The Invasion

We were invaded at Christmas:

Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart on the Wii rocks, even more than it did on the Game Cube or the DS. Just sayin’.

It’s also the only game all four of us can play together, and one of the only two that I could play for hours if I let myself, the other one being Tempest on the Nuon, which is pretty much a one-player deal (and I don’t even have that one hooked up right now).

In the interests of full disclosure, this may be part of what’s happened to my motivation. Maybe.

Taking a Breath

The manuscript for The Book is D.O.N.E. Done! I finished writing and drawing diagrams and editing photos today. I do still have to complete three of the quilts (they have been started, but my editor said that it would help them if I finished up the manuscript so that they could get that asap, and the quilts could come later). I also have to separate out the text and pictures and diagrams into separate files and such, so that it’s in the right format to submit, but I’m going to take a break for a few days, and finish that up right after Christmas. I can look at the text one more time with fresh eyes after I’ve been away from it for a few days and give it one more editing run through.

Whew! What this all means is that I really did know exactly how long it would take me to finish all of this. I told the editor around the first of November that I could have everything done by the end of December, and that’s exactly how it’s turned out. I had it figured that there wasn’t a lot of time for anything but working on the manuscript and the quilts; no lunches with ITMan or friends, no breaks for casual shopping, not a lot of reading for pleasure (and I miss my reading!), none of those extracurriculars.

Other than that, it means that now I can take a small breath, try to catch up a bit and make Christmas as close to normal as it can be at this point. ITMan and I are going out shopping tomorrow and Monday to see what last minute small things we can pull together for each other and the kids, and get the food shopping for Christmas done. I might work in some Christmas baking on Sunday and Monday as well, and then I do have to make Christmas Tree Bread dough on Tuesday and shape the loaves on Wednesday, because it’s just NOT Christmas without it.

Right now, I’m headed to bed early, to read the book that’s been on my bedside table since I bought it in Houston. It’s a new book about Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey, one of my favorite authors, and it’s been sitting there calling me since the end of October. I’m sure Shadow will join me there (he’s still doing well, and we’re all looking forward to Monday when he can have stitches removed and get rid of the collar), and Patches may even deign to share me and the bed with him for a bit. *sigh* It’s the little things.

Edit: And for any of you who have been reading since last year, I did (finally) update the Christmas Tree Bread recipe post with pictures of the bread, such as they are. Maybe I can remember to get even better pictures this year!

The First Day

Can you believe it? Today is GuitarGirl’s first day of work at her first job! Can you believe I’m the mom of a 16-year-old with a J.O.B.? How can this be? Somehow I remember picking her up from preschool just yesterday. Or was that yesteryear? Where did the time go?

GuitarGirl on her first day of workShe scooped up the perfect first job, at the Arts & Crafts Center in Heidelberg as a Recreation Assistant, which is basically a retail job. What a cushy first job, huh? And the Army treats these Recreation Assistants pretty well too, with none of that five-something an hour minimum wage stuff. The kid will make almost as much in just two weeks as I do in a month! Just to put that into perspective, she will have to work way more hours than I do to make that money, but thank goodness she can now keep herself in Dior mascara and MAC lipstick.






I had to mark the occasion with pictures, but of course forgot the camera at home, so I had to use the Blackberry (yeah, I bought a Blackberry; more on that later). Above is a picture of her in the car on the way to the A&C, and here she is on the steps ready to go inside.

*sniff, sniff* I’m usually not the terribly emotional type mom about stuff like this, but I am getting a bit teary eyed at the moment. She’s so excited, but nervous too, of course. Well, I’m excited for her, but right now I’m going to go think about something else before I have to go have a good cry over it all.


More Interesting Times

In addition to the landlord issues, another not so fun thing happened with the kids the other day. The girls have been more likely to go out walking in the neighborhood since we moved here than they ever were at the house in Stuttgart. The only place they ever went in our neighborhood there was to the little shop/gas station down the street to buy packaged ice cream, because that was the only place there was to go. Here at the new place, there are three bakeries, a drug store, a castle with a lovely park and an ice cream shop, all within walking distance of the house so they’re more likely to go out and about a couple of times a week or so.

All was good until the other day when they went on their usual “bakery-then-ice-cream-then-to-the-park” walkabout. Some punk kids shouted anti-American obscenities at them outside the ice cream shop because they heard them speaking English between themselves. Evidently these were fairly young children, but if the children are spouting it, you can surely figure out where they’ve learned it. I realize these are just kids, but it seems this little town has some residents that don’t like Americans so much.

I should note that we’ve been very lucky to have escaped this type of attitude for the 14 years we’ve lived in Germany, but that doesn’t make it feel any nicer. In France, yes, it’s almost a given thing that Americans are not well liked (especially when a bus load of us descended on a restaurant one night during a Paris tour; some French patrons actually left, loudly complaining “Too many stars and stripes in here!” on their way out the door) but I’ve never experienced this is Germany, nor have my children ever been on the receiving end of such anti-American sentiments, at least not so overtly.

The sad thing is that the girls are now a bit uncomfortable about going out and about. I told them what to do if it ever happens again (leave the area quickly, go to a different store and explain the problem to the store clerk, and call me on the cel phone. I will drive to get them with baseball bat in hand; don’t mess with my kids), but they’re probably going to stick close to home for the nonce. The next few times they want ice cream, either ITMan will have to walk with them, or I’ll maybe take them by in the car on the way home from some other outing. It’s not like they’re young, they’re 11 and 16, but they’re not exactly streetwise toughs, my girls. I could probably say in all honesty that they’ve been sheltered from the ugly parts of the world as they’ve grown up, as it should be.

I’ve never really felt unsafe in Germany overall, and I do my best to blend in. Well, except for that car thing. Mustangs are sold in Germany, but not in great numbers so they’re pretty much a giveaway, but at least I do have real German license plates now, as opposed to how it used to be. When we arrived here in 1994, we had plates that were obviously only on American cars; I felt like I was wearing a sign that said “Shoot me, I’m an American” with those. I do always feel like people look at us when we’re in public, especially if we’re at restaurants talking amongst ourselves and can be overheard speaking English.

Sure, ITMan and I aren’t exactly fluent German speakers (far from it), even after living here so long, but we do try. In our defense, we never thought we’d be here this long, and I just don’t want to spend the time to learn more of it than I have. The kids are pretty good at it, with LittleOne near fluent after being in German Kindergarten for two years, and having classes since then. I could tell the kids to speak German even between themselves when they are out without parents, but that still doesn’t address the real issue, I think.

So I’m not too sure what to think about this development here in our little town. Our immediate neighbors have probably all figured out by now that we’re American, though not military, and they seem okay with it. Not that we’ve been asked to the neighborhood barbecue or anything, which is fine too, but at least they’re not throwing eggs at our house or shouting mean things as they drive by. It’s funny; the American community is soooo much larger here in the Heidelberg area than it is in Stuttgart, and yet our first experience like this happens in Heidelberg.

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that Stuttgart is a larger, more internationalized area, with more large companies that have international employees than Heidelberg. There could be more non-DoD associated Americans in Stuttgart than Americans who are associated with the military, and maybe more Germans in the Heidelberg area just have it in for the American military and DoD associated folks, because there are soooo many of them here. In other words, in Stuttgart, German people wouldn’t automatically assume you are associated with the American military if you speak English; you could be working for DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes, Bosch, etc. and if you don’t know if someone works for the military, why target them with hatred for the American military?

Whatever it is, I’m definitely not feeling good about it all. What’s your view? Have you experienced this type of thing, whether vacationing or living abroad? How would you feel?

Quilting: Good for the Soul

Yesterday wasn’t one of the best workdays for me in recent memory. Most of the time, I’m lucky enough that my job is essentially a hobby that I get paid for, but yesterday wasn’t the norm. One of my clients was in assault mode, and inundated me with 20 emails over the course of about 2½ hours, all of them containing requests for updates to their site or questions that needed to be answered now. Then they wanted to know why something they sent me last week wasn’t done, and I snapped a little, and told them it wasn’t done because I’d spent 20+ hours on the weekend working on their new site design and online shop programming, so that all that would all be ready for Monday’s telephone meeting, and since Monday, I’d been working on still other things for them. Sheesh.

By 11-ish, I was done with the day, but unfortunately, it wasn’t done with me. There were still all those updates to do, in addition to the thing from last week that wasn’t done yet. I started in on a fillable Adobe PDF form for the site, and spent more than three hours attempting to figure out how to make the boxes expand with the text. Oh puh-lease. Adobe Acrobat hasn’t ever been exactly user friendly; I mean, come on, how is it obvious that to make a PDF file, you “distill” it with the Distiller?!? Sure, that was version 5, but it’s still not much better in version 8.whatever that I have now, especially when you want to do something weird like “dynamic forms.” Add the LiveCycle forms creator program into the mix and it’s surely a recipe for stress.

I finally threw in the towel at 3:40 p.m. I thought I could see the way forward, but I was hot, tired, grouchy, I’d yelled at the kids when they started the screaming-meme stuff in the kitchen and told them to go outside, and I was just DONE. The way forward could wait for a bit. I grabbed a quilt, and sat down at the machine to try some sorely needed quilt therapy. I didn’t even have to think too hard about the task, since it was basic machine quilting that I’d already planned out, so it was pretty mindless.

Bernina Stitch RegulatorWithin about 15 minutes, I was calm, cool and collected. I spent the time until the dinner hour in a state of quilting bliss, happily creating. I was even relaxed enough to try something new; I removed the Bernina Stitch Regulator from the box for the first time since I bought the machine and used it for some straight line quilting. I’d tried the BSR at the workshop in Paducah with Diane Gaudynski when I borrowed a 440 machine to use, and wasn’t all that impressed, so I’d never tried to get to know my own after I bought the Bernina. I’ll share my thoughts about the BSR in a later post, but for what I was doing yesterday afternoon, I was pretty happy with the BSR, though we still have a ways to go before we are one, if that day ever comes.

The rest of the day was great, and I quilted more after dinner and late into the wee hours of this morning. I did try to keep the frustrations of the day out of my head, but even when I was thinking about them, I could be calm about it. Quilting does that for me most of the time, and today, it was like a thundershower in a desert.

And today? Well, the work is still there, and Adobe is still my nemesis. I hacked away at it again this morning, and finally gave up. Normally, I’m not a “give up” type of person; I tend toward the “me against it” mentality, and I keep searching for the answer until I find it, so that I can win. With this one though, I’ve looked, I’ve searched, I’ve hacked away at it for hours, and I’ve finally decided that it must take someone much smarter than me to figure it out. Never mind. I don’t want to win anymore, I just want it to go away.

I’m going to quit on this one so that I don’t get to the point today where I need a tranqulizer quilt therapy. Never let it be said that I don’t know when I’m beaten. I’m off to do some of the other updates that don’t involve fighting with Adobe, but there will be more quilting thundershowers later today, whether I need them or not!