the election. State laws limit campaign advertising in radio and television to a few spots that are allotted in the month preceding the election. By an agreement among the states, the political parties may not purchase any advertising time on radio or television, and are thereby limited to the few officially granted campaign spots.
These two rules have important consequences. First, my TV is not clogged up with stupid ads, like you see in the US. I will never forget a commercial that I saw while living in South Bend. "Candidate X. Bad for fish. Bad for Indiana." All I could think was, "Wait, are fish allowed to vote now?" The second consequence is that political parties do not spend nearly the same amount of money on advertising as US parties do.

"Oh, Claire, that sounds great! Let's enact that here in the US!"

Yeah, wouldn't that be nice? It will never happen.

The Supreme Court in the case Buckley vs. Velo (1976), argued that "money is speech." That is, you cannot limit a person's ability to spend money to influence elections as that would be an impediment to free speech. This case is the ruling precedent on party and campaign finance. Given how both the Left and Right in the US would rather fall on their swords than limit "free speech," I do not see that rule being changed any time soon. How do you like them apples?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday Nights Just Got Better

At the beginning of the summer, our satellite service stopped showing the German Bundesliga Football games (THE professional soccer league here in Germany). This caused a little bit of anxiety in our household. It was clear that we would need a new satellite service that would provide both the soccer games (for the German) and the West Wing (for me). Unfortunately, this left us with only option . . .

Rupert Murdoch.

Premiere was the only satellite/cable system that could provide all the channels that we wanted. Naturally, a few months before we decided to do this, Rupert Murdoch bought Premiere and changed the name to "Sky."

The German and I were NOT happy. We do not care for Murdoch, as he is a monopolist billionaire who is buying as much media as possible in order to push his own political agenda. Monopolies in the media is undemocratic, but that does not appear to bother many people . . . except for us.

But Murdoch is clever. Our need for soccer and random movies and TV entertainment trumped our distaste. We swallowed our scruples and bought in.

Of course, other than a dirty feeling brought on by selling out our principles, we have had no problems. The service is good and we got a great first year fee. We even added a few movie channels that allow us to watch new releases IN ENGLISH! Sunday night movie night ruled in the house this summer, but now (American) football season is on and ESPN has taken over Sunday nights.

I do have a complaint: FOX changed my Monday night ritual!! They have taken off West Wing. Season 4 had just ended (CJ was mourning the loss of her cutie secret service guy). Now they have some crappy show called "LA Crash." I am sure Murdoch is not to blame, but I cannot help but wonder . . .

They made it up to me by adding "Mad Men" to the Monday night line up. The German and I LOVE THIS SHOW. First, the English is not too fast, so the German doesn't have to ask me ever five minutes what is going on. Second, Jon Hamm and January Jones are HOT! Eye candy for both of us. Finally, the story is great and keeps you guessing. We love the attention to detail and the 1960s feel of the show. Last night a mom lite a cigarette in the baby's room. We almost died! A different era indeed.

So, Mr. Murdoch, you are doing okay, but bring back West Wing . . . or else . . .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Colors

If you think this post is about the 1988 gang-cop movie starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall and directed by Dennis Hopper . . . you would be wrong . . . although wouldn't that be a change of pace . . .

No, I realized yesterday that I blogged a lot (seriously A LOT) about the US election last year. In just two weeks Germany is going to have a federal election, and I have written nothing about it. Shame on me! Time to change all that.

First, a little background: Germany has a parliamentary system and a proportional representation electoral system. As a result there are two large parties and three smaller parties. Neither one of the large parties gets enough votes to rule on its own, so Germany usually has a coalition government. Currently there is a "Grand Coalition" between the two largest parties: CDU and SPD. The talk of the country is who will create the next coalition.

"Colors" actually refers to the political parties in Germany. Each party is associated with a color:

CDU (Christian Democrats; kind of like the Repubs): Black
SPD (Social Democrats; just your average, middle of the road socialists): Red
FDP (Liberal Democrats): Yellow
Green Party . . . (this one is pretty self explanatory)
The Left (the REAL Socialists and former Communists): Red

The guessing game regarding the next coalition has led to all kinds of "funny" names. First, there is the "Traffic Light Coalition" (green, yellow, red), whose slogan could be "stop! no wait! go! no wait!" Then there is the "Jamaica Coalition" (black, yellow, green), who promise Rum to everybody. The most talked about (and perhaps most likely) is the black-yellow coalition, for which I have no funny slogan.

