Sunday, November 24, 2013


This is probably going to be a schmaltzy post, so those of you looking for the mildly amusing me might want to skip this one.  It's November, and to Americans that means Thanksgiving, which in turn means being extra reflective about the people and things for which we're grateful. One of my Facebook friends lists something he's thankful for each day of November, and I love reading those! I think that's what gave me the idea for this post. I have more to be grateful for than I could possibly fit in a blog post of reasonable length, but here it goes.

I first want to mention that there isn't a day that goes by when I do not feel overwhelming gratitude for the life I'm living. That may sound doubtful, but seriously just the act of stepping outside - especially when I simply walk to the office, the bank, or the butcher - is enough to trigger gratitude. I love the smell of the air in our community - evergreen hedges, flowers, wet pavement when it rains, smoke from Kachelofen fires (especially ours, which is burning as I type!), the smells of whatever the neighbors are cooking, and I don't even know what else. It just smells good here.

The town of Horb is beautiful in every season. During the Christmas season the colored houses on the hill are lit at night, in the spring the planters, window boxes, and fields are full of new and colorful life, in summer all the trees are filled out providing a lovely contrast to the blue sky and fluffy clouds, and in the fall the turning leaves on the hills and within the town are breath-taking.

Often while I'm walking I marvel at how blessed I am. Our home, our community, the beautiful town of Horb, our relationship, our families, the time we have to spend together, our relatively good health, the great meals we cook together... I wonder how I got so lucky or what I did to deserve this. I had a great childhood and a darn good first quarter-century of adulthood. I have a husband who loves me, two children who mean the world to me, I've been able to travel internationally alone and with groups of students 27 times, and I had a satisfying career as a high school teacher but was able to "retire" at age 43 when I moved here. Now I'm able to do volunteer work and have the time to enjoy tending our home.

My intent is not to rub it in about how great my life is, but to put out there into the universe my gratitude. There is so much negativity out there - in the news, in war-torn countries, sometimes in our interactions with others, in our moods on an especially bad day - that it's good, healthy, and sometimes therapeutic for us to focus on positive things.  With that in mind...

I am incredibly thankful for...

Martin, without whom the life I just described would not be possible. We understand each other, work well together, and we've been soulmates for a long time. He's a fabulous cook, a safe driver, makes me smile and laugh every day, never gets riled up about problems but just deals with them, encourages but doesn't push me, is incredibly patient with me despite my many faults, and knows a lot about so many things! ("The benefits of a classical education," he says.) I love his accent, his sense of humor, his hugs, and the way he pronounces "vocabulary".  There's so much more to say, but I don't want to embarrass him. :-)

My family in America, who understands me well enough to get why I needed to move to Germany and to accept my decision without making me feel guilty for being so far away. My parents and daughter have visited us, and my son is coming for Christmas and New Year's, enduring the long hours on airplanes and in airports and then enjoying the time together.

My friends in America, especially my bestie, who writes to me often, found out last Christmas how blinking expensive it is to mail a package here, checks in with my parents now and then, provides a bed for my daughter when there's no room at her dad's house, and keeps me posted on the goings-on in Fond du Lac. Her namesake also always makes time for me when I return, even if that means driving to Sheboygan. Facebook, necessary evil that it is, and email help me keep in contact with my friends in the U.S., and I always enjoy reading their updates.

My husband and my bestie hanging out at my family's cottage

My extended family in Germany. This includes my mother-in-law, who is also my dear friend, my host mother and sisters (one of whom lives in Madison!), my sister-in-law and her husband and children, and our former exchange student from Deizisau (near Esslingen) who stayed with us in 2008.

The house that Martin found for us, which fits us perfectly in almost every way. We have plenty of space for the two of us, room for guests, a Wintergarten (sun room), an office so we can keep our laptops out of common areas, a large basement for storage, raspberry bushes, azalias and rhododendron which are so beautiful when they bloom, a 4-minute walk to Martin's office, and best of all...a Kachelofen! It's a home full of love and harmony and the several plants that I've managed to keep alive.

Public transportation in Germany, because I can get anywhere I want to go for a day or a weekend without having to worry about driving or parking, both of which are a huge pain here! I've got plans to visit at least seven different Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) this season, and I can get to every single one by bus or train.

Christmas market in Nürnberg

...the little things:
     summer rain storms
     Christmas markets
     ice cream
     good movies
...and the not-so-little things:
     fresh German bread
     my family's cottage in northern Wisconsin
     thick winter blankets
     the people I have traveled with and learned so much from over the years
     Zwiebelrostbraten und Bratkartoffeln at Straub's Krone
     the post office (I still love old-fashioned, hand-written letters and cards!)
     sunny days
Perhaps if we all throw our gratitude "out there" into the world, things will get better all around for just a little while.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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