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The Fantastical Birthday Miracle

Mar

30

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 | 19 comments


The Birthday Miracle at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna

 

Last year for my birthday I got a miracle.

Definition of miracle

No exaggeration, textbook definition…I know miracles when I see miracles.

It wasn’t that I had the good fortune of celebrating in Vienna, Austria (traveling with my husband on a business trip) or that I got to spend time with my dear cousin Ellie and her mate, Walter. Those things, though extraordinary, are easily explainable.

Chocolate cake and whipped creamIt wasn’t my scrumptious dessert, either – equal parts chocolate cake and fresh whipped cream – though that was something special.

It wasn’t even that we were able to find this particular restaurant after first taking a wrong turn or two, off the beaten path but one Ellie and Walter had stumbled upon five years earlier.

And what makes this story all the more wonderful is what happened the year before, the year I turned 50, when – among a laundry list of challenges – our waiter hated me so much he threw my food on the floor rather than serve my birthday dinner.

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but this story is God’s honest truth. Just thinking about it makes me want to happy-cry.

(I started to tell this story then, but never got around to finishing it….)

It started rather ordinarily at a kitschy Austrian restaurant and local wine tavern, Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht. Forgive these awful pictures; lighting was poor and I was more interested in living this than documenting it well.

After all, until it happened, how could I know a Fantastical Birthday Miracle was about to occur?

 

Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht

Selfie at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht

 

Birthday Dinner at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna Austria

 

Kitschy walls at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna

 

Dinner in Austria

 

But we’ll get to that. First, let’s look at more memories.

My dinner…I wish I could remember what it’s called. Much more interesting sounding in German, it was basically a roast with carrots and potatoes. Fork tender. Dee licious.

 

German roast, carrots and potatoes

 

And the musicians…HOLY MACKEREL, THERE WERE STROLLING MUSICIANS….! I’m pretty sure the guy playing the guitar sampled every wine the tavern offers before he started work that night…

 

Strolling musicians at Austrian restaurant

 

 

I requested Arrivederci, Roma, a song from Seven Hills of Rome, a movie you’ve probably never heard of but one for which my grandmother had the album. I remember sitting next to her massive stereo/tv/radio combo and playing that song over and over. I thought it was beautiful and fancy and SO GROWN UP.

I’m pretty sure this joker was making up the words, though….

(By the way, you get a glimpse of The Fantastical Birthday Miracle in the video).

They sat at our table for quite a while laughing and telling stories, my cousin interpreting . Most of it was lost in translation.

Eventually it came up that the Americans were there to celebrate my birthday, so of course, they broke into an Deutschlish rendition of Happy Birthday.

And then it happened.

 

They said something in German and pointed to a lady behind them. Ellie, translating, squealed and explained it was her birthday, too. One translated question led to another and we discovered WE WERE BORN ON THE SAME DAY, THE SAME YEAR!!!

The next thing I knew, the lady had run over to our table and was sitting next to me, hugging and weeping and telling me it had been a very bad year. I asked, “Children?” because children can give plenty of reasons for having a very bad year, but she shook her head, “No children…” and she hugged me again. I decided it was best not to press.

Corinna (named after the song Corrine, Corinna because her parents loved it so) was from Berlin and a friend of hers had brought her to Vienna for a birthday getaway. They happened upon our restaurant by “chance.”

What are the odds of two women born on the same day, 4,600 miles apart, ending up celebrating their birthday in a tiny Vienna suburb at the same restaurant AT THE SAME TIME?!?!

 

One in a centillion, I tell ya.

So we hugged some more, and I held her face in my hands and told her she was beautiful and she was a very special birthday gift to me. Tears streaked her face and she hugged me again. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Her friend joined us and we visited a while longer and entirely too soon it was time to say auf widersehen.

I still can’t believe I have a Berlin Birthday Sister.

 

Corinna is a wonder, a marvel, to me. A miracle.

 

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And so a year has passed and I find myself thinking about meeting her again, wondering if she’s thinking about me, savoring our memory like I am. I’ve prayed for her as she’s come to mind, hoping this past year has been a better one for her.

And I regret not having the presence of mind to exchange contact information, last names…anything, so I could check reach out to her again.

But maybe it’s exactly as it should be.

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Just a Little Tea/Pot

Apr

21

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 | 4 comments

German Countryside

I’m out of breath riding backwards on a train sitting across from an Asian student who doesn’t speak English but who does speak German.  She’s working on an exam of some sort, using a pencil and block eraser and painting her words beautiful, none of which I can read.  Not just because they’re upside down to me, but because they’re auf Deutsch and upside down.  I recognize the language mostly because so many words have more than 20 letters.  She turns her paper and starts on page six.

