Friday, November 30, 2012

I Am Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted a link to this blog entry of a woman named Amanda, which was like a revelation to me. It made me feel good about myself just as much as it made me feel bad about the role model I am for my two daughters.

Those two little girls are beauty as pure as it can possibly be. No make-up, no piercings or tattoos, and none of the typical insecurities that I am battling with for most of my life.

I am recovering from eating disorders in their various forms. As a teenager I starved myself to a point where I no longer had a period. These phases turned into bulimic episodes where I would stuff myself and then "get rid" of the food to cleanse myself again. To force my body to obey. To have control at least over a small part of my life...  At some point (and I truly do not credit my various therapists for that), I decided to use the will-power, which I used to make me sick, to recover. It was a long process, but at some point, at least a little bit of normalcy had returned. I moved out from home to go to college at 19. I met my husband the year I graduated; we were married and moved a continent away from my old life. At some point, we started talking children. I was scared; I really wanted to have a child so badly, but I didn't know if those years and years of putting my body through all sorts of extremes had left permanent damage to my body. As I was worrying of becoming pregnant at all, my husband was worrying of how I would take pregnancy and the weight gain. And suddenly, after a couple of months, which felt like years, we had two little stripes on the test. I believe I jumped on the bed, that's how happy I was; and I truly enjoyed my pregnancy. No voices in the back of my head telling me that I couldn't gain weight, just the determination to do whatever is necessary to give this little person growing inside me the best possible start into her own life.

Today, I still feel the monsters stirring in the back of my head occasionally, telling me I am too fat; telling me that some body parts are no longer where they used to be. Are those crow's feet??? 

No! I am me, and I am beautiful to my daughters. I remember getting up one morning, not feeling fresh at all, and still my little girl smiled to me, telling me how pretty I was and that I was the most beautiful Mama in the world. How must she feel if she senses how I truly feel about myself? From the moment I held my little girl in my arms on the day she was born I promised myself that I would do everything in the world to not watch her go down the same path I did. And if that means enjoying my laugh lines, ignoring the not-so-tight abs and boobs, and just feel beautiful for who I am,I will do it. I owe it to my daughters and myself! It is me who they are learning from, and I want to teach them to love - not loath -  themselves!

PS: What I do in the mornings in front of the mirror?? Putting war paint on, of course  :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating The Season As An Atheist

As most of you may know, we are an Atheist family. What most of you doesn’t know is that I am crazy for the season! How does that work you may ask, since we’re not celebrating Christian Christmas or Jewish Hanukkah or one of the Muslim Eids that may or may not come around that season?
Well, in the course of the last five hundred years, there was a calendar switch from the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Cesar in the last century BCE to the Gregorian calendar, which was developed in the 16th century CE and adopted across Europe over the centuries. According to the Julian calendar, the real reason for the season was scheduled for December 25: the winter solstice! Yes, folks, as the days grow shorter and shorter, fires were lit in the homes, the family withdrew to sit around a fire and waited for the longest night to arrive for the traditional celebrations of the re-birth of light. This beautiful pagan celebration were used during the first centuries CE to mold it into what is today’s Christmas celebration, laced with traditional pagan symbols such as pine trees, Yule logs, etc. (I definitely see how the early missionaries in the Celtic countries and Germania thought that the Yule celebration provided the perfect analogy for their teachings).
Since as Atheists we don’t actually believe in things that cannot be proven or explained by science, the obvious winter solstice still provides a whimsical occasion to join in and deck the halls.
Enjoy the season and excitement, whatever you may celebrate!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Veteran's Day: Homage To My Soldier

When I met my husband, he was stationed in Bamberg, Germany as part of the 1st Infantry Division Band; and there, my 2-year adventure as an Army wife started. It was difficult since I did not fit in. I was never one of the wives to have a "Proud Army Wife" or "Support The Troops" sticker on my car or asked for military discounts wherever I went. Having lived in Germany all my life, I felt lost in the attention the soldiers received. I remember my husband visiting me at work at a middle school because he had a day off work around Veteran's Day; my colleagues bought him lunch and thanked him for his service, which is something you would never encounter where I grew up. When we went to restaurants he sometimes received a free meal, there were military discounts on apartments, rental cars, etc.

