A collection of grievances, memories, occasional musings, and everyday happenings


Cue Gloria Gaynor

Photo credit: fotozup.com

Photo credit: fotozup.com

Still trucking along in the German language, trying to add more and more words to my seemingly small range of vocabulary. Unfortunately I’m not one those with the kind of brain that soaks up new knowledge like a sponge; my brain is more like a rock for knowledge to bounce off of then roll far away from down a mountain. For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve functioned in this way. If I’m going to remember a fact or new word long-term, it either has to be significantly important to me or connected to an action that I find funny or tragic or terrifying. Sometimes those online vocabulary training sites work for me if I keep up with it every day. Like this one that I do that “plants seeds” when it introduces new words, then I must “harvest” the seeds and “water” them daily, and when those “seeds” become “flowers”, the new words are in my long-term memory! But if I just read new words out of my German dictionary, I might as well be reading about the history of math because they do not stick in my head for anything.

One way that I’ve found to help keep new German words in my long-term memory, as I’ve mentioned before, is to be around kids. Sometimes, yes, it’s impossible to understand what they’re saying if they’re talking 100 miles a second, but when they’re talking at a normal speed or even slower (because they know I don’t speak German), I can pick up a few new words or phrases per day. The chance to significantly improve my vocabulary was presented to me this last week when I was camp counselor at a German-speaking kids camp. Though I prefer to learn words through the sweetness and friendliness of children, most of my learning came from trying to decipher the Schimpfwörter* from, you know, regular “aw man!” words. Not to say these kids weren’t sweet or friendly, but sometimes an intense game of 4Square can bring out words you wouldn’t normally use around Preacher Joe, you know what I mean? So I got to know the Schimpf* words pretty quickly as I frequently heard myself saying, “Nein! Das ist nicht ein schönes Wort!*” And then there were some words that almost sounded like Schimpf words, and in those cases I would ask the adults the meaning behind them just to be sure I hadn’t been tricked into thinking the word was “ein super schönes Wort*”.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 9.55.19 PMAnother way I’ve found to help improve my German, still along the lines of kids, is by either breaking up fights or needing to get onto a kid who is in the wrong. Situations such as these require immediate attention, especially if a kid is about to receive the black eye of the summer. I could let my lack of German vocabulary hold me back and just stand there and be the first one to grab an icepack, or, I could interject and list off all of the ways to say “STOP IT” that I know in an ugly sounding but totally functional way. The way I say “HÖR AUF!*” may physically hurt a fellow German-speaker’s ears, but hey, at least their kid didn’t get punched in the face. Sometimes the German that flies out of my mouth amazes me, usually because it’s not until I’m in the heat of the moment when I realize I actually used proper grammar as well as words I had no idea were in my memory bank. It’s much less intimidating to a child when the adult who’s teaching him or her a lesson is fumbling and stuttering through their “Here’s what you did wrong and here’s how you can make it right” speech, so I’m convinced that in these moments of teaching, my brain saves me from embarrassment and befriends me for as long as “Life Lessons From Holly*” spills from my mouth. Poor kids…

Now I’m back from camping in the mountains with kiddos and return to the frightening world of not-a-native-speaker-adulthood in the city. I will say that I’ve had some small victories as of late, such as successfully describing my ailments to “Herr Doktor” and purchasing medicine from our neighborhood Apotheke*. Unfortunately in this same victory I failed to get a receipt for our insurance, so after a week of my husband urging me to go back to the Apotheke to get the receipt (I was indescribably nervous), I finally did and retrieved the receipt without dying of embarrassment or being yelled at by Herr Doktor. The most important thing that I have to tell myself daily hourly secondly while I flail through this wonderful but difficult language is: I’m going to survive. Sometimes “Life Lessons From Holly” auf Deutsch* may cause a misbehaving kid to crook an eyebrow and make me feel lame, or sometimes I may buy enough lunch meat to feed an army instead of enough for just two people, or sometimes I look like a deer in the headlights in front of a large group of people. Regardless, I will survive.

*Schimpfwörter – swear words
*Schimpf – swear
*Nein! Das ist nicht ein schönes Wort! – No! That’s not a nice word!
*ein super schönes Wort – a really nice word
*Hör auf – stop it
*Apotheke – pharmacy
*auf Deutsch – in German
*Life Lessons From Holly – Lessons in which I assume immediately changes the life of every child who has heard them and later becomes a lawyer or doctor or famous movie star by their 18th birthday.



The Night I Saw Paul McCartney

Waiting for Sir Paul!

Waiting for Sir Paul!

There is not a word in the English dictionary that properly encapsulates how I felt at the Paul McCartney concert. While it’s very possible that there’s a word in the German dictionary specifically for moments of this sort and is defined as “when there is no available word that properly encapsulates how one feels”, unfortunately I don’t know it, if it exists. What I’m trying to say is, Paul McCartney has got it GOING. ON. even at the age of 71 and his concert landed itself within the top 3 of my “best moments in life” chart. (The engagement and marriage to my husband are automatically at numbers 1 and 2.) I still can’t wrap my mind around how I was in the presence of a Beatle, and when I do attempt to wrap my mind around it I start crying, so really it’s best that I continue to stay in shock until I recover which should be within the next week or so.

