Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
My Photo
Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s four o’clock, and the sun’s already set in Berlin.

Not that I’m counting, but in 37 days we’re flying back to the States. We’ll celebrate Christmas with Jon’s family before he returns to wrap up production—the girls and I are staying in Chattanooga.

I won’t miss the cold, dark evenings in Berlin, but I’ll miss many things about this place like...

The people—Whenever I need help with the stroller, someone stops to help me. And almost every time I go out, someone stops to talk to my girls. With four million Berliners, the city seems impersonal at times, but someone told me that when you make a German friend, you have a friend for life.

Outdoor cafes—Every block hosts a tiny restaurant with gas heaters and plastic awnings so you can eat on the sidewalk (with kids!) any time of the year.

The history—What’s left of the Berlin Wall is a block to our west. Two blocks away is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s former church. I’m surrounded by the history I learned about in school.

Public transportation—No matter where we are in Berlin, there’s a train, subway, bus, or tram stop nearby that we can jump on at any time and go. No worries about traffic, insurance, or the price of gas.

Fruit stands—We have a small market three doors down from our apartment. I can grab fresh fruit, veggies, and eggs and be back home in less time than it used to take me to get my car out of the garage.

Getreide—Add hot water and milk and it tastes like a decaf latte.

Electric teapot—Sixty seconds after I turn it on, I have boiling water.

Bakeries—Fresh bread, croissants, pastries, and soft pretzels. What else can I say?

Beautiful walks—You can’t go far in Berlin without stumbling on a park, lake, river, monument, or old cathedral.

Our flat—Our apartment is small but I love the high ceilings, huge windows, and tile floors. Plus it has a huge bathtub, high speed Internet access, and German luxury items—a microwave and dishwasher.

The language barrier—No stress when the bus drivers yell at me. because I have no idea what they’re saying!

The food—I’m seeing a pattern of food in my list of favorites, but near our flat are Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Cuban, Arab, Italian, and even a few German restaurants. Yum!

Playgrounds—With their sandy floors and wooden toys, the playgrounds are simple and fun and seem to be everywhere in Berlin. In the winter, there’s an indoor playground with a café nearby—perfect entertainment for a one- and two-year-old.

Our church—A small group of Christians who love each other and the Lord. Worship songs fluctuate between German and English. Prayers are in German. The message is in English. And then we all eat dinner together, everyone talking a mixture of languages. A bit of heaven on earth.

I’ll miss it here. The daily adventures. New friends. The food.

But I’m glad to be going home.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Irresistible Fiction

Thank you to Violet Nesdoly for hosting November’s Fiction Celebration. The theme this month—novels I’ve found irresistible. It’s hard to narrow my long list of favorite inspirational fiction, but five novels I loved reading this year are:

The Awakening
Written from the perspective of a suicidal woman who suffers from agoraphobia (tough perimeters for a novelist), Angela Hunt creates an entertaining and inspiring story. This tightly written parable is about overcoming personal trauma and finding the courage to uncover the truth.

Kissing Adrian
Unique is one way to describe Siri Mitchell’s debut novel. Moving, irresistible, and inspiring are several others. I was in Paris with the main character, Claire—experiencing her transformation as she learns to enjoy an array of God’s gifts.

Quinlin’s Estate
David Long uses the components of a predictable plot—old house, old mystery, old treasure—and turns it upside down. With its extraordinary plotting and descriptive writing, Quinlin’s Estate is about finding a treasure more valuable than gold.

Kristen Heitzmann’s romantic mystery is set in an old Sonoma villa. When Rese and Lance are thrown together to restore the villa into a bed and breakfast, their secrets are slowly revealed. This is a beautifully written novel that I savored to the end.

When the Day of Evil Comes
Melanie Well’s creepy debut novel delves into the spiritual battle warring for hearts and minds. The reluctant main character is thrust into this battle, and her journey is a wild ride of mystery, terror, and hope in Christ. My full review of this well-written suspense is at:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Du Machst Quatsch

“Du Machst Quatsch,” Karly said to a new friend who speaks fluent German and English.

Catharine laughed as I glanced back and forth between them, trying to share their little secret.

“What did she say?” I asked Catharine.

“You don’t know?”

Now I’m embarrassed. “Uh…no.”

“She said, ‘You’re being silly’.”

Well, there you go. I thought my two-year-old was speaking gibberish. Apparently, she knows more German than her mom.

Where does she pick it up? The playground? Church? From all the people who stop me on the street to chat with the girls—talking a mile a minute even when I say, “Ich verste’hen kein Deutsch” (I understand no German)?

I’m reminded daily that the entire world doesn’t speak English. And I’m humbled every day by the people I meet in Berlin:

My neighbor speaks two Indian languages, English, and a little German.

One of our babysitters is from Georgia (the country, not the state). She speaks two Russian languages and English—she’s getting her master’s degree in British Economics.

An 18-year-old Mexican at church speaks fluent Spanish and English and he just taught himself German.

Another friend from Nigeria jumps from French to German to English without a thought.

How do they do it?

As I struggle to say simple things in German like “do you have?” “how much?” and “good night,” the people around me speak two, three, and sometimes four languages. I’m amazed by their abilities. They’re amazed with me as well—stunned that I only speak one language (high school Spanish doesn’t count since all I remember is "Como estas?").

My hope is that my girls will grow up learning multiple languages. Karly’s already on a roll, and even Kinzel (my almost eighteen-month-old) says “nein!” instead of “no!”

As for me, I’m trying really, REALLY hard to learn a few new German words every day. When I speak them, people laugh, but I’m going to keep trying. Even if I do feel a little quatsch.