Last night the two primary candidates for Chancellor, Merkel (CDU, the current Chancellor) and Steinmeier (SPD, the current Secretary of State), had their one and only debate. The German and I watched and played a little drinking game. Every time Merkel said "Wachstum schaft Arbeit" (growth creates jobs; her talking point which she held onto like a raft in a storm): Drink! Anytime someone said "black-yellow": Drink! We almost finished a bottle of wine.

Most commentators declared the debate to be a draw. The newspapers this morning were mixed. Bild called it a "love fest" instead of a debate. Yes, Merkel and Steinmeier were cordial and there were very few direct attacks. In fact, the two are so cozy, almost like an old married couple, that they are starting to dress alike. Seriously, I think they had on the same black suit.

There are a few reason for this laid back "debate." First, I think that German politics are simply not as adversarial and personal as American politics so, we should not expect the same thing.

Second, I do not think that any of those snazzy coalitions that I mentioned above are possible. If you look at the numbers and how the parties interact with each other, I believe that the only coalition that is possible is the one that we have now. And secretly, I think Merkel and Steinmeier know that. They are going to have to continue to work together, for better or worse. Making it personal would make that relationship very difficult after the election.

Tonight the top candidates from the other three parties are debating. Unfortunately, it is late at night and not on a prime channel. You can tell that the media does not think they are important; which is wrong. One of these parties could be the "King Maker." We should also be allowed to see what they have to say. Besides, between the Leftist (and slightly crazy) LaFontaine, Guido (the gay FDP chief) and the Green-Man Trittin, you KNOW some crazy $hit will be said tonight . . . maybe I will actually stay up for those fireworks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Poor Neglected Blog

Last week I got an email from my Grandfather. "Haven't they buried John Hughes yet?" That is when I realized that my poor blog has taken a beating. It's not the blog's fault really. It sits there patiently day in and day out waiting for me to come back.

Things were very busy in August. I finished up a research project and flew to Toronto last week to make a presentation at the American Political Science Association conference. The trip, presentation and paper were a complete success. However all of the work on my paper has lead to a somewhat new relationship to my computer.

The Laptop is now a "Work Area." It is the old ball and chain. When ever I sit down "for fun," all I want to do is watch John Stewart and check the scores. Writing, especially creatively, has been a bit draining lately. I don't think that I am the only one feeling this way, though. Some of my other expat blogger buddies have also taken it down a notch. I won't mention names; but I do understand.

Anyway, so life goes on. Another politician from South Carolina makes me love my state just a little more. People have made wild and crazy claims about health care in Germany WHICH ARE SIMPLY NOT TRUE. There is an election coming up in Germany soon, which has led to wild and crazy campaign posters ALL OVER THE PLACE.

The Dude has learned to push the chair to the fridge to get out the juice and turn on the stove. Today I caught him trying to stick keys into my office door, which I now lock because otherwise he opens the door and turns on my laptop just to push the mouse around. He notices that not all the keys are the same and I have a sinking feeling it will not be long until he can unlock the door. Also in the Dude's bag of tricks, knowing the difference between blue and green (and saying it), attempting to count "one, two, three," and looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes and saying, "Cookie, bitte." Does not matter if it is 8am and he just had breakfast, I cannot resist, I always cave and give him the damn cookie.

When I was at the conference last week, I went to a panel on internet websites and group mobilization. An older gentleman (how old? older than my dad, younger than my Grandfather) was sitting in my row. He had a mini-laptop on his knees and every few minutes he would furiously punch the keys. I craned my neck and it suspiciously looked like Facebook. Later we were discussing the impact of the 'net on civic participation, he cried out, "Blogging is SO over! Social networks are the future!" It took everything I had not too burst out laughing.

So, fingers crossed, I will get my butt in gear and start posting again.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Goodbye John Hughes

You know when Michael Jackson passed, it was not that much of a surprise. Somehow we knew his story would end tragically and fast. Farrah had had cancer. Bea and Walter, well, they were getting up there in years.

This morning I read that John Hughes died yesterday. He was 59. He had a hart attack while walking down the street. Whoa.

If Michael Jackson was the soundtrack to my childhood, Hughes's movies were the visual. I watched them all . . . many, many times. They remain guilty pleasures. Admit it, if Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful or Sixteen Candles are on TV, you will probably stop and watch part of it.

Almost all of the cultural references that I make come from these movies. It is so strange to think that someone from that part of my life (i.e. my childhood) could die just like that. My feelings today are the same as when Jim Henson passed away. This certainly does not help my apprehension about turning 32 next week.

John Hughes withdrew from Hollywood in the 90s to spend time with his family and run a farm. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, 2 kids and 4 grand kids.

Okay, I will admit . . . I actually have most of these movies on DVD. Tonight I will watch and drink a glass of wine to you John, and a life well lived.

PS I LOVE this video below! I did cry just a bit.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

UPDATED: My Fair State

I actually have been extremely busy lately. The German is going back to work this week and the in-laws have been here almost every day helping us update the heating system. On top of it all I have to finish my conference paper by Friday . . . and it is not done.

But I always have time to be proud of my fair state, South Carolina.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Thank You, South Carolina!
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day


UPDATE: And wouldn't you know it, Mr. Colbert had something to say in defense of our lovely state.

PS I really needed this laugh this afternoon. I finally finished recoding data and finalizing my model and running my tests and printing things out. I sat down this afternoon to enter it all into word and make some pretty tables only to realize . . . I RAN THE WRONG DAMN MODEL. Sigh. Now I have to do it again. Hit me Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily/Colbert - Stephen Defends South Carolina
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Friday, July 17, 2009

Crazy

I admit it. Sometimes I do listen to and/or read news that clearly has a bias to it. For me the key though is humor and reason. Left or right, you have to engage me (not yell at me) in order to get my attention. Thus, George Will is oddly compelling. He is enough to make a girl become a conservative. ("Claire, stop with the craziness!")

Rachel Maddow is my favorite "liberal." She is cute and makes me laugh. I love how she sometimes will be delivering a story with a note of incredulity in her voice as if to say, "Dude, I can't believe it either!?"

When she had on Pat Buchanan yesterday, I did not think that they would agree with each other, but I did not think that I would start banging my head against the computer like I did.

(Note: Rachel is NOT the one who made me want to bang my head against a wall.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things I Should be Blogging About

These days I have my head in a book and my eyes on my laptop. Unfortunately, I have not be able to enjoy the lazy days of summer because I am working on a research paper. I need to finish is by the end of the month in order to have time to edit before my presentation in September.

So I have not blogged about the things that may be note worthy, such as . . .

1. Governor Palin's resignation. I do not care how she spins it, she is quitting her job. Now, she may be quitting her job to pursue another one or because ethics complaints have made it difficult or she is running out of money or she is sick of media scrutiny of her family. But make no mistake, she is quitting. I just do not want to see her in four years running for president. Sometimes you do have to hunker down and keep going in the face of criticism. Clinton did not resign. Heck, even Bush did not resign and lord knows that his numbers were not good at the end. The voters trusted you, Ms. Palin. How are they supposed to trust you again.

2. If she did resign because of media scrutiny, I do understand that. Take the recent Vanity Fair article. It was a model of non-journalism and all around hatchet job. There was nothing new and only innuendo. Sad really.

I make fun of Fox, Rush, Ann C. and the like, but really anyone yelling at me and making stupid remarks annoys me; thus Keith Olbermann also makes my hair hurt and why won't Chris Matthews tone it down a notch? Vanity Fair used to be my favorite magazine, but now I am not so sure.

3. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings are underway providing a bit of political theater for those on vacation. I cannot figure out what Lindsey Graham's problem is. Yesterday he sat like a cat ready to pounce. He asking stupid questions ("Do you know what realism means? What is a strict constructionist?). He does know that she went to law school, right? He called her a bully while bullying her. "Do you have the temperament to be on the court?" Well, she did not throw things at you after 30 minutes of condescending conversation, so I would say that she is covered. By the way, Sen. Graham, would you ask a man those questions?

4. The German is on vacation and able to take on the Dude more often so that I can get some work done. Loving Husband points are starting to add up. Oddly enough, our little one, who would sleep all the time, is going through sleeptus-interuptus stage. Around 1am or 2am he wakes up and starts talking to himself. This goes on for about an hour or two before going back to sleep. Normally he would then sleep until 8am, but these days he is up at 6:50am. You could set your watch by it. Hopefully it will pass soon.

5. I took up a cooking challenge from Christina over at AmiExpat . My Red Berry Pudding (Rote Grütze) is not the exact same recipe that she used. I had four different kinds of berries (blackberries, strawberries, red currants, raspberries) and no cinnamon. Still tasty and all homemade, even the vanilla sauce that made with real vanilla bean!


