Fear and Loathing

The buzzer went off, and whoever it was, held it down for a good few seconds too long. I ran across the living room and swung a sweater around my shoulders before pressing the button to hear who it was. UPS, he said. I pushed the other button to let the him into the building. I opened the door and stood in the doorway, waiting for him to come up the set of the stairs.  He called out, hallo? Hallo? And I said (in German), hi, I’m up here. So he grumbled and began the short climb up the stairs with a small package in hand until he saw me. He stopped dead in his tracks and made a face I can only describe as absolute loathing.

He rolled his eyes. I tried to shove it aside mentally. Yes, this interaction was worse than some, but not entirely uncommon. I smiled politely. He continued up the stairs until he stood in front of me. He shoved the electronic signature device toward me. I unhooked the little pen and signed my name. He wouldn’t even touch me. He looked pained to be standing so close. I took deep breaths. He placed the package on the floor in the middle of the cold and pebbly hallway, and left in silence. I waited for him to leave before I collected it. I was shaken.

Do you know what my offense was? I do. My brown skin. It’s not always my skin, sometimes it’s just a German thing or another. But this was about my brown skin. Turbulent times in Germany, you know? I know that I don’t “look” like a refugee, but I still look like a foreigner and it’s not a great time to be foreign when the AfD is preaching about home being home for Germans.

Not all Germans feel this way. Believe me when I say that in some ways, I’m welcome here. But this was not an isolated incident either. And if this is my experience, imagine how the refugees feel? Some of these people truly despise them, us. They see us as taking over their country and pushing the Germans out of the majority. They think we are taking their jobs, using their services, eating their food, taking their apartments and homes and making it our own. Their afraid of what we are going to do to their way of life.

The refugees offense? Escaping terrible situations in their home country and trying to live their lives in safety and peace. They came to protect their families, themselves.

I went to the Ausländeramt in November. It was packed with people who didn’t look like me, but didn’t look like the Germans either. More than a few Syrians. I’m married to a German, it’s supposed to be easy to get a VISA, I mean what are they going to do? Boot me out of the country? I’ve got a German American kid here. Besides, I’ve always gotten 3 year VISAs, I have my German language certificate from class. I’ve lived here for 6 years.

But it didn’t work out that way. My husband and I went in to our appointment, and you could tell from the beginning, they were fed up. This didn’t bode well. My VISA expired months before, and then it got stolen at a hospital in Brooklyn while I was there with my flu- dehydrated daughter. It was stolen out of our room. The only thing in there was two dollars and this German resident card. As it was expired, I thought it wouldn’t matter. Strike 1.

Strike 2: not looking German. The guy looked at me and I just knew, this wasn’t going to go well. He listened to my German, I was nervous, and I made stupid mistakes. To be fair, when I’m nervous in my native language, I also stammer and make mistakes. It didn’t matter anyway. He gave me a 1-year VISA, and I am required to take an integration course. It doesn’t matter that I took German classes here. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived here for 6 years. As he said, “it’s not for us that you must take this course, it’s so that you will learn to fit into our society.” I scoffed at that. I know my face was red and I wanted to get out of there.

What he didn’t say about the course: it’ll cost us 1200€, and it’s about 300 hours, full-time. If I’m lucky and I do well, I will get half of that money back. But the hours? I’ll lose loads of time with my daughter. We’ll have to increase her hours at kindergarten, we will have to pay more, I won’t be able to write anymore, and it’ll be like a full-time job where I don’t get paid and I learn things I already know. Oh yes, it’ll be great for my language skills, but here’s the thing: I don’t learn well in classes. My learning style is best one on one, or small groups. But that doesn’t matter.

Now I ask again: imagine how the refugees feel?

For all my complaints, what is required of me is very little of what is required of them. I have a German husband to help me navigate, how do they do it? I came here for love. They came here to escape war, to save their children and their own lives. I have everything I need, things from home. What do they have?

I’m still waiting on the info to join an integration course, the guy said it’d come in the mail in December but I haven’t seen it yet. He said there will be consequences if I don’t do it. I haven’t decided what I’ll do.

I don’t want to go home just yet. Trump is President. Healthcare. Chaos. But I don’t want to stay here either. I have a feeling that Brexit was the beginning of casting out the others that don’t match the majority. Now Trump, maybe Marine Le Pen, Wilders, Frauke Petry here….. these times aren’t the best. If they don’t want me here, where do they want me? You can only take so many interactions where people tell you to go back to your own country, or your very presence infuriates someone else. Sometimes that crushes you. It makes you feel like maybe you are better off somewhere else. I mean, no one has ever asked me what it’s like to live in Germany as a biracial black American woman. No one has ever asked me what it’s like to continually ignore my culture, my “me-ness”, because it’s not respected here. Sometimes I oscillate between feeling like I’m an eyesore and feeling that I don’t exist.

If my husband is in the room, every doctor I’ve seen will cast me aside and speak about my results or health with him, despite knowing perfect English, despite it being my business. Even at the hospital, giving birth to our daughter, no one spoke to me. They spoke to him.

