Friday, September 19, 2014

My Experience in Weed After the Fire

I work for a restoration company.  We clean up fire and smoke damage, mold, biohazard, water damage and many things no one wants to clean.  Sometimes, when catastrophic events occur we go to help out afterwards.  I was blessed to be part of a storm response to the small town of Weed, CA.  I always knew I loved what I do, but

I met so many incredible people...friendly, giving, kind.  The devastation here was like stepping into a war movie.  Whole blocks, just leveled.  Then, a house here, there a house, there charred remains.  I was overwhelmed and at the same time, hopeful for this little town.

That hope blossomed after helping out at a community barbeque put on by Mt. Shasta Resort and a team of dedicated volunteers.  I happened to see the flyer posted at the local diner and called the fellow who was spearheading the event, Casey Day.  I offered my services to serve food to the townsfolk and help in any way I could.  I was thrilled when he accepted my offer.

All my years of Relay for Life could not prepare me for the emotions that flooded over me this evening.  People sharing their stories....the outpouring of support and love to one another was ineffable.  I stayed until the end - helped with schlepping cases of sodas and waters left over after feeding hundreds of people.  As we packed up, I heard Casey say there was still enough food left over to do it again!  Phenomenal!

I have really come to love this town.  As I leave tomorrow morning to go home to my family, I take with me all the hugs, kisses and camaraderie of a small town with a huge heart and leave a part of mine here.  God bless you, Weed, CA.  I will see you again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Peace and quiet and EXCITEMENT!

I'm a girl usually surrounded with noise and confusion.  That's usually the way I like it.  Really.  However, i gotta' say....I'm loving this peace and quiet today.  My daughters are at their father's home; my and my husband's son is at church and my hubby is sleeping.  Ahhhhhhh.  The remote control is ALL MINE.  Guess what?  I'm not watching TV!  No music, no Facebook.....just me and my blog.

I'm in the final stages of preparing for my husband's and my trip to Europe.  Hotels are reserved, plane fare purchased, passports ordered....just have to finish paying for the Eurail pass and the registration for the class reunion.  It's going to be a tight squeeze, but that's okay.  I'll be "squeezing" in Europe.

Day one through 3:  Budapest - a forbidden city to my husband and I when we lived in Germany in the mid '80's.  I've never been to Hungary and understand from my reading that it is completely unique to most Eastern European countries.

Day 3-5:  Prague.  I had the pleasure of visiting it in 2006.  This time it's extra special because my friend, Subin Cho lives there and owns a sushi restaurant.  I promised when she left for Korea in 2012 that I would see her again.  I never realized it would be this soon and certainly not in Prague.

Day 6-9:  Berlin.  Twenty-Fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and class reunion.  So excited to see my husband's face when we exit the bahnhof to a whole new city.  I am honored to have been a tiny part of the history of this ancient city and have the opportunity to celebrate this anniversary there.

Day 10-11:  Overnight train back to Budapest and flight home.  I haven't been on an overnight train since my days as a Berlin Brat and the Duty Train.  I am looking forward to this journey.

The following three months:  Putting the finishing touches on my book so I can release it three months following the trip.  I think my biggest challenge in this area is finding the time to write.  I will probably be on 24 hour call for the three weeks upon my return....and I will want to catch up with my kidlets and enjoy them - and of course, Christmas and Thanksgiving....  I am a determined sort, so I'm certain I will figure it out somehow.  I will be keeping a journal for the entire trip and possibly recording some of it for posterity (let's face it, I will be videotaping a lot).

I can't help but think that this trip will be a turning point of some kind for me.  Call it a premonition - or mistaken expectation; only time will tell.  I do know this:  this will the the last big trip for a while.  My folks are experiencing some health challenges that will not go away and I'm choosing to stay close by and only go on short jaunts during this time.  I will make the most of this adventure.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Life in the sandwich

Life in the sandwich.  I don't mean I'm a piece of roast beef or salami, although sometimes it feels that way - I'm cooked and petrified; what I mean is I'm a part of the "sandwich" generation.  I have kids at home and "mature" parents, a full time job and outside obligations.

Sometimes, I feel like Stretch Armstrong.  I used to get phone calls from the hospital about my dad every two to four years.  He would have some kind of cardiac event, arrhythmia, blood pressure issues; now it is every two months, sometimes every two weeks.  Of course, now it's not just cardiac issues.  Now my Dad has a plethora of other things that it could be.  He is living with a slowly progressive illness.  There are good days and bad days and very bad days.

When these very bad days happen, I want to drop everything and run to his side.  Then there's my kids - who are in school, who need me and the job where I'm on call three out of four weeks.  My family that needs my support, needs my income, needs me.  AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

Therein, lies the question:  what do I do?  What is the responsible thing to do; what is the appropriate thing to do?  I cannot afford to drop everything every two weeks.  How do I choose when to fly down to his house and when to stay in my routine at home?  I really don't know.  When stuff like this happens and I choose to stay home, I walk around feeling like something is missing.  I feel a gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach.

