And to think that I saw it in Breckenheim…

As I wrote in my main blog this morning, I seem to be on the mend from the weekend’s sickness. I was feeling noticeably better after I finished yesterday’s post, and by the afternoon, I even had enough energy to take Noyzi and Arran for a walk. They were delighted to go, since I think they thought they’d be missing out yesterday. I usually walk them in the mid mornings, but somehow they knew I was green around the gills and didn’t bug me like they usually do. I’m being serious. My dogs will pester the shit out of me if I don’t walk them when I’m supposed to. Luckily, they seemed to notice a lack of energy from me yesterday and left me alone, although I was definitely feeling better than I was on Saturday and Sunday.

Today’s post title is inspired by a story by Dr. Seuss that I read when I was a little girl. I never have been the biggest fan of Dr. Seuss’s books, but I did used to have a great general children’s storybook anthology that was handed down to me by my three older sisters. The book happened to have Dr. Seuss’s story, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” in it. Wikipedia tells me this story was Dr. Seuss’s very first, and it was written in 1937. You can read the Wikipedia entry I linked for the gist of the story by Dr. Seuss. I would describe it here, but Seuss’s story is about a fantasy, while I’m about to write about real life. In other words, I really DID see this stuff in Breckenheim over the past couple of days, and I’m left with some wonderment.

As I mentioned up post, I usually walk my dogs in the mornings. They insist upon it. But yesterday, I was still feeling kind of yucky, so I had to wait until the afternoon to catch a burst of energy for our stroll. Consequently, I saw different things than what I usually see. Most days, when I walk the dogs, I see and hear kids in the local schoolyard. They take their recess at about the time the boys and I take our walks. I’m sure the kids notice us. Sometimes, I see little girls looking adoringly at the dogs and remember myself as a horse crazy child. I used to get excited whenever I saw a horse. If I’m honest, I still do. But I don’t stop and stare like I did when I was a kid. Many little girls love animals, and German girls are no exception.

Well, because I was walking in the afternoon, school was about over. I did see a mom with her daughter, though. The girl, who wore her striking strawberry blonde hair in a pony tail, looked to be about 9 or 10 years old. Mom was talking to the girl as she got into the backseat of their little red car. I saw the girl glance at my dogs with that expression of adoration as she settled into the seat. Mom gave me a friendly, confident smile as she shut the door and made a move for the driver’s seat. I nodded and passed, then continued on my way.

We got to the place where we usually turn to walk past the neighborhood gardens. Arran needed to take a dump. We happened to be near a trash can, so I cleaned up the poop and dragged him back the other way so I could drop off the bag. He was planting his feet, not wanting to cooperate. I broke a sweat. It was a bit humid and I might have still had a slight temperature. Then I noticed a sign posted on a tree. I wondered if it was another admonition against lazy pet owners not cleaning up their dog’s shit. But it was just someone looking to rent a garden plot. I saw another sign just like it at the other end of the garden plots. I missed the second sign yesterday, but noticed it today.

We turned to head uphill past the farmer’s fields that I’ve noticed are as likely to be growing plastic sex toys as they are wheat and corn. Someone discarded their facemask, not by throwing it on the ground, but by neatly hanging it on a sunflower. The gardens are in their last hurrah of the Indian summer as they prepare to go dormant for the onset of cold weather. The pictures below were taken this morning, but I noticed the mask yesterday… I thought to take a photo yesterday, but decided not to. I guess I was too eager to get home and back to the proximity of a toilet.

Finally, we got to the point of our route at which we turn toward home. It’s near a cemetery. There’s a custom picture framing business there, as well as a couple of apartment houses. Today, I took a photo of the area where I saw the most interesting and exciting thing on yesterday’s walk, just to give those who read this a visual reference…

This morning, there were fewer cars than yesterday afternoon.

So yesterday, the dogs and I were walking down the sidewalk pictured above. There were several more cars parked there yesterday afternoon than there are in the above photo, which I took this morning. In fact, there was a utility truck parked where that open stretch of street is. Workmen were on the other side of the street doing some kind of work on the street. If you picture that, you might realize that the passageway was more narrow and busier.

