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Sticky Jam Hands Goes Abroad*

Disclaimer: this is where this blog temporarily turns into a personal travel log. The following entry details my recent trip to Czech republic and Germany. If you want to skip the (lengthy) narrative and just look at the pictures that’s okay. If you are already bored and want to go back to watching cute cat videos that’s okay, but if you want to know where I went and what I saw than read on. If you want to hire me to travel to foreign lands and write about what I see and do than email me at Becca@stckyjamhands.com

 

Swarthmore to Germany
April 1, 2017

The hardest part about getting to the Czech republic was leaving Lucy at the airport – she’s 6 now and upset about her Mom going away, I hope someday she understands, someday when I’m old(er) and we book a trip like this together. Actually the hardest part was convincing my husband that having me gone for two weeks was going to be no big deal.

Getting to Prague was long but fairly uneventful. There was a concern that our original flight was going to be delayed and we would miss our German connection – this necessitated a 90 minute phone call to Luftansa to get us rerouted through Munich on a different airline, but it ended up being no big deal.

We flew from Philadelphia to Munich Germany leaving at 6:30pm Saturday night; I had two glasses of wine at the airport and swallowed a muscle relaxer on the plane, two more glasses of wine on the plane and I even managed to sleep a little bit.

Mom, was already impatient and ‘ready-to-be-there’ the second we got on the plane, but after wine at the airport and a dose of melatonin she reclined her seat, covered herself with a blanket and tried to get some rest however about 10 minutes into the flight when the beverage cart rode by us she immediately perked up (and I mean the literal second –  it was barely passed my head when her eyes shot open and her snack tray was down. She didn’t hesitate to let our steward know that it was her 75th birthday and that we were embarking on a Big Trip – you know in order to get free wine, but she needn’t have worried, not only was all the wine we got free it was poured with a HEAVY hand, I’m talking the big water cups full to the top, we only had two a piece but it must have come to about 20 ounces of wine for both of us.

Night night to us.

Munich to Prague
April 2, 2017

We landed in Munich sometime EARLY on the morning of April 2nd, we were barely awake or cognizant when we got off the plane and realized that to get to our next gate we needed to catch a bus to another part of the airport. In order to get to the bus we needed to go through security and both of us got patted down by a very handsy security agent.

After getting felt up and a navigating a very confusing bus ride we managed to find a cup of coffee and our gate to Prague. Getting to the plane however, involved another bus ride out to a distant air field to climb aboard a small commuter plane that was only half full. Mom and I had scored the emergency exit row, we stretched our legs out in front of us and fell asleep for most of the entire 40 minute flight into the Czech Republic.

We were concerned that after the mix up with the flight changes we would miss our airport pick up but thankfully there was a Viking agent waiting at the airport for us, we did miss the shuttle bus but she got us in a taxi whose cost was immediately refunded to us as soon as we got to the hotel.

We were already checked in to the hotel Corinthia when we completed the 30 minute drive from the airport, our program director Rik was there to greet us with our hotel keys, maps, itineraries, time tables etc.

Before we could make our way up to our 5th floor room we ran in to Tom and Kate in the lobby, we gave them a warm hello and sent them to the bar while we headed upstairs for a quick shower a change of clothes and cup of coffee.

The hotel was a tall 25 story newer hotel that was both more modern and farther from town than I expected, our room was nice with a large King bed and great water pressure in the shower. The distance to old town was taken care of by a complimentary Viking shuttle that ran from morning to night. Once, clean and caffeinated we headed downstairs and collected our friends from the bar and we all boarded the 3:00 shuttle to old town.

We arrived at the town center in the middle of their Easter Market, it was crowded but not unmanageable, we wandered around for a little while before we decided to grab a seat at an outdoor café across from the astronomical clock, we ordered a cheese plate and I got a beer while we talked and caught up, we stayed there long enough to watch the clock go off at 4;00, as Tom said “the most excited 20 seconds of our day”

We paid the check and once again walked around the Easter market, Mom and I picked up a few souvenirs before we headed down a side alleyway to get out of the main fray, we were headed toward a bar that Kate had heard about but that wasn’t open so we walked past in until we came upon another outside café where we took over one umbrella covered table. We had a few rounds of drinks and I had my first experience with the difficulty of the Czech language when I headed inside to the bathroom and was presented with two words I had never seen before, no pictures no other clues. I chose one at random (the one to the left) and got in and out of there as fast as possible in case I had chosen wrong. Fortunately, a quick google search back at the table told me my hunch had been correct.

We finished our drinks and headed back to the square to catch the 6:30 shuttle which (due to a communication error) never came, we ended up taking a taxi and after some hard nose negotiating on Kate’s part we got for a reasonable price.

Once back at the hotel we grabbed our jackets and headed out to a local traditional Czech restaurant that Tom and Kate had discovered the night before – you knew it was going to be good when you walked in because no one eating spoke English and there was a steady stream of locals coming in to pick up take out orders.

Mom ordered a ‘pork knee’ – literally the knee of some giant prehistoric pig skewered via some kind of scabbard to a cutting board and served with a large hunting knife. It was enough meat to feed a small village, Mom ate most of it. I ordered a delicious pork belly and we all drank beer, and then some more beer…

After dinner, we literally stumbled back to the hotel where I had enough time only to take my contacts out before falling unconscious in to bed.

Prague
April 3, 2017

Our first full day in Prague began with breakfast in the hotel where we met Tom and Kate and I discovered I could get baked beans and brown bread. We drank a lot of coffee and all jumped on the 10:00 shuttle.

The four of us parted ways at the town square – as I was on a mission to find the Narodni Knihovna – the national library of Prague which according to a very cryptically vague book I read was located down a small twisty alley not far from the Charles Bridge. This describes nearly everything close to the Charles Bridge, we literally wondered in circles for over an hour before I decided we needed coffee and found a small out of the way cafe where we stopped and got two lattes and rested out feet while sitting in the window seat, after taking advantage of a free bathroom I asked our waitress if she knew where the library was and she said, “of course, it right around the corner – out the door and to the left…” on a square we had walked through at least twice.

Despite this new information it still took us over 20 minutes to discover where we where supposed to go. We managed to gain entry to the card catalog room which was pretty awesome, millions of cards mostly written out by hand but unfortunately after a discussion with the circulation desk we discovered that the main reading room that I had hoped to see was under construction and closed to tourists.

Honestly, I was just thrilled at that point to actually have found it.

After being turned away we headed back outside and several wrong turns later end up in Wenceles Square where we randomly ran in to Kate and Tom who we were on their way to meet us back at the Easter market, we all walked together and headed to lunch at another small out of the way pub they had discovered the day before. We all had sausage and chips and beer and it was delicious.

After lunch we decided to use the free tickets to the chocolate museum that the hotel had comped Kate and Tom. We headed over to it and the best thing that I can say about the chocolate museum (except for the truffles that they gave you when you entered) was that it was free. The entire thing took 10 minutes to go through and reminded me of a junior high school science project. There is a museum for everything in Prague, by the way, from torture to sex machines to chocolate and everything in between. We exited quickly through the gift shop and made our way to the river, Tom and Kate had to head back to the hotel to catch their plane home and wanted a few more pictures. We said good bye and they went their way and Mom and I headed to the Charles Bridge – the Charles bridge is nothing short of spectacular (as bridges go) with two big gates on either end and statue after statue lining the sides of the low bridge.

We walked over the bridge past vendors selling everything from original watercolors to cheap jewelry and made our way to the other side of the river, as soon as we were across it started to rain, just a light, chilly drizzle which for me dressed in a tank top and light cardigan quickly became cold, we started up the hill meandering our way to the ‘castle’ on top. The castle is more of what I would call a palace, not a place of fortification but a place to entertain. We did not go inside but stopped to have our bags searched and padded down simply to walk through the grounds. The outside of the palace was pretty uniform and nothing particular caught my eye until we made out way to the opposite side to the citadel which was Hogwarts impressive and impossible to capture on film even with the good camera.

We went inside and walked around the outside and took a number of pictures and decided to head on, the rain getting harder and the temperature falling as well, before we were out of the palace grounds we found a small coffee shop were we stopped for lattes and the chance to warm up. My feet were cold and getting soar and even though Mom had a rain resistant wind breaker on it had no hood and neither of us were carrying an umbrella.

After finishing our drinks we headed back in to the rain and made our way as quickly as possible down the hill. Across the bridge and back to the bar that Kate had tried taking us to the night before. Called ‘the anonymous bar’ it is themed after the movie “V for Vendetta” and is very cool inside with large red velvet furniture, heavy drapery and smoky mirrors. The bar is known for its cocktails and the menu was extensive. Unable to make up our minds we asked the waiter for suggestions, he asked if it would be okay to surprise us, so we told him what we liked and he brought out two very unique cocktails, mine a vodka base with some serious citrus kick that had been blended slushy style and Mom’s which had a base of scotch and some kind of marmalade in it. Both drinks were delicious but together cost more than lunch for 4 had earlier; we only had one and left.

Back outside it was raining steadily, we had decided to go to an Indian restaurant for dinner and made our way there running from awning to awning to try and stay as dry as possible. The place we went was called the “Indian Jewel” and it was pretty good, we split a bottle of wine and some above average Indian food.

We caught the 7:30 shuttle back to the hotel, changed in to warm, dry clothes and headed to the lobby bar for a glass of wine (or two).

Prague
April 4th

Tuesday began much like Monday, with breakfast in the hotel and a ride on the 10:00 shuttle, this time just the two of us.

We headed into old town and once again crossed the Charles bridge with our destination goal being the Stahov monastery. We knew it was on top of the hill across the river somewhere and decided instead of walking through town we’d take the scenic route and go through a park located just south of the city. Walking on cobblestones all day the night before had started wearing on our feet.

The walk (through cherry trees) took us about a mile and half straight up, we passed a cute restaurant that wasn’t open and eventually arrived at a large fortification wall. We hung a right and followed it to an observation tower that looked out over all of Prague.

Over coffees we consulted a map and decided that in order to the get the monastery we had to continue around the top of the hill to the south until we would eventually just run in to it (I have to pause here and tell you how terrible and completely useless the map we had was). We once again headed out and walked and walked and walked, we walked so far that eventually we ran in to a defunct sports stadium across the street from some student housing. We had walked off the side of our shitty map; we knew we must have gone the wrong way.

The major factor of turning back was that I needed to go to the bathroom desperately bad and I walked in to the student housing complex until I found their dining hall and was able to jjimmy the lock on the ladies room to get in. I’ve never been so happy to get to a public bathroom.

We decided to head back straight over the top of the hill instead of taking the long way around (the way we had come). It took us all of 10 minutes to get back to the observation tower where we had started from. We asked a lovely German couple who spoke no English where the monastery was and they pointed in the opposite direction we had come from.

Low and behold 50 meters down the path to the left of the observation tower was the monastery. All in all we walked about four miles that we didn’t have to.

Happy to find our destination we made a beeline to the monastic brewery – this amazing restaurant/pub was deep underground in the hills above the monastery itself in the old catacombs of the church. Lit by candlelight and warmed by a kerosene heater the place was amazing. We ordered a cheese and sausage plate and both had 2 beers before we felt sufficiently refreshed and once again headed backup in to the sunlight.

We tried to get into the monastery museum with a credit card and ended up at an ATM around the corner, where due to a mathematical error I withdrew 5 times the amount of cash than I intended to. Oops.
Inside we found our fist, grumpy unfriendly Czechs – for the most part everyone we had run in to had been pleasant and accommodating and were just in general nice people. The women who ran the museum were older, heavyset women who weren’t taking any bullshit and clearly were not at work to have a good time.

We quickly toured the museum (two roped off libraries, a hallway containing a random assortment of odd collectibles and a small gift shop) before purchasing a few postcards and two posters, we got out of there quickly.

Eager to have (another) afternoon beer I suggested that we head back down the hill to a small local pub called the ‘bar bar’ located on the canal a stones throw from the Charles Bridge. We found it with little problem and I ordered a large beer while Mom got a coffee and we rested our feet and relaxed for a few minutes.

