The Art of Waiting OR Can I Get a Bit of Closure SOMEWHERE

64 Me at Highland Loch

(Me, in 2002, in the Highlands near Inverness, Scotland, listening for a word from my ancestors. I had to wait three more years before they spoke up.)

It seems I’ve been spending a lot of time waiting lately. And I just have to say, many of the things I’m waiting for are good, or the possibility of good things anyway. Now I don’t want to complain, I really don’t mind waiting from time to time, but it’s a bit crazy for me right now. What do you mean? Glad you asked.

65 Sonic after 1st PET Scan

(Stopped at Sonic to get my caffeine/sugar fix after a 24 hour fast for my PET Scan in February. PS: I was radioactive in this photo can you tell? Are my superpowers showing? I had my cape on just for the occasion.)

I had labs drawn last week in anticipation of my oncology appointment tomorrow. I’ve been waiting for three months since my last one to see if all is well…to see if I’m holding steady in my battle against cancer. This time around it was fairly easy on the front end. I just had blood drawn. No tests, no scopes, no scans, no…well you get the picture. I’m not so much in a battle right now, I’m waiting. And this is one time I don’t mind the wait! I’m hoping for healing or a new form of treatment that is less destructive to the rest of my body. This is the heavy one when it comes to waiting. It’s better from here on out. I promise.

30 FJ40 on Trailer

(Here he is! Dr. Livingstone at Stuart’s, Land Cruiser mechanic extraordinaire!)

I’m waiting for my sweet ride to get a makeover. Dr. Livingstone, my 1974 FJ40. I love him. He’s rough and rugged and has been known to rescue many a young man’s TRUCK out of the mud. Just sayin’. You all know who you are. He is right now in the greasy but loving hands of Stuart, my new mechanic. This will be worth the wait. In the meantime, I’m without wheels.

31 The Stone Manor Spiral

(This is sitting atop my dad’s desk. Just wanted you to know I don’t keep a large current photo of myself atop my own desk.)

Then there are three very cool events I’m waiting on that have to do with The Stone Manor, my novel. I’ve entered it in two different writing contests for unpublished novels. The first is the Golden Claddagh Contest, of which my novel is a finalist in the Celtic category. Woohoo! The winner will be announced September 5th. Waiting! The second contest is The Catherine Toronto Romance Writers Contest. Finalists to be announced mid-late August. Waiting. And last but by no means least, I have submitted my manuscript to a NYC agent. She’s considering representing my work. No timeline on this one. Waiting!!!!!

66 Moving from Berg Container

(Our container preparing to leave our German apartment for Texas. Bon Voyage! Or I should say Gute Reisen!)

Jim and I are moving from Munich to the Black Forest in Germany. We are also downsizing (if that can be possible) so we’ve shipped most of our personal belongings back to Texas, where we’ve taken an apartment near our daughter and her family. So at this very moment, much of our earthly things are in a container on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Wait! I didn’t word that quite right. Hopefully they’re not in the ocean literally, the ship is sailing ON the ocean. Does that sound better? I have seen pictures of freighters plodding through stormy seas, containers sliding off into the water. Not a pretty sight. Image be gone! The container should be here in about a month. Wait for it.

32 Me and Jim Smiling Fam

(Isn’t he handsome? Well worth the wait!)

Finally, Jim has been in Germany without me for a month and will arrive back in Texas on our anniversary, in just a few short days. BEST ANNIVERSARY PRESENT EVER! Waiting!

I could go on, but I won’t. We all are waiting for one thing or another on any given day. Some of us wait expectantly, some excitedly, some with great fear and dread. The danger is always this, we’ll miss living in the moment, the here and now, while waiting for the future to get here. Each day is a gift. It comes and it goes and we can never, ever get it back. I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but I hope you don’t miss what’s right in front of you while you’re looking ahead. I’m writing these last words for my own benefit, really. I needed to hear them. What about you?

Life in Germany: The Learning Curve

57 Alps from Hilltop in Aufkirchen

(View of the Alps from our village in Bavaria.)

Jim and I live on two continents. We live in Germany much of the time where we work for Europe Young Life. When not in Germany or traveling around that part of the world for work, we visit our family and friends in Texas. And somewhere in the midst of all this traveling and living, I write. After four years of residing in Germany, there are still so many things yet to learn. Sadly, German is something I’ll always be learning. It’s a bit more complicated than say, Spanish.

58 Berg Kitchen Before

(The BEFORE shot of our kitchen. This is how they come. This is why IKEA exists people.)

There are some really funny/fun things I’ve learned since moving there. I’d like to share a few with you. The first thing we did when arriving in Bavaria was look for an apartment. As providence would have it we found one the first day. Something you should know about many German apartments, they do not come with light fixtures, closets, or a kitchen. Really. So we spent days and days in IKEA designing and ordering a kitchen, light fixtures, and Shranks (closets). This would have been a lot more fun if we knew German. All part of the “living overseas” adventure. (Side note: we are currently moving away from Munich to the Black Forest. This means we have to take our light fixtures and yes, kitchen with us. Really.

59 Berg IKEA Kitchen

(The AFTER picture of our kitchen. I love this kitchen! European appliances are awesome.)

Something you should know about our move is that my husband grew up in LA, and I grew up in Texas. We’d neither one lived where it snowed. When we arrived in February of 2008, the ground was covered in snow and it remained until Easter. Jim discovered he loves living where it’s cold. I, on the other hand, discovered I love wearing winter clothes: warm wooly sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves, boots. In April, when the snow began to melt the item in the below picture appeared. It had evidently been buried all winter in a ditch near the parking lot of the local hardware store.

60 Octopus Salat

As I stepped out of our car and saw the jar i realized why it had been left there. I imagined a child was sitting in the back seat of their car, digging through the grocery bag and saw that their mother had purchased this for dinner. They grabbed it and quickly tossed it out the window, pretending to be playing with the window button. I mean really, OCTOPUS SALAD. Who eats this? I know, I know. Some of you are saying, “I love Octopus Salad!” Fine, to each his/her own then.

Speaking of throwing things out. Let’s look at another common scenario. You buy a pack of gum at the grocery and on your way out you open the package, pull out a piece and pop it in your mouth. Now you’re standing there holding the wrapper and wondering, “What do I do now?” See below picture for further instructions.

61 German Gum Wrapper

(Am I the only person who thinks this is really funny?)

Okay, enough about kitchens and food. Let’s talk about animals. The Germans have a special love of animals, which I for one, appreciate. Dogs all live indoors, unless you live on a farm and even then, I’m sure they come and go. They all go to obedience school and because of this are welcomed in stores and restaurants, and anywhere else they fancy, except grocery markets, where they are carefully tethered outside the door along with the baby-strollers, babies still in them. Markets are very small and not conducive to dogs or strollers. We live in a small village just south of Munich by a beautiful Alpine lake, the Starnberger See. The next two pictures deal with living in the country and animals.

62 Funny Dog Sign

This first picture is posted in front of the field next to our apartment. I could translate it for you, but I don’t think there’s any need really. You get the picture? Literally.

Now just in case you’re wondering why the dog can’t well…you know in the field. It says it’s because they grow things for human consumption there. The only thing I’ve ever seen grown in that field, besides wild flowers, is grass they cut for hay. However, we do appreciate the sign. Especially in the summer.

Okay, I’m going to wrap this up. I have so much more to share but I’ll do it in small bites here and there. So as not to offend my dear German friends, I DO realize I could easily be writing about anywhere in the US with funny photos to boot. (In fact, I have a picture just waiting in the wings right now. I took it across the street from our Texas apartment. It’ll appear in my blog in the near future. I promise.)

29 Frog Crossing German Sign

This last photo is the perfect one to end with. I know you’re asking what can this mean? FROGS! Before I tell you, take a moment and guess. Then, be sure and let me know in the comments what you’re guess was. This could be fun.

Like I said, we live by a beautiful lake. We can’t actually see the lake from our apartment. It’s across the road and down the hill. If we could see it we would have to pay a lot more money for the apartment. It’s very close though. We can walk to the lake in about three minutes. Anyway, because of the water there are a couple of weeks every spring when the frogs leave the woods and make their pilgrimage to the lake to deposit their eggs. They do this in great numbers. The above sign is put up temporarily to remind you to BE CAREFUL and WATCH OUT for frogs. In fact, they put up little green mesh fencing along both sides of the road to keep them from crossing on their own. (This photo was taken just before the wee fences went up.) Then a chosen person from the village checks them often and hand carries the frogs to the other side to safely hop on their way.  This happens all over Germany. I’d like to say at this point, I swerve for all animals in the road, so I love this tradition. And there it is! I don’t know what else to say about this. Are you smiling?

