Category Archives: October 2013

Enter the Village Idiot

After relocating several times, I am familiar with the feeling of being the village idiot for a while. Or, as a Dr. Fred Goodwin, a professor of psychology at George Washington University, more kindly puts it: we “lose competence” when we relocate. Why? Because when one relocates to a new city, state, or country, there is so much to learn about where and when to go, how to get there, how it’s done, and maybe a new language during the whole process.

Most of the time I can get things figured out pretty well but there continue to be those moments when it all gets ridiculous. For example, while we were still living in hotels, waiting for our shipment from Germany, some longtime friends Brad and Sheena, offered for us to stay in their house while they went on vacation. So, the kids and I moved in Sunday evening (Gary was traveling for work) and slept soundly. The next day, after breakfast, we needed to leave for an appointment. All ready to go, I discovered we could not get out of the house. We were literally trapped inside the house. I’ll just explain how by paraphrasing my phone conversation with Brad:

Me: You won’t believe this but we are locked inside your house.
Brad: What? How?
Me: Well, remember how you told me to only use your garage door to get in and out of the house?
Brad: Yes
Me: Well, we did that to get in but now the [automated] garage door won’t open. When I press the button, the motor runs but the door won’t move. So, I went around to all the other doors in the house but they are deadbolted and I don’t have the key. Also, none of your ground level windows open.
Brad: (laughter) Hmmmmm….
Me: I know…what should I do?
Brad: Well, before I come up with an idea, I’m just going to enjoy this moment.
Me: Thanks! Glad I can provide some entertainment.
Brad: (cackles)

The children’s new school is a wonderful place but they are accustomed to having students (and parents) who have all been there for years, and know everyone else and how everything works. Unlike the International school in Germany which caters well to its loads of newcomers with workshops and all communications that are descriptive enough so that everyone understands what is happening or about to happen. Instead, here, I get emails from room parents asking for help saying things like “you’ve all done it before so you know what to do.” Well, no, I actually have no idea how you want me to decorate the classroom door for the month of January; and, no, I have no idea that I didn’t have to shell out $60 for after school care but too late now; And, by the way using “backpack mail,”  whatever that is, sounds like the quickest way to lose something very important.

Fortunately, along the way, I’ve gotten help from new friends like Chrissie, Alison and Meghan, to help navigate as one of the few clueless newcomers. Things are running a lot more smoothly these days but the occasional blips happen, not always because of the school, but because of the chaos of moving and having too many details to take care of.  One of the most memorable happened about 2 weeks into school.  I picked up Nora and Jack at the end of the day and they informed me that they weren’t signed up for hot lunch that day so had nothing to eat at lunchtime. Hot lunches must be ordered a month ahead of time and I mixed up which dates that week I have chosen for hot lunch. So, while I begin with “Oh no, I’m so sorry….” Jack pipes up with: “That’s ok, Mommy. I just ate the rest of my turkey sandwich from a couple days ago.” I nearly ran the car off the road in utter shock and horror as I looked at the back seat, expecting to find him doubled over in gastric distress. Instead I got a bright, front-toothless smile and his hands up: “See, no worries, Mommy!”

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There are Two Kinds of Surprises

I got a bad surprise recently that has lead to a good sort of surprise. Here’s what happened:

One recent morning, I was pulling the trash bin to the curb for pickup when a large dog wandered straight up to me and stopped. He looked disoriented and lost. Our neighborhood listserv often has messages about people losing or finding dogs so I thought maybe I could help him. I started talking and cooing to him and reached over, fingers tucked in so he could have a sniff. Maybe I could see if he had any identification tag on the collar he was wearing.

Then, with a loud “woof,” he chomped down on my fist. Or, as Nora put it later: “Knuckles for breakfast!” i was startled, to say the least, but also bleeding from several spots on my hand. The dog took off and I cleaned and bandaged things and got the kids off to school. Speaking about it to my friend Tammy later that morning, she startled me again by saying I needed to get to a doctor immediately and will probably need rabies shots if I can’t find the dog. And, I need an antibiotic to deal with other possible infection from the bite. Seriously? Something about all of it reduced me to tears and pretty soon Tammy was picking me up to go to Urgent Care.

Yep, after that visit, a call from the head of the county health department, and a trip to the emergency room. It was true. I needed the rabies series, an antibiotic, plus a tetanus shot. There have been recent cases of domestic dogs in our county getting rabies because the owners let the vaccinations lapse and the dogs were bitten by some other rabid animal such as a raccoon or bat.

We still haven’t found the dog but have a gotten a recent lead, thanks to Nora posting some signs around the neighborhood. The rabies series takes two weeks and I’ll be done with it tomorrow. The side effects have made me nauseous and very tired the entire time but I hear the series is much better than what it was back in the day. So, shots in the stomach are no longer necessary, in case you were wondering.

Bad surprises aside, here’s how something good happened. The children have been begging to get another dog almost since the day ours died when we moved to Germany. Our promise to them was we would get another dog whenever we moved back to the US. So, ever since our return, the heat has been on to find a dog. For me, housebreaking and training a puppy is about as appealing as a getting a cavity filled with no novacaine. I’ve done both of those things before, by the way. I know exactly what I’m talking about! I thought the answer would be to get an adult dog and had visits with several rescue dogs. But, nothing was clicking for me. I love dogs but I couldn’t find a way to say yes to any of them.

So, a few days after the dog bite, I surprised myself and did the unthinkable: I got us a cat. It’s been unthinkable because I have been violently allergic to cats my entire life. I start sneezing and wheezing within moments of being around nearly all cats. Probably because of the this, my opinion about cats has ranged from dislike to indifference. Then along came Wolfie. When we moved into our house in August, Wolfie a large fluffy, black cat, made his presence known right away. He belongs to a house across the street but wanders the neighborhood at will. He lets Nora and Jack pick him up and march up and down the street, holding him like a baby; He follows me around the garden; greets me at my car when I pull up; and, naps on our front porch. Some of these traits could be a bit bothersome if it were a different cat. But in Wolfie, they are absolutely loveable. He changed me.

So, now we have a Cali, a Russian Blue that I adopted from a rescue. I didn’t tell a soul I was thinking about it and had her brought over while no one was home, so I could see if she really was hypoallergenic, as I’d read. She is! And, she’s also the sweetest animal I’ve ever encountered. Very fun too, and has the whole family completely charmed. The first thing Nora wanted to do was take her on parade in our neighborhood to show her off. So we did.

Cali, not so sure about this.

Cali, not so sure about this.

Victory lap around the neighborhood.

Victory lap around the neighborhood.