It’s hard not to be bitter. But at the same time, grateful because they definitely took my health in consideration, because our insurance covered everything, and their compassion for our daughter, those NICU nurses were… angels.

I can’t make people stop fearing me, or loathing me. But I have decided that I won’t be ignored, not anymore. And I’ve decided that I need to search for a home where my skin color is accepted, where it’s ok to be me, and my child can see diversity. I don’t know where that is yet. I just know it’s not at home right now, and it’s not here either.

If this post seems jumbled and full of complaints, bear with me. I’m working it out.

Thanks for reading!

 

This Day and Age

I’m on revision 7.6 of my MS. I’m CPing three other manuscripts. I’m coloring in the lines  (although sometimes out) with my daughter. I’m making low-carb dinners and running to appointments. I’m drinking pots of tea and eating little chocolate cookies, and dreaming of worlds and people beyond me.

This is my third day back to quiet after my husband and daughter were on long holiday vacations, and what should we do on Sunday? Adopt an adorable dog! So in between the walks, the cuddles, dropping my daughter off at school and then picking her up, my life has become full. And it got me to thinking about how I got here and what I’ve learned along the way.

Now this list is nowhere near complete, but it’s a start.

20 Things I’ve learned in my 31 years: 

  1. No matter how hard you try, Germans will stare at you. Is it something you’re wearing? Is it your skin color? Is it intentional? I don’t know.
  2. The internet is riddled with trolls. 6 year-old me would have been delighted because I LOVED trolls (think 220 troll doll collection), but 31 year-old me is so over it.
  3. Black people don’t get the luxury of calling things “unfair”. If we do, we are playing a race card, or we are making someone uncomfortable. Ask any black mom, and she’ll tell you this: one of your biggest jobs will be telling your black/mixed kids that yes, it’s unfair, but you need to push through it. And don’t you dare say it. (I can see my Grandma and Mom nodding in agreement)
  4. Some of your friends will have supported DJT. It will upset you.
  5. Revisions, critique partners, beta readers, and polishing that MS is nothing short of emotional. It will test your endurance, your determination, your talent, and your time. And even after that, the querying, rejections and biting your fingernails when an agent has your full MS, will make you doubt your decision to put yourself out there.
  6. As you get older, your need to call out stupidity reduces a bit. However, when you do call out stupidity,  you are careful and precise. You’re not trying to hurt someone’s feelings, you’re trying to show a different perspective.
  7. Nothing and no one is above or beyond criticism. And there is no such thing as perfection.
  8. Everything you disliked about yourself as a teen will become something you love and accept about yourself as an adult.
  9. If a celebrity chooses not to shave her underarms or wear heels, you should clap your hands and go back to living your life. At the end of the day, women are held to very specific and often ridiculous standards. And if someone chooses to stand up for that, bravo!
  10. Living abroad teaches you more about yourself than it does about other cultures, and that is extraordinary.
  11.  It’s not enough to say you accept the historically and recently marginalized and their stories. You have to champion for them too. I could slip into my biracial, straight, married with a child, bubble OR I could make sure that when I see bullying, and trolling online or in person, I say and do something about it.
  12. If you have to convince someone that you are amazing and worth their time, they aren’t worth yours.
  13. The path to success is built on a lot of broken dreams and bad ideas, which you’ll have to step on and crack into millions of irreparable fragments to keep moving forward.
  14. For some people, you hit your 30s and you decide, I need a house. For some people (like me), you decide, I need to see more of this world STAT! And both are reasonable.
  15. I am 67% sure of what I’m doing, but only after having a bit of chocolate. Before chocolate it’s more like 42%. I think that’s ok.
  16. Parenting is tough. I mean mentally, physically, all the ly’s, kind of tough. But there are these beautiful moments when you know you’re doing it right.
  17. There is nothing wrong with being a creature of comfort. People will discount you for your experiences one way or another, so enjoy yourself and your life.
  18. If you have trouble learning something, try another way. Try, try, try. Don’t give up!
  19. When you’re a biracial parent of your biracial kid, you will look at racism in a new and scary way. Suddenly things you’ve learned to overlook come back in your peripheral and you have to decide how to go forward.
  20. People are going to dislike you, your work, your life. And there is nothing you can do to change that. Move on. It doesn’t matter.

 

What have you learned?

Wish

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I awaken with a thought so crisp and clear that’s nearly impossible to push aside and go back to sleep. This is one of those thoughts.

My Mom was Irish/Native American, 5ft even, had a witch-like cackle of a laugh, and was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever experienced. She loved mysteries, I sometimes find myself thinking about all the shows and movies she’s missed since she passed 9 years ago that she would have loved. She loved meatball subs, and fast cars, and music, and singing.

When I was in 2nd grade, she had a stroke. I remember watching the paramedics loading her into the ambulance while I sat on the school bus outside our home. I remember questions, and nurses. I remember someone taking me to the hospital. I remember looking at her surrounded by cords and screens, tears streaming down her face, and wondered if she had forgotten me, who I was.