Noyzi and Arran are not close to being the same size. Noyzi is humongous next to Arran. He has a tendency panic sometimes, when he’s in unfamiliar situations. Arran wants to sniff and eat things. So I was focused on handling them and negotiating the narrow passage down the street. Where the cars are, there’s a grassy, nettle covered hill, which closes things in even more. If I wanted to avoid something on the sidewalk, I’d have to cross the street or walk in the middle of it. It would have been complicated to walk in the street yesterday, thanks to the workmen.

As we passed the utility truck, Arran tried to sniff something the workers had left by the curb. I pulled him away and issued a grumpy reprimand. Then I noticed an orange car with an older woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was about to open her door, which I knew would block my egress. I groaned inwardly, since I’ve run into this scenario a few times. People park on the street and open their doors, oblivious to pedestrians on the sidewalk… even those with two dogs, one of whom is the size of a miniature horse.

Sure enough, the woman got out of the car. I started thinking about how I was going to negotiate this challenge. But then I was met with a surprise. The woman closed her door, straightened the neat blazer she was wearing. I was noticing how nice and put together she looked, as if she was going to see someone important.

Then I heard a flurry of footsteps and saw a flash in the corner of my peripheral vision. Next thing I knew, a young girl of maybe eight or nine had jumped into the woman’s arms, obviously overjoyed to see her. The girl had shoulder length blonde hair and a huge smile on her face. I heard them trade enthusiastic and loving greetings. I was about to pass them on the sidewalk, when the girl suddenly let go of the woman and launched into the older man’s arms. He’d been in the driver’s seat, and I hadn’t seen him until he had exited the car and moved behind it. He had a delighted expression on his face. I had just enough time to notice that the girl was similarly ecstatic and more expressions of love were traded among them.

I was witnessing what appeared to be a reunion of people who obviously love each other very much and had missed being together. I’m assuming it was Oma and Opa visiting, but I don’t know. Obviously, this was a bonded group. I gave them a warm smile as I quickly passed, not wanting to intrude on their private moment of reunion, but yet happy I was able to share it with them in some way.

My mood suddenly brightened considerably, which surprised me. I often get really cranky when I walk the dogs, mainly because there’s not the greatest walking route where we live. We often have to dodge cars, farm vehicles, horses, other dogs, looky lous, and pedestrians who aren’t watching where they’re going. Just this morning, I encountered three cars, a biker, and a tractor all in one spot, as I turned off the main drag to walk past the gardens. We’re also very close to the Autobahn and a high speed train track, which makes the area a bit noisier than I’d like. So, unlike our neighborhood in Jettingen, which was next to a huge nature park, Breckenheim is not quite as dog walker friendly, although the people are friendlier, and are, themselves, very dog friendly.

When I saw that orange car, I was expecting to be inconvenienced by someone. But, what I saw instead was something I very rarely see in Germany. I mean, I’m sure it happens… it’s just that I don’t see it or haven’t seen it much. People are polite and cordial here, and they love their families, but they don’t seem to be that demonstrative (unless they’re at a Fest or something, then all bets are off). I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an unbridled and honest expression of pure love and affection like that on the street. It was really nice to see, especially since I was totally caught off guard and experienced a temporary mood boost because of it.

Then I finished walking back home and got back to the work of healing, which involved some more time on the toilet. But I’m feeling much better now… Pity, though, since I notice my clothes are already looser. I noticed today on our walk, I was a lot crankier on the last stretch, mainly because someone in a Volkswagen came careening around the corner. I probably looked really bitchy as they passed. What a contrast to yesterday, when I was feeling unexpectedly cheerful despite being sick.

I was reminded, yet again, of the Buddhist monk we saw in 2015. I was super cranky and hungry, not feeling well, when we stopped outside of Munich for lunch. Then I saw a Japanese monk sitting near us who gave off incredibly calming vibes. It was like just seeing him erased all of my grouchiness.

