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Toiny

Ever have a week, really a month, where everything goes wrong?  Yep.  That was me the last several weeks.  Thankfully it was not people-wrong, but mechanical-wrong.

It started with the The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine, it went out-of-order. Our hot water supply went to nil, our showers came to an end and the house got cold.  Despite some sunny days, it’s still pretty chill here in Germany.

We quickly discovered it was a lack of oil.  All four of our big, huge, tanks were bone dry.  Nothing beeped, lit-up or sang out “Danger Wil Robinson, Danger!”.  The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine just stopped working.  I quickly arranged for new oil… that was going to take 3-4 weeks to deliver.  Apparently this is something I should plan for.  Instead, I dug a little deeper & got a speed delivery 3 days later. Phew!

One day after that, The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine was again out-of-order.  We spent a weekend, thankfully a warm, sunny weekend, without water. That Monday, this Monday, was extra special.

It was the day after Dane’s big birthday blowout.  We’d spent all weekend cleaning & repairing zombie blinds (how is it I have never babbled about zombie blinds?  Sorry, I’m going to leave you to wonder today) so the house would look perfect for the invading horde.  Earlier that week my beautiful Veronica began to creak & croak.  In the shop she went for a new steering system.  So without car, without a shower, but working zombie blinds, I needed to find a way to Frankfurt to see Esther (Zesty Digi Designs from Australia) and Manu (Scraps from far-away here in Germany)!

I’m pretty savvy with trains by now, so I grabbed Dane & headed to the hauptbanhof in Stuttgart to take a big ICE train to Frankfurt.  As our little regional s-bahn pulled up, my phone rang.  Tess had injured her foot at school.  I turned back around and spent the next 6 hours discovering it was just a bad sprain.

Manu, Esther and I were all so disappointed.  And then, Dave saved the day and came home with a beautiful 2014 Audi from the rental place!  And a day off work on Tuesday to help me shuffle kids around and make sure I got my girl time in.  My hero.  Seriously, my hero.

Tuesday morning I called the guy behind The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine and pled my case.  He promised to come out in the afternoon, after the kids were home from school (to help translate for Dave) but before soccer.  Thankfully Germans understand the importance of soccer.  Even for 7-year-olds. I hopped into my fancy futuristic car and hit the autobahn.

My fancy futuristic car has a LOT more get-up go than Veronica. I put on speed control (auto pilot) to stop me from breaking the sound barrier.  In my old car, speed control has a little +(plus) button to increase the speed just a little. Fancy futuristic car had this too, and after 10 minutes cruising at 140kmph, I was ready for a little more oomph.  I hit the +(plus) button.

Dude! That fancy futuristic car took off in 2 seconds to 180kmph!  Aaaaaaaah!  It was like being in a jet plane, but on the ground.  I slowed that fancy futuristic car, and my heart, way back down and slowly sped to Frankfurt & my waiting friends.

Dave called as I pulled into the outskirts of a really big city.  Frankfurt is much bigger than Stuttgart.  Gulp.  Dave had good news, The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine was fixed and a hot shower awaited my return.  As I hung up, I spotted Manu peering around some trees looking for me (or more likely Veronica) .With a big grin I found a park space and jumped right into her arms, and then Esthers.

The three of us had a fantastic, amazing, couldn’t-be-better afternoon and evening.  It was 23:00 before I realized it, and I still had a 2+ hour drive home.  I’m going to need another NL to babble about our meet, I’m way too chatty today to fit it in here.  But! I do have a picture!  It was sunny & warm in Frankfurt and we enjoyed a lovely dinner outside.  I can close my eyes and still hear them babbling.  I miss them so much already.

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At the end of 3rd grade, we moved to America.  To California, to be precise.  Before that I had spend only 6 months in America, and I knew little-to-no English.  My memories of those first months are all visual. I wonder if that is what my kids remember from our first year in Germany?

I did get to try ESL (English as a Second Language) but either I was a really fast learner, or I didn’t fit in with the other kids.  After one session I was left to my own devices in a muted classroom.  No one else spoke Dutch, the rest all spoke Spanish, Vietnamese or Cambodian.  I was in San Jose, California.  A mecca for immigrants in the 70′s, and still at the top of the list of US cities with most immigrants.  Just not a lot of Dutch immigrants.

I don’t remember feeling too lonely or isolated. I do remember the day I met my best friend.  Jill walked into the classroom, new kid on the block, a couple months after I did.  My teacher, a fantastic man, Mr. Plummer, sat Jill next to me.  Whether it was because we were both new, or as it later turned out exact clones, I don’t know.  I do know we were immediate friends, inseparable until my dad’s job took us back to Holland two years later.

Some friendship are meant to be.  They stand the test of time and separation.  I moved back & forth between California and Holland into my teenage years, finally settling in the California bay area.  Jill finally settled in Santa Cruz, California, her mother changed jobs frequently as well.  We stayed in touch.  And as I got my drivers license I spent many hours driving that dangerous Highway 17 between Santa Cruz & Los Altos.  I love Jill.  I love the beach.  I love the crazy, crunchy-granola-ess that is Santa Cruz. What a fabulous place to spend your teenage years.

When Soren came along unexpectedly in 1990, Jill stood by my side.  Later she stood up as Soren’s Godmother and he was ring-bearer in her & Mitra’s wedding.  Then she left me.  She moved to the East Coast, leaving me behind with a big hole.  The next 20 years had both of us moving a lot. Me with the military as I became an army wife, her as an attaché’s wife as Mitra joined the State Department.

