Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Improv Jazz Piano! (Or, Ode to Chopin)

Well, it looks like I'm going to be taking improv jazz piano lessons, believe it or not! Today, several people who are interested in piano lessons met with the piano teacher, and it went pretty well. He said that to improvise, it's best to have a solid classical background, which is what I'd like to think I have. So... there's some hope here.

The teacher... let's call him Fernando ... seems like a pretty laid-back and decent Kerl. When he first played a few improv pieces, I honestly wasn't that impressed, probably because I'm used to Syd's chaotically beautiful compositions. We'll give Fernando the benefit of the doubt, though.

But I was definitely impressed with some of his classical playing... his runs are very professional... one particular classical piece was primarily comprised of complicated runs and he played it extremely smoothly and gracefully (think: no pauses, unecessary volume changes, skipped notes, weird intonations, etc), which can be quite difficult.

And then... he said that his favourite composer is... Chopin!

*jumps up and down*

I remember sitting in my bedroom as a little girl, listening to a cassette of his preludes and just crying and crying... first, because it was so beautiful and second, because I thought I'd never in my life be able to play a Chopin piece.


He played a bit of a Nocturne, which was a lovely piece. Though I was hoping for one of the wild etudes or preludes. Eh, maybe next time.

Lessons are going to start this coming week, and I'm curious and excited to see how things turn out. This could open up an entirely new door in Pallas Athena's Blissful World of Music.

Ah, my man Freddie. If he were alive and touring, I'd be a totally pathetic groupie.

Ode to Chopin

There was once a composer named Freddie
With music romantic and lovely
He composed and he wrote
The most gorgeous of notes
But alas, I will ne'er be a groupie.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Home Videos...


Here are a couple of videos that are actually more for my Dear German Readers, as most of my Dear American Readers know my family and have been in my house already...

This first one shows the general lay-out of our house. You can see Emita playing Pride and Prejudice music on the piano, which was absolutely beautiful. The video doesn't quite capture it. :) Mom was working in the kitchen and Kat was upstairs wrapping Christmas presents.

In this one, Tiny didn't realize I was taping... thus the strange pose. And no matter how much my sisters try to say "Neukirchen", they can't pronounce it correctly. :)

This was taken by Mom at Emita's house... she and her roommates have this strange shelf-thing that you can crawl behind. We both managed to squeeze behind there, and Mom taped us crawling back out. It's silly, but it's fun. :) And yes, that's Kenny rolling his eyes at us in the background.

No, just because I published these doesn't mean I'm still homesick. As a matter of fact, I've been in an abnormally positive and upbeat state lately. There's been quite a bit going on (in reality as well as mentally, though sometimes it's difficult to differentiate between the two realms)... but things are looking more positive. In a non-brainwashed or drug-induced way, which is also good. :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Please grant me wisdom, pure and bright,
That I might grasp Your heart's delight
And wisely execute Your plan,
Disregarding Self's demands.

Please give me strength to trust and wait,
To know that You control my fate.
I'll play my piece as best I can,
But recognize You're in command.

Please grant me peace with the Unknowns,
And What's-to-Comes and Whys and Whens
And Speculations and What-Ifs
And Whos and Wheres that never end.

Please let my eyes see only You,
Transfixed on beauty, power, truth,
A life engaged and present-living,
Balanced with eternal-thinking.

Please help me, Love, to love You only,
Truly, purely and completely,
Oblivious to pools and mirrors
Of self-absorption, wants and fears.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Random Thoughts and Observations and Updates

Yesterday, I installed a new finance program on my computer. It's like Shelby Systems (the system used by my Texas church) but in German!

I have a new Project... we'll just call it Finance Project X. :)

Some people are pack-rats to the extent of needing serious psychological intervention. We're talking about dirt everywhere. Multiple washing machines. Hundreds of glass bottles. 20 years worth of glass bottles. Horrid smells. Floods of newspapers from decades gone by. Church pews. If you can help it, please be clean and throw stuff away.

Did you guys know that kiwis grow on trees and have stems?

Saturday evening was another typical evening in the Center of the Universe... sitting on the kitchen floor, eating chocolate and kiwis, and talking about random things such as feet and the German Constitution.

I miss Mariposa.

Syd has gotten ruder and ruder. For example , he told me that if the Torte I'd just made had been on a cooking show, it would have failed. And he suggested I was deaf (well how about YOU try listening to multiple people simultaneously talk to you in a foreign language... though German is slowly becoming a not-so-foreign-language). But I still like him. :)

For the first time in a very long time, I felt like Jesus was somehow speaking directly to me. So much so that I, em, kind of broke down in tears. But they weren't necessarily sad tears.

One of the many things I love about life here is the fact that the environment itself seems to foster learning.

Huckleberry broke one of my plates and turned it into a lovely piece of artwork, which is now hanging in the kitchen.

"Sahnesteif", a recent discovery I've made, is a a type of powder you can mix into whipping cream to prevent it from turning runny so quickly. And it really works.

I realized this weekend how lovely classical music is and how much I miss playing it...

Rock covers of traditional hymns are awesome... until you try to immitate them right after the church service when the elderly folks are trying to drink their coffee in peace and quiet and you get scolded by Eleanor. :)

I've been sorting and reading through old journals (am almost done with 1998) and there's some crazy stuff in there. It's weird seeing what/how I thought nine years ago when I was 14 years old... and ironically enough, there are some thought patterns and themes that have continued with me until this day...

One thing I've always loved about our church is the fact that it's like a huge family... one day I'll be all goofy and immature w/ the youth; the next day I'll be invited to an elderly couple's house to play their organ and have an elegently gourmet dinner; and the next day I'll do something "normal" with people closer to my own age. :)

My dearest Texas friend is now dating someone, which is odd because as long as I've known her she's been single. And he's 4.5 years younger than she is...

The hotel I lived in when I first moved here is still up and running. Our Post-Choir-Drinking-Group enjoyed wine and cappuccino there yesterday evening.

This week has been encouraging and things are looking more upbeat and positive.

I still don't have a job.

The authorities are still trying to decide what to do with me and my living permit.

The world is actually rather small, life is rather short, and eternity is rather long... so there's really no reason to freak out.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Driver's Licenses (plural!!)

*cackles an evil laugh*

I'd like to relay the following message to the German Government:


And the following message to My Mamita:

Thank you! I love and miss you!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mailbox of DOOM

Over the last several months, I've developed a deep hatred for my mailbox. It started with a few job rejection letters here and there. Ok. Not a huge deal.

But then there are the other letters...

For example, I received a letter from my insurance company back in the day.

Letter: Frau Barber, this is a letter warning you that we're going to extract 700+ Euros from your bank account for car insurance in the coming month. Just to give you a heads-up."
Mary: "WHAT?? I've been biking to work, drenched in sweat (and occasionally rain) for the past three months cause I don't even have my driver's license. And now you're telling me I have to pay INSURANCE?!?"

Then there was the lovely letter from BenQ.

Letter: Frau Barber, though you've already been told by your boss that you're out of a job, and though you moved all your crap out of the office yesterday, this letter is being sent to you so that you have an official written notice for your personal files. You're fired."
Mary: *sniff sniff*

At the beginning of January, I received a letter from some lawyer in Munich about Insolvency. Like I can afford a lawyer. Well, maybe I could if car insurance weren't so freaking expensive...

Two days ago, I received a letter from the Foreigner's Office.

Letter: "Frau Barber, we originally gave you three years on your visa, but because you're out of a job, we're going to have to shorten your visa.* Please contact us as soon as possible."
Mary: "As if things aren't frustrating and discouraging enough, now I have Big Brother stalking me. LEAVE ME ALONE DARN IT."

