Saturday, May 26, 2018

GDPR Notice


Due to the new EU regulation - the General Data Protection Regulation, which I only partially understand - I will be deleting my email subscribers list beginning on Sunday, May 27.  If you wish to re-subscribe, just return to my blog and re-enter your email address near the upper right of the main page where it says "Follow by Email" and hit "submit."

By resubscribing to my blog if you so choose, you will presumably be agreeing to the new regulations. I will need to read more about this and probably come up with a privacy policy which no one will read.

I almost never look at my list of email subscribers, and when I last looked a year or two ago, I had seven or eight subscribers. I checked the list this morning and now have 1,293, most of which look fake to me. Since I see no way to do this in one move, I will need to delete my subscribers one-by-one. The eight people whose email addresses I recognize will be the last ones to be deleted, and the whole process is likely to take several days or more.

I do nothing with your data (email address), but quite likely Blogger does. They're the ones that use "cookies." I do have a STATS page I can click on behind the scenes to see which countries or websites hits to my blog are coming from, but there's nothing in there that tells me who you are. Still, ignorance is not acceptable and if I screw up I could face heavy fines for being non-compliant.

If any other bloggers have advice for me, please let me know in an email!

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2018

May & June Reads

The pause in my blogging was due to a trip to the homeland for my son's college graduation. I didn't bring my laptop and wouldn't have had time for blogging anyway. Now I'm back home and gearing up for another month of reading along with normal duties and responsibilities.

I made quite good progress on my 2018 reading list, and added Elisabeth to the mix and am halfway through that one. It's a bit daunting at 600 pages in German, but I am enjoying it immensely. I just didn't take it to the U.S. with me because it is too thick, and of course in the mean time I have been assailed by four other books that are begging to be read.

These are the books that are on my pile now (along with Elisabeth):

Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama, by John Boyne (not pictured)  X

I've wanted to read this book for a while - before or instead of watching the movie - and I stumbled upon it not long before leaving for the States. The original title is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Two nine-year-old boys meet and become friends, but they are separated by a fence and can't actually play together. The reader understands the situation, but Bruno, whose father has been tranferred to "Aus-Wisch" as the head commander, does not. Schmuel, Bruno's young Jewish friend, tells him only enough about life on his side of the fence to be understood by the reader, and eventually Bruno's curiosity gets the better of him.

MASH, by Richard Hooker  X

I ordered this book because of a reading challenge I read about in which you read one book published in each year of your life. That made me wonder what was published in 1968, so I looked up a list. I came to MASH and ordered it - to be delivered to my parents' house. It's a quick read - I started it the day after I returned home and finished it the next day. I enjoyed it (except for the long, boring football game chapter, but apparently that's a legend among fans who know the pilot movie), though I agree with some of the Goodreads reviews I read: Hooker was not a great writer. Apparently he was a surgeon with a great idea. And what grew out of his novel was absolute genius.

M and I turned the house upside down this evening looking for his DVDs of the series, which we haven't seen since our move but knew we had. We watched the first episode of the series, and as I type this we are watching the pilot movie. Although I only gave the book 3 stars of 5, I now highly recommend it to those familiar with the movie and the early episodes of the series. Do you know Father Mulcahey's original nickname? Do you know why John McIntyre's nickname is Trapper? Did you catch Hawkeye's first friend before Trapper John? He's in the book and the pilot, but didn't make it into the series.

Flight of Dreams, by Ariel Lawhon  X

This is a novel about the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. I understand it's historical fiction and therefore not to be taken literally, but I am still looking forward to learning more about it. I always read up on the actual facts, as far as they are known, while I'm reading a book like this. 

Der Vorleser, by Bernhard Schlink

My friend from Nagold recommended this book to me, and I happened upon it in a nice travel-size edition in the Nagold bookstore after we last met. I saw the film years ago but only remember the general premise (English title: The Reader). This is a perfect-sized book to take to Berlin when I'm chaperoning the Sheboygan exchange students, because I won't have any time to read anyway but it can fit in a small pocket.

The Secrets of the Heart, by Kahlil Gibran

I pinched this one from a bag in my parents' basement that had other books in it that were clearly mine. I don't remember this particular book, but Gibran is one of my favorite writers. I read part of it on the plane on my way home and didn't love it only because I wanted to be "wow-ed" like I was when I read the Prophet. I will finish reading it because Gibran's writing is mystical and wonderful.

The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham

This is one of my all-time favorite books, and it came back to me during my trip to Wisconsin because I met a former student who wanted to give it to me. She graduated in 2006 and so I haven't seen her in 12 years, but she has an amazing memory and knew that I loved this book. When she heard I no longer possessed it (I can't imagine why I wouldn't have brought that over when I moved), she found me a copy and asked to meet. We had a lovely chat, and although I've read this book twice already, I am looking forward to my old friend again.

Incidentally, that student of mine is the same one I mentioned in the blog post above about the Prophet

So, then, what are you reading these days?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What's in Your Carry-on?

I would rather not have my last blog post before flying to the States be a downer, so as I was throwing stuff in a pile to pack in my carry-on, I thought I'd write a quick one about packing.

When traveling to the U.S. I am a sloppy packer. I pack lightly and throw in the clothes I think I can't do without. Everything is so cheap in the U.S. (at least it is where I shop) that it's a good chance to stock up on the basics - jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, even socks, knickers, and BHs. Therefore I don't worry about clothes.

The carry-on items are more important because what's in there might keep me sane during the flight. Here's what I'm packin', in order of importance to me.

Passport & Passport Holder

The passport is the most important item in all of a travler's luggage, because without it, you go nowhere. I've been using the same ADAC passport holder for more than a decade - it has lots of pockets, slots, and zippered compartments, and I can usually find things quickly.

Noise-cancelling Headphones

...and an extra battery. The passport is technically most important, but these have preserved my sanity on more than one flight, and I would never fly more than 2 hours without them. They are my best friends in flight.

MP3 Player

Yeah, I still use one of those. I think everyone else uses their Smartphone, but why load music onto my phone when I have a tiny little device already loaded with everything I might want to listen to which doesn't suck the battery of my smartphone?

Two Books

Normally I have one in English and one in German, wait to determine which language my seatmate speaks, and pull out the one in the other language. This time I'm throwing caution to the wind and taking two mini books in German - perfect travel size! They are Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama and Der Vorleser.

Reading Glasses

These are critical by now if I want to read, write, or even watch a movie. The screen is too close to my face for me to be able to watch anything in focus without them.


In case I get stranded in Zürich or need to look up a word while reading. In Wisconsin I'll also use it to check my step count on the FitBit app.

Tablet & Keyboard

I'll check my emails and Facebook on that while I'm stateside, and since I cannot type emails with my thumbs, I'll have the small travel keyboard for keeping contact with M and his mum back home.

Small Camera

I feel more talented with my bigger camera, but this one is better for traveling. I don't take photos with my Smartphone. We purposely chose a Smartphone with a less-than-great camera because I never planned on taking pictures with it.


For the various devices I have packed.

a Change of Clothes

In case my suitcase gets waylayed, lost, or re-routed to Madagascar. Or in case my seat neighbor spills coffee or beer on me.

Euros & Dollars

For obvious reasons. A credit card too, of course.


Just as I use a real camera instead of my Smartphone, I also use an old-school calendar instead of an electronic one. My mom started me on these Social Capers calendars during my college years, and although she has since converted enthusiastically to a Google calendar, I can't give up my Social Capers. Go ahead and call me daft, I don't care. In one glance I can see my whole week. I don't see the words "+2 more" on a day because the box is too small for all my plans. I see everything. Every day.


In this case leftover Lindt Osterhasis for my kids.

Wisconsin Driver's License

It actually doesn't matter if I have this because I can use my German Führerschein, but it's just easier for cashiers who have to check my age when I buy wine.

My Tax Return

Why mail it from Germany for €0,90 when I can mail it from Wisconsin for whatever a U.S. stamp costs these days? Expats get an automatic 2-month extension on the April 15th date (but I must include a letter explaining that). The U.S. is one of two countries in the world - Eritrea being the other one - that make their citizens file/pay taxes on their income regardless of whether they live in the country or not.

Other Accessories

2 granola bars

That's about it. Packing for Scotland is much more complicated because we bring all-weather hiking gear, stay in a self-catering cottage or flat where we do most of our own cooking, and spend most of our time on an island where shopping

What do you pack in your carry-on
for a trip back to the homeland?

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Joy of Flying

Just kidding. This post is about Flugangst - flight fear.

In a few days I will be flying to the US for the first time in two years, and to Wisconsin for the first time in three. The occasion is my son's college graduation, and I am looking forward to seeing my kids and parents, some of the rest of the family, and friends.

I am not, however, looking forward to the flight, to say the very least.

I'm glad I don't fly Delta anymore, because I really hate landing in Atlanta
and being screamed at by personnel speaking Suth'rn.
It's not the fact that I'll have to scrunch myself into a spot fit only for small children in a straight jacket, or the length of the long flight from Zürich to Chicago (8 hours? 10? I don't know; I didn't bother looking.), or the fact that the asshole passenger in front of me will recline his seatback whether he's sleeping or not and will flash me the side eye when I ask him nicely if he would mind putting his seatback up during meals, or the diabolically filthy stench of the airplane toilets, or the other passengers who will annoy me in a thousand ways, beginning with speaking.

It's mainly the fact that I never took physics class and simply do not believe that tin can of a deathtrap with wings should be able to do what it does. I do not assume I am going to make it to the other side alive. I'm glad every time I do, and I'm not kidding when I say that the first thing I do after I pry my claws from the arm rests after landing and feel the plane begin to slow down (the first sign to me, after a multi-hour flight, that we might make it) is to whisper "Thank you" - to the pilot, God, mother nature...whomever I think might be listening.

I was not always afraid to fly. My dad had his pilot's license when I was a teen, and he took me on several flights in a 4-seater over our town, and on one flight over Lake Michigan to a wedding. I flew to Germany for the first time at age 17 and thought the feeling of taking off was really cool. I have flown back and forth between Europe and Chicago 31 times before this, a few times from Wisconsin to Florida in my earlier years, and since moving to Germany I've flown to Scotland and Berlin twice, Vienna, and Rome. So it's not like I'm an inexperienced flyer.

The above photo was taken during one of those death-defying turns when I do not understand why the plane doesn't keep flipping and just fall out of the sky.

Flying is a necessary evil for someone who lives six time zones and an ocean away from her family. And evil it is. If God had meant us to fly, He would have made us birds.

I don't know when the fear started, but it was definitely after I had kids. From that point on I had two someones who needed me, and I started to take mortality a bit more seriously. By now I'm just enjoying life so completely that I'm not ready for it to be done. I know I have no control over that moment. But I have far less control in a frickin' airplane! Frankly, I prefer the illusion of having at least a little control.

This is where I like planes - on the ground.
I always hope there are no children near me when I fly, not only because children on airplanes are usually even worse than their parents with regard to behavior and noise, but because I don't want to be responsible for the expansion of their vocabulary while they listen to me curse like a drunken sailor whenever there is the slightest turbulence. Seriously, one thump, and the "Fuck!" is out before I can bite it back. The repertoire of colorful language expands with each thump, bump, and air pocket plunge. I only hope the Almighty believes me when I look heavenward and offer a terrified apology for misusing His holy name before beginning anew.

Flying to and from Scotland with M is generally less problematic. The flights are short, and he's with me. "If we go, at least we go together, Luv!" as his English grandmother used to say to her husband.

Statistics only help when my loved ones are flying. I track their flights and am not afraid they won't make it. I get it that flying is statistically safer than driving - perhaps especially in our area, where I swear there is a fatal or near-fatal automobile, truck, or motorcycle accident nearly every week.

Plane crash dreams hardly even freak me out anymore because they're so common. Usually I'm watching the plane that crashes, but in the latest one from a few weeks ago, I was on the plane. I remember thinking, as the plane tipped like at the top of a rollar coaster drop, "Well, that's it then. I'm surprised I feel so calm."

Don't worry if you ever have to sit next to me on an overseas flight. Except for the barrage of profanity during turbulence and the shimmies and shakes of take-off and landing, I generally try to pretend I'm not terrified.

A few years ago I booked a flight for my dad and M with a pilot in the Wisconsin town where I then lived. The pilot was a former student of mine and the son of a good friend! The flight was over that town and then 45 miles east to fly over my hometown. I was not able to decide until the moment of boarding whether I would accompany them or not. My mom, who stayed on the ground because there was only room for four, captured my moment of indecision after peeking into the tiny box I'd be sitting in:
I believe my thought at that moment was,
"Are you f-ing kidding me?!"
I did go, and I'm glad I did, though the men enjoyed it more. They got some great photos, but with every turn I buried my face in M's shoulder, and I think I bit him once.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin from above
If it weren't for the take-off, the landing, and the turbulence, I'd be fine with flying. I actually also hate being on boats and would never in my life go on an ocean cruise. I simply prefer my feet on firm ground.

So for the three people I'll see who are still reading my blog, know that my restrained enthusiasm isn't because I don't want to come to the States or see you. It's because I am terrified to fly. The only thought that has ever helped me calm down a little during turbulence was, "At the moment, we're not crashing. So everything right now is actually ok."

I thought perhaps writing this blog post would help "get it out" and untie the knot in my stomach, but it didn't. Darn.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Germans and the Grumblies

It's 16:00, and I just got back from the supermarket where I shop regularly. It's Friday afternoon, so I knew it might be busier than at other times - but not as bad as Saturday mornings!

Since supermarkets in Deutschland are not open overnight for shelf stockers to do their jobs, that is done during the regular work day. Employees with big pallets on rollers drag the goods through the aisles, park them in the center, and get to work. This is inconvenient for the customers at times, but hardly a big deal.

It wasn't so bad today, although I had to navigate around a few slow folks, around a pallet in the cheese aisle, and reach over a box of boxes to get to my favorite Grauburgunder.

Then it was time for the Kasse.

Not infrequently there are long lines here, and by "long" I mean 2 or 3 customers in front of me. Again, this is not a big deal - at least not when I've got no ice cream in my cart. Today there were 5 lanes open, and there just happened to be a ton of people with pretty full carts who needed to shop at that time, and I could see the wait would be longer than a commercial break. I picked a lane, settled in, kicked myself for not having a book in my purse (then looked for it anyway, just in case), and starting reading the messages on the pacifying TV screen above the Kasse.

The elderly German man in front of me was dancing around looking from lane to lane, twisting himself in knots, and looking for someone to be as exasperated as he was. He caught my eye and muttered, "Das ist eine reine Unverschämtheit!" ("This is an intolerable effrontery!") I just flashed him my vacuous American smile to show him he'd get no sympathy from me, and he moved on, dismissing me as clearly useless.

This is not an infrequent experience at this supermarket, that an elderly German gets his knickers in a knot because he has to wait 5 minutes at the busy Kasse. Never mind that he stood in the coffee aisle chatting with his neighbor about the other neighbor's stupid cat, or that I overtook him 7 times in my frenzied odyssey through the store as he ambled along blocking shelves with his cart while staring intently at the goods perhaps wondering what it was his wife told him to pick up in the dairy aisle while I waited patiently for him to make his selection. Waiting at the Kasse? That is intolerable!

I've decided I'm going to be ready next time and respond with, "Na ja, wenn das Schlimmste, was mir heute passiert, ist dass ich ein Paar Minuten an der Kasse warten muss, ist der Tag nicht ganz im Eimer."  ("Ach, if the worst thing that happens to me today is that I have to wait a few minutes at the check-out, the day isn't totally in the bucket [shot to hell].")

We all have our pet peeves, and I am far from the most patient person in the world. But I find myself often wishing I could sprinkle a bucket of happy dust over the folks waiting to check out. Relax! It was just dumb timing, that's all. I assume the schedulers put the number of Kassierer at the registers they think is needed for each shift based on trends. They didn't conspire to rob you of 4-6 minutes just so they could throw your day into the bucket. And it's not the Kassierer's fault - so, Sir, do not grumble at her. She's doing her best, and the world doesn't revolve around you, sorry to say.

That is not to say that I am happier in a long lane in the U.S., where strangers take the opportunity to chat up those around them with a sense of comradery and mutual despair. I came here to shop and leave, not chat.

I also want to say that my point is not that Germans are unfriendly. He wasn't unfriendly toward me - he was just annoyed at a petty inconvenience. It happens to all of us.

To avoid sounding too judgemental and high-and-mighty (as if I have no pet peeves), I'll share some of the things that make my eyes roll:

  • drivers who don't keep their eye on the stoplight while waiting for green
  • drivers who use their cell phones
  • people who park at our little bank branch and block the driveway to the Feuerwehr (fire station) because they apparently can't walk a few extra steps
  • airplane passengers in front of me who put their seat back when they are not sleeping
  • people being loud on trains and buses 
  • not being able to bag my own groceries in the U.S.
  • wasting food
  • finding typos in one of my published blog posts

Things that don't annoy me (but which draw eye rolls, guffaws, and angry snorts from others around):
  • a shopper forgetting to weigh her bananas (it's happened to me, too)
  • a late bus (please tell me how on earth a driver can stick precisely to that schedule)
  • a late train (that's the trade-off - either risk my life and take the car, or risk being delayed because of unforeseen problems with public transportation)
  • slow people walking through the supermarket (just because I can walk fast doesn't mean they can)
  • rain (rain means we don't have to spend €€ watering the garden!)
  • German winters (Try Wisconsin. Just try it.)
  • a driver driving 85 km/h when the speed limit is 100 (maybe she's as terrified as I am)

It's human nature to get easily annoyed when life in general is pretty good. Sometimes I think we look for things to grumble about. 

What gives you the grumblies?