26 October, 2008

buon giorno from a very happy camper!

Hello from paradise! We left a cold, gray and rainy Stuttgart yesterday morning. This morning we woke up to the sound of birds singing and the wind rustling the trees on our campsite direct on Lake Trasimeno in the heart of Italy. The sun is shining, the skies are clear blue and we enjoyed a leisurly breakfast wearing t-shirts in the sun!

After I beat M and the kids at cards we walked into Passignano sul Trasimeno and meandered through the ancient streets. Lunch consisted of excellent pizzas at a pizzaria-- and M breathed a sigh of relief, because for once I didn't need to guilt trip him into eschewing pizza in order to try local culinary delecacies.

With full bellies we hiked up a road above the city for a spectacular panoramic view. On the way back down, we passed some olive groves and heard laughing voices. We stopped to watch 8 spry senior citizens harvesting olives. They were lively and laughing- it was a scene straight out of a Bertolli commercial!

B, who can be quite shy, summoned up his courage and walked into the field for a closer look. Next thing I know, he's got a tool in his hand and has joined the crew! S and I both jumped in to help as well, and we spent a happy hour picking olives among this gaggle of happy, chattering people! it was a perfect serendipitous vacation moment.

The kids just went swimming and I'm going to end this to savor a glass of wine and watch the sun set across the lake. No need to search any further for utopia, because we've found it right here...

23 October, 2008

Note to self: "Bleib am Ball, Betsy!"

It's been gray and rainy outside but I've hardly noticed it. My floors are covered with a thick layer of doghair but I pay it no mind. The children... The children? Has anyone seen my children?

I've got the Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom exam coming up. It's a notoriously grueling 2 day affair, and my appointments are on November 3rd and 12th. In addition to class and regular homework I've also been taking private lessons with my teacher and have been doing long hours of review of grammar and literature. Everything else may have suffered, but at least I can finally consistently tell you the correct endings for just about anything you throw at me. (as long as a noun's gender doesn't throw me off before I even get started! :-P ACK!)

Up until last week I harbored what I consider a healthy stress / anxiety level in these preparations. Scared enough to re-read the literature that will be covered, yet deep down I think I'll do fine. Up until the phone call, that is.

Sunday evening, 8pm, we'd just walked back in the door from a trip to NL and my German teacher calls. She's having a panic attack and says there's one section on the test that I might not pass and maybe I should consider pulling out. ???!!! The next day would be the last day to withdraw, so maybe I should consider it?

I was coming down with a virus anyway and was feeling especially vulnerable, and this felt like an act of betrayal-- how could she have gone on tutoring me these last couple of months if she had any kind of doubt in my abilities?! And here I've been feeling pretty good about the whole thing-- could I be so wrong in my estimate of my own preparedness for the C2?

In the end I've decided to take it. It will be disappointing if I don't make it, but I'll never know until I try. Even if I do fail it doesn't negate all the headway I've been making, especially during the past two weeks of intensive study...

It may be folly, but the boys have their fall break next week and we're off to spend some time camping in Umbria. I'm hoping that Tuscan wine might turn out to be a reliable exam-stress elixir. I might be on the verge of a breakthrough, people! (if not a breakdown... ;-) )

17 October, 2008

Friday morning, 2am

AH-CHOOOOOOO! sniffle, snurf.

rustle, rustle. rustle, rustle.

M rolls over: Hey, are you OK?
Me: Wha? Oh yeah, fine, thanks. (shaking out the sheets)
M: What are you doing?
Me: You really want to know? (sniff, sniff, turning the pillow over)
M: I'm not sure now, but go ahead and tell me.
Me: Well, when I sneezed I had a cough drop in my mouth, and now I umm, I can't find it. I've looked everywhere! (running fingers through hair.)
M: Oh. That explains a lot.
Me: ???
M: I think it's hiding on your left cheek...

10 October, 2008

Home is where the heart is...

I am back and am finally starting to pull out of my jet-lag-induced zombie state. Fall blasted onto the scene while I was gone and the leaves are putting on a dazzling technicolor display. The boys had a great time with Oma and Opa and are bursting with all kinds of stories, jokes and philosophical musings. It's great to be back!

I had a really fun trip. I went down for the reunion and to visit my grandparents, but tacked on an extra day just to relax and explore. Drove around to old haunts and spent a morning at New Smyrna Beach. Dropped by to visit an old friend of the family and didn't leave-- within about an hour they'd convinced me to check out of my hotel and stay at their house. I hadn't seen these people in 23 years, yet they opened up their home to me as if I were family! It was fabulous!

The reunion itself was paradoxical. I got to meet up with a couple of old friends and really enjoyed hearing what some of my classmates had been up to over the past 20 years. On the other hand, it seems that the popular clique from elementary school still hang out with each other and are just as snooty and disparaging as ever.

I've come to the conclusion that the mind is like a goldfish: it will grow / expand to fit the proportions of any container in which you choose to put it. And Katie and Joey and Emily apparently still keep theirs in the original tiny plastic bag from the fairgrounds...

Thanks to my friends I had a great time at the reunion, but the whole thing just reminded me why I am so glad to have left Florida and that whole scene behind me. It also reminded me to count my blessings-- I am very happy with my lot in life! :-)

We're off to NL this weekend to see one of the last shows by Dogtroep. They're a theatre company that combine music and dance and they put on their performances in bizarre places. This one will be at the harbor in Amsterdam-- I'm really looking forward to it!

02 October, 2008

Hello from sunny Florida!

Hi guys! Just checking in from central Florida. I'm here for 5 days-- am visiting family and then this weekend will attend my 20th high school reunion. (YIKES! Where did the time go?!)

This morning I did a "This is your life" drive and visited my old schools and houses in which we used to live! It was a lot of fun!

I don't miss living in Florida, but I definitely miss the weather! It was mid-eighties all day today and gorgeous! (and I left Stuttgart wearing a scarf and jacket!) Man, I'm loving it!!!!!!!!!

See you next week when I get back! Have a nice week!