When I fly down there, I am grateful to have the opportunity to help my mom out, and yet, I feel like I'm dropping the ball at home and at work.  Sometimes I want to either, a)  run away screaming; b)  hide in the closet and shake.  Usually I just choose plan C):  count all of my blessings from the beginning and focus on the positive.  That works the best and frankly, I've only chosen a) once and on b) it's in my bedroom, not the closet.

I'm sure many of you are in a similar predicament.  I have so many friends from High School who are losing or have lost their parents.  I am lucky to have mine.  I would rather have the chaos than nothing at all.

I guess my lesson in this is to remember to continuously count your blessings.  Breathe and move forward the very best way you can.  Today, my blog is my way of obtaining catharsis.  If anything I mention helps you in your journey then I have done a good thing.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Berlin Brat Article "The path to Berlin 2014"

I am a Berlin Brat.  Many of you know that about me.  I graduated from Berlin American High School in 1985.  I have similar behaviors (or dysfunctions, depending on who you ask) as many other brats.  One of them is an almost unscratable itch to get out of town.

I had planned a trip to Berlin in 2016-ten years from my last visit.  I had the honor of attending the 2006 Berlin Brat reunion.  I thought it appropriate to continue my retreats every ten years.  I was going to encourage others to meet me there, if a reunion had not been planned beforehand.

Well, turns out one is planned for 2014.  So - plans change.  Many things changed in my life from 2006 to 2014; not just travel plans.  I divorced the father of my children, and was fortunate enough to connect with another Berlin brat, Thomas (von) Strong (c/o 89), to whom I am now happily married.  I sold my house out of necessity and moved into an apartment (not a fan).  I now work for a company where I am on call three weeks of each month as opposed to being self-employed.

I made the commitment for both Tom and I to attend the 2014 reunion.  Yes, it is a costly adventure - certainly more so than the solo trip I took in 2006.  But, it IS a necessary one; at least, in my eyes.  One thing I learned in 2006, is that you CAN go back and you SHOULD go back.

I have heard the objections, "It will never be the same.  What if I'm disappointed?  It is so expensive.  How can we do this?"   Yes, it can never be the same.  We don't want it to be the same.  When I was there in 2006, I felt almost like a proud parent. Berlin had grown up and was reaching for its potential that had once been squashed.  There was so much emotion in the visit; it was almost spiritual.  I found some things disappointing, for example, the graffiti that littered many places; the fact that Truman Plaza was gone; the understanding that our special place in history is now, in fact, just that...history.  But that's okay.  You feel it and move on.

Yes, it is an investment.  But what price can you put on memories that you create together?  My Tom has not been back to Europe.  I am looking forward to seeing that look on his face when he touches the bricks of Templehof and realizes that he made it back when he thought he never would.  How can we not do this?

I also looked at ways to make the trip a little less painful financially.  I looked at tax incentives.  I am acting as my own  travel agent; I am planning way ahead and I am using the Internet tools available to us as well as different banking products, to maximize my dollars.  I've found that Kayak is a great resource - particularly for hotels.  Also, I truly believe that when you want something bad enough, God (the Universe - God as you understand....etc) helps you achieve it. 

I am blessed (some would say cursed) with an unbreakable stubborn streak.  When I decide something, I do it.  I usually don't know how I'm going to do it, but it always seems to work out.  In 2006, I wasn't able to purchase my plane tickets until June and the trip was in July.  I was a mortgage lender at the time and was blessed with a commission large enough to pay for the trip just in time.  I don't expect 2014 to be much different - except, I'm buying our plane tickets in May.  My plan is to 1)  buy the plane tickets;  2)  update our passports; 3)  pay for the hotels (we are also visiting Budapest and Prague) in advance a little at a time; 4) purchase Eurail passes 5) continue to deposit funds into a special savings account that matures two days before we leave for spending cash; 6)  purchase the reunion registrations; 7) purchase travel insurance; 8)  prepay the rent 1 month in advance.  The only cash we will need is food and spending money.  Everything else will already be paid prior to our arrival.  As in 2006, some rather large commissions have "shown up" to help facilitate it, and our little side business is also picking up.  Things just come together when you are focused.

If you are on the fence as to whether you are going to the 2014 Reunion, now is the time to decide.  If the answer is, "Yes!  I can't wait!", then commit to it whole heartedly.  Believe that it is happening and it shall.  If you cannot commit for whatever reason, that's okay.  Stay connected to the brats you know via Facebook, or if you're more conventional, the telephone.  I will be certain to post my photos upon my return.  (Never post that you're out of town on any social media for safety reasons.)  You can also follow my blog: in which I will discuss the journey from desire to reality in 2014.  You can also create your own little Berlin Brat reunion closer to home and celebrate simultaneously with the Berlin group.  There are suggestions on how to pull it off on

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bright and Shiny

I was sitting on the gym benches watching my daughter's high school winterguard perform. Now if you haven't seen a winterguard performance, I highly recommend it.  It is a cross between modern dance and colorguard. Various teams compete and are judged on a variety of criteria:  the "architecture" of the show - how it is choreographed, the tools involved and the skills in using those tools, the expressiveness of the dancers and technical aspects of the show - including the preparation portion.

