Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Hour and a Half on the Phone with Tech-Support

After dinner on Tuesday night I turned on my computer to check on blogs and read my email messages - you know, the ones that most of my family send from day to day (hint, hint). To my dismay, I couldn't access the Internet. Every time I tried, I got this message about a virtual connection. I was convinced it was popping up from my former dial-up provider. After getting frustrated, I turned off my machine and went to bed. Last night after choir I tried again. No such luck. Tonight I had an idea to try to accessing the Internet from my Start button. Somehow I thought that would do the trick. No. Nada. Nein.

Suddenly I remembered to look in my "Welcome Package" from my new provider and noticed a phone number for tech support. I turned on my computer, got my clipboard ready with clean paper, and made the call. After working my way through the automated attendant, I was connected to a real live person, Marlin - from the Philippines. At first I was worried. Would I understand him? I shouldn't have been concerned. He spoke perfect English and was very patient. For an hour and a half, he patiently took me through tools, options, etc. He discovered items that were clicked that shouldn't have been, and instructed me in cleaning up temporary files: cookies (not chocolate chip or Oreos) and files. He told me he deletes his once a week. I had NEVER cleaned mine, and therefore it took about 22 minutes for my files to be deleted.

Now I am working on a fast, cleaned up machine and enjoying it very much. It was worth it to spend the time with tech-support.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day in Austin

My flag-waving granddaughter

One of many wreaths dedicated to those killed in action and those currently serving in the military.
Aurelia - and Annika - LOVE ketchup!

Early this morning I drove to Austin to participate in the annual Memorial Day events - flag rising at the court house, the Memorial Day parade, the dedications of wreaths at the Oakwood Cemetery, and the decorating with flowers the graves of my mother and father. I was pleased this year to hear the local organizations paying homage to past and present veterans. Those in Iraq and Afghanistan were included in the dedications and prayers. Following the dedications ceremony, I was interviewed by a nearby TV station. You can watch it here: click on Memorial Day in Austin.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Finally - - a good night's sleep!

Sleep is important. Most adult people spend 1/3 of their life in bed. About a year ago, my mattress just wasn't giving me the support I needed. I checked my warranty and saw that I was still covered. So I called the store where I bought it and they said they would send someone out to check it. A few days later, the guy came. He put a little wooden block - 1.5" high - onto the center of my mattress. Then he took a string and placed it from one side of the bed to the other. The string came to about 1/4" from the top of the block and he announced, "The string has to be above the block before we deem it defective. You can call back for another check in 6 months." Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Fast forward 6 months. I made the appointment and the guy was sent to my home. He placed the wooden block on the center of the mattress and the string was at least 1/2" above the block. He told me he would send in his report and I would be hearing from their service department. A day later, I got a call from the store and was told I had 7 days to come in to pick out a replacement mattress. To the store I went, determined not to get another pillow-top mattress. I looked around and sat on a few. I found a very firm mattress and lay on it for about 10 minutes. I decided this one would do. I made the arrangements to have it delivered and was informed I would have 60 days trial to see if would work for me. My choice ended up being a BIG MISTAKE! This mattress was as hard as a concrete street. I have had fitful sleep and very sore pressure points. So, just before leaving for Germany, and before my 60 day trial period would expire, I went back to the store and stated my claim. Once again, I had to choose another mattress and box spring.

This time the salesperson got a better idea as to what I needed, and guided me to a unit that he said would probably work for me. It was delivered yesterday, and last night I slept like a contented baby - not waking up once. My back and hips don't hurt. I hope this is the start of many years of good sleep.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm Back and Recovered

When Josiah couldn't finish his cone, Annika volunteered to help.

The German/Austrian Alps - gorgeous!

This is one of my favorite photos!

Josiah and I went shopping in Garmisch.

We also took in a local puppet show - all in German.

Josiah enjoyed sitting with the other children.

The picnics Rachel planned were really fun!

Cotorockto (the snail) came to join in our picnic.

Josiah and Annika modeling the aprons I made them.

Annika at the playground.

I was treated to a puppet show one night.
The next five photos are from an indoor park:

Having fun in the mirror room.

My knight in shining armor.

Showing off in our beautiful shoes.

It's raining balls!

The dragon slide.

Annika loves animals.

Josiah and Grandma played trains.