We decided to have dinner at a restaurant recommended by Viking not far from the square, but after getting back across the bridge we somehow got completely turned around (super easy to do) we wondered round looking for a familiar landmark for a good 30 minutes before accidentally stumbling upon a Harley Davidson shop. Mom had been looking for one and it was very fortuitous that it should show up now, not only did she buy some souvenirs but we also got direction to the the place we were headed.

Once more on the right track we headed outside and quickly found our way to the restaurant, there was a brief wait before we got seated. Mom ordered the goulash and I got a sausage which was okay – we split a bottle of wine.

We headed back to the hotel on the 8:30 shuttle where we changed in to our ‘lobby attire’ and headed downstairs for a last glass of wine. We did not linger long in the bar after our drinks.

Prague
April 5th

Our third day began with hotel breakfast and a ride in to town on the 10:00 shuttle.

We had considered going on the Viking sponsored walking tour but decided that by that time we had already seen everything they were going to show us so we skipped it.

Instead we headed to a place called “Bar and Books” that I really wanted to check out but we discovered that they didn’t open until 5pm, so we headed to a different outdoor café on Wencles square, had two lattes and people watched for a little bit. We then headed to souvenir heaven, a different outdoor Easter market where we purchased a number of trinkets for people back home.

We meandered our way back to the old town square and decided to get tickets to climb to the top of the astronomical clock tower. After a brief wait in line we climbed up a bunch of steps and had a great view over all of old town.

We left the tower and headed across the bridge to go to an outdoor restaurant I had seen the day before nestled under the bridge that I wanted to check out.  The place ended up being a French cafe, we sat next to the canal with views of the river and had some more wine and sausage. Afterwards after I took some picture from under the bridge then we headed back across the river to check out the old town brewery, we went there for two beers before heading back to the old town market for one last souvenir before we realized that we still had an hour to kill before we needed t o get back to the hotel.

We decided to have coffee somewhere on the square and chose a fancy outside café (the White Horse) but when we asked for a table they asked if we wanted to sit in their cellar (dating circa 1200 or something). Of course we said ‘sure!’

Once in the cellar we decided that we should have wine, so we ordered a glass (or two) and enjoyed the midevil atmosphere until it was time to grab the 4:30 shuttle.

Once at the hotel we changed in to clean clothes and headed back to the lobby. We ordered a glass of wine while we waited for the bus to the ‘folklore dinner’ to arrive.

The ‘folklore dinner’ ended up being cheesy dinner theater in a small barn with terrible wine. We sat with a lovely English couple named John and Lorraine whom we would get to know much better as the trip went on.

Once dinner was over, we were back on the bus, me humming “have nagela” over and over as it had been played during the show and gotten stuck in my head. (this drove Mom crazy)

Once back at the hotel we cracked open the mini fridge and had some wine and listened to some music before calling it a night.

Prage – Decin
April 6th

Our last day in Prague we got up early, packed our bags and got them down to the Viking Desk by 8am. We then stopped by the breakfast buffet for coffee and toast before checking out and paying our 1630 krona bar bill.

We took the 9:00 shuttle in to town with two more people from our boat – Sue and Tom,  we chatted with them on the way in and once on the square invited them to come with us, our goal for the day was to once again walk up to the monastery and have lunch underground in the brewery before we had to leave the city.

Tom and Sue also wanted to go up and see the museum so we offered to lead them, it took 5 minutes for Mom to get lost and lead us in the wrong direction. Tom ended up getting us back on track and we all successfully climbed up to the top of the neighboring hill. We left Tom and Sue at the museum and since it was too early for the brewery to be open Mom and I double backed down the hill slightly until we found a small, cute coffee shop where we sat and drank a latte (and used the bathroom).

The brewery opened at 11:00 and we ended up having to wait outside for a few minutes after our coffee, while standing there we made friends with the neighborhood cat and were the first ones to enter as soon as the door opened.

We sat in the same table we had sat two days before, we each got wine – Mom had onion soup served to her in a bread bowl and I got a ‘salad’ which ended up being a bowl of greens topped with a large round of fried goat cheese, it was delicious.

After a second glass of wine we walked back down the hill, back across the bridge and after a quick bathroom break headed back to the town square. I bought one last souvenir (wooden tulips for Lucy) and tried a cup of hot wine (terrible) while we waited for the 1:00 shuttle to the hotel.

We sat in the hotel bar and had coffee and then more wine while we waited for the 2:30 Viking bus that would take us to the ship to arrive.

As we left Prague these are the reflections that I noted in my journal:

  • The toilet paper there is terrible, like thin dollar store paper towels
  • The diet of the Czech people consists mainly of meat, potatoes, cheese, dumplings and gravy but despite all of this they seem pretty healthy and of average size. My theory for this is that because their bathrooms are so small they cannot afford to get fat.
  • Literally everyone in Prague speaks in English which makes it a very easy city to ease in to and to navigate, it also takes a little bit if the fun out of foreign travel, it also makes me feel like a stupid American for just speaking one language, and not even doing that one well.
  • There are no stop signs in the city and yet remarkably no one runs in to each other despite some (what I thought were) very close calls.
  • All of the trash trucks were Mercedes Benzs and the police cars were Peugeots.
  • Walking in the city is treacherous, no one stops for you. Trams especially will not stop, we actually learned that if a tram diver hits a person they get a 4 day paid leave, its like a little bonus for hitting tourists.
  • The sidewalks are all paved with Marble mosaics – they are beautiful and incredibly labor intensive to maintain, they’ve been there for 100’s of years and really add to the city’s beauty, they do, however, get slippery when its raining and if you are walking down from the castle on a day when it is drizzling (for instance) you need to be careful.
  • There are hundreds of spires in the city and most all of them are topped with gold, this is spectacularly impressive around sunset (and probably sunrise) when the sun is reflected off them.

Memorable Prague Moments:

  • The first time coming back across the Charles bridge the elastic in Mom’s underwear gives way and the only reason she was able to keep them on was because she was wearing pants, she spent the rest of the afternoon walking like she had to pee.
  • On the way to the dinner theater the couple behind us was having a political discussion and couldn’t remember the CA representatives name, they eventually gave up and started talking about other things, 20 minutes later out of no where Mom shouts out –“Barbara Boxer!” no one knew what the hell she as talking about.
  • The third day in to our trip I got my period (a full 10 days early) I had some stuff with me but not enough. While we were having lunch at the monastery I noticed a bowl of tampons by the sink, the second time we went there I took the whole bowl full – I stole all the feminine products that the monks had.

Decin

It took us two hours driving through the Czech countryside to reach the small riverside town of Decin. Decin was small but had a large monastery that was beautiful and a castle high above town (really a restaurant) that was quite photogenic.

We hopped off the bus and on to the boat, we met the captain and the manager and where given our room keys. The stateroom itself was tiny – 2 single beds with just enough space for one person to walk around them, they delivered our bags to the room and we had to unpack them and store them under the beds because there was no room to put them anywhere else.

As we were unpacking the best part of the entire trip happened, our house keeper, Anna, came in to introduce herself and remind us to put a note on the door when we went to breakfast , she was a little terse and seemed stressed out, my Mom said something like, “I’m old – tell her (pointing to me), she’s young she’ll remember”, Anna looked at her and said “huh, I am not thinking that you are more than 80 years old” Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I tried hard not to pee myself laughing.

As soon as we were done unpacking we made our way to the front of the boat, where the lounge/bar was. We quickly met the one other Mom/daughter duo on the boat – Mina and Jeannie, we sat with them and ordered a glass of wine.

After everyone was aboard and settled the captain and senior staff came to the lounge, introduced themselves and we had a champagne toast to ‘send us off’ the captain’s name was Joseph, the ships manager was Stefan, we already knew Rik and we met the chef (someoneorother) and the head housekeeper neither of which I remember.

After the welcome and toast we decided to go ‘dress for dinner’ so we did. We met John and Lorraine in the dining room and ate dinner with them, I had shrimp and bacon for dinner and we discovered the excellent bread that was available on the boat (it was really really good!!)

After dinner Mom and I had talked about leaving the boat to explore the small town of Decin but we decided to stay because the ‘entertainment’ for the evening was a local Czech woman who came to talk about the Velvet Revolution. I honestly cannot remember what she said (I’m sure it wasn’t because I was sucking down wine after wine all evening). I remember thinking that she did a good job. Soon after she was done both Mom and I went to bed.

April 7th
Decin – Bad Schandau – Dresden

Friday, Mom’s birthday day. We woke up to cold and rain and it never warmed up or got dry all day. We were set to embark at 7:00 and Mom and I had set our alarm so we could watch.

I was up and watching from inside (because of the cold and the rain) but Mom went outside to watch Captain Joseph turn the boat around, remarkable because the river was barely wider that the boat itself.

We traveled up the river while we ate breakfast, we ate with Stefan – the boat manager, who was very interesting and we learned that he was gay and lived in the Philippines with his partner who would meet him in Germany and work on the boat on their way back to Prague, he was really looking forward to this.

After breakfast we arrived at our morning destination – a small village named Bad Schandau in a region just over the German boarder in and area known as “Saxony Switzerland” because of its geographical resemblance to Switzerland.

We left the boat when we docked, where given big red Viking umbrellas and boarded a bus which drove us up up up until we got to a park made of giant rock formations and  was once the site of an old defensive fort. The views were spectacular and the day was foggy and cold so there were not many other visitors (I’ve been told it can get shoulder to shoulder crowded up there). It was hard to capture the area through photos and is something everyone should see themselves (which I guess is why it gets so crowded) it reminded me a little bit of Arizona, but lusher and more green.

We walked – slogged –  through the park and then made our way to the restaurant that is located up there, we had some coffee while sitting with two other guests (I can’t remember who) as well as two members from the crew – Zoltan the bartender and Telma the guest services coordinator, both of which were very nice people. Zoltan spent a good 20 minutes telling us all the drinks he could make for us on the boat, it really solidified our friendship.

Eventually we made our way back to the bus and then back to the ship where I literally wrung the water out of my socks and changed my entire outfit to get dry. I put on my only sweater I had brought (I did not pack correctly for this trip) and headed back to the lounge to drink the afternoon away.

Over several glasses of wine we sat with and got to know a couple (Beth and Mike) from Knoxville TN, they were great and became our go-to partners on the trip.  A little before dinnertime we sailed in to Dresden. Captain Joseph sailed in to Dresden, past the city and then backed up and docked on the south end so that we could get pictures. Unfortunately, it was still raining, dreary and hard to see. I went up on the sun deck  and took some pictures, I was up there MUCH longer than I planned and got soaking wet.

Dinner Friday was ‘German night, Mom got dressed up for her birthday but after getting soaking wet twice in the same day, I put on jeans and a nice shirt, I simply could not put on a dress. We sat with Mike, Beth, Charlie and his grandson Justin –  ate sausages and potatoes and drank many glasses of beer, the captain and crew toasted Mom for her birthday and we all had a very good time.

Back in the lounge after dinner it was ‘trivia’ night – we listened to small snippets of songs and had to come up with song name, artist and artists and nationality. Surprisingly, our group won, I don’t know how, we were all pretty drunk by the end. Rik MC’d the night and we all laughed a lot.

At the end of the game I got a text from my husband that he could call me – I hadn’t spoken to him or Lucy in a few days so I quickly got up to go back to the cabin (with the intention that I would return later) but after sitting down and trying to have a coherent conversation I thought maybe drinking  more wasn’t the best idea and when Mom came in and started getting ready for bed I decided I should do the same thing.

April 8th
Dresden

Saturday morning dawned gray and chilly but fortunately dry. We got dressed and had breakfast before going on a walking tour with an excellent guide who was a Dresden native. She gave us a wonderful tour through the city center and then into the museum where we saw many gold drinking vessels and the crown jewels – a giant green diamond. We also went through the main church in the city center – a protestant structure that looked as though Liberace decorated it personally. We went to the opera house and saw the many palaces August the Strong had built for all of his mistresses.

