Sunday, March 29, 2009

We made it to the United States...kicking and screaming on my part

Ok, so I haven't been that happy about the fact that we had to move back to the states. It's been very difficult for me to except. Hans and I are in Philadelphia visiting his parents for a few days before we head to South Carolina. We attended the local ward here today. I found myself being very judgemental and almost snobby. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate why I was being that way about this ward we were just visiting. I was compairing it to my ward in Wiesbaden and that's just not fair to any ward, because there's no way I will ever be in a ward like that again. I know that sounds very negative/pesimistic but it's true.

However, I have decided instead of feeling sorry for myself, I should try very hard to look for the positive in this situation. So, here's a list of things I'm thankful for in my new situation of life:

(not in any particular order)
1. being given the opportunity to even go to germany in the first place was pretty amazing.
2. Wendy's frosties again
3. bigger parking spots
4. 24 hour convienence stores
5. no more old ladies telling me my child must be cold because he doesn't have any socks or shoes on (even though it may be 70 degrees outside, it's still cold for the german babies apparently)
6. target
7. being able to find a place that gives affordable pedicures
8. spending more time with my husband and getting to know him all over again
9. getting to see my sisters this summer! hooray
10. having an actual summer with warm weather so I can take the kids swimming all the time...even if I have to do it without all my girlfriends this summer. :( (sorry, I had to slip that sad thought in there)

So, maybe I'm on the road to recovery. I feel a little broken, but I'll mend and heal. I will always have a special place in my heart for my wonderful friends in Wiesbaden, but I know the Lord will continue to bring me amazing people to touch my life wherever I go.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Paris: Day 3

On the third day, we drove a half hour out of the city to Versailles. This was the most massive, amazing place ever. This is the front entranceway. Notice the gold on the gate.

These are just some of the rooms in the main palace. There are many different wings. King Louis XIII was the first to live here. It went thru many different royal families. And, each time, it seemed to grow larger. The most famous resident of the the palace was probably Marie Antoinette.

Check out this huge globe. How'd you like this in your study/office?

We spent most of the day touring the grounds and still only covered about 1/4 of it. It is so massive, the pictures don't do it justice.

If you look at the picture above closely, you can see part of the main palace. There are other palaces on the grounds, like Marie Antoinette's private little palace, the one below. This is where she spent most of her days. They say she didn't like the proper ways of the Versailles, so her husband had this palace built for her where she could retreat and not be so formal.

Marie had lots of little cottages build on the grounds. She had a whole working farm with all kinds of animals. This was my favorite part of the property. They still have animals there today. The cottages are so quaint.

Paris: day 2

We started our day at the Louvre. We were both still recovering from the flu the day/night before, but I was insistant upon seeing Paris. We ended up walking around for 13 hours this day. I was so exhausted by the end of the day, I was almost in tears. But, it was totally worth it!

After the Louvre, we walked over to Sainte Chapelle and the Notre Dame, which are both on an island in the middle of the Seine River. This was the view along the way.

Notice the Eifel Tower in the background.

The Notre Dame.

Who's the hottie?

After the Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle, we headed over to the pantheon and saw the tomb of Victor Hugo and other famous authors. We then headed over to the Eifel Tower. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

After the Eifel Tower, we went to an architecture museum then up to the Sacre Coure. I didn't get great pictures of that because my camera was being weird. After the Sacre Coure, I had to of course see the famous Moulin Rouge. In this picture I'm standing on an air vent. The coat doesn't give the effect of Marilyn Monroe, but oh well, I tried. Word of advice, if you ever go to Paris, avoid the street that Moulin Rouge is on...definately the redlight district. :)

Paris...the first day

The first day of our trip was rough. Hans and I both got the flu. We forged thru it though. However, we didn't see as much as we wanted to on that first day because we were both so sick. We did manage to see the Arch d'Triomph and the Musee de Orsay, which is the above picture. This museum has a ton of impressionistic paintings. I would have enjoyed it much more if I could have walked without feeling like I was going to throw up.

This is at the Arch d'Triomph. I'm not sure what kind of memorial it was, but it was pretty cool.