We lived in a home for children then for a few days or a week, maybe even two weeks- I’m not sure anymore. I remember looking through the windows at night and wondering, again, when she’d come back for us. Our Aunt came eventually, and took us in. She was sugary sweet for a bit until something shifted, or maybe it always had been there but she hid it well. My sister is a lighter hue of mixed than I, but me? I’m noticeably half-black. She wasn’t so keen on that. Sometimes she’d drop my cheese on the floor, coat it in cat hair before putting it on my sandwich (still can’t eat sliced orange cheese today). Or she’d serve us peas (my sister’s favorite but my most hated vegetable) every other day. I’d exact my revenge by flicking them into her crystal chandelier. When I did something- anything really, particularly naughty, she’d lock me in the bathroom for hours. She brought us a tent once and had us sleep outside, but I was too scared so I knocked and knocked but she never answered.

Then we stayed with an Uncle and his wife, who thought our dark skin was something that could be scrubbed away in scalding hot baths. But when the summer finally  ended, we were able to go home. My Mom wasn’t the same. She was disabled now, couldn’t use her right arm, wasn’t as mentally capable as before. Life was different for us. Food wasn’t that abundant, nor were clothes. I remember the shame of buying groceries with food stamps, and being on welfare, housing. We went to the local food pantry. But my Mom was strong, she took care of us. She made us a home.

And then we moved to a better apartment across town. I taught the boy next door to ride a bike. I read stories to the younger kids– it was the librarian in me shining through. The darkness started then too. The drinking as a way to cope. I can’t imagine it was easy for my Mom, being disabled, looking after two girls. But things got worse when we were evicted by our new landlord who wanted the apartment for his mother. I remember sitting in court that day, holding my Star Wars: Episode 1 book, and thinking that it wasn’t fair. I remember my Mom’s distress, and the house she wanted to buy down the street but we just couldn’t afford a $5,000 deposit on.

We moved again. It wasn’t as nice. But we continued living. More money came in, somewhere, somehow. I got a job at the library too. I was in choir, I even traveled with the choir. Mom’s drinking worsened. Things were splitting apart. We moved again.  My sister and I argued a lot; sometimes because of our night and day personalities, sometimes because even then, I think we were afraid of what would happen next. It was a pattern for us. I went to college. My sister and my Mom were close as if they could read each other’s minds. I was the breath of fresh air, she’d call me. The introvert, the serious one, the direct one. I’d come home and write terrible manuscripts some weekends. I’d pour liquor down the drain too. I judged her relentlessly because I thought I should or I could. I wish I hadn’t.

She came to see me graduate college, and she was so proud, I remember that. I also remember being nervous having her there, I still don’t know why. I remember feeling lackluster that day because I was on to my master’s degree at the end of the summer anyway. And I could tell it bothered her, but she kept on smiling. She made me laugh, she was the brightest spot of this day, this moment. Even now, I’m smiling thinking about her pride and tears and smiles all for me. I wish I had told her how happy she made me that day.

The summer was dramatic. I moved back home while I waited to find an apartment. The drinking worsened. She wasn’t the same, there was something different churning within her. We fought a lot. I judged her, and everything I did annoyed her. I found an apartment to move into at the end of the month. I remember walking into her room and sobbing on her shoulder. I remember telling her that I was scared that when I left, no one would be there anymore. I told her I worried about her drinking. She wiped my tears and said everything would be ok. But it wouldn’t, we both knew that. She was drunk the day I moved out, we argued again.

That night I refused to call her. I wish I had.

She died the next day.

And I’ve been trying to make sense of it for years. I blamed myself. A family member even blamed me, said I stressed her into having an aneurysm. I believed it.  I’ve been carrying this thing around for so long that even now it stops me, debilitates me. And it’s hard too because when someone who meant the world to you passes, you remember all the good times. You gloss over the bad ones. But to do so would be doing a disservice to her.

This woman suffered through so much, never fully recovered and made a home and life for her daughters. She was tired and hurt. She struggled with things I never understood, maybe never will. She was strong and strength comes at a price. This was hers. I wish I had understood.

Nine years later, and I finally get it. I always imagined it to be a puzzle with missing pieces. But her life wasn’t a puzzle, it was art, and not all art makes practical sense; it’s all about interpretation, perspective. She was art. My sister and my Mom were best friends. She and I were something else entirely. I’ll never fully grasp what, but whatever it was, I hope I inspire as much love in my daughter as she did in me. I hope I’m worthy. I wish.

Thanks for reading this incredibly emotional post.

The Others

How do you say this? How do you write this? I’m a mixed bag of emotions. Yesterday I was angry. Today, I accept that I was wrong: I thought I knew which way the wind was blowing. This is both humbling, and scary. I’m reminded of a time when I was talking to a counselor about expectations. He told me– you’re a cool cucumber and you expect people to hold themselves to the same standards as you. That’s not the way the world works. And I asked, should I expect less? No, he answered. If you did that, you wouldn’t be you. I’m only asking that you be more forgiving. I thought that was reasonable.

Right now, I’m struggling with the forgiveness part. How do you forgive friends and family that voted for someone who doesn’t value the existence of “others”? I want to say non-white folk, but then I might offend white folk, and right now, it’s not a good time to even imply racism, sexism or intolerance. Or you’re playing some “card.” But numbers speak volumes, and they cannot lie. This election was decided by people who have felt ignored or neglected by government, whites in the middle of the country, outside of cities, that have their own set of issues that need tending to,  but also by people who flat-out have hatred in their hearts. They wanted to be heard, and now they have: they are tired of the politicians and the establishment. This is who they wanted for their president. We have to accept that.

But the truth is, this isn’t just about our President-Elect. This is about the vitriol and the rhetoric that is inspiring people to act brazenly out of their newly accepted righteousness. This is about the fear spreading through people who have always been marginalized and now have to worry about that worsening. We can all accept our fate right now, but we don’t have to promise to like it. We have the right to that.

When you are black in America, there are things you accept. You have to accept that people will ask you inane things about your heritage, your hair, your language, and say things like: you are the whitest black girl I know! (Which I suppose is a nice way of saying I don’t resemble the stereotype?) There will be people who will be surprised about your level of education. They will express that to you as well. And they’ll laugh a little, as if it’s a joke. And you’ll smile or nod and say nothing. There will be people who will try to cut you down just for the color of your kind. You will still say nothing. Because if you do, you are starting something. You will become the equivalent of the angry black woman or man. That’s the last thing you want. So you accept. You go home and you cry a little at your anger. But you don’t unleash, no you never really can. You accept it and move on. But don’t feel sorry for us either. This isn’t about us. This is about the world we live in. This is about the country we were born into and is ours, even if our caucasian friends claim it as theirs and theirs alone.

Feel angry for those without homes, fleeing dangerous situations and seeking peace, seeking safety for their families. Because our country just said they aren’t welcome. They are terrorists. Feel protective of our Muslim Americans. Because apparently, they too are either terrorists or not worthy of residing in our country. Feel compassion for the people whose gender isn’t defined by the body they were born into, or sexuality that isn’t looked upon as traditional. Because our country is now saying that we don’t have to be particularly tolerable to them either. Feel determined for our women; we have rights to chose what is best and safe for our own health, we are strong, we are equals, we will not be at the mercy of men, we will not be groped, grabbed, or abused. Because our country just said it was ok for a man to think otherwise, and still rise to the highest point of office. Feel sorrow that our progress has taken a step back. Because that is how you make America great again.

We will survive this, for better or worse. That’s what we do. I’m not going to say it’ll be ok. I won’t patronize you, and I honestly believe we will survive. We’ll find our resolve and we will stand up for our “others”. We’ll walk a mile in their shoes, and we’ll understand that we’ll never understand what they experience. But we’ll listen. We’ll support them. And I know you’ve heard it (I know I have at least) but this is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of something new. It’s scary, I’m scared, I admit that. But I also think this is a wake-up call. We need community, we need tolerance, we need to reach out to each other. And think of all the good jokes and sarcasm that’ll come of this. Entertainment to numb reality. Arts. Literature…. Look for silver linings, it helps.

 

Writing, Queries, Submissions, Oh my!

Sooooo I’ve written a novel— actually, I’m halfway done on my second one too. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy series for adults. Is it awesome? In my head, yes. To other people, I certainly hope they’d think so. Currently, I’m trying my hand at submitting queries and contacting agents when I’m not polishing, or writing on the second book. I’m even submitting for this one: FREE contest for writers of Fantasy/Science Fiction http://tinyurl.com/jymslez Judged by agent @mike_hoogland, via @ChuckSambuchino

It’s scary, and exciting, and nerve-wracking, and, and, and….  Overwhelming.

I knew I wanted to write when I was about 5– I wrote my first book about a cat who wanted to climb a tree. A few months later, I wrote a story about a princess who was trapped in a jar. When the prince comes to save her, he also gets trapped by the evil sorcerer or magic guy as I called him. The illustrations were insane. Anyway, the princess and the prince worked together and got out of the jar. There was no resolution with the magic guy. My Mom was really impressed. Or just happy I found a way to be creative that didn’t involve destroying the house, ruining the vacuum cleaner (again), or breaking the window (for the fifth time!).

Another year or two later, I had my first poem published in the town newspaper. It was an abstract poem that made no sense, but my teacher thought it was commentary about the movement of childhood. My Mom was like yeahhhh ok….. I really don’t think that’s what she was going for, she was just picking cutout words out of an envelope and stringing them together. I mean it was about penguins and Cheerios. But hey! I was in the newspaper!! I also ended up in the newspaper over my school years for: winning a bocce championship (who even plays bocce as a kid?), walking in the rain downtown with my sister (I guess we looked cute with our umbrellas?),  my massive collection of over 200+ trolls that was displayed at the town library (I really hope you can’t find that picture online), my opinion about the electoral college, and the times I got on the honor roll. Looking back, isn’t all of that really weird?

Years later, I interned as a food critic for The Cranston Herald in RI. My reviews were, as my editor noted, very sarcastic, sometimes too funny, and not really what anyone was looking for. But I had loads of fun working there, and I had two reviews published, so I’d call that winning! That was the same time that I worked as a Food Creationist at Rhode Island School of Design: where all I had to do was made baked goods that didn’t look like baked goods. That was an interesting time of my life.

Anyway, here I am, living abroad, writing books while chasing my toddler after kindergarten each day, or watching for the 100 millionth time, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom or Peppa Pig<— both of which are fairly entertaining for children’s programs and have caused my German-American daughter to say things with a British accent. To be fair, she also calls me Mama with an Italian accent… no one knows where she got that one from. My husband thinks I’ve passed my crazy (I’m hoping he means the good sort of crazy) down to her, but I have to say, crazy as we are– we are never boring!

Anyway. Writing. Queries. Submissions. Wow.

Writing on here has given me the confidence to try writing out “there”. If it fails, I’ll still be proud that I tried. It takes a lot of mental prep to put yourself out there, and hope that you somehow manage to survive it. I’m ready for it. I know it’ll be long, frustrating and sometimes sad, but I’ve got to try. Imagine how great I might feel if I had fans, and people who actually loved, were inspired by, my work? That makes it worth it. So, that said, if any of you know agents looking for queries, please feel free to send their info my way. If you have tips, ideas, anything, I’ll take it happily. We’re all in this world together. Thanks!!

-Allie

On Parenting

So we’ve been back a month and a half, and let me tell you, it’s been an adjustment for us, especially for our daughter. She’ll be 3 in November and about a month ago, she started German kindergarten. We went through the 1 week adjustment period and she braved it like a champ! I was proud of her!! She is sleeping there, eating, playing, learning something (I’m not sure what just yet) and she makes some pretty abstract art. Her teachers call her the Wild One, or Miss Strong Personality. Both are perfectly true. Our daughter is…. a force of nature that can have so many effects on us, her parents.

We are at the meltdown-over-everything phase. It gets so bad that when we are in public, it can feel like she has exposed the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing. I read the articles, I try techniques, I speak in different tones, I’m strong but also nurturing. And when all of that doesn’t work; I yell, I’m firm as I pull her off the floor. I’m learning how to be a happy mom who can discipline her child. So far, I’m failing. I just don’t know how to be, what’s going to work, how she’ll respond. Maybe she knows this. Maybe that’s why things go as far as they do.

A few weeks ago, she had a massive meltdown at the grocery store. I was with my husband, and we were in the checkout line. Our daughter wanted to put the eggs on the conveyor, and my husband tried to help her. She got angry and threw all of the eggs on the floor. She screamed bloody murder. She bit him, she hit me. She threw herself on the floor and let it out. Let the anger and frustration stream out of her and through us all. It’s hard being small and if we didn’t know it before, we knew it then. She wanted to be heard, and felt.

It was as if the store stood still. It wasn’t just the looks that needlessly bothered me on top of everything else, or the stress that had me anxious, it was the responses. One woman put her hands over her ears and made a face of disgust. And she wasn’t the only one. I said excuse me, I apologized. The lady mumbled something angrily, and when my husband looked her way and asked her what her problem was, she promptly shut it and stalked off.(Whenever we have instances like this, people tend to respect my German husband. When he’s not there, they don’t just mumble). We made it out of the store, my husband having paid for the broken eggs and helped clean up. We were standing just outside the store on the cobblestones as we tried to handle the situation. Her tantrum was still piercing the air, people stood staring…. and it was just this moment where I didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to do. We tried to calm her, we tried soft and hard, you name it…. but she wasn’t having it. We were helpless. This isn’t a new phenomenon for parents anywhere. This is the way it is sometimes. There is nothing special about it either. But the feelings were new for me.

Here was this moment where people are looking to see how I’d handle this situation, and I failed. My husband failed. We are usually laid-back, sarcastic, jokey types. And we’re both sensitive, both introverts.We’re figuring this all out as we go. We’re figuring our child out as we go. Thing is; it’s different over here. We didn’t have tantrums here as much as we had them in Brooklyn. Americans seem to respond differently. And I’ll tell you why. Where we lived in Brooklyn, it was a predominantly black area, and I’m half-black. I’ll be honest about it without hopefully offending anyone; with black people, there tends to be this community vibe thing going on, especially in NYC. I lived in Harlem before I moved to Germany 6 years ago. I’d walk out the door and people would call me sister, they’d invite me into their homes when I locked myself out. They’d have corner barbecues every Saturday. I’d leave my building and the people outside would ask me if I heard our neighbor singing horribly the night before. I always did, she was the worst but you had to give her credit, she didn’t give up and you had to respect that. We’d laugh, we talked briefly… we got to know each other. I felt safe, included, and normal there. Apparently 6 years later, and they still ask my old roommate about me.

And that’s a big difference about living in a black community and living in a city in Germany. I don’t personally feel a sense of community here. I only know my neighbors because I take in their packages. We are ok, friendly. I’ve spoken to my German husband about it too, just to make sure that what I’m feeling is legit or biased. But he is with me on this; there is no real community vibe here. They don’t want to know me and I don’t feel inclined to know them either, if only because when I do try, I’ve (on almost 7-8 occasions) had to endure their questions about my race, why my daughter doesn’t look like me in that she is lighter, if I’m her stepmom, how do I like Germany, why Bush? Why Trump? And there is always some comment about my level of German; oh we can understand you just fine, but your husband should only speak German with you. Some of it is curiosity and I get it, but some of it is just rude, and sets me on edge.

So when my kid is crying at a grocery store, people are removed from the situation. There is this cold indifference. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. In Brooklyn, they were pretty cool about the meltdowns. Oh they tutted just as much sometimes, but you know what? They helped too. People would smile at her, talk to her, try to make her laugh. And I was grateful. Brooklyn, NYC, USA isn’t better than Germany, it’s just different. And for a parent, it can add another level of stress of adjusting to that.

The bright spot though: at our daughter’s school the students are so diverse! We have families from all around the world, and it has been great. When she explodes after school, which she does every day, parents help out. When I look at my daughter’s class, I can’t help but smile. I love this diversity, I think it’s beautiful; and it’s better here than in Brooklyn. Education is better here than in Brooklyn (not counting the extremely overpriced schools in Brooklyn though, I hear those are great if you can pay $2500+ a month). And that makes it all worth it. My daughter’s eyes light up the moment she spots her friends; a girl from Spain, a shy girl from Syria, and another girl from Nigeria. How cool is that?

This post took me a week to write…. I’ve been busy working on my other projects and binge watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’ve been overwhelmed with parenting, and adjusting back into this country. And I’m so, so tired! So I hope you understand where I’m coming from on this post and thanks for reading! The next post will come sooner and be way more coherent 🙂

 

Watermelon & Weißwurst & We’re Back

So we’re back in Deutschland! Brooklyn was a crazy adventure, and I admit, I’m sad to leave my job and the familiarity that comes with being in my home country—- but I will not miss Brooklyn too much. Now if I had lived in Manhattan (like I did 6/7 years ago), I might have had an emotional breakdown at the airport.

Which I sorta did anyway, but that had nothing to do with leaving the US and everything to do with flying solo with a near 3 year-old, who is just not having this whole structure, security and listening thing. As I write this, she is on the floor screaming about not being able to find her orange shirt that is legit, a foot away from her….. Such is life.

I will miss some aspects of life in Brooklyn; Fresh Direct, goodness, did I eat so much delicious food on Fresh Direct, especially watermelon (you simply can’t get such good watermelon here in Deutschland, believe me, I’ve tried). I don’t know why, but their whole mini-watermelons changed my world over the last 2-3 months of blazing hell summer in the city. Meanwhile, my husband, while eating said watermelon, would lament on missing his favorite things, including weißwurst. Thus I have renamed this blog. I will miss watermelon, and he missed weißwurst. And again, as I write this, he is setting a pan of water on the stove to make some delicious weißwurst, while he prepares to take a quick outing with the little one to get some fresh pretzels from the bakery. And my daughter has finally found that orange shirt. Life really does keep on going while you are trying to capture a moment.

IMG_0052.jpgShe starts kindergarten in 10 days. German kindergarten. Her German will be better than mine in a few weeks time, despite taking 2 German courses and trying to learn on my feet over here. And I have learned quite a lot of German, even while I was in Brooklyn. I feel refreshed; I’m doing better at it than ever. Maybe it was a remove-yourself-and-see-a-new-perspective type of deal. I don’t know. But I feel ok with it right now.

I feel ok with everything right now, but also, confused. I knew, almost a month in, that Brooklyn was not my home, would not be a place for me to settle. It just didn’t suit me. And if that seems weird, it’s because Brooklyn isn’t how you think it is in movies and shows. In a way, it’s segregated by culture and economic-status. In the movies, everyone lives in these beautiful lofts with leafy green trees lining the blocks and little cafés filling those blocks in. But in reality, Brooklyn, the farther away from Manhattan you go, the less appealing it becomes. I could explain to you the many sides of Brooklyn in this post, but I won’t. That part of my life is over now and it’s hard to convey something you lived through only for 8 solid months. My view of Brooklyn was a mere glimpse because I knew the moment I landed there, that we would leave.

Now Nürnberg on the other hand? I’ve lived here for 6 years. This place is the closest thing to home I’ve got. Definitely the longest I’ve lived in a place since my Mom passed away, 9 years-ago yesterday. And while I have a myriad of emotions regarding that, that’s a post that I won’t write. I’ve written it before, over and over, and while her loss continues, always, to knock my breath away when I least expect it, I know how to keep that pain from hindering my life now. I know that’s what she would have wanted. Life keeps moving on.

Nürnberg might be the home we settle into. Or it will be a stepping stone to the place where we both feel right. The thing is; you can only miss watermelon in the summer months, whereas you can miss weißwurst all year-long. One of us has to compromise, or else we stand still. Right now, we’re here and we’ll somehow figure it out in time.

I have so much to say, so much to explore and hopefully, this time around, I’ll actively try to make new friends. I have a fantastic new project I’m working on, that I started to really hunker down and work on in Brooklyn, and that’s so exciting for me!! For once, the future is full of possibilities I never imagined. At least not realistically; I am a dreamer after all.

So if you guys are still interested, we are back, and I’m back to writing more on here. Because it makes sense, and I’m not done with everything I’ve got to say just yet. Thanks for reading and thanks for going on this adventure with me. Now let’s get back to business.

Allie

 

 

The View From Here

I’m writing this post from our rented couch in Brooklyn, sitting next to my daughter who is watching Inside Out for the 1 millionth time, and only one of us is dressed, guess which one? Anyway, life in Brooklyn, in NYC, has been exciting, difficult, and challenging.

Career-wise, I’m pretty awesome, not to brag. Ok, I’m not really but someone somewhere might consider me as a pretty awesome librarian. Firstly, because I can find any book anywhere and if not, I can put it on hold for you. Also, I do my homework when I do my storytimes; the amount of singing I do at storytime is astounding. Also, I don’t rat my coworkers out to the admin whenever they do things pretty horrible/wrong. I decorated the crap out the children’s space, and the children mostly like me (except the ones that play games on the computer and are exceptionally annoying— no not annoying, because they might internalize that, they are exceptionally loud, there!). Also, my boss seems to like me about 33% of the time, which yeah, is great considering he liked me exactly 10% of the time when I started.

Mommy-wise, I miss my child. I don’t enjoy our current situation with nanny-sharing and all that business. You have to pay out of you nose for someone you sorta-like (this is probably due to me not understanding her and her close relationship with the other mom in the share, who does not talk to me) to take care of your child— how much, you ask? About….. all of your salary. Now, I understand why she should make that money, totally I do. In fact, she deserves to make more, because being a nanny has got to be a tough job. But I cannot afford that. And I was unlucky in my pursuits to land a great daycare (how do New Yorkers— Americans do that? It is so much more difficult, and expensive over here). And she takes my kid out to parks, to sing-a-longs too. But she also calls my daughter Lily when her name is Livi, and that’s where the problems begin. But I digress, this is not a place to complain, it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to even be in this situation,

 

Living-wise, it kind of stinks. Germany takes the cake for quality of life, and cost of living. Groceries can cost a fortune, and I even became quite adept at couponing. My packages keep getting stolen, and the owners of the house kinda despises me, not sure why. I don’t do well when I have conflict at home, and I learned especially here in Brooklyn that I in a fight or flight scenario, I am the flight part. And that’s incredibly unhealthy.

And then add the recent events in the US to your constant thoughts and analysis, and you’ve got the makings of an emotional outburst. I work with Black Americans, I am of a mixed background, but I am considered a Black American, which I’ve accepted very early on in life. And my patrons are Black Americans, and last week, I had to answer a kid who wanted to know if getting shot hurts more as a black person because in movies, white people get shot all the time and live, but in reality, black people get shot and die. I’ll tell you, I didn’t answer that as well as I would have liked. Because how do you answer that 8 year-old boy?

And all of this is coming to an end as we round the final corner on our Brooklyn adventure. Next month we fly back, and Livi starts school. And I go back to trying to do something and somewhat failing at it. But you know what? Although I’ll miss the career, feeling useful and attempting to make a difference, I think I’m ready to go too. There is beauty all over NYC and Brooklyn, and you have the opportunity to have a great time and enjoy the city that never sleeps. But honestly, I’m really tired and I’m not that young anymore either; my knee hurts after I’ve gone up eight flights of stairs in 3 minutes, and my shoes are falling apart from all the walking, and I can’t order more because my packages keep getting stolen, and I can’t talk to my landlord about stating to USPS that no packages should be left outside because she despises me, and I can’t ask the nanny to be there because if she were, she wouldn’t answer the door because she won’t hear the door, because when she is home with Livi, she puts the TV on first thing despite my asking her otherwise. So really. I’m on my own.

The view from here isn’t bad, but it has changed with older, more experienced eyes looking on it. I know that I can see, and I can be, better than this, I just have to work harder.

Broooooklyn

Life has been……wow. Just wow. Really different kind of wow. Do we miss Germany? Yeah sorta. But we aren’t in a rush to go back just yet.

The first two months, Baby O (my nearly 2.5 year-old now) and I were flying solo. That crap was intense. I had all sorts of bad luck too. We caught the flu<—– something that hadn’t happened to me in about 20 years. O was so sick, I had to check her into the hospital for a few nights. It was an emotional, terrible time for us. I was also suffering from the flu, but there I was, sitting by my daughter’s side, like all mommies do, hoping she would finally drink something so we could get those darn IVs out and we could get out of there. We left there after two days, and she still had a fever! I have to say though— Germany takes the cake for hospital stays. I didn’t have a bed to sleep on, nor did I get food to eat. And when I nearly fainted, no one cared. Also, my wallet was stolen during this stay. Germany, you may lack customer service skills and sometimes compassion, but you are just so much better at providing services for families.

Anyway, I lost a week’s worth of money for that thing, not that it mattered at the time, because sick baby trumps everything. But I’ll tell you this: when you are solo momming, losing money really hurts. I don’t know how single-parent families handle it over here. I still had some money from the G-Man coming into my account, and we were struggling. And I’ll admit, I lost my hustling spirit at some point in the past 7 years.