In September they moved to Paris.  Six-hours-from-me Paris.  I did a happy dance and talked to her for hours.  We were back, baby!  The weekend before Christmas, Jill, Mitra and 15-year-old Ella (named Elizabeth after me, my middle name is Elizabeth) came for their first visit.  I hadn’t seem them since Cole & Ella were both still in strollers.  Nothing had changed.  We picked up right were we left off, and reveled in our happiness.

Mitra & Dave followed close behind, marveling at the fact that there are two of us.  Two of us who get stressed when we are late, even if it’s only a minute.  Two of us that are compelled to pick up every shoe & jacket.  Two of us that worry if a child is out of sight for just a second.  We both wear glasses now, we both have night guards.  Time may have moved on, but we grew & changed even more the same in that time.

The two of us picked up our families, and our mothers (and my dad), and took Stuttgart by storm.  We led our group 11 through crowded Christmas markets to the best booths, to the best glühwein and the ice skating rink.  We exhausted our parents, and even Mitra, and they all found a warm, cozy bar to fill up in.  Jill & I kept the kids herded, and entertained, never missing a beat in catching up.

She left two days before Christmas, but I didn’t feel a loss.  I know we are barely separated, and I will see her again in no time.  Next time in Paris!  I had been feeling so lost with all my friends leaving.  And God opened up a door, threw it wide open, and led my bestest friend back in.
08JAN14

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Every time I see my Oma again, I burst into tears.  I steel myself before. I tell myself to be brave. I tell myself to be strong, none of it works.  I see her and I melt. It is just love.  It is my guilt at being so far. It is my sadness at how she has changed.  And it is my fear it is the last time.

My Oma will be 99 this December. An incredible age.  My cousin and I marveled at all the things she has seen in her lifetime.  We find it hard to imagine there will ever be another age where life changed so rapidly, so completely, as the last century.  I feel so blessed I spent so much time with my Oma as a child.  I am the oldest grandchild, maybe because of that our bond is incredibly strong.  We spent hours together playing cards, me always losing (I only discovered she’s a big cheater-head well into my 20′s), shopping, cooking, talking. I miss that now, though at the same time I am so thankful.

She has changed with age, she looks very different, I struggle to see her in the person she is now.  But her blue eyes are just as piercing, just as full of love & pride & joy as always.  And sometimes I see her shine through, like when I burst into tears, she frowned at me, then nodded at my kids sitting still, almost frozen, wondering what to do with their mommy.  It helped me to get myself back together, to turn my attention to them, and explain my tears are of love.

Always when I visit, she is retreated inside herself until I pick up Dane and sit him on her lap.  She immediately grabs on, holds him tight, and just sinks away for a moment in his sweet little boy smell, his warm skin and his amazing personality.  This time I had my camera ready.  I wanted more than anything to capture that moment.  That moment where she is really here.  In the moment.  My Oma.

090OCT13

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Zwiebelkuchen

by Toiny Westberry 21 September 2013
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Exploring our town one day, we ran into the Mayor.  An ebullient, extroverted kind of guy.  After half an hour of talking, I found myself drafted into the town choir.  Hysterical because I can’t carry a tune. I can’t even carry a note!  Since then I’ve gone to several Tuesday night practices.  Everyone tolerates me, […]

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Pièces de Monnaie

by Toiny Westberry 4 September 2013

Road trips in Europe are not the same as in the states. There’s the obvious differences, new languages, new monies (not all countries in Europe are using the Euro.  See: Chufs), new customs, and there’s the not-so-obvious. We’d done our homework, and we knew to expect toll roads.  What we didn’t know is how different […]

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Army Ball 2013

by Toiny Westberry 12 June 2013
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Last Saturday was the big Army ball for the troops stationed in Stuttgart.  It was my first Army ball in almost 20 years.  I’d forgotten how much effort it takes to go dancing for a couple of hours. For the last several months we’ve been walking, for our health, for the beautiful scenery in the Black […]

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SnickerdoodleDesigns Visits Germany!

by Toiny Westberry 4 May 2013
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Our new house came with a little apartment on the ground floor. We use it mostly for game nights & so-mom-doesn’t-hear the x-box.  But it is a fantastic little space for guests. I sent emails to my Design Team, friends & family that I had room.  I’ve already had friends & family come to visit, and this […]

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Socks Are a Really Good Idea

by Toiny Westberry 24 April 2013
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Remember how last week was not my week?  This week is already 1,000% better.  Except.  Well.  I goofed.  Big time. Last week was so hectic, the racing around between home, schools, hospital and our on-post vehicle registration kept me hopping.  I had little to no time to drag out my beloved camera and take pictures.  […]

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Quit Baking a Cake!

by Toiny Westberry 13 April 2013
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Everything gets a little easier with time. Even being in a far away land without my big boys.  My life is slowly getting back to normal after Soren’s whirlwind visit, excepting the pile of snowboards in my living room.  We are getting back into our normal rhythm and that is a good thing.  Frequent phone […]

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Bicycle Mom

by Toiny Westberry 23 March 2013
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It is no secret they do things differently here in Germany.  We are here as a guest in their country, and I’m doing my best to adapt.  Some things are easy (ahem, beer), but some things are hard.  The hardest one for me is letting my kids go. In the last year of Kindy (preschool […]

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