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