Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We're Home!!!

We are finally home!!!! We had a sehr Frohliche Weihnachten! (very Merry Christmas!) in Bavaria. I believe it has been one of our best Christmases. The German's certainly don't have the flair for wanton consumer consumption that we have. What would the retail world do without Americans? They'd go under, I believe. We spent Christmas (the 24th) with our new German in-laws. I agonized about what to buy them. I didn't have a clue what to expect. I didn't want to show up with overly extravagant gifts or overly small gifts. I didn't know them. I didn't know what their customs were. I just didn't know what to expect or what to take to give them.

I was pleasantly surprised when we showed up at their home to the freshly decorated (real!) tree trimmed with real lit candles. The slightly English speaking father of the house announced that they spend the evening celebrating the birth of Jesus, singing Carols and eating a traditional meal. The family exchanged simple, relatively inexpensive gifts and the rest of the evening was spent eating a fabulous meal and attempting to communicate in the odd way we found to communicate with none of us speaking the others language. We found common ground in laughter and love for our children who had married just the day before. I received gifts that included a porcelain angel, a metal plate with Bavarian scenes hand carved on it and a long leisurely evening around a dinner table spent with new family and new friends. It was a memorable and wonderful evening.

Now we are back in our own home. I'm looking forward to my own bed and a few days of relaxing rather than jamming across Bavaria. My son has two modes of operations, sleep and full throttle, so we fit a lot in to the two weeks we had there. Not to mention these semi-old bones need a couple of days of time zone recuperation and hopefully warmth seeing as these semi-old bones aren't accustomed to walking around in the snow and cold as if its a summer afternoon stroll. Frozen to the bone pretty much sums it up. But in a good way.

We have been traveling for 24 hours and I can't hardly think straight and I look like I've been rode hard and put up wet. My pen did something funky while I was filing out my declaration forms and leaked ink all over my fingers and hands leaving black stains all over them. I managed to break 5 fingernails during the trip today so my hands look pretty embarrassing at the moment. I spilled Mountain Dew on my sweater. When we were going through customs I dropped my passport and we couldn't find it for about 15 minutes. We only found it (in the fold of one of my suitcases) after a frantic search through the entire customs area with a customs agent holding me at his station while Beloved Curmudgeon retraced our steps looking for it. The customs guys periodically told me that this was not a good thing. I suggested that perhaps I should look instead of Beloved Curmudgeon as he can't find his socks in his sock drawer. The customs agent didn't think that was funny and told me, rather forcibly, that I could not and WOULD NOT leave my bags to go look. When I finally looked down and saw the passport in a nook of the suitcase and gave it to the customs guy he just motioned us through. The irritated look on his face and his exasperation left us laughing that he undoubtedly figured we couldn't possibly be terrorists when we were that incompetent. The whole thing was feeling a little like National Lampoon's Our Family's Christmas Vacation. We were a mess, exhausted, we hated the actual traveling but the overall trip was fantastic.

I hope you all had a special Christmas this year and spent time with the people you love and enjoyed the truly meaningful things in life, like schnitzel and the magical way that a well made bratwurst sandwich and gluhwein warms the body and soul when strolling through a Christmas Market when its 20 degrees. Its a wonderful thang!

Merry Christmas to all!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

We Are Loving Germany!

We are having a blast in Germany. We got here in the early morning hours last Thursday and after getting lost in the Frankfurt airport and somehow circumventing customs and coming out on the wrong side of the arrival terminal, we found our son (or he found us) and we started making our way back to his city via many stops en route. It was absolutely wonderful seeing him and his fiance and immediately getting a tour of a couple of German towns before we got back to his apartment.

The second day we were here (I think ... cause time is completely out of whack for me!) we went to Rothenburg. One of the cultural differences that has really struck me here is that regardless of how cold it is outside ... and cold only begins to describe it ... people still get out and go places and do things OUTSIDE! My first real taste of that was our day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (that means that this town of Rothenburg is the on that is above the Tauber River. Apparently Bavarians might have several towns with the same name and distinguish one from the other by where they are located. This one is distinguished from the others because it is located above the Tauber. Now you know!). Rothenburg is an ancient, medieval town that is well preserved, has survived many wars and continues to thrive.

RothenburgAs anyone reading this surely knows, it is one thing to know something intellectually and something altogether different to know it through close observation. Our day in Rothenburg impressed upon me the very different sense of history and time that Europeans have from those of us who have spent our lives in the 'new world'. There are buildings in Rothenburg that were built in the 1400s and 1600s. Those buildings have stood and are still in use since long before Western man had a clue that the Americas even existed. They still believed that the world was flat. Just think of the history that has transpired since the day someone decided to build those buildings and build the wall around that town. Their perspective is much longer than ours in more ways than one.

