Saturday, August 15, 2009

In .2 Miles Take Second Left In Roundabout

Not much is happening, worth noting, in real time, so I thought I should sort through more of our vacation photos. My intentions were noble, but as I looked for images from our day in Avignon, I was detoured. I could tell you about the amazing preparations for the Festival in Avignon, but before we could get to Avignon, or to Triberg, or Brienz, or Brussels, or Barcelona or Triberg, we had to get in the car. None of this is going to translate very well... not the tedium or the wonder, not the frenzy of driving out of Paris or in to Brussesl. You won't get leg cramps from sitting in one position while trying to comfort a tired-hungry-bored four year old from reading this post... I hope you won't. That would be weird. And you might not think it is hilarious to be *lost* in France when the French road workers and the GPS cannot agree on the best route. We logged a lot of time in our Renault Espace and the sights and memories are as dear and precious embarrassing as any from the Louvre.


First of all... I Love a Road Trip. And we saw things that I could not believe were real, like miles and miles of sunflowers. These were in France and we kept driving passed field after field of them, but the opportunity to stop and really appreciate the sight never materialized. And every time a really good photo-opp came up my camera was turned off, but I took this picture anyway... blurry and wonky and all. I am so glad to have it. I remember when we were finally arriving at our destination I announced to all: "Tomorrow we are pulling over, no matter what, to take pictures of the sunflowers. No matter what!" I was serious. I was a little cranky too, but only a little. The next day we did not see a single sunflower.

The GPS and eating crow.
Mmmm mm... this crow is tasty. I am eating crow because I mocked Geoff mercilessly for getting a GPS. My feeble mind could not comprehend installing, updating, and preparing software for driving through Europe. It was not an easy process to get the software to work, and I kept thinking that a good map would be all we could ever need to get from point A to Point B. I was wrong. I was wrong and sometimes the GPS was really wrong, but I still admit that even at its most ineffective the GPS always, eventually, got us to our destination.

See the purple line going all over creation? Yeah, it's supposed to have us on an actual road, and not in some French farmer's driveway.

By the way there was a GPS in the car, but other than showing us where we were we never could get it to tell us how to get somewhere else.

Gee. This road looks narrow.

I actually enjoy getting lost. I have a really good sense of direction, so being turned around is a welcome challenge... it's interesting. But this spot?! I had no idea how to fix this. Our GPS was trying to reroute us, but because of roadwork detours she just kept sending us on ten mile loops, down dirt roads, passed the moors, in to the tulgey woods and back to the blocked road we started from.

You could not ask to be lost in a more beautiful setting. In fact there was nothing wrong with this unscheduled tour, except that we had to be in Avignon by check in time, or we would be in deep doo-doo. Six people sleeping in an Espace is deep doo-doo... I don't care how adventurous you are.

Sheila, Alex named her actually directed us in to someone's driveway. Our rental car had a big "rental car" sticker on it. As though no once could guess.

The afternoon we left Holland and pointed our car toward Triberg, Germany, Sheila really gave us a tour. We wove in and out of France-Germany-Blegium... back and forth and it kept getting later and later and later, and it even got dark eventually. And most of the time I was thinking, "Please don't let it be the Autobahn. Please don't let it be the Autobahn. Please don't let it be the Autobahn." All my life I have been hearing boys talk about the mythical Autobahn, where you can drive as fast as you want, and then their eyes glaze over and they make gear grinding-motor noises. The Autobahn has held a grip of fear and dread over me for a very long time, which is silly since I have spent 99.9% of my life living 5,700 miles away from the Autobahn; 99.5% of my life has been spent living along the I-5 Corridor, which I drive frequently.

I won't ever buy the shirt, but I imagine myself being in possession of a T-shirt that reads: I SURVIVED THE AUTOBAHN. German roads are good and safe and other than feeling uneasy in an overloaded mini-van traveling at 100 MPH, I managed to contain my cookies and only periodically seethe, "Geoff." And believe me, he knows very well what I am saying when I seethe, "Geoff," and my voice is kind of shrill and panicky. He knows.

For every episode of terror or tedium on a road trip, there is always levity, humor... immaturity, if you will. I will. My sense of humor is stunningly immature. I know I mortify my children.

I told Max he could tell his classmates all about the Autobahn and Germany, about language and history and fascinating cultural facts. Then I snickered every time I did my level best to learn German by reading road signs.

I feel I should apologize for posting these and implying there is something funny about it, but I am too busy thinking of any German words I know and then adding them to Ausfahrt and saying them aloud in a heavy German accent.

Humor goes a long way to making a road trip bearable, so does singing and "I Spy" and reading aloud and eating Lays potato chips that are flavored like roast chicken... honestly the chips smelled like a Thanksgiving dinner. If you prefer, they also had ham flavored potato chips. We laughed a lot. And I only recall two instances when Maria cried inconsolably. Here she is sharing Alex's earbud and listening either to the Doctor Horrible Singalong soundtrack or Monty Python. I never did let the children listen to Barney.

Me: Children, why does Barney sing to the children?
Our Children: To make the children happy.
Me: And why does Barney the dinosaur want the children to be happy?
Our Children: Because happy children taste better.
Me: Very good. I love you. You are bright and capable. Now clean your room.

Far from the highway and heading straight in to that lake.
Ausfahrt! Ausfahrt!

Maria sang to Max about the drive being almost over, about us stopping soon and for him to sleep in peace, because she was loving him. He did sleep, and the capacity for her to sing such a kind and tender song and for him to receive it makes me feel wonderful.

Somewhere in Belgium.
Enjoy this while you can, because Geoff is probably going to make me take it down... unless I can make him see it the way I do. He did all the driving. I did all the navigating, with Sheila's "help." Sometimes we were turned around or sleep deprived or worried. Sometimes we wanted get out of the car and never leave the spot we'd discovered, because we had found some place beautiful and good. We met and fell in love in 1982, and we planned a trip to Europe... and we put it off and postponed it and planned again and then renegotiated, and finally we were here... there. I like this picture, because I know he loves us and works for us and because I love him and I am happy to support him... where ever we are.

Where ever we go.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miss Swiss

This is where I would like to be. It is the place I imagine I could lose the tension in my shoulders and the furrow in my brow. It is where my sense of awe and wonder were awakened. When we left I knew that I would return, if only through these pictures, because I love to wake up my sense of awe and wonder. I knew these images would trigger a healthy heart rate, relaxed breathing, and calm my mind.

All I have to do is focus on the memories.

Remember the details.

The tensions of today, the things I did and did not do, the worries about what is wrong, what can go wrong, what went wrong... I need to put all of it aside and remember Switzerland.

I miss all things Swiss... all the things we saw and did.

Even the things we did not do... I could ride from lake to lake.

I would happily take the drive again, from Triberg to Brienz. Through those tunnels, and round and round the mountains.

I need a Swiss nap.

I would like to walk in a garden, pick peas, pull weeds...

Shhhh... I think I might actually be meditating.

Peace of mind.
And farm animals... I am feeling better already.

I can almost hear the lake lapping against the stone wall.
Excuse me while I put my feet up and enjoy this moment, again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Comfort of Family

Their friendship goes back over fifty years, to El Salvador, the church they attended in Los Angeles. My grandmother Eunice and my tio Bill. They share the same birthday. So wonderful to see them together, for all of us to be getting together, but bittersweet too.

It had been much too long since the last time Maria saw her uncle Kai, so it took about thirty seconds, maybe longer, for her to warm up to him. Ever since their day together she has been dictating her best friend forever-thank you and love letter that she wants me to send him. I better get on that.

When I emailed my aunt Liz about coming north, about hoping to have a visit, I never imagined we were going to have as nice a visit as this. Alex, Max and Maria swam a lot... here are Alex and Maria with my cousin Lisa in her Boomer's pool. Boomer is the adorable corgi, guardian of the swimming pool.

Should I clarify? It's not that I did not expect a nice visit... it's that Lisa really went out of her way to make it a very nice visit, and on such short notice. We could not help but linger and delight all day. Even as we were leaving Maria was inviting herself to "... come back tomorrow!"

She thinks it's her pool... just kidding...

We know whose pool it is!

I will tell you what I love... I love my family, and I love it when everyone can spend the day together and be totally at ease. No need for judgments or formality, just kindness and unconditional love. I love that my tio's voice recalls comforting and dear childhood memories. I love that we were able to be in such good company.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Little Trip... Big Fun

On Friday the children and I made a spontaneous trip north to be with Grandma Eunice for her birthday. It's hard to believe it's been seven years since we had the big celebration with family friends. Now I am inspired to start planning her 88th birthday extravaganza!

Whether it's a big blow-out fiesta or a family dinner, Grandma is a fun person to honor and celebrate with. She gets almost as giddy as a four year old. She's so appreciative and happy. She told me about all the fun she had in Oregon and how she came home with lots of "stuff," so I chose a pretty fabric box for her to tuck in her treasures. Of course Maria thought this was wonderful, since she too has a small box where she stashes her treasures.

My aunt Becky's home has the loveliest porch. It was another hot day in Pasadena, but the morning on the porch was comfortable. I always enjoy the view, the tree lined streets, the gardens and comfortable homes. Grandma got a chance to catch up with the boys and discover new books. She shared some of her favorites with them and they are going to be sending some of theirs to her.

My grandparents lived with us for eight years. Eight wonderful years. Max was born during that time. I remember how great it was that the boys could pop over to Grandma's and chat with her. I remember doing the same... just enjoying time in each other's company. We were so lucky to have those days.

Maria ran around and around and around the ginko tree. And when she spotted dandelions and other fallen treasures, she began collecting flora for little nosegays... pretty leaves and blossoms, that she delivered to me and Becky and Grandma.

She's waiting for me to count: 1-2-3 on your mark... get set... go! She loves to run.

Grandma was enjoying a laugh over her "wild ways." It seems she has a certain attraction to purses. It seems it has become a bit... much? Never mind, Grandma. It looks harmless enough. You're the best looking *bag lady* I've ever seen!

And what good is a nice purse without a hat to go with it?

Maria, Alex, Max and William enjoying the company of their great-grandmother.
This one needs to get printed and framed.