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.

Wurzburg and Rothenberg ob der Tauber

The four of us only spent a morning in Wurzburg, had lunch and then went on to Rothenberg in the afternoon.  A few hours of the morning were spent at the laundromat, as we were all beginning to offend with our not so fresh clothes. Afterwards we took a look at the palace and had lunch:

Palace at Wurzburg

Palace at Wurzburg

IMG_6301

Palace at Wurzburg

Lunch

Lunch

Then we made the trek over to Rothenberg. This town was the whole reason for this trip. I had seen a famous picture of the town and said to myself, “I want to be THERE.” And so we went. Rothenberg ob der Tauber is the most well preserved medieval town in Bavaria. It was largely spared from bombing in WWII and still remains as charming as hell. Case in point:

The money shot. This was the place I saw that I wished to stand and gaze upon.

The money shot. This was the place I saw that I wished to stand and gaze upon.

Main square of town

Main square of town

There was also a tour I wished to take: the Nightwatchman’s Tour. The guy who has been giving this tour has been doing so for over 20 years. He’s got a dry delivery and is very funny. The tour itself was highly informative and massively crowded. But well worth it.

George the Nightwatchman.

George the Nightwatchman.

Rothenberg is lousy with charm and I wish we’d had more time to spend there. We did manage to eat at a restaurant that was in a garden that was lovely. Sylvain stole my camera and took some photos, one of which is a favorite snap of my husband:

My happy husband.

My happy husband.

The garden restaurant.

The garden restaurant.

It was a long day full of fun, history, shopping, picture taking, and walking everywhere. Let me leave you with this stinking cute hotel in Rothenberg:

Looks like something out of a fairy tale, doesn't it?

Looks like something out of a fairy tale, doesn’t it?

Unexpected Events

Things have been great on vacation. We met up with our friends in Munich, and spent several days visiting Nuremberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We were treated to such views as this:

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn't it?

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn’t it?

We have had a wonderful time reconnecting with our friends Danielle and Sylvain, and we have discovered a few things about German culture.

  1. They like cash. I think I only used my credit card to pay for the hotel and the rental car. Cash everywhere else.
  2. Sparkling water is called Sprudelwasser.
  3. The Germans are crazy for pork and cabbage:

    That's a lot of sauerkraut.

    That’s a lot of sauerkraut.

Seriously. I ate so much pork I thought I was going to sprout a curly tail. Pork at every meal. Cabbage hiding under the lettuce of your salad and of course the ubiquitous sauerkraut. We went to the grocery store and they had an entire Wall O’ Pork. They are totally serious about their pig food products.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our friends’ old stone farmhouse in Western France. And it was good to be surrounded by friends because the totally unexpected happened.

The other day I got a text from my Mom saying Dad had been having chest pains. They went to the ER, ran some tests, and the upshot was Dad had to have triple bypass surgery. It happened today and went extremely well. He is in recovery and all signs point to a good recovery. But the fact that I wasn’t with my mother to sit there and hold her hand while her husband of 46 years had open heart surgery left me a quivering mess.

But my wonderful friend Danielle helped me through with Reiki. If you don’t know what Reiki is, I invite you to read about it here. Basically, it is healing energy from the Divine that a practitioner can channel into another being: human, animal or plant. I’ve been a practitioner for several years now and Danielle is the Reiki Master who has taught me. Together we created a flow of Reiki that was sent directly to my father, thousands of miles away. It was proactive and left me feeling more in control of my emotions and hopeful of a positive outcome. I held it together.

Dad will probably be in the hospital for five or six days. Kosta and I debated over what to do. In the end, (mostly because we can’t afford to change our plane tickets) we are going to continue with our vacation. Trust me when I say it was not an easy decision to make. Most of me is longing to be home with my family. Everyone seems to be coping reasonably well. Mom has been so brave and capable and I am proud of her for surviving an extremely difficult situation.

The last couple of days have been rough, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much on a vacation before. But Dad has survived his ordeal, Mom is coping with hers, and Kosta and I will deal with ours.

Perplexed and a little frightened...

Perplexed and a little frightened…

 

 

ZING!

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

Vacation is 27 days away and plans are really starting to come together. Every day, every few hours or so, I get a zing of excitement surge through me. Here is what the plan is:

  • Leave 30 June for Vienna and arrive on 1 July. We will spend the 1-3 July  in the city, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking coffee and sampling pastry.
  • 4 July we will collect an rental car and drive from Vienna to Salzburg, stopping in little towns that tickle our fancies along the way.
  • 5-6 of July will be spent in Salzburg and the environs. Kosta is wildly excited about visiting Hohenwerfen where there is a medieval castle that was featured in his very favorite movie: Where Eagles Dare.
  • 7 July will take us by train to Munich where we will meet our dear friends Danielle and Sylvain, who live in France. We will spend the night in Munich, perhaps drink a little beer.
  • 8-12 July will be touring Bavaria. I booked a darling Airbnb in the little village of Bad Windsheim. We’ll be making day trips from there to places like Linderhof Palace, perhaps Oberammergau, Garmische Partenkirchen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Wurzburg, Nuremburg and others. We haven’t made a hard plan for this and I am kind of excited to see where we go.

    Isn't Bad Windsheim adorable?

    Isn’t Bad Windsheim adorable?

  • 13 July we fly from Munich to Paris and then take the train to the Vendee where our French friends live. We will stay with them for about a week and have fun with the whole family.
  • 22 July we take the train to Paris and check into a hotel near Les Halles and a short walk to the Louvre. We plan to spend the whole next day at the museum and then fly home the next day on the 24th.

As my dear friend Danielle would say, “Roll on, June 30!”

Where to go on vacation…?

My husband Kosta and I love to travel. The highlight of each year is where we get to go on vacation. Since we don’t have kids we do our best to sock money away so we can go to Europe and explore for several weeks in the summer or early fall.

Since we’ve been together we’ve seen a lot. Our first real vacation together was a road trip to the Southwest United States in August of 2007. We spent time in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and a brief hop into Arizona.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Anasazi cliff dwelings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

In 2008 we journeyed to my home state of Minnesota. I showed my new fiance the wonders of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the beautiful city of Minneapolis, and the lovely woodsy area of Lake Minnetonka.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts--a scuplture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts–a sculpture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

In 2009 we got married. For our honeymoon we spent a week at Disney, a week on Sanibel Island, and a week at home. It was lovely, but we really wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon. But that would have to wait another two years. 2010 was a bust as far as vacation was concerned. But then in 2011 we went to Greece! I had never been before and Kosta hadn’t been in 40 years. We LOVED it.

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

Preserved ioni column at Delphi.

Preserved ionic column at Delphi.

 

Once we got a taste of Europe, we didn’t want to stop. In the menu bar at the top you can see some of our photos from our trip to England in 2012, France in 2013, and Greece again in 2014. In early 2015 I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder and that pretty much shot our vacation budget. But as it happened, we spent 10 days in a cabin in Franklin, NC, editing my book for my agent. Then we went to New York for a few days to actually meet the agent. (Hi Alex!)

So that brings me to this year. We have enough frequent flier miles for tickets, we have money saved. But where shall we go? The other day on Facebook I saw this photo:

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

The funny thing is, I remember my mother having an etching or a watercolor of this exact spot.  Then my friend Tammy sent me her picture of being there, and that cemented it: After we visit our dear friends in France we are heading to Bavaria and Austria! And because I work at a library I already have a bag full of travel guides and videos to get started with trip planning.

So look out Die Schwarz Wald, the Karras’ are coming in July! And let me know if you have an favorite out-of-the-way, must-see places in that area.