Category Archives: January 2012

Obsession or Necessity?

When I moved here two years ago, I remember a new friend telling me something along the lines of “Just wait, you won’t believe how many different coats you end up with.” I believed the perceived necessity but didn’t think I would really need to amass anything more than 2 or 3 coats and jackets while I was here.

Well, now it’s official, my coat collection is stretching the limits of our closets. And, the thing is, I use every single one of them, all 14 of them. There, I said it. And, that doesn’t even count the exponential number of sweaters for all 4 seasons. Oh, and the boots–wow, another collection. And, get ready, all of this still doesn’t seem like enough.

Part of the reason is I moved here from a climate that had 2 seasons: hot and not-so-hot. The only collection you needed was flip-flops for every occasion–designer, playground, exercise, beach, pool, etc. Once a year, there would be a little snow and the whole place would collapse in utter helplessness.

Now I live in a climate that can celebrate all 4 seasons in one day, in 10 minute increments. But, just to add some monotony to the process, it has the potential to rain 12 days straight. So, if you decide to put off that excursion until nice weather, you may wait a very long time. That’s why you just put on the right coat, sweater, and boots and get to it. Pretty soon, you’ll be sitting in a hail storm sipping tea on a friend’s patio and having a lovely morning.

Here for the Party and So Much More

The new year came loudly and I’m still finding remnants in our garden and inside the house from the fireworks. Yes, I said inside. Our friend Helge introduced us to the concept of indoor fireworks that pop and give off a lot of smoke. The kids loved that. Then, there’s also the German New Year’s tradition of melting small pieces of lead in a spoon and the shape it forms predicts your future for the next year. Could the prediction just be….lead poisoning?? I love the New Year’s traditions here but I try to avoid that one.

After all the festivities were over and the kids were back in school, life interrupted with an injury. A visiting parent of a good friend of mine ended up in surgery just a couple days before the planned departure back home. Those of us who have lived here for a while recognize that even our most traveled family and friends become a little more needy when they visit, than what they are in normal life. So, we knew our highly capable friend was still going to need a hand while she was busy being the health advocate for her parents.

My inclination was to set up dinners for the next couple weeks and everyone asked responded with all the usual enthusiasm and then some. I’m hardly a hero–if I hadn’t done it someone else would have. It’s just one of the ways we know as Americans to take care of each other whether here or back at home.

I remember exactly 2 years ago, the stomach flu took over my body one day, in the middle of a blizzard and Gary was away on business. The children were 3 and 6 and quickly becoming feral while I alternated between vomiting and trying to lay as still as possible. I finally got a shot of energy to dial mayday to a friend. The end result was Angela, a friendly acquaintance at that point, who walked through the blizzard nearly a mile to collect my kids, pulling them on sleds to her house to let me suffer alone. It was heaven. My dear friend Michele in Raleigh also rescued me in similar circumstances, minus the blizzard. I will never forget their kindness!

I thought this was common practice everywhere until I spoke with a German friend about it. She had also been recently asked to help another American friend in the same way. She read all the email exchanges to get things sorted and was left stunned. She took a seat at home so that she could think about it for a moment and was overwhelmed. She remembered a while back being ill and alone and still having to take care of her young child.

I asked her why this mutual care isn’t as embedded in Germany as it is in some other cultures. (I know America is not the only place where this is done.) She said part of it may be that their state social welfare system is complex. But, the other reason may be that Germans are very private. People like me who have a blog might be considered too open or even reckless with personal information. I understand the concept of Too Much Information and I truly hope I don’t violate it! But, I do not like the alternative of not sharing joys or suffering alone.

This same German friend had remarked to me some months earlier how much she reveled in just having fun with the group, whether it was a playdate or a girl’s night out. The primary objective is always to laugh and she found that very special and not common enough among her German counterparts. Now she knows the whole story. For us, it’s not just for the laughs. We are here for the good times and for the tough ones too.