Tuesday, November 13, 2007


As I left the labor and delivery ward to recover in another section of the hospital, my nurse gave me a hug and complimented me. "You have carried yourself with such dignity and grace," she said, sounding like she was choking up.

I was touched. That compliment has stayed with me for several days.

I can't choose my trials, but I can choose to be...classy.

George Bernard Shaw was wrong. The difference between a lady and a flower girl IS how she behaves.

Although I certainly appreciated being treated as a lady. The staff provided us as much dignity, privacy, and support as possible.

The best part of the hospital experience was discussing theology, religious history, and politics with a lay Roman Catholic volunteer grief counselor. He came in and started a well-rehearsed spiel about how stupid it is to say "You won't be given more than you can handle." I'm afraid I interrupted with 1 Corinthians 10:13. (Let's hear it for Scripture Mastery! I had the passage memorized, even fifteen years later!) I acknowledged that it said "temptation," not "trial," but I believed the principle applied.

So, after he blinked a bit, he started asking us about our faith. He was obviously expecting a spiritual crisis, and was further surprised to discover that we weren't having one. Emotional crisis, definitely. But not spiritual.

I did really well until he asked about names. At that point I explained about the still-indeterminate gender and started to cry.

He backed off and we fell into a discussion about LDS theology, Catholic theology, the Great Schism, history of Christianity, authority of the Pope, women in the priesthood, married clergy, a potential Vatican III, and politics.

I told him I wouldn't judge all Catholics by Rudy Giuliani if he promised not to judge all Mormons by Mitt Romney. Seemed like a fair exchange.

It had been years since I'd had such a good religious discussion. I found myself enjoying it. Sadly, the cleric apparently decided he couldn't do anything for us and should go minister to others rather than continue to discuss his own personal hopes for married priests in his lifetime.

The second-to-worst part of the experience was sitting in the foyer, waiting for a bed to become available, and watching pregnant women pace the hallways, and newly-delivered mothers wheeled past us with their hours-old babies.

It was at that point Jon and I started doing futoshiki puzzles to distract ourselves.

The worst part of the hospital experience were the first minutes after the baby was delivered.

It happened so quickly. Suddenly I called for the nurse, and within sixty seconds, the baby had emerged. It was almost painless. One nurse took the baby for examination, the doctor, who had been paged, arrived (to late too deliver, even though she came promptly), and the other nurse patted my hand and said, "I'm so sorry."

That was when I started to bawl.

She came out with the amniotic sac still intact. They actually broke my water -after- delivery.

The doctor came to talk to me a few minutes later. She said it was a girl, the cord was wrapped around the neck, there was the tapered section in the cord, there was swelling and discoloration, and her "presentability" was iffy.

So then Jon and I had to decide if we wanted to hold her. I cravenly let Jon hold her and then asked him to tell me if I wanted to hold her or not. By the time he was done, I had calmed down and decided I did want to hold her, even if her condition was...poor.

We called Mom, who came to the hospital and held her briefly before she was whisked away for testing.

My greatest regret in all this is that we could not afford to give her a proper burial. My greatest frustration was that it took over 24 hours for the hospital to give us a coherent answer about how the body would be treated. I shuddered to think of my baby being tossed in a dumpster like so much garbage. Of course, there are bio-hazard issues, but that was how I felt. In the end, she was examined, then autopsied, then incinerated with other medical "waste."

The nurses did treat her body with respect, and I felt reasonably peaceful about letting them take her. But I very much regret we don't have a grave to visit. It just wasn't...practical.

I hate that word. What I wanted to do was move Heaven and Earth. Fight with the insurance companies, fight with the hospital, go into several thousand dollars' worth of debt. Sadly, I just didn't have the emotional (or financial) resources to put into it...and I didn't have time. I begin to see how funeral homes can take advantage of grieving families. With a deadline looming, it's hard to make calm, rational decisions. (Especially while grieving; I've noticed I've had trouble concentrating, choosing a book, even reading a book. The lay Catholic minister called this 'impaired executive function.')

I can only hope Marian will understand.

I think she will. I imagine her as a quiet, gracious, dignified spirit. One who will forgive easily. One who will extend mercy...and grace.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Marian Marguerite Berry

Marian Marguerite Berry was born at 2:15 Saturday afternoon. Jon and I, and later my mother, got to hold her before she was taken away for testing. The cause of death is still not known; however, one section of the cord was malformed, tapering to a much smaller circumferance and then tapering out to a normal size again. The pathologists will investigate that further.

Physically, labor and recovery were easy and uncomplicated. Emotionally is was awful, of course, but I am glad we got to hold her.

We have a sweet picture of her hand. Her tiny but perfect hand was smaller than one section of an adult's finger. She weighed 4.7 ounces and was 7 inches long.

While we waited, Jon and I spent hours playing futoshiki puzzles. (They are like sudoku puzzles, only much cooler. http://www.brainbashers.com/futoshiki.asp) It helped to distract both of us from the stress, and later, me from the pain. The nurses and doctors all commented on our geekiness and took an interest in who was winning the series. At first the score stayed tied, and I led briefly, but the grand total was Jon 19, Gail 16. (We would start the same puzzle simultaneously and see who completed it first.)

I stopped competing once the morphine-like drug kicked in.

The nursing staff and doctors were all very kind. We appreciated their sensitivity and compassion.

I came home this morning (Sunday). I am very tired and sad, and under orders to rest for a few days, but after that I can start ramping up to normal activity level.

I will try to post more details tomorrow, but those are the basics.

I remain grateful for all the kind wishes, concern, and assistance of family and friends.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children"

So many people have expressed concern about my recent and soon-to-be stillbirth, I thought I would post one explanation and refer interested parties to my blog. I hope you understand that I prefer not to tell the story over and over.

A few weeks ago, I thought, "I don't think I'm feeling as much movement with this pregnancy as I did with the others at this stage," but I was only sixteen weeks along and wouldn't have been feeling much anyway. But I paid attention and felt the occasional kick (or so I thought) along with other movement, and didn't think much of it, other than to hope this one would be of a more mild temperament in the womb, unlike Eric who acted like a hyperactive drummer in utero.

After almost three months of continuous nausea, throwing up three and four times a day, I was also beginning to feel better. For the past two weeks I have been counting the vomits per week, not per day, which I took as a good sign. I was in the second trimester! The worst was over! I could actually drive again! And, especially, after all that effort -- not just mine, but also all the family and friends who had been so helpful during my difficult first trimester -- we would soon find out if we were having a boy or a girl.

Sunday night I had a dream that we went in for the ultrasound and discovered the baby was dead, and then Jon and I had to break the news to our boys, our parents, and everyone else. I woke up, poked Jon, and snuggled a bit as I told him about it. He agreed it was an awful dream, but then we shook it off and started our day. We got the boys off to school and then met at the doctor's office for the ultrasound. I was excited.

The ultrasound technician chatted with us as she warmed up the machine and prepped my tummy. We told her we had two boys already and she asked “So are we hoping this one is a girl?”

“Actually,” I quipped, “I had a dream last night the baby was dead. As long as you tell me the baby isn't dead, I'll be happy!”

