Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Another year

October 2nd, 2015 1 comment

is now in the past. This birthday is different only in that it marks a turning point in those basic interactions with the government which most of us want to avoid. Part A & B of Medicare come to mind.  In the same way, I’m hoping to avoid a fuss and absolutely detest public recognition or embarrassment. Specifically singing waiters and other assorted displays.  Obviously, I am speaking to dinner possibilities this evening.

I don’t have any particularly brilliant thoughts to share. It has been a good year, an interesting year in which I have been fortunate enough to travel to areas of the world new to me as well as revisit places I enjoy. I have made new friends as well as maintained contact with those I have known for years.

There have been other milestones – probably the most significant (besides that pesky Medicare Part A & B) is renewing my medical license for the 40th time.  I guess that balances managing to lose both a jacket and a phone on the same trip.  Photo courtesy of one of my fellow traveler’s and probably the location of the escaped phone.

Godafoss - Iceland

Godafoss – Iceland

Thank you all for the well wishes on this, my 65th birthday. This coming year should be interesting complete with family, travel and a number of professional meetings. We will be closing out the house in Heidelberg, seeing the Eldest move into her own home later this fall, the College Guy transfer, Ms Chicago return to school and Ms Maus take on NYC.  I’ll be on land a bit more, on ships a bit less and following the example of my good friend Carmen – start to make serious decisions on all that “stuff” I have been hauling around for years.

OTOH – I can finally set up my Playmobile trains, the weather in Berkeley is pretty decent…..  Garden Gauge thank you very much……



Categories: family, Friends Tags:

37 years

September 10th, 2015 2 comments
10 Sept 1978

10 Sept 1978

since I walked to the front of our local synagogue chapel with this shaggy haired bearded guy with us both looking probably like refugees from an early decade. I did forgo flowers for my hair and I wasn’t carrying any either. But long hair and large glasses were definitely in attendance.

We were embarking on a new stage of our lives; more or less in our own fashion. If anyone noticed, that Sunday certainly foreshadowed what our lives were going to be. Our path to that point hadn’t been traditional, why would we expect our future to be?

A couple of years ago I counted up moves, children, houses and countries lived in, cars and other challenges which we have survived over time. For almost ten consecutive years somewhere there in the middle we managed to be separated on both of our birthdays in addition to our anniversary.  This year is no different with me being the member strayed off in a foreign location (this year – Tanzania, mid-Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay. Next year will be at least a little bit better since right now we are actually both scheduled to be on the same trip in July (his birthday). Anniversary? Probably not, and I’m not one to make a lot of noise about mine.

I’m hoping we are improved models on what we were then – and a bit more mature. Certainly the hair has changed –


still with the glasses. + grey hair and laugh lines

still with the glasses. + grey hair and laugh lines

but looking from then to now – I see who we were and I can see where life has taken us. I’d like another 37 years, but am afraid I am going to have to settle for a lot less than that.

Check this date next year for the update.

Categories: family, Prose Tags:

leaving Chicago

June 8th, 2015 1 comment

on the Amtrak #5

Chicago - Emeryville

Chicago – Emeryville

It will take about two full days to travel across the county. According to Amtrak our sights will include

  • Rocky Mountains
  • Sierra Nevadas
  • Moffat Tunnel
  • Colorado’s Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons
  • Winter Park
  • Truckee River
  • Donner Lake
  • San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait

What is more, some of it will actually happen during the day. Please note, there is absolutely no discussion about the fascinating views of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska or Kansas.

Just saying.

I haven’t done this route before. Dani (Daughter #2) is not enthused, she doesn’t like spending time in transit. Alex (SIL) more so – the train journey was his choice rather than flying as it is a much better way introduction to “West of the Mississippi.”

Unlike the Eastern Seaboard runs, the best that I am going to be able to get is occasional phone coverage and wifi in a couple of stations with major stops (Denver?).  This is by way of explaining why you won’t hear much from me till Wed evening.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Move Out

May 16th, 2015 Comments off

Wow! I hadn’t ever experienced this level of insanity before. I only have fuzzy memories of moving while in college or medical school Shana pretty much managed herself (and I still owe Ann & Ira a huge debt of gratitude). Carmen hosted Dani for the first portion of her time in Maryland. When Noah spent a semester at RIT it was Steve who pitched in. Mark & Debbie helped with Miriam’s move in, and friends on Staten Island stored her stuff the first summer.

I now understand what a huge favor everyone did for me.

Picture the scene – this particular dorm building is 19 floors with students living on 2nd and above. There are three elevators located in the center of a long, long hall with rooms along the sides and extra clusters at the end. There are two sets of stairs offset about 1/2 way down the corridor on each side. FYI there is no 13th floor. When we arrived there were three huge industrial size dumpsters across the drive full to overflowing. Between 0900-1300 I saw the city flat bed at least four times making the full for empty exchange. The parking was limited and the security personnel strictly enforced the one way traffic pattern.

Inside the building someone had smartly labeled the elevators with “2-6″ 7-11″ 12-17″ to expedite the move out. Even so, these are not huge elevators. While they could hold a dozen people once you start adding in hand-trucks, shopping carts, boxes and suitcases the capacity rapidly goes to zero.  There were line ups of people wanting to go up and hordes on each floor with all their worldly goods anxiously waiting to go down.

Miriam was on the 15th floor….

We went up to give her a hand with the last minute packing and hauling. I rapidly figured out that carrying light stuff down the stairs was much faster than waiting for the elevator. I also found that the line for the middle elevator was shorter. Riding to the 11th and walking up three flights was much quicker. I stopped counting trips; I really didn’t want to know.  The line never seemed to diminish; the security personnel said that yesterday was just as hectic but mostly undergrads moving out. Today it was mostly grads which mean even more sorting and tossing.

