Thank you, 2009 and 2010 kick-off in Salzburg!

Everyone is always very excited to bring in the New Year, and in turn, toss out the old year.  I think that’s unfair, especially on the years that I feel like I had an exceptional year.  And so today, on the last day of 2009, I’d like to thank you, year, for all the great things that happened to me in 2009.  Here are a few highlights.

1. The person I heart most in this world (outside of my sister, Katie, which I always have to note so that she doesn’t get really crazy in thinking C has trumped her in some way) asked me to marry him.  I also tried getting married once or twice (great stories, really).  And because of all this, I got a fancy ring. 

2. I moved to Germany.  Across the world.  With no job and no status of wife in tow, I just left w C and the dogs–well, it wasn’t that easy, but still….  And it felt great.  The Lady of Leisure act (v. similar to this fancy Dartois painiting) was perfect for me all summer (though I would not do it again) and I am beyond lucky that I was given the opportunity to come here and then figure my game plan out, as the afterthought, not as the requirement to be here. 

3.  I’ve made new friends.  Great friends.  Friends from other countries and friends from cities back at home.

4.  I landed a job that uses my experience and my college degree and lets me travel all over Easter Europe.  Most importantly–Who the hell knew that I’d ever use my college degree again?? 

5.  I have three new countries to add to my international traveling list–Denmark, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  And I can do the pleasantries and count to ten in 4 more languages, which means at any given time, I can say hi to you in ten different languages.  Woo hoo.  Now, if only I were fluent in something…(resolution??) but not German, ugh.  Alright, maybe German, but good god.  Ugliest. Spoken. Language. On. Earth.  (or at least top 3)

6.  My family is healthy and well and happy, or at least most of the time.  I was in my brother’s wedding and I was asked to be in my sister’s.  No one lost a limb this year, no one is in jail (what a bonus and surprise) and though we’re all still crazy as all hell, that’s still a great year because let’s be honest, we’re never going to be sane (boring).  And I have a new family, too.  The more, the merrier. 

7.  I have a great group of friends from home that I think of all the time, that I miss every day.  Moving across the world really helps show you who your real friends are, and I am really happy with the ones I know are all mine. 🙂 

8. And lastly, for now….I turned 30 and my face didn’t peel off, I didn’t instantly go gray, I didn’t combust, my cellulite and wrinkles didn’t turn neon in color or multiply, and I was actually happy.  You spend most of your 20s wondering how shitty 30 is going to be, but I can’t complain at all.  That probably sounds really annoying, but I like 30 and I think I’ll like my early 30s a lot.  Maybe everything just keeps getting better.  That would be nice….

And now, 2010, 2009 has raised the bar.  You will have to work VERY hard to top 2009, but I have faith in you.  So where shall we kick it off??  Why, SALZBURG, AUSTRIA, of course!

Salzburg has been my top rated, numero uno, most favorite city on the face of this earth since 2007, when I visited for the first time.  I love everything about Salzburg–from the fortress on the hill, to the river, to all the Mozart stuff, the food, the people, you name it.  It’s pretty magical and I’m so excited to return in winter, their best season!  (or so I’m told)  And so this afternoon, we’re packing up the car, the dogs, snacks, adult beverages, sleeping bags, etc and heading out on our 3 1/2 hour drive to the Home of Mozart and Sound of Music.  And yes, of course we’re sleeping the car this weekend.  How else are we supposed to have complete freedom to come and go and galavant and picture take and live in the shadows of the streets as we please?  Hotels, eh.  Not interested.

And so tonight is Sylvester, day of Saint Sylvester, celebration of New Year’s Eve.   At midnight, fireworks, or  schweizerkrachers, go off over the Hohensalzburg Fortress while church bells ring in the distance. Then we’ll hear Donauwalzer, and if we’re like the locals, we’ll start the New Year off with a walz with the one we love.  La dee da.  I’m ready.

This weekend, upon my return, I will post this year’s resolutions.  I don’t have them finished yet, but a weekend in the car should give me the time that I need to think.

And so…goodbye, 2009, thanks for everything….and Happy New Year!

