Tag Archives: community

Immersion by Party: In Which I Speak Terrible German, Sing the Beatles and Try Schnaps



*This is a random stock photo: no lederhosen were present at the actual party!

An innocuous slip of paper in my mailbox began it all. The American translation was this:

  • We’re having a party, so don’t complain if it’s too loud, because we just warned you.
  • We will be grilling, so don’t turn us in to the police if you see the smoke–it’s legal.
  • Bring meat. Lots of meat.
  • Preferably wrapped in bacon.
  • Bring a salad.
  • Preferably wrapped in meat.
  • We will have more drinks available than the Geträngtmarkt.
  • RSVP two days ago.

I’d like to say my RSVP was late because I was busy working. I WAS busy, but the truth is that the invitation sat on my fireplace mantle for several days. I would read it whenever I passed by.

A party.

Not on my street, but in my neighborhood.

With Germans (well…yeah…I live in Germany, this makes sense).

I don’t know any of them.

I sound like a 3 year-old when I speak German. (Yes, me like wine red, please?)

Then I told my kids a story at dinner one night: it was my first day of high school. I was painfully shy. I decided to reinvent myself. So, I introduced myself to the first person I saw during the lunch-break. The poor soul happened to be Mavis, who remains one of my very best friends to this day.

As soon as I told that story, I knew I had to go to the party. I mean, if I was forcing encouraging my kids, who’ve had very little exposure to public school AT ALL, to go to GERMAN school, then I could certainly wrap some veggies in meat and saunter down the block to meet the neighbors.

Besides, I could always leave after a couple of hours.

I filled out the RSVP, wrote a nice card and paid my youngest five bucks to deliver it.

The invitation said to arrive after 18:00. I was there by 19:30.

I wasn’t the first one there, nor was I the last, as people slowly trickled in throughout the night.

You can imagine how awkward it was at first–I’m terrible at small talk, in any language. But the hostess was gracious and got me oriented, while some of the neighbors invited me to sit with them.

There seems to be a set of standard questions, probably issued by the Ausländerbehörde, for Germans to ask before getting to know anyone from the US.

After it’s established where I live (they want to know EXACTLY the house and number and then they tell me the history of my house), the conversation then goes like this: 

“Do you know other Americans in our town?”

“No,” I reply.

“We have a large community of Americans here. We have an American family renting our duplex.”


“I’ll give you their number.”


“Where do you shop?”

“I like PennyMarkt.”

“Don’t you shop at the PX?”

“Not really.”

“Not at Katterbach?”



Having lived in this area for a while, where the US families come and go like migrating birds, I can understand why Germans would want to connect Americans to each other, and not necessarily to themselves. It’s hard to say goodbye. And while three years SEEMS like a long time if you have a baby or you’re in prison, it’s slips by before you know it when you have a good friend. And it’s been said that if you make friends with a German, then you have a friend for life.

But once they find out that:

A) I have a job with a German company

B) My kids will go to German school

C) I want to live here forever

D) I NEED to become fluent in German

…the conversation changes.

Within an hour, I was asked to use ‘du.’

I listened.

A lot.

But I also spoke some. It was easiest during one-on-one conversation.

“What do you like to cook?”

“I like to grill chicken.”

“Do you bake?”

“No my daughter likes to bake.”


But sitting at a beer table with several very fränkische people was like the UltraMarathon of my linguistic abilities.

Occasionally, someone would slip up and speak ENGLISH, upon which, someone else would say, “Don’t speak English–she needs to learn German!”

I took that as a compliment.

The night went on. More food was eaten, coffee and cake were served, the stars came out and more wine was poured.

I spoke more.

I EVEN had a conversation about CrossFit! Trying to explain why it is NOT ‘bodybuilding.’ I talked about my training and my marathons and they wanted to know exactly how many kilometers I run daily/weekly/monthly and whether I belonged to a running ‘club’ or not.

Then the schnapps came out, and we were inexplicably singing ‘Yellow Submarine’ and other songs in English (with lyrics provided by someone’s smart phone).

I did learn a few valuable lessons:

  1. The things that take courage are often the most rewarding experiences
  2. ASK questions if you don’t know something (like, which Metzgerei is best)
  3. Friendships are an investment–what you put in is what you will get out, but use caution because not every scheme is solid
  4. A glass of wine improves your German
  5. Schnapps does NOT

The day after the party, I went to retrieve my salad bowl, which I’d forgotten in my late-night exit. (I ended up staying at the party MUCH longer than anticipated). The hostess said it had been brave of me to come to the party, and that we should get together more often.

I can hardly explain how good I feel about the whole thing. How much better life is, because I did something that was hard. How great it feels when you have friends.

How a simple piece of paper shaped the course of my life.

Someday, I’ll laugh with my friends about how weird I sounded all those years ago.

Someday, I’ll have a barbecue for my neighbors.

And I’ll invite the Americans renting my duplex.

Crossfit is More than a Workout, It’s a Family

BOL group photo

I read this interesting post recently about why Crossfitters don’t really care what people think about the sport, and some of the comments are rather heated.

If you Crossfit, you will get what Lisbeth Darish is saying. If you don’t Crossfit, you may end up leaving angry comments on her blog.

Non-fitters tend to think that Crossfit is just another exercise program. And if they think that way (as Darish points out), it doesn’t really matter to us.

Honestly, it’s better to let some people go work their biceps.

Crossfit is a large, crazy, diverse family. But as in any functional family, there goes with it a healthy sense of pride.

In this kind of family, kids ALWAYS think their family is the best. Parents ALWAYS love their children (even if they have to use some discipline from time to time). Grandparents ALWAYS adore the new arrivals. Sure, there might be some sibling rivalry and a cousin you think is weird, but it is STILL family. 

When you see the faces of your brothers or sisters through the window of a coffee shop, and they turn to wave you in, you automatically have that sense of belonging that fills your soul.

Better yet is meeting a second cousin from a place thousands of miles away. Neither of you have a language in common–you don’t even know each other’s names, and yet, it doesn’t matter–you still have that bond.

Crossfit (at least, as far as I’ve seen) transcends race, gender, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, nationalities, languages, religions, shoe types, hair colors, tattoos, star bellies…the list could go on.

I’ve never felt more at home in a place than I have at Crossfit. There is no gym, no health club, no school, no church that can beat the camaraderie I’ve experienced, which is why, as Darish said, “We don’t care.”

It’s not that we don’t care about the point critics are trying to make, it’s just that my grandma can push-press their grandma, and that makes ours better.

We know what our family can do.

I have some friends and family members who (*gasp) do not Crossfit. But they see what it’s done for me, and therefore, they love it too.

They are like the best friends who stay at your house every weekend. They love your family and so you unofficially adopt them.

But whether you’re a best friend of Crossfit or a member of the group, you will understand that the criticisms don’t matter: we have the coolest, best, most awesome family in the world.

And nothing anyone says can change that.

Confession of a Crossfit Snob


I have a confession to make: I’ve become a Crossfit snob.

I realize this confession might cause some of you to unfriend me on facebook, but bear with me a little as I try to explain this extremely delicate and complex matter:

Crossfit is superior to everything.

I may smile and nod while you tell me about your diet plan, your new ‘fitness’ DVDs and even the new ‘class’ you’re taking so you can ‘drop a few pounds’ before your Mediterranean Cruise. I might say something like, “It’s great that you’re being so active.” But really, I’m thinking, “Why waste your time with that crap?”

Here’s where you unfriend me.

While I DO think step aerobics (do they still DO step aerobics?)  is far better than sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and sucking down Mountain Dew, Crossfit is better.

I realize that not everyone actually has access to a good box, and I also realize that you can’t do Crossfit entirely on your own–there’s only so much a YouTube tutorial can show you–however, if you are already investing time, money and energy on a gym membership, why not Crossfit instead? Choosing Zumba over Crossfit is like eating Marzipan instead of real fruit–it may taste good for a little while, but it’s not very nourishing.

Take a good look at photos from fitness ‘fads.’ No one actually looks capable of pulling a person from a burning building or even carrying a bag of heavy groceries without breaking a sweat.

Maybe you don’t want to pull people from burning buildings–I get that. But judging from the photos I’ve seen of other ‘fitness programs,’ nobody looks particularly fit–not even the trainers.

You might say, “I have bad knees. I have a bad back. The doctor said I should stay home in my rocking chair until I die.”

My answer: “Try Zumba.”

But if you say, “I need to change my life.”

I’ll reply, “Try Crossfit.”

Anyone CAN Crossfit, but maybe not everyone should.

More snobbery.

If you are not willing to change your life and do things that are hard, things that require EFFORT, things that are NOT always FUN, then don’t try Crossfit. But if your entire life until now has been one big slide into mediocrity and you’re tired of it, then you just might be a Crossfitter at heart.

There’s nothing better than watching the metamorphosis of someone who is struggling with obesity or knee problems or rapidly advancing age (like myself) as they come consistently to class and give it their all. It doesn’t matter if their push-ups (like mine at first) are against the wall, or if they’re stepping up on bumpers instead of plyo boxes. They are doing real, hard work in order to make their lives better–and THAT is admirable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to Crossfit, you just have to be consistent and give it every ounce of energy you’ve got. If I reach muscle failure at 9 chin-ups, while my partner can do all 30 on her own, I am STILL giving it my best effort.

I’ll get to 30 eventually.

Some people don’t care about doing chin-ups or pull-ups or handstand push-ups–and that’s fine. They can keep doing their elliptical or their treadmill and lose the same 5 pounds over and over again for the rest of their lives. If they are okay with that, then why should I care?

But for those of you I truly love, and for those of you who WANT real and lasting change in your lives, and for those of you who WANT to be part of the most awesome, encouraging community worldwide, I recommend Crossfit.

There’s nothing better. 

How to Love a Crossfit Newbie


She was so obnoxious, I wondered why Coach Rob didn’t just tell her to shut up. I think she talked the entire session, nodding wisely and trying to add important information to the conversation, which wasn’t really a conversation at all–she just didn’t know that.

I do understand when you have not yet purchased the correct tool, you will dig around in the junk drawer of your brain to find anything you can use to do a new job.

And, like hanging up drapes with paperclips, it’s not pretty.

While I’m sure our coach was intrigued with her knowledge gleaned from years of step aerobics and running, which she mentioned frequently, he didn’t say anything about it other than, “Here, you have to leave your ego at the door.”

She didn’t seem to think anything about that until later, when she realized that pretty much everything she had been doing, while good for her in many ways, had been wrong.

Eventually, she learned to keep her mouth (mostly) shut and listen–really listen, which means applying it to the WOD. 

It still amazes me that the more experienced Crossfitters were not only patient with her, but encouraging as well. They took the time to get to know her, to show her things, to give her pointers and tell her when she was leaning too far forward while squatting the bare bar.

In case you’re wondering, the Newbie in question WAS me.

As I look back over a year of Crossfit, I can see how far I’ve come, not just in physical strength, but in my mindset as well. I’m not the most stellar athlete–I still haven’t RX’d any WOD that includes lifting or pulling the entirety of my body weight, but with one year under my rapidly shrinking belt, I have learned a few things.

  • People might annoy you, but give them a break–they’ll settle in. And besides, they are trying something way out of most people’s comfort zones.
  • Camaraderie is what makes Crossfit the best sport on the planet–do your part to build such an environment.
  • The Newbies who come back routinely might become your new best friends.
  • New Crossfitters are working hard too–if they’re not, they probably won’t stick around long.
  • Be patient and wait to see how Crossfit changes them physically, but also mentally. The proof is in the Paleo pudding.
  • Even if you have to lift the plyo box out for them and put weights away for them and show them where the toilet is; love them, because no matter how buff you think you were before coming to Crossfit; you were a shiny-shoed little school-kid once too.

Love and Bullets and Happy Holidays

Gun club

I once had a dream when I was pregnant that someone tried to harm my child, so I bludgeoned him to death with a club.

My pregnancy dreams were notoriously violent.

As the holidays approach, I tend to think about the people I love, those I can hold tightly and those I’ve had to let go–and ponder this nebulous feeling/idea/emotion: love.

We need more words for ‘love’ in the English language because one pitiful monosyllabic word cannot possibly encompass all aspects of it.

It is ferocious and wise; unwavering and temperamental; it is boisterous and quiet; fragile and strong; ferocious and gentle; it is rapturous and painful.

In my life lately, love seems to be mostly painful.

However, I’ve learned a valuable lesson because of it: to truly love a person, you need to love them exactly as they are.

If you can look at a person packaged in all their ‘faults’ (or things you perceive as faults) and not only take a bullet for them, but also grab the gun and beat the perp until he can’t stand up, then you are loving someone unconditionally.

But what happens if someone you love wouldn’t take a bullet for you–and you both know it? Or worse yet, what if YOU get tired of taking bullets?

I wish I had an answer for this.

Love CAN be the thing that makes you walk on air. I understand this intellectually, but currently, I can’t envision it.

The only thing I can do is to put on the kevlar and go out and keep loving and being loved where I can.

No matter what.

My kids love me fiercely; and I can’t think of tougher friends than the ones I’ve made at Crossfit–not just physically (though they WOULD be handy in a fistfight or zombie apocalypse) but it also takes that certain mindset, which motivates you to stand up when the weight is so heavy it bruises your shoulders. These kinds of friends love the real, honest me–and they never ask for what I can’t give. Now that’s unconditional love.

If you are blessed enough to be with people this holiday season who would take bullets for you and/or beat someone to death for you, wrap yourself up in it until the painful, achey kind of love subsides.

I wish you a happy holiday. 



Peace (if applicable).

And friends who kick ass.