Monday, January 31, 2011

Expanding, expanding

My belly popped out in grand fashion last week in Moscow which led to a shocked moment when I realized that we are about halfway through this pregnancy. I mean, didn’t I just pee on a stick last week?!? But nope, welcome to week 19/20!

When we first arrived in Moscow, we snapped a quick picture in front of that really, really famous church – which is even more beautiful in person than in pictures.

 Right before we left, we snapped another one. Anyone else notice the shocking growth pattern?

I’m round and I’m just going to get rounder – how about that?


Friday, January 28, 2011

For the Record: Cher Got It Wrong

Its January, we’re in Moscow visiting a friend and – surprise, surprise – its freezing cold. Free-zee-ing cold (and that is the nice version). When we leave the apartment each day, I’m wearing at least thick wool tights with feet, jeans, t-shirt, sweater, winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves and wool lined boots. Most days I have another layer on top, like a second jacket under my thick winter coat, as well as an additional pair of socks. Yet, I still find myself shivering within ten minutes of being outside. 

This picture was taken 5 steps away from the apartment. Yes, I’m already cold. Yes, my dear friend - lets just call her the Cold Snob - is laughing AT me.

But I plead basic sanity in my defense. It is cold here and I offer four pieces of evidence to prove my argument.

A - This is a city that clears its snow with a digger. A digger.

B - This is also a city that has an army of men who spend their entire day cleaning snow off of the top of buildings. 

C - This is a city covered in ice for a good part of each year. There is so much of it, that the sidewalks would be better purposed as skating rings.*  

D – This is a city that has to cordon off parts of sidewalks to protect pedestrians from getting killed by the “small” icicles hanging around in the city. 

So its free-zee-ing cold here. 

Which brings me to: For the record – Cher got it wrong. Love isn’t in his kiss – its in his willingness to swap his much warmer hat for your far too thin one just because your head is cold. That’s love.  

*The women of Moscow have the incredible talent of bucking basic physics and walking on ice in stiletto boots. This was just one of many, many woman who gracefully and quickly tour around the city balancing on….what exactly are they balancing on?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Go out and Share Your Smile

When it was clear that the Mr. and I were going to move to our small town a few years ago, I decided that if I had to live with the disadvantages of a small town, I wanted the small town advantages too, particularly the small town charms of friendliness and warmth.

Yeah, I forgot that I was moving to a German small town. I soon noticed that I was going to get neither friendliness nor warmth from strangers in public places. In fact, I soon realized that I wasn’t even going to get eye contact when we passed each other in our small town streets. Here, in my safe circle of readers, I’m willing to say that this realization annoyed me and occasionally pissed me off. If I had to live with small towns stores that closed at lunch time each day and by 2pm on Saturdays, I wanted at least a short greeting on the street. I mean, really.

After a few months of fuming I decided to take some of the good elements from my corporate job and implement them as part of my own behavioral change experiment. Those are big words for the following: I changed my attitude and became what I wanted from others. I stopped letting the majority annoy me and started to both buck the German reserved nature with strangers and to greet others on the street with a slight smile and a short greeting like “hallo” (hello) or “guten tag” (good day).

To say that my behavior confused many, startled some, and annoyed a few wouldn’t quite capture the reactions I’ve enjoyed. When I first started my experiment my ‘hit rate’ for positive responses of any sort – for example a confused “wie bitte?” (pardon me?) – was less than 25% percent. But I’m quite proud to report that over the past few years I’ve gotten more and more successful. There was one very fine day when I took a half-hour walk around our small town – another advantage I demand – when I soooo close to 100% success rate. There is the charming man I call “Ole Man Town-Name” that I’ve greeted so often that we recognize each other on sight, giving him a chance to prepare his return “Guten Tag.” Until you see this elderly gentleman square his shoulders at my approaching frame, anticipating my greeting and his socially dictated requirement to respond, you really haven’t seen change in action.

Yet, I’ve also experienced joy and appreciation during my experiment: a tired mother of four energetic children all under the age of 10 whose face lit with a smile; an adorable toddler who shouted out “HALLO!” making his family members and me laugh together; a springy man in his 40s who gave me one of the broadest smiles I’ve seen when returning my greeting; the elderly woman who recently stopped in her tracks to thank me and the Mr. profusely for saying hello, for being kind, for being respectful.

Most importantly I’ve gained the most: it doesn’t matter how I feel or what my day has been like, after a walk full of greeting strangers I feel good. I feel good about our decision to move to this small town and our life here in Germany-land. Most importantly, I feel damn good about myself.

The point of this entry is: whatever it going on, be bigger than it - go out and share your smile.

Still not inspired? Get some inspiration here and here.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas Came Late But It Came So Sweet

I usually wait a few days to post what’s up the Steinbach clan – but this is just too sweet (pun intended) to delay.

