Category Archives: Germany

Rise

I’ll never claim to be devoutly religious, but there are things about Catholicism that ring true for me. Over the years I’ve learned to absorb the lessons of my religion in which I find meaning and reject the tenets which I find to be contrary and, while I don’t imagine myself to be a poster child for Catholicism, I do believe I represent some of the finer parts of the religion I was born into.

Easter, the most holy of holidays, has become one of my favorite Sundays. I think my fondness for the day has evolved over the years as I’ve celebrated the day with family, both in Ireland and in Germany. Witnessing the traditions of my religion, in the countries where my family continues to live, provided me with a perspective I may not have had otherwise. It’s taught me a few things, too.

  • Making the effort to put on your good clothes is an exercise in both pride and respect.
  • Believing in miracles can lift the heart and move boulders.
  • There is a season for rebirth and it comes every year. Honor it.
  • Looking for sweetness is an effort that can really pay off.
  • Attending a mass being conducted in a language that is not your own causes one to hear with one’s heart, rather than one’s ears. You don’t really have to leave the country to do that.
  • Flowers provide the most simple of joys.
  • We each have the ability to rise. Believe it.
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Filed under Europe, family, Flowers, Germany, holidays, Ireland, love, musings, Observations, Spring, sunday

Seventeen things I learned in 2017

  • Never regret money spent traveling.
  • I’m not a good boss and have no interest in ever owning a business again.
  • That being said, I did learn how to do payroll and use Quickbooks.
  • The Hudson Valley has no shortage of adorable and fun places for quick getaways.
  • For every $1000 spent on a cosmetic household improvement there will be $3000 spent on necessary home repairs.
  • Running a half marathon in single digit temperatures is possible and even a little fun.
  • Solo travel is indulgent – and exhilarating.
  • U2 live still delivers.
  • Although I love being home, spending time outdoors makes me happy in an entirely different way.
  • Donald Trump is an even worse President than I had ever imagined.
  • Jeter loves a vacation just as much as any of us and the ‘new” house we rented last summer in Wellfleet was ideal for the whole family.
  • Making granola is super easy and it tastes far better than store bought.
  • There’s a lot of good television these days – think Stranger Things, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and This is Us. The jury is still out on Black Mirror.
  • Cookie swaps are best enjoyed retrospectively. Having 8 or 9 dozen cookies is great, but the stress of baking 9 dozen cookies and packaging them beautifully robs the joy from holiday baking.
  • An afternoon ski on New Year’s Eve with your Lunar bitches, your dog and an airplane sized bottle of limencello is a perfect way to spend the year’s last daylight hours.
  • Giving up the scale and eating another cookie might be my best new holiday tradition. I plan to repeat it next year for a full 12 Days of Christmas.
  • Bourbon sours with her favorite fella on December 31st can make a girl forget about Times Square, fireworks and the ball dropping.

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Filed under aging, Cape Cod, Christmas, concerts, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, friends, Germany, holidays, house, love, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, running, travel, x-country skiing

Sweetness

The best honey I’ve ever had.

I made some granola Saturday and used almost the very last drops of a jar of honey that I bought last spring while I was in Germany. I say “almost” because I intentionally saved a teeny bit for a soothing cup or two of tea (with bourbon and lemon) that I will savor during my inevitable and eventual winter cold. I think I’ll need it then.

Honey has kind of become a thing in our house, like refrigerator magnets and miniature models of landmarks. I buy it when I travel and it’s like bringing home a literal sweet reminder of where I was.

Our collection.

The jar that I nearly kicked today was purchased on a drizzly day in April, at the Saturday market in the Munsterplatz in Freiburg. I’ve visited this market a number of times over the years, but, this was the first time my youngest son experienced it. Unimagined by us, it was also the last time I would go there with my uncle.

The beautiful Munster, perpetually wrapped in scaffolding, has stood in that square for centuries providing shelter and comfort to generations. We ate sausages made by the same family who had been selling their delicious wursts in that same spot for decades. The honey, in its squat jar, tasted like pine or cedar and was the best honey I’ve ever eaten. I’m a little embarrassed about how sad I am that it’s nearly gone.

A year ago, my uncle was here, in my home. We visited Olana and attended Oktoberfest.  He, as a consummate German, made himself useful and cleaned my toaster oven.  It was a special time, made even more so retrospectively, after his sudden death.  Like that jar of honey it was sweet and I wish it hadn’t come to an end so damned quickly.

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Filed under family, favorites, Food., Germany, musings, Recommendations, travel

Rounding a corner

I’m feeling reflective as I approach another birthday celebration. You know, considering what I’ve learned, loved and lost in this latest trip around the sun. There’s a lot to think about, but I feel pretty satisfied with the overall picture from my 50th year. There are moments I’d consider doing over and some things I wish I saw more clearly sooner, but it’s been a year well lived. That, to me, is both the goal and the reward. I am a very fortunate person.

I’ve collected experiences – visits in cities near and far, beaches along the Atlantic Coast, runs along lakes and rivers. Twice, I flew solo to spend long weekends in remarkably different, yet equally appealing, cities and I’m hungry to see more new places. I’m proud of my sense of adventure and confidence in negotiating travel alone. I can’t wait to live life.

“Work at being kind” is my takeaway for the year. Loving isn’t always easy; it can hurt and doesn’t always feel worth the resources it consumes. I’ve learned, though, that it always feel better to give than to receive, and love is no different really. My well isn’t bottomless, but it does refill.

My biggest personal loss this year was the death of my uncle. He was such a great traveler, a man passionately in love with his wife, a kind human being. He is missed, yet remains an inspiration and a reminder that true love is possible and that it is wrong to settle for anything less.

 

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Charleston, Chicago, Germany

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

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Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

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Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

German shoes (from New Paltz)

When I travel, my favorite thing to bring home as a souvenir for myself is something practical that I can use or enjoy regularly. On recent trips I’ve returned home with linens, perfume and liquor bought in Duty Free, a hand painted trivet, earrings and scarves. I absolutely love reaching for an accessory to finish an outfit, or setting the dining room table, with an object that comes complete with a memory.

My plan for Germany was to replace a pair of worn out black flats with some new, comfortable walking shoes. And I didn’t mean Birkenstocks, either. I wanted shoes that worked with skirts, as well as jeans and I looked really hard in countless stores in Berlin and Potsdam for the perfect pair. Don’t believe me? Ask Quinn who was remarkably patient as I dragged him in and out of shoe store after shoe store.

While I found a couple of pairs of shoes that tempted me, I wasn’t interested in spending 175 euro for a pair of shoes. Other than my Fryes, I just don’t invest in footwear that expensive. I came home from Germany empty handed, other than a cheap white scarf. No big deal, except that I still needed a new pair of everyday black flats.

Home again, I searched online without success. Nothing grabbed me. Each time I put my crappy black shoes on my feet, I shook my head and hoped no one looked at me below the ankles. Last Sunday, as I was leaving a friend’s house after a lovely brunch, I impulsively steered my car into the town of New Paltz to check out a great shoe store, Pegasus. I trolled the sales rack and found a fantastic pair of wedges that unfortunately were slightly too large, and not at all what I needed. I kept looking.

Anti-stress shoes! Who doesn’t need that?

In the front of the shop there was a display of new arrivals and pair of flats caught my eye. They were simple enough to be versatile, yet super cute with interesting cutouts. They were available in my size and felt comfortable on my feet. They were in my budget and…they were German. Sold.

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Filed under Fashion, Germany, travel, vacation