Christmas is where your family is, not your own tree

This year is the first year in 29 years that I’m not home in Maine, celebrating Christmas with my family, my extended family, and then with Chris’ family in CT.  I thought it would be nice to spend a holiday in Germany, just the two of us, making new traditions and relaxing.  But now, at 3pm on Christmas, when the rest of our family is just tearing into stockings, well, the lack of dysfunction and noise and chaos is a bit uncomfortable.  And so here it is.  Having your first adult Christmas alone, without your own kids or extended family around, is just not the same.  I’m not saying the excessive guilt or tantrums thrown our way as a means to protest our absence we encountered this year were necessary, as we felt the same way as our siblings and parents that would be without us this year, but I’ve had a few moments today where I could really use a hug from my parents and I just know my sister has no one to share the classic, Where the hell would I wear this to? glance with. 

Not that I’m going to cry in my eggnog.  I like the quiet, a little, and this morning I was surprised to open my new mac mini, which I plan on playing with for the rest of the day.  And, as a tribute to Chris’ mother, Lady Di, we made her quiche recipe, and it was fantastic.   And so we keep some things the same, and we start new traditions this year.  That’s how it goes, I guess, getting older and growing up.  For the most part, it’s a pretty good deal, this adult thing.  But when it come to Christmas, it’s bullshit.  Here are a few things I miss about being home this season.

1.  Christmas Eve at my Dad and Judy’s house.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, but I really miss the exessive amounts of fried rice, duck sauce, G&Ts (accurately nicknamed Christmas Trees), and good old fashioned board game competition.  And my Dad.  He loved Christmas so much.  He even played Santa for the local kids at Judy’s school each December (he actually did get more jolly looking as the years went on).  He had his own suit and everything.  This year Judy donated that suit to the school when they needed it in a Santa-less emergency.  I can hear him Ho ho hoing loudly when I close my eyes today and it makes me smile, makes me really sad and really nostalgic at the same time. 

2. The night of drunken wrapping at Katie and Derek’s.  Every year, there is one night, sometimes Christmas Eve, sometimes another night, where we come back from dinner at my mom’s and just tie one on.  We spread all of our wrapping paper, tape, bows and gifts all around the floor, making a huge mess, and getting all that is wrapping accomplished in three hours.  In years past (I fondly refer to them as Katie’s unemployment/student years) it was easy to bully Katie into wrapping all of the presents, as I paid for them.  That was the trade off.  And so she wrapped, we drank and then we’d perform an akward, overly excited holiday dance whenever Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” came on.  It usually involved jumping on and off couches, and prancing around, looking like we were riding ponies made of roles of wrapping paper.  She told me last night that it’s not the same without me when she hears the song and I agree.  Derek can’t do the Christmas ride your wrapping paper pony dance like I can.  Clearly. 

3. My tequila/whiskey/bourbon loving brother.  David is great around the holidays.  He loves to tie one on and I hope he provided some sort of entertainment for the family in my absence.  He’s typically the last to show up Christmas morning, looking like he really celebrated Christmas Eve with the best of the wise men, or us, which is usually the case.  He’s the first to find something to spike our coffee with Christmas morning and he’s the first to find an excuse to open his gifts, box up his loot and go home to spend the rest of his afternoon eating and drinking and video game playing on his own couch.  All you have to do is give Bec and Dave the nod toward the door and they’re out and I love it.  So much for holiday guilt—they couldn’t be guilted to stay if Jesus himself tried. 

4.  Andy’s holiday attire.  It’s not so much what he’s actually wearing on his body.  That’s typically normal.  It’s what “the hat of the season is”.  For the past 9 months-a year it’s this khaki safari hat.  We can’t get it off his damned head and I’m the only one that seems to keep fighting this fight.  The others get such a kick out of that hat.  He actually wore it to my brother’s wedding and I would place bets it’s on his head this morning.  That is until he opens my gift.  Then he better get that safari hat off and I expect a picture…I’ll have to explain more later.  Anyway, the hat is great entertainment, and Andy’s really great at trying to surprise and impress at Christmas so I hope someone pulls through and gets him some toy that occupies him for the rest of the day.

5.  My mom cries a lot on Christmas, for various reasons, and I get a kick out of it.  I’m not being a jerk…she’s not crying for any terrible reason.  It’s just that someone is usually the kiss ass that goes and gets her something sentimental and once we all know what she’s getting, we all wait and place bets on how long it’s going to take her to cry.  Katie and I are pretty good at guessing, Andy’s good at providing said gift and David doesn’t care. haha.  It’s fun to watch someone get so excited and have such a meltdown over a gift.  It’s what makes gift shopping and gift giving worth all the hassle.

6.  The fireplace relaxation at the home of the Hopkins’..  My other family, my newer family, they really know how to celebrate the holidays…with enough food to feed a small country, enough wine to kill a horse, and enough wood in the fire to melt the North Pole.   While my family is great for Christmas morning coffee in your pjs, muffins and laughs, their family does a great Christmas dinner and I’ll really miss them in a few hours, when I know they’re all sitting around the table, catching up and harassing each other.  Nick is great fun to rag on, you have to be quick with the comebacks to get Allison, and Chris’ parents are always just really happy to have everyone home at the same time.  It’s their tight knit, traditional celebrations that get me.  I’ve never seen a family so genuinely happy to be around each other for long periods of time.  I kinda get a kick out of it.  It’s so bizarre, compared to my house, where one of us usually gets hammered by the end of dinner, a sibling pong tourney ensues, two of us gang up on the third, someone cries, someone rips someone’s shirt off, we all fight it out in the front lawn and then toast to baby Jesus to make amends.  Now that, is a normal Christmas. 

And so family, all of them, loud, crazy, younger, older, dramatic, funny or annoying–they are what makes the memories.  I can’t tell you more than a few things I’ve received in the past few years, but I can tell you a million stories about my crazy family and our holidays together (and I’m sure they could tell you a million about me).  Also, home is where you’ll always be welcome and some things never change.    I didn’t realize until this morning that coffee doesn’t make itself Christmas morning and it’s no fun to put your toys back under the tree to get up and make breakfast instead of play.  It’s nice to have somewhere to return to and people around that know just how to make your holiday.  That may sound juvenile and lazy, and it’s both, but oh well, it’s fine to act like a kid, spoiled or not, on Christmas.

All this missing my family and snow and cold weather and Maine is ok.  We have an all day moviefest going on and we’re about to fire up another snack (of about 50 we have ready) and then it’s probably Christmas naptime.  Then we’ll snack some more, make websites on our new computer, and then make our world famous blue cheese steaks. 

 It’s really nice having a new life in Germany to celebrate together, and I thought I’d never say this, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless we’re all together.

A girl from Maine, during fall on the lake…

So, even though yesterday I was bitter about some aspects of wedding planning, today I am not because I am back in Germany, dinner is on the stove, my sweats are on and it’s the weekend.  That and Chris and have booked our wedding location for October 2010. 

I had only a few requests in my initial planning (New England, fall, lake, cupcakes), primarily because getting me getting married deserves a giggle.  Marrying Chris is nothing to laugh at.  That’s the easy part.  Someone marrying me is comical.  Bitter, aggressive, loud, not so warm and fuzzy, me.  Actually, I once had to defend the fact that I’m not a prickly monster to a friend and when you have to do that, some part of you is surely prickly and I already know I’m a little monster.  I think what’s so amusing about my new found interest in wedding planning is that I never wanted to get married to anyone.  This has nothing to do with Chris.  This has everything to do with the fact that I believe(d) marriage is evil, no one is ever happy, people just end up hating each other and well, I just didn’t see what the big fuss was.  That and I never saw the sense in having joint anything.  That is just asking for trouble and I don’t like sharing.  I don’t share food and I don’t share my beverages.  I get really crazy if anyone creeps over onto my side of the couch or the bed (unless invited) and my anxiety level goes through the roof if I think I’m not going to get my fair share of whatever I want to get my hands on.  This is why I do not share popcorn when at the movies and I think ordering for three people, not two, is a better idea when it comes to takeout. Actually, that last part might have more to do with this fat girl syndrome I’ve picked up somewhere, but either way, I’m selfish and I have never been good at that whole selfLESS thing.  And, I have a slight issue with not wanting to need anyone.  (which I don’t, for the record)

But then again, I’m a liar.  What somewhat prompted me to even write any of this was a line  in a movie I watched recently.  It was a movie about a breakup and near the end, the guy asked his ex why she married someone right after him and she said, because one day with him I woke up sure of something I never was with you.  (or something to that effect…I’m really so terrible with quoting movies.)  That’s exactly it.  That’s the only reason you actually ever need to marry someone, right?  Fuck everyone else and their need for some long, drawn out, moons aligning explanation, right? 

