Sunday, March 31, 2002

Diary: 3/31/2002

Dear friends and family:

A wonderful, stable, quiet week was had by all, with no major breakthroughs but also no great complications.

Getting back into the groove with shopping, Debbie and the kids ventured to the Disney store. While we didn't really need much, it was fun to look. They did make one great discovery. Do you know "Peeps", those marshmallow sugar-coated chick-shaped things? Well, Debbie found marshmallow "Poohps" - same stuff, but in the shape of Winnie the Pooh. OK, ok, so it's not a discovery to rival cold fusion, but it brightened our day.

Cleveland weather welcomed us back. We've seen days bounce between 50 and nearly 60 degrees and then drop down below freezing, only to get 20 inches of snow dumped on us. Before you make any assumptions, we thought it was great. It's nice to be back in a place where you might have to use your heater and air conditioner on the same day.

Wednesday night marked the beginning of Passover, and we spent the first two nights surrounded by friends and familiar faces. For the last several years we have hosted the meal, but we figured we've had our own Exodus and it was enough.

Our house hunting continues. We have toyed with the idea of building a new house, or buying a home that needs significant renovations. What we finally have decided (at this moment) is that the market will pick up this week and next, as we believe people have been holding off listing their house until after Easter and spring break. The houses we have seen have mostly been on the market for months which means that they are, for one reason or another, not the greatest picks. We keep reminding ourselves that we have time.

Of course, this means that the girls will have to go to Twinsburg schools for the remainder of this year, and then we'll get them into Solon schools next year. While this was not our first choice, Twinsburg schools are not bad and will provide the girls with a daily dose of math, reading, and social interaction. We are sure the social interaction will be a welcome change. It will be a 3 week break by the time next Monday rolls around, which is quite long enough to spend chained to Mom and Dad and Joram! They have both had chances to play with friends, but nothing beats a daily recess to get the "utzies" out.

Coming up this week, we will celebrate Leon's birthday (but only after the end of Passover - no matzah birthday cakes for him!), and continue our hunt for the home of our dreams.

Leon leaves to return to Switzerland on Saturday, and the countdown clock will start ticking toward June 3, which is his estimated last day there.

We hope that your holiday week (whether Easter or Passover or your own personal celebration of choice).

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Diary: 3/24/2002

Dear friends and family:

This week has been both exciting and calming, busy and quiet. We feel a great sense of relief to finally be home, but are also nervous and apprehensive about all the work we have at hand.

Our goals for this week were to make the 3 major purchases of adult life: a car, a house, and a cell phone.

We found the cellphone first. You can now reach Debbie at (440) 570-7411 (Debbie *is* Information, Please).

After much deliberation, we decided again on a Ford Windstar. Any color but green.

Househunting was by far the hardest task of the week. We have seen many, but are as yet still homeless. Debbie's Mom (also known as "Memah" around here) has opened her house to us, and we are working hard not to over-run the place. Except for Joram, who is running every where much to the consternation of the cats, since they are usually what he is running after.

We are reminded of George Carlin's "A Place for My Stuff" routine:
That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff.

On Thursday, Debbie, Heather, and Isabelle made a small decision which hopefully will affect several small lives: They had their hair cut. To be precice, they had 30 inches of hair cut and donated to "Locks of Love", which takes the hair and creates wigs for children with cancer.

Sunday marked a return to one of our most beloved activities: Sunday School. Debbie's teaching position had of course been filled, but she offered to to substitute teach and was assigned this week to her old grade (first grade). This was even more fun because Isabelle is also in first grade! Meanwhile Heather had a full schedule with Jewish studies, honors Hebrew, and conversational Hebrew. Of course, there was confusion with French (is it "lo" - no, or "l'eau" - water?). But she will sort it out soon, we are sure. Meanwhile Joram was busy helping re-organize the library and making sure that all the bagels were good quality. Of course, that meant touching and/or biting them, but he takes his job seriously. In all it was wonderful to fall back into that old rhythm, and to reunite with our friends and community.

This coming week we will have a busy time continuing our hunt for a new home, getting the girls registered and into school, and celebrating Passover. As always, we hope that this letter finds everyone in good health and better spirits

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, Joram, Meemah, Macaroni, and Peanuts

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Diary: 3/17/2002

(with apologies once again to Simon and Garfunkel)
Many's the time I've been mistaken, and many times confused
Yes and I've often felt forsaken, and certainly misused
Ah but I'm alright, I'm alright, I'm just weary thru my bones
Still you don't expect to be bright and bon-vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

After days of activity and weeks of planning, our family is on the plane. *The Plane*.

This last week has been like living inside a tornado. What to bring now, what to pack for the air shipment, what to leave for the boat? What can we live without for a little while, what will we just buy again in the US? At least the uncertainty of IF we can find things, which we experienced on the way here, is missing. We know what we are going to find, what to expect. And this is one of the deepest comforts of all.

Our journey home began at 3:00pm on Friday, when the taxi arrived (an appropriately Swiss stick-shift conversion van with a trailer hitched behind. We left 2 bags lighter than when we came - the official count is 9 suitcases, 1 box, and 1 stroller.

Arriving at the hotel, we quickly settled in, had dinner (they served a French wine named "la grenouille" - the frog. It really wasn't that bad though), and crashed. We had to be up early the next day. 4:00am to be exact.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it's alright, it's alright, for we live so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong, I can't help it I wonder what's gone wrong

It is impossible for our thoughts not to travel back over the last 7 months here - over the last 9 months since we embarked on this adventure. Our very own "There and Back Again". And like Bilbo Baggins in that first Tolkein story, we too feel that we raced out of the house without so much as a handkerchief in our pocket, and are now returning to our warm hobbit-hole having experienced a great deal, both good and bad, and are richer for the entire thing.

Our conversations have returned time and again over the last few weeks to our reasons for coming here, our reasons for cutting the adventure short, our reasons for needing to come home. In looking back, it's hard to say that we wouldn't have made the same choices, but it's equally hard to say whether that would have been better in the end.

Everyone woke up on time and ready to go. There were really no hiccoughs along the way. We found breakfast, got past security without having to remove our shoes or any other articles of clothing, and boarded the flight to Copenhagen. As the plane took off both girls shouted "Meemah, here we come!".

2 short hours later we flew past the modern, gigantic windmills standing in the water of the Copenhagen harbor. We had just a little while to wait before our flight to New York began.

And I dreamed I was dying, I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying, and high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty, sailing away to sea, and I dreamed I was flying

We left with a crowd of other people, all bound for different parts of the world but whose paths brought them to Newark, New Jersey. The flight was overbooked by 30 people, and we were very happy that we had gotten all our paperwork done ahead of time.

It was a long flight, to our perception longer than any other we had taken. As we came closer the flight attendants began serving a second meal. Heather asked why and we reminded her that, in America, it was about lunch time.

"But not all these people are going to America" she said.

"Heather, I can guarantee you that everyone on this plane is going to be in America for at least a little while." Leon reminded her.

"But I thought we were landing in New York.".

Hmm. Perhaps more emphasis on geography is needed.

We flew past New York, past Lady Liberty, and we were reminded about how suddenly things can change, both big and small.

This is also a time to look forward. Where will we live? What will we do for work? Where will we go to school? Who will be our neighbors? (Heather decided that since we lived near horses in Switzerland, we should live near cows in Solon. This was vetoed by the grownups however. Spoilsports.) Where will we be sitting in just a few months, on August 30, 2002 when we look at each other and say "remember what we were doing this time last year?"?

Feelings of excitement, concern, optimism, and fear mingle uncomfortably in our stomachs. But this is a road we've traveled before, and we know that it will come out all right in the end, even if we can't see that end at this moment.

But we come on a ship they called Mayflower
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come in the ages' most uncertain hours and sing an American tune
And it's alright, oh it's alright, it's alright, you can be forever blessed
Still tomorrow's gonna be another working day and I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying, to get some rest

Our flight was late, and it took a great deal of time to navigate our 10 bags and 5 people through immigration, customs, and security again. We arrived at the gate for the Cleveland flight with just 15 minutes to spare. And that was when we were treated to American hospitality at work.

This flight was also overbooked, and it had been declared "open seating". Which meant that while there were 5 seats available, none of them were together.

It was obvious that one person would need move over so that Debbie and Joram could sit together. And someone gave up their seat graciously enough when they saw her coming down the aisle. (Although a couple of college-age girls did offer to hold Joram throughout the flight. They ended up sitting in the row behind him and kept him entertained most of the time).

But when Leon began trying to find places for himself, Heather, and Isabelle, you could see the dubious looks on people's faces. Heather certainly looked big enough to make it though a 1.5 hour flight on her own. Isabelle, less so but perhaps if Leon just sat close.... You could see people weighing the situation in their minds. And then...

One person moved to a middle seat. Then the person next to her. Now Leon and Isabelle at least could sit together. The last man in the row looked up, and with a sigh offered his seat too. The flight attendant was near tears at people's generosity. Leon offered deepest thanks to those who moved (usually to a seat in between two larger people), and then pointed out "odds are that the girls probably wouldn't throw up during the flight, but this might be best choice for everyone!". People laughed, the flight took off, and we were heading on the last leg of our 16 hour odyssey home.

We arrived at Debbie's Mom's house. The first order of business was dinner - Chinese food, something we haven't had since leaving the US. Debbie was also re-united with Macaroni, who was surprisingly lenient in scolding us for leaving him for so long. After a few seconds of pouting, he proceeded to sit down next to Joram and purr loudly. Joram lovingly proceeded to attempt to pull the cat's ears and gouge out his eyes. Macaroni didn't seem the least bit disturbed.

After getting to bed at 7:00pm, Joram awoke bright and early at.... midnight. After all, it was 6:00am according to him and why let good play time go to waste. By 4:00am everyone (except Nancy) was up and moving. It is remarkable the things you can get done with so little sleep. Bags were unpacked and organized, journals entries written, breakfast eaten, etc.

At 11:30 Debbie and Leon left to find the house of their dreams. The girls had the better end of the deal, spending the day eating Meemah out of house and home, and generally helping her remember why motherhood (especially motherhood with 3 children) is best left to the young.

Debbie and Leon returned at 8:00pm, after seeing many many houses and placing an offer on the one that "spoke" to them the most. At the time of this writing we don't have any details on whether the offer was accepted or not, but we will keep everyone posted. We will talk to you all very soon.

Leon, Debbie, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

PS: For those who would like to call, Nancy's phone number is: 330-405-1357. For our friends in Switzerland, please remember that we are 6 hours *behind* Central European time.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Diary: 3/10/2002

Dear friends and family:

Yes, many of you have noted that a note went out on Thursday, and dated for March 17. Leon would love to blame it on a bad flux-time capacitor that accidentally sent a future issue back over a week through the space-time continuum. Or a surge in the number of chono-particles in this part of Switzerland.

But of course, the real answer is that Leon just hit "send" when he meant to hit "save". An unfortunate accident, but when you are trying to stay organized it was inevitable.

This week saw activities mostly related to our preparations to depart on Saturday. On Monday, we had the surveyors come to look over the household stuff and tell us how it would be packed (in true Swiss style - efficiently to the point of anal-retentivity. While this is not desirable in a resturaunt, it is refreshing to see in a moving company.)

Of course, the girls are very excited and have been counting down the days. Heather, who is studying fractions in school, took time to explain the concept to Isabelle (who is not) - "we have 1 and 3/7 weeks before we go home". It is important to make new concepts relevant, don't you think?

Thursday was a day off for the kids, as there were parent-teacher conferences being held. Both girls are doing well, and the teachers were very positive about the progress they have made this year.

On Friday night we had the Saunders over for dinner, and began our last weekend together in Switzerland.

There was a carnival all weekend in our village (the Carnival of Morons... oops Morrens). As carnivals go, it wasn't much. But there were a few rides, some fireworks, and a cabaret-type karioke bar. Not that we stuck around to see the vocal talents of our neighbors. Some things are best left to the imagination. The fireworks were a surprise also. But this being a small village, we discovered them went they went off directly over our house at 10:30pm. The fact that most of us were asleep at the time is a minor detail.

Sunday was relatively quiet. We had pancakes, packed a bit, did more laundry, and took a walk in the warmer weather (it's up to about 50 here) down to a park so the kids could run around a bit.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone next week and beyond. It is not too soon to set up a date. (hint hint)

Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram

Sunday, March 03, 2002

DIary: 3/3/2002

Dear friends and family:

The outpouring of support, warmth and friendship from last week's note was truly overwhelming. We feel blessed to have people in our lives that care so much. Thank you.

At this point our countdown clock is set and we are watching the days, hours, and minutes tick away. There is a lot to do, but still a lot of waiting also, which is the hardest part.

I want to take a second and mention that Paulette Powell is a really nice person.

This week the kids went back to school. This was both good and bad for Debbie, who didn't have to worry about entertaining them, but also had a very lonely week without them. However, she kept busy scanning the web for houses, and of course, Joram made sure she wasn't too bored. Toddlers are good at that.

Speaking of Joram, here's the latest on his personal adventures (no, he hasn't leapt from any tall places, spiked fevers that threatened to boil his brain inside his skull, or attempted to rewire the house with his bare hands. That was last week, remember?). As I think we mentioned earlier, he is cutting about 4 teeth at once. It would be so... what's the word we need here?.... "Normal" to do just one at a time. He also has had time to watch his sisters and their bathroom habits. While he has always been fascinated by the toilette (his attitude seems to be "why keep a perfectly good bucket of water around if you can't stick your hands in it?"), he is beginning to understand the function. So during each diaper change, he insists on having a sit. He looks extremely proud of himself (well, as long as his hands don't slip and he's not folded into the fetal position with his toes jammed into his ears and 3 inches of butt floating in the water). And on Sunday, he even peed. This a
ctually took everyone by surprise (including Joram) and the cheering actually startled him a bit. But overall it was a dramatic and life-affirming event.

Yes, we all need to find a hobby, or read a good book. We're working on it. Honest.

The word went out this week that we are on our way back to the US. People have been stopping by regularly to offer their hopes for the future, to express their friendship, and to scope out the stuff we might sell. Not that we are going to make any money from this trip. It's more of an extended garage sale, where you just try to find a price that someone will accept, but one that will also leave you feeling like you aren't the biggest heel in the world for either fleecing a friend or throwing good money out the window.

Along with the sale of goods, one family came in looking for stuff and left with a rental contract. It seems that they have been cooped up in a little apartment, but hoping for someplace better, and our place just happens to fit the bill. It's a huge relief to know that we won't be leaving the landlord high and dry, and that someone can benefit from this whole event.

The end of the week saw a bunch of visits from various friends - some from the US and some local. It was great to spend time with everyone, and it kept our minds busy so we didn't just sit and watch the clock tick down.

This week should be another quiet one. Just work, some pre-packing, and getting all our ducks in a row.

To answer a question that several people have asked, we intend to keep this letter going on a weekly basis at least until we are all in the US for good. After that, we desperately hope that life will become so boring that any email we could send would be useful only as a cure for insomnia.

As always, we hope you are all in good health and better spirits.
Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram