Looking for answers to life's questions

Birthing

I was wondering (though I knew the answer deep down) why I was so tired all the time and feeling like someone had pulled my plug from the current?

In the last nine months, I have fixed up my home of seven years and put it on the market to sell. The house sold and there was more work. Packing, purging, making arrangements for a life that I could not see in my minds eye. Then there was a month-long trip to Germany during winter and Covid. Finally, there was the possibility of a new landing spot far from my friends and familiar surroundings.

The last three months have been about settling into a place I really didn’t want to be in but decided it was probably for the best and turning out better than I’d imagined. It has required new health care protocol, trying to make new friends, and deal with entirely different weather and living conditions.

In essence, I have given birth to a whole new life in the last nine months. A lot work went into creating it so it’s time to take a good look my life now and claim it.

Running in circles leaves no air for me.

I realized I had become habituated to eating what was cheap and easy. Is that who I am? A cheap, easy addict? So, I decided to take charge of this new life I’ve birthed and feed it properly. I’ve been gradually increasing the length and intensity of my walks as I’ve become slightly more acclimated to the altitude of 6300 ft. I fasted for a few days and then continued with a healthy low carb lifestyle for the duration.

The hardest part of this new life? Giving up being cheap and easy. The interesting part is the cough has quieted and my creative energy is returning after allowing myself extra resting time. The apartment is still more cluttered than I’d like but things are still on the move here. Mostly out the door. My new sofa and chair may arrive this month but I know better than to have expectations.

First project in the new sewing room. A gift

I finally found my essential sewing tools packed in odd places and am beginning to start sewing again. My very first projects were gifts, as it should be and I tried something new for fun. I’ve attended two card making classes at the Senior Center. Had a very good time but will not succumb to another expensive hobby.

Back shows embroidery stitching better

I have been able to cat/house sit for the kids three times since I’ve been here. Change of pace for me and a way to give back a bit for all they do to help me. Gracie is now an official curmudgeon and Sonar a tormenting toddler.

Have you ever given birth to a new idea, project or lifestyle? Were there labor pains in the process?

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. ~Alice Morse Earle

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

ISO an Island

It’s been longer than even I expected since my last post. Squeezing forty pounds of stuff into this two-pound bag has taken determined effort. It seems as though we bring in things that work better for my apartment and the kids carry out things that will go to a thrift store or yard sale.

First they finished my sewing table. He wanted to make sure it wouldn’t cave in from the weight of the machine. I couldn’t find filing cabinets to hold it up so he improvised.

 

 

Once the newly built by my son bookcases were complete and installed, I realized how many books I actually gave away. There is room for more on the new shelves! How did that happen? The last one is 4’ wide by 10” deep, built to fit the area in the hall. The bathroom door is so wide, it takes all the hall width to close it. Everything is strategic. My son decided after seeing the books on the shelves, the 4’ would need bracing in the middle.

In the search of more drawer space, (I have 2) we looked at all possibilities. Again, I wanted only things that could serve multiple purposes when I no longer need them. I looked at prefab cabinets of drawers out of wood and they were inadequate. Walking through the big box home improvement store, found us looking at a tool roll-away in black (On Sale). It had several colors listed but after much research, found the colors other than black were hard to come by. This apartment is just too dark for black so my son foolishly suggested spray painting it any color I wanted. Little did he know what can of worms he had just dumped on himself.

 

It’s the same color as my blog background this month.

It took longer than expected since they had a 10-day trip in the middle of it all but the end result of his ingenuity and fortitude was priceless! I was in love with my new island. Both he and his wife worked on this masterpiece. I want to have a showing with people lined up in the hall to see this thing of beauty and practicality. I’m still trying to decide what goes where and that still goes for much of the rest of the apartment. Things keep shifting until it feels just right.

 

 

My DIL trolls Craigslist and the thrift stores which can make some people roll their eyes but my goodness, she has found some really handy and beautiful things. I now have a sweet little bistro set for my porch at less than a fraction of what the original owner paid for it.

