I’m sitting in a cafe in Manchester, UK. It’s familiar, this cafe. The music, the people, the coffee. I think this is the key to traveling… everything at one point becomes familiar, even if only because we’re sitting on the same globe under the same sky.
My family rings me daily, the video turning morning in to silly faces and kisses from across the pond. I marvel at the technology compared to my first trip to the UK in 2001 when I punched in a 400 digit number to reach a calling card and the country code and finally the home phone in hopes to reach my husband. Now I wake the children up on video phone, ala Jeston’s like, rousing sleeping heads just before my dinner time.
I’ve been asked “how do you do it? How can you travel and leave your children?” It is only because of this technology and the patience of Mr. Flinger that I have this opportunity. As often as I miss and yearn for them, I also try to encourage them to ask the questions “what is it like there?” It’s a small and simple task to encourage the children’s curiosity. I show them the weather, the money, the photos. I introduce them to my friends and their young daughter, who greets them with a very adorably Northern English, “hallo!” My young son blushes at the little girl in glasses smiling at him over the screen. “They have children in England, Mommy?” “Yes, Buddy, they do. See?”
This curiosity grows like a seedling. As we listen to Ingrid Michaelson’s “You and I,” I hear a small voice in the back seat of the car, “Let’s go to France and Germany, Mommy!”
In an effort to continue this curiosity, we recently tried out the Little Passports. The children received a small suitcase, a map, a “passport”, an intro letter, and a craft from Japan. “You’ve been to Japan, Mommy!” They marveled at the map. We read about children in Japan. We worked on the Origami. They approved.
Every month a new package will arrive with a letter from “children” traveling the globe. They get a note, an activity, and a passcode to find more online. It’s giving them the gift of wanderlust without leaving the country. It helps us talk about new places and things we might like to do one day.
It’s such a simple thing: Getting Something In The Mail. But it’s so fascinating to see this old technology: MAIL! light up the children’s faces. We plan to have a real pen pal with the little girl in Manchester. In a way I have a real pen pal with her mother and father, my friends from a community of ExpressionEngine Geeks. The world now is so much smaller with twitter, facebook, and The Internet. But to see something tangible, to hold a gift from another country, to see a map with your eyes and hold the pin to mark the spot travelled: Tactile Learning is still very much alive.
I know for myself, as much as the video and technology helps, there is nothing like going home to hold, physically, the people I adore. As often as I crave the new places and old friends from everywhere, the coming home is what keeps me going.
And now, excuse me, but it’s time for me to wake up my children again. Possibly using questionable song choice.
I was counting the railroad tiles out the window when my facilitator read, “Is often prone to daydreaming…” Yes, I thought, my daughter does that! I take a note to remember that frequent daydreaming is a sign of ADHD.
I fidget and look at the clock. How LONG is this meeting? It’s been 45 minutes already. My foot bounces at the end of my leg, a habit that irritates nearly every office mate I’ve ever had. I swirl my foot in circles and take more notes. “Fidgeting, constant moving, even in adults…” Impulsivity, forgetfulness, distractibility. If I hadn’t been diagnosed a year and a half ago, this might come as a shock. Today, though, I sit, fidgeting, for nearly TWO HOURS (mygod two hours!) in my first Adult ADHD Women’s Support Group with many others who are only learning this isn’t “normal.”
In my world, I am normal. In my world, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had to work out daily or I can’t sit still. I don’t like going to the movies because they’re too long. I thrive as being a “big idea person” and the one who “drives projects”, the one who “loves change”, the person who will show up in Amsterdam having not thought about what I was supposed to do once the plane landed. In my world there was NOW and NOT NOW. I write notes to remind myself of important events and forget where I put the note. I make plans and forget I already made plans. People who love me cherish this about me and those who don’t? They don’t stick around for long.
Nearly two years ago my world crashed down on me for those “cherished” attributes. After 35 years of coping mechanisms, the tiny rock-chip of balance broke in to a full crack, splitting my life in two. Projects, Marriage, Children, Friends, Family… everything fell to the ground from their balance on the high wire, the very high wire I carefully walked my entire life.
It’s nearly a cliche now to hear people say how “ADD” they are. I remember hearing someone say that in front of my good friend Lotus, to which she replied, “You know, there are people that struggle to have a good life because of that.” At the time I didn’t know I was one of them. Today, I appreciate that response more than I can express.