IMG_2590Vienna was nuts about him. The “Österreich”, a well-known Austrian tabloid, printed a Paul McCartney specific paper complete with the night’s set list, an exclusive interview, and tour pictures. Lines outside Vienna’s “Stadion” began around 2:00pm, myself there (and second in line at my station!) at 3:00pm. I partook in and proved my own theory of when one hears the sound of Paul’s voice, one automatically reaches for one’s ears and/or hair. I decided this to be some sort of defense mechanism against premature fainting or emotional overload, and found it to be helpful during the entirety of his soundcheck during which my fellow-McCartney lovers and I overheard “Honey Don’t”, “Lady Madonna”, and “Penny Lane” among several others. My husband and I were fortunate enough to land spots in the front row of our particular section – that being a “Stehplatz” or standing room not right at the front of the stage but in the middle of the ground floor in the stadium. The fans around us were a mix of hardcore Beatles and Wings fans, one of them who looked EXACTLY like the nervous, nerdy guy from Office Space (except he sounded like a robot which made for a very eery sounding Eleanor Rigby singalong). And unlike a lot of concerts I’ve been to where fans push and shove and hate each other for being too close or too tall or too loud, we all got along and simply enjoyed the concert together, each of us basking in the presence of Sir Paul’s musical genius.

Happy tears during "Hey Jude"

Happy tears during “Hey Jude”

Total, I think I cried on 10 separate occasions during the concert, which is why this post is brought to you by Mary Kay’s Waterproof Mascara: For all of your pre, current, and post Paul McCartney concert needs. I of course cried the moment he appeared on stage. I just couldn’t believe he was really right there in front of me, you know, existing. He said, “SERVUS WIEN!” into the mic then went right into playing “Eight Days A Week”. Each song he played conjured memories beginning from my childhood to now which only made my teary tendencies harder to control. As you know, I had anticipated crying throughout the concert and was at first comfortable with this outcome. But pretty early on in his performance I realized I had encountered the unexpected dilemma of struggling to both be able to sing and cry at the same time. I don’t know if you know this but… it’s a difficult feat to achieve. So for example, while Paul was playing “All My Loving”, my heart was yelling, “SING WITH HIM! IT’S YOUR ONLY CHANCE!” and my memory bank was sobbing, “Oh my WOOOOORD! Isn’t this the first song Paul sings on the Ed Sullivan Show?! Remember watching it over and over again on The Beatles Anthology when you were a little girl? Oh the EMOTION!”  This was a constant inward battle in which both my heart and memory bank were able to check “Win” throughout the night, but also, to be fair, it didn’t help that during nearly every one of his songs, clips of movies and pictures played on the screen behind him. I mean that’s obviously going to take an emotional toll, especially when he’s dedicating “Something” to George Harrison and there’s picture after picture of him and George back from when they were little guys till the end of George’s life. Talk about WATERWORKS.



As far as favorite parts of the night go, I’m unable to tell you which parts of the night were my favorite because every part of the night was my favorite. But I suppose the part of the night I was looking forward to the most were the last 3 songs of his first set: “Let It Be”, “Live and Let Die”, and “Hey Jude”. I knew “Let It Be” was going to be everything I had dreamed it would be and more, and it was. I sang along for about three-fourths of it before I fell apart. My emotional strength was regained during “Live and Let Die” because the stage effects were AWESOME and Abe looked like someone needed to hand him a grown tree and quick for him to break in half with his bare hands at the explosive ending of the song. (Abe is a BEAST.) But then “Hey Jude”… Good ole’ Jude brought down the house and I could barely keep up with the crowd’s unified Na-Na-Na’s. I could not stop thinking about the first time I saw the recording of “Hey Jude” on The Beatles Anthology and how…how mesmerized I was by this group of guys who left such an undeniably, incomprehensibly enormous mark on the history of music, and how whenever I watched this song in particular I wanted so badly to see it performed live I couldn’t stand it. And yet there he stood. There was Paul. He played the song just like he did on the video, and the crowd sang along with him at the end just like they did in the video, he screamed Jude’s name in crazy ways just like in the video, and it was perfect – just like in the video.

The end of "The End"

The end of “The End”

Paul told us that as all concerts do, there unfortunately has to be an end. So after two encores, Paul ended the night by appropriately taking us all home with “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, and “The End” – the last three 3 songs off of The Beatles “Abbey Road” album, the last album the group recorded together prior to their split. The last song “The End” has a particularly special meaning to Will and me as the last words of the song “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” were the words we chose to be written on our wedding cake. It was the most immaculate ending to the best night of my life…Yes except for the time I got engaged and married to my husband.

The only issue that I am KICKING myself over is not getting a T-shirt from his merch booth. I was so focused on getting in line first and so determined to not carry a purse that I forgot money and therefore missed out on getting a Paul McCartney “Out There” tour shirt. My husband says it’s fine because we have other ways of remembering the concert, like through our videos and pictures and this wondrous thing called “memories”. I suppose he’s right, but if those tour shirts ever pop up on his website you can bet I’ll be the first to snag myself one. Until then, I’ll be busy frame shopping for my ticket and newspaper to hang by the side of my bed…forever.

Our soon-to-be-framed Paul McCartney newspaper

Our soon-to-be-framed Paul McCartney newspaper