Hans not feeling well and taking a break on the arch.

We walked along the Champs-Elysees to get to the Arch. It was pretty cool. Lots of high end shops. Too rich for my blood.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The 3 stages after dying or the hill that overlooks the luminous city

First stage is the darkest. It is a pet cemetery in thick black woods, filled with shadowy objects, foggy, wood sheds on every side. They look like goblins houses. Venial sins are buried here. Spirits live in tiny huts, visit travelers here. They appear out of the fog, carrying blades. They ambush, they cannot hurt though. They seek your soul as a companion in there empty misery. They only wield fear. They may have been good people once. Might still be. They have not reached the first resurrection.
Further up the hill, the shady woods end and beads of dew twinkle on long leaves of green grass in the moonlight. Here the first glimpses of the luminous city can be seen. It is an empty elevation. Lonely benches scatter the hillside. There are no ghosts here yet - only the desire of spirits to relive the sentimental moments of their lives past. An old spirit couple wishes to sit holding hands on the bench and watch the city. Only it is night, cold empty and the city far away. Here loneliness forces the traveler to confront past decisions and forsaken opportunities. A hint of a future opportunity arises out of the darkness with the luminous city further arising in the background landscape.
The lonely spirit hill fades quickly and the traveler arrives in a ghost town – a city abandoned. A cruel joke: a city of darkness. The land levels off, and the luminous city is no longer in view. Where is my opportunity, the traveler laments. As the neighborhoods reveal their walls and windows scattered lights are on in some homes. Rolladens are up allowing the traveler to peer into the intimate area of the residents’ lives. What do they do those hours by the dinner table, the fireplace, hearth? An old bearded man, is he an immortal, is in a motion of either sitting down or standing, inbetween chair and table, frozen in this glimpse. Bald spot, white beard, glasses drooping on the nose like an old drunk bird about to fall off its perch. Suspenders and flannel shirt. The spirit of walt Whitman? No Heidi’s grandfather, wise man. Lives alone on the dark hill. Where is the luminous city? There are only dark empty buildings here now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

we did the right thing, why should we be punished?

Here is an excerpt from yesterday's Buffett interview:
BECKY: You mentioned before when we were talking about the mortgage plan that it may help some people that it shouldn't.
BUFFETT: Of course.
BECKY: But that's something we need to suck up and understand at this point. But it does lead to other people who have questions about whether they're being penalized for doing the right thing. In fact, Bob and Lani in Rapid City, South Dakota, write in. They say, "We are conservative South Dakotans. We are now saving more, but the government wants us to spend more. Are you `short' or `long' on our strategy to `pay all your personal bills promptly and always live within your means'?"
BUFFETT: Well, I've always followed that myself, so I'm with them 100 percent on that. But in terms of 100 percent, I mean, you don't want to get behind the eight ball. I mean, if you are, you've got to work your way out, but it's always better. You know, Ben Franklin wrote that, you know, hundreds of years ago, the--you know, earn a dollar, spend 99 cents, result happiness, you know. Earn 99 cents, spend a dollar, result misery. And--but in terms of the inequities, if I were a--had been a client of Bernie Madoff's and fortunately I never heard of him, but let's say I was a client of Bernie Madoff's. I'm in the middle of Lake Michigan with him. We're in a boat together. Bernie's at the other end. I've just lost all my net worth. I see this hole spring up at his end of the boat. Am I supposed to cheer? No. I mean, in the end, you know, I want to save Bernie, too. I mean, not because I really want to save him, but I--you know, there is no way to divorce myself from what's happening on the other end of the boat. And this thing is covering--going to cover the whole boat. There's no question about it. So the people who havebehaved well are going to find themselves taking care, to some extent, of the people who didn't behave well.

From an individual perspective I think it is correct to get mad and judge the unfairness for what it is. At the same time, I can see the necessity of bail outs based on the reasoning described in the interview (

Basically, at the government and industry leader level, it is time to clean up the mess and get the economy functioning smoothly again, even at the expense of printing more dollars by selling more debt. I can see why Buffett is reserving judgement and thinking about it as not a bunch of individuals with problems, but as a complex system of organizations that intertwine and whose problems affect the entire system population. But there is indeed a role to play for advocacy of living within your means, not just at indivuals, but businesses and of course government officials.