Now onto one of my biggest struggles over here: nannies. We got here in January, which meant most of the great daycares were booked out till the end of spring. Now, there were some affordable options, but let’s be serious, I didn’t have the time to vet all these places and hope O would love it. It’s way easier and convenient to do the nanny route over here, especially when you are solo momming. And bonus: you only have to vet one person to take care of the single most precious entity in your life. So approximately 300 million interviews later, I found a nanny. Do I like her? I’m not sure because I don’t think she likes me.., thankfully,  O loves her, so that’ll do for now. But there are loads of issues that have arisen- like do I pay for her metro card (I did), does she eat our food (yes), does she listen to all of my fantastic ideas of child care and local events that O might like to go to (eh no, not really), does she get angry when I get a day off (somewhat), does she see when O makes a food mess and smears it all over her books and toys and clean them (no, and that took a lot of time to clean up!),  does she call out leaving me without child care (she’s a single mom so I get it, but she also lives with her Mother, sister and cousins in the same apartment building whereas I have seen my sister twice and O still hasn’t met her grandfather even though he’s in Boston…. but maybe I’m just a sensitive jerk and I need to cut her some much deserved slack….. at least sometimes.)

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Anyway, this is just another part of Big City parenting. Everyone has nannies or daycares. I took O to the doctor and she told me, honestly, not to put O in a daycare because she will be exposed to more germs, and since we are leaving again, it would be good for her to not get attached to other kids and teachers since she was clearly (and still is!) adjusting to a new sort of life here in Brooklyn.

The G-Man has been here for about 3 weeks now, and that has been fascinating and great. It was hard letting go of the reins, and I still think he is a micromanager in our relationship sometimes, which drives me bananas, but I breathe a sigh of relief that’s he here. I can take solo showers! I don’t have to rush home to make dinner, then rush through cleaning up the house, then rush through spending time with O, and continue rushing through storytime, bedtime…. which was all for naught when she kept creeping out of her room and slipping into bed beside me anyway. Also, G-Man and I seriously love each other, so even on each other’s nerves, we still enjoy being together as opposed to apart.

One thing that I absolutely love about living in Brooklyn with our little family has been our weekend explorations. We never used to do this in Germany, and frankly, we really couldn’t sometimes. But here, we are adventurers. We pack O into a baby carrier (because of course she has learned to escape her stroller and often runs around like a maniac or gets too tired to walk after a while), we pack some diapers and wipes and baby stuff into a backpack, and we set off. We walk, we talk, we look, and we eat. O continues her love of good food, much like her parents, and enjoys a good bowl of ramen or pho, roti with oxtail+ rice and beans,  lemonade with a blueberry doughnut, pappardelle any which way she can get it, corned beef, bagel with lox, black & white cookies, enchiladas, and dumplings of any variety. So this could not be more of a perfect food paradise for all of us. We went out for Vietnamese lunch/dinner yesterday, and to say she is wild about pho is an understatement. My heart is happy when I watch her slurp her noodles and when she takes just another bite of her fancy-schmancy blueberry poptart pastry while playing at a local kid haven where they have sing-alongs, loads of toys and kids to play with. Also, I took her to a gymnastics place one Friday afternoon, and all she did was jump on a trampoline for an hour and a half while saying “jump jump jump jump.” We all slept well that night.

Brooklyn is funky, stressful, amazing, chaotic, and such an awesome adventure for us. I’ve turned over a new leaf here. I’m changing into a new kind of mom: I look better, I dress better, I enjoy more, and I complain less. I’ve learned to shrug off life’s burdens with more ease, and I can stand my ground with more confidence too. I’ve even learned to clean the house in the morning before work, and make a baked good for us to share before the nanny comes. It’s not all sunshine and flowers, but it’s new, and it’s exactly what we all needed.

And as a working mom, I appreciate my time more with O, and I think she does too. Work is not the most fulfilling yet, but it’s fun mostly, and it teaches me new things to do with O. It also gives me so much to talk about with the G-Man, and we find that we have all these different interests that we didn’t know before.

We are ok being away from Germany for now. We miss our friends and family, but we’ll be back in a few months. We’ll have bunches of stories, and we will be slightly different people than before, but we’ll also be slightly better for it too.

 

 

Moving to Brooklyn :-)

So it’s a quick update, but I took a job as a librarian in Brooklyn starting next month, and the G-Man got a contract to work abroad too!! I don’t think it will be a permanent move to the US, it really depends on the G-Man (who I’m quite certain will never ever ever want to give up his awesome job and stupendous German benefits, and I can’t blame him, the benefits rock). But we will decide after 8 months what we’ll do. Now we’re getting all the pieces of the puzzle together; the apartment, childcare, making lists of things we need, making budgets…. there is a lot to get done in a short span of time. It’s exciting and happy, and also makes me a bit nervous; I haven’t had a professional job in years, AND I have never gotten to work my dream job either. So whoaaaaaa….. what an experience coming up!! I’ll still write here and there, probably still about Germany as it will most likely be our forever home. Please stay with me on this big ole’ adventure 🙂 227823_854684867935_3659642_n

Allie