It occurred to me that we all were once bright and shiny like these high school performers.  Remember the time - possibly back in High School, when we believed - really believed that we could (and should) do anything?  Remember when we could focus on our talents whether it was music, dance, sports or poetry and we received praise for our abilities?

As I thought about this I felt a sigh well up within me.  "I want to be bright and shiny again" was the cry.  I realized that all these years of life had tarnished me.  Of course, tarnish can be a good thing - patina and all.....  I became introspective as the performance continued.  "How am I shiny now?  What am I doing now that will give me that sense of not only accomplishment, but 'shiny-ness'?"  The melancholy that had gripped me had begun to loosen.

While I hadn't picked up my clarinet in a couple of years, and my fingers hadn't tickled a piano in three times as many years, I had found other means to shine in my own way.  For example, I have a passion for Relay for Life; I connect successfully in the local community; I'm in the process of writing a book; my partners and I founded a successful connecting luncheon five years ago, and I consistently look for ways to make the world a better place.  Of course, I tend to not see it - in fact, in writing this right now, I'm questioning myself.  Hmmm.  Maybe I AM shiny.

I came to believe that maybe we just have to really look at our lives and find our own shiny-ness.  Shiny can take all forms.  In my case, it was my life work:  creating community.  For others, it could be music, magic, creating laughter in children, preserving the environment - shiny is where passion lies.

If we can't find the shiny, then maybe it's time to create it for ourselves.  Perhaps we need to redefine what "shiny" means to us.  Sometimes when we adjust our perspective, things become clearer.  Maybe success isn't the big house on the hill and the fancy car.  Maybe it's simply the love of our family and friends.  Shiny is an inside job.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Black Hole

Welcome to my blog.  Do any of you have a black hole at your house or place of business?  You know - the mysterious place where the very thing you're searching so diligently for has disappeared?  I have several of them.

There's one in my car.  I've lost untold numbers of eyeliner and mascara in it.  (Of course, my theory is my teenage daughter has decided to "adopt" said items.......but she vehemently denies it....every time.)  I've also lost business cards, my kindle, lots of glasses - reading and sun.

Black holes exist all over my living room too.  My husband recently discovered my kindle (yes, my kindle adores black holes, wherever they may be.) just outside the living room black hole.  It languished in the black hole over three weeks causing me to purchase a replacement, much to the joy of our son, Jonathan who now inherits the black hole dweller.

But the most treacherous black hole of all is the one at work.  I haven't lost anything significant in it YET, but I am acutely aware of its existence.  So much so, that whenever I work on a file - I could be returning in 5 minutes - I refile it.  I do not leave it on my desk.  You see, where I work, there is a whole lot of desk sharing.  I find things that are not mine on my desk on a daily basis.  I'm pretty sure a black hole lurks closely to my desk.  I'm suspicious every time I sit down.

Not only that, but there is a black hole on my laptop as well.  Multiple users of all ages and all tastes=multiple hiding places for files, bugs and photos.  It's a law of physics, I'm certain.

I've heard that if everything is in its place consistently, black holes begin to shrink in size.  The challenge is, how can everything be in its place when there isn't enough place for everything?  There's no space to purchase more things to create space and the "stuff" seems to be pretty important - especially when it falls into the black hole.  Therein lies my dilemma.  If you have any ideas, let me know!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Writing Journey 3.12.14

Today I met with my editor,  I haven't written a book yet, and I know I have several struggling to get out of my brain.  It was an exciting meeting.  I laughed, I cried - all in the process of discussing my ideas, my family, my life as a military brat (child of military parents, sometimes referred to as "Third Culture Kids") and
what I hope to accomplish with this particular book.

Suddenly I realized that this project must come to fruition.  I simply HAS TO BE.  I am a passionate person, and once I harness that passion, I can do anything.

We discussed a forward - and who I would like to write it...testimonials and those particular individuals that I would like to contribute their thoughts.  The photographs - what works and what doesn't; what's economical and necessary and what can be posted on a website for my readers to interact.  (Guess I will be needing a website...)

I was amazed and pleased with how quickly the book could go from transcript to editing to publishing - four weeks from transcript to published.  Fantastic!  My goal is to have the final transcript by the end of February 2015.  I think that may be a little ambitious given that it is my first book, however, that passion again....I'm certain that passion will fuel the book.

You may have noticed my Blog is called "Bratalicious".  Clever?  Maybe....cliche?  Uh, yes.....but the most clever for what was available to me that was also palatable.

My first step is this blog.  Perhaps the reader would like to take this journey with me......or perhaps not.  Either way, it is a stepping stone to the final product; however it may turn out.  I'm looking to put a new spin on Brat points of view - at least, I hope to accomplish that, and I hope to write my book as a travel log or travel book.

There are many military brats out there and many of them are writing.  I think we are compelled to write.  We have had a unique experience in our lives and our numbers are dwindling.  My book shall explore a little of that "brat culture", a little bit of Cold War History and a little sight seeing.

I will probably have WAY more blogs than I chose to publish.  Just sitting and writing this today is liberating me, so I imagine I will use this tool frequently, albeit often poorly.  But I am proud of what I have accomplished today and that counts!