Friday, April 28, 2006

First, Cut Finger...Then, Buy House

Good evening, ladies and gentlemens.

My first realization tonight is that I seriously should drink more. I am so busy all the time being a neurotic freako that I always forget to sit down and have a drink and just relax damn it. But after a little glass of bubbly, I realize that thinking clearly is actually possible. Instead of racing from point a to point b in my mind all the time like a wild damn turkey, I can actually coast there and savor the thought, ponder it, even change it. Amazing.

So here is what I did today: I bought a house. That's right. I bought a frickin' real bonafide two- storey, expensive-as-hell, adult, mature house with a yard and trees and driveway and mailbox and everything. Whoa. During the closing (lawyers, realtors, wooden oval table, signatures, clean clothes, paperwork), our sweet little sweetie kept busy trying to see what she could find inside my shirt. That was super fun. But it all worked. All three thousand million papers were signed, no one ran out screaming, and it was all cool. And now we are real, American homeowners. We like.

This is what else I did today: Cut my finger real bad. I actually went to the doctor at 8 am before the closing on the house to get stitches. There wasn't enough time, so I had to go back later, but I did get a nice band aid and some neosporin (sp?) for closing which was super friendly. Its all very psychological you see...nervous, brain elsewhere, thinking about how I will tie the color scheme in the childrens' room together, contemplating how I will breathe under this mountain of debt, making lunch for the five year old, cutting a big, german-style loaf of brick-like bread with a little ole steak knife, etc...the knife slips...and wham-o!... Big, deep cut right on the ole index. It took me a couple of minutes to register...blood, no pain really, blood, lots of moving and finger-using to do this weekend, more blood, deep, oh shit really deep... and there we were...all four of us...suddenly completely consumed by Mama Jens' cut finger. Closing on a house becomes less important (for just a second), getting the children dressed becomes totally optional, getting to school on time becomes a ridiculous requirement. It was all good. It helped. It broke tension. It distracted. I would certainly recommend it to any of you who might be buying a house any time soon.

So, is still strange...but I think we are getting used to it. We had a little panic a couple of weeks ago. We almost totally freaked and moved to NYC. But then we came to, and realized that such a move within a move wouldn't be the smartest thing we have ever done...and well, we kinda like it here. It isn't the most amazing place in the entire universe, but it might be that we just need to meet some people. Still, we miss the urban, the contact with people, the movement, the opportunity....

Let's look at it this way...there is short term and long term....maybe we'll head up to the big city in a couple of years when our kids can walk without whining (or at least can whine a little less while walking) and we can afford something bigger than a closet (because I think we might need two closets) and we are so calm and balanced and refreshed and healthy that we are bored and need a good dose of craziness to set us straight.

Life is short! Move around!! Do things!!! Change your environment!! Quit your job! Take chances.

Ah....I feel better.

Time for another glass of champagne....

I hope you are having a lovely evening. Love and big kisses, Mama Jens.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Driving My Ass All Over Town

Driving is a major, unavoidable, American past time. Cars are outfitted to that effect...with TVs, DVD players, computers, cup holders, little fridges, etc. You can drive-thru for food, banking, laundry, etc. We could live in the dang things. No problem. They are air-conditioned. They are cozy. You can keep your kids strapped down. Perfect.

And driving here is very different. It is a little like everything has been designed for giants, slow giants. The cars are BIG, the lanes are BIG, the freeways are WIDE, and the shoulders are WIDE. And everything moves SLOOOWWWWLY. No zipping at amazing speeds like I did Mama Taxi Driver style in the big city with all my kids crammed in a teeny car. No flying past the inferiors in the right lane on the autobahn.

First of all, there is no concept of right and left lane here. Trucks will pass you on the left which totally weirds me out. And nothing is zippy. Instead of entering the freeway ready to fly, you just get on there and you sort of float. The lanes are so big that you can even float around in your own lane just for fun if you want. And everyone is going so slowly that you have time to do things like file your nails, put on your make-up, and turn around to make sure your kids are entertained in the back seat, though I wouldn't recommend any of these things. The larger problem I am trying to overcome while driving is sleeping. As soon as I get in the car and start floating, I just want to sleep. I start yawning like crazy and have to slap myself on my cheeks and roll down the window to wake myself up a little. No neurosis there, ladies and gentlemen...I kinda like.