 

They brought a second little white wicker end table for my Mother’s Day gift found at a thrift store in perfect condition and it has a ‘drawer’! I love white wicker as it lightens up dark, heavy spaces.

I love white wicker

I also found a sweet little quilt rack on Craigslist that was here locally but we were all so busy that I couldn’t get over to see it and I was undecided if it was practical. I sent a note to the owner and he brought it to me. We couldn’t make one for the price I paid for this little sweetheart. I can put my napping quilts on it and not have to dig one out of the chest each day. I’ve met some very nice people through Craigslist. Maybe I’m just lucky that way but I guess right now I’m living on an island of delight.

 

Have you ever used things in an unconventional way?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

The Ugly Truth

It’s been hard to come up with the bandwidth to post since my life has no routine right now. My mind is a reflection of the chaos in my new home. It’s much easier to share my accomplishments than my shortcomings.

Would it fit? We got a bigger truck just in case

I decided to tell you the ugly truth here. I’ve had my ‘stuff’ here for over a month already and my place looks very much like a hoarder’s home. There is stuff everywhere and nowhere to put it…yet. It’s a total embarrassment as progress is slow.

As before in my manufactured home, I wanted the house to tell me what it wants. I hung no pictures so everything is sitting on the floor waiting. For what?

I sold three large bookcases that I didn’t want to move again. They were starting to show wear due to many moves. IKEA has no inventory in this area of the bookcases I like and there is nowhere here to buy anything similar. So, my son is building some to fit what little space I have to put anything. That will take time.

Where does it all go

I also left behind the flimsy drawers that held up the sewing table, which is a 2×8 sheet of plywood.

The move was hard in many ways. The movers came late in the cold day. We were already exhausted shuffling around things and chilled to the bone. The movers tied nothing down so my son did his best to tie up what was obviously going to come crashing down.

It worked and very little broke. At least nothing I couldn’t live without. I can thank my son for driving the 1500 miles very gently. The offloading was quick. Again, I had hired help. It was worth it to save our strength to put things away. The kids helped me so much getting things where they needed to be when I could no longer do more than point. I’m ever so grateful for that help.

When I put the quilt Emily made on my bed, I was home and cozy.

I’ve unpacked almost everything except some books. Until there are shelves, they remain in stacks of boxes. I look at it all and shaking my head, make a cup of tea and head to bed hoping the next morning will bring a fresh round of energy.

Still no home yet.

In the meantime, I’ve had appointments with a new pulmonologist, chiropractor, and have been lucky enough to get into pulmonary rehab. That just means that they make me exercise while tracking my oxygen level, blood pressure and heart rate. I was rewarded with a handicap placard and 24/7/365 oxygen supply.

my leash inside. Oxygen concentrator.

I’m acclimating to the altitude a second time and doing quite well in spite of the fact that some sort of oxygen apparatus follows me everywhere now. The rehab techs are impressed with my tenacity. I’m hoping to need less oxygen as time goes on. That’s the goal. Sewing is the next goal.

Clutter and shopping cart that now carries oxygen tank

Paring down  is on the list too. As much as I gave away and sold, it just wasn’t quite enough. We are working on unusual storage solutions and I’ll show you what we’ve come up with next time.

How do you feel about sharing the ugly truths in life?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

A Final Address?

I knew I had to find another place to live when I sold my manufactured home which was address # 35 but had very few clues to where that might be. I was looking for somewhere that I could live comfortably, have easy access to things like groceries and the post office without driving. I sent a deposit that would put me on a waiting list at the place my friend Emily was living in the Portland area and checked many others online. Independent living is very expensive and since covid, all the perks and activities had been canceled with guests often not being allowed in. They didn’t change the prices.

While I visited my son during Thanksgiving, we looked at what little was available in his area. Again, we could not enter one building due to active covid contract by residents. All I could see was floor plans and in the other I could see the common areas. I was not impressed by any of them.

My son sent an e-mail with photos of the place three blocks from his house that was available when I arrived home. In Portland, I was still on a waiting list with no availability.