There was a glare on the screen so I couldn't see the image very well. I thought I caught a spine and ribs, but I wasn't certain. The first time the technician looked at me and then looked away without saying anything, I thought perhaps she couldn't determine the gender yet. The second time, I thought it was a boy and she was afraid of disappointing me. But the third time...

“Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I don't want to tell you.” She paused. “It looks like your dream was right.” The look on her face...

The next few minutes are a blur. I felt like I'd been slapped.

I cried a little. One of the first coherent thoughts I had was, “You mean I have to go through all this again? All that work, wasted!”

It is, indeed, awful to think that after everything I went through, and after all the work everyone else did to help, I will not now get a cute baby to play with and show off as a reward. An hour later, though, I realized that I do not believe anything has been wasted. I believe in eternal families, and in the mercy of our Savior. I believe I will get to raise this child in the Millennium. And while I am saddened to disappoint everyone else, I am still deeply appreciative of how hard the entire family worked to help with this pregnancy, even if it did not work out right now.

Cleaning the house isn't wasted even if it's messy again a day later.

Providing dignified hospice care for a loved one isn't wasted even if he's in a coma.

I can't explain it more logically than that, but on this issue, I have a “the peace of God that passeth all understanding.”

I did think to ask, “Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?” Sadly, we were disappointed in that, too. The technician apologized and said there was an arm in the way and she couldn't get a clear picture. That made it harder. We still don't know if it is a boy or a girl, and it will be a few more days before we find out.

This was certainly not what we expected from the long-awaited mid-pregnancy ultrasound. ("Is it a boy or a girl?" "It's dead.") Very dramatic irony.

The technician made some measurements and estimated that the baby had lived to about 16 weeks. (My last check-up had been at 15 weeks when there was still a clear, strong heartbeat.)

There was no obvious sign of what had gone wrong. It is likely we will never know what happened. I do console myself that while I didn't take my prenatal vitamins faithfully -- what was the point if I knew they would make me gag and throw up? -- at least I didn't drink alcohol, abuse drugs, smoke, or engage in other risky behaviors. I spent a few minutes saying "I'm sorry Jon! It's my fault!", only to realize that I didn't really believe that, either. It's nobody's fault; it's just one of those things.

A second-trimester miscarriage is somewhat unusual. Jon and I were given the option to have a routine D&C or to induce labor. We chose the latter, and it feels right. Since we have a choice, we would rather deliver the baby intact.

The plan is to induce labor on Friday. I don't know what to expect for a recovery. The doctor estimated two or three weeks.

The Relief Society has been wonderful, bringing meals, babysitting, helping me clean my house, and more. Our families have been very supportive.

Jon and I are deeply saddened, but I think that so far we are working through the grieving process appropriately. Grief is hard work, but it is better than any alternative, like lingering bitterness.

We have explained the situation to the boys. I told them “The baby growing inside my tummy died. This means that instead of waiting five months to play with the baby, you will have to wait approximately a hundred years, instead.” They seem to understand that the baby isn't coming anymore, but it also doesn't seem to have sunk in. We aren't pushing it, but neither are we concealing anything. I told Danny today that Daddy was sad. He asked “Mommy, are you?” “Yes,” I answered, “I am sad about the baby.” Then Danny asked, “Will Daddy hold your hand?” “Yes,” I said, “We have been snuggling and holding hands to help each other feel better.” I asked if Danny was sad and he said “No!” cheerfully and ran off to play.

We are very grateful for everyone's support, concern, and condolences.

The scripture in Genesis about Eve bringing forth children in sorrow has always bothered me until today. I thought perhaps it meant that she would scream “This was a mistake!” while in transition.

Today I realized that Eve's children were mortal, and subject to pain, infirmity, and death. Perhaps she suffered through miscarriages and fatal childhood illnesses, only to be bitterly disappointed when a healthy adult son died at the hand of another. Certainly watching helplessly while children suffer from sickness, or consequences of bad choices, is another form of sorrow.

I am about to bring forth a child in sorrow, too. But sorrow is not regret.

And now I have a deeper understanding of the scripture.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tantalizing Tidbits


I have been out diving into life, experiencing it fully, instead of just writing about it. Or watching someone else have a life on TV.

In the last few days I have been to the Viktuelenmarkt, several bookstores, St. Peter's Kirche, a -really- tall tower, a German mall, and the Residenz.

I have lots to report, but I will have to get caught up later, because right now Jon and I are trying to get ready to leave town. Hotel reservations, train tickets, packing, last-minute errands, etc.

I thank you for your understanding!

Hopefully I can get caught up again on Sunday. Or else I could be more concise and drop mere tidbits without augmentation. An example:

"What part of '14 consecutive flights of stairs' don't you understand?"

In Germany, milk in cardboard is always a bad idea.

"I bet belike and vielleicht are the same word!"

"Ah, non, mon mari arbeitet--aaaargh!" ('No, my husband' in French and then 'works' in German. Followed by a sound of primal frustration at linguistic bleedover.)

"'Rococonuts.' Hahahahaha!"

"Wow! No money changers!"

"Munich has obviously changed mayors."

Does this whet your appetite for more? Do you long to hear the stories behind those quotes? If so, pray that I have a really boring vacation, and that I get home early every night, disappointed by the sights of the day, but at least able to get caught up on my blog!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Der Ritter und der Drache (The Knight and the Dragon)

Tuesday, June 26

Es war gestern sehr windig. (It was very windy yesterday.)

I found the most adorable book in German!

I slept in and let Jon leave without me. Later I got up, worked on my blog on my laptop (I can compose it there and then upload it at the Internet cafe), and then wandered out.

There was a huge problem with the trains, which snarled traffic for hours. I think that gusts of wind derailed a train, not seriously, but enough that it jumped the tracks and blocked traffic. When I realized I would be waiting for another hour or two, I wandered into a local bookstore.

There was a cute book about a little girl who is being stalked by a dragon and ultimately fights back. The illustrations were funny. It was definitely in the "There's a monster under the bed!' category. Now all I need is a cute three-year-old little girl to read it to.

I finally fought my way downtown and visited the Frauenkirche. I even took some pictures. I know my blog lacks photos, but hopefully I can add them in retroactively once I get back to the U.S.

Today (Wednesday), I was hoping to wander about visiting churches and maybe the Residenz, but the weather has not been cooperating. It is pouring down rain outside, so I am researching castle hotels instead.

Because of the train snafu, Jon and I didn't go out last night. We managed to get a train back to the hotel, where we holed up and did vacation planning instead. This consisted of me saying "Would you rather see Berlin or Prague?" and Jon saying "Whatever makes you happy, dear."

What a nice man! You see why I indulged him in the Deutsches Museum!

I decided to turn off the lights early, while Jon was in a different partition doing kakuro puzzles. Inspired by my reading, I started babbling at him adorably in German. He could understand me, but he answered in English. It was very cute.

