As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas - love the message behind the celebration, love the joy, the lights, the sounds and wonderful smells and goodies. And this year I really got to enjoy the holiday. Gerhardt and I took a once in a lifetime trip, returning to the country we lived in when we were first married. We got to see friends from both West and East Germany and then took a wonderful cruise, visiting the Christmas markets in various German towns and cities. Above you see part of the market at Nuremburg. We also visited Rothenburg and Bamburg. Oh, what fun. And, oh, the money I spent.
Possibly the most memorable part of our trip was the first part when we and our friends Brett and Lorian met up with new friends Sybille and Fred from East Germany and hung out with them in Cologne. Gerhardt's German is great, mine is... improving, and Sybille's not so bad at English - so our evening of eating Schnitzel, wandering the Christmas market, and then, later, playing Farkle was a mixture of languages and laughter. The next day we all went on to Aachen to enjoy time with old friends Werner and Maggie. We stayed at their B & B, and both of our nights in Aachen we all enjoyed a meal together, again, mixing languages and sharing more laughter. One night Fred made Rolladen (thinly sliced beef spread with good, German mustard, then rolled around a dill pickle, chopped olives and bacon then cooked in a pressure cooker or the oven). By the way, if you'd like the recipe it's up on the recipe page. Oh, was that a treat for the taste buds, as was Maggie's Printen Parfait, which makes use of a favorite German Christmas cookie. Oh, my! Sugar, rum, eggs, whipping cream, cookies, and calories. Yum.
After leaving our friends, it was on to the cruise ship, which we were sure we could walk to from our Gasthaus. The boys and I decided to try a trial run the morning of embarkation. It should have been a fifteen minute walk. It turned into a two hour wander. I kept thinking of the theme song from "Gilligan's Island."
Ah, but life got easy once we were on the boat. One of the fun highlights on the cruise was getting to "assist" the chef with a demonstration on how to make apple strudel. I was fabulous (says she modestly), but alas, Gerhardt had gone to the room and was there along with the movie camera and my camera so I have no proof. (I am FOR SURE getting a Smart Phone in the new year.) Since I have no proof of my fabulous performance you'll just have to take my word for it.
As with all trips, this one went way too fast. But the memories will last forever. Hopefully, the extra pounds I put on my hips won't.
So, what did I come away with from my trip? For one thing, I was made very aware of how much people love to celebrate what's good. The very air seemed to vibrate with happiness as locals and tourists alike did their Christmas shopping. Secondly, I was reminded afresh of how very blessed I am to be a modern American woman. I live in a great country where I can come and go freely. I have a wonderful family and the kind of fun and loyal friends I like to write about in books. I have a great husband and children I'm proud of. Yes, I've had some bumps along the way like everyone else. My life hasn't always been perfect. I haven't always been perfect. But God has been beside me through both the good and the bad. And this year, even with bad things happening around the world and in parts of my own country, I still see people helping each other, loving each other, forgiving each other, and celebrating and worshiping together. The message of hope feels very real and close to me this season. I pray it does to you, too.
I hope you and yours all have a wonderful holiday season. May your heart be touched, your memories wonderful and every cookie you eat magically robbed of its calories. And as Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us, everyone."
This week I took my granddaughter to see the latest installment in The Hunger Games movies. Loved it, as I've loved all the movies and the books.
Some of the scenes in MOCKING JAY were so stirring and I left asking myself, "Why, exactly?" Was it the background music? After all, music has a way of stirring us all and that score was great. But it was more than the music. Was it the dialogue? Katniss was pretty darned stirring when she was throwing down the gauntlet to the bad guy. Well, that contributed.
But I think what really got me going had more to do with the theme of the movie. How could the viewer not be stirred by watching people unite to bring down an evil force? How could a lowly movie goer not be inspired seeing what a difference one person can make?
Maybe that hope that one individual can rise up and bring about change, the idea that each of us is important in his or her own way, that we all have a purpose here on Earth, is what makes this whole genre of movie so popular right now. Super heroes abound. Young women save their families in dystopian worlds. Stakes are always high and the odds are usually against the hero but that doesn't stop said hero from entering the fray.
I think these days everyone is looking for a hero, a cause, a reason to live large. Yet so few of us step out of our safe circle and do it. So few of us sacrifice for others. So few of us are involved with helping good causes. Perhaps we all need to get in touch with our inner Katniss. No, we don't all have to say, "I volunteer as tribute," and step into the arena, but I think, for each of us, there is a cause waiting, something noble to which we can give time and energy. For some of us right now that might be family. For others, civic duty may call, or church or a worthwhile organization like Habitat for Humanity. There is something each one of us can do, something for which we can say, "I volunteer." And perhaps we should also be teaching our children to make that part of their vocabulary as well.
We're not all called to be super heroes. (Thank Heaven! I could never fit in Katniss Everdeen's cool outfit. And the last time I tried to shoot an arrow I twanged my arm and got an owie.) But we can all fulfill the purpose to which we're called. We can all make a difference.
I think I want to work in a bookstore. How did I come to that conclusion? By getting a chance to do just that.
Last Saturday was a day when Independent bookstores celebrated their independence by having local writers come in and "work" in the store. I was invited to hang out at A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS in Leavenworth, WA, the town which, as many of you know, is the inspiration for my Icicle Falls series.
Oh, my, oh, my, did I have fun! Pat and her wonderful family and team are simply fabulous: friendly, kind, supportive, helpful. It's no wonder their store is always full of book lovers. In spite of the fact that I dumped over a display of lip balm within my first five minutes on the job, they let me stay. Stephen and Andy and Donika tried to explain to me the mysteries of ringing things up via the computer. I almost got it. Entered something wrong but was smart enough to figure out not to give the customer $185 back from a twenty. I also learned to dodge the cash register drawer, which would magically open when a sale was rung up. Got a couple of Christmas gooses before I figured that out though.
There's something magical about bookstores - they are such a treasure trove of stories and adventures. And the people who frequent them are wonderful to talk with.
I had fun waiting on a family out here from Michigan. At least I think it was Michigan. I dutifully wrote down their names on a slip of paper and stuck it in my camera case and now, organized woman that I am, I can't find it. It's fallen out... somewhere. And they were all so sweet, too, darn it all. They even bought Sheila books! Guys I'm really embarrassed I can't remember your names, especially when I can see your faces so clearly. I think I definitely need a Smart phone in the new year. If I'd entered that info in my phone... I'd probably still have lost it.
Anyway, a big thanks to A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS for giving me a taste of what it's like to work around books all day and talk to friendly and fascinating people. And a big thanks to Theresa for organizing my book signings. I love that store and I sure do love Leavenworth!