6. Summer means bathing beauties, and it has been hard getting the Dude out of the water.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hooray for Hannover!

There has been a lot going on behind the scenes of the expat blogging community. Through a democratic process, the next Whiny Expat Blogger Meet-up is scheduled for September 4 - 6, 2009 in Munich . . . and I cannot go. I was very upset that this weekend of fun was scheduled for the only time that I have to do something (i.e. I am presenting a paper at a conference).

In an effort to see some old friends and maybe make some new ones, a few of us decided to have a mini meet up in Hannover. The German thought that a short weekend in Hannover would be the perfect first "family vacation" in which all three of us would sleep in a hotel.

It went . . . great!

Saturday morning we left for Hannover. We took the back roads and made really good time while enjoying the scenery. Just as the Dude had had enough of being in the car (two hours), we arrived at our hotel. The Hotel am Entenfang is actually outside of the city, but close to an SBahn that took us directly into the city. I would definitely recommend this hotel to families. Although not spectacular, our room was HUGE and clean, the reception was modern and airy. Everyone at the reception was very friendly and they put a crib in our room, and the breakfast the next day was fresh and filling.

We got a family package via the Hannover Zoo that was only 105 Euro for our room, breakfast, two tickets to the Hannover Zoo and a complementary bottle of mineral water. We arrived at 9:30am and thought we could at least park the car, but they let us check-in, drop off our bags and freshen up.

Off to the city we headed. We were met at the train station by Mausi and Dixie. Sadly, the rest of the gang (Jen, Alice and G) had to cancel at the last minute. "Should I take it personally?" the German asked. "No, sweetie, you know how it is; kids happen."


The four of us though walked and laughed and talked and were utterly charmed by the Dude. I was actually able to let go and just enjoy myself. If the Dude did not want to sleep, I considered it his problem. However, he is such a good kid, he took two 30 minute naps in his stroller; just enough to recharge his battery. First, we went to the park at the spectacular "new" Rathaus.

Lunch was scheduled at the Block Haus, which was just a short walk away. We went early as we were all starving! The restaurant was also super family friendly. The Dude flirted with the waitress and walked out with free toys!

As nice as the waitress was, she was also one of those Butt-in-skis who comes over to tell you how to parent your kid. The Dude still gets his pacifier as a soothing mechanism, and after he started to get fussy and I tried to finish my lunch, I popped it in. The waitress came over twice (!!) and took it out of his mouth and said, "Now don't you look better." I wanted to say, "It keeps him calm, but if you are comfortable with a screaming baby, so am I."

We headed to the Marschsee next and watched the carp fight over the rest of the Dude's breakfast roll. He got a real kick out of that; kept pointing "Oh! Oh!" As the four of us sat and enjoyed the sun and a beverage, I noticed smell coming from the stroller. Off in search for a changing table I went, but all I found was a shifty bathroom. When God gives you lemons . . .

I proceed to change the Dude while he was still strapped into his stroller. The back of the chair does not go all the way down, but I was able to pull out his butt and take off the diaper. Of course it was a big, stinky one. I used all of the wipes in my bag to get him and the stroller cleaned up. Two elegantly dressed women with large hats walked in. One of them actually wrinkled her nose when she saw the Dude's diaper. As I was about to get defensive, their dog walked into the bathroom and tried to sniff my crotch! That brought them down a notch.

After a lovely afternoon, it was time for us all to head our separate ways. We took the SBahn back to the hotel, and then came the biggest test of the weekend: How to Handle Bedtime.

Because the Dude has slept in his own room since he was 3 months old, I was not sure how he would handle being in a room with mom and dad. Neither of us wanted to go to bed with him at 7pm, which is his normal bed time. So we decided to let him roam the room as we sat on the beds watching TV. By 8pm, he needed to go to bed. We turned off all the lights and put him the crib and laid on our bed. The Dude stood up, stared at us and started crying. Do you blame him?

After 30 minutes, I decided to take a different tactic. The German got two beers and we went into the bathroom and closed the door. We drank beer and read the free newspaper. Within 10 minutes the Dude had gone to sleep. At 9pm I snuck back into the bedroom to go to sleep. Unfortunately, the German's snoring habit was a problem. He decided to take one for the team and sleep in the bathtub.

The Dude slept through the night no problem and I also got at least a good six hours. By 6am the Dude was awake, and I knew I would have to get up. I rolled over and saw the German. Huh? Turns out that the temperature of the bathroom kept going up and by 3am he could not take it anymore. I felt terrible that he did not come into the room earlier.

After showers and breakfast, we headed to the Hannover Zoo. I know that at a year-and-a-half the Dude cannot really appreciate it, but we wanted to do something as a family. It was so much fun!! The giraffes were the most impressive for the Dude, as well as the goats at the petting zoo. A 6 year old was terrified to go in, but our little one has no fear.


The Hannover Zoo is large. Between the feedings, shows, play grounds, boat tour and animals, you could easily spend a day there. But after lunch at 1pm we hit the road and headed home. The Dude slept the entire way.

It was, all around, one of the best ways to spend the 4th of July weekend, by making new memories with my family. There were no fireworks, but I could not have asked for more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sexual Politics: The Part that Involves Actual Sex

You did not think that I forgot about this doofus, did you?

I have done a lot of thinking about Mr. Sanford and his lady problems. In the end I came to a conclusion: I do not think that politician should have to resign his or her post if they cheat on their spouse. If they did, there would not be any politicians left.

When the story first broke, I remembered a clip that I watched on The View. (Why do I watch "The View" online? I don't know. It is like a giant train wreck that I cannot turn away from.) Anyway, the young one, Elisabeth, made the comment, "If someone breaks that most sacred covenant, marriage, how are we supposed to trust him to lead?" Boy, is she going to be in a rude awakening if she ever finds her husband cheating on her.

However, I think her comment is typical of American views regarding politicians and marital fidelity. Americans often expect their politicians to be Übermenschen. These Supermen never cheat on their wives, are not over weight, do not smoke and always put the interest of the little guy first. On the other hand, Americans want politicians who "are just like them." Therein lies the contradiction.

Europeans have a decidedly different view of these matters. Your private life is your private life. Period. Nicolas Sarkozy left his wife and children to marry a supermodel, and he is still President of France. If anything, the French love their new first lady. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was on his third or fourth wife when he was first elected. I am not sure which, It was hard to keep track sometimes.

The Governor of my lovely Bundesland, Lower Saxony, is an even better example. When Christian Wulff was first elected in 2003, his campaign featured large posters of the handsome young politician and his beautiful wife and daughter. In 2006 he left his wife for his new girlfriend and in 2007 he was divorced. By the end of 2007 his girlfriend was pregnant. In January 2008 he was reelected, in March got married, and in May had a son. The only person who found this all a tad strange (i.e. portraying himself as a family man to get elected and then leaving his wife and living with his pregnant girlfriend) was me. The Germans never batted an eyelash.

Sadly, spouses cheat on each other. This does not disqualify a person from being an elected official and is something left behind closed doors. As I approach my 5th wedding anniversary and watch my toddler getting bigger, the black and white view that I had about cheating has gotten a lot grayer.

However, leaving your family, including your four sons, over Father's Day weekend to visit your mistress in Argentina and not tell anyone, which you know will lead to wild speculation, and then using the story of King David to defend yourself . . . well, that just makes you an IDIOT, and may be a reason to step down.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jobs and Kids and yada, yada, yada

It is 1pm on a Sunday afternoon. The Dude got up a little early this morning, so he was pretty tired when I put him down at 11am for a nap. He is still sleeping. My biggest blessing in the world (besides my sexy, super husband) is a baby who LOVES to nap.

So I just spent a few hours working on my research newsletter and putting together some emails for work. Still need to print out the test I am giving in my English class tomorrow, but then I am done for work for the day. I even had about 20 minutes to eat a diet pudding and surf the Internet. I came across this.

Thought provoking and right on so many levels.



Up this afternoon: the pool with the boys. When the Dude goes to bed tonight at 7, I will probably do another hour of work and then sit on my patio with the German and a bottle of wine.

I will never be a tenured professor, but when I think of all that I have, I am completely okay with it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In Memoriam

The stuff I wanted to write about it going to take a back seat for a few hours.

Last night I turned off my computer around 10:15pm. It had been a productive and simple day. The German was flicking through the channels and I went upstairs to bed.

Around 7am I was awoken by the Dude stirring. As always, I went downstairs to get him a glass of milk and put on the morning coffee (or Mama's Juice as we call it). Every morning I turn on my computer and have a quick look at the headlines and email before heading back upstairs to get the boys up.