The tour wound back to the boat around lunch time and we decided to eat there, have a glass of wine (or 3) and some coffee before heading back in to town on our own. We needed to get some local currency and our search for an ATM machine inadvertently lead us to a big, modern shopping mall which we quickly walked in and out of and then decided to walk across the bridge to see the golden statue of Augustus the Strong atop his horse.  We stayed on the other side of the river just long enough to take some pictures and then walked back to the city center, we wondered around for a little bit and ended up at a little cafe in Augustus’s pleasure baths where we where going to order a beer and relax, but before we got service we both decided that it made more sense to go drink on the boat where we had already paid for our booze, also our feet hurt and were ready to rest for a little bit.

The afternoon had warmed up and the sun had come out so when we got back to the boat we found seats outside on the front deck and I had the chance to update my journal and sketch a quick skyline of the city.

Mom went inside to attend a lace making demonstration while I enjoyed some peace and quiet and drank for two outside (I just kept letting them fill my her wine glass the whole time )like she had simply run to the bathroom.

It was an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon. We had dinner with Beth and Mike and Jane and Dennis, Mom and I both had the rack of lamb which was delicious and we had another great meal with friends.

After diner we headed back to the lounge to hear some local musicians play – two violins and an oboe. I stayed awake by sketching the flowers on the bar but almost everyone else present started nodding off. As soon as they were done the entire ship went to bed except for Jeannie and I – I met her at the bar and they two of us and Zoltan (our favorite bartender) stayed up late, swapping stories of child rearing and dysfunctional childhoods, it was a lot of fun. I don’t know what time I headed to bed.

April 9th
Meissen

It was a little rough getting up Sunday morning, my plan had been to be up early to see us pull away from Dresden but I did not make it. Mom was up though and said it was pretty cool.

I finally got up around 7:45 and met her downstairs for breakfast. We arrived in Meissen not long after departing Dresden and at 8:45 we boarded a bus for a tour. Our first stop was to the porcelain manufacturer that Meissen is famous for. We got a tour of how the porcelain is made and an opportunity to spend money in their shop. The tour was interesting but porcelain is not my thing and after seeing how cute Meissen is I would have preferred to skip the hour or two that we spent there and done some more exploring.

Eventually we left the porcelain manufacturer and headed in to town, we had an excellent guide who walked us from the bus up to the castle. Meissen is a beautifully quaint midevil town that was undamaged in the war, it winds up a hill and there are many vistas where you can overlook all the crooked streets and all the red roofs.

We made our way down the hill into the main town square where they had an Easter market going on, we had a few minutes (not enough time) to walk around on our own, I bought some wooden Easter eggs and Mom and I had a glass of the local wine (not good) before it was time to get back on  the bus.

Back aboard it was sunny and warm and I sat out on the front deck in a rocking chair, drinking wine  and watching the river go by. We sailed through lots of un-populated areas where there was just trees full of mistletoe balls something I had never seen before and that I assumed where birds nests before I was corrected.

Mom left me alone to go attend a cooking demonstration and I came close to my perfect moment when at one point I was the only one outside, warm and with a full glass of wine in my hand, we sailed by a German family out for a bike ride, I waved and they waved back – simple but perfect.

Around 4:00pm we docked in another small midevil town called Torgau, Rik our director offered to do an informal walking tour of the town center and we went with him. The big claim to fame of the town is that it was where the Russians and the American’s met at the end of the war.

Sidenote- after the end of the war, during soviet occupation the Russians released propaganda that never mentioned the American’s had been there, the citizens didn’t find out until 1989 the American’s had liberated them.

We went to the war memorial and then into the palace where they still have bears in the moat to guard the town (we didn’t see the bears – it was cold). Mom and I walked up the outside spiral staircase which was beautiful and amazing because it was constructed 100’s of years ago without a center support.

We walked from the castle to the main square we were came upon an Easter celebration. Local kids where playing in hay and local adults were drinking at a beer garden set up under tents. It was beautiful and I felt like we had gone back in time and intruded on something special.

Some guests stayed in town but Mom and I walked back to the ship for more cocktails and the daily briefing, we ate dinner with Beth, Mike Judy & Dennis. I had a shrimp roll, Chinese noodles and and excellent chocolate souffle (more like a lava cake) we all liked it so much that we asked our servers if we could have it again the following night.

After dinner we retired to the lounge for a photo competition, once again MC’d by Rik, I had entered two photos that were well received but not the best ones, there were also some funny ones and with Rik’s commentary we all laughed a lot.

After the competition most everyone went back to their cabins and I – once again – met Jeannie at the bar and she and Zoltan and I closed the ship down for the night. I managed to crawl in to bed without waking Mom.

April 10th
Elbe River – Wittenberg

We pulled away from Torgau at 8am, Mom got up and dressed and left me to sleep in, but I was already awake. Instead of getting up I decided to lay in bed and open the blinds in our room, I laid in bed and watched the German countryside go by – it was lovely and relaxing. I had slept wrong the night before and my neck was very very sore, it was nice to just lay there.

Eventually I managed to get up and put some clothes on and met Mom downstairs in the dining room. I ate a bagel and some granola and started to feel better. At 10:00am after some Tylenol we joined the other passengers in the lounge for a short history of Germany (1945- present day) and then we had a quick discussion about the debarkation process (aka – pay your bill!).

After Rik’s talk we were served an early lunch. Mom and I decided to eat upstairs in the lounge instead of down in the dining room. I made myself a salad and ate it with a couple of glasses of wine and watched the captain sail us in to Wittenberg.

Wittenberg lays at the mouth of the Elbe and a small tributary, to dock the captain went past the tributary, back up in to it, turned the boat completely around and went back out to the Elbe so we would exit on the correct side of the ship. It was cool to see because the tributary was literally no wider than the boat itself. I watched all of this from the sundeck.

After lunch and a few more glasses of wine we left the boat and boarded a bus to go downtown Wittenberg where we met our tour guide, Christian for a tour that was 99.5% about Martin Luther. Christian was very enthusiastic but very hard to understand and after about 10 minutes I had learned everything I wanted to know about the protestant reformation but the tour went on nonetheless.

We started the tour at the castle church where Luther had been a teacher, walked all the way through the town center and ended at the Martinhaus where he and his wife had raised 6 children, it went on and on and on. We did get one small break in the town center where Mom and I had a truly awful cup of coffee and navigated a treacherous spiral staircase to use the bathroom. While we were in town the temperature dropped and the wind picked up and by the end everyone was freezing.

By the time we returned to the ship, Mom and I rushed to the bar for wine and then took it to our cabin where we started packing up our things. I took a hot shower to help relax my neck that was still very sore and after we were mostly packed and changed in to warmer clothes we headed back to the lounge to meet up with our friends and a toast from the captain for having us aboard. While we were drinking in the lounge we met Donna and Dennis from Toronto whom I liked immediately and when we finally went down to dinner we got one of the larger tables and Beth, Mike, Judy, Dennis,Donna and Dennis all sat with us. It was a great dinner – both food and company wise. I had scallops and a number of other things and we were all served the chocolate souffle from the night before.

After dinner we went back to the lounge for the evenings entertainment – two local actresses that put on a small skit about Catherine (martin Luther’s wife) and her best friend getting ready for their first ball. There was some audience participation and it was pretty enjoyable.

After the skit was over I realized I was exhausted and I wasn’t going to be able to stay up with Jeannie and Zoltan again. I said goodnight to them and goodbye to Zoltan since I wouldn’t see him again (there were hugs) and barely made it in to bed before I was asleep.

April 11th
Elbe – Berlin

We got up early on Tuesday to finish packing , we needed to have our luggage outside our staterooms by 7:45, we were done by 7:00 – left everything and went downstairs to have breakfast.

Reflections on the River Cruise:

  • Hands down I loved it – whether it was because of the amazing crew we had or all the truly awesome friends we met on the boat, the entire experience was top notch.
  • The food was excellent, especially the bread. The bread was nothing short of spectacular.
  • Service on the boat could not have been better, there was nothing we needed that wouldn’t have been provided to us and the bar staff were professional and friendly and if I could have brought home anything I wanted it would have been Zoltan and Ploman (Ploman was our waiter but at some point during the trip became my very best friend and personal wine server) this would have been difficult to explain to my husband.
  • We did not travel very far or very often. The distance from Prague to Berlin is not very far and I realized only after getting there that we were stretching out an eight hour boat ride into six days. We never traveled at night and the times when we were cruising the river were not long. I had expected to be spending long hours on the deck of this ship curled up with a cocktail and a book. I never once cracked open any of the 3 books I lugged with me while on the boat.
  • Because we didn’t ‘sail’ a lot the captain of the ship had a garden on the sundeck that he maintained obsessively, when I first boarded I thought how does he have time to do that? But the after a few days I realized his job was pretty easy, it’s really a sweet little gig that Captain Joseph had going on. Besides sailing a few hours a day (maybe) and seeing us off and back on the boat every time we left on an excursion his only real task is a champagne toast at the beginning and the end of the journey.
  • Every time we arrived back from an excursion we were greeted back on the ship with a small treat, hot apple cider when it was cold and rainy, small pieces of chocolate when it was warm – little things that really put a cherry on whatever we were doing.

 

We were off the boat and boarded our bus at 8:45. Our first stop on the way to Berlin was a small town called Wurltz known for the Summer palace and gardens of Duke Leopold III. Despite the fact that it was cloudy damp and no more than 40 degrees we decided to take a ‘gondola’ (really just  big row boat) around the lake we were told this was the best way to see the sites.

Ten of us piled in to this boat, rowed by a young German man who spoke no English, who was just able to point at things as they went by. At one point we passed what looked like an old barn and he pointed and said “Cow Haus” it was the funniest thing.

45 minutes later we finally got off the ‘gondola’ and made a beeline for the cafe, after a cup of hot chocolate to warm up we walked around the gift shop before once again getting on the bus. Our next stop was Potsdam but it would be awhile before we got there, as soon as the bus was out of the small villages and on the autobahn I fell asleep.

We arrived in Potsdam a little before lunch and we had two hours free time in the town center. We thought that would be more than enough time for lunch so we set off with Mike, Beth, Donna and Dennis to the end of the pedestrian walkway where there is a smaller and older version of Berlin’s famous Brandenburg gate, we found a small cafe next to it and got a table for the 6. We all had giant white asparagus for lunch (a German delicacy) and some good local beer, by the time we were done and we walked back to the bus our 2 hours was up.

We left the town center and headed to San Soucci (a summer palace for Frederick the great of Prussia). I wasn’t really interested in touring another palace but we had a great tour guide and the entire thing is pretty small it ended up being interesting and fun, we did the beginning and end in the rain and at the end hurried back to the bus to get warm.

The drive from Potsdam to Berlin was about 30-35 minutes, we eventually made it to the Intercontinental hotel situated on the edge of the Tiergarden at the very top of what was formally west Berlin. The hotel was really nice and by the time we arrived we were already checked in and so we just picked up our keys and went to our room (#649).

After the tiny size of our ship cabin the shear enormity of the hotel room was a welcoming sight. We had to wait some time for our bags to be brought up and in the meantime got a dinner recommendation from the concierge. I wanted a good old fashioned beer garden and he told us about one not far from the hotel.

We made some coffee and finally got our bags and then met up with Beth and Mike in the lobby, we had also run into John and Lorraine  (who happened to be staying in the room right next to us) and we invited them along with us to dinner.

After a few wrong turns we managed to find the beer garden – very quaint and right on the canal, the six of us got a table and some very good local beer, there was no sausage on the menu so I ordered a salad instead which was only okay (lots of cucumbers, blech). We had a nice dinner and then all walked back to the hotel. Mom and I said goodnight to our dinner companions in the lobby and headed to the hotel bar for a nightcap.

We ended up sitting with some other viking passengers in the bar and drank 2 glasses of wine – 15 euros a piece (yikes!) we deiced to call it a night after the wine and we headed upstairs to bed.

April 12th
Berlin

we woke up Wednesday morning neither of us having slept well – my neck was still hurting me very much and Mom had narrowly avoided a migraine by getting up to take some pills in the middle of the night. We both just wanted a hot shower and some coffee but the shower was complicated and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on and we had drank the coffee the day before while we waited for our bags…

After struggling for a good 5 minutes with the shower I gave up and called the front desk. They sent up an elderly, distinguished gentleman in a tuxedo (I opened the door for him still in my pajamas). I explained that the water would not turn on and he looked at me, all disheveled, and said “Madam, you only need to turn it to the left…” Uh, huh – humiliated I quickly took a shower which once again had great water pressure and multiple jets, it was glorious.

