Taking Stock

Checklist and a pencil

As 2016 draws to a close I think a lot of us take this time to reflect upon what we accomplished in the past year.  I know this was a tough year for a lot of folks, especially those of Generation X, who lost a lot of icons this year like David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher. We knew Bowie was battling cancer so it wasn’t a true shock when he passed, but the other three? Oy. Having grown up in the Minneapolis area, Prince was especially a knife to the heart. I think of all the amazing things he never got to accomplish because he died too soon.

And then of course was the election. I’m not one to talk about my political opinions in public, but I will say I have never seen such an ugly, divisive battle. It was truly heinous to watch. Although not having broadcast TV spared me from the political ads. I wish I could say I was hopeful but I have real concerns about the future of this country and the world.

However, I think it is wrong to say that 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. On a personal level I had some really good things happen. I finished the first draft of my third novel. Now in 2017 I will begin the revision process and I hope to have something ready to go for my agent in the next few months.

I also had a revitalization at work. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been a Reference Librarian for nearly fourteen years and working with the public has begun to wear me out. But I found a new project on which to work that has me extremely excited. I’m pitching the idea to my director a week from today. If I have her blessing I’ll share more about it then.

I took an amazing trip this summer with my husband. We saw Austria, Germany, and France, spent time with great friends, and drank lots of good beer. We nearly killed ourselves on the 700 steps inside an ice cave, visited the crypt at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, saw Mozart’s birthplace, took the Nightwatchman’s tour in Rothenberg, drank schnapps, saw the graves of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine, toured Brittany, and climbed to the top of the world at Mont St. Michel.

Some not so great things happened as well. My Dad had triple bypass surgery while we were on vacation. Thankfully Pop has made a full recovery and is doing very well. Mom is still struggling with her health and there isn’t much hope for improvement. Adjustment has been hard for all of us but especially for her. She gets frustrated because she can’t do everything she used to. I can’t blame her, I would go mad.

And of course the biggest hurt this year was that my book didn’t sell. But I am hopeful and excited about my new novel. Think of it as a mashup between Pride and Prejudice and X Men. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun writing it and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and digging into revisions. I’m going to start tonight with reading the book through in its entirety and make notes as to what needs attention. Then my husband and I will go through, chapter by chapter and fix things. It’s going to be a long process, but ultimately so rewarding. I’m anxious to get back in the game.

I could never blame a year for being bad. The way I see it, I had another trip around the sun and got to do some amazing things. I look forward to the next year with optimism and hope you do too. No matter our opinion of the state of the world we all need to move forward and make the best of our situations however we can. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating 2017. It’s going to be a great year.

V is for…


V
Vendée

France is divided into regions, sort of like we have states, only less autonomous, I believe. The Vendée is where my dear friend Danielle lives in a tiny hamlet called Le Moulin des Landes, which is near the village of La Chapelle Achard. Kosta and I visited in 2013 and stayed with Danielle and her family for a couple of weeks. It was a wonderful experience. Not only do we adore the entire family, but they live in a 180 year old stone farm-house. They keep sheep and chickens and are slowly restoring the place.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

The Vendée is on the Atlantic coast and Danielle and her family live just a fifteen minute ride from Les Sables-d’Olonne, which is a beautiful seaside town with spectacular beaches. I am very excited because we are going back there this summer for a week to see the family and hang out before we go on to Bavaria and Austria. I am hoping we can plan a side trip up north to Mont St. Michel in Brittany. It’s a few hours drive, but I’ve been dying to see it.

Les Sables d'Olonnes

The beach at Les Sables d’Olonnes

 

Vacation Countdown…

countdownThe plane tickets were purchased on Friday. We leave in 96 days.

I’ve been making a rough outline of where we will be going and what we will be doing in the three weeks we will be abroad. Here is the rundown so far:

  • Leave from Miami on Saturday, July 2.
  • Arrive in Paris in Sunday, July 3. Take the train to Nantes or La Roche sur Yon and meet up with one of my besties, Danielle and her family.
  • Hang out on the west coast of France for five days, visit Puy du Fou, a French theme park, and definitely take an overnight trip to Mont St. Michel, which I have been dying to see for years.
  • Take the train (or a cheap flight) to Frankfurt where we will pick up a rental car and drive south into Bavaria
  • rothenburg-ob-der-tauberSpend four days driving through the picturesque towns and drinking lots of beer, see Rothenburg ab der Tauber, Neuschwanstein, Hohenwerfen, and lots of other amazing medieval sites.
  • Arrive in Salzburg. Spend two days seeing the sights. Do my Maria von Trapp impression on the mountain top.
  • Drive across Austria for a few days, taking in the splendor of the Alps.
  • viennaArrive in Vienna, drop off rental car, and spend the last few days of vacation tramping about the city, seeing the legacies of so many famous composers, drink lots of coffee and eat lots of pastries.
  • Fly back to Miami on July 22. Arrive home on July 23.
  • Still have a good week to recover before going back to work.

For some of that time in Bavaria, we are hoping that our French friends will join us on our travels. We have spent time together before and get along very well. It would be our second time traveling with another couple and we’re looking forward to it.
I took two years of German in college and even though that was nearly (gasp!) twenty years ago, I still have some retention. Even so, I am working on brushing up on my language skills in a few ways. The first is using Mango Languages. mango-languages-stickyWe have this online program through my library that I can use for free. It has two units of conversational German that I can go through. I also have a book, Learn German the fast and easy way that I will be slogging through. It’s all still in my brain somewhere, I just have to find it and reignite that fire in my brain.

2 languages 1 brainI have been toying with the idea of alternating German days with French days. Although in France I will have my personal interpreter, it never hurts to know a bit of the language where you are going. I’ve taken some French too and have three levels of Pimsleur French on CD that I can go through. But can my brain live at that speed? German and French are very different, and yet I wonder how badly they will jumble in my head if I try to do both. Well, I guess there is only one way to find out.