My landing page, Yahoo, said, "He died too young," and there was a picture of Michael Jackson. Huh? I knew that Farrah Fawcett had died the day before, so I thought they had mixed up the information. But, no, it was true, the King of Pop was gone.

It was very strange. When I told the German, he just sort of stared. We both grew up listening to Michael Jackson. For some he was the Jackson 5, for me was always the guy on the cover of "Bad." The German said to me, "You know I always thought that he would die young and I wondered what it would be like. But this is just unexpected."

Farrah was just a few years before my time, but Michael Jackson's success in the 80's and early 90's, as well as the rise of MTV, were part of the soundtrack of my youth. When everyone was just standing in front of a camara swaying to music, he made music videos into movies.

About seven years ago, when the German and I first met, we hung out a lot at my apartment in Oldenburg. One night we watched the controversial documentary in which he argued that there was nothing wrong with children sharing his bedroom. Back then the German and I wondered aloud about how sad and lost he looked. For a man that had everything, in the end he had nothing.

Say what you will about his private life, but he endured a lot as a child and always soldiered on with his music. Perhaps he did make mistakes, big ones. But in the end, not even music was not enough. He was just too darned tired.

I hope you find your peace, Michael.

I know the words to so many of my songs, so picking the best is difficult, but this is definitly one of my favorites. Hit it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Et Tu, Governor?

Do you know this guy?

So do I. In fact, I voted for him once a long time ago. You KNOW I have got something to say about this. However, I am tried and do not want to get myself all worked up. Therefore, I will be back tomorrow to deal with this insanity.

(I think he looks strangely like Dad-Squared. Although I am confident that Dad-Squared was not in Argentina over the weekend.)

If Only

This would be really good when watching the news these days.

(Shamelessly taken from cuteoverload.com, one of my favorite websites!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We sprechen Dinglish

Before the Dude was even a sparkle in my eye, I made a firm decision to raise my child to be bilingual. I read lots of blogs and even got some books. There are two primary theories. First, the household language stipulates that the entire household speaks one language, usually that which is not the community language outside. Second, the one-parent one-language philosophy argues that each parent should speak their native language with the child. The former is the most popular with bilingual families and what we chose to pursue.

For me this decision was completely natural as it was totally unnatural to speak German to my child. Also, I did not know any songs in German so instead of silence I picked American nursery rhymes. The German speaks German to the Dude.

Because I am the only English speaker the Dude knows, I reinforce the language via books, CDs, and DVDs. Baby Einstein (particularly Baby Noah these days) is very popular in our house. Also, I speak English with the Dude everywhere, not just at home: the local swimming pool, play group, even the grocery store. As a result I speak more English at home at the German has even picked up more. Since giving birth, the amount of German in the home has actually decreased.

Out of this has come a Deutsch-English mix: Dinglish. As I reported, the Dude has indeed started to talk. Most of his vocabulary consists of words that exist in both languages: mama, papa, ball. Some words however are a bit different. I have taught him "thank you." For weeks he would say, "dank du." But now it comes out "danke," i.e. the German form.

His favorite word is "nein." I was a bit sad because I felt that the Dude was not picking up on English. Today he proved me wrong. I went to put him in his car seat so that we could go to the store. When I took his stuffed animal away in order to buckle the belt, he shouted, "No!" I was estatic. Later, after lunch, he looked at his empty plate and raised his palms, "Aww Ga." I think he was trying to say "all gone."

It appears that the Dude knows that Mama has a different language. It is our secret language and thus he must use those words with me. He knows to switch with people who do not use the secret language. Maybe I am just a really proud mom, but there is a light on behind those eyes which makes me very happy.

Over the weekend we had a visitor. A good friend from Canada came to see the sites in Wildeshausen. After that 30 minutes we spent most of the time just hanging out. It blew the Dude's world that someone else spoke the secret language. He was very shy and did not know what to say. But he is after all, my son, so he was able to babble regardless.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I am a big kid now.


I am a big kid now.
Originally uploaded by govt23

Life goes on here in Wildeshausen. Lots of funny things to report, but I cannot seem to get motivated to write. I actually have a list of blogs in my head. Must put them on paper . . . or html . . . or whatever the internet is.