Chocolate milk (in straw) at Mc Donald's

Josiah is up at bat.

Making "mud soup"

Josiah and Annika loved these church steps in Schwäbisch Hall!

Proud Grandma

Annika takes a turn on the zip-line.

Josiah on the zip-line at Schwäbisch Hall.

Birthday cupcakes for Josiah's last day of being four - preschool treat.

Josiah's 5th birthday

I made it safely home on Wednesday, around 4:30 pm. I managed to stay up until 8:30 and then crashed, since I had been up 22 hours. Of course, jet-lag interfered with my night and I was wide awake at 3:30 am, so got up and due to having no one living above me at the moment, I was able to do two loads of laundry plus unpack all of my bags. It was a good feeling to go to work on Thursday and know that it wouldn't be staring at me once I got home.

After work I drove to my friend Laurey's and picked up Peppi. He was so happy to see me. He sang and sang. Laurey said she was really impressed with his singing ability - rolls, trills, etc. It was fun for her to have him around.

There was only one day during my stay in Stuttgart that I was able to add any photos to my posts, so I am going to chose some of my favorites today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Auf Wiedersehen

After two weeks of having a fabulous time in Germany with Rachel, Josiah and Annika, the time has come for me to say good-bye. Thinking back on my stay, it makes me tired to think of all that we have seen and done. From the German/Austrian Alps to the Schwäbisch Alps, from Patch Barracks to Panzer, from pre-school to t-ball, from playing with the Thomas trains to playing with the toy ponies and puppies, from the playground to shopping in Vaihingen, from watching movies to talking to Hans via video camera, from baking birthday cakes to enjoying picnics, from reading stories, to taking long walks with Annika, and much, much more, I've enjoyed every minute!

Tonight when I go to bed, I will miss my little bed partner Annika. She has been so sweet - just an angel. She was always fast asleep when I came to bed, so once settled in, I would take ahold of her little hand for a minute and tell her how much I love her.

Tomorrow when I return to work, I will miss Josiah saying, "Grandma, do you want to play trains with me?" Has there ever been a more loyal Thomas fan than Josiah? I think not.

At dinner time, I will miss Rachel asking, "Grandma, what would you like for dinner?" and "Please let me do the clean-up. This is something I enjoy." She has helped make my stay so pleasant.

Yesterday was Josiah's 5th birthday. From the moment I got up until I went to bed, it was fun celebrating with him. He is such an amazing child! I can say that - I'm his Grandma. He's been reading to me and just yesterday, he astounded me with his ability to put together a difficult bridge from a new toy from his Aunt Heidi and Uncle Chad.

So to this part of my dear family, I say auf Wiedersehen. Vielen Dank für alles.

Monday, May 18, 2009


While here in Stuttgart, it's been fun watching movies with Rachel, Josiah, and sometimes Annika. I say the latter, because often she has been in bed during this time.

We have seen:

The Family Stone
Pay It Forward
Charlotte's Web (Peder, did you play the part of Templeton?)

There may be more, but I can't recall.

Friday, May 15, 2009


It would have been fun to buy these.

Annika loved this teeter-totter.

How cute!

Some of the many wardrobes.


Lumbar and other pieces from old buildings.

Today after dropping Josiah at pre-school, Rachel took Annika and me to some German Antik stores about 10 miles out of Stuttgart. We took an exit prematurely and were treated to winding narrow roads where we saw many fruit orchards and fields and fields of gardens where there were long rows of tall mounds of dirt, some covered completely in plastic. I'm guessing potatoes were planted there, but can't be sure. We passed a small stand where a woman was selling white asparagus. She had several customers. There was also a large field of gladiolas popping out of the ground. This should be a great place to visit from time to time this summer and fall to see what is being offered.

Once arriving at the Antik (antique) stores, we ventured into the first one. It was two floors of mostly furniture - much of it large - some new, some old. If you're looking for a wardrobe, head over here. The selection is unbelievable. There were many dining sets and small tables, some with drawers. I saw many darling hutches, but of course could not even think of getting one. I had my eye open for dishes or glassware, but nothing really knocked my socks off.

Annika enjoyed seeing some of the old toys - such as doll houses, typewriters, and a very old, dirty stuffed dog. She didn't get to buy it.

We wandered through a couple of others shops that were in the vicinity. Rachel bought a pretty salt glazed pitcher. It looked quite old, but was in very good shape.

We ate lunch at a new Mc Donald's next to the Stuttgart airport. It had contemporary furniture, plus a Mc Cafe - offering lattes and delectable desserts. I had a new sandwich called the Mc Royale - which was like a quarter-pound California burger - and a chocolate milk. Now the chocolate milk is interesting: they serve a bottle of white milk and a chocolate powdered-filled straw. I must have sucked the chocolate too voraciously, because I ran out of chocolate before I ran out of milk. Then I treated myself to a chocolate chunk cookie, which was very good.

Josiah's T-ball practice this afternoon was cancelled due to rain. That was 2 hours ago. The sun is now shining brightly. I hope they are able to play their game tomorrow because it will be my only chance to go. His team is the A's, and he has been sporting an Oakland A's hat since I got here. He wears it almost all day long.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Yesterday Annika and I spent a little time together while Rachel and Josiah went to his school and then out shopping with some of his birthday money. He's been doing some small jobs around the house and earning a little money, too. So combining his funds gave him enough to buy some trains he has been wanting. He's turning into a little helper at home!

In the afternoon, Annika, Rachel and I went to a large store - Real - to shop while Josiah was in school. This is a large store - on the order of a Super Target, only much larger. I was able to look around and bought quite a few small treasures to bring home. I've been looking for Edelweiss seeds, but up to now have had no luck. I did purchase an Edelweiss plant the other day, but won't be able to bring it home.

I've played trains with Josiah and read books to Annika. We've spent time at the park on the base and also baked cookies. All three of us have had fun coloring and watching videos. Last night we watched Wallace and Gromit. It was really cute! I think Peder and Sarah would like it for Aurelia. I believe it takes place in Scotland.

Last night Hans called and all of us got to talk to him for a little bit. It was really nice to hear his voice again. He misses his family very much. Hopefully he'll be home soon.

Today is Wednesday. We'll see what it holds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bragging About My Grandchildren

This post is about bragging. I don't think I have done it very often, but tonight I can't help it. I have four darling, smart, charming grandchildren! You're thinking I'm prejudiced. I think I'm being proud (I know, the Amish wouldn't approve).

Tonight Annika, Josiah and I read a book together called, I Spy with My Little Eye Minnesota. This is a book of photos, two - side by side, but with differences, all taken in Minnesota. The idea is to find the differences. On one page, there are two photos with 24 subtle differences. Do you know what? Josiah and Annika found nearly all of them without any assistance from me.

At bedtime, I took one of the dozen or so library books to Josiah's room. He read the entire book, Mr. Gumpy's Outing, to me. I would guess it is 2nd grade level reading, though I can't be certain. Some of the words it contains are: squabble, muck, bleating, trample, flapped, and teased. I thought this was a difficult book for a first grade child. However, Josiah is not in first grade. He hasn't even started kindergarten yet. He turns 5 years old a week from today and starts kindergarten this fall.


Last night while watching some TV, we heard very loud thunder. I wasn't sure it was thunder - and wondered if it could be low flying jets. After all, we are on a military base. But soon there was no doubt. It rained, and rained, and rained, and then the hail started. It was so loud.

Little Annika came out of her room. I'm sure she was concerned from all the noise. We let her stay up for awhile.

Poor Rachel ran to the outside door to see if her new car was being dented. Of course, she didn't dare go out in the storm. I just looked out the window, and as far as I can tell, everything looks fine.

ddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddhhhhhhmmmmlllllllllllllllllnnnnnnnpp (this was written by Annika).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back from the Alps

Friday we drove south to the Alps to the town of Garmisch and stayed at the lovely Edelweiss Resort and Lodge. The view from our windows and deck are gorgeous snow-covered mountains - including Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany. Last year, around this same time, I was privileged to go here and we took the tram to the top of Zugspitze and ate in the restaurant there - which is partly in Germany and partly in Austria.

It so happened the town of Garmisch was celebrating the start of spring, so a festival was taking place. We took in part of it Friday night - listening to a polka band for a little bit and watching Josiah and Annika on a carousel. We also went to a wonderful store in which I bought a very pretty German sweater. This store has ready-made and custom made dirndls, plus other Bavarian style clothing. They're all just beautiful - and expensive. We concluded the evening with Italian ice cones. Yum!

Saturday morning Josiah and I went back to town and browsed and shopped for a little while. This is the first time I've gotten to do this. He was so good. We went to a toy store and he picked out a metal car. We wandered from shop to shop, and even sat through most of a puppet show - totally in German. This was so fun because it was interactive with the puppets and the German children in the audience. When the children laughed, so did Josiah. It was so cute.

Rachel and Annika picked us up and we went for a gorgeous drive in the area. Rachel doesn't worry about getting lost because "Dora" - her GPS - can fight her way out of a gunny sack - well, most of the time. After driving through a few small, picturesque villages, we found a spot for a picnic. While setting up the food, Josiah turned over a rock and to his surprise, there was a snail attached to it. It became quite the conversation topic. He named him Cotorockto (sp). It took some convincing that he couldn't come along with us, and that he probably wouldn't eat greens. After we returned to the lodge, we swam in the pool. I also spent some time in the hot tub - outdoors - where the view is the Alps. This just doesn't happen in Minnesota.

Poor Josiah woke up with the stomach flu this morning, so our trip back to Stuttgart was interesting. We've been home a little while now and he seems to be lots better.

To all you mothers out there - Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I'm in Germany!

I had two very good flights bringing me to Germany today. In Minneapolis, I had a rainbow out the plane window for my send-off. How fitting. We flew up over Lake Superior, Nova Scotia, Greenland, Ireland, England, and then The Netherlands, where I had a couple of hours lay-over. Over Ireland I saw the stone fences separating the farms (so charming). Approaching England, I saw at least 7 freighters. Next we were either over northern England or Scotland. I saw an airport that may have been Preswick, Scotland.

Off and on there was cloud cover, so I watched the movie Hotel for Dogs. It was cute and had a good ending. I slept about 3 hours total, so I'm a bit wiped.

I thought I had been in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, years ago, but either it has changed A LOT, or my memory of it has faded. It's huge - long, long run ways. There are canals running through part of the airport. We landed an hour early, so I figured there was time to shop. But I hadn't counted on having to go through customs and security, which took extra time. I did look in a few stores, but only bought a couple of things. Hans had seen a toy called Girders and Panels when he was there last fall and suggested I look for that for Josiah's 5th birthday, coming up on the 19th, but the lady at the toy store said they didn't have it. She hadn't heard of it.

The flight to Stuttgart was only an hour. It was cloudy over Amsterdam, but cleared off as we made our way over Germany. I think I saw the Rhine River, but can't be sure. I love the red clay rooftops. Rachel, Josiah and Annika were there to meet me. Josiah came running up saying, "Grandma! Grandma!" Annika was shy at first. She's a little young yet.

We've been home a couple of hours - boy, it's smelling good in here - Rachel is making dinner. The kids are quietly playing. I've had big hugs from both of them. It's such a joy!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rosy's First Communion

Today I attended Rosy's first communion. She attends a Catholic church that is totally Spanish speaking. I assumed it would be that way, so I was prepared to stand when others stood, etc. When I arrived, the parishioners from the previous service were exiting the building. Many of the children were dressed in fine white clothes. I waited until the sanctuary was nearly empty and then I went in and found a seat near the front, along the center aisle. I hadn't made plans to meet Rosy's family, though they knew I was going to attend.

About two minutes after I sat down, I realized I hadn't brought my camera. Stupid! How could I forget to bring it for such an important occasion? It was too late to go home to get it, so I tried my best to memorize everything I saw. First of all, the Hispanic people are beautiful people. They have raven black hair. The children look like models. Secondly, the adults are friendly - offering smile after smile. It was very interesting watching everyone come in - not understanding one single word being spoken near me. Talk about a great place to watch people. I thought about my cousin, Pat.

The mass started at 1 pm with a lay person giving what seemed to be a short speech. This was followed by an amazing choir - a female director with a gorgeous voice, who also played the guitar (it may have been a twelve string - but I'm not sure if that's what it is called), and two other adult guitarists - one a brother, complete with the brown robe and rope belt. [I apologize to the Roman Catholics who may be reading this, because I do not know the correct terminology.] There were about 10 young singers, perhaps elementary and junior high age. One played the tambourine, another the castanets. I loved their songs and spirit. I thought of my choir mates and knew how much they would have enjoyed this music.

Next was the parade of children who would be receiving their first communion, led by altar boys and girls. I can't describe how lovely the girls looked and how handsome the boys looked. The girls were all in white, wearing white veils, and carrying white candles. Most of the boys were in white suits, and had a ribbon around their left upper arm from which hung a photo of Jesus (I think it was Jesus). I tried to see Rosy, but I missed her because she looked so different. For one thing, she wasn't wearing her glasses.

After a couple of songs, the priest spoke while holding a waste paper basket. Twice he took an empty, plastic water bottle and a Pepsi can out of the basket and put it back in. Once he removed a cardboard carton and then returned it. I don't know if this was part of the homily, or if was a announcement about recycling, but I did notice everyone was listening intently. Eventually the communion portion of the service began. Each young candidate (probably not the correct term) came up to partake. When Rosy's name was announced, I couldn't help but cry. She stood, walked to the front with perfect poise, partook, and returned to her seat. What happened to my eight year old little girl? She looked so grown up.

After the children had their first communion, the congregation participated in communion. I would estimate there were three hundred, or more, people in attendance. I watched for Rosy's parents or grandparents to pass by the pew in which I was sitting, but I never saw them. At the conclusion of communion, the priest called each child to the front. He placed around their necks a ribbon that had a photo of Mary on it and then gave them a certificate. The children went to the altar and stood in formation for a group photo. The audience applauded. It was then that Rosy noticed me and smiled. She was just lovely!

The children followed the priest to the back of the church where each one had their photo taken with the him, next to a statue of Mary. I asked the young boy seated next to me if we were free to exit and he told me yes. He and his family were so nice.

I walked to the back where I saw Rosy's father - with his video camera. I think he had filmed the entire mass. Rosy came out of the little room following her photo with the priest and I got to see her close up. Her dress had been ordered from Mexico and it was just beautiful. Her hair had been parted into little rows (similar to corn rows, but not braided), and small, tiny white round barrettes held it in place. It was pulled back and held by a full veil. She had on pearl dangle earrings and matching bracelet, and white strap shoes. She was stunning - a vision. Drat! How could I have forgotten my camera??? Her mother asked if we could step outside so she could take a picture of Rosy and me. She told Rosy to tell me she would get me a print. Next I was invited to their home for a reception, but I had to decline so I could go home to pack my bags.

It is a blessing for me to know Rosy and to be a part of her life - an unexpected blessing.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Getting Ready to Travel

I think it was back in February I made flight plans to travel to Germany to visit Rachel, Josiah, and Annika. It seemed so far away then - - but the time has flown, at least for me. I leave this coming Wednesday. Am I ready? Not yet. But I'm working on it.

I've been busy with my regularly scheduled activities and work, but there have been some extra things thrown in there too. One of my cousins (by marriage) died and I went to her funeral in Le Center last Saturday. I'm glad I got to go because I saw cousins I hadn't seen in a long time. Then later that day, my choir had its annual music festival. Four choirs from the twin cities joined ours for a wonderful concert. There were 310 voices and a 40 piece orchestra, plus about 1500 guests in the audience. Rachel's aunt and uncle came and I got to visit with them before taking my place with my choir. This is an event I look forward to every year. For me, it feels like a taste of what Heaven will be: choirs, grandchildren, and desserts! When you put that many people in one place with everyone singing because of the love they have for music, the roof nearly raises off the building. It was a fulfilling day.

Yesterday after work I drove to Rochester and my brother and I went to a dinner sponsored by the college we had attended. Once again, we saw friends from the past. After a delicious dinner, we listened to the guest speaker, Joe Sensor, a former Minnesota Vikings player. It was an inspirational time.

This morning Jerry, Janet and I are going to spend some time together talking about what our final wishes may be. We're getting to the place where some decisions may need to be made (don't worry - there is NOTHING wrong with any of us) and I felt it would make sense to have discussed it. I hear from friends that their loved one had this or that and they were left to decide things without a plan. Also, we just wanted to spend some time together.

When I get home later today, I'll pull out my bags and begin to pack them. Monday and Tuesday are booked solid for me, so I need to be fully ready by Sunday night. Wish me luck.

Josiah, Annika and Rachel - see you Thursday afternoon!