I guess it could be worse. Instead of a threatening letter I could have received a knock on my door from an Evil Government Spawn of Hades with a tranquilizer gun, a straight jacket, and a ticket back to the States.

*kick you out of the country

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Family and Replacements

I miss my family... and people are always surprised that I live here "alone."

Guy: "Do you have any relatives or family here?"
Mary: "Em, no..."
Bizarro Mom: "You have ME!!!"
*gives me a hug*
Mary: "Right, my Ersatz-mama!"
Syd: "Mary has three families... her Texas Family, her German Replacement Family and her International Spiritual Christian Family."
Mary: "Hmm, true..."
Huckelberry: *continues punching holes in a notecard*

I think I miss my family so much because I was recently home... and because they're such kind, loving, normal people.

As you can see in this picture, my dad and I have a very gentle, loving, healthy relationship.

Katinka is always so proper and lady-like...

You'll definitely see the sisterly resemblance between me and my Emita in the next two pictures:

As Bizarro dropped me off at the airport before Christmas, we had the following exchange:

Mary: "I'm really going to miss you guys over Christmas..."
Bizarro: "But you have good replacements."
Mary: "Wait, who's replacing whom?"

Is it possible to have a Replacement Family for a Replacement Family?

Youth: "Syd, please play the piano so we can sing!"
Syd: "No, let's sing without the piano this time..."
Youth: "Please! Please! Please!"
Syd: "I don't want to... and what are you guys going to do when I'm gone next year?"
Youth: "Mary will play. You're REPLACEABLE."

Which is absolutely false. No one is replaceable. No person, no family, no one.

When I'm in Germany, I miss my family. When I'm in Texas, I realize how much I love and miss everyone here.

So ist das Leben.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Christmas 2006 Photos!

Yes, photos from Christmas have finally been sorted through and uploaded! Hope you all enjoy them. As always, click on the picture to make it larger.

Three of the dearest people on the Planet...

Here's Kenny hanging up Christmas lights on the side of our house...

This is our Texas house by night (good job, Kenny!).

And here's our Texas house by day! Yeah, that's Tiny practicing her modeling pose on the front walkway.

Mamita was ironing something in the kitchen. See the lovely new wooden floors and the green walls? Back in the day when I lived at home, we had tiled floors and wallpaper with light pink and blue flowers.

Me and my Mamita...

This was taken from the back of the auditorium of my Texas church, to give you an idea of what it looks like inside.

Here's what a typical Texas intersection looks like... my Dad refers to it as a "Spaghetti Junction." This particular intersection actually has five levels. Krazy Amis.

We visited my sister Emita's house and here we are behind this weird built-in-the-wall-shelf-thing.

Here she is playing the piano at the Student Center at her University, my alma mater. We need to have another Pride and Prejudice night...

Katinka was on the phone and Tiny's just plain weird...

Isn't Inkie cute?

That's all, Folks.

I miss my fam...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Blog Thoughts for my Dear Readers

Yes, folks, it's that time again: Blog Update Post Time!

I've been thinking about some things and would like to make the following known:

  • This blog is open to The Public. "The Public" could be defined as the entire internet population - wackos, sleuths, hackers and angel-eyed innocents (like moi) included.

  • Not to scare anyone... but if your picture is in my blog, it's available to The Public.

  • The same is true for your name.

  • I will thus change all real-life names on this blog to code names.

    If you, my Dear Readers, ever have a problem with anything I've written in this blog, including but not limited to

  • use of your name (real or code name)

  • use of a picture of you

  • use of a video of you

  • hinting about you

  • any other content

    please let me know and I will immediately make the necessary changes (unless you're on my bad side and I'm certain that you lack the drive and power to sue me).

    I've included many of you in this blog without your permission and in the next several days/weeks, as I see you all live-and-in-person, I'll try to ask you one-on-one if you're ok with the direction of the blog and the fact that you might be in it. :)

    This blog is about life in Germany from an American's perspective. As you all know, much of my life here includes other people, which makes it practically impossible not to include many of you.

    To re-iterate: please let me know if you have a problem with anything I've posted... I can change/delete/update anything.

    Your faithful and zealous Blog-writer,

    Pallas Athena (my new code name)
  • Monday, January 08, 2007

    Contradictory Advice

    "The job market in Germany is horrible... it's practically impossible to find a job."

    "Of course you'll find a job... I'm not worried at all about you."

    "You probably won't find a job in Financial Analysis because you didn't actually study it."

    "Sure you'll find a job in Financial Analysis... you have experience! You just have to be confident, prove you're the right person, and be willing to learn."

    "You eat way too much chocolate."

    "You don't eat enough; you're too skinny."

    "Germany is so far away from home... are you sure you still want to live there?"

    "You're in exactly the right location."

    "Isn't it about time for a haircut? Maybe even a pixie cut?"

    "Don't cut your hair - it looks good when it's longer."

    "Stop playing the piano... I can't hear the television."

    "Of course your piano playing isn't annoying! What makes you think that?"

    "Are you still interested The Boy Unnamed? Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you'd have gotten together with him?"

    "It's good that you ran away from The Boy Unnamed."

    "Don't you ever marry a German! You need to come straight home and marry a white boy."

    "You ought to marry a German so you can stay in Germany."

    "Good heavens!
    Why are you living in Europe? I would never do such a thing!"

    "I wish I had lived overseas when I was younger... what a great experience."

    Anyone out there ever feel, um, torn? Confused? Frustrated? Bombarded with contradicting advice, all from people you love and respect?

    *screams and punches a hole in the wall*

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Back in Neukuchen* (Or, Thoughts on Death and the New Year)

    You know you're in Germany when... people unabashedly put on deoderant in open public places, when straight men cross their legs and apply chapstick in public, and when cigarette smoke lingers and follows you no matter where you are and whether or not you yourself smoke.



    I made it back safely and soundly and was happy to see Bizarro Mom (THANK YOU!) at the airport.

    It's a new year. 2007. It seems that just yesterday I was preparing an informative speech for my Rhetoric Class on Y2K and the anticipated problems of the two-digit date format in computer programs. Now, seven years later, instead of pondering potential end-of-the-world issues, I'm pondering actual real-world issues.

    As the plane went through some turbulence on my flight today, I had a bizarre and fleeting thought that it'd actually be kinda nice if it went down. Maybe not nice nice... but I'd be ok with it. No job hunting. No interviews. No being torn between worlds. No over-analyzing things and driving myself crazy.

    I'm not that old, but I've seen and done quite a bit and could probably die decently happy at this point.

    Is that morbidity? Is that contentment? Or perhaps discontentment? Or something else? *scratches her head and thinks*

    The good thing about Christian spirituality is that you can always start over. As a matter of fact, it's all about fresh starts and forgiveness.

    It's a new year. 2007. No matter what you've done from the moment you were born until December 31, 2006, you can start over on January 1, 2007. And if you screw up on January 1, 2007, then you can start over on January 2, 2007. And if you screw up at, say, noon on January 1, 2007, you can start over at 12:01 on January 1, 2007.

    Life is a race, and it's about looking forward. A speaker once said that past failures lead to future paralysis... and past successes lead to future complacency.

    *chew chew chew*

    It's true, though, isn't it? So, I hope everyone looks forward this year... starts over from this moment on (if necessary... but then again, don't we all have things with which we ought to start afresh?)... runs a new and focused race.

    It's a new year. 2007. Think about it, please.

    To finish the story, the plane didn't go down; it landed safely and smoothly in the lovely town of Duesseldorf. Which evidently means I'm supposed to be alive for now and keep pushing forward in the Craziness that is Life. *shrugs her shoulders* Ok, can do.

    It really was great being with my family.

    *blows five disgustingly wet and sloppy smooches across the Atlantic Ocean*

    *Tiny and Emita's pronunciation of Neukirchen, my city