Until then, the Dude just keeps getting bigger and bigger. For those who are counting, and those that are not, he is 16 months old. He can walk, talk, drink out of his cup. A real big kid.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And Germany Goes Down in Flames

No, this post is not about World War II. It is about how completely absurd competitions between countries can be. And no, I am not talking about Germany's embarrassing entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, which involved a stripping Dita Von Tiese.

It was the World's Beard Competition that caught my eye. Watch in wonder and shake your head at the stupidity.



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Monday, May 25, 2009

Inside My Studio

Around the time the Dude was Born, the German and I started to get a few new channels via the satellite subscription service. We initially got the service so that I could watch Notre Dame get pummeled in football on ESPN America (then NASN). But I was happily surprised when I discovered West Wing reruns on FOX.

At first I thought, "How good could FOX be?" But The Practice was there, as well as Lost. Unfortunately when I watch Lost, I feel, well lost. Watching West Wing on Monday nights has become a ritual for me. The German hates it. Not because it is bad, but the English is VERY fast. After a few episodes during which the German would repeatedly ask, "What did he say? What did he say?" and I would get angry and tell him to shut up, we decided it was best that the West Wing be a solo ritual.

RTL Living has also been a nice discovery. There a lot of great cooking shows, although they are dubbed. A few months ago they started showing Inside the Actor's Studio, which has also become a favorite. Sure they are a few years old and have subtitles, but I love hearing English and people talking about one of my favorite subjects: the movies.

Tonight I watched Salma Hayek talk to James Lipton. Boy, she is fantastic . . . and hot.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the end, when Mr. Lipton asks the actors a series of questions. The questionnaire concept was originated by Bernard Pivot, which he adapted from Proust. These simple questions reveal a lot about a person. I am sharing mine with you. Feel free to chime in with your own answers.

1. What is your favorite word?
Hope

2. What is your least favorite word?
C*** I hate the word so much that I can not even spell it.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Conversation and laughter

4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Hunger

5. What sound or noise do you love?
My son's laughter

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
A child in pain

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Scheisse. The German equivalent is so much better. It is longer and you can say it with more feeling.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A professional chef or pastry baker

9. What profession would you not like to do?
A tax accountant

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Not too shabby.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Much Ado about a Speech

When President Obama was announced as this year’s commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame . . . well I am sure you have heard by now. It was a betrayal of monumental proportions to invite the pro-choice Obama to speak at a Catholic university. Never mind that he is the President of the United States; the first African-American president at that.

As a Notre Dame alum, I felt . . . jealous. I will be honest. Jealousy was my strongest emotion. “Why on earth didn’t the President speak at my commencement?!” After 6 years of hard graduate work and writing a 358 page book, the speaker at my graduation was Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation. Granted, Mr. Gregorian did a fine job, however at the time, I only wanted a big, sexy name.

I can honestly tell you that I cannot remember what he said. I also cannot remember what Tim Russert said when I got my MA, and he was a big name. For the record, the former head of the US National Park Service, who gave the commencement address at my undergrad is also a blur. However, I do remember him saying that there are 391 national parks, and I swear to God, he started naming them! He stopped after 10.

My point is this, commencement speakers have two important roles to fill. First, they are the name that you will brag (or not) about later (“Yeah, well so and so spoke at my graduation.”). Second, their speeches should dole out a few words of wisdom and perhaps a few jokes. And they should be short. I do not believe that Obama’s speech will in anyway be “lasting,” “monumental,” or a “deal breaker.”

I do not think that the University of Notre Dame was making any kind of statement when it asked President Obama to give a commencement address. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, Bush all spoke at Notre Dame graduations. And if you can get the President of the United States to speak at your graduation, you get him. The President only gives 2 commencement speeches a year. 2. Wouldn’t you want your university to be one of them?

Certainly the abortion debate resonates on a Catholic campus. But Obama’s stance on war and poverty are totally in line with Catholic social teaching. Father Theodore Hesburgh, former President of the University of Notre Dame and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a strident member of the civil rights movement. I am certain that he will be happy to see President Obama, even though the two may differ on this issue. Notre Dame may be a Catholic University, but it is a university. Debate should be encouraged and not squelched.

When it comes to Presidential speeches, SOMEONE is going to protest. In fact, when Bush spoke at Notre Dame, there was also a protest; an anti-war protest. Come to think of it several of my friends went to that protest.

So, yeah, I am going to watch the speech and be jealous. Those kids have no idea how good they have it. Try to impress your friends with the number of national parks in the US. Does not really work.