Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 1

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

On the road

Thanksgiving week break started for us yesterday after school, hurray! I am so glad school is out now for the whole week. I kind of needed the break, too. When I asked the rest of the family what they wanted to do, my daughter suggested we visit our friends in Las Vegas. Luckily they are happy to have us and honestly I can’t wait to see them again. They moved away a couple of years ago and I miss them dearly. I met her at work when we first moved here and we became really good friends. When our son was born my daughter stayed with them when we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. They feel more like family to me.

Las Vegas may not necessarily be my first choice for a vacation spot. We stayed a couple of times by now already before they moved there just because it’s so convenient when you do a road trip through that area (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah). We don’t gamble, I hate the smoke in the casinos but like in any place you can find other things to do (and the Cirque du Soleil shows are amazing) – I will report more next week.

I was thinking about flying this time but with 4 air fare tickets and the holiday timing price wise it came down to almost the same and we do love a good road trip. It’s a long drive from us and it took us anywhere between 10-14 hours so far (google maps tells me 9 hours but it is wrong, I can tell you that). Most of the time we spent a night in Bakersfield to break it up a bit and there are things you can do just not very many – maybe later more about that.

So yesterday I packed up the car in the morning while the others finished up work and school and off we went. Instead of the 5 we are taking 101 this time. The first night we stayed in Paso Robles. It’s a little over 200 miles and the drive took a little over 4 hours. We arrived pretty late so we just hopped quickly in the hotel pool and went off to bed.

I made no concrete plans for today yet. The hotel has breakfast so we will likely decide then.

What would you have done – road trip or flying and spending more time in one place?


Living with alopecia

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

No hair, don’t care

The title of this post sounds more dramatic than it is for me. If you see pictures of me you will likely see me with a hat or a scarf on my head. If you would see me in real life you would realize pretty quick that I do not have hair.

I am even not sure anymore when it started but I must have been around 15 or so. It was not very dramatic at first. I did not suddenly loose huge amounts of hair but at some point there was no denying that I had spots that just did not grow hair anymore.

It took a couple of doctor’s visits before I received the diagnosis through the hair ambulance at the University hospital in Hamburg that I had indeed alopecia areata.

In a nutshell alopecia is an autoimmune disease where my own immune system attacks my hair follicles in some areas and there is no hair growth anymore. There is:

  • alopecia areata where you have bald patches somewhere on your body
  • alopecia totalis where you lose all hair on your scalp
  • alopecia universalis where you lose all hair

If you have a parent with the disease you may inherit it or you may not. My dad has it, too but I am the only one of my siblings who does. In most cases the hair grows back, sometimes it does not. There are some medications that may help but they may not. When I was first diagnosed I tried a couple of things including a medication that required monthly trips to Hamburg for a blood check-up. I still remember those trips because it was on Fridays and I had to take the day off from school. I had the best time with my mom on those days going to the big city. Alas the medication did not help and the patches actually grew bigger over time.

I can’t remember exactly how I felt about it. I had good friends who did not mind, I had a boyfriend with 16 who loved me for who I was. When I lost my hair I did not care that much about fashion and I had time to ease into it. I was okay. Not okay to the extend that I embraced it or to not try to hide it with long hair and hats which became kind of my trade mark. When there was no way of hiding it anymore I did get a wig in my early 20s. It never felt quite right.

In my mid 20s I broke up with my boy friend of six years and started over. That was the point when I decided I would shave off whatever was still left of my real hair and leave off the wig. I kept thinking that I would not want to explain to a new love interest that “oh, by the way, this hair is not real and in fact I am bald”. I am happy to report that not one person reacted in a negative way – the opposite was the case. Hats became a daily part of my outfit. The styles changed a little over the years form berets to newsboy hats to scarfs. I feel a little naked without any. It’s not so much that I feel embarrassed without, it’s just something I am used to (and honestly some days it’s a little cold or a little to sunny).