Watching that reunion yesterday had a similar effect, making me forget my crabbiness and sickness for an instant. It was like a gift. I looked for the orange car today, wondering if Oma and Opa are still visiting. I’d like to know the rest of the story that started on an ordinary day in Breckenheim. And to think I never would have seen that if I hadn’t been sick and taken a walk later than usual… not that I’m ever that grateful for the experience of diarrhea and vomiting. But there’s good in everything, even if it’s just a story I can share and a lesson about staying observant, even when your day is mundane. You never know what you’ll see, even in a place like Breckenheim.


Natural Bridge and Lexington circa 1957

As seen on my main blog…  Sorry for the rerun, but this blog is read by different people than the main blog is.

A very interesting film made in 1957 about my family’s American home… Special thanks to my friend, Joann, for posting this fascinating video about Natural Bridge and Lexington, Virginia.  


I have mentioned before that I come from Virginia. My family has been in Virginia since the early 1700s.  The earliest relative I’ve found in Virginia was a man named Johann Tolley, who came to Virginia from Hamburg, Germany.

Johann Tolley evidently fathered the people in my family who eventually settled in Rockbridge County.  Rockbridge County is kind of in the west central part of the state, in the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Although I have been visiting Natural Bridge and its environs my whole life, I did not grow up there myself.  I was born and mostly raised not far from Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia, clear across the state.

Because my dad was an Air Force officer, the family he made with my mother was nomadic.  My parents spent the first 24 years of their marriage moving to different towns, mostly in the southern United States, but occasionally in other countries.  I was born during their fourteenth year of marriage, so I missed a lot of the moves and didn’t have any sense until the bitter end of my dad’s military career.

The one place that has always been a constant in my life has been Natural Bridge.  I’m pretty sure my family has lived in the same creekside house since at least the 1940s.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen when my aunt and uncle pass on.  I hope someone in the family will keep the house.  It’s a special place that is mostly full of wonderful memories.

Granny’s house… where my dad grew up.  There is a creek that runs in front of the house and another one that runs perpendicular to it on the left.

Down by the creek…

After a rare November snow in 2014… when I last visited.

Another shot up the hill.  I pray this house never leaves our family.  The street it’s on was named after my grandfather.

My family as of 2014.  Sadly, a couple of the people in the photo are no longer with us.  I think we’re missing about twenty people, too.  The Mormons have nothing on us.


The family church, High Bridge Presbyterian.  This is where we held my dad’s memorial service.


Many of my relatives are buried here, including my dad, who was moved about two years after he was initially buried at Granny’s house.


Goshen Pass, which is very close to Lexington and where Bill and I honeymooned…  It’s also kind of where we fell in love, the weekend before 9/11.  That’s another story, though.

My friend, Joann, who originally posted the above video, lives in Lexington, Virginia.  Lexington is about ten miles from Natural Bridge.  It has sort of a special place in my heart because not only is a super cute town, it’s also where many of my family members went to college or worked. It’s also where Bill and I got married in 2002.  Before the area was taken over by transplants from up north and out west, it was mostly settled by Scots-Irish Presbyterians.  According to 23 and Me, that is surely enough the lion’s share of my genetic makeup.  I was raised Presbyterian, too.

The video is interesting viewing for me, since my parents who are/were both from that area got married the year it was made.  Mom was 19 and Dad was 24.  They had lived in Rockbridge County their whole lives.  My dad finished his degree at Virginia Military Institute in 1956 and immediately became an Air Force officer.  The following year, he married my mom and they left the area for good, only to come back for visits.  My dad is now buried in the graveyard at the family church.  Originally,  he was buried on a hillside at the house where he grew up with his eight brothers and sisters, but my mom had him moved.  I guess she realized that house might not always be in family hands.

Another reason why that video is interesting is because it basically reflects the ethos of the 1950s.  The story is told from the Natural Bridge’s viewpoint.  It explains how the area used to be populated by “red men”, also known as Native Americans.  The Bridge explains that it tried to explain to the natives that it was created by God.  Alas, they worshiped the Bridge as a Pagan God, even though the Bridge tried to explain that it was the Christian God who created it.  The Bridge sounds almost grateful as it explains that white Christian settlers eventually moved into the area in 1737.  The white Christians “got it right’.  (I’m being facetious, here.)