I signed the lease online while in Germany so I had a place to land when arriving home. I remembered the place as dark and depressing. It had adequate space and was attached physically to the very quiet senior center. They serve lunch and cook for meals on wheels having procured a new chef. I would make the best of it.

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There are thousands of women that can’t even afford to live here much less the nicer places. I talk to them everyday as they struggle to find a safe spot in the world. I consider myself very blessed to have what I do.

I’ve been here over a month now and barely getting adjusted to the altitude. Coming from sea level to 6300 ft hit the old lungs hard. Perseverance is my middle name so each day we did something to make life workable until I could get my things out of storage.

The kids brought over an old sofa bed that I had given them years ago belonging to my last Mother-in-law. I’d recovered it years before passing it on and it still looked nice. With the mattress topper, it slept well enough until a new bed was bought and delivered. In the meantime, my daughter-in-law had collected a few things to make the kitchen and bathroom function. They offered back an old second hand dresser that my mother had used for fabric storage. It was functional so I sanded it down in the kitchen and repainted it.

Original

We haunted thrift stores for a few things and I found a cute little end table some young man had probably made in wood-shop. It received the same treatment. Before it was all over, I had most of the furniture I needed and now all that is left is to fly to Portland and have my stuff loaded into a U-Haul for my son to drive back so I can set up my sewing room. That’s my favorite part. I can hardly wait. By next week, I’ll be eating off my own dishes and cooking in my own pots. The senior center lunch room may rarely see me.

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Have you thought about your final address or are you already there?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

The Universe is all about contrast and so it is in our world. After Stuttgart, we were certainly looking for some contrast. My daughter had an agenda as we approached Mannheim. First thing on her list was a laundromat. That was her GPS coordinates rather than the hotel. A couple of times around the block and we found it and then parking. We left the car loaded with luggage and found the typical laundromat. After a few moments there, many others had the same idea.

My daughter is still laughing that a older German man was having to explain to a 20 something young German woman how to work the machines. My daughter figured it out without speaking or reading the language. Some wore masks, many didn’t. We did. No one wants to be sick in a foreign country.

The contrast started at the laundry and continued to the hotel. It was a new high-rise at the end of the old city buildings. Our reception was a great deal warmer. Once we were settled and laundry sorted to suitcases, we made our way back to the reception desk and ask about finding dinner. We were kindly directed toward the street with many shops and told the metro line was just out front that would take us anywhere.

Our hotel

First, we walked and found some take out sandwiches and called it a night. The next morning, we were directed to the breakfast room where, as before in other places, masks were required while in the food area but once seated away from it, we could eat in comfort and safety. The food was abundant, offering even dessert with breakfast. I NEVER turn down dessert. I even took a roll and sandwich meat and cheese back to our room for lunch. I eat small amounts at a time so this wasn’t an extravagant amount of food.

Breakfast, lunch and dessert all in one

After our scrumptious breakfast, we were asking directions to a grocery and explained to the reception clerk that we had been denied entry to anywhere except grocery stores in Stuttgart over the QR code. She shook her head and asked to see our vaccination documents again explaining that she didn’t understand why we had been denied and said she thought it could be remedied. Quickly making a phone call and then directing us to an Apotheke (Pharmacy).

This one was in the Cologne shopping center. If we had only known.

We walked down the wrong street but found an Apotheke explaining to the pharmacist what we were after. She looked at our vaccine records and went into her office. Then she asked a few more questions and back into her office. I was getting concerned but finally after 10 minutes she came out with two sheets of paper with the QR code printed on them. One for each of us. It coincided with our vaccine code number and said that should take care of us. Oddly, we never needed it in Mannheim. Everyone was helpful and kind not to mention accepting.

We wandered the streets taking in the sights and used the metro rail to our hearts content having the best time in spite a bit of drizzle on and off. This city gets five stars for hospitality. The clerk even gave me two batteries for my oximeter when it ran down so we didn’t need to walk to the grocery store again.

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It makes me wonder how we treat foreigners to our country who don’t speak the language. Would we go to those lengths to make their visit to our country a pleasure or wish they would just be gone?