The summer I was pregnant with our first daughter I hardly saw him as he would be gone all weekend long and when he was off during the week I had to work. For his birthday that year I had planned a quick little babymoon to a theme hotel in Kansas City. Needless to say, we were almost cheated out of it due to a last minute engagement for some general's dinner party (and yes, we filled up the hot tub in our hotel room at 12:30am). As I was getting closer to Lily's birthday, it was announced that the band would be on a tour to New Orleans for Mardi Gras for several days before and after my due date, and you can't imagine that neither of us was looking forward to me being home alone during that time. We were lucky enough that his new First Sergeant decided that he would be able to stay with me should Lily not be there 2 weeks before the tour (she did arrive the day before her due date).

All this, along with the situation in the band and having no real prospects of advancing or personal development made us decide that being civilian was the best for our family. Since he had not yet deployed to the Middle East by then increased the risks of him being sent there on short notice. He was not afraid of being deployed, nor were we worried about our relationship, but our daughter deserved better. She deserved growing up with both her dad and mom with a stable environment and not how many military kids grow up.

From the time he left, we had to learn what being a "veteran" really means. He was discharged within a day without the usual trainings and medical checks. They threatened him with charging him for disorderly conduct and disobeying orders should he not sign off on all the papers they put in front of him. He was outright lied to when it came to the benefits he would be entitled to from that time on. And most of all, he was not handed over his medical records to apply for disability benefits once he was discharged.

Having experienced all that I have to say that most of the times, being a soldier or being a veteran means nothing to the government. There are people out there who appreciate the service and sacrifices these men and women and their families have made and are still making, but the support from the government is sorely missing. We are working now for month to retrieve the hubby's medical records for his injuries he suffered in the service and no-one seems to be responsible. It's going to be a longer journey and I hope that one day he will succeed in being reimbursed for all of that.

This is my homage to a man who did what was right for his family, and for this I love and respect him beyond words. I was never a proud Army wife, but I will be proud to be HIS wife till the day I die!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Election From The German Perspective

I did not sleep well during the night of the elections; being in Germany I knew I wouldn’t find out the results until the next morning. I was keeping mum during the election season, since we are not living in the United States of America any more and thus the outcome of the election would not affect us directly. To be honest, I expected Romney to win after a not-so-clean voting process; honestly, what can you expect if the company that manufactures the voting machines supports one candidate with a large sum? Learning on the morning of the 6th that Obama had actually was re-elected, and by such a large number of electoral votes (by a smaller margin he has also won the popular vote), I was very relieved.
Since you surely know all the pre-election polls from the US, I would like to share a poll conducted among Germans, who they would vote for. While in the US the polls suggested a 50-50 result, which was quite accurate since Obama won by “only” 2 million of the popular votes, the results in Germany would have been much different. The first poll (pre-Sandy) had Obama by 86%, Romney by 5% with 9% being undecided. Two weeks later, Obama won over many of the undecided and even some of the German Romney-supporters, receiving a result of 92%, while 4% would have given their vote to Romney and 4% remained undecided. At the same time, several German artists and business owners, who live in the US, were interviewed for their opinion on the elections; all of them sided with Obama, even though some of them were affected by increased cost of business due to Obama-care and higher taxes and would have profited by the changes Romney promised.
Why is it, that Romney can sway an entire country and come darn close to be elected president while one continent over, he would not even stand the slightest chance? The magazines I read here in Germany covered the US campaigns of both men, with an emphasis on the man Romney; unfortunately, most of the reports did not portray a very nice man. As chairman of his company he was responsible for thousands of people losing their jobs, which were moved to lower-wage countries. During the campaign he promised to create millions of jobs. Once, during a speech at a university he praises stem cell research in progress in treating certain diseases, later he bashes stem cell research as not producing any results and being immoral. Once, he is pro-choice regarding the issue of abortion, later he is pro-life. He chooses a running mate, who is so far to the political and social right that it seriously scares me.
Being influenced by different media during the entire campaign, I would like to know, what makes a person voting for Romney, who labels the supporters of his opponent (and president) a burden to society? I am quite sure that some of my readers supported Romney, and do not want to offend or bash any of you, since everyone has the right to his or her own opinion. However, I would like to understand the man who received about 49% of the popular vote two days ago. I appreciate all opinions and posts!
Ps: I am hoping for more bi-partisanship during the next four years and beyond. The last four years were ridiculous and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves! When have those politicians forgotten that their purpose is to serve all the people, not just themselves and their rich cronies?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Crafty Halloween