We eventually got dressed and made it downstairs for breakfast, we sat with Jeannie and Mina and I had my usual granola and yogurt as well as several croissants that were flaky and buttery and lovely (and not very big).

At 8:45 we met in the lobby and boarded a bus for our Berlin tour . We spent the next 4 hours on a bus with Irene, our guide. We traveled all around Berlin, we got out at checkpoint Charlie(emotional) and again at the wall(there is a remnant still standing that artists use as a canvas) and then again at Brandenburg gate.

The tour was good but my biggest take away was Irene’s stories – she grew up in East Berlin, she lived in an apartment block which had one bathroom shared by 4-5 families, there were also public restrooms out on the street, green 8 sided structures which they called ‘the octagon bar’ as in ‘hey, I’m running out to the octagon bar!’

She also told us that as a child children they were required to learn Russian in elementary school but once they got to middle school they could chose another language to speak, she and her friends all chose English, not because she ever though she would leave east Berlin or ever interact with ‘westerners’ but because she wanted to know what the Rolling Stones were signing.

These stories remind me of what we learned from our guide in Meissen who also grew up behind the iron curtain, she went to University to study software engineering but when she got out she interviewed at a factory who asked her what religion was and she told them she was a catholic. They told her that Catholics weren’t allowed to work on computers, they hired her anyway and she literally sat at a desk for 4 years, just an empty desk unable to touch the computers – so that the soviets could say their unemployment rate was 0%.

Our tour ended at 1:00, we were dropped at the hotel and we made a plan with Beth and Mike to meet up in the hotel lobby in 30 minutes to go out to lunch.

We refreshed ourselves and met up with them to walk the 2 blocks to a huge department store called Ka-da-we which is world famous and very close to our hotel. The 6th floor of the store is a giant food ‘court’. At this point I was desperate for a sausage so after walking around a few minutes we parted ways; Beth ,being a vegetarian, wanted to go get fish and Mom and I headed to the butchers.

We grabbed seats at a bar – ordered two sausages and some beer which were both excellent. After we ate we walked around a little bit and just gaped at everything. We decided to grab some wine and sandwiches and just stay ‘in’ that night and be low key. We met up with Mike and Beth briefly again and they went off to go shopping and we headed to the wine section. After we had our food we explored the store for a little bit but it was HOT in there and both of us were pretty tired, we didn’t stay long.

We headed back to the hotel and had a glass of wine in our room during which I decided that I should take advantage of the hotels spa, I called down at 6:30 and made an appointment for a 7:00 deep tissue massage.

Mom went down with me and took advantage of the pool and hot tub while I got the best massage of my life by someone named… Wilham? Who knows or cares, it was great and I came out feeling much better. I drank a big glass of water, collected Mom and we headed upstairs where we got comfortable, finished the bottle of wine we had opened earlier, ate our sandwiches and listened to music.

April 13th
Berlin

Thursday, we both felt better and the day dawned warm and sunny, we decided to spend the day walking the city and seeing the things on foot that we only glanced at from the bus the day before.

After breakfast in the hotel we briefly met up with Mike and Beth in the lobby to say goodbye (most of the passengers on our ship left on Thursday morning). John and Lorraine and another couple from Seattle (that we didn’t know) were the only other Viking people staying for the extra two day extension. We made plans with John and Lorraine to have dinner together before heading out. We walked west through Teirgarden towards Brandenburg gate. The park was exceptionally beautiful, with well maintained paths and gorgeous trees and gardens, it is hard to imagine that in 1945 the entire thing was completely destroyed, it looks old from the inside.

One of the best things I love about Berlin is that it is a very green city – they really take care to have as many green spaces as possible and go so far as to give each and every tree in the city a number, every tree regardless if its on a sidewalk or in a park has a tag and a unique number and this way  they know at any given time exactly how many trees they have. (currently 483,000)

we got through the park and came out right at Brandenburg gate, we stopped for a few pictures and then walked over to the holocaust memorial (just a block away) I thought the memorial was well done, its interpretive and gives no names or  dates but when you are there you feel as though you are in a sacred place, Mom and I both left with tears in our eyes.

We left there and walked past the Gendermenmarkt – a square which boasts two midevil churches and a large museum, one of the churches is open and for 3 euros you can walk to the top of it – of course we did that – took a bunch of photos and headed out.

Another goal for our walk on Thursday was to finish the last of our souvenir shopping, we had consulted with the concierge about the best place to do this and he directed us to a shop very close to museum island, so we headed in that direction, crossed over the canal and decided that it was time to stop for a beverage, we entered the quaintest most adorable little bar where I had a beer and Mom got coffee and we shared some delicious lemon mouse thing with raspberry topping.

Feeling refreshed we continued down the same street and found some excellent little shops where we finished almost all of our shopping and decided to start back, we chose a different way to walk and soon found ourselves walking  past the site of the future “House of One”. (sidenote: the house of one is a new religious center where the heads of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths and can meet and talk). On the back side of the construction zone is a small alleyway with a little cafe, we decided to go to this cafe for lunch.

I had sausage and beer and Mom got asparagus and potatoes and beer, the food was excellent and the place was super cute and not touristy in any way, the service was terrible (we had to interrupt our waiter’s lunch to get the bill) but it was a neat little experience.

After lunch we headed back towards the less historical and more commercial parts of the former east Berlin. We got to the ‘Mall of Berlin’ just as it started raining and popped in, I was on a desperate hunt for good German beer steins. We were unsuccessful in locating any and Mom was READY TO GO – so we headed out the other end of the mall just as the rained stopped.

Around this time I started getting tired and cranky, my ankles were beginning to hurt from walking (all told we did about 11.5 miles that day) and I was starting to slide into a funk. We decided to stop at the Sony center (an impressively huge cinema center) we sat at an outside cafe and got two lattes before heading on.

The Sony center is also on the edge of the Teirgarden and it was easy for us to cross the street and walk along the side of the park back to the area our hotel was in. I could feel myself getting grumpy and unpleasant and I had a brief thought about going back to the hotel and laying down for awhile but then I gave myself a pep talk and realized I only had a day and a half left of vacation and I needed to suck it up – I suggested to Mom that instead of going back to the hotel that we head to the little beer garden on the canal that we went to the first night for dinner. Mom readily agreed (most likely because she had to pee so bad she was about to have an accident). We headed there quickly, I ordered us beers while she went to the bathroom. We both perked up after that and spent a pleasant time drinking and watching the locals.

We got back to the hotel with enough time to refresh and unload our souvenirs before meeting John and Lorraine for dinner. The previous day I had run into another viking passenger who had gone to a place called “Bavarian” for lunch and really liked it – it was close and I suggested we try it.

I got us there, despite going the long way around, the place was cute, in the basement of a mall, a little too German (like an over the top TGIFridays for tourists –  but German). Despite that we had a nice dinner – Mom and I split a sausage, potato, meatloaf platter and an apple strudel – I had a couple beers and we had a lot of fun talking with John and Lorraine.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and said goodnight to our friends, we drank some wine while I updated the journal and soon fell asleep.

April 14th
Berlin

Mom had managed to get us tickets to take a tour of Templehof, the famous Berlin airport built by Hitler, taken over by the American’s and served as the main drop for the 1948 Berlin airlifts, it was somewhere she really wanted to see. The tour was scheduled for 1:30.

After breakfast we had the morning free, Mom decided to head back up to our room to start packing up (fortunately we had both come with room to spare in our luggage because we ended up buying a significant amount of gifts).

I decided to take advantage of some free time and go out on a last ditch effort for good German beer steins. I headed out to make my way back to Ka-da-we but realized as soon as I set out that it was Good Friday and nothing was going to be open. I checked the stores anyway and then decided to just wander around, I went to the memorial church (a church close to our hotel that had been half destroyed in the war and instead of rebuilding it or knocking it down they chose to leave it there as a reminder).

I walked about 3 miles before I got a text from Mom that she was done doing what she was going to do. I met her in front of the zoo (also close to our hotel) and we walked a block or so away to a coffee shop where we waited forever for service, eventually I got a hot chocolate and mom got coffee and we sat in the window and watched people walk by.

I had done some research about places to have our last dinner in Berlin and I suggested that before we head back to the hotel to get a cab to Templehof we walk by one the of the choices and check it out.

The place was cute and very authentically German, far from the touristy areas and also further than I thought it would be from the hotel. We had to walk back to the hotel QUICKLY to get our things and hail a cab to the Templehof tour.

Despite the time crunch we arrived with plenty of time to spare, got checked in and waiting for about 15-20 minutes before it began. Our tour guide was a young architecture student at the University who gave us an excellent tour and even took us underground to the bomb shelters as well as the old archive that was accidentally blown up when the Russians arrived. It was creepy and old and awesome.

The tour took over 3 hours but we didn’t realize that until the end when we discovered it was after 4:00 as we got a taxi back to the hotel. By the time we made it back we were starving. We had tentatively made plans to dine again with John and Lorraine, so we stopped in their room and told then that we wanted to go out early and further away than they probably wanted to go (neither of them were big walkers). They chose to do their own thing and we said goodbye to them.

On our way out of the hotel I made a suggestion of another possible restaurant that was behind the zoo and perched on the edge of the Terigarden and the canal, we decided to head that way and check it out. Our route took us past the back of the zoo where we were able to see emus and flamingos and all sorts of animals. We did find the beer garden/restaurant on the other side of the zoo and it was cute and looked like a great place but very informal, no table service and had more tables outside than inside (it was pretty chilly outside).

We decided we wanted to sit inside and be waited on so we continued on and went back to the place that we had walked by earlier. I am glad that we did, the food and beer and the place we went to was exceptional – the restaurant was very busy and we got a small table in a walk way and an admonition that we couldn’t be there more than an hour (our table was previously reserved). We ate, drank and got out of there and decided to head back to the beer garden we passed up for dinner for one last drink before heading back to the hotel.

We made our way there, got a seat inside at their very small bar, ordered beers and talked about our favorite parts of the trip, when I asked Mom what she liked best she said “All of it except the Martin Luther stuff” I wholeheartedly agreed.

We finished our beers and once again walked behind the zoo to our hotel where we got ready for bed and an early morning.

April 15th
Germany – Philadelphia

We were up EARLY Saturday morning because we had a taxi scheduled to take us to the airport at 7:15 and we both wanted to get coffee and breakfast before heading out. We were downstairs, luggage in hand a little after 6am, we checked out and were going to head to breakfast when we learned that on the weekends they don’t start breakfast until 7:00. Disappointed we looked for other options, but Germans are not early risers and there was nothing else open. The concierge took pity on us and arranged for a pot of coffee and a plate of croissants be brought out to the lobby for us.

We sat the the lobby eating our breakfast and drinking coffee until 7am. We chatted briefly and said goodbye to Rik who had come down to see us off and honestly couldn’t have been a better director or a nicer person, he made the trip even better than it already was, he was on the way home to England for his own holiday, we wished him well, Mom invited him to Maine and he saw us off.

The trip home was uneventful, we were at the Berlin airport 90 minutes earlier than we needed to be, we flew from there to Frankfort where I finally managed to buy some fairly authentic steins and then from there we flew to Philadelphia and after waiting for thousands of spring-breakers ahead of us in customs we finally got back to the house around 4:30.

Reflections of Berlin:

  • The beer was awesome. AWESOME and I’m not really that much of a beer person.
  • Berlin as was different from Prague as you can get, it was more modern than I expected, but since the majority of it is only between 27 – 72 years old I guess it’s not surprising.
  • I was afraid that he city would make me sad because of all of the Nazi history  but I really felt that they do a nice job of remembering what happened, reminding everyone it would never happen again and trying to move on.
  • Outside the main entrance to the U-bahn (the subway) there is a small memorial that sais something like “Here is a list of atrocities that we shall never forget so that they shall never happen” – and it lists 13 concentration camps.
  • The outline of the wall can still be seen on the ground in the form of double cobblestones where it once stood.
  • Overall I found the German people awesome, warm and welcoming. They seemed full of life and ready to have a good time, anytime.