I saw parents maintaining a sense of humor and those who were about to lose it. The new grads bidding final farewells. Security just shaking their heads at all the stuff going into the dumpsters. One of them has a daughter starting college next fall. Ah ha! I thought and asked her if she had any use for a mini-fridge & tiny microwave? Oh, yes. Gave her the room number and two more still functional items passed along to the next. Pratt gave up on the pass along room several years ago when students proved incapable of distinguishing useful items and garbage (half used jars of mayo? I mean really….)

She made the clearance deadline and most of her stuff went to storage (several firms now have a pickup/drop off container service).  I was singularly unimpressed at the apartment we viewed that afternoon (nor with the management company who seems way more invasive than I remember).

So she is still housing hunting but is now willing to look outside the Pratt area which should markedly increase her chances of finding something.

Categories: family Tags:

Maus with Cap

May 15th, 2015 2 comments
Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

Inside it was exactly the kind of chaos you would expect. Photography wasn’t all that easy due to spotlights on the stage and the number of people continually milling around (oh say between my lens and the object which I was trying to capture).

The event is  the formal conclusion of Miriam’s four years at Pratt. Started and finished on time and no change in Major. She loved the school, complained continuously about the insane work load and made what I suspect are going to be life long friends.

Finding her in the crowd

Finding her in the crowd

With 800 grads and Communications/Design the largest major if the girls hadn’t decorated the top of their mortar boards (a Pratt Tradition) I don’t know how easy it would have been to spot them.

After the usual awarding of Honorary Degrees, naming of the Teacher of the Year, and multiple speeches

an honorary degree recipient and not Dumbledore

an honorary degree recipient and not Dumbledore

– they all paraded across the stage to shake hands.

Each college in some kind of order. Hard Hats= Construction Management

Each college in some kind of order. Hard Hats= Construction Management

The Presidents comment was to “walk, skip, dance or otherwise come across the stage”



Miriam (Flamingo on Hat)

Miriam (Flamingo on Hat)

It's now official

It’s now official

With hordes milling around outside immediately afterwards.

just in case you didnt' see it

just in case you didnt’ see it

and she starts her paid internship 1 June. Now all she has to do is solve her housing…

Categories: family Tags:

Mother’s Day

May 10th, 2015 Comments off

One of those started by Hallmark to make money and encouraged by retail industries everywhere.

Also recognized by one’s offspring as worth a note or email as otherwise the guilt could be overwhelming. Which is why I received messages from the kids, flowers from the guy and an extremely sick (but funny) cartoon from the youngest.

Flowers are good – I am trying to limit my intake of chocolates and anything else would be over kill.

One day a year as Mother’s Day (unless I also want to claim the German date which would give me a second grab at flowers) and every day as children’s day – which really says that the future is the most important…

Categories: family, home Tags:


October 31st, 2014 2 comments

In case you are wondering – I am in Vienna attending an international conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. George and I drove to the airport, my flight was fine but earlier than his. The CAT goes directly to Vienna Center and the Hilton is across the street.

What I had assumed was that Halloween is essentially (in the current commercial form) a US issue with creep into the rest of the world.

In the US – with Photos supplied by off-spring not counting on redistro –

What yo get in Vienna is pumpkin soup

with a bit of bite

with a bit of bite

and drunks with/without costumes out on the street making what to them is glorious noise till all hours.

Friday – should have thought of that!

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Off! and done….

October 27th, 2014 Comments off

I felt my self become lighter and lighter as I managed to get off the Oasis in spite of there being no directions and no signage. Now I can understand why they don’t print the Gangway the night before – something might change. But is there anything wrong with signage? With something in their TV announcements?

In stead there is a button in the elevators that says “Gangways.” Ok, that works for all the people who take elevators, but what about the rest of us? Or perhaps a sign or five when you get off the elevator? It is a rather large ship and that might eliminate scads of people randomly milling around knocking into everyone else with their baggage.

Ah well, I had figured it that it was going to be Starboard (since my cabin was Port and overlooking the water) and midship figured to be a good bet. I didn’t quite dance down the gangway but it was close. Since all I had was my 19″ suitcase and a backpack self carry turned out to be brilliant. There were issues getting the luggage off the ship….

Anyway – took the shuttle to MIA. Took the Hilton shuttle to the MIA Hilton. Left my suitcase with the Bell Captain and hiked to the Post Office via Office Depot. They were out of tyvek mailing envelopes, but had bubble nylon envelopes. Since the Post Office turned out to be out of the good mailing envelopes (must not be the only one who turns them inside out…..) this also turned out to be a good idea.

The clerk at the next counter was a local young woman, my clerk with 28 years in the system is originally from Peru. We discussed hats, scarves, real winter and to remember that Lima is not characteristic of his country (big city = bit city). They both found the idea of someone walking in with $56 in change as a welcome event (me in Aspen). Meanwhile, packages to Coral Springs, Touano, Annadale, Brooklyn, Chicago and Berkeley to arrive anywhere from tomorrow to Sat.

I’m about to take the shuttle back over to the airport and hang out in the military lounge till Lufthansa opens its counter ~1400. Free Wifi is always good…..

Categories: family, Knitting, Travel, yarn Tags:

Worse than socks

August 29th, 2014 Comments off

We all know and hate the sock problem.

You buy socks in pairs and somehow, over the course of washings one of those socks disappears. Now we all know very well that you put the socks in the hamper, after all what adult would leave his rolled up socks on the floor to escape under the bed. Which also might result in leaving the hidden behind as you travel. No, socks all go in the laundry basket. Then, somewhere between that basket and the washing and drying process one of the pair escapes.


