Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Highs and Lows 2017

The worst month of the year is over as of today. Really - is there any month more dull and drab than November? At least October provides pretty colors in the forest. Though I hate snow, (along with winter, ice, and cold) at least it can be pretty. But November means naked trees, no snow, and our first real cold. Good riddance, November. Den wären wir los!

In my personal life, though, there were plenty of highs despite my cold nose and toes. A few lows, too, but not many.

I have actually finished all my Christmas shopping! Somehow it was easy this year, even finding things for M - and he's impossible to find gifts for! This means I can just enjoy the Weihnachtsmärkte, and if I happen to see something I like for someone, I can still buy it. The holiday season is not stressful for me in Germany anyway, but this makes it even more relaxed.


  • My birthday is in November, and now I'm really almost 50. that a high or a low?

  • It was fall break that week, but I met some of my students at a local café for a drink and a chat, which was fun!

  • dinner at Straub's Krone on Martinstag (Nov. 11). The traditional meal is goose, and this old post will explain why.
Gänsekeule, Rotkohl, Knödel, und Bratapfel
  • dinner again at Straub's Krone on Thanksgiving

  • spending a short evening at my Schwiegermutter's home while M got a much-needed massage from the therapist whose practice is in her building.

  • new books!!!!  (gifts from M and my kids)
I have finished the Outlander coffee table book - and read every word and caption -
and am into A Column of Fire. It's good so far, but it's a commitment at more than 900 pages!
I've gone crazy for Steinkäuze!
  • having a meeting with all the applicants of our summer exchange program and their parents to give them more information about the exchange. We had 23 applicants but only 8 in our partner city, so we have some tough decisions to make in the next weeks. Our limit is 8 anyway, and we face this every year because so many 8th graders want to travel to the US.

  • My son was interviewed in the news about Thanksgiving and potential family political discussions. After Thanksgiving he told me he enjoyed the day very much and no one brought up *that* topic.

  • I arrived in Esslingen early enough to slither through the Weihnachts- und Mittelaltermarkt that began that afternoon! I was grinning like a fool - I love Christmas markets, and especially this one!

Mäuseroulette! This wee beastie put on quite a show instead of
dashing into his hole like his predecessors in bygone years.
  • booking our next holiday in Scotland!!! We'll be back on Mull in September next year, but this time it's just the two of us.
looking out from Glengorm on the northern coast of Mull


  • saying good-bye to one of my students, who had to return to Chile for work. He was a strong presence in the class, and we miss him.

Just for Fun

Many expat bloggers in Germany write about the madness that is navigating German bureaucracy. I have recently had an "entertaining" experience with my Krankenversicherung (health insurance company) that I thought I'd share for your amusement.

In August I received a letter from XXX (my health insurance provider - fake acronym). My rough translation of their letter is: Very honorable Frau H, in order for us to verify that we can continue to charge you the highest amount possible for a monthly premium*, we need you to provide proof of your household income. Please send us at the earliest convenience your Einkommensteuerbescheid (notice of income tax assessment) as well as this, that, and this other document. Without these documents, we cannot be certain we are charging a fair amount and will be forced to estimate the amount you owe. Please send us this proof by 18. August.
One of those documents was a questionnaire.

*I'm not kidding - I am in their highest bracket, despite the fact that they insure only me from our household, and I only work part time.

On about August 16 I went to their office, which is close to where I teach, brought all the documents I had and asked for help filling out their form. The rep I met with was helpful, made copies of my documents, helped me complete the questionnaire, and said everything appeared in order, but I should send my Einkommensteuerbescheid when we receive it.

We received that in September. Admittedly, I did not send it the moment it arrived. In mid-September I received another letter from XXX informing me that they had expressly requested certain documents from me including the questionnaire, and up to that point had received no response or documents from me. Therefore, I MUST provide the proof of household income at the latest by October 6th, or else.

On September 20th I sent an Email to my Gesprächspartner (contact) at XXX questioning the threatening email, since I had provided in August everything but the Einkommensteuerbescheid. I attached to that Email the Einkommensteuerbescheid and stated in the text of the Email that it was attached.

My contact at XXX responded and said the documents/letter must have crossed in the mail, and all was well. 

Two days ago (late November) I received a letter from my contact at XXX saying that they had received my questionnaire, but still did not have my Einkommensteuerbescheid. She implored me to send a copy of it immediately, as sending copies rather than originals would speed up their processing time. Huh? Whatever...

I went back to my "sent" folder, found the Email I had sent to my contact on September 20th, forwarded it to her AGAIN with a new message saying that this really IS our Einkommensteuerbescheid, and if this is not the document she needs to determine that they can charge me the highest possible premium, she should please contact me.

I expect to hear from her in February...
Update: I received a letter from her in the mail today (Dec. 7), and they have discovered that they need to charge me more, along with adding extra back-charges for the last year. Clearly I was wrong about them not being able to charge me more.

I hope your November was filled with HIGHS!!


  1. Oh, the insurance forms - argh! The bureaucracy drives me crazy sometimes.

    How did you like the Making of Outlander book? I'm a big fan of the show and would be interested in reading it!

    1. I learned a lot about the series, the background, the characters, the actors, etc. I really liked it, and the photos are fabulous. It's interesting how much time and effort is spent on details we don't notice while watching; the writers, directors, and actors were very thorough.

      I'm watching the current season, but my interest faded when they left Scotland (just like when I read the books. I think I quit reading somewhere in or right after the 3rd book).

  2. Is there any month more dull and drab than November? YES - February. By the time February rolls around and is STILL cold and STILL dark I'm ready to scream. At least in November it's only just starting.

    1. Oh gosh, you have a good point. But at least February is shorter! :-) March isn't so great either, come to think of it.