Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Friday, April 1st, 2011

The thing about taking an extended blogging vacation (no, not vacation…stress/laziness-related work stoppage?) is that when you start again you feel the need to fill the masses of readers (all 6 of you) in on what has been going on. So not to balk at convention, here we go.

A few months ago I started to really feel like I wanted to work more. One of those deep down feelings. Why I didn’t also realize what was coming is poor foresight, since after 40 years the one thing I know about myself for sure is that I am an amazing manifestor of work. Although this is in no way related to being able to manifest money (odd that), as soon as I think “more work”, “new job” or “I’m bored” something comes along. The last 2 years, despite verbally bemoaning my unemployed/work eligibility status, I didn’t have to dig very deep to realize that I actually wasn’t interested or ready to work due to a large and exhausting list of reasons.


This time, when that thought passed my consciousness, I knew it was the real deal. Fast forward a few weeks. Friend Lesli offers me a retainer for 20 hours a month to be her business manager. Pug Pharm gets a few hundred thou in funding so I sign-up with them 60 hours a month to start. Another former boss and friend starts a business and needs her website written. Despite two previous rejections, a friend at Swarovski prompts me to send in my resume to the Director responsible for online communications, and I have an interview for an (on paper) well-matched position (more on that in a sec), plus two positions for English-speaking jobs at a local non-profit (SOS Kinderdorf) get sent to me. Whew! (Reminds me of a story I once read about a rainmaker who did his thing after several months of drought and down came a massive flood of water. He commented he could make it rain, but had no control over the volume.)

And I’m still doing some shopping, laundry and the occasional lunch shift at the cafe.  All with Annie in Kindergarten 20 hours per week.

So what is the fall-out of all this? Firstly, I’m totally loving my contract work. Being involved with a new venture when it isn’t primarily your money at risk is fun. (Being involved in a new venture when your own money is at risk is stressful.)

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it would look like if I worked full-time right now. In summary, it wouldn’t be pretty. Families with children here don’t have 2 full-time working parents (or one full-time working single parent) unless there is another family member to step in. (It is the 1950’s here in Austria, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.) So Annie would pretty much be the only child at Kindervilla (of about 100 children) to be there full-time. And believe me, she would notice. (The word “unfair” gets a lot of play these days.)

Plus the cafe is picking up again (a very good thing!), which means Markus is working a zillion hours a week. (A 12-hour day is a shortish day, with at least 2 or 3 long days of 17+ hours.) So Annie literally would have no parent around most of the week. The fact that my (overly judgmental) response to my friend telling me daycare in San Francisco was 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (to 10:00 p.m. and on Saturdays if pre-arranged) was “why bother having kids then?” does indicate that this doesn’t jive with my parenting belief system.

And don’t get me started on what happens once she goes to the first grade. School is over here for the day at 11:45. 11:45!!!!

Not to mention a full-time job would mean giving up my contracts, which as I mentioned, I’m loving.

So it was with this ambiguity that I got gussied up and went to the interview for Manager of Online Communications at the headquarters of the multi-national, multi-billion dollar, family-owned Swarovski empire. The job description was for a manager responsible for a team of four to work on the strategy and implementation for all online, mobile, and social networking communications. Very similar to my last job at AbeBooks plus some things I’m doing at Pug Pharm.

Ah assumptions. You would think in my middle-ageness I would have learned better. I sent my resume in English, the director answered me with an email in English, the admin assistant booked the meeting with me in English, the job posting (which was in German) stated that perfect written and spoken English was required…you don’t need to be a genius to see where this is going.

The incredibly hip, pleasant and obviously smart director gave long explanations of the position in his (thank goodness High) German, to which I had to concentrate so hard to follow that when he was done my brain was ready to explode so that I would give  insightful and relevant comments like “interesting!” or “good idea!”. Blink, blink, stare, stare. I don’t know whether I’m more embarrassed for myself or my poor friend who actually recommended me.

That was just a few days ago, so I’m going to let that sit for a while before doing anything else on the work front. In the meantime, I sent out my first set of invoices for the contract work, which felt pretty good after two years of not financially contributing to the family.

In other news…as mentioned, the cafe is picking up. Yeah! The franchise owner helped Markus out with a spring patio-opening celebration where they handed out 5,000 tulips to near-by office workers and people on the street. See photos here. And since the weather has been lovely the last 10 days, people have been making good use of the outdoor seating. That plus a good run of catering events means sales in March are double what they were in January.

And Annie is, well, Annie…..

That’s a wrap for this update. Here’s hoping this is the restart to something more regular.

It Had to Happen Sometime

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I’ve been so over growing Annie’s hair for a while now, but just hadn’t made the time to get it cut. And speaking of time…was it ever!

Friday was the day. I gave a nod to my alternative (flaky?) side and had it cut when the moon was waxing, and to my practical side by heading to the mall where cut, blow-dry and the cutest round-the-nape-of-the-neck braid was only €13.

Annie sat quietly smiling through the whole thing (because she isn’t, you know, two) and of course loved the results.

Before the event


Hair up....

...and cut!

Muuuuuuuch better

Likin' it

Yeah, I'm never going to be able to do that.


And dance!

Three Randoms

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Annie wanted to make me breakfast this morning. I went back to bed and waited for her to come and get me. Blueberry yogurt, a spoon and a glass of water were laid out on the placemat.

Annie: I couldn’t reach the glasses because my arms are too little so I took one from the counter and washed it out.

Me: Resourceful!


I have to figure out how to take a video of Annie skiing. (I’m usually skiing with her and don’t want to take our video camera on the slopes.) You won’t believe it. I don’t believe it. She is going smoothly around hairpin turns and flying over bumps with her hands in the air, laughing the whole time. And the school’s ski week isn’t until March. I thought I would have a couple of years until Annie was a better skier than me. Think again Mama.


Another particularly funny Hillary-learning-German story to add to the list. I wanted to say to Markus’ parents that Annie is full-speed ahead from the moment her feet touch the floor. But for some reason I chose to say “when her toes are on the floor.” So what I actually said was “wenn ihre Zähne auf dem Boden sind,” which means “when her teeth are on the floor”. Kunk. Zähne, Zehen, same same.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

So here is how Christmas played out in our part of the world…

Traditionally Christmas is celebrated here on the evening of the 24. Family gathers, eats usually a fairly simple meal, and then the Christmas Child (I haven’t quite got the whole story yet on who that is. Jesus? An angel?) comes and brings the children presents.

We decided to have the family dinner at the cafe, as it was easier for everyone. Markus closed at about 1:00 p.m. and then we went back a few hours later to set up and get ready.

Pretty Christmas table

Everyone arrived together: Markus father and step-mom, sister Suzi with her daughter Lili and two dogs, and Suzi’s grandmother. Markus’s dad made steak tartar, which amazingly I actually like (just have to pretend I’m not eating raw meat.) Markus also put out breads and spreads and Italian meats and everything was lovely.

Franz, Renata and Uhroma, (she is 93!)

Suzi and Lili

Uhroma and Diego

The Christmas Child brought Annie a Princess tent, a doll and beads. Perfect!

On Christmas morning Annie woke up to a present at the end of her bed that Santa left. A ballerina-pink sparkly dress was inside. That Santa sure knows Annie well!

Downstairs the wonder of gifts under the tree and stockings hung by the fire (really laying on the couch) brought hoped-for squeals of delight. I actually didn’t take too many pictures, as we were just enjoying opening gifts and being together. Also, when I was a child, present opening lasted literally hours, so there was loads of opportunity for photos. Here, with one child and few adult gifts, it was all over in 20 minutes. I did snap these two lovely shots though.

AND!! (I’m so excited) I turned on the video to catch Annie spinning in her dress. It is way too dark and grainy, BUT I unexpectedly captured that iconic childhood moment when Annie’s little brain is trying to figure out why there is more than one Santa. She is saying that she saw Santa at the Christmas Market and he had a different face from the one that came to her kindergarten, Kindervilla. (Then she says the whole thing again for Papa in German, as he clearly doesn’t speak English.)

Just check out her face as her brain tries to process the information when I say that maybe one is Santa’s helper. Hilarious!

There are 2 Santa Clauses!! from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

Happy New Year to you all.

This Day Brought to You By the Letter “S”

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Sunday Markus, Annie and I went to Seefeld, a pretty recreational area about half and hour from Innsbruck.

The day was filled with skiing…

I'm in the white and Annie is ahead of me in the pink. (Click to enlarge.)


…and sleeping.

Annie and I have had a run of particularly crappy days lately, so this awesome one was truly soul saving.

Learning All the Tricks

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

We were at cousin Lili’s birthday dinner tonight. She had asked for a Friendship Book so we gave her one covered with horses, which are her current passion. All of the children share around Friendship Books here in Austria, writing about likes and dislikes and favourite things. It has been a tradition for decades.

It was a very nice, relaxing time with the family.We had a casual dinner of different fishes on toast, and Lili really liked her gift.

I also learned two interesting things about Annie. One is that she likes smoked salmon. This makes me very happy as, although high in sodium, it is very good for Omega-3 oils. More salmon means less trying to remember to add the flax to Annie’s cereal in the morning.

The other concerns a story I already told on this blog about how Annie pushed me out the door the night she slept over at Oma’s and Opa’s. I was a proud Mama, thinking how independent my girl was and how much she loved and wanted to play with her grandparents. So today I got the real story. The second that she had shuffled Markus and I out the door, she looked up at Opa with her big blue eyes and said, “May I have an ice-cream?” She knows I’m somewhat restrictive about sugar (compared to Austrian’s anyway, who must have the highest consumption of sweets in the world) and wasn’t going to risk asking this while I was in the room. That girl. It is going to be a fine line I will need to teach her to walk between getting what you want out of the world, which is a great thing, and manipulating the people around you. Not so great. I think I have some work ahead on this.

How Games are Born

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The few nights ago when I was reading Annie a story, I switched up some of the words. Like “If you give a pig some ketchup…” instead of “pancake.” She would laugh and tell me the right answer.

Tonight she asked if I could read her a “teasing book”. It took me a few seconds, but I realized this game of substituting words was what she wanted. We read and she corrected my “teasing” and had a good laugh. I have a feeling that we’ll be reading books like this for quite some time to come.

What Am I Doing Here?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I’m under the weather today, so dipped into Twitter to get an idea for a post. It totally made me laugh, as today’s suggestion is “How did you end up where you’re living right now? What factors will help you choose the next place you live?” Besides being a virtual shrine to Annie, this blog is pretty much all about where I live, how I ended up here, and where I might be going next. Or at least, where I might be going next plays large in my mind, even though I may not write about it as often.

Followers and friends have as much information from this blog about how I ended up in beautiful Innsbruck as I do, so I won’t go into that. So what factors will determine where next we live?

To start, somewhere that I feel comfortable. I think I’ve had enough adventure and life growth experiences for a bit.  Also somewhere both Markus and I can easily work. I’m sure I could find some job here, but when I think of looking for a great career, it gets confusing fast with work visas, language issues, and childcare choices. This part of Innsbruck sometimes feels like it is back in the 1950’s, as I can’t think of a single family with young children where both parents work full-time. It just isn’t really done here, so the system is not well set-up for full-day care.

Obviously I’m not moving anywhere where English or German is not the main language. At 41 my brain is tired and slow and clearly not up to this foreign-language thing.

Markus would need to be able to find a great opportunity, and Annie would need a solid school system for this next phase of her life. (I’m pretty sure home schooling would kill us both!)

Overall, I really think most likely we will either stay here or move back to the West Coast of Canada. I just don’t see us starting totally from scratch with friends and community at this point. Never say never, of course, but that is what my sense is at the moment. In any case, we are here for at least 2 more years until Markus can give the cafe a real chance. After that, well, you’ll know as soon as I do!

Family Time

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

This evening Markus was home for dinner, which doesn’t happen every night. I made a chicken, rice and broccoli and we all had fun eating together.

Annie was complaining about the chicken (she would rather just eat the skin), so Markus made her close her eyes, open her mouth and he put some food in, which she ate. Then she asked to play this game more. Mystery Food is a game that Markus and Rebecca used to play, and it is fun seeing it all come around again.

Annie had a grape, a radish, some balsamic vinegar and a candy. For Markus’ turn Annie and I gave him a slice of lemon, an alcohol-filled chocolate, and raisins. I’m the wimp of the family, so they were nice to me with only an orange slice and a spoonful of Nutella.

As an adult, when she thinks back to being a child, I’m sure it is these simple times and experiences that Annie will always remember. And that makes me very, very happy.

Dangerous Disneyland

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I was reading a Dooce post about a television series centered around Americans house-hunting in a foreign country. One episode’s couple were looking at an upper-floor apartment in Paris and, seeing that there were no screens on the window, asked how to keep their child from falling to his death. The real estate agent said to them, you tell him not to jump out the window and he will not jump out the window. As expected, there ensued a long conversation on the post comments about whether or not Americans overprotect their children.

This is something I struggle with almost daily. There is no doubt that parents here are much less controlling with their children. Small children ride a bike, take the bus, or walk to school on their own. Teenagers from about 13 or 14-years-old spend Saturday night walking around the city center until well past midnight. And parents talk to each other (and smoke, of course) on the playground, letting their children go off and play by themselves. When I mention that I have a running anxiousness in my brain, always looking around the corner for where the next lurker is hiding ready to steal Annie, they look at me like I’m nuts.

Sometimes it gets stupid. The culmination was when I saw a man, his child of about 6 on the back of his bike, neither of them wearing helmets, talking on a cellphone, running a red light. Super. My friend, Nicole, and I have an automatic response when we see this type of thing: “safety third!”Austria’s unofficial motto. Lack of fences around dangerous areas, no helmets, construction going on millimeters from pedestrians.

I guess a less paternalistic attitude could lead to children being more independent and able to solve their own problems. And I am more relaxed about always keeping an eye on Annie than I used to be (although that could just be a function of her getting older.) But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adopt the 1950’s attitude of kicking the kids out the door and telling them to be home in time for dinner. And frankly, I’m O.K. with that. Although I guess we’ll see how it goes when she is the only child wearing a bike helmet in her school. I see some heated fights in our future…but hopefully no trips to the emergency ward. A good trade, I say.