Nah, he wouldn't leave socks on the floor....

Nah, he wouldn’t leave socks on the floor….


After a while, unless you buy socks by the bag guaranteeing that your socks will have to learn to live with cousins so that you don’t need to bother about matching with proper mates. Sooner or later your luck will run out, but that could be months or years rather than weeks down the road. You can deal with the lone single sock then. Easy, peasy. Toss it out. But most of us wind up with more than the single orphan.

Today I found out there is an item worse than socks for going astray. Gloves. Specifically black gloves. When we were packing out, I carefully grabbed all the black gloves I could find and placed them safely on a shelf. While packing for the next month I decided that it just might get cool in Norway, Iceland, Canada. Perhaps I might like to bring a pair of gloves in case? Hats aren’t an issue; I can always knit another hat.

This is what I found:

above are solo gloves, below are three pair...from 16 gloves

above are solo gloves, below are three pair…from 16 gloves

yes that is right – three pairs. Five stray right gloves, four stray black left gloves and a grey one that was lonely and snuck into the stack. I went hunting in the hallway drawers and turned up another five solos. I also found underwear, socks, single mittens and a really amazing collection of cords. But no pairs. Think about it. These aren’t all my fault, it takes a family to lose 1/2 of fifteen pairs of gloves.

And now you understand why I refuse to knit gloves or mittens for my family.

Categories: family, home Tags:

Lost souls

August 13th, 2014 1 comment

It is challenging to find an interesting or exciting post name that isn’t a repeat when dealing with Frankfurt Airport and the various lounges. Since I am headed to the UK, it is Terminal B rather than the usual A or Z. Never the less, the lounge features all the same goodies – coffees, food, power drops, and booze (for those who indulge). So far I have had a couple of wraps, two different kinds of salad and a couple of lattes. There are also puddings, gelbe grutze and cookies. Could I be over caffeinated already?

For a change, the trip to the airport was quite entertaining. I boarded the S1 at Suedstadt-Westadt with a planned change to an ICE in Mannheim. At the Heidelberg HBF two couples complete with large suitcases got on the train, sat down (we were in the open bike/stroller/excess whatever section) and started to fuss about whether or not there was enough time for their train change in Mannheim. Was 16 minutes going to be enough? One doesn’t have to be a detective to guess that they were changing to the same train as I in Mannheim and heading to the airport.

The older couple appeared to be about my age and the younger were obviously daughter and son-in-law. Feeling like a nice person, I offered to help them find their train. Bailing off in Mannheim, we headed to the under-track passage and the elevator to Track 3. This is a change of one platform. The station is extremely well signed. Our connecting ICE was on time. We were lucky to have a car stop with a door directly in front of us. Shall we just say that the train was packed to over flowing? We managed to get all the suitcases on and ourselves jammed in at the head of the line, then played the reverse push and shove at the airport.

At this point, I figured the better part of valor would be the Lufthansa Rail-Fly desk in the train terminal. 10 minutes, boarding cards issued, all the luggage checked, and we were on our way to security. I said good-bye to Kim, Scott, Kathy, and Sal at the Z escalator as they are Sacramento bound via LAX. I am sure they will appreciate the Lufthansa Lounge for a much needed rest after the train. They enjoyed their 17 days in Europe: and were unaware that California has a reciprocity agreement with Germany – speeding points here will transfer home…

Since my flight goes to London City (got to love Docklands Rail since I only have to go two stops at the London end to get to my hotel), going through Passport Control is a requirement. 20 minutes in the passport line is unusual but – Hint – if you are from Asia and on a visa, don’t try to leave a day after your visa expires. Especially if you are going to a country that also requires a visa (which you don’t have). It also might help if someone in the group spoke either German or English. Not surprising, the Border Police can find translators…

No additional book drop offs this morning – I completely forgot since I normally bring a bag of books to the USO. But then I was in a hurry after making an emergency run once more to REWE…

The charcoal backpack, complete with embroidered Edelweiss

The charcoal backpack, complete with embroidered Edelweiss

the manly shoulder bag with insulated liner

the manly shoulder bag with insulated liner


You see, I had sent a picture of the Pauliner display to the kids last night, inquiring if anyone was interested. Resounding yes from 3/4 with the request to include the beer. Well, I am not hauling beer to the US, it just makes for too heavy a load. But at 9.99€ each (including six bottles of brew) it seemed like a bargain. As it turned out, there were two choices, not one, in the display. Both are made out of sturdy felted material. The one is a cute backpack, the other an over the shoulder bag. I think I can fit them in my extra bag (sans beer) along with this year’s crop of hats and scarves when I head to Denver next week.

Update book guess list – (X=417)

Alison 4444 (cost of an object)
Carmen 4567
Cat – TNTC (but less than her, so I guess she is taking all the really high numbers)
April – 6289
Isobel – 4882
Mary – 5777
Steven – 5280 (feet in a mile)
Christian – 4997
Kim – 7012

Oh! The reason for London? World Con – LonCon 3 is at the Excel Center in the Docklands.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Cat & Elephant run from the Packers

August 1st, 2014 2 comments
Cat & Elephant

Cat & Elephant


And here it is – the first day of packing. The pre-inspection guy took lots of pictures, made an estimate of what was to be packed and agreed to have two packers start today with the specific purpose of packing all the books.   Of course, when the two showed up this morning from Wiesbaden, they had been told almost nothing. Certainly they had no idea that they would be packing out a household that was going to be close to the weight limit with more than 1/2 of it books.  Not being any dummies – they called for more boxes and started on the studio.

looks different?

looks different?

Besides the studio, they also finished the side hall.  To make things better, I took apart the pegged bookcases since they were about ready to collapse anyway.

just the books, man

just the books, man

After lunch, George’s office and the back hall (main bookcases) were on the agenda for the afternoon.  And that was the point at which we started moving around the critters living on the office shelves.

hedgehogs, fund blocks, ships blocks and mugs

hedgehogs, fund blocks, ships blocks and mugs

You see, we have things, stuffies, critters living on the various bookshelves. Perhaps they are there to guard the contents, landed there for lack of a better place or sought it out themselves to play hide and seek.

mostly Sigikin

mostly Sigikin

Some of them are new – such as these various ships’s blocks.

Independence, Mariner, Radiance

Independence, Mariner, Radiance

Some have been around for a fair number of years – like this mug that the Eldest and George bought for me when we lived in St Paul.

Elf Mug

Elf Mug

There are hedgehogs

critters no longer able to hide behind books

critters no longer able to hide behind books

& and beer steins both from Oktoberfest and some that just might have come from one or another of George’s long since died relatives.  But then I came to Cat & Elephant. They were hiding among the hedgehogs and Rosenthal mugs to avoid being packed up with the books.

After inquiring to all four offspring – Ms Marathoner acknowledged that she was probably responsible for Cat but couldn’t see that it would be safe living with a golden retriever. Maus declared it wasn’t her. College Guy said he was responsible for a handmade mug out on the terrace but he didn’t remember Elephant. The Eldest said it was College Guy and the other two agreed.

Meanwhile – the characters awarded themselves a trophy along with the right to a California move.

probably from about the same era

probably from about the same era

Categories: Books & Tapes, family, military, packing out Tags:

Empty the water, clean the filter

July 16th, 2014 Comments off

It must be a remnant of my university days where laundry meant coins in slots and waiting on spinning agitators and tumbling dryers in order to have clean clothes ready to be hauled back to where ever I might be living. Or maybe it is the result of having lived in military stairwells where a bank of washers and dryers is shared property.

In any case, I think it should be an automatic courtesy when sharing laundry facilities with others, even if they are members of your own family.

After running the first load the other day I shoved them in the dryer. I just happened to glance down at the filter. Frowning I pulled it out, not all that amazed to find it covered lightly with lint. Given that happenstance it should be pretty obvious why I decided to check to make sure the water collector was empty. If you are scratching your head – we have a condenser dryer. No blowing hot air, no need to vent to the outside and no layer of dust attempting to snuggle into the clean clothes someone forgot to take upstairs this week. Last week? Month?

It wasn’t at all empty. In fact it was full.  The volume was enough that I would have had a mess on the floor if I had started this load. Now in the US you wouldn’t be able to start the dryer should the water receptacle be full as someone somewhere would have made that error, gotten a wet floor and promptly sued the manufacture when they slipped and fell. I live in Germany. There is an assumption of common sense and intelligence. We don’t have warnings on the toaster reminding us that sticking a fork in there could be hazardous to our health. Or that sitting in the bathtub with a hair dryer is more the sign of a Darwin candidate than not. Here – you are expected to figure out completely on your own that if the water is condensed out of your clothes in the drying process that the removable container needs to be emptied before it overflows.

I don’t mind loads being forgotten on occasion, that happens to all of us especially as age creeps up and the to-do list becomes overwhelmingly long. But not cleaning up after yourself? That is like leaving dishes in the sink.

Oh, wait. Forget that comparison since I am the one most likely to do that…..


Categories: family, home Tags:

The Fourth

July 4th, 2014 Comments off

Courtesy of Maus since I spent the day shoveling more out of my studio. Visits from both Brigitte and Diana made the day go much faster.

Categories: family, home Tags:


July 3rd, 2014 3 comments

I got sick of clothing and books so decided to tackle two of the cabinets in the living room.


cupboard on the one end

cupboard on the one end

all the "what do I do with it" contents

all the “what do I do with it” contents

cupboard on the other

#1  – cupboard on the left side

The first was easy – bunch of cruise stuff, scrapbook kits from cruises, never opened jigsaw puzzles and a hundred weight of 33 1/3 vinyl records ranging from German kids music to Jefferson Airplane and Israeli Folkdance music. I am currently ignoring the cassette tapes on the top shelf although I will have to decide about them fairly soon. I am thinking they are the missing Harry Potter audio tapes.

There are sturdy bookshelves between the sides which at one time were nicely organized but have since gained a dressing of book piles, decorative mugs, stones and a topping of Hannukah candles.  Please rest assured that no knitting contributed to the mess. Just additional books picked up in the last five years and dumped there by my husband who ran out of shelf space.

The other cupboard was more interesting to explore. I found a heavy duty folder stuffed with brochures, maps, museum books and leaflets from the Norway trip we made ~ 1996. At least that is what seems to match most of the dates. I also found German hotel and restaurant guides from 1990 and some school books. The top shelf held multiple decks of cards in their original wrappings from various museums, post cards and empty tins.

The middle shelf also had several folders where I found these –

the boy

the boy



who later became these two

IMG_0425 IMG_0426


and I just will leave you with one of their selfies from Jan

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

and both of whom have cut their hair since then

Categories: family, home Tags:

And the Champ

March 17th, 2014 2 comments

pictures to follow from crossing the finish line.

photo 2

Dani once again proved that with training and determination you can mange just about anything including coming in about 20 minutes sooner than the estimated time she provided the race organisers.


Alex and his family were there to cheer her on and help celebrate.  He is doing well post reconstructive surgery and now just (!) has to get throughout the next courses of chemo.


Thank you so much for your support and I will keep you posted on how they are doing

Categories: family Tags:

New York 1/2 Marathon

March 15th, 2014 Comments off

15 March 2014 – Just a reminder


For those who missed it the first time around or just stopped to think a moment, then kept on going (and my thanks to those who made a pledge).

This is probably only time I will ever mention something about fundraising. Considering all the charitable foundations in the world, it is hard to say that any are less deserving that others. So it comes down to the personal – what matters to you, affects you, your family, your friends.

In the case of tomorrow – which is the New York City 1/2 Marathon – it is Daniela (Ms Soprano, Ms Journalist, Daughter #2) who is running to raise money. It is not like she has a real love of running or sees herself as doing something for the world. This is personal. As part of Fred’s Team – her pledges go to Cancer Research.

Why?  Alex, her boy friend and all around good person was diagnosed with osteosarcoma this past fall. Osteosarcoma is primarily a disease of young people, mostly teenagers with a few in their 20s. So far he has undergone surgery, chemo therapy, reconstructive surgery and has more chemo in his future (through to next fall).  He was back in New York finishing his last year of university after having spent a year in Chicago as part of TeachAmerica.  He had not planned obviously on spending this year primarily being a patient of Sloan Kettering or needing hats to replace the hair he no longer has.

The donation link is here, please consider pledging even a small amount if you can (and thank you to those who already have or are supporting others also running tomorrow).


Categories: family Tags:

Can’t win

March 8th, 2014 Comments off

8 March 2014 – Can’t win?

It is a sea day, the first of two before we hit the port of Ushuaia again. Tomorrow we are supposed to be rounding Cape Horn. Or, if the seas and the weather continue to increase it may be the Drake Passage instead. Me? I would rather the passage. It is not that I have anything against going round the horn, but the glaciers are a lot cooler to watch as we sail by than a simple island with a light house and Albatross monument.

So shoot me, but I got to see them on the last cruise. Admittedly, it is nice to be able to say that you have seen them. I like glaciers better (grin). So no matter what the new captain of the vessel choses, and safety will rule, someone will be happy and others not.

The excitement of the day consisted of participating in a Cabin Crawl (everyone was pretty impressed by the size and layout of my simple outside cabin) and the mandatory presentations at the Captain’s Club (Loyalty bit) for the most days cruised. Even with the new numbers game on Celebrity, the folks on board who have been on since Miami are still not going to hit Marios (the top RCI person’s level…)

Anywho – I am still thinking about the Youngest’s comment that I didn’t say much about her! Might have been because I was posting a day late. Might have been because I am commenting about her a lot. But mostly, I wasn’t sure how much she really wanted me to say!

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

College Guy + Punta del Este

March 5th, 2014 Comments off
Jan in the Caribbean

Noah this Jan in the Caribbean

Continuing with my trend of talking about my wonderful offspring on their birthdays – College Guy turns 23 today. He is steadily cranking his way through community college, working and taking a break every once in a while when I can convince him to leave town. That is how I was able to get him on a ship this Jan; his father to get him to San Diego for a weekend last year.

But he has always been the quiet one of our four. Perhaps it is because he was third of four. More likely because having three sisters would be overwhelming to just about anyone. More so because I am sure that they always “knew” what he wanted and were more than willing to speak for him. Being more of a math/science person than languages probably didn’t help. But at the same time -he was the one who could look at something – take it apart and put it back together. The one who easily figured out how to fix things and could be depended on for certain household chores.

He is well liked and respected at work – about school I have absolutely no clue. But 23 in my world is even more important than 16, 18, 0r 21. It is the age at which he falls off my ID support, our taxes but not our lives. I am not sure what he has planned for today. I am hoping that one thing is to get online and sign up for health care. I was thinking about sending him flowers…… In any case, I would be more than happy to send along birthday greetings.

Punta del Este

the hand reaching up from the sand

the hand reaching up from the sand

When I was 23, the thought of traveling most of the world was beyond reach. Sure, I had done the backpacking through Europe with the Eurail Pass for three months right after I graduated. Since I had almost no money, spending what was left didn’t seem like much of a big deal. I had what I had and it was going to have to last. Please remember that 1971/2 was prior to Internet, affordable phone calls. It was the era of American Express money transfer and letter drops. Of taking overnight trains to save the money for a nights lodging. In spite of being school smart, I was extremely dumb and naive -trust me on that.

So here I am, 40 + years later. Sitting in Uruguay at what is to me a most reasonable time in the morning. Not so here. Nothing opens before 0900 and I have a feeling that 1000 is more like it. Not Burger King, not McDonalds. Nothing but the gas stations. I don’t get the feeling that the current religious holiday (Ash Wednesday) has anything to do with it. I just don’t think people here get up early.

At 0900 a few of the cafes opened. I checked the usual suspects – they either don’t have wifi or serve as a base for one of the local providers (no account:no service)

I have my picture of the hand and have walked the town. The Manos del Uruguay shop here doesn’t carry yarn. Since I don’t need sweaters or hats, I am not going to stay till/if they open.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:


February 10th, 2014 Comments off

Did I mention how proud I am of my oldest daughter?

It is hard being the first, paving the way and teaching the two genetically related adults how to be parents. Then, after all that work seeing your younger siblings get the benefit of all that experience. And not have to deal with as much angst and restrictions as you did.

She survived it well and has grown to be a lovely adult. She has pitched in for her sibs when needed with the result of having a rather interesting career path spanning both sides of the Atlantic pond. It looks like she may have yet another change on the horizon as she is contemplating going back to school for a Master’s Degree. I know she is competent and capable – she is the one who finished undergraduate in less than four years. She is looking primarily at programs on the west coast since Germany is not a contender for programs that give you much consideration for more than a decade of work experience.

Shana has also reached the age when I will simply say that her birthday is 10 Feb and no longer give you the year although she is well below the magic “39 forever” milestone. Following family tradition, we took her out to dinner.


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New York 1/2 Marathon

February 1st, 2014 Comments off

Interrupting the normal travel and knitting log –

Consider all the charitable foundations in the world, most of whom are not shy about asking for your money – all in a good cause. Some of the causes are more interesting to you than others, but all are critical to someone.

Right now I am considering cancer, and what it does to anyone’s life, much that of a young person. Especially if you were just back in university for your senior year after spending a year in Chicago working in TeachAmerica. That pain and discomfort which you were reassured was a simple cyst – wasn’t. The semester was trashed, the rest of the year gone and you have no hair. Chemo therapy is not kind to anyone and the strain can be devastating. Your girlfriend, locked into a course which started on its once a year cycle in September is beside herself. What she can do is run, coming back from a foot fracture a couple of years ago.

And so that takes it to my daughter #2 who plans on entering the 16 March 2014 Half Marathon in New York City. Osteosarcoma is primarily a disease of young people. Teenagers to be blunt and uncommon enough that Dani decided that contributions to Sloan Kettering’s Research would be the best way to go. The donation link is here, please consider it.

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Jacqueline Mertes Bird 1926-2014

January 30th, 2014 Comments off

It was going to be Antigua That is where I am today – another little slice of paradise in the Caribbean. Like many of the other islands, the story of the island involves explores from South America via boats down the Orinoco, European colonial powers, slavery, disease and long battles for self determination. Instead I am going to divert to more personal matters.  Most of the time, when someone writes about an essay/obituary it is all about the good, wonderful things the person did. This is more about reaching an understanding for myself about how life experiences shape you, influence your choices and interactions with the world. Some of it made sense to me growing up, other parts are my interpretation being long past the point of my  life where any of it is personal, which may say more about me than her.

Jacqueline Mertes born 23 Sept 1926 died Jacqueline Bird 29 Jan 2014.

To be a small child during the depression is something that I can’t imagine. To worry about your next meal, to not feel welcome in the home where you and your mother live, to wear hand-me-downs. It is not an experience that I can claim any coherent understanding. What I do know now is that it formed the core of Linn’s being and personality. To hold part of oneself in reserve and to always expect the axe to fall. My mother and grandmother Esther lived with the eldest of  Esther’s sister in small town Minnesota after they left California when Linn was small. To be a child without two parents in the middle of a narrow minded community would have been a challenge for the most strong of will. Doing well in school would have been an exit strategy.

Attending the University of Minnesota, Linn graduated in 1948 with one of the liberal arts BA which qualified you to be a secretary (if you could also type) or a MRS which is what I think she really wanted. To be part of a family, to be on the inside rather than an observer.

My parents were married in 1948. I was born in 1950, April in 1954. I am sure that my mother was not what my grandparents had envisioned  for their “prince of a son.” I don’t think she understood the uphill battle she was facing. Thinking back, I can’t imagine two people less suited for each other (past the flash of initial attraction) with one sure he ruled the world and the other just waiting for something to go wrong. .It did, which should not have been a surprise and I am sure that there was plenty of blame to go around. But my sister and I were caught in the middle and suffered all what I know are the normal reactions of children trapped in a silent battle ground. April was cute, I was smart and the two of us were never encouraged to be close by either of our parents.

Looking back, I now know that Linn did what she needed to in order to survive and put a roof over our heads. I will tell you that in line with the average teen I had more than the usual amount of hostility and anger being caught in the mess and not understanding much of what was happening. Self-centered is a way of life at that age. She remarried to Melvin Bird in about 1965. None of which I understood till I was in my mid-thirties with a terrific husband and an incredibly lovely daughter to think about having to start over at that age with nothing but two children who needed love, food, stability. She did what the women of her generation did.

I really don’t know much about her life between when I left home in 1968 till 1985. She came to our wedding in 1978 and exhibited disapproval at the way I was living my life. Or I though it was until I realized that she was mostly scared that something bad would happen to me.  She and Mel visited when we moved to DC the first time. The experience was not a positive one to put it mildly.

I next saw Linn ~ early 2000 when I attended a meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Meeting on a middle ground was the best I could do. I never saw her again which meant I could keep my prejudices intact about her smoking, drinking and priorities of which I had not felt that I was one.

Now, dealing with the aftermath of her death in Arkansas it is probably time I grow up as well. To let go of hurts and slights. To examine how it has affected me and my choices. To hope that she had good years with the choices she made. It is not the same as when George’s mother died; a person who had devoted her life to her husband, son, grandchildren, family and beliefs. Her passing was a hole in our lives that has healed. Linn has not been part of my life for decades.

I can’t find tears, feeling or emotions at her death; I lost those back in my teens. What I can do is feel relief that I was able to do at least a minimum for her: to make sure that her wishes were respected with regards to DNR, excessive measures.  To make sure that anything she left behind goes to April, the daughter who had the longest and most difficult burden.

Linn was lovely and loved. I will grieve for the person she was before Alzheimer’s took her away. I can have regret for choices that we both made; ones that set us permanently on different paths. If she hadn’t been who she was I would never have had the drive to go to school, achieve, support myself and hug my children.

Those are not insubstantial gifts and will last far longer than the basic gift of life and breath.




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Day 12

January 11th, 2014 1 comment
Ms Maus & College Guy

Ms Maus & College Guy

My travel companions who are currently (allegedly packing). Unless, of course, they are sleeping

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

plus two

January 4th, 2014 Comments off
The Route

The Route

The Ship

The Ship

and the two youngest who are coming along!




Sat Jan 4 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:30pm
Sun Jan 5 At Sea
Mon Jan 6 At Sea
Tue Jan 7 St. Maarten 8:00am 6:00pm
Wed Jan 8 St. Kitts 7:00am 5:00pm
Thu Jan 9 San Juan, Puerto Rico 7:00am 2:00pm
Fri Jan 10 Labadee, Haiti 10:00am 6:00pm
Sat Jan 11 At Sea
Sun Jan 12 Fort Lauderdale, FL 5:30am
Categories: family, Travel Tags:

She’s 25 already

December 18th, 2013 Comments off

It was just after 0100 in the morning that Ms Daniela (aka Ms Soprano, Ms Journalism) decided to make her entrance 18 Dec 1988. Over the years I have watched her grow from an amazingly determined toddler into a smart but shy with others school girl to self confidence in her musical abilities. She is perhaps harder on herself than anyone else and I am afraid has picked up too many of my traits (which is not always a positive if included on the list are not suffering fools and procrastination). Dani is loyal to a fault which can and has been taken advantage of by friends.
This year is a rough one for her – she is involved in a demanding and intensive broadcast technical course while managing apartment, dog and life. Her boyfriend is in NYC in the middle of his first round of chemotherapy. She was there over Thanksgiving with her next visit over New Years. Unfortunately, she can’t take a break from her course without forfeiting the entire year.

If you have her email from last year, send her a birthday greeting or else I will gladly forward (says the proud mom).

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August 2nd, 2013 11 comments

Doing too much laundry in the heat (36°C in the shade) including running a couple of loads through the dryer before intelligence kicked in might just be my only excuse. I was sick of the pile of dirty things on the floor and the mess of the laundry room. Additionally I needed laundry baskets so I went hunting.

And that must have been when insanity struck. There were a number of partly full baskets stacked around my husband’s side of the closet. Consolidating them was simple. I had started with the thought that I might even put some of it away but the realization hit me with exceeding rapidity. The shirts were crumpled – it was going to be iron or re-wash. Duh – no decision there. The rest could be folded quickly. Almost, but not quite. Socks do not fold quickly.

By the time I had them all gathered up, those sucks socks had multiplied into dozens and dozens of single smug individuals daring me to make a fuss. So back I went to the laundry room to gather up all the orphans and give them a wash in the next load. If I was going to do this – might as well maximize the results and toss the rest.

months and months - or years? of socks

months and months – or years? of socks


So I informed the socks who were trying to slither out of sight under the couch or inside pairs of jeans. Match or be discarded, I informed them. They sneered at me in their multi-sized, colored, and shaped glory. Make us!

So I started the division. It became rapidly obvious that there were far fewer of white, or had be born out of the package originally white

in at least three lengths

in at least three lengths

Where as the black/brown/grey/navy crew had proliferated exuberantly and had no interest in being made to function in sedate pairs.

instead holding a football scrum in defiance

instead holding a football scrum in defiance

Even an attempt to line them in orderly ranks dissolved in the face of variety of size, shape and design much less position as displayed. Do you know how many shades of black exist?

If I line them all up, they pitch fits and throw themselves on the floor.

If I line them all up, they pitch fits and throw themselves on the floor.

I won a partial battle

and so declared victory.

and so declared victory.

I am going to do a last sort tomorrow in strong daylight before tossing all the excess in the garbage. Wonder how smug those unrepentant partnerless socks are going to be then …..

Categories: family, home, socks Tags:

she doesn’t need to be art

July 26th, 2013 1 comment

For the last decade she has been sitting quietly on the top shelf of the bookcase watching over the back hall. For reasons that I have never examined too closely, I never felt comfortable having her on display in the living room nor that it might be necessary to do so.



I vaguely remember her creation – I was youngish. Maybe about 6-9? But certainly long before my teens. I don’t spend a lot of time remembering that portion of my life. There was reading, there was home where I did a lot of reading and school which I detested with every last fiber of my being. The only thing worse at that time of my life was riding the school bus. Which means, if I want to narrow down a time frame, it must have been when we lived in Hopkins on Drill Lane since I don’t remember my mother doing much sculpting after we moved out to Excelsior. It is stunning to realize, when I count back that this means my mother at the time was about the age that our Eldest is now.

Never seeing a likeness nor understanding her slightly asymmetrical face I had relegated her possession to somewhere in the back of my mind. Even when Maus created a self-portrait bust I didn’t see a resemblance. Stubborn set to the chin – no question but to me the face/head are generic. I also don’t remember exactly when she came into my possession. I know that my sister managed to get Atlas to me after we moved to Heidelberg. I am still wondering what happend to the Giant in chains who I always appreciated- but the Lady?

Then today I had hats to photograph. After doing various assorted standard flat things, it occurred to me that a bust might be just the ticket.

Cleaning off a thick layer of dust gave me an idea of exactly how long she has been ignored and neglected. Both the block of the base needed careful tending. She is porcelain clay with a glaze.

Then I tried on the hats!

Categories: family, home, Knitting Tags:

Major milestone

July 11th, 2013 1 comment

65 has got to be one of those milestones that is so far in the future when you are a college student that you can’t imagine every being that old. Nor probably that life doesn’t end at the age of 30.

Some of us like to celebrate birthdays – others (like me) are more than pleased to have gained another year of experience but would rather skip all the excitement.

