Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Life and Death and Spiders

I’d love to tell you about the past week…about my business trip to Denmark and subsequent culture shock, information overload, and feelings of inadequacy over not being multilingual. I’d love to tell you about Z’s birthday and the cake I made (from scratch) and how we celebrated.

But there is something that eclipses all of that and it’s really urgent for me to get out there, in the open and off my chest.

We have a problem. A spider problem. And I’m really afraid that it might actually be my fault. You see, it all started when we first moved in to our German house. We have this big, wonderful basement that houses our laundry room and two additional rooms that we use for storage. The basement is a true basement in that it’s completely underground, so it’s wonderfully cool and quiet down there. At least I use to think of it that way. ..

A few days after we had moved in and were done unpacking, I was downstairs doing some laundry. I walked out of the laundry room and a movement caught my eye. Hiding in the corner underneath the stairs was a small spider, maybe only the size of a dime (or 5 Euro cent piece).

I froze. How am I supposed to live with this? What do I do? Does he sense my fear?

Pull it together, Katie. You’re bigger than this.

I made up my mind to kill the spider. Then something stopped me. The tiniest little twinge, this little unwelcome thought that curled into my mind like a poisonous tendril wrapped in fragrant flowers. “What harm is he doing there? He’s in the basement, not your bedroom. He’s tiny. He’s probably actually doing you a favor by eating other bugs. Let him stay…” And then, the clincher…”He’s one of God’s creatures, after all.”

I firmly believe that my decision to let that spider live was a direct result of where I’m at on my life journey right now. I’m feeling confident and exhilarated by the fact that so far, I’ve managed to be a successful and functioning human being in another country, living away from everything that is familiar. I’m doing this. I can drive a 5-speed, for Pete’s sake. My whole life is a blank canvas. WHAT CAN’T I ACCOMPLISH!? It was on this heady life-high that I decided to not kill that little spider.  Looking back on it, it was a decision based on pride. “Look at me. Living abroad. Cooking dinner. Making scones. Driving around. Letting spiders live. IT’S THE NEW EURO-KATIE!”

I informed Z of the spider situation and he was appropriately impressed that I let the arachnid live and he agreed that it was probably a good decision in terms of overall pest control. So we settled in, we and the spider, in a kind of nervous harmony. Every time I went downstairs, I checked on him. He was always there and always appropriately backed into his corner whenever I walked by. I felt good about this since it showed I had established dominance and was effectively the alpha of the household. The human-spider hierarchy was set and it was agreeable. He caused no problems. He stayed in his corner. It was good.

A few weeks later, in a haze of hyperventilation and panic, I sent this text to Zach.

“Umm. Something happened. Either our spider suddenly grew a LOT or there’s a new spider downstairs and he is BIG and I’m NOT ok and I’m going to kill him. No, scratch that. You’re going to kill him when you get home. I don’t feel safe in my own home.”

(I just want you to know that I actually got goose bumps as I was writing this. And I’m feeling a little bit itchy. )

Z responded with something that was not at all comforting and not nearly on par with the level of urgency I was feeling about the situation. I had already planned how to never go downstairs again and I was even entertaining the idea of moving out completely. The situation obviously escalated quickly. I knew Z didn’t understand what was happening, so I decided to just try to hang in there until he got home a few hours later. I spent those hours tense and jumpy, sure that I was seeing things out of the corner of my eye and convinced that spiders were mounting an invasion on our house. I kept thinking to myself “this is what you get, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET for being brave and kind and generous. You get huge, terrifying, menacing spiders.”

I vowed to never make this mistake again.

Z got home and I wasted no time. “Go downstairs. You go downstairs and kill that spider.”

And he’s all “Hi to you, too. How was your day?”


So he goes and I wait upstairs, ears cocked to hear his reaction. “Whoa. Holy cow. Oh my gosh, that’s a big spider. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spider that big. I mean, I’ve seen tarantulas, but….whoa. That is definitely not our spider.”