*Alternatively titled “200 glasses of wine in 14 days”

The Lost Years, Part VI

Here we are at the end of my apartment tales, by far this place one was my favorite although all of them had their own charm and challenges…

UNIVERSITY AVE

Since updates with metal railings
Since updated with metal railings

Around the time I was passively aggressively ending a three-year relationship I was also, once again apartment hunting. I managed to find a fabulously affordable one bedroom on a busy street right outside of San Diego proper. Sure none of my neighbors spoke English, but my apartment faced a different direction than theirs and truth be told I hardly ever saw them.

Ruka and I moved into our new Bachelorette pad which was a good size one bedroom. I managed to furnish it with the help of my new coworkers and some well times garage sales.

I was sad to leave my 2-minute commute but this new place was no more than three miles from the office, once I got a bike (also thanks to my new awesome coworkers) I even started biking to work – so you know, it couldn’t have been that far.

There was an initial period of exhilaration when I realized I didn’t need to compromise on style or decor and I did go a little nuts with stencils and tapestries, I went to Tijuana (the only place I could afford to shop) and for a little while my new apartment was a cross between a Mexican brothel and a homeless surfer shack, but soon after the thrill of decorating subsided I was faced with the truth that I was alone. I was alone a lot and although I grew to really love that in the beginning it was hard, on the weekends after leaving work I would spend the next 48 hours sitting in the window of my living room waiting for someone to walk by, however being California no one ever walked by. Twice in four years someone came to my door who wasn’t delivering food or previously invited, once was my boss out walking her dog (clearly an excuse to check up on me, I was WAY out of her ‘walk zone’) and once was a girl that was being followed by a sinister looking stranger – I let her in to use the phone and she left although I invited her to stay – probably a little too aggressively, I think she was more scared when she was leaving than when she got there.

For a long period of time I saw a lot of movies, I felt better being among people even if I wasn’t with them and I also found myself driving to the beach many nights after work to watch the sun set on a long day rather than face the prospect of an empty apartment. Sometimes I would walk to 7-11 (2 blocks away) just to interact with the store clerk (and buy cheap Paul Mason wine).

But at one point and I can’t say exactly when it happened I started preferring to be alone – I would rush home from work, dead bolt myself inside and finally be able to take a deep breath as I stripped down to my underwear and flopped on the couch, I even started making excuses for why I couldn’t go out or meet people. Because it was Southern CA the most convincing lie I could tell people was that I was at the gym, “Met you for brunch? oh no, I can’t I’m going to the gym.” “What did I do all weekend? – I was at the gym” people would nod knowingly having themselves ACTUALLY spent entire weekends at the gym.

Once I even broke down and got a gym membership – but I was poor and I was only allowed into the gym something ridiculous like Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 – 4:30, but it didn’t matter I could flash that gym card or accidently (on purpose) let it slip out of my wallet while on a date in preparation of future excuses. In San Diego, the gym membership is akin to a toddler with a fever, they can get you out of just about anything.

Living alone made me a slob – not that I wasn’t already… untidy. When I lived with  Shane and Malcolm I felt that I need to try and set a better example – raise the bar if you will, being alone all bets were off. Five seconds after coming home there would be a trail of bags, pants, shoes leading from the front door to the sofa and because I had to do my laundry at the laundromat I would wait until every single piece of clothing I owned was dirty before lugging it in there and filling 5 washing machines full of everything I had. I remember one mid-week night when I finally bit the bullet, and loaded the back of my car with all the clothes I owned  (including the one pair of sheets I had for my bed) and set off to do laundry – I got them in the dryer and then left in order to avoid sitting in those uncomfortable plastic chairs. I returned 20 minutes before closing time to pick everything up only to face a locked door and a dark interior. I guess they thought it was cool to close up early since I wasn’t there to supervise my clothes – this resulted in some rather unpleasant phone calls from the pay phone out front. Needless to say I never left my clothes unattended after that. Laundry became a giant time suck I would avoid at all costs.

I started house sitting to a.) make a little extra money and b.) be able to do my laundry while watching something other than mexican soap operas, sometimes I even got to go swimming which was an added bonus.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows living by myself though, there were a few downsides, bugs for example. San Diego is home to the giant flying palmetto bug and once I came home to find one so big at first I thought it was a mouse – I abruptly turned around and left the apartment, I didn’t go home for two days. Sometimes Ruka would bring me half dead animals – once a lizard nearly as long as she was, once a mole and twice mice that were more alive than dead, this is when a roommate would have really come in handy.

Also, there was that time that I nearly burned the place down because I decided to try my hand at bar-b-quing. I bought a little portable grill, placed it on my porch and set it afire with A LOT of lighter fluid, the flames were so high and hot that it set my railing on fire (my porch was old wood, OLD dry wood), fortunately I kept my head and poured an entire bag of kitty litter on top of it to smother it before the entire building became a late night news article. I have not touched a grill since that day.

I lived on University Avenue for four years and the good definitely outweighed the bad, the day I left to head back east was terribly bittersweet and I still long sometimes for the solitude and the freedom of that apartment gave me. I love my family and the life that I have created for myself but if ever I could time travel the first place I would go would be back to San Diego circa 1997.

The Lost Years, Part IV

Welcome to part 4 – its still 1996. I’m 21 and I keep losing my licence…

ADELAIDE AVE

20160424_124720
We lived in #17, bi polar neighbor was upstairs, just the right of us.

We stayed in the townhouse six months, long enough to run out our lease. By this time I had become very close with a coworker of mine (Kim) she and I had bonded over our mutual hatred of our shared boss and we decided to get a place together, I was done living with boys and I was looking forward to only supporting myself. Of course, 5 days before we were set to move I changed my mind and asked Shane to come with me – how could I possibly live without him? (Can you say codependent much?).

The three of us found another inexpensive apartment but this one had just been completely rehabbed – we even got the first choice of units, we left the dark dirty townhouse and moved in to a spacious two bedroom with brand new carpet, new paint  – a huge livingroom and a pool – A POOL!

Ironically right after moving in both Kim and I quit our jobs, we turned our boss in to the California Labor Bureau and they got him to pay us back wages that we were owed (I bet he knows my name now!).

So once again I was living with my unemployed boyfriend, making excellent life decisions. The one saving grace about the apartment on Adelaide is that it was walking distance (still carless!*) to a very inexpensive Mexican market where we could get 3 artichokes for a dollar and a 5 pound bag of potatos for the same – they also sold fresh homemade salsa for pennies. For the next several months I lived on a consistent diet of steamed artichokes and baked potatoes stuffed with salsa.

For the first few weeks it was ideal, we had a great place, plenty of time to sit by the pool while we dreamed up new ways to cook potatoes, but all the serenity ended abruptly when our new neighbor moved in – a bi polar alcoholic with anger management issues – she took an instant disliking to us and suddenly our sunny little courtyard became a war zone. She yelled obscenities at us at all times of the day, threatened our lives and sometimes laid in wait for us to come through the front gate to throw trash at us. We could still retreat to the pool though, she never bothered us there and that became our sanctuary until the school year started and kids from the elementary school would wait for us, pounding on the chain link fence demanding to be let in and allowed to swim. We never let them in, but they managed to get revenge by one day climbing over the fence and throwing the glass patio table in to the deep end – thus ruining pool time for everyone.

So, we retreated back inside our apartment where we put up with the verbal threats from our neighbor mostly because her son also lived with her, her son was nice and reasonable and just trying to get through college, every day he would beg us not to call the cops on his Mom. I think we only ever had the cops there 1 or 2 times, which is a testament to how much we liked this kid, his Mom was a real bitch.

I spent my days taking long walks, sometimes to the El Pollo Loco for a $.99 BRC (bean, rice and cheese burritos) which were a total splurge and telling Shane that I would get a job when he got a job… the entire time we lived there we were unemployed.

Eventually though, Kim got a new job an hour up the coast, our lease came up for renewal and we had used up all of our patience dealing with our neighbor we decided to bid adieu to Adelaide street. Also – I had finally been accepted into college and I needed to find employment and transportation so that I could actually attend school.

*Sidenote: I just want to explain to you how very very hard it is to be carless in the San Diego. San Diego is a commuter’s city – it is HUGE and no one walks. No one. Ever. I used to joke after I got a car that even when I was going the same places with my friends we would all take our own cars, no one would carpool – no one wanted to be without the ability to get somewhere (see no one walked – ever). It’s probably a little easier now that they have an established trolley system, but when I was there, there was virtually no ‘mass transit’ just a collection of old city buses that mostly went from the boarder to different point around town, to try and navigate from say the college area to downtown San Diego was almost impossible and would take you anywhere from 2 – 5 hours of traveling time (A journey that could be done in 20 minutes in a car). One of the reasons I didn’t look very hard for work because I couldn’t justify the return on investment in so much travel for whatever minimum wage job that I was then qualified for.

to be continued…

The other 2/3rds

I feel like I live somewhere in the middle of our socio economical society, in that sweet spot where we can afford to take a family vacations but still only buy shoes if they are on sale. Rarely do I feel either extreme end of the spectrum – completely entitled or abjectly downtrodden. I feel lucky this way, I really do and this last week I got to experience both sides in a most unexpected way:

I am a firm believer that going to the doctors is a anxiety filled, administrative heavy task that should only be undertaken if a bone is protruding or you can’t alone stop your rapid blood loss. Because of this it’s been over 3 years since my last physical and more years than that since any kind of specialist check up. But because I notice that there are parts of my body that are starting to show signs of wear and tear and because my ultimate goal is to live forever I recently decided to find a primary care physician and a dermatologist (I will wait while you all gasp in surprise).

So, I did things the 21st century way I found a local family Doctor who took my insurance and I could book on-line (you know without the added hassle of having to actually talk to a fellow human being) as well as a dermatology practice that met the same stringent criteria.

The primary care physical was scheduled for Monday, the doctors name was something Chinese that I had all but forgotten by the time I drove myself (and Lucy) to her office, figuring that since nearly all the doctors anymore where Chinese I’d be in good hands.

I realized my mistake as soon as I got off the elevator and noticed that the only writing on her office suite was in Chinese characters, I walked in and the entire population of the waiting room did a collective double take. Lucy and I were the only westerners in sight, the magazines and newspapers on the coffee table were all Chinese publications. Not only was the receptionist surprised to see me but equally surprised that I had insurance. I wondered briefly if I had just shown up with a live chicken if that would also have gained me admission (the office had that feel like a chicken would totally have worked).

The appointment itself was also somewhat of a disaster, as a patient who only has a tenuous grasp (at most) on details of my pasts medical history I came prepared with copies of old surgical reports and follow up visit summaries, none if which were asked for, Dr. Li really skimmed right over medical history actually excluding it all together as part of my visit. I was handed paperwork to go get a full blood work up after being scolded harshly in very broken English by the nurse for not fasting that morning (if only they would have put that reminder online when I made the appointment!), given some herbal anti-inflammatory cream for my ailing joints and ushered out the door.

On Wednesday after a quick stop at Quest diagnostics while Lucy looked on in horror as they withdrew 6 vials of blood from my arm and then literally yelled at me to “just do it already Mom!” When I had difficulty peeing into the collection cup, we headed to a dermatologist office located smack dab in the middle of the mainline. I knew it was going to be nice when I pulled in to their private parking lot behind their stand alone Art Deco building (no 6th floor suite in a dingy medical complex for these people!)  Lucy and I were offered an array of cool beverages while we perused the posters for cool sculpting treatments and a special they were running on Botox injections. After completing several medical history forms on the office iPad we settled into some very uncomfortable mid century modern chairs and waited.

When my turn finally arrived I was given a very thorough exam, a strict talking to about my sporadic doctors visits I was diagnosed with a rare skin condition, biopsied, bandaged up, photographed and scheduled for a follow up visit while I received a brochure on laser treatments to make me young again.

I was at the dermatologist 10 times longer than the PCP and seriously wondered what I could do to make them my primary care office.

It wasn’t just the free beverages and promise of eternal youth, the mainline office had actual medical equipment and resources visibly lacking in the first office I visited.

I feel like all I can do now is hope that my blood work comes back normal so I can continue to ignore my health once again while I figure out how to bundle these experiences into a real world lesson for Lucy on the unfairness of life in general.

Next stop, teeth cleaning!

A Heartfelt Obituary

Dear Kenmore series 575-0 dishwasher:

You were always my least favorite appliance that came with our current house and that’s really saying something because the electric range is a pain in the ass to clean and the door to the front loading dryer always hits me in the head when I’m using it no matter how many times I try and adjust it’s feet.

You were loud, like LOUD for a dishwasher manufactured in the past ten years and no mater what setting we ran you on you always left the spilled coffee and wine on the inside on the door – how can you run an entire cycle and not get the door wet?

Speaking of the door, it always stuck closed when I wanted it open and wouldn’t close all the way when I didn’t. It’s been a long time coming this death of yours, you had trouble turning on for months now, but I found that if I yelled at you enough and mashed your buttons down hard enough you would eventually respond.

Last night when you died with a full load of really dirty dishes inside you I wasn’t sad but just disappointed in a long line of ways that you have disappointed me for the past three years.

For the record, I am a little sorry for all of the times that Lucy tried to sit on your door while it was open and it probably wasn’t that pleasant all of the times that Marley tried to climb inside you to lick food off the dirty dishes but all in all I would say you were the bigger let-down in this scenario.

Tonight we ordered your replacement a higher-end Bosch that the guys at Sears promised would be better, quieter and more efficient that you.

Rest in piece you old relic

2016-07-28 21.18.40

Updates from the Couchside, Vol. V

I’m still waiting for a start date for the job I supposedly landed.  I say supposedly because they called me some time ago and said, “Hi, we’d like to offer you a job” and I said, “Great!” and then they said, “Ok, we’ll be in touch, don’t call us we’ll call you…” and now it’s been about two and a half weeks. I hope they call soon; I bought new shoes so I need an office to wear them to.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how can fit “going into work” in my surprisingly busy unemployed schedule. Seriously, I have learned to fill up my days without wasting time watching TV or napping. Sure there is the occasional afternoon where I enjoy a cocktail at 3:00pm but for the most part I’m pretty productive.

I have continued to work out every morning and I’ve even managed to do a burpee or two but I still hate them, oh how I hate them.  I’ve even lost a couple pounds but in the true spirit of self-destructiveness I am planning a weekend getaway this weekend where I’ll probably undue almost all of the work that I have made. Do what you know, you know?

I’ve learned how to make quinoa, I’m pretty sure this means I’m a hipster now. I should probably look into getting new frames for my glasses.

Now Seems Like a Perfect Time to Have Mid-Life Crises

I’ve been unemployed for six days now  and I’ve spent the majority of those days wondering aimlessly through out my house doing laundry and taking antibiotics to get rid of the massive sinus infection that I have. (Try not to be jealous my life is GLAMOROUS).

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do, but every time I broach that subject my brain kinda shuts down a little, like it changes the station and there’s nothing but static up there, I keep asking it questions and all I get is some kind of emergency feed back loop.

Yesterday I had a job interview. Today I can’t seem to do anything more than play Words With Friends and doodle. I’m wondering if this is a downward trajectory where 4 days from now I’m laying in the fetal position, drinking gin through a straw on the floor of my shower or if it’s some kind of yo-yo and tomorrow I’ll actually fold the laundry and type up a list of references.

I kind of hope its the later but the former does take a lot of pressure off me to accomplish anything, just once I would like someone to utter the words, “Becca… she insisted on getting out of bed today.”

Stay tuned.

 

Suburbia, Salad Gravy and Sister Cousins

I’ve lived a lot of places, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of everywhere. On the edge of the pacific ocean, once in the back of a Ford Gran Torino station wagon (still roomier than some of my apartments).  When my husband and I made the decision to leave our quiet corner of the city and move to the suburbs the idea was fraught with many unknowns but the biggest question we asked ourselves was “are the sort of people that can make friends in a mild manner neighborhood of the suburbs?”

No, we are not the kind of people able to make friends with mild manner suburban neighbors.

Fortunately for us we haven’t encountered any mild manner suburban neighbors.  Two years into our tenure in the burbs and I have discovered these common misconceptions:

  • Walking your dog after work is really just an excuse to initiate an impromptu happy hour, “Hey, how was your day? Want a beer, I have one here in my pocket.” “Oh, this? No this coffee cup is full of Chardonnay…”
  •  It’s cool if everyone has access to your house. “Oh you need honey, sure I’m not home but just let yourself in, it’s in the pantry. Use the big one, not the small organic kind – see you later. I’ll stop by with a cup of chardonnay!”
  • You need to get something done, just invite all the neighborhood kids over. Nothing gives you free time like having your kid engaged in play with other kids. Need to make dinner? Write a blog post? Go to the bathroom by yourself? Just call your neighbors!

~

A few weeks ago I had to suit up, stay late at work and attend a board meeting for my job.  The meeting went late and dinner was ordered. A LOT of dinner, so much so that by the time I left there was an entire catering tray of salad that was never even opened.

I took the salad and an unopened container of balsamic vinaigrette dressing and on my way home dropped it off to a pregnant homeless woman who I knew would be sitting outside of the WaWa on the way back to my car.

I presented her with the salad and she seemed very grateful and then I brought out the dressing and she said, “What the hell is that? Gravy!?!” and I said “Yup, it’s the latest thing, salad gravy and it’s delicious!”

~

Also a  few weeks ago one of my best friends (Jess) adopted a baby girl. It’s a huge deal that has been years in the making and I couldn’t be happier for them. Lucy has followed the development and the idea of adoption with equal parts fascination and confusion.

A few days after getting the baby, I was putting Lucy to bed at night and she asked if I could please give her a sister, I explained (for the eleventy hundredth time) that simply wasn’t going to happen and she responded by asking if her cousin Emmy could come live with us and be her sister. I told her that I would ask Emmy’s Mom but I was pretty sure that the answer would be “no.” Lucy asked why and I responded with, “Because people don’t just give away their kids honey”. She looked at my and stated very matter of factly, “well, that women did for Jess.”

Touché Lucy, touché.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Weeknight Dinners

I was on the train yesterday and witnessed a heated discussion between what I believe to be a Jehovah’s Witness and some seemingly random Christian fellow, their conversation went like this:

JW: “Well, what do you think Jesus’s role was?”

SRCF: “He was a great teacher”

JW: “Teacher huh? TEACHER? Not the SON OF GOD? Or the MESSIAH?”

SRCF: “Why are you getting so upset?

JW:” Because you don’t know ANYTHING! Teacher my ass!”

At which point it was time for me to get off the train. I seriously considered staying on to see how this played out, but it was the end of the day and the 30 minute walk it would have taken to get home from the next stop simply didn’t seem worth it.

Does anyone else find this puzzling the sheer vehemence of the Jehovah’s Witness and the comparison between Jesus being a good teacher and her ass? I have known several Jehovah’s Witnesses in my lifetime and I have always found them to be rather calm and soothing people

I guess sometimes you’ve just got to spend a lot of time on a crowded suburban rail line to find out what’s what – yo.

~

I don’t cook a lot, a few years ago my husband simply took over the duty as house chef (I pretend to think that this was more to give me a break rather than to not have to eat my cooking any longer). But sometimes I still manage to throw a meal together, a meal that doesn’t consist of hot dogs and tater tots.

Usually when I do this I try to prepare the entire meal in as few dishes as possible. If doable I only use one dish, I just throw many things into a skillet; add some wine for it to cook in and viola. I do this not because I am lazy but to make clean up easier for my husband, cause I’m a giver.

When I make these ‘skillet’ concoctions Lucy always wants to know what it is so I name them all “Mommy’s dinner surprise”.

These dinners come in many different forms with many different flavors; it’s like a little food surprise after a long day at school or work.

Last night I got a text from my husband before I even left work telling me to not worry about dinner because he was going to take care of it.

I said, “are you sure? I could make another surprise?” His response, “Oh sweetie, we don’t have enough hot sauce left to get through another dinner surprise…”

And that, my friends, is how you get out of cooking dinner for your family.

skillet meal

 

40 on 40

Today I turn 40. 40!

Below are 40 lessons I’ve learned . Honestly most everything I know that is worthwhile I picked up in the past 5 years. For the first 30-35 years I was kind of an idiot. So in a way 40’s not so bad, by the time I’m 80 I’ll be a genius…

 I’ve learned that if you want to make really good mashed potatoes don’t use cold milk straight from the fridge, warm it up first

 

I’ve learned that you should never let your gas tank get much below a quarter of a tank

 

I’ve learned that anything more than 3 martinis in a single evening is too many martinis

 

I’ve learned that we are our own worst critic and if you ever compare how you look to Danny DeVito when he dressed up like the penguin in Batman Returns it’s probably not that bad

 

I’ve learned that cats are not always going to get along with other cats

 

I’ve learned that you should not buy cheap make-up

 

I’ve learned that really good friends are like precious gems – rare and valuable

 

I’ve learned that being happy is way more important than having money

 

I’ve learned that what I really want to be when I grow up is a good mom and a good friend, everything else is secondary.

 

I’ve learned that you should never brush your hair when it’s wet

 

I’ve learned that you should pay attention in math class; you really will use it all later

 

I’ve learned that you cannot take anything for granted

 

I’ve learned that jeans will always stretch

 

I’ve learned that if you need to get things done in the afternoon don’t eat a giant cheeseburger for lunch

 

I’ve learned that dental hygiene is paramount

 

I’ve learned that being quiet and listening is more advantageous than talking

 

I’ve learned that family is everything

 

I’ve learned that confidence will get you farther than actually knowing what you are doing

 

I’ve learned that you should have a little time alone by yourself everyday

 

I’ve learned that you cannot truly understand worry and fear until you become a parent

 

I’ve learned not to give a shit what anyone else thinks about me

 

I’ve learned that too much coffee will make you less productive, not more

 

I’ve learned to never pick a fight when I’m tired


I’ve learned that putting a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on the top of a bloody mary makes it perfect

 

I’ve learned that if you clean and pick up your house on Thursday night than it will be clean and weekend ready when you get home from work on Friday.

 

I’ve learned that you should never compare yourself to other people

 

I’ve learned that to have a good marriage you have to be yourself – as clumsy and foolish and exasperating as that can be at times

 

I’ve learned that both frogs and marshmallows will expand in the microwave

 

I’ve learned that making lists and checking things off of it is more gratifying than you would think

 

I’ve learned that no matter how old I get I will never feel like a grown up

 

I’ve learned that people don’t really change and you either need to accept them or move on

 

I’ve learned that it’s okay to agree to disagree

 

I’ve learned that everyone has their own personal handicaps

 

I’ve learned youth is fleeting and you should enjoy it while it lasts, but that you never will because you won’t truly understand how precious it was until its gone

 

I’ve learned that you can never know what forever means until someone you care about dies

 

I’ve learned that there really is no place like home

 

I’ve learned that there are not many things better than: a good book, hugs from your kids, ice cream on a hot day, freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning and quiet time outside

 

I’ve learned that in order to be successful you really need to put in the time and work hard. Hand outs are rare and should never be counted on

 

I’ve learned you should try never to be beholden to anyone

 

I’ve learned that if you tell your 4 year old daughter that you are going for a ride on a ferryboat – you need to be real clear before you step on to that boat that ferry and fairy are two different things

Men are from Mars

There’s a lot of differences between my husband and I, many of them stem from our own kinds of personal grooming techniques, some are related to the length of time we can talk to any one person on the phone. Many of our differences originate from our organizations skills and our ability or inability to multitask (he can talk longer on the phone but I can do two things at once).

We’ve been together quite a few years my husband and I but there are still moments that amaze me. Ever since we purchased our new home I have invited friend after friend over to give them the grand tour to show them the awesome huge pull out drawers in the kitchen to say things like, “and on this wall imagine a big focal point like lots of family photos interspersed with art and cool fabric swatches…” my friends ohh and aww over the potential that they can see in our unfinished rooms. But last weekend my husband had some of his friends over and when I got home they were just drinking beer and hanging out in the driveway. I invited them, but they declined. Later after they had gone home I asked my husband if he gave them a tour of the house and he said ‘yeah, I took them downstairs and showed them the beer refrigerator’. Really? All this space all this unlimited potential and you take your friends to the utility room in the basement and show off our second refrigerator? I was incredulous and he was perplexed by this.

Sometimes I wonder how men and women have managed to coexist for so long, I mean despite the fact that our parts fit together so easily. I guess this is the reason there is both HGTV and SPIKE TV.

Thanks millennials for keeping it real

I know it seems lately that my entire life is completely filled with dealing with my strongly opinionated melodramatic daughter, but alas this is not true. I have an entire 40 minutes I spend on the train everyday where I can contemplate things like politics, the environment or the personal grooming practices of my fellow riders.

Usually I spend this time immersed in any number of poorly written chick-lit books as to stop the real world from seeping in to my candy-land colored existence. Oh – how I hate you reality. But every once in a while, despite my constant vigilance, real world events seep into my paradigm.

Take for example the “polar vortex”. First, WTF? I know that most people really don’t care about science. I know that money to support scientific research can be hard to find.  Because of this I think scientist everywhere try to invent fancy names for things. Fancy names to make people care. Fancy names that back when I was a kid were simply referred to as “winter”.

Now – I don’t have an exceptionally good memory of my childhood – many events and day to day occurrences are blacked out and hopefully never surface unless through hypnosis or deep psycho analysis (neither of which I would ever subject myself to). But I do remember some things, I remember getting ready for school in the morning and hoping against hope that the thermostat outside would reach a double digits (because it’s so much warmer at 12 degrees than at 8?).

I remember walking to the bus stop when it was so cold that it hurt to inhale air into my lungs. I remember finally getting on the bus and my hands would be bright red and would burn the entire 35 minute ride from the cold outside. Now admittedly, I was too cool or just too dumb to properly attire myself during this time in my life. I wore an unlined leather bomber jacket most days, a jacket that my Mom inconceivably bought for me at some fine outdoor clothier like ‘fashion bug’. I wore this with no gloves or hats or scarves. I was cool damnit.

And yet, I survived, I survived despite my stupidity, I survived despite the fact that we lived in one of the coldest areas in the contiguous United States. I survived even though school never closed because of the cold. The colder it got the more impervious we acted. It’s honestly amazing the tips of my fingers aren’t black…

But now that I am older and oh so much wiser I have invested in a warm sub zero winter parka and all the accessorizing trimmings that go along with it. Earlier this week when I was all bundled up and the mercury never got above 20 I still saw students walking around campus in short shorts with nothing heavier than a hoodie. It warms my heart.

A brief apology to our Mothers

We get to the park exactly at 10:00 when it opened. Lucy was so excited driving over there until we had to stop at a red light and she was sure that we would never make it in.  She cries the entire time it takes to park the car.

Happy Dance!
Happy Dance!

We get through line and make it in to the park and we get to met the princess – a real princess (you know she’s real because she’s in PINK).

Holy sh*t a princess!
Holy sh*t a princess!

And then she sees someone without shoes and she doesn’t want to wear shoes! And she cries until we get in line for the train. But the first train is full. FULL!  And she cries the entire time it takes for the train to come around again.

After the train ride we go to ride the carousal, but she doesn’t want to ride a horse she wants to sit on the bench despite my repeated warnings that the bench doesn’t move the bench DOESN’T move! And she cries through the entire ride.

3 seconds before she bursts into tears
3 seconds before she bursts into tears

And then we ride the monorail but we just barely missed that too and had to wait. WAIT. And then we’re HOT so we decide to try the log flume ride and even after my repeated warnings that its going to get us wet –  it gets us WET.

waiting for the log flume - 3 seconds before she bursts into tears
waiting for the log flume – 3 seconds before she bursts into tears

Then we have to go to the bathroom – the bathroom is pink and says “Princesses” on the door but she decides at that very moment in time that she doesn’t want to be a princess ANYMORE  and refuses to go in.

After lunch we take a gondola ride, what could make you cry on a gondola ride? Well the fact that she didn’t see a single alligator, that no alligators attacked the boat! Not a single carnivorous predator tried to kill us. 

scanning for reptiles - 3 seconds before she bursts into tears
scanning for reptiles – 3 seconds before she bursts into tears.

We let her pick out one souvenir to take home, and she chooses a princess necklace and she’s happy for an entire 15 minutes and is thrilled with the tilt a whirl but then in the gift shop on the way out she realizes that her princess necklace is not the mermaid doll she really wants.

After a nice long nap we took her swimming (SWIMMING!) in the pool which was fun until she got water in her eyes and decided she’d rather pout inside.

Preparing to burst into tears
Preparing to burst into tears

This morning, I make her a perfectly golden Belgium waffle for breakfast just before she suddenly decides that she no longer likes anything  that has syrup on it.

At breakfast - 3 seconds before she bursts into tears
At breakfast – 3 seconds before she bursts into tears

After a quick trip to the Disney outlet store for a perfectly glittery Belle doll we stop at McDonald’s for a quick lunch before heading home, I ask her what she wants while we wait in line and she says… A new Mom.

Once home, cocktail in hand Jason sums up the entire weekend by saying. “I feel like I should call my Mom and tell her I’m sorry”

Word.

Newsletter: Month 27

Lucy,

This month has been amazing and was marked by two big events, the first was Hurricane Sandy which kept you inside for three very long days and allowed you to go puddle jumping when you were finally released from captivity.

Puddle Jumper!

The second was Halloween. You were SO excited about Halloween, you have been wearing your costume for almost a month now but it did not diminish your excitement to put it on on the 31st and run outside and announce to the world that you are a princess! A quick trip to the drug store for a $3 tiara and wand made it even more spectacular. You took to trick or treating like a professional – you thanked everyone diligently and as soon as you were done being polite would turn to me and say “we need to find more candy Mommy!” Of course we do sweetie…

Halloween fairy

Days followed and you still come home everyday, get your hello kitty basket out and take inventory of all of your treats.

You have become very cuddly and empathetic this month – you tell me you love me dozens of times a day and like to give hugs and kisses. When your father or I are upset about something, you will stroke our face and say “It’s okay Mommy, it’s okay Daddy.”

Sweetie Pie

You are even getting better around people you don’t know, it used to take you an hour or more to warm up to someone but now you can do it in a manner on minutes. You even allowed me to get a picture of you with your Pop Pop at his 82nd birthday party. This is a big development since you’ve always been a little scared of him.

Lucy & Pop Pop

You continue to defy us like a normal two year old but you rarely say ‘no’ anymore – you have moved on to “not yet” and “never” I am astonished at the diversity you have.

Your Nana was here visiting for a long weekend and you and she had a good time, playing on the porch and reading books and (of course) apple picking.

I call this: Lucy in the orchard with apple

Your favorite things right now are being a princess, pretending to bite out faces off and then blowing them back on to our face, watching Mickey Mouse and… Halloween candy.

so tired... from getting all the candy...

You are incredible and just keep getting better. I love you – Mommy.

Post Surgical Bland

For those of you who live under a rock or do not text me on a regular basis, you might not be aware that a week ago my small intestine tried to choke the life out of my uterus and I ended up having emergency abdominal surgery to remove over two feet of my  possessed cannibalistic innards.

This is just a prime example of the kind of luck that I have. It happened at my new job the first day I was to step up and officially take over for the outgoing person in my position. I got to be rushed to the hospital by a woman I barely know as I groaned in agony, hoping that my stomach would not explode all over the inside of her very nice, very clean Lincoln Navigator.

It was a wonderful bit of irony that allowed me to decide to wear a completely impractical pair of old spanx-type underwear to work that day. They were like old beat up bike shorts that were full of runs and much to tight on my stomach to be comfortable – by the time people were poking and looking down in my underwear region, they were rolled down, sweaty and exactly the reason your Mother tells you to wear nice clean underwear when you leave the house… in case this happens. You know you are in a lot of pain when you finally ask your sister to help you rip off your spanx-wear and start walking around the hospital with your entire butt exposed. There comes a point when you just don’t care anymore.

Since pre-hospital I have been dieting like a professional my last thought as I succumbed to anesthesia in the operating room was I wonder who much two feet of intestines weighs? Weight loss was helped after surgery because I was not allowed to eat or drink anything for four days.. and since I felt so shitty I didn’t really care – I thought this is the best diet boost ever. (I am currently down five pounds since the surgery and wondering how much other superfluous organs weigh – like my appendix or my tail bone?)

Post surgery I spent five days in the hospital dealing with a myriad of competencies.  I had nurses that were awesome and understanding and compassionate and I had a couple that scared me – one I nicknamed scatterbrained Jane who I checked with twice every time she tried to inject me with something because I’m pretty sure she thought I was someone else, I picked up on this when she tried to send me downstairs for an ultrasound (something that I did not need and had nothing to do with my recovery process)… One night I had a nurse who was a perfect blend of Kathy Bates in Misery and the woman who declared the house from Poltergeist to be clean.  I spent a sleepless night watching for her to sneak into my room and break my ankles.

I knew I was getting better and was ready to come home when I started getting hungry and my diet was changed from nothing – to clear liquids – to post surgical bland. You know things are improving when you get excited for flan.

P.S. I do know that my tail bone is not an organ…

 

I would call it ‘designed to work’ or maybe ‘job hunters’

Since being laid off I have watched more HGTV than any 22 normal people should. I like the fact that every show is only 30 minutes long and do not require my full attention. It’s programming that only needs 2 minutes in the beginning and another 2 at the end – 4 minutes is really about all I want to devote to TV while I am applying for jobs, or folding the laundry or gazing aimlessly into space. Also I really like that there is no anxiety producing shows, I mean no one is getting hurt, there are no murders to solve and I find myself relatively unconcerned if someone makes a wrong color choice or mixes patterns incorrectly.

Because of this immersion  I cant help but compare my search for a job to certain HGTV programming… I feel like six months ago I was a dated ranch house put on the market sure that my charm and character would win over any potential buyer, I mean employer. After three months on the market I finally broke down and contacted my career coach (aka stager) she completely updated my online presence, my resume my cover letter style – she branded me and  I reluctantly allowed myself to be made over.

It was clear that is worked, suddenly my phone was ringing more often – I was in demand. In other words my dated 70’s ranch was suddenly transformed into the 21st century. I am currently in contention for three serious offers, nothing concrete yet but it makes me feel like a house hunter saying things like “well #1 comes with a bright spacious office and center city views, #2 is a quiet cubicle in an unknown corner of a back office & #3 is a desk directly behind an open counter where students will congregate all day long.” Location, location, location…

If only I could call Suzanne Wang and have her help me decide.

26 days to Feral

I got an email last night that probably means I am going to be receiving a job offer very shortly. My first reaction was mild panic: “Oh my god I have to shower everyday and have serious conversations with working professionals!” “I have to remember how to take public transportation into the city.” “I have to remember how behave myself like an adult and not just play on the floor all day and drink wine before noon.” AAUUUGH

Apparently it only takes 26 days of unemployment for me to become feral and forget how to interact with grown ups and act like an adult. This is good information to have and I’m going to make a note of it now before I forget how to write things down.

I’m completely freaked out, I only hope that my potentially new employer has a nap-time policy.

Welcome to Sticky Jam Hands!

In an effort to keep things new and exciting, I have decided to purchase a real domain and create my “own” site. As easy and simple as afternoonmeanderings.wordpress.com was to remember and type, I decided to make it effortless (cause I’m a giver).