I was MAJORLY inspired by my latest addiction, Pinterest. I had planned it all out: a Halloween wreath, other door decorations, candle holders, card-stock bats on the windows, and, as grand finale, the girls' costumes.

I assure you, I was inspired and motivated, until life kicked in. There were too many things to organize for the house, scarves for the holidays to be knit, and at some point I was just way to drained to realize the projects. The beautiful wreath? Well, all the supplies, including a beautiful root wreath are still packed up in my supply box. The decoration, candle holders and card-stock bats? Sorry, maybe next year.. People, I did not even manage to locate my pre-made Halloween garland that I had found on the give-away shelf at Leo Paper a couple of years back, that's how bad it was. But no matter what, I would not fail on the master project, the costumes.

The initial inspiration came of course from Pinterest, where I found a tutorial for a ballarina tutu. I thought that this could be turned a shade or two darker for Halloween; so I dutifully ran 1 mile one way in my lunch break to buy the initial supplies and set to work at night. And after about a week, I had two cute little witch tutus. After another run I was the proud owner of a whole load of fleece, which would partly become the ponchos for the witch costumes and another lot a blanket for baby Ava, who we hopefully get to meet this weekend. *yay*  At this point, our little Lily announced, that she would NOT as planned be a witch for Halloween but decided to be a dark fairy. *WOW*  Ok, let's change the plans and turn the "witch" costume in a "dark fairy" costume by adding wings to the poncho. Another trip to the fabric store (can you see me jump up and down in excitement??)

Lots of procrastinating ensued, and finally, on October 10th after the girls went to bet I enlisted Richard to help me draw two imperfect chalk circles on the fleece to cut out the ponchos.

The day of (I got out of work late of course), I stitched on the wings to the poncho really quick, bundled the girls up in layers of sweaters and threw the costumes on top. And believe it or not, it even worked out!! Given my record of failing miserably at crafts projects (the will is there, the talent sorely missing), I am honestly a little proud of myself.

Here are the results:

Witch costume (fits about 2-4 year old)
Skirt: about 1,5 yards of each purple and black tulle; slim elastic ribbon
Poncho: about 28 in. black fleece

Dark Fairy costume (4-6 year old)
Skirt: about 2 yards each orange and black tulle; slim elastic ribbon
Poncho: about 32 in. of black fleece
Wings: about 1 yard of black tulle; take double, twist in the middle like a 
bow and attach to the poncho with a few stitches

We sure had fun trick-or-treating this night! Candy anyone??

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ode To The Crockpot

It is official: I am giving up my resistance and going to ask the hubby for a crockpot as a holiday gift. Crockpots are something largely unknown in Germany, but during my 4 years living in the States, I just cannot live without it any more. Is there anything easier than throwing something together around noon or even in the morning on work-days and have a wonderfully smelling dinner at night? And Pinterest doesn't really help being crockpot-abstinent showing me delicious recipes or even ingenious make-ahead-and-freeze meals all the time. So yes, me, the post-modern woman, will ask her hubby for a cooking utensil as a gift. And be assured, I cannot wait for all the crockpot-deliciousness to be had at the Powell-home again. My kitchen, which is ridiculously tiny, will not be happy about having to accommodate yet another appliance, but we definitely have to prioritize here. yes, I am officially excited!!!!

