Rhein River Contemplation

I am sitting at the Rhein River this morning.  Here is my view:

Rhein River Contemplation

 

I would sincerely like to say that I have done this dozens of times since living in Germany.  But that isn’t true.  This is the VERY FIRST time that I have just come to the river to sit and contemplate, alone.  I planned my whole year to be one long contemplation!  Nonetheless I have spent countless hours taking care of Keogh and Wren, food shopping, checking emails, responding to and creating my own business responsibilities, talking on the phone, going to the post office, etc.  You see living in Europe is 99% like living in the US.  Its just that that 1% is one wild, adventurous, cool, exhausting and expanding ride.  Like today, sitting at the Rhein in Germany!  And writing, just sitting and writing.  This would be an expanding part.

 

Doing things like food shopping and going to the post office have their own element of adventure.  I mean postal employees all over the world have the same code of behavior that entails only providing information one knows enough to ask for.  And asking for postal information in German is a minefield of possibly incorrect (in)formalities, horrible grammar and painful pronunciations.  But it is incredibly satisfying when I get the information I was looking for.  Same goes for food shopping.  I mean how many Americans could ask for Agave at their local Rewe (think Associated, ShopRite, Stop n’ Shop, etc.)?  Now do it with a 22 month old single handedly dismantling the produce section and a 5 year old so intensely “reading” his comic book that he is walking out the front door of the grocery, into traffic, and not hearing his MaMa calling his name.  Pretty impressive that I get anything understood, right?

Wren jumping in a fountain while friends and lunch await us. Yes, she got soaked and no I didn’t have a change of clothes.

 

Keogh caught in his own moment of contemplation. The kid is deep. And handsome too, right?

And today I’m alone at the Rhein.  The weather is perfect.  A bicycle cab just rode by with a blissful bride and groom.  A couple is fighting down the bench from me.  I have head phones on but I can tell.  Folks are roller blading, jogging and riding bikes.  I’m sitting on what was once a dock and is now a leisure promenade.  I’m just north of the “crane” buildings.  Three buildings built in L-shapes suggesting large shipping cranes that overlook the river.  I love them.  The couple just kissed and made up.  Life is good.

Crane Buildings

 

The wheels are turning.  The water is pleasantly rippling by.  And my mind is working.  I sold a business about 18 months ago.  A business that my Mom and then me owned for nearly 25 years.  I spent my entire professional career growing that company.  And today I find myself reflecting on the fact that it is no longer mine.  That is not to say I wasn’t ready to let it go.  I was ready.  And I am not feeling regret.  What I am realizing is that my brain is fast while my heart slow.  Understanding and feeling are two totally different things.  I learned so much at that company about myself, my family, running a business, managing and leading people.  I made so many many mistakes.  And I had many many victories.  There are countless memories.  The many young women who bought homes because of their employment with my company.  A woman, then a young 40 something fairly newly employed with the company, who came to me in tears with her first paycheck as a stylist because it was the most she had ever earned in one check in her entire life.  The immigrant woman who came to the US with exactly $118 in her very thin pocket and five years later gave me a ride in her wildly expensive brand new car.  The young woman who would literally pass out when she had to speak in public and now presents (really she informs, teaches, and entertains these days!) to dozens of people.  And the countless men and women who grew and became more than they ever dreamed because of this little company.  Now don’t get me wrong there were plenty of haters and drop-outs and plain old bad shit that went on.  And the net outcome – I am sitting in Europe, writing a blog entry at the Rhein, raising a family and thinking about all the good things I’ve been a part of.  I am living a dream.  Perhaps it was all worth it?

Who Do We Miss the Most?

So October 2011 was wild – even my last two posts represented the splitting of my personality.  Fortunately I’m back from the brink and I’m thinking about things that anchor me when I’m totally fried.  One thing I know for sure is that friendship helps.

I’m often asked this question by friends and family: Who do you miss the most?  Usually it’s in the form of a statement though.  Like “You must really miss your folks.”  And indeed we do miss our folks.  We think about and talk about and communicate with our loved ones but we are not homesick.  We are not pining to return to the US.  We talk about our return and dream about our new apartment, but we really are doing a sincere job of loving life here in Cologne day to day.  We miss everyone and no one in particular.  This absolutely goes for every single person we know.  Except for one.

His name is Owen S.  He is five and he is one of Keogh’s best friends.  Keogh met Owen the first day of preschool two years ago.  They were fast friends in the way only children and very very lucky adults can be.  Owen and Keogh immediately joined (perhaps created) a gang.  Yes, there are gangs in preschool now.  They called themselves the Bad Guys.  “We are bad guys!” rung out over the playground in regular 6 second clips for most of the 2009/2010 school year.  We know that this made the teachers crazy.  But we secretly loved it.  The boys weren’t really bad.  They just loved saying they were bad.

Owen moved to Seattle six months before we moved to  Germany.  For weeks Keogh talked about Owen and literally dreamt of his old play dates with Owen.  He keenly felt the gap of friendship.  He did not bond with another child in the same way.  Keogh has friends and is a perfectly normal social boy.  He adores a few dear friends from NYC, a special buddy from Philly and a handful of NJ and PA guys.  On some level he understands that these friends will be back in his life on a regular basis at some point in the future.  But Owen can’t be.

I guess what makes me miss Owen the most is twofold.  Firstly Owen was Keogh’s first independent friendship – no parental manipulation.  And secondly it is my and our collective  longing for the possibility of this kind of friendship.  Keogh and Owen looked at each other, connected, started to play and formed a tribe.  Instantly.  The chemistry!  The ease!  The total lack of self consciousness!  Being human just doesn’t get any more cool than that.  A friendship like that cancels out a lifetime of crazy making Octobers.

The bird a nest.

The spider a web.

The human friendship.

– William Blake

How Long Can I Personally Do That?

I launched my blog.  My intention was to post again last week.  Then my daughter, Wren’s Day Mother (Tagesmutter) was ill, there was a German 3 day weekend (Reunification Day – my downstairs neighbor is still cleaning up beer bottles and humming Disco Inferno.  The Germans know how to party.), and now my son, Keogh, is ill.  Viral and he’s out of school until next week.  I feel like I may never be able to post again . . . okay that’s dumb because here I am posting but it certainly feels awful.  Another week gone, never to return.  Recently it seems I get nearly nothing unrelated to care giving done.  How long can I personally do that?  Indeed I needed and took a serious nap this morning.  My husband is an angel and should have been a physician or nurse.  Love that man.

The nap proved brilliant in the end because I’m pretty sure that I would have driven my bike into the Rhine if I hadn’t taken that nap.  You see I bike (walk or public transport) everywhere these days.  On Saturday I’m purchasing an excellent all weather bike with a fantastic riding compartment for the kids and warm rain gear for all of us.  And today I found myself riding to pick up Wren and a drizzle turned into a downpour.  I was instantly soaked.  My glasses completely fogged over so there goes my vision and I forgot Wren’s bike seat cover so her seat was turning into a bathtub as I pedaled toward the Tagesmutter’s apartment.  I finally arrived after taking shortcuts down two one way streets, the wrong way. Elderly German folk generally do not look kindly on this type of blatant misconduct and I was reprimanded by two 80 somethings on their own bikes.  I couldn’t understand exactly what they said but I did notice that they had very cool and effective rain gear, no time to ask where they shop though.  Anyway, I arrived and parked the bike in the rain, grabbed Wren and headed back out.  I braced for crying and wailing because now it’s raining like it’s 3:30 in August in New Orleans.  I snap Wren in, jump on the bike, turn around once to double check her seatbelt, take notice of what is total disbelief on her little face and then turn for home.  That’s when I begin to hear it.  My daughter is laughing.  Really laughing.  She is shrieking and slapping the rain as it collects on the back of my seat.  That look was only disbelief at her sheer good fortune to be riding in the rain!  That’s when I realized that personally, I could ride all day in the rain with her and that laughter.

Sasha and Wren on sunnier days

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