Due to the Christmas shipping schedules, the snow chaos caused on both sides of the Atlantic, and the other wonders of international shipping, my family's Christmas package arrived over here late. As in, it arrived today, January 13, 2011. When I went to pick it up today, I also realized it arrived really heavy.

All day long I was dying to open it ... I finally got the opportunity just minutes ago to discover beautiful American joy:



Jelly Bellys!

Cookie mixes!

Oh my!

There’s even more in that box of loving-ness, but if I list it all here I’m in danger of having to share it with all the other stranded Americans who foolishly shared their stashes with me.

A big thank you to the family for the super care package / Christmas gift! Repeat as often as you can.

Oh, yeah, and it seems my little sister and her hubby have staked out a few boy names that we aren’t “allowed” to use. She was kind enough to send through a list; sadly our favorite boy choice was on it. Back to the drawing board.

P.S. Good going on the tape, Little One, the package was nice and sturdy. I darn near broke the scissors.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Update: First Quilt Project

Oh my goodness - it looks like a quilt! The Mr. helped cut off all the excess fabric, now I just need to create the binding and hand stitch it on. Just a few more hours to go and mostly work I can do in front of the TV! Then off to the next project.


Friday, January 7, 2011

The Importance of Friends, a Sense of Humor, and the Movie Office Space

As previously mentioned, I work in the German corporate world. I’m coming up on my sixth year of living this life and some days I admit I get a little arrogant and think: “Okay, after this nothing can surprise me. I’ve now seen or heard it all: the surprising, the inspiring, the shocking, the embarrassing, and the soul-damaging.”

And then something happens to prove me wrong. Recently that something happened to me. For reasons like professionalism and confidentially agreement and the like, I can’t share the details here on my public blog with some 200 readers a post. Just know that this something really rocked my little boat and threw me for a number of loops.

So I turned to the three things that you absolutely must have to survive working in the corporate world: friends you don’t work with; a sense of humor; and the movie Office Space*.

Friends that you don’t work with are critically, critically important. The friends you work with are just too damn involved and will get all emotional discussing the something. You don’t need that. I mean, you do at some point – but not at that moment of survival. If you’re lucky you’ll have friends, but in the worst case scenario, you gotta have one. When the something happens, you need to pick up the phone and give that friend a call and you need to share the story (obviously respecting the confidentially that your company deserves). That friend should say things like, “that’s crazy” or “that’s great” or “fück!ng ‘eh!” that shows you that you aren’t that something and your shock/awe/damaged soul is totally normal.

But then you also need to bring your sense of humor to the conversation and to work in general. I will not and you will not survive the insanity without a sense of humor. It can be black humor, childish humor, German humor (yes, it does exist)…but you gotta have one. Seriously. Because if you can’t start laughing at the something while talking to your friend – or even, better while the something is happening - well, you’ve got quite a problem. If your sense of humor is starting to slip, then your friend needs to help you bring them back (which is why friends are the most important of the three).

When all else fails, the something has happened and thrown you for a loop, your friends are all out of town or too crazy to help you out – then you gotta solve the problem yourself. To do so (or just to help you out in that moment of need) you need a copy of the movie Office Space. Not NetFlix or LoveFilm or your local rental place or at your friend's place. You need a copy for yourself that you can watch in full or just a few minutes of every time you need it.

And you will need it. Trust me.

When you are really lucky and you’ve managed to balance all three of these things, your friend will not only listen to the something, help you remember and enjoy your sense of humor, but she will surprise you will a red stapler just like Milton's from Office Space for your office.

I’m really lucky.

*The German title is Alles Routine

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

For the Record: Lovely Surprises

The Mr. recently surprised me with my absolute, hands-down, favorite flowers. Don't ask me how he got a hold of tulips at this time of year but he did. For the record, the view of spring flowers while snow is still on the ground has a multiplying effect on my personal joy. In short, it goes from super awesome to super, super awesome.

And since there are now two of us in this body of mine - goofy picture included - I (we?) got TWO bunches of tulips!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy 2011

Happy New Year 2011 everyone! I’m stoked for this year and hope that you are all looking forward to the next 12 months.

This year we celebrated with a group of friends and their lovely children in the Mr.’s village. It was so joyful to enjoy the evening with four children.

Everyone brought a dish to share with the others and we ended up with stuffed, stuffed, stuffed bellies full of excellent yummies from all over the spectrum of recipes. There was actually more food than in this picture; I just couldn't get it all in.

Then I - surprise, surprise - took a little nap so that I could share in the midnight festivities. I'm still exhausted from the little on growing inside of me.

And at midnight the Mr. and I shared the traditional kiss or five and then the German sky lit up with a thousand fireworks from each private gathering. I'm pleased I got a picture of the Mr at all, as goofy as he may look here. In his excitement it was hard to hold still - how often is he allowed to set fireworks off?

Enjoy the next 12 months – I hope that it is full of joy!

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