But here's a big problem with the floating - exercise. I can already tell by this lifestyle that Mama Jens' tiny little ass is gonna start growing if she don't get her exercise on. You go home. You sit. You eat. You walk to your car. You sit. You eat. You get out somewhere. You sit. You eat. There is absolutely no mystery as to why there is such a weight problem in the U.S. Sure the food in restaurants and fast food are awful (and taste like cardboard mixed with chemicals and fried in grease), but a huge part of it is the lifestyle and the lack of exercise. In Berlin, I probably lost five pounds every time I went to the bank because I had to haul two kids, groceries, and a stroller over broken sidewalks and obstacle-course-style construction sites just to get there. Everyday life keeps you fit there, no problem. But here, one has to make an effort.

And we are determined to stay fit, damn it.

And on that note, our coolest discovery here so far is that there is a series of paths through the woods that link all parts of the town. You can get around by walking if you want to. Some of the paths are paved and some of them are not. They wind up and down hills, and they are beautiful. We have gone on them a few times and I feel like a real Nature Mama out there. And they are busy...lots of people walking, roller blading, riding bikes. See, America can be cool.

There is also a bus system in town that is FREE. Holy progressive town! We haven't figured out the system yet, but I will and will let you know how it is.

Can we manage to keep our car parked and do the town on bus and foot, using our car only when we need to? Cast your votes today.

Happy Wednesday. Don't drive. Walk.

Love, Mama Jens

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Our First Month as Americans

We have survived our first month in America!!

It has been a busy month with people visiting and taking care of all the things that go with a move, so I haven't been able to blog...I hope you are all still out there!!!

Wow! Where do I begin?? This past month has been a strange mixture of culture shock at times and feeling totally at home and comfortable at other times. It is amazing how hard it is to conjure up life in is like my mind won't let me too much...I think the sunshine is too bright to think.

The emotions go something like this....exhaustion and recovery from the process of moving and leaving Germany, the feeling like we are just on a long vacation, a sensation of leaving it all behind and starting life new again escape-artist style, feeling like I have forgotten very basic things like how to cook or what I like to do with my time, etc. and so forth. The good news is that this cloud of total disorientation - possibility, excitement, confusion, loss, hope, obsession, fear, anticipation, relief, freedom - is beginning to subside. People are amazingly resilient.

I think we like it here.

So far, Chapel Hill is:

1. Amazingly small. Everyone you meet knows someone you've just met. This is both cozy and a little furreaky. It also might explain why everyone is so dang friendly. No one wants to offend anyone who might know someone you know and so on.

2. Cute. Cozy neighborhoods with winding, hilly roads. The vegetation is wild and overgrown (even pre-summer bloomin'). There are magnolia trees the size of the jolly green giant and wisteria hangs lazily off trees just as you would imagine from any proper southern town. Cherry blossoms and apple trees flower purple, white, and pink throughout the forests. As you know, I am not nature Mama, but I think I have already been converted. I will grow a garden.

3. Left. You don't even have to talk to anyone to see that Chapel Hill residents are very politically conscientious and liberally minded. We knew we loved the place when we saw a group of old folks hanging out on a street corner engaged in their own little protest, picket signs and all.

4. A big supporter of small businesses. There are no big, ugly chain stores within the city limits. That's walmarts, targets, best buys, lowes, etc. and so on. Durham has them, but not Chapel Hill. Buying local is encouraged everywhere, and we get the feeling that Chapel Hill residents are willing to pay more (even much more) to keep those cute, small businesses from being swallowed by the ugly suck heads.

5. Organic. There is the Weaver Street Market - a community owned, organic, grocery store with a big front lawn that seems to be the sort of town center. They have live music and its basically just awesome. They also have a restaurant serving up locally grown meals. I like.

6. Healthy. The people are fit (I didn't expect this) and you actually see them out walking, running, and cycling (I didn't expect that either).

So, I think we'll feel at home here. We have certainly had our share of moments where we're like, holy cow, let's move to NYC before we sign any leases, but then we kick ourselves a little and remember that, for children (and neurotic mamas), big city life ain't no fun no way.

Which brings me to my next thought. What I really want to do is speak with a southern accent. I was very surpized to find that not many people here do. Instead, because of the university and research triangle, there is this total international mix. I haven't met anyone that is actually from here yet. Weirdness. I guess I'll have to keep my southern accent to the confines of my own home.

So I'll keep you posted on small town life. Its pretty rockin'. I hope you are all well and happy. More soon. Love, Mama Jens