I will come across people from every once in a while who think I have cancer. All of them are relieved to hear that it is “just” hair loss and nothing more serious. Even though I never quite understood why you would tell a stranger that you hope they will recover or that you pray for them if you don’t know at all what is going on in their life. I do not want to hear things like “Oh, there are so nice wigs these days. Why don’t you get one of those?” Inappropriate, my choice! And yes, I heard it before.

I sometimes feel wistful and a little relieved if my friends talk about their adventures in hair cuts. I believe hairloss can be very traumatic for some, especially if you feel that your hair is one of your best features. This is my story and I can’t speak for everyone. All I am saying is that you can be happy without hair, that there is beauty in that, too. I would wish for a world where appearance does not matter that much in general. Not because I am not feeling beautiful but because I think we all would be much happier if we would not feel judged for how we look like all the time.

Feeling thankful

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I had a very full birthday yesterday. We had cake for breakfast as usual and I unpacked some of the presents. I got gigantic mugs so I can make a huge cafe-au-lait on the weekends now. It was a pretty normal day but I got lots of phone calls and texts from family and friends, I felt very special. At work we went out for lunch and I picked Thai food (what is one of my favorites). My family is not so into it and I have the feeling I have it once a year for my birthday with my lab mates. When we got home in the evening there was a beautiful flower arrangement on my door step that my friend sent me. And we had Korean for dinner (another favorite of mine).

The best birthday present by far was the picture my daughter drew for me ( see above). She took a picture on one of our walks and now I know what it was for. She was gifted an aquarell color set and this was her first try. A while back I started a book where the kids can draw, paint or write us something for our birthdays and Christmas. It is slowly filling up. But I think I want another one of that drawing for the wall. Maybe I can convince her to make a family gallery for me? There is a week off from school coming up next week 😉

What was your favorite present you ever received?

Keeping time

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Lands and labyrinth that is not anymore

I just met up with a friend for dinner and realized that the last time we set together was a little over 6 months ago. I never really think about how often I see (or not see) people but considering we live so close it’s not that often. It just made me think back to the good old days when I saw my friends almost on a daily basis and then when I moved out to the “big” city I had my class mates and later colleagues who were about the same age and then friends I hung out with on a regular basis. Birthdays back then were a big deal, right? Every year I got older came with new accomplishments- drivers license, moving out, moving in together for the first time, first job, getting married, moving abroad, having kids.

Ah yes, having kids. Everything after that becomes a little hazy for me. It’s not like I stopped doing my own things and it’s not like I don’t hang out with friends anymore but there is definitely a whole new set of friends and new activities, too. And time passes according to the kids’ accomplishments (first steps, first words, soccer games, first year in school, etc.) and them getting older.

I sometimes have the feeling I lost my sense of time during those years (they are 13 and 11 now so this is still ongoing). Suddenly my colleagues are way younger than I am (how is it even possible I could be the mother of some of them now?) and I definitely see the beginning of some lines around my eyes. It’s like I missed at least 10 years of my life. I know, it’s all there proven by a multitude of photos I took over the years

Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining. It just baffles me. Is that a normal thing getting older and does everyone experience this or does it have to do with having children and shifting the focus on them? It’s a mystery to me. I actually enjoy the age I am now (48 today). I know what I like and what I don’t. I don’t have the urge to please all the time anymore (sometimes still a little but that’s just me). I know my weaknesses and at least try to work with them. There is also some things I don’t like, like e.g. the ache in my shoulder that is very persistent. But I am more at home in my body than I was before. It’s all good.

One of my colleagues mentioned the theory that as we get older time seems to pass faster since we have less of the total time left that makes up our lifespan. It made a little sense at the moment but then again not really.

One Day HH

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Well, besides #nablopomo2022 today I was also doing #onedayhh by @laura.tremaine on Instagram. You basically document your day hour by hour with a picture either in stories or post. You can read more about it on her website 10 Things to Tell You if you want to know more. So here goes my day in pictures (and some more words).

6am – always first coffee. I am not a morning person and nothing works without a coffee first.

7am – one kid is already out of the house for band and lunches are prepped. Breakfast, shower, kitchen clean up and reading the news are up next.

