My home on the web - featuring my real-life persona!

Merry Christmas

Believe it or not, I am sitting at work - Heiligabend (Christmas Eve). This has to be a first for me.

It is so quiet, someone is playing holiday music but to be honest, I’d rather be home. Unfortunately, I had wasted away my generous ration of 15 vacation days by September and since then I am trying to get by. Fortunately, I have the best boss ever (and no, he doesn’t read this) and I will take my laptop home and work from home between the years. I have collected some chores that I can easily do from home but I can still get emails and generally “be available”.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanza, Diwali or whatever makes this time of the year special to you. All the best from me to you!

Christmas Cups / Weihnachtstassen

Yeah, it’s old. Yeah, it’s German. Yeah, it’s lame. Yeah, I love them and it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t smiling at the cups. And year after year I am surprised that I still get a kick out of them. It is probably because I don’t have to watch them over and over.

Here we go:

Snowy days

We are covered in snow! Since Thursday night, it started to get really bad. On Friday morning, I wasn’t able to leave the driveway because they hadn’t plowed our street - I assume the small residential streets are not a high priority. I called my boss and told him that I would wait and then take my husband’s car. His Kia Optima seems to have more ground clearance than my VW Beetle, which has a hard time in deep snow. At 10am, I send my boss an email that they still haven’t plowed but that I am still planning on getting in. He told me to forget about it and that they officially close shop at noon. Yeah me - snow day rocks! I let Chuck do the snow blowing and just enjoyed my Friday.

Starting to Plow

Starting to Plow

Saturday was uneventful, but over night we got hit really bad again. This time, I thought I have to put my time in and help with the snow, so I actually ran the snow blower while Chuck raked the roof. It started out nicely but a westerly wind really had it out for me. Try to blow snow into the wind!

I actually managed to plow a whole row down to the road and I don’t think a single flake landed where I meant it to go. Most of it actually managed to cover me and at the end of it, I looked like Susanne, the Snowfrau!

Snowfrau Susanne

Snowfrau Susanne

The Christmas Pickle - a cherished German tradition

On Saturday, we had the yearly family cookie back-off. It is mostly about decorating cookies in all colors of the rainbow and is a tradition from back when my nieces and nephews were little. We still hold on to it because it is a nice get-together before the stressful Christmas days. Everyone brings some dough, we are usually responsible for gingerbread dough, and my sisters-in-law make sugar cookie dough and dough for rosettes. We mixed up the rosettes this year and instead of dipping them into a sugar/cinnamon mix, we had a sugar glaze which was actually much better and a lot easier to eat.

The Christmas Pickle

The Christmas Pickle

Anyway, seems like every year we get to talk about the Christmas Pickle and whether or not it is a German tradition. I usually explain that I don’t think it is a German tradition, while someone else says they know someone who knows someone who lived in Germany and had a Pickle in the tree. Apparently, I am not the only German dealing with this story - other people fight the good fight too, trying to explain that “No, we do not hang gherkins in a tree but thanks for asking”. Don’t get me wrong, I find it very interesting and I am not bothered at all, I am just flabbergasted that this seems to be such a widespread rumor.

My theory to this day is that somewhere in the Alps, a village idiot tried to participate in decorating the tree but got mixed up with the snacks and hung a Pickle in the tree. An American tourist or soldier saw that and thought to themselves “Oh my, what a fun tradition. They are hiding a Pickle in the tree; I must go home and tell my fellow Americans all about it!” - and thus, the myth of the Christmas Pickle was born.

Of course, when a friend of mine visited us a few years back, we went to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth MI, which is the “World’s Largest Christmas Store” (and they are not kidding). Bronner’s had a whole section dedicated to the German Christmas Pickle, which made Markus and I both shake our heads. He had never heard of it either, which means that in Fulda (East Hessia), Stolp (Pomerania, now Poland), Kleeste (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and the Cologne area (Rhineland) no one has ever heard of the Pickle. Unfortunately, it is hard to disprove it too, because just as Halloween has been imported to Germany - without a doubt people now have brought Christmas Pickles back to Germany, which would make it somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Either way, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season - pickled or not.

The people we meet online…

I don’t even know what to write. I am not really good at this, since I am usually an outspoken, foot-in-mouth person who prefers to approach topics head-on instead of carefully and with sensitivity.

Judy Ann Schön, a fellow translator from Lenggries in Bavaria, passed away recently. She had been seriously ill for a while now. I had exchanged a few email messages with her, and she asked me not to mention anything on any of the mailing lists and I honored that wish.

The first time I had contact with her was when I just started to work as a translator here at X-Rite. I answered a question which was related to some type of calibration or color reference. Judy was a physicist and was apparently impressed with my knowledge, so she asked me every now and then if I could translate some things for her. Most of her translations were medical and that is not my thing, but we worked together on translation jobs related to printers and copiers. She taught me a lot, and I admired her for her knowledge - not only in the topics she translated but also general translation and language-related issues. Unfortunately for me, she almost exclusively worked with Deja Vu X and I almost exclusively work with Trados, so we didn’t collaborate that much.

In 2000, my husband and I went to visit my parents and friends, and while there we decided to go down to Lenggries. Of course Chuck wanted to see the Alps, but we chose Lenggries because we could combine the mountains with finally getting to know Judy Ann. Judy Ann’s recommendations for accommodations and the little tips of where to go and what to see made our trip a wonderful experience. We met a couple of times for dinner, and we visited her, Sandra and her pets. Our trip was fantastic, and we will never forget Lenggries and of course Judy Ann.

Another thing we discovered during our conversations was that her father actually lived very close to us here in Michigan. IIRC, she never had much contact with him, but shortly after our trip she decided to visit him. Accompanied by Sandra and one of her friends, Judy Ann came to visit us too. Unfortunately, their visit overlapped with a visit from my parents from Germany, so we didn’t get to spend as much time with Judy Ann as I would have liked, but I was glad they came by and got to see how we lived and meet our kitties - since cats were always a major topic.

But as it is with online relationships, the contact frequency fluctuates a lot - you don’t write for months and then you have a vivid email conversation over weeks. This happened with us as well. In the end, we stayed in contact for all those years. I started to go back to university part-time while working full-time, which didn’t allow for any freelance work and also restricted my spare time in general. In late June of this year I realized I hadn’t read anything from Judy for a while, and I sent her a quick hello. She replied and that’s when I heard about her illness for the first time. That is also when she asked me not to mention anything - a request I honored even if it was hard. I realized she wasn’t in a state of mind to answer emails from people she hardly knew, repeating her story over and over. A couple of months later, people on the PT list also noticed that Judy had not participated for a while and started to wonder. The chatter could be stopped by a neutral message about not discussing people’s situations without their consent. That actually didn’t make much sense, but somehow people just knew what to do. I sent her a few emails again, trying to keep in contact, but her answers got shorter.

At this point, I took a break from writing to call Markus, my best friend in Germany. He has his ups and downs, and the last I heard from him was an SMS a couple of weeks back, to which I “didn’t have the time to reply”. You know how that goes - you have used that lie yourself, right? Of course you have the time to reply or call. You just don’t, because you are thoughtless - I know I am. Maybe tomorrow. Not right now. Don’t tell anyone you didn’t have the time to call if at the same time you blog, participate on mailing lists, etc. So, this is for Markus - I love you and I miss you. Please come visit us soon. Chuck and I can’t wait to have you here.

As I have mentioned, I am quite awkward about this. I am not a warm and mothering person. I am a techie and, while I somewhat knew what her short replies indicated, when I didn’t hear back from my last messages, I didn’t have the guts to pick up the phone and call her. I felt that I could not offer any comfort in a conversation or convey how I felt. I am just worried that my words don’t sound sincere.

Well, the inevitable has happened, and Judy Ann Schön has passed away. My thoughts are with her and of course with Sandra, her daughter. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know her. I am thankful for all the things she taught me. I believe I am a better translator because of her. I will miss her. And I am sad that I was not a little more persistent in trying to contact her over the last half month. I don’t know if she would have appreciated it, but that should have been a chance I should have taken.

A little earlier today Jill from Musings from an overworked translator called and we talked about how people we almost exclusively knew online can leave a void in your life if they die. Spend a moment and think about the people you have gotten to know online - people you consider friends. Think about who you would miss and who would miss you and make sure that they will know if something happens to you.

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