After the urging of several key people in my life, after my daughter’s teacher suggested getting her tested, after my world exploded, I decided to finally take an assessment for adult ADHD. **
I, along with 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults, have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I was lucky enough as a child to learn coping mechanisms which helped me succeed in school. I have a graduate degree in technology. I’ve enjoyed, for the large part, a “successful career” and life. I don’t look like the disaster that ADHD can create in a person (unless you know me very well). But here’s the secret: many “successful” people have, and struggle, with ADHD.
After my original diagnoses, I’ve followed up with a year of books, groups, therapy, podcasts, medications.
From Ari Tuckman’s Podcast: “What Causes ADHD And What Doesn’t” (recommended listening) he states the following:
- Research found ADHD is primarily passed via genetics.
- If someone has ADHD, there’s a very good chance that at lease one other person in the family has it as well.
- 6 or more genes are involved and impact ADHD in its own way
- Some environmental influence can exacerbate the genetic component to ADHD but does not CAUSE ADHD.
DOES NOT CAUSE ADHD
- Diet and food additives. *Note - Diet can exacerbate an existing ADHD imbalance or can create similar symptoms (and thus mis-diagnosed cases) but does NOT cause ADHD as a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Before doing a research for false information, please try these peer-reviewed articles.) **please listen to the podcast for the reasons behind this correlation. “ADHD causes the eating of junkfood, not that junkfood causes ADHD”
- Poor parenting. *Usually at least one parent will also have ADHD so research shows that parents perform better when kids are under control, not reversed.
- Modern Society (Twitter, Facebook, etc). *Even with the overload in available distractions, it does not cause ADHD. Yes, twitter can distract even the most focused mind, but it does not cause ADHD. If this were true, societies with less technology or slower pace of life would have fewer cases but they don’t. At most we can say ADHD symptoms are more debilitating and obvious in our face-pased and distracting world, like saying a white shirt is more obvious against a black background than it is a white one but we would never say the white background caused the white shirt.
The reason I share this with you now is twofold. 1. I survived, almost thrived, for 35 years with a brain chemistry deficit that could easily have derailed my life much earlier than it did but I had the structure and coping skills to handle this (until those failed from environmental factors). And 2. I am thriving again now that I have that knowledge.
ADHD can be a gift or it can cause pain and frustration. I enjoy the company of others just like me and I appreciate the company of the countless friends of mine who aren’t. My closest friends can sit still, stay in routine, plan a trip and they gracefully (at least to my face) understand when I need reminding or a push to follow up. I am in a roll at work now where my “gifts” are appreciated and used to push products forward, lead, and see things from a higher-view and help those stuck in the mire of detail to keep an eye on the final outcome. People closest to me understand that my need to travel it is not a desire but a NEED. My children benefit from a mother who understands them and can offer solutions to their disorganization. We, as a house, have structured our lives for success and keep dates, events, and deadlines on a white board for everyone to see. Managing ADHD can be complex and take a lot of work but in the end, if it is preventing life from being as amazing as it can be, it’s worth it. For me, I am learning to balance both: Allowing the impulsivity and spontaneous me to work within an 8 hour day of projects and deadlines and bills. Now I finish projects on time, pay bills on time, remember and arrive early to meetings.
Learning the hard truth about why I am the way I am has helped improve, not diminish, my life. ADHD is not an excuse to be distracted, it’s a reason to get help.
- The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is being released in May, 2013 which will contain and updated diagnosis criteria for ADHD in both adults and children based on recent research.
- ADDitude Mag which offers a handout for debunking 7 myths of ADHD.
Books I’ve read (and recommend)
** Notes about assessments: If you are considering taking an assessment for ADHD, you will need to have a clinician who specializes in Adult ADHD help. There are several “inconclusive” tests that can lead to a false positive (Such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-V1.1 from WHO Composite INternational Diagnostic Interview which is only 6 questions long). The longer the test, the more inclusive and more accurate. All good clinicians will want to talk to a spouse or family member to confirm the replies as most ADHD people can be unrealistic with their personal perceptions.
Two good assessments (I’ve taken both):
Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales for Adolescents and Adults: Definition.
I first started blogging way way back in 2003, when I was pregnant and finishing my graduate degree, when I was a new mom and completely postpartum, when people used to say, “How on earth do you do it all AND keep up a blog?” People don’t say that to me anymore. It’s become obvious: I don’t.