Based on the video, a lot of great people came from Rockbridge County.  Even Sam Houston, who eventually went on to be the namesake of Houston, Texas, was born in Rockbridge County.  I never knew that.  It’s actually pretty interesting, given the impact Sam Houston had in Texas.  In fact, reading about Sam Houston is uniquely fascinating, given his family history in Scotland and Ireland.  I was just in Northern Ireland a few months ago and we stopped in Larne.  There is a plaque there commemorating the history of the Houston family before they moved to Virginia.

Sam Houston also moved on the Maryville, Tennesee when he was fourteen years old.  I have not been to Maryville, but I do have a couple of friends who attended Maryville College and one who moved back to the town after she retired from teaching at my alma mater, Longwood University.  I also lived in Texas for a year… and Bill spent several years there and graduated high school in Houston.  I’m amazed at how all of these places are interconnected with Rockbridge County, which even today is still pretty rural.  Although a lot of new people have moved there, there is still a core of people descended from the original settlers.

I’m not sure why, but somehow when I was growing up, I never realized or appreciated the deep connection my family has to Virginia, especially Rockbridge County.  I think it’s because I was a military brat, even though I spent most of my growing up years in Gloucester County.  Gloucester is another one of those places where people settled and stayed, much like Rockbridge County is.

There were several last names there that would always come up at roll call in school.  A lot of them were the children of people from England who had stayed after the Revolutionary War, which was won in nearby Yorktown.  In the early 80s, Gloucester was still so rural that people who moved there were “come heres” and never really got the sense of community that the locals had.  My parents owned at house in Gloucester for about 30 years, but it still doesn’t seem like home, even though it’s probably the one place in the world where I feel sure I could get help immediately if I ever needed it.  I still have a lot of friends who live there.

I didn’t appreciate Virginia when I was younger.  I used to fantasize about moving somewhere else, where the people and the scenery were different.  Now, as much as I like Germany, I’m starting to think about going “home” to Virginia.  Maybe I would only go there to visit, though… I’m not sure if I want to die in my home state or even if circumstances will allow it.


Another wonderful evening at Osteria da Gino’s in Nagold…

My husband’s mother, Parker, just flew from San Antonio, Texas to Germany to see us for the first time since we moved back here in 2014.  Parker is a wonderful person and I’ve missed having easy access to her.  We came to Stuttgart from San Antonio and she used to come to our house all the time to spend the night or have dinner.

We spent yesterday morning driving to and from Frankfurt to collect her at the big airport.  Then, having arrived home at about 3:15pm, Bill picked up our stylin’ new glasses from the optical shop in Nagold.  I’m pretty pleased with our badly needed new spectacles, although I don’t like wearing glasses as a rule.

Last night, we went to see Gino at Osteria da Gino in Nagold (not to be confused with the one in Herrenberg).  As many places as we’ve dined since we came back to Germany, I think Gino’s is probably my favorite.  He and his wife greet us like family.  In fact, when Bill called for a much needed reservation a few days ago, Gino’s wife immediately recognized the name and gave him a very warm greeting.  They are truly wonderful hosts.

I have reviewed Gino’s restaurant plenty of times in this blog.  I have never been disappointed on any visits there, even though Gino’s style is different than most anywhere else we’ve been.  For one thing, I have never once been offered a menu at Gino’s place.  He or his chef just comes over and asks you if you want each course.  The antipasti is usually pretty much the same thing.  An orange and fennel salad, grilled vegetables, sliced cheeses and sausages, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, and bread.  But then he’ll bring out pasta and that course often varies.  Then we’ll have fish or meat and we never know what that will turn out to be.  We’ve had everything from filet mignon to osso bucco.  Finally, dinner is capped off with dessert, which is usually a platter of different things… or maybe tiramisu.  You just never know.  One thing you will never be served is pizza.

