Observations from Marta

Here are a few observations from my train ride to school this morning:

To attend Woodward Academy you must:
  1. Be rich.
  2. Wear itchy uniforms.
  3. Switch cars every time the train stops.
  4. Have an iPhone/touch/pod.

If you sit in the seats with little leg room, it's likely you'll get the seat to yourself the whole time.

I really should stop reading books that reduce me to a blubbering mess. The kids look at me like I'm crazy with my sniffly nose and watery eyes.

That's all for now. :-)


Remember to play after every storm

Remember to play after every storm.
Storms aren't necessarily clouds with rain.
They're things that darken your day.

If you've read some of my posts when I initially started blogging, you might recall me mentioning a very special little boy, Mattie. If you don't recognize his name, you can visit his website and learn a bit about this amazing child. I first heard of Mattie when mom gave me a book of his poetry for my birthday. I have a deep passion for children who are differently-abled, so I was immediately drawn to Mattie's story of strength and courage.

Mattie will probably be the subject of numerous posts to come as I am currently reading Messenger written by his mother (who also suffers from the same rare form of muscular dystrophy...she has buried all four of her children). By the way, I don't recommend reading this book in public. I was in tears by the end of the first chapter, and all the Marta passengers around me were surely wondering about my mental state! Of course, this has yet to persuade me from reading on the train, but I thought I would give you fair warning.

So back to the storms. Mattie shared his life philosophy one day with a reporter, much to his mother's surprise as she had never heard him mention his "storms." Most people associate storms with fear, danger, gloom. Mattie looks past the storm. He sees the rain ceasing, straps on his boots, and jumps in the puddles! What a profound concept from a young boy who was confined to a wheelchair.

We all have our storms. Some come in the form of sadness, situational anger or despair, money woes, loneliness, failure, defeat. What a challenge he offers: play after the storm. No matter what it is that you face. If Mattie in his wheelchair strapped to 100 pounds of medical life support equipment can play after his storms, surely I can too.

If you would like to read more about Mattie, Messenger is currently available. Also, I would recommend reading his poetry starting with Heartsongs.


Birthday week!

Two of my very best friends are celebrating birthdays this week. What a special friendship we have shared for over 21 years!!! I love these girls like crazy. We have gone to school together since kindergarten and have been with each other through the ups and downs of middle school, prom, graduations, bad roommates, weddings, and now a baby. I feel like this should be throwback year.

So Miriam and Rachel, I propose we put on our pj's, grab some popcorn and M&M's, rent "Pillowtalk", and play spoons all night long (or until we quit, because those two get pretty violent!!!)

Of all the gifts life may bestow, none is as constant, steady, and sure as the tender heart of a friend.


The simple things

A few days ago, my facebook status read:

"I'm enjoying the simple things. This world and it's craziness do not have to control me."

Sometimes "stuff" just gets in the way, and I let it weasel its way in without a fight. My mom always tells Caroline and me that the only thing we can control in every situation is our attitude (I'm sure someone famous said this, but mom's pretty wise so we'll attribute it to her today). If I can control my attitude, then I should also be able to control what I let affect me. I have a choice in every situation. I can get mad that the train is late or enjoy the fact that I have an extra five minutes to read my book. I can honk at the guy trying to wedge his ginormous SUV into my lane, or I can let him and the next car over. I don't have to let myself get worked up about things that are really not that big of a deal. This allows me to really enjoy the simple things. It helps me to remain optimistic. It brings joy. So I thought I would list a few of the simple things in my life...and maybe you can add some of yours!

Simple Things I Enjoy
  • My cuckoo clock playing Edelweiss
  • The five minutes after our alarm goes off when the dogs jump on the bed to cuddle
  • Baking cookies and giving them away
  • The way Leo dances when he hears Charlie's keys in the door
  • Calling my sister just to chat
  • Reading my Real Simple magazine cover to cover the same day it comes in the mail
  • My morning good-bye hug with Charlie
  • Sitting on the train instead of sitting in traffic
  • Hanging on to all my coupons until the very end of checking out and then watching my bill go doooooowwwwwnn
  • Knowing the answer to the final Jeopardy question
What would you add to this list???



When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


To-Do Lists

Normally I LOVE marking things off my list. I will even go as far as putting things on there that I've already done just so I can mark them off. I'm not very organized (as the recipes strewn across the table testify) but lists make me happy.

Since I have a few more days until school starts, I decided to make a rather ambitious to-do list while I'm at home. Today's list read like this:
  • Go to dentist and pray my broken crown is not a big deal
  • Pick up package from post office
  • Get book from library
  • Deposit check
  • Organize recipes
I knew the last item on my list would take a long time, so I was really proud of myself when I had completed 1-4 and it was only 10:30 a.m. If I were to write down what I've actually done today, it would look a little more like this:
  • Play with the dogs
  • Eat cheeze-its
  • Look at recipes
  • Watch "Let's Make a Deal" and "The Price Is Right" (because we all know that I love a good game show!)
  • Make a New Year's card, order it online, and pick it up at Wal-Green's less than an hour later
  • Watch "The Great Muppet Caper" (I really have no idea what happened here)
  • Move recipes around
  • Wash sheets and comforter in guest room
  • Check facebook
  • Read blogs
  • Sit down to work on recipes for about an hour
  • Resort to blogging about procrastination and lists
There you have it, folks. I'm definitely not cut out to work at home.


Returning home and travel reflections

We've been home a few days now, and I've had some time to reflect on our amazing journey. First of all, I have finally uploaded pictures. You can view them by clicking here.

We ended our last day in Germany with Jenny and Felix. They were so gracious to host us again. We arrived at the beginning of the trip as strangers and left as family. I know this is especially true because Jenny got up at 6 a.m. to take us to the airport! We were met with heightened security and a pat down because of the recent threats, but travel was incredibly smooth. The jet lag however has been killer on this end of the trip. I've had a really hard time adjusting to my normal time!

We spent the weekend with my family catching up and playing games. We were so happy to see the pups again. It's incredible what an important part of our family they have become.

Everything about Christmas and New Year's was unconventional for us this year (we were asleep by 10:30 on NYE). In light of that,
I've decided that instead of a New Year's resolution list I will post some travel tips that I've learned from our experience.

1. Travel with someone you love. It makes every experience richer and more fun. This was a dream for Charlie and me, and I am so thankful that we experienced it together.

2. Take two pairs of comfortable shoes and a pair of slippers. Don't scrimp here.

3. Travel by train. It's economic, safe, and so unlike anything you will do in the states. It allows you to meet others and share stories.

4. Stay in a good hostel. The only time we spend in our rooms was to sleep. We found good safe hostels that served breakfast. Load up on breakfast and grab a roll for the road. You can spend that money somewhere else!

5. Tear out the sections that you need from your guidebooks to make "mini" books. They fit better in your pocket and take up less space. This is a Rick Steve's trick.

6. Speaking of Rick Steve's, read "Europe Through the Back Door" before you go. (Thanks, Oma and Opa!) And buy his travel guides. They are fantastic.

7. Have a backup plan in case you drop your digital camera on centuries-old cobblestone and it breaks.

8. Don't eat at any restaurant that you can eat at here. Unless you're desperate and nothing else is open. But there will always be something else open. That's when you might have your most exciting meal!

9. Live like a local. Buy fresh bread at the bakery. Shop at Aldi. Walk everywhere. Go to sporting events and the baths.

10. Don't be embarrassed to take pictures, but remember that the best pictures are the ones in your mind. (That's a mom-ism!)

11. If you are going somewhere in the winter that is likely to get snow, you should probably take ski pants.

12. Pay for everything in cash. It's a great feeling to come home and know that you're not getting an enormous credit card bill. But if you must purchase something big, like a cuckoo clock, use your Capitol One card that doesn't charge a conversion or foreign transaction fee.

13. Even if you don't journal (I hate it), jot down what you do everyday. That way you won't leave anything out later when you are retelling your travel stories. Make note of fun, interesting, humorous, and challenging events.

14. Be flexible. Things will go wrong. If you expect it, you won't be surprised or grumpy and can make a quick adjustment. Remember that the only thing you can control in every situation is your attitude!

15. When in a bind, Gummi Bears are a perfectly acceptable substitution for a well-balanced meal.

Wherever you wander, there's no place like home. Love!



We spent the last few days of our trip in the Black Forest. I briefly mentioned in the last post that we hiked up the mountain to our hostel, but I don't feel like that explanation did it justice. Let's be clear here...it is 5 km from the train station (in the valley) to the hostel (at the tippity top of the ice covered mountain). And we both had two bags at this point because of all the Christmas goodies we had purchased. By the time we reached the hostel, my quads were screaming for mercy! But that's enough of that...

We set out on Tuesday to see the sights in the Black Forest. It had snowed overnight, so now we had snow/ice/snow layers which makes walking fun. :-) Triberg has a little bit of a Gatlinburg feel, which is unfortunate, because Gatlinburg is home to lots of mullets and tacky stores. It was a little more touristy than we thought it would be, but we had lots of laughs! You get this great Konas card when you stay at a hostel in the Schwarzwald which allows you to use all local transportation for free AND get free tickets to two different ski lifts. This sounded like a great idea, since it costs an arm and a leg to get lift tickets in the states (and you can't ski very well with one arm and one leg!). So we hopped on the bus and headed to Schonwald.

I have never been skiing. I water ski and wakeboard, but I've never snow skiied. My dad grew up skiing, Charlie skis, Kevin is a ski patrol, Adam and Sarah ski...of course, I'm thinking, "How hard can this be?" Oh boy. First, in the Schwarzwald, kids learn to ski before they walk. We go into the ski store to rent skis, and the girl helping us is about 9 years old. The look on her face when Charlie told her I had never skied before was PRICELESS!!! I was the laughing stock of the store as I tried to figure out how to put the boots on and then how to walk in them! I really wanted to snowboard because I knew that trying to make two skis operate together was going to be a little much for my coordination. But I was stuck with skis.

Skis - check. Poles - check. Boots - check. Confidence - check. Time to hit the slopes! The lift is little and takes you to the top of the hill, then you ski down either side. Not too high or complicated or difficult. Plus there's tons of little kids skiing and snowboarding. Piece of cake. Charlie gives me a brief lesson on balancing and stopping, and then I suggest that we ride the lift to the top and I will learn as I go. I mean, all I have to do is point my skis towards the bottom of the hill, swivel by hips back and forth, not run into anything, and look totally awesome doing it. The picture of me skiing in my mind looked great!

The lift is a t-bar, or so they tell me, and it zipped us right to the top. This is the point when I wished most that we still had the digital camera. The view was so pretty! And have I mentioned that it was raining? Because it was. So the snow was a little melty and the rain was slushy and the slopes were, um, icy? Whatever. I can do this.

Charlie starts by teaching me how to turn so that I don't run into trees, small children, and the poles supporting the lift. But I can only kinda sorta turn to the left, and stopping is a disaster, so I feel like Zoolander. And then the drama. I'll go right, back towards the middle of the slope. Except I start speeding down the slope towards all the people coming up on the lift. And I can't turn. Or stop. Oops. So I'm desperately trying to fall so that at least I can tumble slowly into the poor people. Next thing I know, I'm face down in the snow with my skis spread out behind me. I'm laughing because A) I didn't die, B) I didn't hurt anyone, and C) I know I look absolutely ridiculous!!!

I don't care about falling, or about people laughing at me, but I tremendously cared about blowing out my knees in a foreign country. Bless my heart. Charlie rescued me, and I picked up my skis and walked down the rest of the way, laughing at the irony of the situation. I'm incredibly sad I was not able to document with pictures because I'm pretty sure I could have won some money from America's Funniest Home Videos. Or at least become a YouTube star.

Lessons learned from skiing:

1. Take lessons.
2. Start on the bunny hill.
3. Snowboard.