As I mentioned, the German's don't stay inside when its cold. I lived in Michigan for a few years and really kind of expected it to be cold in much the same way it is in Michigan. Its not. At all. We are woefully unprepared for the cold and have had to buy more to keep warm because we are spending most of our days and evenings outside in spite of the minus 2,000 degree weather. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm not sure its much of one. My poor Southern bones are just not used to being this cold.

We spent all day and well into the evening outside, enjoying the sites and sounds of Rothenburg. And it wasn't just us crazy people. The place was full and everyone was walking around, enjoying the Christmas market, enjoying the shops and doing tourist-y things in the frozen place. They even put their babies in strollers and take them out - thickly wrapped in some German material that has a super sekret ingredient for warmth. 'How do they stand it', I asked my Beloved Curmudgeon, with chattering teeth and shaking bones. He said they are used to it. Its their culture, he said. They just don't let weather stop them from what they are doing. Oh.

At one point we go into one of the horse drawn open air carriages for a pleasant tour of the town in minus quadrillion degree weather. The driver of our carriage could have just walked straight out of central casting. He spoke to us in German and when he saw our blank stares, he spoke in English. His English was good as far as it goes. He was obviously accustomed to English visitors. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent and multiply that by 100 and you will have some semblance of an idea of how this man sounded. His red hair was cut short in what appeared to be some sort of buzz cut, at least what I could see of it under his hat. He had the complexion and demeanor of a man who had spent most of his days exposed to whatever elements God provided from day to day. I imagined that hard work without complaint and hard were his lot. I imagined that was just fine with him.

RothenburgHe told us the outrageous price for a thirty minute carriage ride through town enhanced by his guided tour. We turned over the Euros and got into the back of the buggy. I greedily pulled a heavy woollen blanket over myself and offered to share a corner of it with Beloved Curmudgeon. Beloved Curmudgeon took what I offered, which wasn't much I'm ashamed to say. My Soldier Son and his fiance climbed into the other side and under another blanket. Somehow that blanket offered an unbelievable amount of warmth. I wondered if they made wool thicker in Germany. The horse chose that moment to urinate on the sidewalk. Our driver/tour guide said something to the effect that we would have to wait on the horse as he must clean up his pee. He went to the back of the carriage and pulled out a large container and once the horse was done he poured the contents of the container on the pee and then we began our tour. As the driver got back up into the carriage I commented on the cold. The wind was blowing and the only warm part of me was what was under that wool blanket. He looked at me quizzically and stated, 'It is winter'. Why yes, it is. That was the end of that.

As we went along our driver would point out sites of interest, such as ancient torture chambers and places of hanging and punished those who needed public humiliation to keep them in check. He seemed to enjoy describing these techniques to us. Maybe I just imagined that, but I don't think so.

Both of the horses pulling our wagon had to stop and ... how do I put this delicately ... answer the call of nature. This called for the driver to stop, grab a bucket and put it up to their rears to catch the waste. It was not a pretty sight or pleasant smell. My son thought my reaction was hilarious and only made it worse by making funny remarks. He was sitting further back than me. They were right in my face. The second time this happened it was the horse right in front of me and our driver seemed to enjoy that my son and husband were making viscous fun of me while I tried to catch my breath somewhere ... anywhere ... away from the smell. As he held his bucket behind the horse and turned more or less in my direction he remarked that the shop on the corner right next to us was a great place for very large sausages if we were hungry. He described the sausages in detail with a twinkle in his weather worn eyes. I looked at him to try to determine if he was joking or completely oblivious to the sight and smell that was permeating the entire wagon at this point. I didn't want a sausage right at that moment.

RothenburgAs the day went by it became more and more obvious to me that the Germans don't let the weather interfere with their good time and have a variety of ways to keep warm. The market place was full with happy and festive people. St. Nicholas was there digging through his knapsack for gifts of brochures to give out to whoever. The night watchman walked the grounds in black robe and carrying a long wooden double bladed axe that was a very convincing crime deterrent. My husband and son climbed the highest tower and saw the world from that height while we watched from below.

By the end of the evening, even though I was still chilled to the bone long after we had returned to the warmth of my son's apartment, I understood why the German people go out regardless of the weather. They, at least the Franconians, are a people who enjoy life and find any excuse whatsoever to have a festival. In fact, as best as I can determine, they have festivals all the time. By the time we went to the local Christmas market (again) last night, I wasn't so cold. We stayed till it closed, had a fantastic time, meet a lot of random people, I laughed till my face hurt at stories told in German that I couldn't understand but were still funny and I didn't feel all that cold. I've discovered some of the secrets of the locals to keeping warm. It really is a lot of fun. We are just loving it here!