I felt simultaneously triumphant and sick. Zach successfully killed the spider and thus fulfilled one of the big reasons I got married (right up there with heavy lifting and jar opening).

We spent the rest of our night…ok not true…Z continued with his night as normal…I spent the rest of MY night feeling a little panicky and saying things like “Do you think there are others? Do you think he killed our spider? Where did he come from?” In my mind, there’s an army of spiders hiding in the basement walls, each bigger than the last, just waiting for their moment. Sure, it’s one thing to find them in the basement, but the minute I find one in the bathroom or bedroom…I shudder at the thought. I kept wrestling with feelings of guilt…if I had only done a mercy killing of our little spider, then he would have been saved from what was surely a brutal attack by the big one…if I had only killed the little spider upon first sight so that the house would have been established as one of zero tolerance and the big spider would have never been so bold to make his move here. If only…if only…if only…

Mostly I was just grateful that the scene of the crime had so far been isolated to the basement. I hoped with the killing of the giant spider, peace would be restored.

A few days later, as I carefully hugged the walls furthest away from the spider corner, I glanced over and saw that our little spider had victoriously (miraculously?) returned. I felt an odd mixture of happiness and disgust. I was happy to have him back. Compared to the big daddy spider, he was like having a kitten in the basement corner. But I worried about how out of control this spider thing had become. I mean, what kind of person am I that I willingly invited this danger into our home? I had a lot of soul searching to do.

Weeks passed. The nervous balance returned. But then something started to feel a little strange. I hadn’t seen the little spider in a few days. I was ok with it…but my spider-sense went on high alert. Why is he gone? What is amiss?

The answer came this morning. I walked down to grab some clothes from the laundry room and nearly died. In a terrible, heart-stopping moment, I looked into the corner and saw ANOTHER. HUGE. SPIDER.


Z came to the rescue and killed the spider while I stood in the laundry room with my eyes closed repeating “Is he dead? Is he dead? Is he dead?” like some creepy mantra. I spent the next half-hour with a stomachache.

So it’s settled then. I’m buying some spider-killing insect spray at the store. I think the lesson we can all take away from this experience is this: If you mercifully spare the life of one spider, you will ultimately take the life of three.

Cross-stich that on a pillow for the grandkids.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ignoring winter indefinitely

It's 86 degrees today in Germany and you would think it's never been this hot here ever before. Nearly every yard is suddenly home to an inflatable pool and people are lounging around in heat-induced comas. Our neighbor's chickens are huddled in the one corner of the yard that has shade. The ice cream shop is packed. There's a marked absence of the usual parade of pedestrians and cyclists wandering around town. 

But to us, used to stifling Atlanta summers, it's awesome. There's little to no humidity. There's a nice breeze. We took the opportunity to walk to the grocery store, the eis cafe, and the Rosenthal factory (so basically around our entire town). It was on this walk that Z decided to inform me how much snow we may be getting this winter. It seems impossible to consider how potentially awful winter here will be on a day like today. I choose to ignore the thought.

Anyways, the heat. The sun. The scenery. The walk. Focusing on the positives.

Now, I realize walking to the grocery store is not a big deal for many people...people who live in big cities with grocery stores just a few blocks away or basically anywhere else in Europe. But I have never been in a situation where walking to the store would be advisable or desirable. So it's a wonderful little perk of living in our tiny farm town. The whole trip still took under 20 minutes, even with the walk. 

Z and I love this part of living here. Last night we went out to dinner in our town and didn't leave the restaurant until around 10pm. We walked home in the middle of the street and only saw 2 cars. We passed houses where laughter and conversation drifted up from the (very private) backyards of our German neighbors. We saw more stars than I've seen in a long, long time. When we rounded the corner on our street, we heard a rowdy bunch of Germans hanging out at the fire station (as they do most Friday nights). Of course, Z couldn't pass up the opportunity to socialize with our German neighbors, so he headed out again while I (of course) headed to bed.

