Thursday, December 9, 2010


On a chilly day in December, 2007, my Nana set out. Off to the historical society, then to lecture in church—though she wasn’t feeling well, she knew she had to do it, because the churchgoers needed her—and finally back home. She took out the garbage, one last time, then only had a moment to take off one glove before she passed on. My beautiful Nana.

I miss her especially on days like today, when a touch of snow coats the trees and the sun is rising, painting the sky pink and pastel blue to match her eyes. And I think about how nice it would be to get a letter from her once more—her letters were so full of joy and delight in tiny details. That was how she lived her life. Nana embraced each day as an opportunity for love and life and laughter.

She would have been thrilled that we came to live in Basel, Switzerland, and sometimes I imagine the letters I would write to her about our latest adventures. It’s strange, because sometimes I see her here: in the face of the lady with the wool beret walking slowly across the Mittlebruck to savor the rushing Rhine below, in the eyes of the smartly dressed woman sitting next to me on the tram, in the delicate hands fussing with the petals of a rose in the flower shop. I see her walking with me down the cobbled alleys laughing up at the grotesque faces adorning the buildings. I hear her giggle in the trickle of the stream next to my apartment. Nana is always near me.

I miss you, Nana.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Settling In

When you live somewhere for a while, you start to lose perspective. I imagine a family living at the top of the highest mountain would at first delight in every day, wonder at the heights and the everlasting sun above the clouds. But after a while, the inconveniences of everyday living would start to make their impressions. It can’t be easy to get food to the top of a mountain, it’s dangerous for the children, and it’s often chillingly cold. Eventually, though, these problems are overcome and life becomes routine.

We have lived in Basel, Switzerland for nearly three months now, and like the family on the mountain, I was amazed by the sights and the history and the newness of our situation. And then, the realities of overly frequent trips to the grocery store, of not understanding what the people on the trams are saying about my children’s noise, of daily discovering new rules that don’t seem to make sense, of everything shutting down on Sundays; these realities kicked in and I felt lost in my new world. The only stability in my routine was getting the kids to and from school. Everything else was sporadic and frantic, like I was swimming upward in an ever-deepening well. The honeymoon was over.

While there are still days like that, our family has settled in. Our discoveries are much less exciting sounding now—rather than finding a thousand year old skeleton being excavated behind the town hall, we find an easier way to get to school by bus instead of tram. Rather than discovering a castle on top of a hill, we find that we can order something from menu in German and know what to expect when the dish arrives. Rather than watching gladiators enact a battle in the ruins of a Roman theatre, we find a set of stairs that leads to a part of town we already know. These little discoveries have become victories. They are a part of our new life in Basel.

Although I still have to go to the grocery store almost every day, and I still have to collect the kids from school, I am becoming a new person here. My mind is expanding along with my world. And occasionally I am overwhelmed by the sight of the Rhine rushing below the bridge that is along my daily trek to school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunrise in Basel

The sun will rise again on Basel

Filtered through the fog

too week to even reflect

off the rushing waters of the Rhine

But it will rise again in Basel

Breaking through the clouds

to shimmer on the gulls

and swans risking chilly feet

to dip for fish on the morning River

And it will rise again on Basel

tripping and flipping through fluttering yellow leaves

hesitantly falling to the

cobblestones along the River's path

The sun will rise again on Basel

to spark the golden spires

and flowered sloping rooftops

hovering over the Rhine

Yes, the sun will rise again on Basel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving On

In less than a month, our family is up and moving to Basel, Switzerland. My husband and I have often talked about living abroad, maybe in France or England, but we never imagined that it would happen so soon! And we never considered Switzerland. Never. Still, the prospect is thrilling. Imagine seeing your kids, so young at 9 and 4, learning a new language and culture!

Last week, we went to visit for our “look-see”, to find an apartment and check out the schools for our kids. While it was thrilling to be back in Europe, the idea that we would be moving there so soon hovered over my head as heavily as the unusual humid 96 degrees (F).

The first thing that struck me was the language barrier. Now, it may not be seen as much as a barrier, since most people in Basel speak enough English or even French, which we both studied. But on the first day I had a hard time even imagining myself understanding German. The sound of it is so foreign to my ears, the pronunciations were so different from the words on paper (or signs), and even the arrangement of the words in a sentence didn’t make sense. After a few days, we picked up a few useful phrases that allowed us to order a meal or a drink at a restaurant (weisswine, and grossesbier) and to say polite things. I was starting to really hear the language rather than a jumble of consonants, which might be the first step.

Another major adjustment is going to be the completely different lifestyle. I plan on embracing this. Other ex-pats we met were giving us advice about how to watch American TV, and how you can still make tacos without cheddar cheese. But maybe this shift in lifestyle will be good for our family. Maybe we won’t watch as much TV. Maybe we’ll learn to ski in the Alps. Maybe we’ll learn to yodel. Maybe not. I just hope that it will connect us more as a family.

Less than a month and we’ll be moving in to our apartment in Basel. In Europe! It is hard to believe. And with all the details that need to fall into place in the next month, it’s hard to imagine being there. One step at a time…

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And Now We Wait...

I have been doing a lot of waiting these days. Waiting for peers to read my WIP, waiting for paperwork to go through for our move to Basel, Switzerland, waiting for things to happen… It’s not easy for me, and I don’t know if it’s easy for anyone.

So what do I do in the meantime?

It’s easy to let stress take over and chomp at the bit for some action, but that is fruitless. And it makes me cranky. I can make lists—this I’m good at—lots of lists detailing things that need to happen, things we need to know, things I need to buy at the grocery store. But sometimes the lists get too long and start to seem overwhelming, especially when there are more things “to do” and not many crossed off.

The best thing to do is to enjoy the waiting time. Pay attention to the beautiful little moments that are happening all around. Like the goosebumps that stand your hairs up while you’re in line for the diving board, and the hot pavement under your bare dripping feet, and the clouds that are racing across the blue-blue sky. And breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.