Castles and farms, rolling green and tilled earth are blurring by, a whirr of places I’ve never seen, visions of which have become familiar.  Living in this foreign country seeded a deep appreciation for her, an expansion of love for people and place. And history and art and architecture.

I haven’t yet learned the art of traveling light God help me so I lug my aubergine suitcase past 18 trains and 18 tracks with a 20-pound pack on my back (four bags of sugar feels about right), my red purse pouched on my chest like an infant, my turquoise flight pillow clutched tight.  I reach train RE 4077 and scale its two steps laboring to drag my bag with me, when a beautiful young man holding a box of spaghetti proves that chivalry isn’t dead.  He speaks a little English, enough to offer help, and he hands me his box of food so he can lift my box of clothes.  I confirm my train with him and he shakes his head no, but at the same time we realize he’s just not going as far as me, and that yes, he hadn’t just wasted time and effort to help the breathless American with her bag.

I had arrived on Platform 8 and my next train was on 26, supposedly a 10-minute walk with one minute to spare before departure.  My heart’s pounding is slowing to a quieter rhythm, the boiling adrenaline now purring to a simmer. I inhale thanks and exhale relief.  I made it with 90 seconds to spare.

It is only now I realize an earlier decision in the day has consequence now:

I bought a ticket for a regional train.  Had I stuck with my intention to purchase an ICE (high speed) ticket, I would have had food service available.  The miscue was made primarily due to the language barrier and my train clerk wanting to save me money.  Why it has bearing now is I’m thirsty.  It’s well after lunchtime and the hunger doesn’t bother me near as much as the thirst.  My desire is at least partially fueled by knowing I don’t have anything to drink–it’s human nature to want what you can’t have, after all.  But my mouth is dry and my lips are chapped so I’m pretty sure it’s not all in my head

And then I remember a birthday gift from my friend Suzanne.

It was a gag gift of sorts, the kind born of getting to know one another just a little bit better.  Though I can’t recall the context of our conversation, I admitted I had never smoked pot.  Alcohol was my drug of choice back in those oat-sowing college days. The one time I was passed a joint, I  handed it off like a hot potato, sure the police were about to burst through the door, catch me with illicit drugs and cart me off to prison to do Shawshank time–fine incentive to Just Say No.

Looking back, I can’t honestly say why I didn’t try it.  I’d like to think it was a faith conviction or my good-girl sensibilities…but maybe just my penchant for following rules.  The drinking age was lower when I was in college so I wasn’t breaking any laws.  But pot?  Illegal then, and everywhere I’ve ever lived.

So when Suzanne was shopping yesterday, she saw something with my name on it and couldn’t pass it up–

Cannabis Tea

C+ Swiss Cannabis Tea contains only 5% hemp flower syrup with a scant trace of THC (0.0015%); you’d have to drink over a case of 24 before feeling any effect. It tastes just like…wait for it…bottled ice tea, a blend of sugar, lemon juice, and black tea extract.  (Sorry, kids, it’s virtually impossible to get high, if that’s what you’re going for…it’s LEGAL!)

 

THIS is the kind of gift I love–its value is in its story.

It was fun, outrageous, unexpected and anything but conventional, but mostly it’s tied to knowing me.  As Suzanne quipped, “when you drink it you won’t technically be able to say you’ve never had pot anymore.”  Not like this is any banner of achievement, but something about it was just…me.

Because I couldn’t carry liquids on the plane, my plan was simply to tuck it away in my suitcase when we returned home and keep it as a conversation piece until curiosity got the best of me.

Until, that it, I was on a train riding backwards and out of breath, in a foreign country where I was traveling alone and didn’t speak the language, when there wasn’t time to stop for bottled water without missing my train; when I was hot and thirsty and a tangle of nerves.

So now I’m happy to report, though I can’t still say I’ve never had pot before, I can truthfully testify in a court of law with my hand on the Bible…

*

*

*

I’ve never inhaled.

 

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BEHOLD one of life’s greatest mysteries

Jan

09

Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 | 7 comments

When I visited Venice last summer, one of the most unexpected discoveries was a fair trade shop somewhere off the beaten bath canal, whose name escapes me now (but I probably couldn't say anyway).

The shop was overflowing with interesting bags and accessories, but parked just inside the front door was a tee shirt you couldn't help but notice.

MacChettemagni - what does it mean?!
We wandered around a while and tempting were many of the store's offerings; but as much as I distained anything so American being sold in a fair trade Italian shop, I couldn't ignore the rising wonder of the crimson tee, her golden arches and that peculiar word.  

If you know me, you're well aware I couldn't leave without asking.  I found the owner and begged its translation.  In beautiful, Italian-caressed English, his eyes twinkling as he let me in on the secret and confided–

"What the hell are you putting in your mouth?!"

It was all I could do not to buy one.

Especially with the reintroduction "for a limited time" McRib.  

McRib-ingredients

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Stille Nacht Kapelle :: Silent Night Church

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 | 4 comments



Silent Night Memorial Chapel in OberndorfDuring our ten-month expatriation to Germany, we had opportunity to visit dozens of churches…spectacular, architectural and artistic wonders, the likes of which would leave my jaw dragging the floor, stunned by their opulent beauty and painstaking detail.  Each time I entered the doors of yet another cathedral, my spirit applauded the craftsmanship and splendor of each masterpiece.  

And then there was Stille Nacht Kapelle.

DSC_0958

Simple, unassuming and perched upon a small hill in Oberndorf, Austria – 20 minutes from my Bavarian home town – a tiny chapel holds huge historical significance–

the site where arguably the most beloved Christmas carol of all time was first performed:  Silent Night

Originally penned as a poem by Joseph Mohr in 1816, on Christmas eve two years later, Franz Xaver Gruber composed a melody for it.  Ancient lore tells the story that because the church's organ wasn't working that night, the two performed by guitar.  

I'm not sure what happened to St. Nikolaus Church, the Romanesque parish church where it was actually performed, but the Silent Night Memorial Chapel was consecrated in its place in 1937.  

 
Silent Night Church

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Silent Night Memorial Chapel

 

The Silent Night Memorial Chapel is so small, it's almost impossible to photograph it; I couldn't position myself anywhere to capture the image I wanted….

 

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But that doesn't diminish the delight in having visited.  

And though my jaw didn't drag its floor, my heart celebrated its history.  Is there any other carol more recognized and revered, better known by all ages, and which has gained farther reach (now translated in over 300 languages)?  I can't think of any.

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On this Christmas Eve morning, with a cup of coffee by my side and memories just a' swirlin'…I'm thinking fondly of how this year has truly been one of adventure.

Is Silent Night a favorite of yours?  What memories are conjured when you think a spell on our favorite songs of the season?

 

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…hymn of grateful praise…

Dec

02

Posted by on Dec 2, 2012 | 3 comments

For the beauty of the earth,

cross on rocky cliff, blue skies and clouds

A beautiful remembrance

 

for the glory of the skies,

Paragliding on blue skies

Paragliding near Erlangen, Bavaria

 

for the love which from our birth

Pink and fuschia geraniums

Floral beauty in Dresden

over and around us lies;

Untitled

A chapel in the middle of the Alps, somewhere in Austria

 

Lord of all, to thee we raise 

Bamberg Cathedral

Bamberger Dom St. Peter und St. Georg, Bamberg Cathedral, Bamberg, Germany

 

this our hymn of grateful praise.

Organ in St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau

The largest cathedral organ in the world, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Passau

 

A fond remembrance of my childhood, learning this hymn in my public elementary school.  It's a lovely inspiration for sharing some of my favorite photos during the past ten months, so my goal is to continue this "series" on Sundays during December, in lyrics and pictures.


* * * * * * 

 

The-Sunday-Community-4ORPrompted, in part, by Deidra Rigg's lovely Sunday Community, a quietly inspiring collection of people and posts.

 

 

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London’s Beautiful Westminster Abbey

Nov

18

Posted by on Nov 18, 2012 | 1 comment

The Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster, aka Westminster Abbey, coronation church since 1066.   

Westminster Abbey - London - blue sky and clouds

Even if you knew nothing about its impressive history, its magnificent architecture would bow your knee in praise to the Creator who gives men the mind and vision to build such a vessel for worship.  

 

Quote outside Westminster Abbey in London

We passed Westminster Abbey several times during our 25th anniversary visit to London, and everytime my heart leapt in adoration of its beauty.  My appreciation and love of architecture has sprouted and bloomed while living in Europe; I find myself wanting to study and learn and know more than I ever knew was knowable. 

 

Westminster Abbey front view

Their website tells me Westminster Abbey has hosted only sixteen royal weddings in its long history, the most recent of which is Prince William's and Kate's.  I assumed Prince Charles and Lady Di had married here as well, having forgotten they chose St. Paul's Cathedral since it could seat more guests and allowed a longer procession through London's streets. 

Westminster Abbey tall view

We were blessed with two days of blue skies and one of clouds, fog and rain, and I was intrigued to observe how different the same buildings presented under such contrasting canvas.  The weather made a difference in more ways than one.

London's Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London

We happened to be in London for Remembrance Day, the equivalent of the U.S.'s Veteran's Day.  Beyond the miles of parading military personel, including the Royals in motorized caravan, a lovely commemoration was the red poppy everyone wore on their lapel.  National pride can be a beautiful thing.

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Thousands remembered in front of Westminster Abbey, a reminder to the high and dreadful price of war. 

 

More posts to come…London is a beautiful muse.

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Be sure to visit my other London posts:

 

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