Share your opinion:
What are your vegetarian and meaty crockpot favorites? Could you still live without your crockpot or do you consider the hype overrated?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

(My) Momma Is In The House

Here I am again. Usually I consider myself a person who is somewhat comfortable in the daily chaos that arises with a 40-hours plus job and two active girls around. As a matter of fact, spending time with the girls after a long day of work definitely outranks cleaning the bathroom, and once the little ones have settled down, I am quite spent. So yes, I admit that my house is not always spotless, and that is ok.  At least, until my mom announces a visit. I don't know what it is that I always think I have to prove myself. Instead of sleeping in and enjoying some play or craft time with the girls in the morning, have a leisurely lunch and then see what the day brings, it is getting up early, buying groceries for a somewhat elaborate dinner (since a "what's for dinner?  - oh well, pasta and tomato sauce" won't do it on a day like today). The rest of the morning is spent with panicky cleaning the entire home, baking cake (store bought?? NEVER!!). And just as I settle down for a somewhat relieved sigh (when I'm lucky enough to be finished before mom arrives), I remember something else that needs urgent cleaning.

I don't know what it is that gets the perfectionist spinning at the thought of my mom visiting. She is not a hag who tours the home and checks under the couch and on top of cabinets for dust bunnies. Yes, she is a neat freak if ever anyone walked this earth. Believe me, if anyone considers me OCD, they have never met my mom, but she doesn't judge me (I think). But still, the normal state of our home will not do for my mom's visit. Somehow, all the "I do what I can, but playtime is more important than cleaning" goes down the drain.

On the plus side: our place is sparkling  :-)

Friday, November 2, 2012

To Build Or To Buy?

Yes, people, writer’s block is still going strong. I need a lap-top!!!! It was just perfect sitting on our living room couch with the perfect backdrop of TV or music and writing, drifting off, thinking, and returning to the post. Now, it’s more like sitting at the desk, the hubbie’s creative chaos all around, the chair too low for me to type comfortably, it just doesn’t feel RIGHT..

Anyways, a little update is in order I think. Richard and I have decided – rather spontaneously – to build a house. We knew we wanted to buy a house within the next three to five years; I had made an appointment with my bank’s mortgage adviser to find out just how much house we might afford. The feedback was quite positive and at that time I accidentally stumbled across that offer that meet our dreams almost down to “i”.  At the initial appointment with the developer we found that this was not a building ready to buy but that we would have to build ourselves – ooops! But after some more research on local builders and our options we learned, that it would not be as bad as “building” sounds to me but even has a few advantages over buying a house outright:
+ Purchase costs: The property sales tax and notary tax are measured on the sales value of the property only; savings about 85% of the sales-related tax.
+ Custom building: we are still having quite some influence on the final floor plan and can include our own ideas. If we had bought a finished house, we might have had to spend quite a sum to adjust it to our ideas.
+ Mortgage advantage: in Germany, the government is giving out ridiculously cheap loans for building a new house and building a house that meets certain energy-efficiency standards.
+ Realtor fees: since we are buying the property directly from the developer and order the house from the building company we save the cost of a buyer’s and seller’s agent, which again could be up to 7% of the total house price.
However, we also had to take a couple of disadvantages of building into consideration:
- Time: If we had bought a home, we could have simply done the necessary renovations and moved in, which should have not taken longer than a month; building a home we hope to be able to move in August or September of next year.
- Cost: Buying a house I would expect to pay both rent and mortgage for one month. Building, the mortgage will start to accrue over a period of about 9 months, and since we will have to do the flooring and painting the walls by ourselves, we expect to pay the full amount of both mortgage and rent for 2 months. However, the savings on purchase-related cost will more than make up for the extra cost accruing in the building process. I calculated that we would have to pay both the full mortgage rate and rent for about 12 months to match the savings from sales and notary tax alone, realtors not taken into consideration.
Since we are under no pressure to move quickly and have the income to float the extra monthly cost for a while we decided that this way would be the right one for us. When we had an appointment with a builder we decided on a 3-story townhome. At the current stage, we are proud owners of a little slice of land and have just signed our first loan and the building contract for the house. I will keep you updated on news regarding the progress. Building will not start until March of next year at the earliest and believe it or not, I am already trying to decide on room themes for the girls. Yes, I am officially excited to be a home owner by this time next year!