Anyway, here are some photos from last night’s food extravaganza.  Gino had a full house last night– 26 people in his tiny dining room.  It had the ambiance of a good party, with everyone sharing a table and a good time.

I took a few photos of Nagold, which is now beautifully decorated for the holidays.  If you haven’t visited this cute little town, you should come by and see it.  It’s super quaint and adorable and there are a lot of nice restaurants there.  


We had to keep our tour of Nagold brief, since Parker didn’t bring a heavy coat with her.  She said it’s about 80 degrees in San Antonio right now.  I would be surprised if she owns a heavy coat.  As soon as we walked into Gino’s restaurant, he turned around and tried to place us in his mind.  It’s been too long since our last visit.  His adorable wife remembered us immediately.  Gino doesn’t speak English, but that doesn’t matter.  He has such a big personality that it’s easy to be friends with him.

We were seated with a party of five at a long table.  Lots of people were enjoying Gino’s hospitality last night.  I don’t think I have ever seen his dining room when it wasn’t full.

Obligatory shot of Bill…

and his lovely mom, Parker.  Now both of our mothers have visited Gino!

We started with a lovely bottle of Primitivo.  We actually had a bottle, which was kind of a switch.  Usually, Gino brings us little carafes and I don’t know what I’m drinking.  I enjoyed this wine enough to look for it next time I’m shopping.  It was very pleasing.  Incidentally, we didn’t specifically order this.  They suggested a Primitivo and we said that was good.  This is what they brought us.

The four above shots are of the antipasto.  We had the orange and fennel salad with olives, fresh sausages and cheese, mozzarella and tomatoes, and grilled vegetables.  I am always pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the way Gino’s chef grills the veggies.  They are delicious.

Next, we had a pasta course.  Bill and Parker had their spaghetti Parmesan with truffles.  I had mine plain, sprinkled with just a little ground pepper.  Although his restaurant is too small to witness this in the dining room, Gino’s hardworking culinary crew makes this dish in a big wheel of cheese.  Bill watched them preparing it as he passed the kitchen.

Next, the main course.  We all had filet mignon, cooked medium rare and topped with rosemary, with roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach.  I noticed a couple of ladies having zander filet, which was the fish option last night.  One man had what appeared to be shrimp.  If Gino offers you something that doesn’t appeal, chances are excellent that he’ll have something you’ll love.  We enjoy letting him take the wheel, though.  He has never disappointed us.

And finally, dessert.  This was just enough because we were a bit full.  Parker and I were going to have espresso, but I think they forgot to bring it.  By the time we were finished with dinner, it was time to go home and sleep.  

The bill for this lovely meal was just under 300 euros.  We usually spend in the neighborhood of 160 to 175 euros when it’s just Bill and me.  But then, we also always get four courses, which you certainly don’t have to do.  We saw at least one couple having two courses.  They were the first and only ones to leave for a couple of hours.  Most people who dine at Gino’s seem to go for the whole program.  Fortunately, you can pay by credit card.

As I mentioned before, Gino’s food is usually fantastic.  But what I love the most about his restaurant is that it’s unlike any of the others in the area.  Every time we go there, it feels like we’ve been invited to a great party.  More than once, we’ve met new people there and even made new friends.  And Gino and his wife are just wonderful, warm hosts who make us feel at home.  I love bringing friends and family to this place.  As usual, I warmly recommend Osteria da Gino in Nagold if you ever have the chance to visit.  Just don’t go on Sunday and don’t go there looking for pizza.


Our big Virginia trip, part three– My Dad’s memorial…

Friday was an emotional day.  We buried my dad’s ashes on the hillside overlooking the house he grew up in.  Jason Grimes, the minister from High Bridge Presbyterian Church came and had a little service for us.  I was heartened to hear that he’s from South Carolina, which has a special place in my heart.  Go Gamecocks!


My dad grew up going to this church and became a member when he was ten years old.  It’s still the “family church”, as it were.

My Uncle Brownlee made the box for my dad’s ashes…  I thought the VMI ball cap was a nice touch.

A few hours later, we had a celebration of his life at the church itself.  Since I was asked to sing, I was a little nervous.  My dad and I have always had a complicated history.  Our musical history together is no less complicated than anything else about our relationship ever was.  My dad was a singer and used to do a lot of solos in church.  When I was very young, I’d plug my ears with my fingers when he’d get up to sing.  I usually got in trouble later for doing that.  As time went on, I became more tolerant, though I can’t say I was ever a great fan of his singing.  I feel comfortable in saying this openly because it’s common knowledge, most of all to my dad.  Anyway, I had visions of him sitting up in Heaven with his fingers in his ears.

I sang “Softly and Tenderly”, which is a hymn I discovered while heavily into karaoke.  Indeed, I used a karaoke track to accompany myself, since it was the easiest thing to do from thousands of miles away.  The version I used is on the soundtrack for the movie, The Apostle, although curiously enough, on the soundtrack it’s an instrumental.  A vocal version by Rebecca Lynn Howard is also on the soundtrack, but it’s different than the one I did.  No matter, though, since I actually prefer the instrumental version.  If you’re curious…

I recorded this a few days after my dad died in July.

So anyway, because I was singing, we had to get to the church early.  It was bitterly cold outside, but otherwise a clear, sunny day.  I had changed from more weather appropriate attire to a dress and a bright blue piano shawl we bought in Spain last January.  Actually, only my feet got really cold.  I had strappy, sparkly sandals with no hose.  But they looked prettier and were more comfortable than the black pumps I have, which make me walk like an old lady.

We had rehearsed the song two days prior and got the sound system all set up.  I was able to sing it from memory then and it sounded good, though one never knows how things will turn out when there are people in attendance.  Of course, as we left the church, a big wad of snow fell off the church roof and I got the feeling it was my dad throwing a snowball at me.  That’s the kind of thing he would have done.  I kind of knew it was going to be alright after that.  Sure enough, it was.  I stepped up to the mic, my nerves alive and buzzing.  At first, my voice came out a bit tremulous because I was nervous and emotional, but then I relaxed a bit and it turned out very nicely.  I think my dad was probably pleased.

My cousin, Karen, also performed.  She sang “Psalm 23”, accompanying herself on her guitar.  I wish I could play guitar, especially as well as she does.  There was also supposed to be a rendition of “Amazing Grace”, but apparently none of the musicians in the house got the message.  The pastor joked “The Lord wills otherwise.” when no one answered the call to perform that standard during the service.

My hilarious Uncle Carl introduced sort of an “open mic” for anyone and everyone who wanted to talk about my dad.  Carl was followed by my Uncle Ed, who needed no mic to tell us a hilarious story about growing up with my dad.  Several other people came up to speak, including Zeke Finney, a fellow VMI grad and choir member at the church I grew up in.  His wife used to occupy me during church services because my mom was always playing the organ and my dad was always in the choir.  My sisters were, by then, mostly out of the house.  Two of my sisters spoke.  One recited a poem she wrote.  Another simply stole the show with heartfelt and funny comments about our dad.  I got to see Sue, my lone cousin on my mom’s side.  She lives nearby.  Last time I saw her was at my wedding in November 2002.  She looked good– and tiny, like my sister Becky.

After the service, there was a reception and I got to meet more of my dad’s friends.  Another sister presented a very moving video about my dad’s life.  There were a lot of photos in the movie that I’d never seen before and a few that I contributed.  I would have added a few more, but all my pictures are in storage in Texas.

At the end of the video, we got our rendition of “Amazing Grace”… it came from my dad himself.  My sister found a recording of him performing it.  It had been years since I had last heard his singing voice.  I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears and am a better person for it.  Some things never change.  In all seriousness, it was very fitting that we had a recording of him singing.  Music was one of my dad’s true passions.  I think he passed that passion on to me.

Bill takes in the view from the hillside where my dad is now at rest.

My Georgia cousins…

The whole family… minus about 20 or so.

A rare shot with my sisters.  They look great… I probably need to lay off the German beer.  But at least I have a pretty smile on my face!