As I think of Germany more and more as home, I have new and different worries. I can relax a bit about the cost of Max’s long term care: staggering, maybe impossible, in the U.S. but part of the social insurance scheme here in Hamburg. I don’t need to set aside $100,000 for Frida’s college if she stays in the German system – university here is free or nearly. The bullying, consumerism, and obesity risk that American kids contend with are very different in Germany – even little kids here eat dark bread and I have seen with my own eyes 13-year-olds play accordion in front of their peer group, unironically, without dying of embarrassment and without being made fun of. It was, to anyone who’s gone to middle school in Olathe, Colorado, astonishing. (I remember thinking, ‘No, no, kids, why did you pick the accordion? Do you NEVER want to get laid?’ But I think actually they’ll be just fine. Tobias was at one point a beekeeping 19-year-old virgin and he turned into the kind of stud who picks up hot chicks at the airport baggage claim, a man sexy enough to make me move across the world and bear his children.)

So, Germany has its plusses and that doesn’t even count the architecture and the green space and the educated voters and the public transport and the museums and the ridiculously good apple juice. What, then, are the minuses?

Let’s Play…

New Worries

Imagine that you’re trapped in Hamburg for the rest of your life. What’s the problem? Read through the list below, then add your own ideas in the comments!

  • When I smile at strangers, the assumption is that I am mentally unwell rather than simply friendly. In return, a deepening frown is as likely as a smile.
  • You cannot find a good 38/85C bra here.
  • It is extremely difficult for anyone listening to me speak German to appreciate the power of my intellect. You know those memes with the hilarious translation fails? That’s me in German.
  • This weather may be slowly killing me, drip by depressing drip.
  • The marshmallows in Germany taste awful.

Ha ha! That was a trick – marshmallows everywhere taste awful unless they’re grilled over an open fire by my Uncle Joe during a successful fishing-and-camping trip in the Rocky Mountains.

I guess after 7 years in Europe, I’m realizing that I live here and I’m finally homesick! Since another visit to the family farm in Colorado isn’t on the books until winter, I need to do something to make Hamburg feel a little more homey.

Time to go ridicule some preteens. (Oh, come on, you’re asking for it! You’re playing handball!)


I must be feeling better; here are my impulse buys at the market:

  • a pound of drool-worthy chicken livers
  • really stinky cheese. (The kind that is drippy and that you should clean up with a paper towel rather than a reusable wipe.)
  • all the wild boar (almost a kilo of odds and ends.)
  • turnip greens
  • fresh sauerkraut
  • a shitload of plums. (Ha! That’s anything more than two.)

Yes, folks, poop jokes are funny again*. Hurrah! Hurray! No one diarrhea’d on me today!



*to me.



I’m the fourth member of our four-person family to get the stomach flu this week. (There’s no joy in knowing that my exposure was due to processing contaminated laundry and cleaning contaminated toilets.)

As the lone non-German in the house, my sickness comfort foods seem strange: rather than Tuc crackers, a local version of Ritz, I want low-salt saltines, graham crackers, and brightly colored fitness beverages in flavors like Power Frost and Arctic Melon Crush. They’re almost impossible to find here, and not having them makes me homesick, but I thought I’d lucked out today at the grocery when I saw a knock-off Gatorade in the drinks aisle.

I am outraged about lots of things – the Global Gag Rule, Trump’s recent rollback of DACA, Hungary’s willingness to turn away people who need help – and generally find that modern Germany is getting right what other political regimes are getting wrong. Why, then Germany, why, when I’m at a vulnerable point three days into this stomach bug, do you carbonate your Gatorade?

When I think about the various kinds of privilege I enjoy, I am embarrassed and grateful. And now I have a convenient shorthand for my specific level of privilege!

“Whines About Carbonated Gatorade.”

All I Can Think Of Right Now

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the occasion of a birthday-festivity-induced light hangover produces plenty of existential angst. Life is short! And I forgot to get an MBA in my 30’s. Shit!

Still, with the years comes wisdom. (With the years come wisdom? Wisdoms? Hmm, might have to take it back.) Wisdoms like:

  • it’s hard to maintain envy if your answer to the would-you-trade-lives-with-them question is no. e.g. I might be jealous of someone’s job or their painting skills or their ability to walk gracefully in heels but I do not want to be Barack Obama (the stress!) or Frida Kahlo (the angst!) or Melania Trump (the obvious!)
  • sleeping more is the easiest, cheapest way to feel good. Exercising and a nutritious diet work, too, but sleeping you can do lying down.
  • for most situations, nuts make an appropriate gift.