8am – school drop off and on the way to work we go.

9am – had to get some dry ice to freeze down samples. Ethanol + dry ice makes for some fun fog. It somehow never gets old…

10am – looking at some green cells through the microscope

11am – getting ready to take care of my cell babies

1:30pm – heading home to pick up the car to go pick-up my son from school. Mondays are my short days in the lab. There was a lot of running back and forth, cell culture, prepping and dropping off a package, replying to some e-mails, etc. Time went by quickly today but it was also a very quiet day because some of the student joined the picket lines for the strike.

2:30pm – came to pick-up a little early to beat the pick-up craziness. I had to take a quick picture of the view. Isn’t this awesome? It’s very similar to the school yard view. They can see San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Bay bridge, Alcatraz, the bay (and they could not care less).

4pm- back in the car after the next school drop off. Mondays are for German school for the kids. At least there was no complaining from my son this time. In between I took out the garbage bins and quickly filled up the green bin.

4:30pm – did some gift shopping at our local gift shop. The woman who runs the shop (Jenny K) also has kids in the local schools and she does a fundraiser once a year – makes me feel a little less guilty if I buy something for myslef 😉

5pm – it’s getting dark early. Came home to this gorgeous sunset.

5:30pm – finally the descaler arrived and I was able to descale our coffee machine. Better keep this baby in good working condition.

6pm – My good friend Veronica came over for tea and gave me an early birthday present. I do love a surprise and the garden-hand-care-kit will come in handy very soon I am sure. Isn’t the card beautiful? It even has two and not one bird (so no loneliness here).

After 6pm I caved in. The rest of the family got home by 6:45pm, my friend stayed until 7pm and I still had to finish dinner (fried rice with potstickers). By the time we ate, the kitchen was cleaned up and it quieted down it was already 9pm. Now I am sitting here finishing up the post (which is going up tomorrow) and hope to read a couple of blog posts before falling into bed. It does not really sound like much but somehow especially Monday always flies by. How was your start in the week?

To be or too be?

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Sunday afternoon walk view

It is not a secret that English is not my native language. You can most definitely still hear it and you likely can tell it from my writing, too. I am sure you will find plenty of grammar mistakes even though auto correct will eliminate the most obvious ones. People will say that German is not an easy language to learn and I completely agree (so would my kids for that matter), but don’t underestimate English. I have been catching myself trying to replace certain words with something else to avoid using them (to my annoyance). So I thought I look up the difference and note it down in the hopes that it will help me to remember it the next time.

to vs. too

To is a preposition showing the relationship between two elements. It can indicate a goal, a direction of movement or a place of arrival. It can be used instead of “toward” and “until.”
Too is an adverb. It can also mean excessive. In general if you can replace it by “also,” “very,” or “excessively”, you should be okay.

one’s vs. ones vs. once

One’s is a pronoun and indicates possession.
Ones is plural of one and also a pronoun. It indicates a specific selection of items or people.
Once is and adverb and describes a specific moment int time (in the past or future).

than vs. then

Then can be an adverb, adjective or noun. Use it when you think of time.
Than is an conjunction. If you want to compare things, use than.

of vs. off

Of is a preposition and indicates possession (part of me), what something is made of (the ring is made of gold), a point of reckoning (North of San Francisco) or what something contains (cup of coffee).
Off is a preposition and the opposite of on.

It’s a little silly but oh well. I think in general my English is much better than it used to be. Sometimes I even know a word that my husband does not what gives me great satisfaction (he is way better with words than I am). One “problem” always was and I suppose still is that people will understand me just fine. So if I make a mistake they don’t say anything because they catch the meaning. My biggest critique is my daughter (“mom, you don’t say it that way”) what I actually appreciate. I think writing more and trying to get it right will also help to get better in general – maybe.

Saturdays are for birthday parties

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I had a busy Saturday because we were getting ready to celebrate a birthday. It’s not my daughter’s birthday quite yet, but we will be out of town the weekend before and after, so she invited a bunch of her friends early. I love to see then interact. They are very supportive of each other and hearing their laughs is music to my ears. I am so happy that she found such good friends.

Before coming to the US I never ever celebrated a birthday early (supposedly it’s bad luck – like opening presents early – even though it does not make sense at all). Now that I am Americanized I don’t mind 😉 Another superstition: don’t gift white flowers – my grandma always said they are funeral flowers. I find white flowers very beautiful but it still reminds me of what my grandma said. Any superstitions in your family? I tend to avoid them these days – with a scientist husband and a scientist myself I need solid data.

Here come a couple of pictures from my day:

Sun out, laundry out

Laundry always first. It was sunny today so I got everything dry by the evening.

Getting ready for a birthday celebration

Since we had guests the house was cleaned up and ready to go.

Froggies made by my daughter

I thought the frogs were so cute. I love the someone seems to have inherited my craft passion.

Stop at escape room for said birthday party

There were lots of murals near the escape room so I did some exploring while waiting for them to escape. In the last couple of years they are showing up everywhere around town – Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond,… Is that just something that got popular here or is it a trend? I hope it lasts. It’s better than the grey walls.

Walking around the blog while waiting for the escape room to finish
Another mural
Even more murals
Sunset through dirty car window

With the time change the sun was already setting when we drove back. As usual lots of traffic on the freeway. Quick view on the Oakland freight harbor through my dirty car window. It’s sitting under a tree most of the week and especially with the rain it tends to get dirty quickly. Car wash next week! At least from the inside it’s clean since yesterday.

The Name Thing

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022


We thought long and hard about the names for our kids. We spend weeks before their birth coming up with a list of names we both liked and then ranking them with a number system finally deciding on one with the highest score. Neither me, nor my husband have middle names (San wrote about middle names in one of her older blog posts), but both of our kids do (they are Americans and Germans after all). I like the idea of middle names because I always thought it would be nice to have another option in case you did not like the first name in the end. Who knows if they would like the name we came up with (luckily for now they seem to be happy enough).

One important thing to me was that the names work in both languages. My daughter’s name is even pronounced the same in both languages and my son’s name is at least obvious when it comes to the spelling. It’s funny since he will say it differently in English and in German depending which language he uses to introduce himself. My name is a different story. If I order in a restaurant I never know what to say when they ask my name. Meike is not a very common name here in the US. I always say it’s pronounced similar to Michael without the l in the end. If I wrote it Micah, it gets the closest pronunciation in the end. I don’t though. If I spell it out for the cashier at the coffee shop it always is a surprise what name they will call. I really don’t mind though when someone pronounces it incorrectly. I actually find it interesting – and I mispronounce my fair share of names (and words), too, so I consider it payback for that.

I tried for a short while to use a different name when ordering, something more American. The problem was that I always reacted late to that name when called since I was not used to it. It did not last very long.

Meike or Maike is a fairly common name in my generation in the northern part of Europe and comes like many other girl’s names from Maria/Mary. Apparently my mom wanted names that couldn’t be shortened into something else. She did a good job. She probably did not think I would to move the US.

When writing this post I remembered a picture book I read with the kids when they were little. It is called ‘The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi and the story is about a Korean girl named Unhei who arrives to the US from Korea and thinking about taking an American name to fit in better. In the end she decides to keep her name because it is beautiful to her and it has meaning (grace). I thought it was a really heartwarming story and taught something about acceptance and diversity.

Did you ever think about changing your first name? Never crossed my mind.

I always try to get names right but I also hope that all the students with unusual names forgive me for not always managing as much as I forgive everyone to not get mine right.

Interestiong fact: It’s very unusual to change your name in Germany (if it’s not through marriage) and you need a good reason for it.

Every year again

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Alle Jahre wieder…

“Alle Jahre wieder”, “Every year again” is the beginning of a famous German Christmas carol. Every year again Christmas sneaks up on me. I have tried to push the creeping panic down the last couple of days but going shopping, starting to hear Christmas songs on the radio, getting mail, the lights that show up in the windows and in the streets – there is no denying it anymore. I am not a list maker but maybe I should start one?!