We are leaving for Munich in a couple of hours for a couple of days. I just wanted to steal a few minutes to say hello and write a quick update. I know my son will have us up well before dawn to start the trip. He's gotten so bossy (smile). I apologize for the wordiness and will try to cull it down a bit when we return from Munich - although then we are going up north for the wedding so who knows when I'll be online again. I'll also try to tell you about our trip into the mountains to go to a Monastery at the very top of an icy/snowy mountain and try to order food that we didn't know what it was and they couldn't tell us. Its all an adventure ( ;) ) Thanks to all the wonderful people who are posting here while we are gone. I hope everyone will visit their blogs because they are great people and have a lot to say that is worth reading!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Survivor China Votes Off James

James ClementWHAT is going on with this season's Survivor!!??!!?? First we have Jaime Dugan trying to play an immunity idol that wasn't really an immunity idol. Now we have James with two immunity idols and he doesn't play either one of them!

JAMES!!! What were you thinking? You had two (TWO!!!) immunity idols. I don't think anyone has had two immunity idols before in the history of the show and you STILL got voted off! Why didn't you play one of the idols!

He explained at the end that he just held on too long. Yes, I would say you did. You were one of the best, most common-sensical players this year and you had TWO immunity idols! They did blindside you, no doubt about that, but you knew you couldn't trust them. I think you just got too sure of yourself. I think having two immunity idols left you feeling invincible. And really, why didn't you share them? That would have won you a lot of good will! Especially considering you wouldn't have had the immunity idols if Todd hadn't told you where they were. Big mistake, in my opinion.

I thought right up to the end that you would pull out the idol and save yourself. But you didn't and now you are gone. The show will be less interesting because you were a very likable player. Of course, you won everything which is why they got rid of you. They knew they couldn't win against you if they ended up in the last show with you. THAT is why you should have been watching your back better.

Well, he showed a lot of class in his leaving comments. He kept his dignity and he never took a bite of the apple. He knew better than to let himself be tempted. Unfortunately, his teammates not only took a bite of the apple, but as Amanda said, baked an apple pie.

Good luck, James. I have a feeling this isn't the last we see of you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Called the Wrong Number to Germany

It has really been great having my Soldier Son back in Germany. I haven't seen him, but I've talked with him quite a few times and he sounds wonderful. He's so happy to be back. I can tell he's changed some, but not necessarily in a bad way. He's older, if that makes any sense. He's grown into a man.

It kind of reminds me of a summer he spent with his father. We were living in Michigan at the time and so both the kids went to Georgia to spend the summer with their father. His voice changed one night. Literally. I talked with him one day and he sounded like himself. The next day he sounded grown. That's kind of what this feels like. My frat boy son went to Germany three years ago. At some point he became a man. Then he went to Baghdad and 15 months later he came back in charge of things, confident and self-assured.

The thing is that I didn't have his new phone number. I had his girlfriend's phone numbers, but not his. I thought maybe he still had the same number. I knew he probably didn't, but I needed to tell him something and thought I'd dial the number. A man answered the phone, 'Hallo'. Okay, it sounded KINDA like Josh, but not quite - and sometimes he does answer in German so I thought MAYBE it was him.

'Hey Josh', I said with a question in my voice, I wasn't sure it was him at all.

The man on the other end of the line said, 'Vlsdknfj oelejoei aoiej cvlkn e oeijfa cne voe rijfa['ew jfcaocnv oe.'

That wasn't Josh. Now I was sure of it. I didn't know what to say but I was raised to use telephone manners, so I couldn't just hang up. That would go against all my raising. 'I'm sorry, I dialed the wrong number.' I said. I then waited for a reply as if that was a reasonable thing to expect.

The man then replied, 'Wekndkdnfowe lkjsoeih hiohopies neoweihf eoifho veojff'olsn.'

He spoke in full sentences as though we were carrying on a conversation, which made no more sense than me speaking to him in full sentences. But again, it was against everything I was ever taught to just hang up. If he'd been a salesman who had called me it would have been different. But I had called him and had an irresistible need to explain that I was sorry I had disturbed him. I again apologized, 'I'm sorry, I've dialed the wrong number'.

This bizarre and ridiculous tete-a-tete went on back and forth two or three times. I finally apologized and just hung up the phone and laughed to myself. I just called Germany and carried on a conversation with some stranger in a different language that neither of us understood for a couple of minutes. That's just strange.

I never did get ahold of my son that evening.

Well, it was funnier in person.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Johnny Cash - I Won't Back Down

Don't cha just love Johnny Cash? He's great and this video is a wonderful tribute to our Soldiers! I hope we won't back down.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm Reviving This Blog

I've decided to revive this blog. I've renamed it 'My Blue Star Life' because I still have Blue Star Chronicles that I've been keeping up since I moved it from this location.

My plan is to use this blog for more personal stuff, like posts about my children, my husband and my life.

I guess we'll see how it goes :) Don't forget to continue to visit Blue Star Chronicles.