These are the things that I LOVE about living here. Yes, there are days that I miss being able to walk into Target (OH, Target. I miss you) or days I wish I could go grocery shopping without constantly Google-translating packages to make sure I know what I'm buying...but it's a balance and I'm learning to really appreciate the aspects of living here that I haven't and wont' be able to experience living anywhere else.

ALSO, I made a friend...another Army wife who lives on the street. 

Things are good. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Actual Injury

Oh, hey there. How are yoooou? Good, good. It's been a busy weekend here in Bavaria, folks. But it's very important that I start you off with the crucial news.

Zach would like me to let you know he has an actual injury. He got bit by something (perhaps a huge, mutant, extremely poisonous radioactive version of a horsefly) and his leg now has a welt that has grown progressively from the size of a quarter to the size of my head. Basically, what I'm trying to say is...I'm never going outside again. 

But this isn't about me. You guys, this bite/sting/wound is terrifying. And I can't quite understand why Z doesn't take the opportunity to whine about it more. To each his own, I suppose. I, on the other hand, have been VERY concerned and a little bit whiny. For the first 24 hours I asked "are you going into anaphylactic shock?" about once every ten minutes. I did not offer to dress the wound but I probably should have. Instead, I just kept asking if his throat was closing up. Priorities.

The upside is that Z finally decided to get some medical opinion directed his way, so he went to the Apotheke (drug store) and learned that pharmacies here are pretty awesome. No wandering aisles reading the back of boxes to see if your symptoms are all present and accounted for. You simply walk in, discuss your ailments with the pharmacist (in Z's case, hike up your shorts and stick your thigh on the counter), and they go in their back room and bring out the concoction that will cure you! So I think we will avoid anaphylactic shock after all.

Along those lines, it's time to admit to myself and the world that I have allergies. I am allergic to Germany. Or at least the German countryside. I've suspected this since we moved here, but was mostly in denial. Basically, this farm air is wreaking havoc on my sinuses and my eyeballs. No time is this more evident then when we have a gorgeous day with perfect temperatures and a lazy breeze and I decide, "you know what? All the windows should be open!" So I go around the house opening every window in every room, preparing for fresh air and health and country living and general happiness and within 15 minutes I'm truly puzzled about why my eyes are burning. It usually takes another 15 minutes for me to remember, "oh yeah, I'm allergic to air" so I trudge around the house closing all the windows again. This happens at least once a week.

But enough of our ailments. This weekend was another four-day for Zach, which is always fun. We originally were planning a trip to Prague, but decided to move it back and stay local instead. Plus, we had projects. Well, Z had projects. So I felt the need to make myself useful too. Zach painted and re-painted. I watched and re-watched. I sanded and sealed our wine rack in preparation for staining. We checked out the circus that was in our little town for the weekend (meaning walked by and looked at the camels, bear, monkeys, and horses). We went to Wurzberg for the day and biked around the city like champion tourists. I'll have pictures of all of this (but not Z's scary bite, don't worry) sometime later this week. 

Last week before I head back to work...planning on enjoying every second!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Full Time Housewife

The Good and Not-so-Good of being a Full Time Housewife (with no pets or children to take care of)

The Good:
- I've found myself thinking (for the first time EVER): "I'll whip up a batch of scones real quick this afternoon" --or--
"I think I'll try this new cannelloni recipe tonight"
Who am I?!

-The kitchen gets cleaned every day. The house gets vacuumed regularly. The bed gets made daily. Individual Gold Medal goes to Katie. 

NBC Announcer: "She's been training for so long for this, Herb, and you can just see how it's paid off here at the final stages of these 2012 Olympics. You know, she did great in the all-around events, but I think what really clinched it for the judges was the tight corners and pillow placement on that final bed-making event. Such precision and poise, she makes it look easy but there's years of preparation and coaching behind that. That's one of the things that makes this my favorite event,'s not only the physicality and athleticism of these medal contenders, but the total dedication to their's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle. Back to you, Terry."

-Time to read. I think I've read about 10 books in the last month.

-Sleeping in. 'Nough said.

The Not-so-Good:
- CONSTANT EATING. I can put away a bag of Goldfish like it's nothing. Thankfully, I have plenty of time to work out (if I should choose to do so. And I should.)

-"Did I shower today? Hmm. I am pretty sure I showered yesterday...was it yesterday? It was probably yesterday. I'm good to go."

- So much boredom (please see above where my inner monologue was an Olympic announcer)

- Watching whatever movie that happens to come on tv. Recent titles include "Shark Tale", "You Again", "Battle:Los Angeles". You know, all my favorites.

So there you have it. I'm going to go whip up some scones real quick. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

305: I would dress the wound

I wrote this last week as I was reflecting on the past 10 months of marriage with Zach. These are the things I want to remember when I look back on our first year of marriage and our first months in Germany.

Dear Z,

Ten months! 305 days, but who's counting? My iPhone countdown app, that's who. Turns out it counts UP after it reaches the countdown day (our wedding day, in this case). So it's fun to look at every so often and see how far we've come and where our first year of marriage has taken us at 63 days, 124 days, 305 days...

Here's what I've noticed most recently...and what I want to remember about our first year of marriage at the 10 month mark. We laugh a LOT together. Well, usually together. 

Sometimes I laugh at you...
Because of the way you make up lyrics when you sing along in the car. Or because of the faces you make or the things you say and the way you say them. I love who you are. No one makes me laugh like you do (and I REALLY value that).

Recently, in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Aurora, CO, I was thinking about what it could have been like in that theater when the gunman started shooting and I asked you, out of the blue, what you would do if someone shot me. With no hesitation, you responded, "I would dress the wound".

*blink blink*

I was going for more of a Liam Neeson in the movie "Taken" response..."I have a particular set of skills and I will hunt you down and hurt you for injuring my wife" -type of response. 

You, you would dress the wound. (And actually, that response is so much more perfect than anything else you could have said, because you are caring for me, protecting me, meeting my needs, and looking out for my well-being first and foremost. I melt.)

But in that moment, I laughed out loud as you looked at me in confusion. You would...dress the wound? My hero!

Seriously though, you are. 

I still smile every time I think about that conversation.

And then sometimes you are laughing at me...
Because I've made some ridiculous statement or I'm whining about how you never take me seriously...and that usually just makes you laugh harder, because we both know that's not true. The truth is that I LOVE making you laugh. Not just a quiet chuckle or a quick "ha!". I go for the belly-laugh. Nothing makes me happier than being able to reduce you to the "quiet laugh" where you can't catch your breath. I think I love it so much because I know that there's only a few people in your life that can make you laugh like that...and I'm so glad I am one of them.

Usually, though, we are laughing together. I love laughing with you. I love that even when I have a lonely day, or I'm feeling sad while missing friends and family, you and I will usually laugh about something...and in those moments, I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else with anyone else.

In the recent months, we've spend a LOT of time alone together, since we haven't made many friends yet. Because of this, we've started to sound a lot alike (which is sometimes scary, but mostly hilarious). On multiple occasions we've had the same reaction at the same time (usually in the form of a sound effect) to different situations and when this happens, we die laughing. Like when we passed that tiny European car the other day and both made the "meep meep" Road Runner noise at the same time. Who does that?! If this keeps up, I can only imagine what it will be like 20 years from now. We are going to embarrass our kids SO MUCH. It's ok. It builds character.

Zachary, these are the things I want to remember and the things I cling to...I want to tuck them away for the times when maybe we aren't laughing as much. These are the things I pray will continue to grow the longer we're married and not fade away as the shiny gleam of newlywed life is dulled by routine and responsibility and the simple passage of time.

We've had such a unique first year of marriage. We've been through things that have only made our bond stronger, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. With you, it hasn't been a hard year. It has had it's challenges, but those challenges always seem to swirl around "us", outside of our relationship. We haven't had a choice but to remain solidly bonded to one another because a lot of the time...most of the time...there hasn't been anyone else to turn to. Our friends and family are far away. We just have each other right now. 

And I wouldn't have it any other way for these first 305 days.