Well, I only owe one person an explanation, and that person would be Chris.  One day, while driving around in northern Germany, trying to figure out this wedding stuff, the weird world of purgatory, I mean engagement, and all that is awkward relationship talks, he had to go and ask me one question that should have been really easy, and instead, it was really, really fucking hard to find an answer.  And so I gave no answer, which was really, really so awkward of me.  And weird.  I have an answer for everything and I knew the answer to this when he asked.  I just didn’t say anything.  Bravo, genius.  If it was a test, I failed miserably.  I probably deserved to have my ring taken back. (which actually will never happen.  I’ve already made it quite clear that thing would be sold at a discount before I’d ever give it back.)

“Why do you want to marry me?”

Well, my god, if you ever wanted to make me draw a blank, ask me the million dollar question in a confined space, going 200mph in a foreign country while my visa is expiring.  Perfect.  I knew the answer and I said nothing. 

What I should have said was this.  I want to be married to Chris because I don’t think there is anyone else on this earth that knows how to harass him as discreetly and thoroughly as I do.  It makes my day when I can make him laugh and when he laughs really hard, I feel like I won the blue ribbon.  When he’s not bothering me by invading my space on the couch, we fit like a puzzle and he has a way of engulfing me that is neither overbearing or suffocating, but comforting and warm.  He’s one of the most loyal, generous, relaxed  people in my life and he was my best friend for years before we were finally together.  He’s funny, really funny, in the dry and sarcastic way I prefer…even though he’s not as funny as I am. (he knows this..I tell him often)  Every day with him is a choose your own adventure book and there’s no chance we’ll ever be that couple that just got bored.  He’s seen me at my most hateful, ugliest, helpless, distraught self and never left me, even when I probably asked him to.  He doesn’t fight me when I throw fits in airports or other public places.  He mocks me until I laugh at how insane I really am.  We can secretly communicate with nods of the head and eye movements and I know what he’s going to say before even he does…and most of the time I just tell him to keep it to himself.  While most people go to bed angry or scream and fight in public, we settle disputes with a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Works like a charm.  Being with Chris is like having your very own playmate around all of the time.  And for the first time in 30 years, I get to be with someone who I not only love all of the time, but I actually kind of like him most of the time, too.  Alright, all of the time.  🙂  And this.  This sappy, gooey, gross post.  This is what he did to me.  That’s how I know.

And so that’s why I’m getting married to Chris, next fall, on the lake, at this house in Maine.

Swiss jails and dysfunctional holidays…

Do you think they serve chocolate and cheese in Swiss jails?  I hope so.  Otherwise, when they come and find me, I will be out of luck.  Seriously, though, the fact that I am even posting about Swiss jails is both absurd and fitting.  Of course I’m typing about Swiss jails…as in, is there a chance I will find out with the inside of one looks like?  That’s pretty normal.  I’ve already posted about how I lost my bag.  Who knew me losing (SWAPPING OUT) a work laptop with someone else’s in security would lead to me being charged as a Swiss thief.  Well, an American thief in Switzerland.  Of course being a Swiss (jewel, obviously) thief would be just too damned romantic and awesome.

I get called into my boss’ office yesterday and she mentioned it was about my laptop.  I raced in there.  I’m dying to get this laptop back.  I hate looking like the trainwreck new girl (I actually own the part at this point) and I hate being without a laptop to play on at night.  And I don’t have 3-4k to pay back my company for a laptop I didn’t even lose in the first place.  Anyway, I ran.  I bounced on in her office, sure it would be on her desk.  No, of course it wasn’t there.  Why would it be?  Instead, what was on her desk?  A police report.  From Zurich.  With my name on it.  Yes, perfect.  Just what I needed.  And so there it was.   I had someone’s laptop who instead of just being content to find me and trade, filed a report and said I stole his.  In the security line.  At the airport.  In front of police.  Mmm hmm. 

Let’s get something straight.  I didn’t steal it.  I handed it to the security people who pulled me over for screening for the second time that day, causing me to miss my connecting flight.  AND, if that wasn’t enough, they did the over the clothes strip search, which included a little pat down, with a special patty pat pat on my goodies, I suppose as some sort of Swiss bonus prize.  Anyway.  After getting my computer bag back, which I didn’t want to be lugging through five airports in the FIRST PLACE, I missed that flight, was sweating like a swine in the Amazon and bullshit that I had to wait and look like a red faced Biggest Loser Contestant (all that damned running to catch my flight was so aggressive of me)  in the middle of yet another foreign airport.  So, yes, I sat down and had myself a fanta (with ice) and closed my eyes and silently fantasized about my bed and being in it that night.  I did not go on some sort of laptop stealing spree.  I didn’t case unsuspecting tourists.  I did not alter my identity in the bathroom with a wig and sunglasses, exciting as that would be, with a trench coat, of course.  I sat and drank a fanta, bought some truffles that were really overpriced and sat with my computer bag, which already had the wrong computer placed back in it.  End. of. Story. 

And now.  Now I have a police report with my name on it, questioning me about said Swiss laws I have broken or offended.  God, these people hate to be offended too.  Amazing.  And so I wait for Mr. Swiss Detective to come find me or clear my good name.  This really isn’t surprising.  It’s actually just not the story I wanted to tell when someone asked me why I got deported.  I wanted to be able to tell some sort of Jason Bourne story.  I suppose that would mean I’d have to be a spy gone rogue, not just a petty laptop thief, but still, you get the point.  Now I’m stuck in criminal limbo, researching famous Swiss criminals and planning my own defense.  Let’s be honest.  I won the case in 8th grade when I was the lead prosecutor in the Wizard of Oz case against Dorothy.  If I can bring that sweetheart down, I can defend myself, for sure.  But anyway, if I disappear, you’ll all know where I am.  In a jail, in Switzerland, eating cheese and chocolate in the hills.  Or so I’d like to think.

Now, let’s review the holidays, or maybe just a few things I found out while I was home.  First of all, home never changes and I used to hate that but I think as you grow older, that’s what you want.  That’s why you keep going back.  You actually get angry when things change.  So, good thing South Berwick was still the same.  Good thing my favorite chinese restaurant still had the best takeout on the seacoast (Eastern Mountain, I heart you).  Good thing it’s still ok to wear sweatpants in public and good thing it smelled just like a mix of fall and winter. And Wal-Mart.  God, you never, EVER think of how much you should appreciate Wal-Mart until there’s no such thing.  Ahh, home.   I loved it. 

Now, onto the crazy parts, which can never be avoided over the holidays.  I found out two things while I was home that were particularly entertaining.  First, and most surprisingly, some people in my family may or may not believe the world is ending in 2012.  I’m sorry, what?  What the hell crazy just came out of your mouth?  The world is doing what in two years?  Ending?  Oh good god.  Where is that kool-aid?  Give it to me so I can hide it, you crazy, crazy people.  I didn’t even know this was an international topic of crazy.  So I looked it up.  I googled and wikied it and my god, I could only take so much.  Maybe it wasn’t just the idea that made me horrified…it was the fact that someone blood related to me said, “yeah, I’m supposed to be stockpiling the pantry just in case.”  Just in case what?  Just in case the floods and the volcanos and the aliens all sweep through, erupt and attack at once?  Just in case I light on fire and blow up like a firework?  Ugggggggghhhhhh, this makes my head hurt.  It’s also the part of my family that may or may not vote for Sarah Palin in the future.  Oh god, I can’t even believe I just put that in writing.  Well, on second thought, those two topics should go in the same paragraph because if that embarrassment to women and politics is ever elected as President of anything—even wine club—the world should just end, immediately, because otherwise, I just know I will combust anyway.

And the other **fun part of our family holiday vacation–finding out that planning your wedding has absolutely nothing to do with you.  It has to do with your family and your in-laws and your checkbook and really doesn’t have much to do with what you actually want because god forbid you pick something you actually had in mind.  That would just cause everyone to hate each other and might even lead to such things as family voting on whether or not they think your month or location or theme or color scheme or dresses or cupcake selection doesn’t exactly line up with what they were thinking.  Hmmmm.  Good talk.  I’ll leave it at that for now, but really.  There will be no more talk of our wedding until my contracts are signed and my cupcakes have been tasted and picked out.  And for the record, I charge $500 now for “suggestions” that have nothing to do with a fall wedding on a lake in Maine.  Get your checkbooks ready.

Now, off to bed to end this nagging case of jet lag.