Tobias and the kids, on board with the concept but fuzzy on the details, proudly served me homemade breakfast in bed this morning: a cup of coffee and an entire cheesecake.

Tobias has taken charge of the birthday planning, which means that it’s 9:30 and I’ve already been to the gym. (Fair, given what I had for breakfast.)

Frida explained that she couldn’t tell me about the surprise party because it is a surprise.

Max gave me a good morning hug and said that for the evening hug he isn’t going to use his arms. I’m looking forward to finding out what that means.

So far, 41 is fantastic.


I’m Calling It

It’s been a hell of a summer! Lots of family, lots of sun, some riots, a half-marathon, and loads of laughs. My favorite: while I was taking a picture of my daughter,


my mom was taking a picture of her daughter, too.

Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Mom kills me.

Now that the 40 hours of flying are behind us, I can confidently report that a recipe for an excellent summer is:

CORN! Lots of it.

DOGS! Preferably willing snugglers.

Sunrises. (Jet lag’s silver lining.)

Skyping with Papa, who’s like I miss you guys and I took a 4-hour bike ride after work/didn’t have to share my cheesecake/finished my work project without feeling neglectful/slept without getting kneed in the groin. But how’s YOUR vacation?

…and as many cousins as you can gather. Love to all.

Family Update

Frida, watching me put Max’s longest socks on and noting that he has two knees, suggests that they should be called ‘knees socks’.

Tobias, answering my question about our attendance at next Wednesday’s anti-G20 demonstration, patiently explains that Trump a.) is an elected official, and b.) does not care what I think (or yell and scream.)

I somewhat less patiently explain that the demo isn’t meant to change Trump’s mind (although isn’t that a delicious thought,) but to remind the consumers of the demo – neighbors, passersby, city leadership, our cops – of the importance of voting for a candidate who will do the right thing. I’m charged up, glad that my German has come far enough to talk American politics even though it’s dead easy right now: smack the forehead, explain that even with Trump out of the picture there are still millions of Trump supporters feeding off of Russian Fact Soup, say something simple about how capitalism is bad.

Max, trying on a dress from the Nigerian stall at the street festival, twirls and twirls and laughs and twirls.

We are as good as we’re going to get.


Cultural Differences, Preschool Toughness Edition

My mother’s old horse got stuck, belly-deep, in wet adobe. On the farm alone, watching the horse flounder and panic in the heavy clay, she went to get a shovel, then a tractor, then a gun. She hated it, but she shot her horse as soon as she knew he was a goner. It was just getting worse for him, so she wasn’t going to let him wait until his guts stopped working, or wait until the next day when Dad got home. She’s kind, and she’s practical, and she’s tough.

My Dad is, too. So am I, although lately my toughness has more to do with opening a Tupperware container that I’m pretty sure has a three-day-old snail floating in it.

I want Frida to be tough. I tell her the Grandma-and-the-horse story when we talk about judging people on the way they act instead of the way they look. Grandma’s not just friendly, she’s strong, I explain. She does what’s right even when it’s hard for her.

It’s a good conversation, worthwhile, but sometimes I take these talks too far:

  • I get shrill when I talk to Tobias about how important it is to reflect diversity in the media we feed our kids. “She always wants to be the blond girl in the story book! Every time! She’s internalizing the messages we give her, so stop saying ‘him’ when you talk about a potential engineer hire! Fuck!” (Even though I’m the one that let her watch Frozen.)
  • I’m hard on Frida when she shows a preference for white characters instead of people of color in her picture books. This morning she reminded me that SHE’s white, that’s why she picks the white characters. I’m like DIDN’T WE ALREADY TALK ABOUT THE FLESH-TONED CRAYONS??!! STOP BEING SO NORMATIVE! (She’s five.)
  • When we read a story that has no strong female characters, I go to great lengths to make some up. (Instead of, you know, reading her favorite stories and/or letting her go to sleep.)

Poor kid, she’s going to end up with a prince on bended knee and me behind her whispering, “But what about grad school? The civil service? Doctors without Borders?! You’ll have more power as an Ambassador than as a princess. Tell your prince to forget marriage – wait until you’ve earned it, then nominate you as his country’s U.N. rep.”

I think we need an Amal (Alamuddin) Clooney doll! If we’re going to play dress-up, at least we’ll put those tiny, sparkly velcro dresses on a human rights lawyer.

In case you were worried that this tendency to be an overbearing asshole about race and gender politics has ruined my chances to cement my legacy as a Super Fun Mom, here’s the veggie tray I made for Frida’s recent school sleepover. Yes, pre-schoolers in Germany are taken on multiple-day school trips. With no parents. Frida’s shown herself to be totally capable with this level of self-sufficiency. Maybe she’s a little tough after all.

I’m a clown! My name is FreeTime!

Jokes for Sale

Max is stable,

I am able,

Time to go back to work!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about WHAT IT ALL MEANS, and, though I’ve come to no conclusions, I have tossed out several possibilities. They include:

  • the possibility that nothing matters because we’re all going to die anyway. If we’re all going to die anyway, now is more important than ever!
  • the possibility that everything I do matters: if I do everything perfectly, perfection will ensue. Hahahaha nope.
  • the possibility that I can luxuriate in my free time without wishing that someone would call me, desperate to get my answer on a very important decision. Need to get a big-picture perspective on your new staffing idea? Want to discuss the future of corporate compliance and what it means to your bottom line? Care to strategize for a worst-case scenario, and then translate that to a most-probable scenario? No? You were just asking me what lettuce I wanted because I’m at the front of the produce line at the farmer’s market? Oh.


Watercress Consulting

Specializing in strategic planning, organizational effectiveness, and energy infrastructure in a rapidly warming world.

We’re green, but it’s a dark green.



My Glass is Half Full of Sour Milk

I had a brief moment today when it seemed like I was almost getting sick of feeling sorry for myself, so I’d better hurry up and get my whining in now. Here goes:

  • Donald Trump is taking away the possibility of me living near my  family by dismantling Obamacare and nominating a Secretary of Education who believes special needs education is not a worthwhile investment. I can’t insure Max in the U.S. without Obamacare’s pre-existing condition clause, and he is blossoming in his specially-calibrated, generously funded spot in German preschool.
  • Because Trump is such a schmuck and so much needs to be done about it, my recommendation for wonton soup is not getting the wide audience that it deserves (I am an asshole in lots of ways but I don’t go around posting recipes when what we need are riots.)
  • Max was in the hospital again last weekend. It was especially tough on Tobias, who took him to the ER and watched him get heart-stopping medicine while I was obliviously enjoying my Saturday morning yoga class.
  • Tobias deserves some self-care but I am being a chit about his 3-night solo ski trip this weekend. I already had 60 minutes of yoga this month; I should be cool about this, right? I’m not.
  • We were tired and stressed so we missed our appointment with the social services office about being foster parents to a refugee kid. Not only does this put us out of the running for being helpful in that way, it also makes me wonder what the fuck we were thinking. We can’t even make it to the first appointment? How out of touch are we about how we’re doing? But then I get mad at myself for thinking that way because lots of people are way worse off than we are, they’ve worked incredibly hard to get to Germany and we have an extra bedroom… there’s really no good reason that we shouldn’t be pitching in. We couldn’t even get off our asses to go to one meeting?! Jesus. Selfish fucks. See also: ski vacation, energy for and ski vacation, wife response.
  • Max had an EEG last Tuesday and I still haven’t been able to get the results, and when I explain that I would appreciate a quick response in light of his upcoming electro-cardiology appointment, recent cardiac emergency, and the possible link between seizure activity and tachycardia episodes, it sounds like, “Please fast tell me, fast heart problem, maybe head problem, too, ok?” and if there is a single ounce of smugness when the administrative assistant takes my fourth message and assures me that if there were a serious problem the doctor would have already called me, it makes me so fucking frustrated I can feel my cheeks swelling from the blood pressure surge because, despite having set myself up for language and culture and general understanding problems, I DO NOT LIKE TO BE PATRONIZED and, unfortunately, when I complain about the EEG result issue to Tobias and he offers to call, ‘patronization’ is the category his offer falls into. I’ve always been a shitty patient, now I’m a shitty advocate, a failing mother, and a bitchy wife. Not all of the time, maybe, but too often.
  • All of this is making it very difficult to enjoy Nutella on rice cakes, and that was difficult enough when Obama was president. That did not need to get harder.

Waah, waah, I have to decide between socialized medicine and enough space for a countertop toaster. Meanwhile my Lithuanian friends are coming to visit and our weekend planning was interrupted by a quick discussion of wether or not her parents are ok, given that Nato just sent German troops to Lithuania in case Russia invades.

Luckily, this blog doesn’t really count as journalism so I can safely say FUCK YOU, PUTIN, AND FUCK YOU, TRUMP. I might not be all sunshine and roses right now but I’m a hell of a lot better off than you two miserable bastards.

I might have to protest you, but you have to BE you.





Tune in next week for wonton recipes and an apology about saying fuck so much.