But as I look into my doomsday crystal ball...let's say I have done the conservative thing so much that I have planned for the absolute worst: I have a year's supply of food in the shed, ammo, fuel, you name it... the majority of people have run on unbridled greed and have not so planned. The worst does indeed happen, even the gov is unable to help (think katrina but 10x worse). After a few months, angry hungry, crazed mobs roam the streets looking for clean drinking water. Do I really expect to be able to hoard my stash to my family alone? All moral qualms aside, I fully expect to be robbed even beaten or murdered for my food and water.

Unfortunately the fear and greed cycles are things we have not and probably will never evolve out of and they are not just individual issues, they are systemic and cause systemic affects and thus require systemic intervention. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't think we will achieve the economic vision of the conservative party: where government is virtually non existent when it comes to the economy, individuals and businesses thrive and fail unbridled, and money is tied to a standard of gold or some other commodity. I think businesses are far too big, and interrelated, especially finance. You could blame globalism, for making the world economies so interconnected. Despite all the problems, I think this is the best course and we would be worse off otherwise. Free enterprise still exists and I don't think we'll lose that. I can't envision the united states voting away its freedom in favor of dictatorship at least not in my lifetime. I think economic bitterness can lead to such things as protectionism and eventually socialist dictators. That's why the role of educating what sound financial behavior is is so important and essentially futile as greed is inherently part of man's nature such as good and evil. Just as their will never be world peace as long as we have our freedom, so their will never be smooth markets without bubbles and panics. (i am speaking secularly and don't mean to infringe on any visions of the millenium/zion) I just dont think I will be alive to see man shed these flaws.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Thank you

Thank you grandma and grandpa Lokodi/Ehrmann. We received your box of clothes for the kids. Eva loved her dresses. I put her in this pink one with the sweater for church on sunday. She looked so cute, if I say so myself.

I guess I should give a little update on our life right now. We are in the process of moving. Life has been bitter sweet these days. I'm finding it very difficult to get used to the idea that we won't be living here anymore. I was able to give one last lesson in Relief Society yesterday. I really enjoyed doing it. At the end of the lesson I bore my testimony and I cried like a baby because the idea of not being able to be in that ward anymore makes me very sad. I have never been in a ward where I have felt so excepted and loved for just being me. I am not the easiest person to get along with. I'm very blunt and oppinionated. However, the women of this ward just seemed to put their arms around me and love me unconditionally. We are a very tight knit family. I had both my babies in this ward. When Gabe was born, Hans was in Iraq and I was so frightened. The ladies here took care of me. I survived thanks to them. Every woman in this ward has touched me in some way or another. I love this gospel and I love the people in it. This church has a way of shaping people into such christ-like beings who genuinely care for one another. I just happen to think my ward here is more loving and christ-like than anywhere else. We have learned to stick together and look after eachother. I just want the women of my ward to know how much I love and appriciate them. I wish and hope that I have been able to touch their lives at least half as much as they have mine. I will be ever grateful for their love and friendship. I thank my heavenly father every day for the wonderful opportunity I have had to be loved in such a way as this. Thank you Wiesbaden Military Ward!

We will be packing up the last of our belongings on the 25th and then heading for Philly on the 28th. We will be visiting Hans' parents for a little bit before heading to our new home in South Carolina. I know I will miss Germany so very much, but am looking forward to a nice warm summer and hopefully being blessed in our new ward. It's always exciting to meet new people. We will be close to my Aunt Elizabeth. I am looking forward to getting to know her better. Here we come South Carolina! On to the new adventures of life.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Gabe's 1st Birthday

Saturday was Gabriel's 1st birthday. We didn't do anything big. Just a fun family day together. This is the first birthday that Hans has been able to be here for for either of the kids. It was nice to have him home for this. Gabe had a pretty good day even though he's teething like crazy.

