30 April, 2011

Shameless metaphor

On my walk yesterday I stopped to admire an ancient apple tree. I don't know how old apple trees get, but this one had an impressive trunk and improbably thick branches. The weather was beautiful and everything was in bloom. The tears in my eyes could have been from pollen or maybe just from the raw emotion that seems to be flowing just under the surface of my being lately.

My friend died. The one who was in at the emergency clinic the other day for a broken leg. He was 93, an acquaintance from the nursing home. Someone who'd already told me a year ago that he was tired of life and would like to just go ahead and get death over with.

He'd showed me pictures. Old black and white photos, goofy shots of friends in military uniforms, just before they were massacred on a field in Russia. He'd gotten wind of an ambush and had had a friend shoot him in the leg so that he would be sent to the field hospital. He was the only survivor in his whole unit, and the guilt cripples him to this very day. Or up until April 18th, to be exact.

And then suddenly another image crowds into my mind. That of S and B. I'd spotted them earlier in the week on my way to the grocery store. They were on their bikes, saw me and waved happily, a box with half a dozen ice creams under S's arm. They're on vacation, the sun was shining, and they were taking long meandering bicycle tours, the majority of which ended up at the grocery store, where they get more bang for their buck with the ice cream funds that they got from their Opa. Then, jacked up on sugar, they do wheelies and other death-defying stunts until it's time to come home and revel in the luxury of free time and lazy boredom that come with being an average of 10 years old...

I smile, and then remember an old friend whose life is dissolving around her ears. Her mother, dying of cancer, her father, who can't handle the pressure, and who's had to be admitted into a mental ward with a nervous breakdown. Her own marriage in crisis and future uncertain.

A loved one who was given an all-clear after a cancer screening. pure joy and relief.

A new house, a new beginning.

This old apple tree, with its beautiful, deceptively fragile-looking blossoms, which hide gnarled, scarred branches. Reminds me a lot of life in all its glory...

OK then, if you say so! ;-)

An old friend is getting married in Sarajevo in July. M and the kids won't be able to attend, so I'll be flying solo. Emailed one of the recommended hotels and asked for a single room at the discounted price:

Hotel: "Double room is available at 65 Euros per night. Please confirm that you'll take it. Regards, Nermin I."

Me: "Thanks, but I am traveling alone and would like to book a single room. Do you have any available? Thanks in advance, Betsy."

Hotel: "Single room. EUR 53 including tax. Regards, Nermin I."

Me: "Perfect! I'll take it! Please reserve it for me for the dates provided. Best regards, Betsy"

Bosnian Hotel: ...

24 hours pass and I'm starting to conjure up doomsday scenarios where I arrive to find no rooms available and have to spend the weekend in a dumpster.

On the other hand, I worry that if I send another email that I'll come off as pushy, that they'll maliciously cancel my reservation and that I'll, well, have to spend the weekend in a dumpster. Finally cave and try to write an email that sounds firm, but not simpering:

Me: "Hello again. Sorry, but could you please confirm that the single room is available from xx through xx July and that it has been reserved for me? I'm a little nervous about the trip and just want to know that this has been taken care of. thank you very much and have a nice weekend. Betsy"

Got this reply this morning:

Hotel: "CONFIRMED. Don’t be nervous. Regards, Nermin I."

Dutch "compliments"

He looked at me affectionately and said: "Bets, you've dried up nice!" I chose to take it as a compliment...

13 April, 2011

(not so) random acts of kindness

Yesterday afternoon came and I had 4 hours before handing over the keys to the old house. I'd been cleaning for 4 days straight (after schlepping boxes up the stairs to our new house every day for 3 weeks before that.) and was so exhausted that I either started to cry or fell asleep every time I sat down! Suddenly K showed up, vacuumed the ground floor, swept the driveway and was just so generally cheery that I found the will to live and finished up just in time for the handover at 6pm.

This move has taught me so much about the kindness of friends and strangers and how big a difference little favors make during a turbulent time! I've had to learn to accept help from others and to be able to communicate my needs, and that's the only thing that kept me from stringing myself up from the nearest rafter. (That and the fact that our rafters are attached to the ceiling and you can't actually get a rope around them...)

Thinking back now I'm so grateful for all the little kindnesses-- a bullet point list doesn't do them justice, but I want to list some of them so that I can look back later and remember how lucky I was that I have such great friends and neighbors who:
  • donated loads of boxes and packing materials
  • explained the whole buying process in Germany and provided much needed advice
  • showed up at random moments to help with schlepping / cleaning / moral support, etc
  • helped S study for a tough German test
  • brought us fresh homemade dinners on 6 of the evenings during the week that we moved
  • dropped off an amazing care package with American snax, a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly so that I wouldn't have to drop everything whenever the kids got hungry
  • painted the walls of the downstairs bedrooms
  • brought me a tiny tea kettle, a mug and green tea bags so that I'd have a pick-me-up while working in the empty old house
  • helped me pick out lighting fixtures because I seem to be missing the necessary skillz to do that myself
  • came over with a fresh homemade crab quesadilla right at a moment when I thought I was going to keel over with hunger and fatigue
  • came by at random moments to rescue my kids from ennui and an empty house when I couldn't be here to make sure they were clothed / fed / staying off of the streets.
  • gave us a bottle of *awesome* homemade pear schnapps. (hot DAMN is it good!)
  • gave us a potted plant to welcome us to the new neighborhood
Thank you everyone! I am so humbled by your generosity and hope to be able to jump in at just the right moment when you need it most!

10 April, 2011

Moving HELL

Moving is stressful enough on its own, but what if you throw in a couple of medical emergencies just to make the day even more "interesting"?

The morning started off well enough. M's brother had come down from Amsterdam to help and we had a good laugh about the dog, who snored loudly for the better part of an hour while 5 burly strangers literally carted all of our belongings out of the house!

We were just about finished throwing the last bits and pieces into boxes when the school called: S's finger(s) had been slammed in a door, it was bleeding, possibly broken, and we needed to come get him immediately to take him to a doctor. Of course my jacket had been packed, my keys had been packed-- I'm lucky I actually had shoes on! ;-)

So I raced down to pick him up-- his hand was bandaged and he had blood all over his shirt, but it seemed like his finger(s) had stopped bleeding by that time. Took him to the pediatrician who confirmed that he wouldn't need stitches, but who forwarded me on to the emergency clinic here in town so that he could have some x-rays taken. We were giving all of our information when an acquaintance got wheeled past on a brancard to be taken to the hospital with a broken leg!!!

S got x-rays taken and we were waiting for the results when suddenly I hear M's voice! ??? Turned around and was shocked to see him standing there next to one of the movers, who was holding a huge wad of paper towels on his head! Apparently one of his buddies had put some 2,5 meter metal poles on top of the truck, but hadn't secured them. When this guy pressed the button to open the back of the truck, the door pulled a pole off the roof, it fell from the top of the truck, end first, DIRECTLY ONTO HIS HEAD! M saw the whole thing happen and said it was completely surreal!

So of course the moving guy is bleeding like crazy. M rinsed him off with some water, gave him a compress and brought him to the emergency clinic. His brother stayed behind to clean up the blood and help coordinate the other 4 movers who just continued on with their work.

In the end the poor moving guy had a 6 cm gash on his head which took 7 staples to close!!! He looked like Frankenstein and actually even schlepped some heavy stuff after we got back to the house!

S's finger wasn't broken after all, thank God. The door had actually closed all the way, and his finger had split in three places, but the wounds were superficial, luckily. He wore a cast for a couple of days, which meant no homework and lots of attention from the other kids in the class. (Oh, and he told me somewhat proudly yesterday that he left some impressive blood stains on the carpet in the classroom.)

We're now paying for the chaotic nature of the last hour of packing-- I opened up a box yesterday looking for B's shoes and found a dead plant, a pillow case and a box of cat food. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, now, though, and I'm just hoping that it's not the train......................

03 April, 2011

Either Vlad's been hitting the Rogain...

...or I've been slacking at dusting...

02 April, 2011


Was out walking D with the kids when I noticed a new patch of gray hair sprouting on her neck. When I mentioned it S hesitated and said: "Umm, Mom, I've um sort of noticed that, well, umm, you've got some new gray hair too." And B chimed in with: "YEAH! I've been wondering what that weird stripe was on the top of your head!"

*Sigh* It's high time to make a new appt at the salon but I'm afraid I'll have to wait until after the move to do it. In the meantime I'm afraid I look like Pepe Lepew...

01 April, 2011

M's even funny when he's annoyed!

We're sorting through boxes and I'm worn down and am not being as focused as I should be.

Me: Hey! Here's some Kazakh money!

M: Mmmhmm.

Me: Hey-- A was born in Kazakhstan! I'll bet he'd think it was funny! Maybe you could give it to him!

M: Mmmhmm.

Me: ... for sexual favors!

M: The only sexual favor he could do for me would be to stay away from me!