The first question that is usually involved with Christmas is already answered: “Are we going to Germany this year to celebrate with the family?” – Answer: “No, we are not.” For me it’s always a hard decision, because I love to visit my family for Christmas but it is also a long way to travel, and it’s dark and wet and cold. This year the school break is not ideal. We struggle with jet lag and I never found a good way around it – so, one miserable week (maybe longer since it’s winter and there are fewer daylight hours), traveling back likely on New Years and then straight back to school followed by another miserable week because of jet lag. I asked the rest of my bunch and my kids said they wanted to be home for Christmas so that’s what we are going to do.

I was briefly thinking about squeezing in a short visit to my dad before. I need to sort through some boxes I still have at his house and I never manage when I go with everyone else (and thought I might sneak in a Christmas market visit). With Covid though I got too nervous about potentially getting sick and being stuck overseas just before Christmas and “celebrating” without my husband and kids.

Since I am not going, that means I need to get my act together if I want to send over some Christmas presents. Mail has become super expensive the last couple of years and before the holidays it takes up to four weeks to get there – that puts me right in the Thanksgiving week and we are not even at home but visiting friends – aaaah.

The only list I usually make is a list with gifts for Christmas but this year I have not even started on that yet. Breath Meike, you can do this.

Deep down I know that everything will work out. I will get out our decorations and make the house festive when we get back after Thanksgiving. I will scour German websites for presents for the family overseas and I will sit down in the next few days to finish the calendar I make every year for the grandparents. We will decorate our front yard with lights (the one thing my husband enjoys about the holiday to keep up with the neighbors) and we will bake cookies (what I now have time for since I am not going to fly to Germany). I even saw that there is a Christmas market in the next town over this year on one weekend. Everything will be good. Maybe not perfect, but sometimes not perfect makes for good memories, too.

Maybe you can help me out with the presents? Any great websites or ideas that you are getting back to over and over again?

German traditions – Martinssingen

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Lanterns at night

In the North of Germany November 10th is a special day. After dark kids will go from house to house sometimes with lanterns, sometimes without and sing a short song or recite a ‘poem’ (there are some very short ones that are more like trick-or-treat). In return they will receive candy (or fruit but mostly candy). It was my Halloween equivalent growing up (without the costumes).

In school I learned the story of St. Martin who (sitting on is horse) cut his coat in half with a sword to share it with a beggar in the middle of winter and that is why people now share candy with kids who ask for them (there was a whole song about it I and my friends learned one year). When I just looked it up I also learned that it is Martin Luther’s birthday (the priest who some may know from the protestant reformation).

Once again the tradition is much older than that though. In the Julian calendar it marked the beginning of winter and farm hands in the North were dismissed on that day. The families went from house to house and begged for gifts because they had to make it through the winter month without work.

There are a quite a few songs that every child in Germany knows that are about the lanterns the children carry. Lantern parades are a custom almost anywhere even though Martinssingen might not (I think that is specific to the northern part of Germany).

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne
und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne
und unten leuchten wir.

I am walking with my lantern
and my lantern walks with me.
The stars blink up there
We blink down here.

Sounds really odd in English – I definitely need more practice translating things 😉

Is there a custom in your part of your country that is specific to the area? I can’t come up with anything in California but then, I know little of the rest of the US.

The German preschool in town had their annual lantern parade last weekend. We did not go anymore but you can find those traditions in the US, too if you live in an area that has a German expat/immigration community and they will sing those same songs I learned as a kid. I crafted quite a few lanterns with my kids when they were younger.

Besides the Martinssingen there was also a separate lantern parade organized by the preschool in my home town each year. The voluntary fire department walked with us on our little walk around town (to extinguish the lantern that went up in flames – yes, we used real candles) and some of the older kids carried torches (what I thought was the coolest thing). Sometimes we also had musicians accompany us. I wonder if they still do this? Gets me a little nostalgic.