Fiddling Around: Name that Tune

28 Violin and Fam Pic

(My great-grandfather’s fiddle. He’s the man in the photo.)

My mother inherited her grandfather’s fiddle quite by accident. We found it in the drawer of a dresser that had belonged to her mother. It seems our grandmother had been given the fiddle by her father and had taken lessons in high school, but no one ever heard her play. She was shy.

What you need to know about this discovery is, this is the grandfather who descended from the MacDonald’s of the Isle of Skye. So, when Jim and I visited Skye in my search for the ancestral home and to double-check my writing for The Stone Manor, the Skye Accordian and Fiddle Festival was a must see. It takes place yearly in Portree.

On day five of our trip we drove up to Portree and wandered into the Royal Hotel, formerly MacNab’s Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The Festival was in full swing, and it was standing room only. Later that evening, we walked down the street to the Skye Gathering Hall for the Ceilidh Dance. What a wonderful way to experience a bit of the local culture. It was a blast!

68 Skye Fiddle Festival Band

(Isle of Skye Accordian & Fiddle Festival in Portree)

In my novel, Kathryn attends the festival and dance. This whole scene, which was great fun to write, was added after our experience there. Before going to Skye, my novel was like a detailed pen and ink drawing. After the trip, I added color to the drawing! Writing this scene was definitely a splash of color.

I made another decision after the trip to Skye and attending the festival. I wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Just enough to play a highland reel on my great-grandfather’s fiddle…in honor of the ancestors. I realize it’s a bit late to be picking up the violin, but I was determined. A good friend from New Zealand graciously agreed to give me lessons. Of course, she usually taught violin to five year olds, but I told her that would be perfect!

She found some music and the lessons began. I read music and play the guitar, so at least I had a bit of a head start. But nothing could have prepared me for the difficulty of this instrument. I bought a violin off the internet for 20 Euros (made in China) in case things didn’t go well. But I am happy to say that I can now play a reel. It’s short and sounds a bit like a dying cat, but I can play it none-the-less. Now I just have to get my great-grandfather’s fiddle repaired and the magic will happen. I promise to post the video!

For more information about the Skye Festival go to http://www.skyemusic.co.uk/festival.asp.

Stephen King: On Writing

27 Stephen King On Writing Book

I’m afraid of the dark! There, I said it. Always have been, always will be. It goes along with my overactive imagination and my early years watching Horrorama on Friday night TV. I loved the old black and white classics. They were scary, but not in a this could happen to me sort of way. I mean I didn’t live in Transylvania or Germany. So Dracula and Frankenstein were scary fun movies. And, a whole ocean separated me from London, so party on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But then it happened. Psycho…showers became terrifying. And those movies where someone was hiding under the bed or behind a panel in the bedroom or…you fill in the blank. There was even a movie where they used binoculars to blind someone. I can’t describe the fear this produced. I gave up my dream of becoming a famous Ornithologist and tore up my members card to Bird Watchers of America.

I mention this because a few years back, Joe Landsdale, writer extraordinaire, recommended I read the book, Stephen King: On Writing. Seriously? Stephen King? Don’t get me wrong, I respect Mr. King and his amazing talent. But he writes scary things. Things that go bump in the night. Well, recently I was in Barnes and Noble, my home away from home, and I saw this book. I decided to be brave, because I’ve been practicing this lately, and read it.

This is where I have to tell you, there were a couple of times I had to put the book down and go get some chocolate and watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory (please don’t judge me). The book is part memoir, part lessons on writing. The memoir part explained so much about what he writes. It was really fascinating, in a scary sort of way. I must say, the book is FANTASTIC. I loved it. Truly. I highly recommend it if you love to write, and/or love to read, and/or love Stephen King.

Alright, there it is. Now that I’ve written this and been reminded of all the scariness I’ll leave you with this lovely imagery. I will be heading to bed at some point and will surely take a running leap so that no hand can possibly reach out from underneath and grab me. Just like when I was six, and seven, and ad infinitum. Even though, I’ve certainly looked under said bed earlier. BECAUSE YOU JUST NEVER KNOW, DO YOU?