I know the cake is really pathetic, but we don't have many dishes left in our house because our household goods were shipped already. So, I didn't have the right kind of stuff to make a cool cake. However, even if I did have all my stuff, it probably wouldn't have looked much better to tell the truth.

Eva had fun licking the spatula before the cake. She's also trying to blow out Gabe's candle for him. Isn't she such a big helper? (my eyes are now rolling)

After the yummy cake.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sensei and Grasshopper: Buffett's and Lampert's view on bail-outs

Over the past week 2 shareholder letters were released. Berkshire Hathaway's by Warren Buffett and Sears' by Edward Lampert. Buffett's status has already been sealed in the records as the best investor of all time and his letters are read for his insights on Berkshire, business in general, macro-economic conditions, political commentary, witticisms on life etc. He is now 78 years old, still runs Berkshire Hathaway, entertains business schools who make field trips to visit him, has arranged for the majority of his wealth to be donated to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Charity, has supported the democratic ticket, and advocates for fairness of economic opportunity on tax issues such as estate tax, capital gains tax, and payroll tax.
Edward Lampert is a 46 yr old hedgefund manager who posted 18 years of extreme outperformance and formed Sears Holdings (inlcuding Sears and Kmart) when Kmart was on the verge of bankruptcy. The way he runs Sears indicates it could be the next Berkshire. In stark contrast to Buffett, Lampert is very reclusive partially due to the fact he was once kidnapped for ransom.

Below are some general commentary from both on the government's response to the economic crisis.

Buffett: "...Fear led to business contraction, and that in turn led to even greater fear.
This debilitating spiral has spurred our government to take massive action. In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone “all in.” Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel. These once-unthinkable dosages will almost certainly bring on unwelcome aftereffects. Their precise nature is anyone’s guess, though one likely consequence is an onslaught of inflation. Moreover, major industries have become dependent on Federal assistance, and they will be followed by cities and states bearing mind-boggling requests. Weaning these entities from the public teat will be a political challenge. They won’t leave willingly.
Whatever the downsides may be, strong and immediate action by government was essential last year if the financial system was to avoid a total breakdown. Had that occurred, the consequences for every area of our economy would have been cataclysmic. Like it or not, the inhabitants of Wall Street, Main Street and the various Side Streets of America were all in the same boat.
Amid this bad news, however, never forget that our country has faced far worse travails in the past....Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead."

Lampert: "[Explains the inconsistencies and unintended negative consequences of government intervention beginning with Fannie and Freddie]...The two most important books that any student of current events should be reading in this environment are both by Friedrich Hayek, the esteemed Austrian economist. Based on events he witnessed beginning in the early part of the 20th century, Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom as a warning to England and the United States against the damaging impact of socialist policies and The Fatal Conceit as a warning against heavy intervention in markets and society at large. Despite the almost universal belief today that more, but better, regulation is needed and that the role of the state needs to be not just temporarily larger, but permanently larger, Hayek’s writings and logic should give everybody pause as to the consequences of these actions.
As a country, we need to rebuild confidence and trust and to understand what happened. Whether by business or by government, the misdiagnosis of situations leads to poor prescriptions for rehabilitation and recovery. When the misdiagnosis is done at the federal government level and involves large parts of a national economy, the consequences can be swift and significant. The unintended consequences are often swifter and even more significant. As the leaders in our nation continue to evaluate and evolve the policies and rules of the game, we would all be wise to heed the cautions raised by Friedrich Hayek. I appreciate that the free market can be a difficult master and that there is an important role for government and regulators, but I hope that as we move forward the rules of the game and the methodology for changing those rules will be more consistent and fair than they have been over the past year. Those who desire to protect civil liberties in times of war appreciate the importance of laws protecting individuals and institutions. In times of economic and financial distress we need to be similarly vigilant in protecting economic and contract rights so that we can continue to have a system that functions properly. Attempts to threaten or eliminate those rights will chase away the capital and investment that our country needs to restore prosperity and to thrive in the future."

Lindsey (haha just kidding, she was standing 0ver me) - Hans