 

“Everything I was I carry with me, everything I will be lies waiting on the road ahead.” ~ Ma Jian, Red Dust: A Path Through China

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had originally thought to visit Friedrichshafen with my daughter as part of our journey. My grandparents lived there for a great portion of their lives after the war was over. I was able to visit them on occasion while we were living in Aschaffenburg.

Something pretty to look at.

My Opa sent me home in a variety of ways as mom had 3 more needing care. Once, I was packed into the cab of an 18 wheeled truck with a trusted driver. Another time they put me on the train with a tag as to where to get off. I got scared and got off too soon but someone put me back on the train and I ended up where I belonged. Oma took me to market and taught me to read German when I could visit.

My mother’s parents

Fear of the weather quickly overtook nostalgia. They were expecting snow. The Bodensee area gets darn cold so I convinced my daughter not to risk the rental car. We opted instead for a city I’ve never visited. Stuttgart. It put us back on track to make it to Frankfurt in time for our flight home. I tend to worry more than I should.

am Bodensee with a small tour vessel

2006 trip to Friedrichshafen

The saying goes if you can’t say anything nice about something or someone, don’t say anything. I’ll just say the shopping center right down the street from our hotel in Stuttgart was a godsend. We got our walks in and found lunch and dinner. Since my daughter worked into the night hours to coincide with her office hours in the states, I usually started my day with lunch. She ate what they brought her for breakfast. I was being contrary (I can get that way) and refused their choices, happy after seeing it, to forgo that meal. Even with our vaccine certificate they were the only place that refuse us entrance to the breakfast room.

They use a lot of paper bowls for their take away salads

We couldn’t go into any stores because we didn’t have the QR code on our vaccine certificate from the states. Without it we couldn’t be seated for a meal or go inside a store. We could pick up take away food and walk around the three levels all day, fully masked. We didn’t dawdle. Each day, we walked down the hill after a sweet young woman personally took us to find the hidden entrance to the shopping center. We made the circle of all three floors, got our food and mineral water supply, then headed back to our room.

I wish I’d had cards with this on it for some people. FB photo

We did try to do laundry there but there was no parking available. I found a tiny fabric shop that was mostly for home decor but since we had paid for parking, I purchased a 50-cent pack of needles for embroidery.

I usually like to comment on how helpful the staff is at a hotel in helping us find our way around a new city. I won’t be doing that here. I found the whole city uninviting. We took no photographs and we were not allowed to ride public transit according to the hotel manager.

Have you ever visited a new place you never want to see again?

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Aschaffenburg had us hoping for more real German delight. Right away I knew where we needed to go. My daughter found us a hotel right at the entrance to the fairy tale world of Rothenburg. It’s on the Romantic Highway. My sister and I visited here as well in 2006 during summer; falling in love with the town.  My daughter and I were able to park the rental car in a free lot and it never moved again till we left.

Entrance to the walled city

We were told after showing our vaccination documents and passports that we were getting an upgrade room. I wasn’t sure what that meant but our room was quite spacious and very old world looking. We had everything we needed there.

Breakfast was included and we were seated a safe distance apart from other diners. Disposable gloves were offered free to keep all utensils germ free and as long as you were near the food, masks remained on. Once you retrieved your food and sat to eat, masks could come off. Again, the hotel population was sparse. Was it covid or winter?

Lots of glitz in old hotel. No one else in there

Masks and gloves required.

After breakfast we walked into the old section of Rothenburg where the tourists are drawn in to shop. We did our fair share and of course had to check out all the bakeries along the streets. There were gift shops and luggage shops. My daughter bought another small suitcase to check since she had done a fair bit of shopping already in Köln so the suitcase was going to be necessary. Hard sided and bright so it would be easy to find in the crowd.

Stickers added in case we couldn’t see it.

There was a mini-Christmas market but all the shops welcomed you in, only if you had vaccination certificates. We found delicious pastries and then we located the Christmas shop.