I’ve been staring at my blog lately wondering if it’s going to speak to me. I sort of kick it around, poke at it, see if it’s still breathing. I’m a curious bystander in my own life these days. It’s not that I don’t write anymore, because I do. A lot. I have pages and pages of blog posts and love notes and ideas written in my notebook on my laptop.
These ideas are now mostly shared with a very tiny select group of people: Namely those who live in my head. Every so often I venture to hand one or two to a loved one but most often the half written prose sit idly waiting for me to return from That Thing I Do Eight To Nine Hours A Day In The Office.
I think it’s called work.
The ironic thing? I like that Work. I could write pages and articles about that thing that I do. I could delve in to discussions about app development, front end standards, managing motherhood and sanity and travel and mid-life crises and bosses. But I can’t. Those parts of my day that I’m legally able to share get pulled in the rip-tide of life and those accomplishments and stories that I crave to write are sealed under “NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS” and privacy laws and google’s ever-watching (and caching) eyes.
In other news: I’ll keep sitting next to this blog in the ICU while it waits in its comma. One day she’ll wake up again. I promise to be here when she does. Will you?
Some kids collect stamps. I don’t know who these kids are but I think they’re all about 102 nowadays. When I was a kid, way back in the early eighties, I collected cabbage patch kids.
Somewhere around puberty I switched from wrinkly-butt dolls to postcards. I think this is where the first parts of who I am today began to show. This was the very beginning of a small fire that would grow steadily over the years.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
My Uncle travelled a lot for work. He went to exotic places like: Turkey! and Istanbul! and Egypt! I asked him to send me a postcard from every place he visited. I hold these postcards sacredly in a book marked, “Places I Will Go.”
I have made it to, possibly, two fistfuls of those places.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher
In college I sat on the floor in the house of girls I lived with reading the Atlas. Some college kids read the paper, others read their text-books. Back before the Internet was in every house, we used to read things on paper. PAPER, y’all. Remember paper? Anyway, we would be gathered in the living room, the four of us, each doing something different. Nearly always I would be the one spread on the floor with some sort of map, planning a lifetime’s worth of travels.
My roommate was also a traveling soul. She braved Europe just after college in the traditional “Backpack Across Europe” tour that every 22 year old should go on. I did not join her, though I ached to do so. I made a vow to myself that I would travel all of Europe when I had the money. The money was always the next corner away. “When I get this job.. when I pay off this debt.. when I own my car.. when the baby is older…” In essence, Life got in the way of Living.
The summer I did not take the Europe trip, I made a necklace of hemp (GO GO HIPPIE!) and placed a single charm on it: A globe. I wore this necklace until it frayed. Six years it stayed around my neck cultivating a nervous habit of spinning the globe subconsciously. I remember someone asking me once at my third summer beyond “that one that was not Europe” what my globe meant. “It’s a reminder,” I said twisting it in a circle, “that I will travel the world.”
We’ve talked about this “giving up of yourself for the good of now.” It’s been the topic of conversation for many years. I know Laura Ingram would say this. I know Billy Graham would. I know someone might write a song about it. Maybe they did.
I’ve said before that once you become a mother, your own personal aspirations need to be set aside. And I’ve done this. I’m proud to have done so. But a new way of thinking is bubbling and I’m wondering if maybe, maybe maybe, children can grow and flourish in my own happiness. That maybe, maybe maybe, the children can be just as excited about going to Germany as I am, or to England or Holland or Bhutan. And maybe, maybe maybe, if I’m in a place of happiness and not feeling like I’ve placed my own self on a shelf, maybe (maybe? maybe?) the children will grow in to that happiness. Perhaps, even, if I dare to say so, the children will cultivate an appreciation for how hard it is to find that happiness and when you find it, and I hope they find it, how necessary it is to grasp it with both hands and never let it go. My hope for them, if I can dare to dream, is to never have the need to spin the globe of wishes.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
My young son, mentioned previously, reminded me last night of another story I keep forgetting to tell you.
He reminded me, as I lay him down in his twin bed, tucked him in, sang him a song, and promised to come back after reading to his sister, about this time I did not come back to check on him. In fact, he reminded me, I left him alone in the house for a very long time; a very long time while I was at the bus top. Did I remember that? he asked. Yes, I replied, I did.
My daughter was in first grade, last year, and I had my tiny three year old son at home with me. He fell asleep in my bed during nap time, one of my favorite memories of our times at home in the afternoons. He slept so well I did not want to wake him at 3:15pm when the bus normally comes around the turn to drop off my daughter.
We were new at this routine. I was working at home, my daughter was in a new school (elementary!) and my son was still young enough to need naps and home time and not preschool every day.
We were also new enough to the neighborhood that nobody really knew us yet.
We live on a fairly steep hill without a sidewalk, too steep for my liking to send my oldest born to or from the bus stop a quarter mile away on her own. I watched the clock near the time of her arrival and panicked as my tiny son remained still, breathing heavily, slightly sweaty in bed. I could not arouse him, aren’t we taught that? The creed of every parent? DO NOT WAKE THE CHILD. I did not dare.
But as the bus came closer, I knew I had a decision to make: Leave the youngest to meet the older one at the bus stop? Or wait at the top of our hill here, at my driveway, for her to come to me?
I stood at the driveway at 3:10. I watched. I waited. My young son slept.
Near 3:30 I begane to panic. I walked to the bus stop to look for the other children wondering if I’d miss the bus’s arrival. I waited and waited, glancing up to the house every few minutes and back around the corner for signs of the other children. I saw nothing.
Fifteen more minutes drew on. The bus is sometimes late but never, surely, THIS late. I ran up the hill toward my house in fear. Did I miss the bus? How long had my tiny young son been sleeping alone? Had my daughter tried to walk up before I was out there, surely five minutes or more before I needed to be, and been picked up by a stranger?
It was a no win situation and lose I did. My tiny son sat, bawling, at the bottom of the stairs. “I did not find you!” he wailed when I rushed back in the house. “Oh, buddy, oh buddy, you were asleep. I went to pick up your sister. Oh I was right here for so long, here, at the bottom of the driveway. I was here, waiting for your sister, letting you sleep, safe in our house. Oh, buddy.” He sobbed and explained his fears. “You were gone! I looked every where!” No, I was here, I was here. I was thinking of you, I was watching the house, I was waiting for your sister, I was….
It did not matter. To my son I had abandoned him. I grabbed him, hugged him, and decided one thing must have happened: My daughter walked to her friend’s house without telling me.
After comforting my son, crying alongside him, and reassuring him I would never ever truly leave him, we got in the car and went the three-quarter mile to our friend’s house where I was hoping my daughter would be. My heart raced at the thought of anything else as my traumatized son sat in his car seat kicking happily at the back seat sucking on a sippy cup of milk.
She was there, I found out, at the table, eating a snack and playing. I was furious and relieved. I was heart broken and happy. I could not believe an afternoon of “being with the children” could have turned out so wrong. I gathered her up, telling her to always come home, I will be here, if I do not say otherwise. That I had waited at our driveway for twenty minutes and the bus stop for fifteen. “Oh,” she shrugged, “we were early.”
That day I struggled as a working mom who wanted to be with her children that afternoon. I wanted my son to sleep. I wanted my daughter to be safe on the road to our house. I wanted to be here for them both and instead I failed. My son, to this day apparently, reminds me of this trauma and I know, for a fact, the other mothers in our neighborhood see this as a failure of parenting. How could I not have been on time to meet my daughter? What is it that I could possibly do that was more important than being there for her at the bus stop?
I think of this as my son, a year and a half later, reminds me how I left him. This, I think, this is why I did not get to the bus earlier. This is why I look like a bad mother: because I had a tiny boy sleeping in my bed and I hoped beyond hope to not have to leave him alone. This, I think, is the conversation I hoped to avoid. “No, buddy” I reassure, “I will always come back for you. I promise.”
And I always have.
Kids, I’m going to tell you a story*. This is a story about how I ended up sitting in an office outside of Nuremberg in a tiny town called Erlangen, Germany, which happens to be less than an hour’s drive from where I was made. It’s a true story.
I get this question a lot lately, “What do you DO now, exactly,” and I can not answer in full. I work on demos for automotive software companies. I create websites, mostly front-end now, for larger companies that know more than I do. I help organize strategies for content management, marketing communications, branding and messaging. I travel to a lot of amazing places and I meet a lot of amazing people. My job does not suck. I can tell you that.
This particular story happens in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I was working with two automotive software companies. For one, I was finishing a demo on a mobile device, let’s call it the iPad, for their sales and marketing team to show Ford, Audi, VW and Toyota. And the other, let’s call it Big Awesome German Company, I was helping out with branding and messaging and content strategy. That is to say, I was at CES for work and I got to party with some really awesome companies.
Like Microsoft, for example.
I ended up, not so much on accident, at the Microsoft party at CES. I asked a co-worker there to watch my drink: A gray goose and diet. She promised to do so as I went to the toilets. However, since I ended up meeting four people on my return, when I arrived back to the bar I looked at her quizzically. “Um, where’s my drink?” She glanced over her shoulder, “I gave it to This Guy since you took so long to get back.” “Uh,” I stammered, “Who is This Guy? HE owes me a drink.”
This Guy smiled and said Hallo.
A German! Oh but I love the Germans!
“Hallo!I” I said. “You owe me a drink!” “Ah, sorry, yes, I will get you one. Gray Goose and Coke?” “Ya,” I replied using my third word in German. He ordered and turned back to me. “Who do you work for?” I asked. He told me EB. I said, “AH! I am going to work with EB! She” I pointed to the girl I worked with, “is going to hire me to do your website!” “Ah,” he said smiling, “I am her boss.”
I recounted this story the first night I was in town at dinner with my boss, her boss, and a few others of our team.
HIs response? “Did I get you a drink?” “Yes,” I laughed as the team went red on my behalf. “Would you like another?” he asked.
And so it is that I sit, right now, next door to This Guy. It’s funny, in a way, how life works. The more myself, the more awkward and ridiculously open I can be, the more in line with my destiny I feel I become.
Let me tell you about the time I met my ex-boss on the Internet. That’s a good story, too. But for now, I will say this: If everything happens for a reason, and god we have to hope it does, then even a gray goose and coke can seem trivial, but it’s not.
*Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “how I met your mother” lately.
** Updated photos from my day trip to Munich. More on this later.
Because this is exactly what I’d expect to see while looking for the train station in Munich. The Man In The Mirror.
I saw a guy get off his bike and head in to this “Thai Massage” place. Totally know what he’s getting in there.
You know those days where you forget to eat for about six hours and by the time you realize it you swear your pants are already a size bigger and you must surely look anorexic or vitally ill or, say, like Angelina Jolie but without all those kids or Brad Pitt? And then when you’re in the REWE supermarket you catch a glance of yourself from the side in the fridge isle and realize you could probably stand to go another ten days plus six more hours without eating but damn those sausages look tasty.
I’m not too proud to tell you I stood for about ten minutes in the Suppe isle today. Or that I happened to get about ten packets of soup mix because HOLYLOVEOFGOD the Germans have a lot of packages of soup mixes. I think I purchased a lovely mushroom spice for which to make mushroom rosetta with if I get get the ingredient right (I have the rosetta, mix, and vassa so I think I’m covered?) and a few others for making sauces (for the aforementioned sausages). I also found some Muesli (which in German means ‘Health Nut’) with chocolate and seeds. I’m so all over this.
I can also share with you that today I had to use google translate to see what the message on my German phone was from Telekom. I felt so “Christmas Story” with the Ovaltine Decoder. I couldn’t wait to see what my message was only to find out it was an advertisement for getting more minutes with the SIM.
Like it would be a secret admirer or something. heh.
I stood at the bakery this morning stuttering out my order for a “Große Cappuccino und Ei Sandwich bitte,” when a lovely lady next to me says, “LESLIE! Oh hi!” I am still amazed I would know anyone here and even more so when they start the conversation for me. I said hello, it happened to be the gal in charge of getting me here and home, an admin at work, and we had a nice chat as I stammered in my broken german just enough to get a receipt and laugh, “Thank you for breakfast,” to her. I then biked in to work holding my cappuccino in my take-away cup and my bagel in my backpack.
But even still, with all of these experiences that I adore, places I get to see, people I run in to, there’s an emptiness that only a working parent can feel. I’m unaccustomed to coming home to silence. I’m lost without small articles of clothing to wash. I can’t stand to go a full day without seeing their small faces and hear their goofy voices. Even today, when my 7 year old was having a bad morning, I took comfort in helping her shake out of it by laughing and playing with her on Skype. I can’t imagine traveling before the Internet and Skype and FaceTime and video Chats. It is how I’ve survived.
People at work ask me about my family and if I’m homesick. “Yes,” I say honestly, “Of course. But I think day 10 was the most difficult and now I know every day is closer to me going home and I have only five days to see this site and get my work finished and write during sunset with white wine and a chocolate mouse.” The children tell me not to leave for this long again and I remember my life is not my own. It is theirs, too. I promise them to take them with me next time and show them all I’ve seen. Every corner I bike I take note to remember to tell them all they will explore. I plan on their return and I know it will happen. I will share this with them and they are beyond fortunate to get to Germany before they are 35, before their childhood dreams are long past due before it is proper to try so hard to pursue them. I don’t tell them this, instead I play with them, with a moose, on Skype, and we giggle and laugh and we find the harmony we need to make it another 22 hours before we do this again.
Then we count the days.
The days are disappearing. As excited as I am to get home I’m just as excited to get back. It’s a strange feeling to have such a belonging in more than one place. Riding my bike to the bakery, to work, to the shop: I’m learning secrets about living here. I’ve learned that it cost one Euro to get a cart at the shop so don’t bother, to always bring your own bag because there isn’t such a thing as “paper or plastic”, how to get my bra to dry in one day by air. These are important facets of life here and you only know them by experience.
It’s not that it’s all rosy, mind you. I work 15-17 hour days. I get up early, I peddle to the bakery, I peddle to work and lose time until I’m forced to leave because the market will close and I won’t eat if I don’t leave RIGHT NOW to get some salad so I can keep working at home. I say this because I focus on the positive. I love it. I thrive on it. I am using it to keep me going. I ignore the loss of hair, the extra wrinkles, the stress and pressure. I’m not writing about that because you don’t want to know about it. It’s hard. It’s tough. I’m pushed and pulled and ultimately, at times, breakable. But at the end of the day, I sit and think about how thankful I am for it all.
As much as I want to share this with my children, for now I will wait. Instead I will have a dancing moose “Ebert Baüsen” or “EB” for short, to help them cope with this long separation, one I know they’ll forget before next month. For now, this is ok. We can be silly. We can share our morning dance. I hope they will be here to see the Suppe isle, the beer gardens with playgrounds. For my six year old self, for my thirty-six year old self, for my seven year old daughter, I hope we all return soon. Because ultimately, in some strange strange way, this will be part of me. Forever.
I’m a native Texan. That is to say, my mother went through 48 hellish hours of labor (thanks, Mom!) so that I could be born in to this world, and the place she endured said pain is Texas City, Texas. She told me, when I was little, she choose that particular place for me to be born because it was easy to remember. Also because she had flown from a town very difficult to say correctly (Bayrouth, Germany) and it made a lot more sense, what with my dad loving Texas and all. I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between those tall tales and the one where my Grandmother happened to live near a hospital in Texas City, Texas, at the time and my mother and father needed a place to stay after returning to the states from many years over seas. I come from a long line of story tellers
I am sitting now under the starry night looking directly at Orion’s belt. I am drinking German beer, not because I found it at the local World Market, but because it came from the (supermarket) two blocks from where I sit. There is a church tower around the corner that dates from 1591. I am in Nuremberg. Or Nürnberg, if you’re a local. I hear the Germans on the street below and I am surrounded by the fresh smell of my laundry, the only hint of home that wafts in the dark in the breeze.
I am oddly home.
I have a sense of nostalgia here. It’s as if I’ve lived this life here, or one very similar, in other times. I am lost, in present day, unable to fully communicate except with broken pieces of German. It’s comical, really, when someone walks up to me and I say, “Hallo!” and they say, “Hallo,” and I exchange light talk, “Gruße Grote!” They begin to ask a question and I shake my head, “um.. uh.. er… uh, do you know English?” They laugh kindly, either nodding yes or no, and we smile awkwardly as I admit I am not really from here however much I sometimes forget that fact.
Except that I can never forget that fact.
The cashier at the cantina at work asks me in German what I want to eat. I make weird faces and motions with my hands saying something about Salad and Veggies and No More Bread For The Love Of God and she hands me a lovely sandwich on a thick roll with meat and cheese. I smile, say “Danke” and offer her my cash. She smiles back, say Bitte, and I am on my way to another ten pounds.
This same conversation happens fourteen times a day.
I manage around town on my bike, a borrowed vehicle from a local friend. I am thankful, a thousand times thankful, for my local friend who not only speaks English but also four other languages and has a love of pasta. This means we eat a lot of Italian at real Italian places most of which the cooks speak only Italian and hit on women like a dog on salami.
I marvel at how far I can bike. I breathe heavily as I bike the 12km from Nürnburg to Erlangen where the office is. I arrive breathless and sweaty and I smile as I enter the building, like this is a normal day for me: Just another commute to the office via bike in the villages of Germany. I mean completely nothing special. At all.
Except oh, even the horses here speak German.
I breathe deeply the air, the coveted Nuremberg air, the German-ness (if I may) of the whole experience. How I rarely understand a conversation, how lost I am daily, how nothing is open on a Sunday except two cafes, non of which serve alcohol or protein. But it has been a week now, an entire week of my living here, and I already appreciate what I heard my father saying to me so many years ago. “Oh, Leslie,” he would reflect when I was old enough to listen, “the Germans. GOD BLESS ‘EM. I love the Germans.” The hundreds, or thousands, of stories I’ve heard as a child bring me to this balcony on this day thirty years later, smelling my clean laundry on the line, listening to the Germans below, watching lights in the village flicker on or off. In a way I hardly understand, I am home. Tomorrow I walk the valley of a monastery who serves beer with my boss and her boss. We will walk the woods, drink amazing beer, reflect on work and life in the States. And again I will say to you: I am home. Oddly enough, foreign as I am, I am home.
It’s not unusual to hear a “mommy blogger” talk about the inevitable morning from hell. In fact, I’m pretty sure both of you reading this could tell me you’ve experience this exact same morning. The difference? It happened to me. And this is how things shook down:
The 4 year old is in a particular nasty phase. It’s the morph between preschooler and “real boy” that mimics pre-pubecense with pee accidents. It’s a confusing time for everyone involved. This particular morning, the Boy couldn’t get a grip. He woke with a nasty case of being four. He sat, emphatically, at the table and stated: “I will not eat this cereal.” Now, in case there are any four year old’s reading this post let me explain a small known fact among all parents. The minute you state you WILL NOT EAT THIS CEREAL means you absolutely WILL NOT GET ANYTHING ELSE. Eat or don’t eat, we don’t really care. But that cereal? It’s all your gettin’.
When I tried to inform the Boy about this fact, he went in to hysterics. “I WILL NOT EAT THIS! I DO NOT WANT THIS! IIII HHHAAAATTTEEE PANDAAAAA PUFFFFFFFFS!!!!!” Logic doesn’t work on a four year old. It doesn’t matter he was the one that asked for the Panda Puffs in the first place. It doesn’t matter that he wanted to purchase them for six weeks until I finally caved. No, logic and four year olds, as yoda says, do not.
I calmly tell my son he can throw this fit in his room. When he refuses to move, I offer to do the heavy lifting for him. AKA: I pick him up and put him in the room and close the door. At this point sirens in china erupt from sound pollution coming directly from my four year old’s mouth. The Boy, he went mental. Screaming, begging to come out, yelling that he needs a tissue. The list goes on and the time slowed. Ten minutes later, he continued with his fit.
Around minute 18 my daughter turns to me and says, “Mom? That’s really annoying. I can see why you don’t like it when I do that.”
At minute 22, it gets quiet. The door cracks a budge and a small boy, my small boy, creeps out. “Mom?” he shyly approaches me, “I’m sorry.”
Twenty-two minutes of absolute utter chaos, hell, yelling, and testing. Twenty-two minutes of neighbors hating us, of passer-bys judging, of new gray hairs. Twenty-two minutes to prove a point that I hope he understands twenty-two years from now.
And, for the record? He did eat the Panda Puffs. Every soggy last bite.
Ode to the cubical wall
so tall and so gray
It hides the world,
the sun, the rain,
life outside this day
Ode to the second cup of
coffee that so
quickly is out
You bring new life, energy
before leaving me without
Ode to the music of MOG
which plays in my ear
Knocking out sound
of others conversations
allowing me to disappear
Ode to the florescent lights
so nasty on my skin
bringing new resolve
and cut back on the gin
Ode to the coming paycheck
so sweet to my account
if it wasn’t for you,
dear bills and debt,
this life I could surmount
28 guests here now.