My husband is one who enjoys a party. What is more, it has become almost an annual event in July – on his birthday (the 11th which is why you are reading this) or as close to it as he can come given weekdays are not the best time for friends to hang around on the terrace, drink beer and BBQ.

Go ahead, wish him a happy birthday – grATaeris-capitalDOTcom

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one clock for another

March 9th, 2013 1 comment

Where two years ago my life was regulated by staff meetings, videot-eleconferences and the meal times of what ever DFAC I was able to tolerate at the moment, today my life is bounded by docking and on board times. Yes the concern of matching meal times is there, but faintly on the horizon since it is possible to get food 24/7 on a ship.

It is still under two years ago since I redeployed from Afghanistan via the Air Force in one of their few charitable acts (not being known for their willingness to make life easier for non-MEDVAC patients but having enough sense to fill extra seats since it really didn’t cost them any extra effort). 

I turned in ACUs – in fact I have gotten rid of essentially any and all clothing that even remotely resembled my uniforms in favor of the uniform of a civilian. There are few mementos in our house. Those that up on the kitchen wall I am planning on replacing with photos and art from travels.

My uniform now is Jack Wolfskin casual made up of t-shirts, long & short sleeve shirts along with pants in varying shades of grey and black with the occasional bite of red thrown in for luck. For dress up, there is a skirt/top in mostly black with a couple of color accents. I have jogging gear where the only color really comes from rainbow shoes just for cheeriness.

I now have an iPhone which I keep on airplane mode most of the time just to avoid roaming charges but it seems tho that I still bound my life with schedules. I still know where I am going to be for almost every day between now and next year at this time. The difference is that I am making the choice and am not at the whim of some faceless bureaucracy in DC or some commander who is more concerned about their own evaluation than they are about those who work for them.

Perhaps in a couple of years this phase of my life may be over as well, but there are so many places to go and ports to see ….. in my personally chosen choice of clothes…

Categories: family, military Tags:

done with the teens

March 6th, 2013 Comments off

as of today we no longer have a teenager in the house. Last but certainly not least – Maus turns 20.

6 March 1993

6 March 1993

such a small bundle developed her own style

warrior princess

warrior princess

and way of viewing the world



she makes friends

a few springs ago

a few springs ago

with the boys last summer

with the boys last summer




and headed back to school this fall leaving the house rather quiet.

I am sure she doesn’t think of herself as the baby of the family; and we no longer have a teenager!

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The handsome guy

March 5th, 2013 2 comments
barely two

barely two

Rather than bother to talk about St Maartens (where I am sitting in a cafe with bad coffee and a slow connection) I would rather talk about this guy who has grown into

in Egypt

in Egypt



last year on a birthday

last year on a birthday

which means that a 7#13oz baby born in 1991 can turn into a completely functioning, happy and healthy 22 year old young man. He does himself proud.

He is in Scottsdale, I am in St Maarten.

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Not even 60

February 14th, 2013 4 comments

George took the call from Reiner this afternoon.

We met Nina Fink in In the summer of 1994. Out in one of the small towns near Heidelberg at a Fest and there was a group of spinners. One of them was Nina. She reached out to this fairly lost American and made me feel welcome in the local spinning guild. Over the next several years she and I got to know each other better at various spinning demonstrations and Spinntreff. Our families got together for various picnics and other events. My eldest has been good friends with their eldest for years and we have known their youngest since birth. George and Reiner have collaborated on some projects.

Since they live off the end of the earth (train or car to Eberbach then head up into the Odenwald till you feel like you have traveled back decades. The old house in which they live used to be a guesthouse complete with hof, barn/stables/carriage house and a huge room for parties. The place was packed on her 40th birthday (14? 15? years ago).

What with the distance and my retirement, the last time we physically saw each other was at our home in May 2011 (Been there, Done with That party).

Nina in the yellow shirt and her son Tim. Nanawolf is in the middle

Nina in the yellow shirt with her son Tim. Nanawolf is in the middle

Apparently she started feeling ill and developed what is often called “the dwindles” about six months ago. Repeated doctor visits didn’t come up with a cause. But Nina was her own person as well; German by birth she became an Australian citizen when they lived there 25 years ago. Didn’t matter to her what the local Amt had to say when she returned about residency permits and the like. Aussie she had decided to be, and Aussie she was. So you might say a bit stubborn. She turned down the advanced diagnostics offered.

Last Thursday, 7 Feb, she took a sudden turn for the worse and went the “stop breathing, ambulance, resuscitation, hospital, intensive care” route but nothing worked.

Reiner called tonight to tell us. It turned out to be disseminated cancer. There will be a memorial service in about a week.

Bright, funny and extremely capable, her loss will be felt not just by her family but all the rest of us who knew her. One of those people who helped without question and rarely asked for much of anything in return. Saying someone was a good mother, goat herder, spinner and baker might not be impressive to many in this day and age but it made a difference to her husband and children.

Besides feeling the hole that is there, I acknowledge my share of anger. At myself for not staying in closer touch since we always think we have all the time in the world. And at Nina for not being willing to find out what was wrong in the face of increasing physical illness. She might not have chosen to live her life any differently, but her family would have had time to come to terms with a future empty of her.

George and I looked at each other. We will do what we can for both Reiner and Timmy over the coming months. We also made the commitment to each other to “knock you over the head and drag you in by the hair (long, short, doesn’t matter)” if either of us gets ill. I am a believer in knowledge as a way to exercise what little control one has in this life. Denial and avoidance generally don’t have any better result than having information and can limit choices.

I can’t die in my mid-50s – I am already well past that. Losing friends younger than me? Just should not happen…….

Categories: family, home, Spinning Tags: