Greetings from the Inside

Hay there

From the other side of the story to the inside of all our stories. Here we are, in Corona-induced limbo.

Like hopefully most of you are doing, I’m on day two of self-isolating. I wasn’t really planning on it this week, but my first indication came at about 8:00 on Monday morning when one of my afternoon appointments switched our meeting to their virtual channel.

Normally on Mondays, I have an 8:45 meeting so I’m out of the house by 7:30. They had conflicts this week though, so cancelled our meetings. Thank goodness, because that saved me at least an hour-and-a-half round trip to find no one in office. All of my groups were informed on Friday afternoon or Monday morning to stay home, so though I wasn’t ordered to stay in, I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future. The good news is, it’s possible. Not ideal, of course, but possible.

BV is, at least for now, still going in. They have relatively little possibility (tech capability, really) to work from home, so he doesn’t really have a choice until they are told otherwise. We have no idea if that will happen or not, so for now we’re just hoping he doesn’t bring anything home with him.

Germany isn’t yet fully restricted, and I will be interested to see how quickly they decide if that needs to be cracked down on. Not that social media is always a terribly reliable resource, but it sounds a bit like people are treating it as freebie days, particularly in the cities. As of this week, non-essential shops should all be closed, all big events are cancelled, but it’s still not as stringent as many countries around us.

I’m not without fault… I went to the post office yesterday to retrieve a package, and took a long walk later in the afternoon, but I did my best to give other walkers a wide berth. The parking lots at both supermarkets were quite busy when I went past, and the people in line at the butcher’s (attached to our post office), were standing much too close to each other for comfort. There were also a few groups out walking together in the afternoon, and while sure, the mom and kids probably live together, I doubt that the three older men walking and chatting away do. If it does come to a stricter lockdown situation, I would really like to still have the possibility to get out in “the nature,” so people need to stop acting like idiots and potentially ruining it for the rest of us.

But if that is where we are headed, I fully plan to channel the energy of that lovely South Tyrolean horse up there. Even a recluse by myself might get itchy after a week or two of this. So if you’re stuck on the other side of the proverbial fence, you can still try to reach people. Or maybe it’ll be time to learn to be content where you are. Though if where you are looks like this…

…it might be a bit easier. Our apartment is plenty comfy, but I think I’ll be mentally going to this valley as needed in the next few weeks.

Take care of yourselves, each other, feel free to mentally hang out in this majestic place too… and remember to #staythefuckhome. Hope you can.

 

9/52

 

And Suddenly, It Was May

May 1st, Labor Day here in Germany. For perhaps the first time since I moved here, I actually feel like I’ve earned the day off this year. I do however, feel guilty about the lack of work I’ve been doing in this space.

To say that the first four months of this year flew by would be a gross understatement. Even having a reduced workload for the last two weeks due to Easter school holidays didn’t offer me much time to spend on the internet. Or at least, not this kind of internetting. But here we are, the third short week in a row and I have a minute to check in.

It also occurred to me that for the past two Mays, I have tried to do some sort of writing challenge. I very briefly entertained the thought of doing that again this month, but there’s just no way I can muster up that kind of energy.

So what’s keeping me so busy? My new gig, aka the first full-time job I’ve had in ten years. Turns out working 40 hours a week plus commuting time doesn’t leave tons of extra time for… anything, really. We’ve been trying to plan meals out a bit better, and BV has taken over more of the weeknight cooking responsibilities. But yoga has been tricky to fit in, baking and more ambitious cooking has to wait for the weekends… you know, all those things that normal adults manage to fit around full-time jobs. I’m still trying to figure all of it out. It’s a good thing, I think, thus far.

I’m still technically freelance because German bureaucracy moves slower than a snail. I thought we’d be able to transition my work permit back in March, but when we went to my appointment, my Beamter was on vacation. Slight miscommunication there. We then spent three weeks trying to get him on the phone (as instructed, by the gal who WAS there that day), before giving up and emailing him yet again. We now have an appointment in two weeks, conveniently right before we leave on vacation. It would be nice if that week off was covered by my shiny-new vacation days, but I don’t know if it’ll work out that easily.

On the plus side, we’ll be in France. So even if it’s not paid, it’ll still be France. I cannot wait.

While everyone else in Germany seemed to be protesting, in a Biergarten, or perhaps both of those things, we had a pretty low-key day. We did some stuff around the house that needed doing, and I went out for a long walk.

Now BV is back in the spare room tinkering with more odds and ends, and I’m about to do some yoga and head to bed early. Thursdays I leave the house at 6am and no matter how disciplined I try to be, making myself go to sleep at a reasonable hour on Wednesday never goes according to plan.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Light work on Labor Day is acceptable, right?

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 26

Sitting and waiting for a train today, I scrolled through my phone as usual. I scrolled past a tweet from the Tiny Buddha twitter account that said…

“You leave the present moment every time you check your phone.” ~Deirdre Jayko

The tweet linked to a post, which I clicked on. I started reading, got bored, and clicked out of it. Back to the absentminded scroll, scroll, scroll, as I munched on my pastry.

The train pulled up and I got on and grabbed a seat. A few seconds later, my phone was back in my hand (to be fair, it doesn’t fit in the pockets of the pants I was wearing today so… excuses?) when I realized what I had done a few seconds before.

I had clicked on that quote because I knew it was right, but got bored the second I tried to read the article. It was more interesting to me to scroll through a whole bunch of crap, rather than reading something that would make me think more about what I was doing.

Back into twitter to try it again… I clicked on the link and I read the whole thing. Like, really read it. Like, paused my podcast because I can’t listen to people talking and read at the same time.

The hand that held my phone hurt a bit as I read. Why? It’s been doing that a lot lately. I haven’t had it checked out, but I notice it more on days when I’ve been puttering around on the phone a lot more. Days off, rainy days, things like that. Doesn’t seem like too much of a coincidence. And yet… if I can’t think of something else to do, the thing is in my hand. There are books sitting right next to me, but the phone is right there.

In the article, the author mainly talks about her desire to get off Facebook. I think that’s something that most of us who use it have felt at one time or another. It can be a hell of a timesuck, but I’ve drastically reduced the amount of time that I spend there, posting or clicking ‘like’ on random things. The things that other people post can be annoying but hey, that’s their choice. And if I choose to click on the unfollow or hide or mute button, that’s mine.

Most of the time I don’t really want to delete it, but some days are truly mind boggling. But without Facebook, I don’t think that I’d have been able to see some of the people that I’ve seen in the last years as they’ve passed through Europe. They’re people I would’ve wanted to keep in touch with but via phone or email it probably wouldn’t have happened. I also have a few friends who insist on using FB Messenger for some reason, even if we’ve also talked on iMessage or WhatsApp. I’ll start a conversation on one of those, no problem, but then they’ll write me the next week on FBM. Why? I don’t freaking know.

Notifications are another big problem that the author mentions, which is again, very relatable. Because they drive me nuts, I only have them enabled for my email and messenger services. If I want to see what’s going on with any of the other apps, I have to open the things. You might think that would stop me from checking them repeatedly when I’m bored, but you would be wrong. It’s gotten to be such a habit that I’ll often find myself with my phone in my hand, and no idea what I wanted to look at. Oh well, better just cycle through all of them.

Buddha had me thinking though. I got an email later this afternoon that also gave me some low-level anxiety, and my head was going, going, going. I wanted to go for a walk, but it was still 28°C and that seemed like too much work. I decided to settle for yoga.

The video class that I did today was 28 minutes long. During that time my phone buzzed with a message or email three times. One I knew was BV, because that popped up on my Fitbit too, and I looked because, reflexes. The phone silently demanded I check the emails (both junk), and my wrist vibrated, and my head was spinning with that stupid email from earlier and it was DECIDEDLY NOT ZEN.

When Savasana ended, I made a decision. Instead of grabbing my phone and immediately seeing what was happening, I sat there with my eyes closed and made myself count to one hundred. In German. I know the numbers, it has been seven years after all, but I’m still crap at pronouncing them and I cannot think about anything else while trying to count in another language. It was, dare I say, kind of meditative.

Did I look at my phone immediately afterwards? Yes.

Did I give myself zen whiplash by going right from Namaste to junk mail from LinkedIn? No.

This may become a new strategy for life.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 14

What is the messiest room or area of your home?

I’m pretty sure that during this challenge last year I wrote about my quest to move all of my work stuff out of our bedroom and into the office. I’m happy to report that I was successful in doing so. I am less happy to say that our “office” remains an unholy disaster area.

I used to have piles of books that migrated around the house. It’s an unfortunate side effect of teaching 15-20 classes a week, most of which use at least two books, some the same, some not. Those are now mostly housed on a bookshelf in semi-chronological order of their class times. Sometimes though, they wind up on a pile on the floor by Friday, as I’m tossing things in and out of my bag all week.

I also used to have piles of papers that I’ve photocopied and “might need again at some point.” Many of these copies were slightly askew from hurried copying, or had their edges nommed off, as Marry d.K. enjoys chewing on paper at random times. Do those piles still exist? Yep.

They don’t live in the bedroom anymore, but there are at least two piles that migrate on and around the desk, waiting for that fateful day when they’ll be filed. Since some of them haven’t been touched in well over a year, as I’ve made a concerted effort to copy less unnecessary shit, I think it’s safe to say that I could just burn them at this point. I foresee a lot of grilling this summer, and I think we’ve got the paper aspect of firestarting covered.

Besides the book chaos and the migrating paper stacks, the office is kind of a scary place. Since moving in with a normal person who hadn’t been living out of suitcases like I had, BV has his entire life in this house. His parents don’t have random boxes of his shit like most people’s do… it’s all here. All his old school papers are housed in binders and boxes, many of which are filling up those bookcases in the office. Apparently there are more up in the attic, as well.

Bins and binders are joined by random boxes of jumbled electronic equipment. A soldering iron moves around the house, but it often lives under the desk where I trip on it regularly.

Speaking of the desk, it is a behemoth. I honestly do NOT understand how it got into the house. It’s one of those huge, old, metal desks that you only see now in movies set in the 1970s. The interior is actually relatively well-organized, but the top is a moving, living creature. Even more so when the cat leaps up on it while I’m trying to do invoices, and sends a few things flying. She’s helpful.

As it stands, the office is really not a functional space for either of us. We go in there to get things, but rarely do much actual work in it. It actually stresses me out to try to do any work in there. Or it just makes me think about things like taxes, and who wants to think about that? I’d probably save both of us a lot of time and stress if we just went in together and reorganized it, but it’s one of those things that neither of us can seem to make ourselves do. Those tasks that you put off and off and off, and then they are inevitably so much easier than you thought they’d be (not like taxes, this time), are the worst.

 

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Writing Challenge 2018: Day 8

Prompt: The perfect writing conditions

For starters, not this.

This post is coming a bit earlier today as we’re leaving shortly for a rare midweek evening out. Normally I would have hunted for the end of the internet in full procrastination mode as I’ve done on the previous days, and hit publish shortly before midnight, but today we’ve got things to do.

First problem with the current writing conditions is that I’m bushed. I slept for crap because (sorry, again with the CATS) the Three Thundercats of the Apocalypse made the all-night party last night. Tuesdays are a 6:30 am wake up time for both of us, as we drive to work together, making sure to leave by 7:35 at the latest or risk the horror of the daily Stau on the Südwesttangente.

I teach three classes in this company every Tuesday. Today’s crowning achievement was being so tired that I grabbed the thick, dark blue folder for my Monday class instead of today’s groups, so I got to do fun things like have everyone sign a random sheet of paper for attendance instead of the official form. With any luck, everyone will be present the last two weeks of the month so I can correct it then. If not, *shit happens.*

Normally I’m then finished, but instead today I had managed to squeeze in an individual student who normally meets Wednesdays but has been super busy. That meant hopping a bus to a subway, then running to shove a Korean beef bowl in my face because I was famished, before grabbing another subway to a train and finally to her company.

We had our lesson and then it was back on the train, to another subway, to another subway, to  my train home. I. Am. Tired.

But.

Our friend S. is back from his travels, and since our Marry will be hanging out with him while we’re gone, we’re taking the party over to this place tonight. That means as soon as I finish typing this, it’ll be time to wrangle all of them into their respective boxes and hope for the best. Currently BV is running around collecting errant toys, scooping litter boxes, and readying everything for transit. He’s a good egg, but it’s not the best environment for concentration.