Despite our new name, nothing else will change content will still remain 60% pictures of the world’s cutest kid:

World's cutest kid

 And 40% ramblings of a sarcastic nature. For example – I had to call the vet last Friday to make Guinness a reservation for his Christmas get away stay and after being left on hold for about 11 minutes, a woman with no discernible personality picks up and we have the following conversation:

“Yes, Hi I would like to make a reservation for my dog to spend Christmas with you.”
“Ok, is he up to date on all of his shots? Is he taking any medication?”
“Shots definitely, meds I don’t think so, I mean unless he’s managed to score some really good doggie street drugs”
“Excuse me?”
“Well, he is left alone a large majority of the day, who knows what he does to pass the time?”
“What?”
“Um, nevermind.”

Am I the only one left in this town with a sense of humor?

Unemployment- the new black

Not having a job makes me feel like Peter Gibbons in office space when the Bobs tell him he’s been missing a lot of work and he responds “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it Bob” – yeah it’s a lot like that.

Here’s a list of  things I can do during the day now that I don’t have to go to work:

Nap
Call 7-11 and ask them to cook several dozen hotdogs
Drink wine at 10:00am 3:00pm
Scheme up crazy new business ideas ( I still believe in the bar/laundry mat – whose with me?)
Find out  how to do home waxing
Search for that smell in the basement
Teach the cat to fetch me things
Open my own Etsy store that sells things made with shedded dog hair
Watch more porn
Learn Esperanto

I am totally open to suggestions…

Maine

I haven’t had wine in um… 39 hours (I’m not counting) which I guess means vacation is over, I would never go that long if I didnt have to work and drive and deduct reasonably.

Lucy and I had a fantastic time in Maine, most of our days went something like this:

Get up, be cute

Lucy on the porch in Maine
I don't even have to try...

Take a hike up the hill (for a little excersice and great views)

Lucy & Daddy in Maine
Naturally I don't have a picture of she and I doing this...

Have breakfast, take a nap

Lucy breakfasting in Maine
Where's the lobster?

Bang pots around for fun

Pots and Pans
Yay for loud noise!
 
 (did you notice how cute those overalls are?)
Pots and Pans II

Go eat ice cream

Ice cream face
This was taken after she finished black raspberry ice cream & realized there was a petting zoo next door. She was so excited, not as excited as when she got to touch bunny rabbits, actual bunny rabbits!

Swim

Lucy swimming
Oh look - there I am!

Take a nap

Play with magnets while Nana tries to make dinner

Lucy with magnets
Very busy

Eat dinner

Play

Lucy playing
How come this radio only plays one song?
 and play
 
Lucy playing II
This one!

 and play

Lucy laughing
I love vacation!
 

Bath

Bed

Wine

I don’t have any pictures of the last three because all three require the use of both of my hands. Let’s just say there were many hours spent on the porch watching it get dark, drinking boxed chardonney (don’t judge me) and thinking how nice it was not to have a television.

Coming back home to civilization was really rough – there is traffic here not to mention its freaking hot, there won’t be jean and sweatshirt evenings for months!  There are a few things I’m grateful for like consistantly hot showers with water preassure, my simmons beauty rest mattress, and my husband – not in that order.

 

Bath Time

The best time of my day occurs at 7:30 pm each evening, right after the Jeopardy winner of the day is decided.  We scope Lucy up in a big ol bear hug and transport her upstairs to begin getting her ready for the bath. It starts with the three of us sitting on the floor of her bedroom, projecting stars onto the ceiling via her twilight turtle.  This never fails to astound.

Then we bring out the BIG GIANT PANDA – big giant panda was a Christmas gift that she got excited about for 5 minutes and then promptly forgot about until about a week ago and now he’s the best thing EVER. He’s taller than she is and can completely surround her with his big giant panda arms – she can barely contain herself.

Then, just when you think things can’t get any better, she gets nekkid and gets to throw herself all over big giant panda without any clothes on… We let her run around nekkid while her Dad gets her bath ready.

In a fit of giggles and flailing arms she is set in a tub of warm water – WATER, OMG WATER! Water is by far WAY better than big giant panda. She squeals and kicks and grabs for the wash cloth and splashes around until we finally decide that perhaps we should actually bathe her. Her father has this down to a science and can wash her in entirety in 6 minutes. Six minutes I spend signing the “No hands in the face song” Cause, you know soapy hands in the eyes…

No hands in the face
No hands in the face
No, no, no, no hands in the face
Sung to the tune of ‘farmer in the dell’

 Once she’s clean we sit her up and throw all sort of manner of toys at her – octopuses and cows, sheep and lady bugs – we squirt water at her with them while she squeals In delight and tries to splash  so hard it gets the whole room soaking wet. Just about the time she’s dropped all of the aforementioned toys over the side of the tub (you know, to see where they end up) Dad brings out the bubbles – BUBBLES and blows hundreds of them into her face. This quiets her down, while she puts on her serious face and tries to unlock the mystery of the disappearing bubbles.

Eventually she’ll give us a sign, she’s had enough water and bubble excitement and we will lift her out of the tub, wrap her in a big terry cloth towel and stand with her in front of the bathroom mirror where she laughs at herself all nekkid and wet.

Back in her bedroom we get ready for bed, diapered and lotioned and put into jammies.  If it’s my turn to get her ready we do this while I regale her with my rendition of ‘little bunny foo foo.’ If it’s her Dad’s turn to get her ready he regales her by humming the theme to Star Wars. Both seem to make her happy – there is no clear favorite.

Afterwards I nurse her and if she’s really tired she’ll simply fall asleep in my lap, if not she finishes eating, gives us both big smiles and waves as she’s taken upstairs. She’s usually asleep before I wish her sweet dreams and quietly close her door.

I LOVE Bath time.

27

Today is the 27th anniversary of the day my parents got married. I would like to say a big shout out to my Mom and the man I have come to think of more as a father than my father ever will be.

I can’t say that I always agreed with them or fully appreciated them growing up, but now that I am a parent I realize more than ever the challenge that I faced them with. The fact that I am not only alive but a productive member of society is all thanks to them and their unwavering refusal to simply never give up on me.

Thank you for all you have done and for all you continue to do – to celebrate your anniversary Lucy would like me to post some gratuitously cute pictures of her:

Flower Child
Pirate baby
In Rittenhouse Square

 

At LOVE park
On the porch

 

Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

I was born on a Wednesday and whether or not that is the catalyst for it I have always been very quick to cry. And I mean quick, I don’t just cry when events turn happy or sad or emotional I cry when I know they are headed in that direction. I cry at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games because of all the amazing potential gathered together and the idea that soon dreams will be realized or crushed, my point is it doesn’t even have to have happened yet. I was once at a business event taking place at a  hockey game where a small crippled boy with a terminal disease sung the national anthem, I cried so hard that I had to excuse myself… I cried right now just typing that line.

Thursday night when Michael left the office for good and got on that plane to Boulder Colorado I cried, my husband looked at me and said “Seriously? You’re crying for the office?” sometimes, it’s like he doesn’t know me at all. I’m just glad that he was at work this morning when I watched William & Kate get married, it got a little embarrassing even for me. My wedding was certainly no exception – I couldn’t talk to, or look anyone in the eye until about 30 minutes and several glasses of wine after the ceremony was over.

It already makes me embarrassed for my daughter because if I can cry like that for Kate & William two people I’ve never even met what’s going to happen when she gets married? Or goes to school? Or has her first recital? Or whatever?

In the meantime – I’m sorry Lucy, just tell everyone your Mother has a ‘condition.’

Spring has Sprung

It is currently 78 degrees in downtown west Philadelphia, and in an effort to take a break from email I decided to go for a walk around campus – I headed straight to Starbucks thinking wistfully about a vanilla latte but as I was standing in line it hit me, its smoothie season, SMOOTHIES, so I immediately left the coffee haven and leisurely strolled to the closest smoothie bar. Soon we’ll be in sandals with toenails painted, eating lunch outside.

I love this time of year when everything is in a state of rebirth and renewal and the dogwood trees are blooming and the daffodils are up, it reminds of being a kid and the physical rush of unbridled excitement when you realize you can go play outside, outside, without a coat, or snow pants or mittens – just you, your bare feet and new shoots of grass.

I can’t wait until Lucy understand how cool spring is, until we can stay up late and catch fireflies and tuck her into bed with her window open.

Digression

Barney Stinson has a theory about releasing anger called the pyramid of screaming, for those of you who watch how I met your Mother you know exactly what I’m talking about, for those of you living under a large heavy rock, here is an excerpt from his blog explain the pyramid of screaming:

THE CHAIN CIRCLE PYRAMID OF SCREAMING

(4/14/08)

HEY STUPID BLOG READERS!!! WHY DON’T YOU READ MY BLOG MORE?!?! Sorry. My boss screamed at me over a few missing schematics and I had to release some steam. Why didn’t I yell at my boss and not at you? Because that would be dumb, idiot.

You see, we all learn as children that screaming leads to results, and it’s no different in the workplace. America was built on the backs of men and women who were yelled at to work harder, and the tradition has been screamed from generation to generation. But you can’t just scream at anybody… that would be counter-productive. That’s why it’s imperative you understand where you stand on the Pyramid of ScreamingTM.

What exactly is the Pyramid of ScreamingTM?

The Pyramid of ScreamingTM is a societal rubric that dismisses the parlor tricks of the Chain of Screaming, Scream Ladder, South Beach Screaming, and other methodologies and focuses on the golden rule of scream etiquette: You can only scream beneath you.

To illustrate how it works, here’s the scream pyramid for a professional football team:

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/how_i_met_your_mother/community/barney_blog/index.php

I bring this up because I’m not a huge fan of screaming but I am a proponent of this whole circle chain pyramid idea… I believe that it’s healthy to pass on the annoyance you get from one party onto another party – that way you don’t let all that angst get pent up inside of you…

Let me illustrate with my own example:

When I was in my early twenties (just a couple years ago) and lived in California I belonged to 24 hour fitness, perhaps the most annoying gym on the planet. I had the cheapest membership they offered and could only get into the gym on something like Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (perfect for me – built in excuse not to work out). But, the people that worked there were most exceptionally annoying. Every time I checked in I was bombarded with requests to upgrade my membership, or to buy their shirts, or to sign up for their towel service or some way give them more money.

And it wasn’t just the front desk – trainers would walk around and interrupt me on the Stairmaster and give me great advise about how more effective my work outs could be if I signed up for personal training sessions… Personal training sessions at $99 an hour (clearly these people didn’t understand I was bringing in $9.00 an hour and riding my bike to work because I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car).  I was constantly annoyed the entire time I was in that place and since I didn’t want to be full of angst all up inside me I would call them… I would call and have conversations like this:

Me: “What time are you open?

Them” This is 24 hour fitness”

Me: “So… you’ll be open when I get out of work?”

Them: “24 hours ma’am”

Me: “But I don’t think I’ll be able to leave until late tonight – like probably around 6:15, and then I might want to eat dinner, do you think I should eat dinner before I work out because I might be pretty hungry by then”

Them: “I don’t really know”

Me: “So, if I decide to eat dinner I probably won’t get there until 7:30, will you be open then?”

Them: “Yes”

Me: “Is Doug working today?

Them: “He’s out on the floor in a personal training session”

Me: “I really need to talk to him”

Them: “Are you just going to ask him how late me are open?

Me: “No”

(repeat above conversation)

I would do this over and over again – calling back to get different receptionist. My theory is they annoy me, I should return the favor – and I didn’t feel like I should pass this annoyance onto my friends and since I was making $9.00/hour there was clearly no one ‘under’ me which I could do this through work.

Which brings me to yesterday.

Yesterday I had an exceptionally bad day at work and left the office with angst building up like a pressure cooker inside of me. On my way home I thought & thought of people who deserve to be annoyed in return and immediately I decided upon the local 7-11 that I often go to while at the office.

You see this 7-11 is staffed by people bordering on hostile. I have had several altercations with them – once resulting in them chasing me through their parking lot… that’s a whole different post. But let me assure you they deserve to be in my pyramid.

So – I called and asked them to look and see how many hot dogs they had on their grill. It turns out they only had one lonely one leftover from lunch – so I politely asked if them would please put 3 dozen more on to cook because my son’s peewee hockey team just finished their last game and I was going to surprise them all with 7-11 hot dogs (their favorite!). I would be there in 20 minutes. I assured them I was for real and that I would see them soon…

See? Don’t you feel better? I do.