Here is a sample:

Gail: Aaaaiiii! Liebe, es gibt ein drache!
Jon: [calmly] A dragon? Where?
Gail: Unter das Bett! [whimpers cutely]
Jon: Are you sure it's under the bed?
Gail: Ja! Er hat gesagt!
Jon: What if the dragon just pretending to be there?
Gail: Aber er möchtet mir essen!
Jon: How do you know he wants to eat you? Did he say so?
Gail: Ja! Er hat gesagt, "Ich habe, nicht ein baarenhunger, aber ein drachenhunger! Ich werde dir essen!"
Jon: [patiently] Yes, but what if he's lying about eating you?
Gail: Aber, ob er richtig ist, denn ist das wirklich shrecklich!
Jon: Hmmmmm
Gail: Es ist zu...[searches for German word and fails]...risky. Und ich müss jetzt in die Toilette gehen!
Jon: [sighing] All right, I will come protect you. I will stand here by the bed with my fork and keep the dragon at bay.
Gail: [leaping out of bed and running for the bathroom] Danke, liebe! Du bist mein Ritter!
Jon: Yes, I am a very impressive knight, with my trusty fork.
[Gail finishes up in the bathroom and then takes a flying leap into bed]
Jon: See? Not even a singed toe!
Gail: [rubbing her forehead where she hit the headboard] Ja, aber habe ich meinen Kopf verletzt!
Jon: Well, go to sleep, and your head will feel better in the morning.

Isn't he adorable?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ich kann Deutsch sprechen, aber Bayern nicht verstehen


I walked Jon to work, and then went to Ostbahnhof where I bought, not a calling card, but a calling receipt with phone number and pin to use.

Then I went to the Internet café and paced outside until it opened at 10. I was really hoping for an email about my boys…and it was there! Yay!

It turns our Eric has a tummy virus and has been vomiting and having diarrhea. You can imagine this played further on my maternal guilt! I felt sorry for Eric, and even more sympathetic for Linda, who had to clean up the messes.

Es tut mir leid! (I’m sorry!)

Still, it was a long and juicy email about everyone’s activities, and I did feel better after reading it. It sounds like the boys are having fun and being spoiled rotten by doting grandparents. 

Linda said that both boys had exhibited some allergies, but have been taking Claritin for Children and seem to be doing fine in that regard.

Jon finally invited to meet him for lunch. (As I explained to him, what’s the point in having me as a trophy wife if he never shows off the trophy?)

When I got off the train at Campeon, I was on the opposite side of the platform, in a small neighborhood. I took a minute to fix my hair before walking under the tracks to find Jon. An old woman stopped me and said, “Sie haben die schoneste haar.” (You have the prettiest hair!) I was flattered! Pretty eyes and pretty hair! I should come to Munchen more often! I said “Dankeshon!” and this time, I didn’t worry about inappropriate flirting! She asked me if I worked for Qimonda, and I said, no, but my husband worked there and I was meeting him for lunch. Actually, I blanked on the word for lunch (Mittagessen), and I said “we’re going to eat together.” She said something and I had to ask her to repeat it. Then she asked if I was English. “Aha!” I thought, “She didn’t assume I was American! She heard my accent, and realized I’m not native, but apparently my German is good enough that she did not assume I was one of the swaggering linguistically imperialistic Americans! Woo hoo!” This, almost, was as nice a compliment as the hair!

I met Jon and his boss, Swen, for lunch. The Infineon cafeteria is large and the food was good.

(I should explain that Campeon, the site where Jon works, is a new facility of many buildings, owned by Infineon. Qimonda leases two buildings there.)

I tried speaking in German a little, but didn’t get very far. Mostly we spoke in English. Swen grew up in East Germany, near Leipzig, and he had to learn Russian in school as well. Swen also gave me excellent directions to the V-markt, a large grocery/department store that’s rather like a German Walmart. I went there after lunch and bought a fan and some ice cream to help combat the heat.

Swen did say a few things in German, kind of testing to see if I’d understand. Between Jon and me, we could mostly figure it out. Swen said that he can speak English, but it’s harder to write emails in English without making at least a few grammatical mistakes. I sympathize! I offered that he could send non-sensitive emails to me first, and I’d be happy to proofread! He said, “Maybe I’ll send Jon emails in German and just ask you to translate them!”

German construction doesn’t believe in air conditioning. Even at Campeon, a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, they don’t have it. German windows come with different settings, which occupants use to facilitate airflow. This raises the…


Is it terrible that I am being a snooty, spoiled American? I expect even a low-end hotel in the States to have air conditioning and a middle-grade hotel also to provide some kind of Internet access.

At this hotel, and in most across Germany, they charge exorbitantly. I would have to pay 20 euros a day for access in my room.

I respect the European commitment to halt global warming. Very admirable. However, my room doesn’t even have a –fan-. Apparently the custom here is to crack windows a tiny bit during the day to allow minimal airflow, and then open them as soon as you get home. But this leads to my next gripe, which is that the windows don’t have a way to stay open! I have to use a heavy packpack as a doorstop.

I like and respect a lot of German customs, but, darn it, I am a spoiled American brat, and I am whining about certain conditions here! I am in Internet withdrawal!

And the hotel doesn’t have cable.

I try to speak the language. I try to respect local customs. I don’t eat on the train. I don’t plop down on the floor. I try to recycle my water bottles. I admire their efficiency, economy, industry, transportation system, window boxes, regional identity, and more.

But am I a terrible person for thinking that, in this, I am dealing with a bunch of Bavarian barbarians?

Go ahead, comment. Tell me what an ungrateful brat I’m being! (I am still thrilled to be here. Plus the fan from V-markt really helps.)

I will stop whining now. This concludes the Ethical Dilemma of the Day.

Regarding TV, I get three corny local stations without much content. I have no desire to watch German soap operas and German talk shows. One station seems a bit like PBS. I watched its “learn French” program for a bit, and it was pretty good. Low budget and corny, but effective enough. I could understand it quite well. I switched it off, though, because I’m trying to avoid language bleed-over. I keep catching myself using sign language. I was explaining to Jon about the verb “wechseln,” and I noticed I had signed “change” at the same time. Fascinating phenomenon, I’m sure.

Will (from church) met me at Campeon around 6:30. Jon still hadn’t materialized, so I walked into the main security/receptionist building at the front of campus and, in German, explained the situation and asked if I could call Jon. The receptionist kept grinning like she was trying not to giggle. She looked like…an amused parent when a two-year-old says something unintentionally funny. But she understood what I wanted! She looked up Jon’s contact information and called the office where he works, spoke to someone (we’re still not sure who) and said, “Is Jon Berry there? His wife is here waiting? Yes? Okay, thanks!” and then told me he was on his way. She smiled in amusement the whole time, but it was a friendly grin. Will, watching, said he was very impressed. “I had no idea you were fluent!” he said. “I’m not!” I answered. I explained that my German works only half the time. “So I’m due to look like an idiot if I try to order at dinner,” I added.

We drove into the Zentrum (city center) to a nice restaurant. Will’s car, a black BMW, has a really cool GPS system. I thought it was awesome; Jon was almost drooling. It kept saying “In 30 meters, turn right” and other helpful directions. Plus a map display. There are limits, though. When we arrived at the restaurant, it said “You have arrived at your destination. You are in a parking-restricted zone.” “NOW she tells me,” sighed Will ruefully, as he searched for side-street parking. The system also did not help us find the car once we were outside of it.

I had explained that we needed three separate checks, but when we arrived, Will announced that he would pay for himself and for me (Awww) and that Jon could just expense account his own meal. He said it was a kind of honeymoon present. It was very sweet!

Will has just started taking German classes and he practiced on us a little. He studied Italian in the MTC. Like me, he complained that in romance languages, you can almost always guess the article based on the pronunciation and spelling of the noun, but in German, its brute force memorization. I did tell him that the last morpheme of a compound word determines the article for the entire word, which he and Jon were grateful to learn. (In simpler terms, it means that any word that ends in “Haus” (house) will always be the neuter “das”.)

We discussed scouting and other topics and had a lovely time! We had a bit of trouble finding the car afterward, and I kept up a running sound track. “How long need we wander…” I sang as we tried another street. It was drizzling, so naturally I had to try “Singin’ in the rain…” We passed a cheerful riot at the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s quintessential, 400-year-old pub. (“Eins, zwe, drei, vier, lift your glass and DRINK your bee-ee-eer…”)

I also tried reassuring both men, who were a little embarrassed by their minor navigational difficulties. “I know!” I exclaimed, “We are not all silly, it’s just the car has been towed!” Another time I teased, “You could always stop and ask for directions! Walk up to a drunk stranger and say ‘Excuse me, do you know where I parked my car?’”

Hehehe. It was an exciting adventure, and fun.

When we found the car, I sang “Hallelujah!” Naturally.

After we got back to the hotel, Jon and I had an FHE activity. We used the calling ‘card’ I’d purchased and called Idaho. Neither boy was very talkative, but we confirmed they were both okay. We talked to Linda a lot about what they’d been doing. After that I felt much better. 

This is not an ethical dilemma, but it is a difficult question. I want to have a dialogue, an open forum of discussion with you, my readers, about what I ultimately choose.

I sound like Hilary Clinton about her campaign song.

I have been inspired. It is self-evident that I must find a stuffed animal here, and bring him or her home with me. This animal will, naturally, speak only German, which means the boys will need to practice, or ask for translation, every time they interact. The question is, “What animal most represents Germany? Which is the ideal animal to rescue and take back to the freedom and democracy of the Papizan chair? An alpine donkey? A churchmouse? Bears are very rare here now. A dragon? (Of course, they’re even more rare, sad to say.) I saw a cute mouse in V-markt with a piece of cheese. I saw another adorable-looking mouse who made irritating yodeling sounds, which disqualified him.

I saw an adorable Krokodil in Hertie, a big department store downtown. Now, crocodiles are hardly indigenous to Deutschland, but I suppose I could fabricate a back story about how he was sold into slavery as a baby and needs to be rescued.

Make suggestions! Post comments! Vote!

I close with two cute Danny stories. Linda conveyed a message from Danny to me. He says that he is eating a lot and growing faster than Eric. Now, I know that Linda is a good cook. But anyone who can get my Danny to eat a lot is a miracle worker!

One morning Danny requested waffles and he wanted something on them. Linda thought it sounded like “mountains” but she couldn’t make it out. She said, “Danny, will you show me?” He nodded and walked to the refrigerator. He peered and looked and searched, and finally said, “I guess Mommy forgot to send it.” (Linda later realized it was margarine.)

I note with satisfaction that I am now caught up. I don’t know how long this situation will pertain, but I am rather smugly pleased for now. –ed

Also, Mom (Homer) – I noticed your post yesterday. Thanks. Jon and I are still discussing it and we’ll let you know soon.

Holy Harmonies, Batman!


Jon and I slept through the alarm. We woke up and rushed to get ready for church. Naturally, we had to wait almost twenty minutes for a train. (They come less frequently on Sundays, which I respect.) This snowballed. We had to wait for the correct subway line. And then we had missed to right bus, so we had to wait even longer for it to loop back.

We arrived at church 40 minutes late. We missed the Sacrament. :( The talks were good, though, and the other classes were excellent. They are called a ward, but really they’re a small branch. They were hurting for music. During a hymn, I started trying to sing harmony, and it didn’t work! I listened carefully for a moment and realized the pianist was playing out of the simplified hymnbook. It was sad; “Abide with me” has some lovely subtle harmonies, which were all ruined by the more brute-force major-key-plunking approach. (Not the pianist’s fault, just unfortunate.)

We ran into Will, the former Raleigh Stake Clerk, who also works for Qimonda. He’s the head of their accounting division and is now living full-time in Munich, though his wife, 11-year-old twins, and 8-year-old son are still in Raleigh. He seemed lonely and glad to see Jon, whom he knew from both church and work in Raleigh. He apologized that he couldn’t invite us over for dinner, explaining that his apartment was tiny and also bare of groceries. (He travels a lot.)

I suggested that we meet for dinner at a restaurant, and he liked that idea. He has a car and gave us a ride back to our hotel, which was very sweet since it was on the other side of the city.

Jon and I agreed to spend the rest of the day…resting.

I worked on my blog some, I tried to nap (but it was hot), I determined that I couldn’t get free Internet access even in the hotel lobby (*pout!*).

It was a quiet and relaxing day. My maternal guilt kept increasing, though. I decided to buy a phone card Monday morning and call my boys for FHE Monday night. After that, decision, I felt much better.

Sadly, I still did not sleep well. The pillow and bed were uncomfortable, and the room was hot.


Is it wrong to ride public transportation on the Sabbath, even if it’s the only way of getting to Church? Technically, it requires people to work (drivers of buses, for instance), which is the reason we’re given for avoiding certain activities like shopping.
Personally, I don’t buy the “making someone else work” argument very much. We use electricity, which means there’s a person pushing switches at the power plant. We use water. We listen to the radio, although that is purely passive (the radio would be broadcasting even if a glitch meant it had no listeners that day).

A better argument is not to transact business on the Sabbath. But some people don’t have a weekly card and buy individual fares.


Ten Miles of Exhibits

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I have sudden sympathy for men whose wives drag them shopping.

Actually, I liked the Deutsches Museum. Very impressive. I especially enjoyed stealing a kiss deep in a mine shaft!

My problem was that after only twenty minutes, my feet and back were aching. Recurrent from all the walking I’d done the night before. I kept trying to follow Jon around and listen as he talked excitedly about every single display. Finally I realized that I didn’t need to be a 1950s era housewife, hanging upon his every word. I explained to Jon that I was feeling tired, and we worked out a deal wherein I sat down in each room while he explored in detail, and then he’d come get me if there were anything particularly cool he wanted to show me. That arrangement worked out much better.

I read in a travel book later that the museum has the equivalent of 10 miles of exhibits. No wonder I was in agony!

I was happy to indulge his inner little boy engineer, of course. He is indulging me in just about everything else on this trip, so it only seems fair that he get to explore a world-class technology museum in painstaking detail.

I was particularly fascinated by the movies about metal casting. The process whereby they create a Styrofoam form, insert it into a mold, and pour molten metal into it, vaporizing the Styrofoam and creating a perfect, complex, 3D metal creation was amazing! (It didn’t hurt that I sat down for half an hour to watch it. Aaaah.)

The air and space section was also fun. We laughed at the signs all over the soyuz capsule reading “Help! Man in side! Pull this tab!” [sic] in several different languages.

I also got to tell Jon about the Forklift that Went to the Moon. On Father’s Day, the Washington Post ran an article about the curators of the Smithsonian Air & Space museum. These professionals claim that, based on their anecdotal observation, dads completely fabricate answers to their childrens questions two or three times as often as moms.

Their favorite example:

Child: What is that?
Mom: I don’t know. Let’s go look it up.


Child: What is that?
Dad: That’s a special space capsule that has been to the moon!

(It was, in fact, a forklift the staff used to move about heavy displays.)

Jon agreed this was funny.

I had another “German language” moment in the museum. We went into the room on electricity. Very cool displays. Their special feature is that they can create lightning—not just wimpy sparks, but actual, impressive lightning—in the room. (They ban pacemakers there.)

I noticed that their demonstration didn’t start on time, and I wandered over to read a sign that had been posted on the door. I read it and thought, “The technician defected? What, the only lightning expert has gone over to work for the North Koreans or something?”

A few minutes later I read it again and realized, “Oh! There’s a technical –defect-! Something is broken and they can’t do it today!”

It was still disappointing, though.  We are actually planning to go back next Saturday. Poor Jon has been trying for years to explore the Deutsches Museum, only to be frustrated each time. This time we spent almost five hours, and only covered a little over half the exhibits. Wartburg Castle can wait!

I hated to tear Jon away (although both of us had aching backs and feet by mid afternoon), but I pointed out that in Germany grocery stores close early and he needed to buy groceries for the Sabbath.

I think they’ve revised the labor laws here, because a bunch of stores were open until 8 p.m. In 2003, we went looking for a grocery store around 5 or 6 p.m. and couldn’t find –anything-. That led to the famous poopy-diaper, ox-in-the-mire, unsuccessful-Sabbath-breaking episode.

Still, I’m glad we erred on the side of caution.

I’m so accustomed to Jon paying for everything when we’re together. I was taken aback when I added some items to the basket and he said, “You’ll have to pay for those yourself.” It took me a moment, but then I realized he was trying to keep his expense account for work separate from our finances. I’m glad my husband is honest.  We agreed to split the cost of a bottle of milk, though, and I let him have a taste of my Apfel Streussel, and he let me have some of his Kasekuchen (cheesecake).

As we were riding back to the hotel to put perishables away in our small fridge, we spotted to missionaries. I pounced and asked, “Enschuldigung Eltern, wissen Sie veilleicht wo gibt es—“ I paused, trying to think of the word for “ward”.

One of the Elders, looking pained, said, “You can speak English to us.” The indignity, of course, was that it turned out he was Swedish, but spoke perfect English. Still, they gave us their phone number. I called them later that evening to get directions to the English ward.

A complaint: the meetinghouse locator only gives an address and times. It doesn’t specify which ward is which, nor does it give phone numbers. Until stumbling on the Eltern, we had no way of knowing if we should arrive at 9 a.m., or at 2.

We took the groceries back to the hotel, and then went back out briefy. There is a large bookstore at Karlsplatz. I found another Baby Blues anthology in German! I’ve been reading it, and I generally get the punchlines about half the time. Not too bad!

I really like the “Comic Book and Child Movie” method for acquiring a foreign tongue. It is at least more fun than lots of flashcards and drills.

We also found some DVDs for the children. “Winnie the Pooh” is educational as long as it’s in German, right?

Standing in that bookstore, I began to understand how working mothers buy lots of toys as a substitute for time. Saturday evening I started feeling guilty about how long I’d been away from my children. I started missing them, too. It is so much easier to navigate trains without them, but I found I rather wished I could show them things.  I also found myself loading up with books and DVDs, although in this case, it wasn’t entirely guilt expiation, it was also enthusiasm “Ooh, this looks fun! I bet he’d like this one!”

In fact, I had such a pile, a woman walked up to me and asked where something was in German. She thought I was an employee. I said, “Es tut mir leid aber ich arbeite hier nicht.” (Grammatical query: Mom, I wasn’t supposed to switch the word order in the second clause because they’re both independent, right? It’s not a “dass” clause.)

I have noticed that Germans never just plop down on the floor. I have tried to remain standing at train stations and in other stores. That night, though, my feet and back were exhausted. I had a pile of books to sort through, and I finally plunked down in a corner of the kids section. “I’m just going to go ahead and act like a spoiled imperialistic American!” I thought.

A store employee came and yelled at me politely. Sigh.

Anyway, Jon winnowed me down somewhat. It was a good thing he did, because, like most stores in Deutschland, they didn’t accept credit cards! (Or debit.) How can a civilized G8 country with an amazing train system function without credit cards, I ask? Of course, I’m all in favor of avoiding consumer debt, but it’s still eerie. At least there are more ATMs now, which makes getting local currency easy. I remember all those German lessons about going to the bank and exchanging dollars the old-fashioned way. Of course, my German textbook also says that East and West Germany are two separate countries.

I will close with the…


The prevailing symbol of Munich seems to be its amazing beer steins. Small ones, huge ones, encrusted, engraved, 3D relief ones. Pewter or brightly painted. Images of Neuschwanstein, or the Frauenkirche.

Would it be wrong to buy one as a memento? Would this send the wrong message to the children? We drink Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider in wine-shaped bottles on occasion. Where would I use a stein? On my mantle? As a pencil holder at my desk?
Would owning a beer stein subtly or symbolically glorify the culture of alcohol, even if we never drink any?

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Sie haben shöne Augen."

Friday, June 22

Oh. My. Goodness. Some random guy on the train tried to pick me up!

Friday morning I woke up and got ready for the day. Jon gets breakfast at the hotel, but it would cost me 16 Euros to eat there so I decided to grab something later. I did dress nicely and put on a little makeup—light blush and lipstick--because I wanted to make a good impression when I went with him to work.

The Campeon site is one train stop away from the hotel. He showed me around the campus, then went inside his building. I tracked and hunted down breakfast and an Internet café, respectively. (2,5 euros for an hour, much better). I checked the comics, composed email, wrote a special message to my boys, and updated my blog.

It was cold and rainy out, so I went shopping and bought myself a gray sweatshirt. It looked warm and comfy and brought out the color of my eyes.

Apparently this was a mistake, because the next time I boarded the train, I started getting unusual male attention.

Here is the story, in a different format than usual. It was also a nightmare to format in a simple text editor, and I will clean it up later, after I get back to the US.

When I first got on, I noticed it was a crowded train with few available seats, so I decided to stand. Just then, a man made room for me. “That was nice,” I thought, and sat down.

“Danke,” I said to him.

“Bitte,” he replied.

A moment later I noticed an Asian man sitting across from me kept staring at me. I’d glance at him in surprise and catch him staring, and he’d look guilty away, but a minute later I’d catch him staring again.

“Wow, that’s odd,” I thought.

The Asian guy got off at the next stop. As soon as he left, the man next to me, the one who had made room, said, “Sie haben schöne Augen.” (You have pretty eyes.)

I was very surprised, but flattered. “…Dankeschon!” I said. (Thank you very much!) But I quickly added, “So sagt auch meinen Mann!” (My husband says the same thing!)

That will solve it,” I thought. “Now he knows I’m married and won’t flirt any more.” I was also proud of myself for managing such a surprising conversation auf Deutsch. I can’t say which pleased me more.

I was just starting to replay his comment in my head. “
Was he explaining that was why the Asian guy was staring at me?” I thought, “Or is he using one of the most cliché pick-up lines in history?” Of course, I flattered myself he was sincere, but still.

But then this guy started talking to me again. “Es is sehr kalt,” he commented. (It is very cold.)

Well, the weather is a safe enough topic for strangers. “Ja, stimmt,” I said. “Ich habe das [I pointed at my sweatshirt] jetzt gekauft weil es so kalt ist.” (“That’s true. I now bought this (sweatshirt) because it’s so cold.”) “
Aaargh!” I thought, “Not ‘jetzt’! That means ‘now’. ‘Recently’ or ‘just’…how do I say those? Aaargh!” In retrospect, I could have said “heute,” or “today." But, you know, real-time conversations get messy. That’s part of the agony and ecstasy, like doing a live piano performance rather than recording it.

Speaking of the ecstasy of real-time performance, I realized I was having an actual conversation with a native German, and so far, he hadn’t asked if I was foreign! Spurred by my success, I thought, “
I need input! More data! Surely it wouldn’t hurt to ask him something safe so I can keep practicing my conversational skills?

I asked, “Wo gehen Sie?” (Where are you going?)

That, too, appears to have been a mistake, because he gave me a long list of errands (which I did not follow very well). He noticed I was lost and asked something. I can’t reconstruct the German, but the gist was, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Nein,” I admitted, “Ich bin Amerikanerin.” (No, I’m an American.)

He asked where I was going. I said I was going to Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to shop and wander around. I said “fussgangen,” and then immediately started thinking, “
Wait, I don’t think that’s a real verb. ‘Fussganger” means pedestrian. Should that have been ‘Ich werde zu fuss gehen?’ Probably should have just said ‘Ich werde wandern.’”

Now, it is remotely possible that my mention of going by foot spurred his chivalric instincts which is why he said what he did next. It is also just barely possible that he thought I was hinting for a ride. But I doubt it. In any case, he returned to his list of errands and added, “Kommen Sie mit?”

I can’t possibly have understood that correctly,” I thought. “It sounded like he was inviting me to go with him! But I didn’t hear ‘mir’ (me) in there.” (Likely this involved some grammatical slang, the equivalent of "Wanna come?" But it sounded, to my insufficiently acclimatized ear, like "Come you with?" instead of "Would you care to come along?" or "Will you come with me?")

I blinked. “Enschuldigung?” I asked. (Excuse me?)

He said something like “Mitkommen blah blah weisst du?” (The verb ‘to come with’…you know?)

I was astounded. I had heard him correctly!

“Ja, ich verstehe,” I said. (Yes, I understand.) Technically, that wasn’t true, but I certainly was getting the general idea! A few seconds later my brain processed that he had switched to the familiar. “
Wait a minute!” said my overtaxed brain, struggling desperately to run several linguistic applications in real-time while also trying to analyze data backing up in the input buffer, “Who does he think he is, using the familiar on a complete stranger? He doesn’t even know my name! Does he think I won’t notice, or does he not care?

Apparently my scheduler malfunctioned, because a lower-priority process got undue processing time. A tiny part of my brain noted dryly, “
You know, in French, there are actual verbs for ‘use the familiar’ and ‘use the formal.’ If we were speaking French, I could look at him haughtily and say, 'Vousvoyez-moi!' (Use the formal with me.)” Sadly, this tangent so overloaded my poor CPU that I couldn’t think of a way to express that idea gracefully in German.

Meanwhile, he was repeating invitation, “Kommst du mit mir?”

I managed a reply! “Danke, aber nein,” I said firmly. (Thanks, but no.)

I think it was then that he thought of inquiring about my husband. “Dein Mann, ist er aus Deutschland?” (Is your husband from Germany?)

“Nein, er is auch Amerikaner,” I said. (No, he’s also American.)

Now, perhaps you are shocked that I was still speaking to this guy after he hit on a married woman. At the time, I decided, “
You know, I’m getting off in two more stops. I’ve made it clear I’m married…and, drat it, I want to practice some realistic German!

It is true. I used the guy with terrible pick-up lines for his conversational skills.

He asked why we were in Munich. I explained that Jon was here on business. “Mein Mann arbeitet,” I said, “…und ich arbeite nicht!”) (My husband is working…and I’m not!)

He started babbling about something else. I noted, in a detached sort of way, that I was now catching about one word in five. I smiled and nodded, but did not really try to follow very closely. Finally he asked, “Verstehen Sie mich?” (Do you understand me?)

“Ich verstehe ein bisschen,” I said. (I understand a little.) I explained I’d studied German only two years in high school, but I’d had a very good teacher.

Then we stopped at Hauptbahnhof and I exited. “Also, Tschus!” I said. (Bye!)

“Tschus!” he answered.

He made no effort to stalk me. It occurred to me belatedly that at the end of the conversation, he had switched back to the formal. “I guess I managed to convey the idea that I am unavailable,” I thought, with satisfaction.

Then the reality sank in. I had just managed a prolonged conversation in German, and I had handled myself pretty well!

Then the other reality sank in. “Two guys on the S-bahn thought I was pretty! One of them tried to pick me up! That never happens to me! Even when I was twenty, it never happened to me? WOW!” (It's amazing how much younger and prettier I felt without two children in tow!)

I wanted to start singing, “I feel pretty…” in the middle of the station shopping plaza, but I controlled myself.

Then I started imagining how I would tell this story in sign language, and my brain exploded. Switching between two languages is hard. Toggling among three causes a headache. Desperately juggling four =>> blue screen of death.


Is it wrong to feel giddy and flattered because someone other than Jon flirted with me? I don’t think my behavior was wrong—I didn’t encourage his flirting—but I couldn’t help feeling a bit smug afterward. I also explained the entire thing promptly to Jon, looked him in the eye, and told him my conscience was clear. Jon was a bit jealous, but not upset with me, and I noticed he was very attentive all evening! Comments?


My German was also good enough that I understood when the S-bahn driver said that everyone needed to disembark at the next stop. I didn’t understand what the problem was, but I got off and found an alternate route. It turns out there’s construction going on which means some re-arranging of train tables. It is slightly inconvenient, but not horribly so.

I met Jon at work and we wandered around Marienplatz and went out to dinner. It was a nice Friday night date. My feet were aching by the time we got back to the hotel, but my conscience was clear--mostly!--and I slept the sleep of the just.

Editorial note: I am working through the backlog slowly. Hopefully tomorrow I can get caught up through Saturday (Deutsches Museum) and Sunday (Church).

New Feature: The Ethical Dilemma of the Day

Thursday, June 21

I woke up around 5 a.m., Raleigh time, to the cabin lights coming on. The crew served something that might, very charitably, be called breakfast, and I dug around in the movie selection this time. I found Beauty and the Beast and streamed it in German. This time I was doing a much better job at following the language. I was very impressed at how well they had translated the lyrics into Deutsch. The singers were also quite good. Sadly the plane began it’s descent and shut off all extra electronics while I was halfway through “Be Our Guest.” I’ve been looking in stores for a DVD copy, but it appears that Germany, like America, has fallen prey to the Disney tactic of pulling all copies to create artificial demand in advance of their next “re-re-re-release special bonus anniversary addition with all-new features!”

The Amsterdam airport was interesting. Every time I tried to buy something, like a cute china mug with a windmill, the sales clerk asked to see my boarding pass and passport. When I bought water, the clerk asked if I intended to drink it before or during the flight. I said, “Uh…during?” thinking, “What, is this an either-or question?” Apparently it was. She put the bottle in a sealed plastic bag and told me not to open it before take-off. I gather a new EU regulation forbids taking any kind of open liquid container as carry-on.

Navigating the airport was a bit eerie. I kept trying to read the Dutch signs, or listening to Dutch conversations, and thinking, “It’s almost German, but not quite…” I kept thinking about the linguistic idea of mutual incomprehensibility: farmer B in the Alps speaks an odd “mixed” dialect and can understand merchant A from Milan and also merchant C from Zurich, but merchants A and C can’t understand each other. But, as my mom explained, if you drew a line from Milan to Zurich, at every point, neighbors would understand each other. Several times I heard people speaking and thought, “I really hope that’s Dutch, because if it’s German I’m only catching one word in twenty and I am doomed.”

Speaking of languages, I had a linguistic ethical dilemma in Amsterdam. In fact, I think I shall make the Daily Ethical Dilemma a regular feature of this blog. Perhaps it will encourage comments.



So I was waiting in line at a bathroom in the Amsterdam airport. Behind me, a woman suddenly shouted, “Come on ladies! I really need to go!” In English. She sounded very brash. I cringed. “This is what gives Americans a bad reputation!” I thought. “Perhaps if I remain silent, no one will realize that I am American, too.”

Then I thought, “But if she truly is desperate, would it not be the Christian thing to let her go ahead of me in line? On the other hand, I don’t want to reward this behavior!” I was still debating this with myself, uncertain of my decision, when, serendipitously, two stalls opened at once.

Afterward, it occurred to me that I could have turned around, looked at her politely, and said, in French or German, “I’m terribly sorry, but I don’t speak English. What did you just say?”

Naturally, it occurred to me too late. But the ethical question remains: what should I have done?


In Munich, I bought my train tickets all by myself, and the entire conversation was in German! I was so proud of myself! I had to ask the clerk to repeat himself once or twice, but I was still euphoric over this linguistic coup when I boarded the train for Ostbahnhof.

Of course, later that evening, as Jon walked me to the hotel, I saw an Internet café and went inside to inquire about prices. I tried asking “Excuse me, how much does one hour of Internet cost?” and the clerk looked at me like I was a half-wit. Very carefully he wrote down a figure and showed it to me on paper. (It was 7,5 euros, an outrageous price.) “Verstehen Sie?” he asked dubiously. This rather deflated my ego. It’s been like that this whole time: half the time I manage great in German, the other half of the time, people wince and say “You can speak English to me.” [Sigh] I really am trying to practice and use my practical German. Almost it hurts my feelings, almost, when people wince! Although, in fairness, perhaps I hurt their ears just as much.

After arriving at the hotel, I read for a while to decompress, and then collapsed wearily into a little heap. I had been in motion for forty-eight hours (subjective time). I did manage, during my travels, to read most of “The Speed of Dark,” a book Ronald recommended. I have since finished it. Very interesting, and it mercifully avoided turning into "Flowers for Algernon." It is fascinating to consider things from the Autistic perspective. I have to wonder, if I were given the chance to give Eric surgery to reverse his Asperger's, would I do it? I'm not sure! His condition is fairly mild, and he's such an amazing kid, I would hate to risk changing him.

The Bureaucratic Bottleneck vs. the Network Nexus

Wednesday, June 20th, Salt Lake Airport

After depositing the children in Salt Lake, I started through security. As I reached inside my marvelous new purse, I realized that I had forgotten to add the boys’ IDs to the envelope of other items—suggestions on handling tantrums, instructions on Danny’s excema medication, insurance information, power of attorney, cash, etc—I had already handed to their grandparents. I called Linda’s cell phone and she dispatched her husband to come grab them as I wound my way through one end of the snaking security line. Whew.

I made it through security and settled down to business. Locate gate, bathroom, lunch, water—
“Excuse me,” a fifty-something man interrupted, “But how did you just get water out of that machine?”
“I swiped my card and pushed E8,” I answered helpfully.
He looked frustrated. “But that’s exactly what I did!” he said. “Why did it work for you and not for me?”
I smiled sweetly and shrugged. “Maybe I’m cuter,” I suggested.

I fed and watered myself, lest I wilt like a delicate flower, and then made Important phone calls. I started with the courthouse. After waiting on hold for a Jurassic period, I spoke to a clerk.
“I’m leaving the country for several weeks,” I explained. “I need an extension of the deadline on my traffic ticket.”
She was hardly helpful. “We don’t do extensions over the phone,” she said. She sounded stiff and self-righteous, as though any truly responsible citizen who simply had to incur a ticket would at least cancel all international travel plans. She added, severely, “And we accept money orders,” as though that removed my final excuse. Marvelous. I’ll just march into V-markt near Ostbahnhof and try to arrange a money order in German.
After some pushing, the clerk did admit that there is an automatic ten-day grace period (after which they would start proceedings to suspend my license), so if I pay them promptly upon my return to Raleigh, it should be fine. Or, I suppose, I could arrange a money order from Idaho.

As I told Jon, “This is frustrating. I’m sure there have been many times I deserved a ticket and didn’t get one…but this time I feel like I don’t deserve it!”
This ticket will also cut into my budgeted spending money here in Deutschland. That, plus the indignity of this whole sordid affair, are the real issues, of course.

The flight to Minneapolis was nondescript. I think I dozed through most of it.

During my layover, I tried reviewing some German. It was difficult; I was awake enough to function in English, but not awake enough to study. I read some of “The Speed of Dark,” a book about an autistic man that Ronald recommended. I even went exploring through the large labyrinth of concourses, looking for a place that did money orders. I found one business center that did international money exchange, but no money orders. They said there was another branch near baggage claim, but I would have had to go through security again. I sat down and ate dinner instead, trying to ignore Larry King, who was exploiting a grieving mother.

I also called Dad and asked him to read me Jon’s instructions for where to go once I got to Munich. I love technology! I can understand why repressive regimes fear personal communication devices so much. Using my network of family, and their cell phones, text messages, and email, I managed to communicate vital information despite geographic and time zone barriers. In fact, there was a great deal of redundancy; had one approach failed, several others would have worked. Now imagine if I had been trying to get directions about sneaking out of North Korea! Or worse, access a suppressed news story about the penguin smuggling trade!

My thanks to everyone who helped me connect smoothly with Jon once I arrived!
The 9:30 flight out of Minneapolis went directly to Amsterdam. It was an airbus with video on demand! (Jon is very jealous.) I found “You’ve Got Mail,” and streamed it in German. I didn’t understand much of the conversation, but I’d seen the movie years ago and at least I followed the plot. About 1 a.m. Raleigh time, I dozed for four hours, thus crossing, in my mind, the line of demarcation between days.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Travel and Tickets

Well, I am here safely in Deutschland. The flight wasn't too bad. Flying without children is so much easier!

Forgive any typos. German keyboards are different.

Despite 48 straight hours of no bed, I managed quite well. (Better than I am now managing a German keyboard, where the y and z are switched, and the shift, enter, and other support keys are all in odd locations.)

So, my huge reading audience, would you prefer one long post, or several different posts, one for each day? But these rhetorical questions waste time. Since I am paying €2,50 per hour at this charming Internet cafe, I should be about it, nicht war? (Rhetorical answer: "Ja, natürlich.")

I will do several different posts. That way I can get caught up a little bit at a time.

Tuesday morning (June 19th) was consumed with errands. We returned a post-hole digger, went to the library, deposited $79 worth of rolled coins at the bank--my spending money for trinkets, accumulated over several years in a special top-of-the-dresser treasure-chest savings fund--picked up a prescription, bought some snacks for the trip, and so forth.

I also bought a neck pouch--it looks slightly dorky, but less so than a fanny-pack, and is quite practical. It was marvelous to travel without worrying about it sliding off my shoulder, or me forgetting it on the plane, or being pick-pocketed. The no-hands part was particularly nice. I may never return to a regular purse.

Sadly and alas, however, I got a speeding ticket Tuesday. After 5 p.m. When I was leaving town the next day for a month. How, pray tell, am I supposed to pay a ticket from Germany?

Many things gall me about this unpleasant experience. One of them was that I had just pulled out of a parking lot and accelerated too hard. I had gone probably less than 1,000 feet at that speed. I noticed a cop car ahead of me, checked my speed, said "oops" and hit the brakes...and got pulled over. It was a female cop. So much for looking cute and innocent. I tried acting Mature and Responsible instead. "I hadn't realized how fast I was going!" I said. "Thank you for bringing it to my attention!" I'm afraid I was too stiff, though. This raises the question...what is the best psychological approach to get off with a warning? Carolyn suggested acting cute and bubbly. ("Hello, officer! How are you this charming evening?")

No doubt I deserve this, karmically speaking, but still it bugs me. The officer claimed I was going 51 in a 35 zone. She said, severly, "And I saw you hit the brakes so I think you -did- realize how fast you were going." Perhaps I should simply have eased off the gas and coasted by?

The book club went well Tuesday night. I felt like I had to stretch the questions a little since "The Blue Castle," though fun, is not steeped in literary symbolism.

I was up essentially all night Tuesday the 19th. I did lie down for perhaps 45 minutes and rest. Halfway through that, around 4:30 a.m., Danny woke up and wanted to be covered. I knew sleep deprivation was not the most auspicious way to begin a long journey, but at least I got packed and cleaned the kitchen so I will not return to a bug infestation.

We got to the airport in pretty good time. I did curbside check-in. Halfway through, I realized I only had large bills, not small ones for a tip. Thinking quickly, I grabbed a €2 coin from my wallet. I can imagine that the woman helping me assumed it was a quarter when I handed it to her. Hopefully she was pleasantly surprised later. Assuming it's not too much trouble for her to exchange, that is.

The boys were good on both flights. They even let me nap a bit. (Good boys! Yes!) I was worried about how Danny would handle take-off, but he did quite well. Naturally I had snacks and bought water and encouraged both boys to swallow a lot.

The biggest excitement came when I realized I had forgotten to print out Jon's directions about where to meet him. I love technology! I pulled out my cell phone and composed a text message. I couldn't send it in the air--I would have even though it was against the rules, but I had no service--and sent it as soon as I landed. One copy went to Jon's email address at work. I hadn't realized I could do that until I dug around a bit, but it worked! The other copy I sent to Mom. I intended to send it to her cell phone, but I got distracted and sent it to her home phone instead. I have no idea how it translated. Did an AI convert it into a robotic-sounding human voice? I'm curious. She got -something- because she called me back quickly looking for clarification. I can't blame her for being confused.

Anyway, I explained the situation to Mom who promptly sent a more detailed, explanatory message to Jon's work address. It was important to get it sent early since Jon would be leaving work around 11 a.m. my time.

The layover in Chicago O'Hare was surprisingly easy. Much, MUCH better than the last time I went to Germany. (In 2003, I remember vividly Jon and me racing from the end of one spoke, through the hub, and all the way down the spoke of another wing, pushing a cranky Eric-baby in the stroller, and carting -all- our luggage at the same time. We arrived, panting, to be told they had bumped us from the flight even though they hadn't finished boarding yet. But that is another tale of another time. Have I mentioned how much easier it is to do international travel without babies?) Anyway. The hardest part about that layover was that Eric was dancing -frantically- needing to use the bathroom and there was a long line. I didn't quite dare let him go to the men's room by himself. We made it, though, barely, and that was quite enough excitement. Danny just refused to go at all. For 8 hours. I cannot help but grudgingly admire his tenacity. The child is terrified of strange toilets...but at least he didn't have an accident! Does it count as him "owning" his own problem if he gives himself a bladder infection?

I think that's sufficient for now. Tomorrow I will try to get caught up on the flight over here.

For now, I go to excercise my German skills by pointing and grunting to show which sandwich I would like. (I would ask for it auf Deutsch if they would label the durn things.)

Have a charming day!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Decision Drives Destiny

Tomorrow I leave Raleigh and embark for Deutschland, via Salt Lake City.

What's that you say? They are in opposite directions? Yet it is for a good and wise purpose.

Am I concerned about spending almost thirty hours travelling? Well, only the first seven or eight hours when I have two small boys in tow. Of course, I worry more about the seven-and-some-odd animals at their grandparents' house. Hopefully I will not return to asthmatic boys doped up on allergy medication.

How can I be so cheerful? Because I'm going to Deutschland to see
castles! For a real honeymoon after a mere seven years of marriage! And because anything I suffer on the trip will be well-deserved karma for doubling my 2007 carbon footprint with all this air travel.

Well, actually, no. I'm sure I deserve penance for my environmentally irresponsible behavior, but I don't look forward to it. Really, I just figure that any experience must be better than the last time I went to Germany, three years ago, with a toddler who screamed and cried for most of the nine-hour flight. In my lap. Disturbing a minimum of ten seat mates in the vicinity. This time, at least, there is a possibility of sleeping on the plane.

But ask me again in 48 hours, when I collapse wearily at the hotel in Munich.

Tonight is Book Club, where I am leading the discussion on "The Blue Castle" by L. M. Montgomery. I think the main message of the book is that decisions drive plot and character development. I mention this because a few weeks ago, I
decided to go to Germany. Since then, I have concentrated my energies on making it happen. I will always regret not going to France for the summer in high school, but at least I can say I have learned from that disappointment and am not repeating the mistake.

So that's the real reason I'm so cheerful. I have made the decision, and now I am committed to making it work. I own my choice and the consequences...even the part where I deal with two cranky, wiggly boys during the sixth hour of sitting, cramped, in economy seats surrounded by sticky cereal bar crumbs, fighting over whose turn it is to "fly" the toy airplane.

But then, it might go marvelously well!

We'll see tomorrow.