S. invited us to hang out and watch the Eurovision semi-final tonight, and I am looking forward to that. I was somewhat brokenhearted when I realized that the finale was this Saturday (I thought it was at the end of the month for some reason), and we’re invited to friends for dinner. She’s a great cook, but EUROVISION! Oh well, I suppose I can get the highlights on YouTube afterwards.

I’ve been thinking a lot about taking some time off one of these days to try to do some more serious writing. In my mind I know the exact place that I’d want to go. I *think* it would be pretty ideal, as I can get there by public transport, we’ve stayed there before and I know it has everything I’d need to function for a few days. Plus, nature, hiking and mountains right out front. However, he’s almost always booked up, and I’d need to find a decent week (or so) that I could get away without sacrificing too much work. The joys of freelance life, my friends. But this has been bouncing around my head for months now, so maybe it’s worth actually trying. Can the ideal situation really make a difference? Or do I need the chaos of flying furry creatures, BV wandering through with watering cans, and the rooster next door being permanently confused about what time it is? Guess I’d have to try it to find out.

Now, to round up the herd.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 2

Prompt: What natural talents do you have?

Procrastination. I am goddamn gifted when it comes to procrastination. How do I know this? Because when ‘procrastination’ was the first thing that leapt to mind when I read this prompt, my reaction was incredibly appropriate.

Let’s break it down. I read the prompt and titled the post at about 10pm. I then clicked out of this tab, and into my gmail. I noticed that one of my recent unread emails was from the New York Times and was a special subscriber offer on ‘How to Whip Your Home Into Shape’. Was this the best time to click on that? I’m supposed to be writing for 15 minutes after all…. no… it wasn’t. Did I? Damn right. I’m now registered and expect my home to be sparkling just as soon as I get this cat off my lap and reorganize my shower caddy. That’s tip one. I’m on it… shortly.

After I finished my registration and quick perusal of the first tasks, I wondered if I wrote about my gift of procrastination when I did this challenge last year. Since all the titles are just like this one, the dates of the project, OF COURSE, I had to skim all 31 entries to find if I already covered this. Not so much, so here we are.

I also procrastinated by wondering if it would be too obvious to just skip covering this prompt by writing about cats again, which is what I did last year on day two. Coincidentally, we are cat-sitting again this week, which means that there are three cats sneaking around the house at the moment. Our friend S. is on tour again, and his usual cat-sitter (now that he has two cats again and leaving them at home is easier), is also on vacation, so we’re hosting Mia and Milo. Mia is her usual party-time, cuddle-loving self, but Milo has taken up firm residence under the bed in our spare bedroom. He’s stalked through the common areas after nightfall, and I busted him twice now on the catio, so he’s getting a little activity. Since he spent the first several weeks of his life with S. living under the bed, we’re taking this as a good sign.

Look at that, I did write about cats again.

I realize that being talented at procrastination is not the most flattering things to say about yourself, but I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what it is that I’m good at. I’m still not entirely sure. There are aspects of my job that I think I’m good at… I’m quick, can adapt to the needs of the group easily, am flexible when they come in with something unexpected, but I don’t think I’m the kind of teacher that lights the world on fire with my industry-changing methods.

A lot of my procrastination time is spent in inventing these fantastical scenarios about hypothetical life scenarios. This is not exactly a useful hobby, though it is fun to think what we could do with a little Bavarian farmhouse that we find for dirt-cheap and can renovate and turn into a place to make cheese and grow geraniums, maybe even falling into jobs in the area doing things like hiking and taking pictures that someone miraculously pays me for. Daydreaming is a great procrastination method, but then I get all bummed out that there’s no logical way that anything like that could ever happen. Real-estate prices in the Alps are straight-up terrifying so the idea of stumbling over something like that is laughable. And yet, I still think about it.

Coming back to reality, Mia has now shoved her way onto my lap, making typing very difficult. She seems to disapprove of idle fantasy, and will not allow me to procrastinate when it comes to her head scratches.

See something like this but way more rundown and preferably free? Call me!

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 12

Write your job description.

***

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have survived this long in Germany and the Czech Republic by working as an English teacher. When I first set out on this little adventure, I took a TEFL course based in Prague, which taught me valuable skills on how to teach grammar, vocabulary, and how to set up a white board using snazzy colors and time graphs.

Then I started teaching for realsies.

My first job in TEFL was at Berlitz in Prague. This experience had a lot of pros, and a lot of cons. One pro was that it was basically teaching for idiots, in that they have all of their own material and teachers were mostly restricted to using that. This sounds negative (and in my opinion, it is for the students), but for teachers it meant that prep time was nearly nonexistent and it was easy to crank out tons of classes every day without thinking much about them. However, a big con was that often there weren’t that many classes to crank out, and despite their courses being among the most expensive in a town crammed with language schools, their teachers were among the lowest paid.

And all those skills I learned in the TEFL course? Pretty much out. Some tactics I held onto of course, but so many of them that dealt with using different source material, bringing creativity in, and so on, were out the window with the official Method we were supposed to use.

Then I came to Germany and was thrown into the deep end. Right off the bat I had ten classes at one school, with more coming as the year went on. I was supposed to be working freelance, and therefore for more schools, but for a long time I literally did not have free time to work anywhere else. The schedule plus the prep time was far more than I had done in my previous two years of teaching. All of a sudden I had a bunch of different books, vastly different needs, and this time there was no cookie cutter.

I was kept pretty busy that whole first year here and then rough financial times led to a bunch of classes falling off. And, as I’ve noted before here, you can apply to every school in town but if no  one is hiring, you’re out of luck.

With a little persistence and a lot of help, I stuck it out though, and over the last few years have built up a pretty steady business. I’m no longer at the mercy of one school, which is a HUGE relief, and I am much happier when I’ve got a good variety of groups. Sometimes you get one that is a bit of a struggle, but if you have one right afterwards that is peppy and excited and involved, that goes a long way.

I’ve now been doing this for more than eight years, and was chatting to a fellow teacher friend of mine the other week about how neither one of us feel like “real” teachers. He had attended a training session recently, and was so impressed by some of the other people there. They had been in Germany teaching for 10-20 years, were totally settled here, and were Teachers. Capital T. Neither of us feel that way, despite the fact that we’ve both been doing this almost as long as some of those people had. I wonder if they have similar discussions with their friends.

If I don’t feel like a teacher, what do I feel like? I’ve given this a fair amount of thought and there are a few skills that I think are under-emphasized in all those wonderful TEFL training courses. However, I don’t think I would have made it this far if I couldn’t do the following things. Grammar and 3-page lesson plans did not make the list, sorry to disappoint.

  1. Fake it til you make it. I am not a morning person. I would much rather be in bed than on a train at 6:30 or 7am to make an 8:30 start time. Which is actually pretty reasonable. 7am classes also exist, for some ungodly reason. When that group comes in though, the teacher can’t be dragging ass, because someone has to act like they want to be there. Which leads me to…
  2. Acting! In normal social situations, I am also shy. I would never go up to a group of people and just introduce myself unless I absolutely had to. In this case, it’s my job to walk in and act like I’m not completely intimidated by a group of eight professional adults.
  3. Reaction time. I’ve always been quick. Not physically (godawful at sports), but with a comment or a wisecrack. When a question comes up and I can come up with an answer or a definition or an explanation off the top of my head, it’s great. I do get stumped occasionally, but usually I’ll try to look whatever it is up later and shoot them an email. You have to expect the unexpected and react as best as you can. I think that has been extremely beneficial when it comes to unplanned situations in class, which brings me to…
  4. Flexibility. In TEFL, we learned to write out every single thing we planned to do in class, down to how we would say some things. One school I work for requires us to write long form lesson plans and it makes me absolutely crazy. I procrastinate on those things for as long as humanly possible. I never use them in class because 1) I know what I’m going to do, I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me and 2) half the time, something comes up and the whole thing goes off the rails. If a student brings in something they want to look at, or a question comes up that leads the class in a direction that was unplanned but helpful for them, isn’t addressing that so much more important than following the “plan”? Yeah. It is. Do you know what happens when a teacher says, “No, we can’t do that right now, it’s not on our plan. Maybe next week.” The students get annoyed that their needs aren’t being addressed. If you are too rigid, and can’t adapt quickly, you won’t last long.

Possibly my favorite part of this job is getting to talk to so many different people and hear so many different takes on life. I’ve learned so much about so many things, and heard so many stories that I would never in a million years have come across if I had stayed back in Wisconsin. To say that that is invaluable is an understatement.

I think if I had come here and only had the perfunctory interactions with Germans at the supermarket or government offices, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have lasted this long. It always bums me out to hear that some people come here for business or with the military, barely interact with the actual people here, and think Germans are cold or rude or what have you. They are not. They’re a lot of things, some good, and yes, some bad. I think if my job, despite some headaches, has given me anything, it’s given me the chance to see so much more of the good. But they don’t teach you that in the TEFL courses either.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge: Day 11

“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~Lena Horne

Where are you making life harder than it needs to be?

I came across this quote and question in an old day planner that I have laying around. Like many of my planners, it’s half-full because when I set it up, I grossly over complicated it, and it had way more nonsense in it than I needed, which I felt the need to use simply because it was there.

This year, I bought a simple Lichtturm notebook and set up my first bullet journal. I had seen a lot of posts about them online and decided to give it a try. After figuring out a tentative plan for how I wanted to use it, I laid out the first month or so and off I went. I’ve found it to be a relatively simple system, and I’ve made good use of mine throughout the year. It goes almost everywhere with me, and I’ve been consistently listing and checking things off on paper, which I find very satisfying.

That has gone a long way towards making me feel more organized. However, it’s not a perfect fix. Lately, I’ve run into the slight issue of forgetting or mixing up things for various classes. This is one hundred percent down to the giant shitshow currently living on the floor of our bedroom.

A few months ago, I cleared out the last shelf in our bookshelf, which was reserved for piles of papers and books from my English classes. In went normal books, and the teaching material moved to the floor. I had good intentions for clearing a new shelf for these things in the office, but then work started up after Christmas and we were off to the races. Gradually the pile has grown, crawling over the floor like the hops in our garden. It’s invading other spaces, it’s growing out, and when I try to re-stack things, cats come through and send things sliding down again. At this point, it’s completely out of hand.

My schedule at this point is different every day. Different companies, different levels, different books, different everything. The fact that I haven’t shown up in the wrong place at the wrong time yet, is a little bit amazing. Not that I’m a space cadet, but I’m juggling a fair amount right now and if I don’t pay attention, getting on the wrong train wouldn’t be too hard to do.

Generally though, I feel good about how work is going. There have been rough times here over the years, so I very much feel like it’s the season to make hay while the sun shines. But the pile plagues me. It’s visual evidence of me only knowing what I’m doing on the outside, but don’t poke any further. It is most definitely making my life harder than it needs to be. But when I leave home at 7am and don’t get home until 6:30pm, the absolute last thing I want to do is unpack my bag and put things neatly away. I want to flop on the couch, BV to serve me dinner, and to remain there until it’s time for bed.

That’s not what normally happens, but making myself do anything productive in the evening is a struggle.

As a freelancer, it’s up to me to manage my schedule and get everything done when it needs doing. I do try to separate work time and free time, but working freelance makes that extremely difficult some days. I get emails at all hours, and I let all my students know that if they need a question answered urgently, they can write me at any time. That’s something I’m happy to do, but the administrative side of things just makes me crazy.

However, it’s got to stop at some point. That means that this weekend, hopefully tomorrow, I’m going to kill the pile. I don’t know yet where I’m going to go with the pile as the office is also short on shelf space, but that’s an excuse I’ve been using for months. The pile is making me crazy, I’m tripping over the crap, the cat is partying on it and keeping me up at night… it’s gotta stop. It’s making my life harder than it needs to be, and I’m not having it anymore.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

The Quest for Balance Continues…

Another year, another May come and gone like a flash. Once again, it’s been weeks since my last non-Sunday photo post… sorry about that! While I don’t want to be a blogger who just posts for the sake of posting, I also feel out of sorts when I don’t update here on a regular basis. I think I’m doomed to float through the blogosphere always feeling like I lack on one end or another.

Buuuuut that seems a little dark, so let’s pick it up a bit. Things have been pretty busy around here, but there have been a lot of positives lately.

Work:

~2016 shall henceforth be known as the year when everyone decided they wanted English lessons again. Even May, which is notoriously full of public holidays and thus rough for us freelancers, ended up being pretty good. I picked up some filler classes and some new regular groups as well. At the moment I’m working four or five days a week, which is more than I’ve had in the last two years. Plus, my commutes are pretty scenic these days.

~BV is busy working away on his Master’s thesis at the moment. The original plan was for him to be finished sometime in July, but after evaluating the project’s status, he decided to push the deadline to mid-August. And thus, no fun shall be had until then. Maybe. We’ll see.

Life:

~May didn’t end up being quite as busy as last year, but since I was working more, and BV was in a thesis-induced panic, that was a good thing. We celebrated BV’s birthday with a few days in Munich, and also spent a weekend in Prague to see one of my old friends get married. Coincidentally, another friend was getting married the same day, and we ran smack into their party at dinner the night before. Sometimes Prague is a ridiculously small town, but we were very happy to get the chance to say congrats in person.

Balance:

~Both of us being gone more has meant that Marry die Katze has been upping her codependency game. It’s sweet when she comes to cuddle at 4am, but I’m trying to make sure that we both make an extra bit of time to play with her when we are home. Additionally, she’s been slightly nuttier than usual every time the weather changes, which has been roughly every ten minutes for the last few weeks.

She is the worst at posing. And the best at rubbing on your shoes.

She is the worst at posing. And the best at rubbing on your shoes.

~This year we discovered the absolute best defense against Mondays, and it’s called The Wine Show. It airs in the UK on Sundays but we’ve been watching it online the following evening. It’s pretty much all the best parts of travel shows and food shows + wine + British accents + lots and lots of HD shots of the Italian countryside. I recommend pairing it with a semi-fancy bottle of wine, and one of your favorite recipes. Mondays no longer suck in this house.

~Every now and then on this blog I’ve written about the fact that I am a total spaz when it comes to exercising. However, since learning last year that I have a thyroid problem, I figured that it’s probably best to stop buying Haribo crap on a thrice-weekly basis and move my butt slightly more. Starting at the beginning of the year, I’ve slowly been getting into yoga. I recognize that it’s not going to make me lose a ton of weight, but I like it, it feels good, I’m sleeping better, and as someone who is not at all flexible, I can actually see myself making teensy tinesy bits of progress which is encouraging. If anyone is thinking of giving it a try, my gateway was doing the 30-day challenge on Do You Yoga, and that led me to Bad Yogi. I’ve tried quite a few of the different yoga channels on YouTube, but thus far, Erin Motz (the Bad Yogi) is by far my favorite. The only downside is that most of her videos on YouTube are in the 10-15 minute range, so I’ve been doubling up and doing two or three per day. I doubt I’ll actually be doing headstands anytime soon, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz.

That’s about all I’ve got for now, but I’m hoping to get myself onto a regular posting schedule soon (I also have a new planner which should help with that… yay for organization!), and also get back to reading and commenting on all the lovely blogs I follow. As always, it’s good to have goals.

A Penguin for Your Thoughts?

penguin ornament

I wish I could say that I actually have a penguin to give anyone who reads this post, or to myself for writing it, but I’m guessing PETA would have something to say about that. Instead, we will all have to survive with only a picture of a penguin ornament as my slightly-awkward segue into this post about what the hell has been going on lately.

To say that life has been busy lately is something of an understatement. On the positive side, I’ve managed to pick up a bit more work. The timing was great, as some other work is/has been ending, and I was getting a little worried about filling the void. But things are looking up for next year, and finding a bit of work to finish this year off with was a very unexpected surprise. Not a ton of classes start right before Christmas, so I felt very lucky to fall into working with the school that I did.

On the downside, my three-week break will be interrupted by one day of work at the end of the month, as a company wants a trial lesson. What kind of maniacs are working between Christmas and New Year, you might ask? Hopefully the kind that really like me and want to have lots and lots of English lessons. I’m going to have to bring my A-game for that one, which may mean I need to find and dust off my A-game.

But of course, life hasn’t been all about work. Since my last post, BV and I have been either 1) working, 2) socializing, or 3) slightly ill. December kicked off with our hosting our fourth Thanksgiving together, with the usual chaos of a full house and all that goes with it. We took almost no pictures on the day (once again), but here’s the turkey….

turkey 2015

It looks a bit dry in this picture, but it was not. I’m basically a turkey ninja at this point. A big shout-out has to go to B (not BV), my sous-chef, who is an excellent chopper, and filler of cooking wine/prosecco. As an added bonus, we had enough leftovers for Thanksgiving II on the following day, when  BV’s parents joined us for lunch. Win-win!

Oh, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I finally finished painting/staining all of our new chairs. BV and I have been searching for wooden chairs since some friends gave us a new dining table two years ago, and as it turns out, it’s been a more difficult and time-consuming search than I anticipated. Now we’re shooting to have eight chairs at some point, but we are up to five, and they are all in service. It’s not a great picture, but here’s Marry die Katze modeling the table/chairs in the living room, where they are living until after his parents visit us on Christmas Eve (our kitchen has a dining nook, but it’s too small to actually use).

new chairs

That table is taking away half of our living room and making me nuts, but it makes more sense to just leave it in here over the holidays. Marry is mostly upset that it is temporarily replacing her favorite chair, so now she has to sit on the table to stare at us instead. Cats, am I right? Anyway.

Just a few days after Thanksgiving, the Christmas cookie factory officially opened for business when we hosted several of BV’s friends/colleagues for an evening of baking. We came out the other side with a few kinds of cookies, and a nasty cold for me. Luckily I recovered by the following weekend, when I headed south for the fifth year of baking with the Villagers. Their girls are alternately super helpful (decorating) and unhelpful (distracting me by standing on chairs/singing the ABCs at the top of their lungs on either side of me while I try to mix the tricky pink cookies with one hand and reread the recipe on my phone with the other hand. This led me to add waaaaaaaaaaaay too much vinegar, and then we had to start the whole damn thing over again.) but they are adorable enough to forgive most things.

My last week of work for this year was pretty enjoyable because the school feeling never seems to fade when it comes to Christmas vacation. That means movie time, and even Glühwein time in one group. Score! In my Wednesday classes, we watched an assortment of holiday videos, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, and a couple of different holiday episodes of The Office. Plus, I got some sweet goodies including…

bier book

That’s right, damn near 700 breweries and brew restaurants just in Franconia. Not in all of Germany, or even Bavaria… just Franconia. By that logic, we should have one in our garden. Just from flipping through, I already found one brew restaurant with my last name, so I fully intend on visiting it and staking my claim.

With work wrapped up for the year, BV and I settled into vacation mode starting last Friday. Preparations for the holiday are slowly being made, and on Saturday we went to visit our old tree man. He had a rough year due to the heat, and apparently a lot of his saplings didn’t make it though the year. We found a nice little tree though, and also enjoyed being followed through the “forest,” by this little cat…

tree lot

Slightly blurry, sorry. My iPhone isn't into focusing these days. Or working, generally.

Slightly blurry, sorry. My iPhone isn’t into focusing these days. Or working, generally.

Tomorrow will be our main shopping day, and luckily we don’t have too much to buy. I’m also hoping the weather cooperates, and we can have a bit of a poke around the Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt without getting soaked. The weather has either been rainy, or spectacular sunrises like this…

wed sunrise

…which then give way to more gray skies. The Wisconsin part of me hurts to say this, but snow would be preferable to rain. At least the Christmas markets would feel more festive. We visited the market in Fürth with friends last week, and the drizzle didn’t let up all evening. We still had a nice time, and handily the main Glühwein stand was covered, very full, and had a roaring fire in the center of it. We had a bit to eat, a bit to drink, and a bit of a wander around town.

When I look at some of the other bloggers in Germany, I feel pretty slacker-ish. I don’t know how in the world some of them manage to pack in as many Christmas markets and other festivities as they do, but well done kids! This year, I’ll just have to settle for two markets, but as you just read, it’s been a busy month over here.

Since chances are I won’t get around to posting again before Christmas, I’d just like to say I hope all of you readers have a lovely holiday and lots of time with family and friends! Enjoy lots of treats, good times, and maybe even a little snow, depending on your location. 😉

Frohe Weihnachten!