We saved that for the next day as we knew the restaurant would stop serving at 2 pm and we would want linner. (That’s a late lunch, early dinner). The restaurant owned by the hotel was as old world as the town. The food there was indescribably delicious. I moaned as I failed to finish my first meal. Portions were substantial and perfectly cooked. The beer was perfect of course. The second day the  meal was equally as scrumptious and I refused to leave even a bite of it. We waddle out with grins that expressed extreme satisfaction in any language. Fortunately, language was no barrier here either.

Our hotel itself had such modern upgrades as motion sensor lighting everywhere and the room key tucked in its inside slot allowed the room lights to go on until we turned them off. On leaving the room and taking the ‘plastic card key’ all lights in the room turned off. Since we planned several days visit, we ask that our room not be serviced until we left, saving water and wear. We spent only three days and wished we had stayed longer. If I only had one place to visit in Germany, it would be here.

Put in your key card for lights. Take card, lights out

We were directed to a good-sized grocery store in walking distance for a few things like mineral water and found a very handy gas station for later. Then we walked the whole walled city and shopped at the Kathy Wolfart Christmas store. This was an expensive trip. My daughter had gifts shipped from there.

I wanted this guy to come home with me.

I don’t think this car ever moved.

The contrast in old and new was very apparent in this little town. I struggle with seeing the old disappear and the new swallow it all up. We need the modern but also the reminders of what was and the beauty of the old architecture. More on that later, I think.

How do you feel about the destruction of the old to be replaced by the new?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

A Little Twist

I’m going to the end of my trip, then later when I get more brain power, I’ll get back to the trip in all it’s glory.  I like to be efficient and answer the questions just once.

Too much luggage Then we added one more piece.

We made it back to the States. It was a bit nerve raking as in the last weeks of our trip, the U.S. government decided that anyone coming back into the country had to have a covid test the day before their flight. Then we had to wait until midnight of that day to get the results. The rapid results tests were not cheap and they came to our cell phones by email. It took until 2:00 a.m. to get ours, then my daughter had to go onto our flight carrier’s site to post the results. Hence, no sleep for either of us.

After our test at 8:00 a.m., which was done next door to the hotel by the train station, we collected our luggage and taxied to an airport hotel with shuttle service. We had a lovely breakfast on flight morning in the best hotel so far. The Steigenberger turned out to be where many of the pilots and crew stayed. That’s a good recommendation to me.

This gnome seemed to like the airline staff

There was an unexpected mix up about who we were flying with so there was a lot of shuffling around and long shuttles in the airport itself before settling in to a tightly packed 10 hour flight. No sleep to be had there either.

We changed planes in Denver where we had to retrieve our own bags and recheck them on the next flight, go through security again and customs. We only had 1½ hour between flights. Denver is a HUGE airport and again I was grateful for the wheelchair assistance. A tiny person pushed me all over that airport as my daughter and another young woman who had to go retrieve her knee scooter for an injured foot followed us through the maze. I did leave that sweet, helpful person a healthy tip as we made our connection, where on our own, we would not.

Borrowed from my favorite, Mary Engelbreit says it all.

That’s where our new acquaintance parted ways. We were headed for Phoenix, bleary eyed and past tired.

The twist here is that while I was visiting with my son prior to our trip, we took the time to check out a few independent living options close to him. I was not seriously impressed with them but then reality set in. There was nothing “available” in my area of Oregon. The cost would have been unsettling. The cost of one by my son was well below anything else. It was ground floor with a door opening to the courtyard as well as an inside hallway; available immediately. My gut said grab it so my son wrote the check I left behind, just in case. I am now ensconced in my own small, two-bedroom apartment. I have an old sofa bed for the moment that has been passed around the family for too many years but it’s a start. There are no fancy amenities but I’m 3 blocks from my son with everything I need close by. I’ll be in the Arizona mountains instead of Oregon. A move I never expected but now that it’s done, feels like the right choice.

I’m hooked on these words

Next comes the retrieval of my personal things from Oregon storage. My daughter is once again, getting to pursue her own trajectory in life with the same mixed emotions I’ve had. I’m the fourth senior my son and his wife have to look after. They have my apologies. This could get interesting once jet lag and altitude adjustments are made.

Happy New Year one and all. It’s going to be a doozy.

Have you ever made a decision that twisted your life around?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

We went from Cologne to the city of Aschaffenburg. Not on most travelers must see list but it seemed right to go back after 15 years and see what had changed.

This hasn’t changed.

The first night we found a place to eat our first authentic German meal that was proceeded by a loud musical and peaceful protest against vaccines around the long city block. It made me nervous but it was orderly with no disruption except to traffic which the police managed.

My sister and I visited here in 2006. This is the city most of the stories about Suzy Q took place. We spent three years here when we were children. I took a picture of the street sign in 2006 just in case I wanted to find it again. This is the city where at the age of seven, I remembered where I came from, fully stepping into my body and became awake. You don’t forget those kinds of moments.

We booked a hotel in Aschaffenburg that was inexpensive with free wifi and breakfast included. The Olive Inn was a big green building. Easy to spot from a long distance and GPS took us straight there. We found a free parking spot on the side of the building which was a bonus. My daughter walked up to the office/reception area and it was locked up tight; on a Saturday at 1:00 p.m. My daughter called. She was told since there were only three other guests, they were told to close the reception office and stay home. That meant no breakfast as well. The key to our room was under the mat and she gave us the room number.

Not quite olive but you couldn’t miss it.

To be honest, the room was stark with nothing that encouraged an extended stay. No mini fridge or microwave. No way to make coffee or tea. The best part of the room was the marshmallow mattresses. Best night’s sleep we’d had so far.

On Sunday’s almost everything is closed, but we headed out anyway to find sustenance again and to see if we could find the street I lived on from one photographed street sign.

The guiding sign photographed in 2006

We programmed it into GPS and as we pushed start navigation, the direction signal didn’t move. We drove down the street and it directed us back up. The street we were looking for was exactly one block up from that awful motel. One block on the other side of the street!!! Ironic? Synchronistic? Fate?

We parked the car and walked the entire block. It was barely recognizable but when I found the little church, there was no mistaking it was the same block with a very different look. The school looked quite different and the apartments we lived in had been bulldozed.

I had thought 15 years ago that it was sad those huge buildings had remained empty after the US Army moved out of there. I guess they have decided to start over from scratch. It was a little heartbreaking but that is life. Everything must change.

The apartments had all been bulldozed.

My daughter saw what was left of my one-time home. Mission accomplished. Time for the new. That included a different town and hotel. We cancelled the rest of our stay. The rental car needed an oil change so we took it back to Frankfurt. They gave us another one for the rest of our trip.  We did miss those soft mattresses.

Marshmallow mattresses

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~ Terry Pratchett,  A Hat Full of Sky

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

I mentioned before that we had hoped over the last year or two that this would be a more international trip than it has been. While watching all the episodes of “I’ll have what Phil’s having” and “Somebody feed Phil” on Netflix we got caught up in Phil Rosenthal’s childlike wonder at every city and country he visited and the food he tasted. It was our happy place during the Pandemic. A hopefulness that enveloped us when the days seemed too grim to bear. Phil made us laugh and feel his joy.

A Phil mug for each of us.

It was not to be. Everywhere we wanted to go got tighter and tighter restrictions and we understood. So, we confined out trip to just memory lane with a little added bonus here and there.

My daughter-in-law was caught up in our wonder herself. She decided that a joint Christmas gift for my daughter and I would represent the idea of global travel. She did extensive research and pulled together foods from everywhere possible and labeled their origin, wrapped them beautifully and placed them in two baskets for my daughter and I. My son supplied encouragement.

Each package labeled where the food originated

I wanted to share just a bit of our fun at opening each and every one of these dozens of packages before we left on our trip. We all sampled a few and the rest are awaiting our return. I’m not expecting to do more traveling but never say never. I’m wishing you an adventurous heart to your Christmas and sending lots of love and hugs to each and everyone that has sent en-courage-ment as we trek through the country of my birth. We are celebrating a quiet thoughtful Christmas and New Year as we delve into the unknown future that awaits.

There is so much here

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for going on this journey with us.

My daughter’s water color for her brother.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself.