Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Only hours left in 2008....

Along with the rest of you, today I am thinking back over the year which comes to an end tonight.


Where did it go?

I never did write a Christmas letter, you know. Not a word. To be honest, I think the flagging spirits got in the way, just a little. Going to Switzerland was a big deal for me. Big ,because I was at that stage in my life where taking care of the details was almost beyond me. If someone had said to me...."I have booked the tickets, and am taking you there and fetching you when the time comes to get home....all you have to do is pack and I will see to everything else" , I may well have burst into tears of relief.

But, as we all know, I pulled myself together enough to get on that plane and get there. And back. And the time away has given me more perspective and the time to regroup.

2008 has been memorable for many of the wrong reasons. I have expounded on that enough. There is also so much more that I cannot or will not write here, which is in the process of being dealt with as well. So, having got that out of the way, what else did 2008 bring?

The joy of finding out that I am going to be a granny is up there at the top of the list.
The delights of being a part of my adult children's lives, scattered all over the place.
The blessings of a mother and sister who love me unconditionally.
The love and kindness of my friends, all over the world.
The pride in a son who got his place at the University of his choice, and is loving his new life.
The support of some special friends who have helped me throughout the latter half of the year.
These, then, are the things which matter most to me.

I have read some amazing books. I have watched some mindless TV. I have been to a couple of movies. Well, one actually, but that is probably still a record for me! I have baked, and cooked, and washed, and cleaned, and tidied, and shopped, and created, and sewn, and worked, and written, and thought, and prayed, and celebrated, and helped, and driven, and grown, and received, and given, and comforted, and cheered, and another few zillion things too. I have asked many questions, and found fewer answers. I have argued, and worried, and yelled, and lost my temper, and resorted to sarcasm. I have annoyed, and angered, and wept and wailed.

Good grief. I sound certifiable.

So what does that all mean?

I have lived. I have seen another year pass by. Just like the 53 did before. They all last roughly the same number of days, given a leap year or so, and for all those 54 years (and a half), I have lived my life. This is what life is all about. Living. I am a fallible human. A woman who still has dreams. Who still wants to do better next year. Who still believes she can do anything, if she tries hard enough. Who has had and will continue to have adventures.

I don't make New Year resolutions any more. I attempt to make daily ones. I pray for more patience, more grace, more love. We are not aiming for sainthood here, just trying to refine ourselves a trifle. I am not that good at it, I confess. And when I don't do can be absolutely sure there will be heavenly intervention. I know. And every day, I still keep listing 5 things I am thankful for at the start of the day. It has come to colour my life.

2009 is going to be a BIG year. Internationally, we are moving into a new year of total uncertainty. Economically, a year of great challenge. Politically, a year of great change. A year in which, I have a strong suspicion, we will all find our worlds radically altered. One thing is certain....we will all have to learn how to adapt very rapidly.

And personally? Well, given the time of year, I am thinking back to 2000+ years ago, when, in the midst of political and economic upheaval, a man and a woman found shelter in a humble stable, and a baby was born.

And in this small family here, amidst everything the outside world throws at us, we will be gathering around a small baby soon. The outside world will cease to matter as we gaze at the first child of a new generation in our family. Her aunt will be coming home to meet her from across the world, and you know, nothing else matters.

And why? Because of love. Deep and abiding love. Love and family. Love for family. Family gathering from afar, to love a tiny baby. Love. Hope. Thankfulness.

So I am going to be spending the last hours of 2008 preparing for the joys of 2009, sewing the first quilt for our little one. I can't think of a better way to start the new year.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The photos at last....

An hour and a half. That is what it took to load these photos .....finally! I was about to abandon the idea, but then Blogger obliged at last. There are a lot of photos here, people, so if you have had enough of Swiss scenery, feel free to zoom to the end. My family are highly amused by my obsession with the camera. But I am trying always, to capture the moment, just in case I ever forget. But how could I?? Just look.....

If you click to enlarge the one above, you will see the new cablecar in the sky. And please note the little red trains! If ever you visit Engelberg, make sure you go there on the little red train, which changes to cogs halfway up the mountain, when it gets so steep. Magical. The BEST way to arrive! Just hop on in Luzern.

This was the longest walk I did..... to the Klostermatt, and the children (and adults) skiing in the village.

The new cablecar to Brunni leaves from the Klostermatt now. It opened while I was there...

The Kloster, a Benedictine monastery, complete with exclusive private school. The valley was discovered by monks way back and they built the monastery there, and so the village grew around it.

The view from the other end of the valley.
And this was what was behind me as I took the photo above.

That last walk I told you about? My favourite walk through the forest? Well, here we go again....

Remember how I mentioned "Look up"?? I did.

And here is the Grotto I walk to in the forest. This is where I come to light a candle. And usually there is no-one about. The peace is amazing. Indescribable.

And that concludes the Swiss tour. This time. I have been restrained, which is totally out of character. I could have posted 20 photos a day for the next 6 months. I just love this place, you see. No-one can be in any doubt of that fact.
In a sense, it was the perfect place for me to end this year. A year which has been challenging on more than one front, but that can wait. I hope you can feel a little of what I am talking about when I say I long to be there.
But, in the lounge next to me, sits my youngest son. He makes coming home worthwhile. Especially when I stagger through the door after a monstrous session of physio, and he leaps up and offers to make me coffee. Who cares about the piles of laundry???
Not me.


Blogger will NOT post my photos. I will try again later. I am ready to search for an axe. You may think I should strive for patience and gentleness, not to mention grace in 2009.

You would be right.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Far away from those Alps....

I am home. Apparently my son's uni gear exploded out of his bags when he arrived home. He is out, so is not here to explain why my entire lounge was littered with his possessions. Yes. Well. They are now in a heap out of sight. He will just LOOOOOVE his mother's return! I took one look in his room and shut the door.

But as I said, I am home. I have managed to download the photos, so tomorrow we will have a round up of the last 2 days or so of Swiss scenery. Sigh. The local scenery is somewhat different. The good news, now that I have waded through a huge pile of mail, which was 99% cards, is that I have my appointment in Bath! Yes!! It is on 12th January. I am so thrilled that I am going so soon. So that is exciting.

Right. I do believe I hear the washing machine calling my name. Judging by the heap of man sized things in front of it, it may well be working for a while. Oh, and the greatest disaster of the day, ignoring the fact that I have come home with all my sister's store loyalty cards in my wallet, is that I left my hair straighteners behind. This is NOT good. It is a total disaster in fact. Total disaster. You have no idea what I look like when the hair is not tamed. The wild woman of Borneo has nothing on me. When we were at uni, years ago, we used to either whirl our hair to straighten it (that mean you wind it round your head and stick a new pair of tights over the lot and dry it. Yes, it is just as weird as you are thinking right now. I know what picture you have in your mind) or iron it. That's right. Iron one's hair. Well, that is what hair straighteners do, isn't it?? They iron it flat. I can just see me with my head lying on the ironing board.

And on that perfect note, I will leave you grinning. I told you I could see you.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last post from the Alps.....

Well, I am about to haul out the suitcase and start packing. I leave early tomorrow for home. And as it happens, this is the most glorious of days. The sun is shining, and the snow is blindingly white. The sky is blue, and the traffic is horrendous. The world seems to have arrived here today. Not that I am the least bit surprised, but I am not all that keen on thousands of people actually daring to walk the same paths I am through MY forests. You may just detect a smidgen of territorial huff here today. You would be right.

However, I am a big girl, and I don't really mind sharing at all. I just wanted to walk in my forest alone for a while, but that was not to be. It was still beautiful. Stunning. I took many photos, but I don't know how to get them off the camera, because all the instructions on the screen are in German and I am out of my depth here. I can understand it spoken, and can speak a fair bit, but reading is another story. There are a few gaps in the education, it seems.

Back to my walk. It was -10 degrees C. Very cold. VERY cold. Especially when one forgets one's hat and scarf. But I did remember my trusty Leki pole. This morning I walked around the lake, and then had a coffee with Marge and came home to thaw for an hour before I headed up the mountain. My physio will not be able to complain re the exercises. And speaking of physio, I am back there again on Tuesday at dawn.

Sigh. Normal life beckons. Today, as I sat on a very cold bench in the forest, I had a little chat with God. Well, I always think He is walking through the forests with me, you see, so I talk a lot. But every time I stood up, I could think of another to sit back down. So I said, ok then, I will sit here until You SPEAK to me. Loud and clear, if you please. And in between smiling and greeting every one of the 4,900,974,289,642,428 people who walked past me, I heard the words....Look up. Huh?? That is it? Look up?? I was expecting more. Look up?

So I did. At the trees towering over me, the blue sky, the snow and the mountains. And then I saw the little sign on the rock close by which said in German, Here is His greatest work, or something like that. And I understood. I was sitting in a place which is beyond words, created not by man, but by Him. I looked up again, and I realised that if I just walked along the path watching my feet, I could completely miss the spectacular beauty all about me. So too, in life. If I am so caught up in the things which seem impossible, I will miss seeing the beauty all around me. He created all this. Nothing, then, is impossible for Him.

The challenges that I face, the worries which worm their way into my mind now and then....all of them....are so small really. I need to keep looking up, keep believing He has the controls, keep trusting that He knows where I am heading next, and keep living in the knowledge that He gave me this place where I find such peace and happiness for a reason, and that He will bring me back again very soon.

All things are possible. He said so. And I look up and believe.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing day.....

Today has been a beautiful day, with the sun and fog playing hide and seek all day. I have been out walking. Icy. Very very cold, and we had yet more snow last night. The village is heaving with people, all up here to ski, walk in the snow, snowboard, go up the mountains, and just generally to enjoy the absolute beauty all around us. And why not...... it is pure heaven here.

These were taken on my walk to the grotto on Christmas Eve.

I can't quite put into words just what this place does to me. Me, can you believe it, not being able to find the words. Maybe it is because I feel something here which restores my soul. Maybe because the beauty does it to me. Maybe though, simply because here, I smile a whole lot. I notice it. I feel it. And it is not a holiday type of smile. I am logical enough to know there is the holiday factor to be remembered, but it is more than that. This is the kind of place where I want to stand on the top of the mountain, and just reach my arms up to heaven, to try to touch it, in a way. It seems that close. And there are lots to choose from. Mountains. All around me.
And the silence. Sometimes, although not this time, I go out before dawn, and all you can hear are my footsteps. The silence is magical, and then the bells from the Kloster will toll, and echo around the valley. In summer, there may be the rustle of leaves on the trees, or the sound of the water trickling over stones as it comes down the mountain into streams. Or the sound of the cowbells on the slopes of the mountains. No cows in winter....most are down the mountain. When the sun shines, if you look up you will see paragliders playing with the winds flying around the skies and drifting down to the valley. Winter or summer.
I have said this before, but I will say it again....people smile a lot here. Everyone greets you with a smile and a greeting as you pass on the pathways. How much difference a simple smile makes. You smile back and greet them, and that smile stays with you and then you meet another total stranger, and smile and greet them, and so the day goes. What a massive difference. Just one smile, and the world can change in a simple way.
It is not long before I go home now. While I will be so happy to see my children again, part of me truly wishes I could stay. Forever maybe.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas evening.....

It is dark is nearly 5.30pm, and soon my sister will be home from work. Yes, on Christmas day. This is a ski resort, and today is one of the busiest days of the season. And my brother-in-law will not be home before 1am, because he too is at work in his restaurant. That is just the way things are here! However, we had a lovely meal at the restaurant last night, before coming home with friends, to open presents.

Well, I only wanted to open one present last night, because my family does the present opening thing on Christmas morning, and Christmas eve seems all wrong to me! This morning, my daughter, in NZ, managed to get on MSN with her brother, who then got her other brother to get on line with me here in Switzerland, activate all cameras on the laptops in the UK, and Diana and I spoke on the phone for over an hour, watching the boys and Ann open their presents, not to mention sing a rousing rendition of The Winner Takes it All from Singstar on the stereo (computer and phone). They belted it out in the UK and Diana and I sang along in Switzerland and NZ. Diana and I were typing our comments and requests, and Andrew and David had their laptop fonts on huge so they could see what we were saying. Sigh. My family is crazy. But it was the total highlight of the day. Total!

And next Christmas, there will be Bump to add to the mayhem too. But you know, being away from your children on Christmas day just feels all wrong. I absolutely love being here, believe me, and I adore my family here, but my kids.....well, they are MINE. You know? Never mind that they are all adults now! I foresee much travelling for my future Christmasses (huh? that spelling looks odd). I need to see all my children. Just call me greedy. I want it all.

It was snowing when I woke up this morning, and then we had freezing fog. I cannot begin to tell you how cold it was. Icy. I have not been for a walk today, but tomorrow I will be out there, no matter what the weather does. I am roasting a chicken for Mum, Marge and me tonight, with all the Christmas trimmings, to have a bit of both worlds. Mince pies, warm, with brandy butter or cream...... and I do believe there may be a DVD to watch too!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and all your families!
I walked along this path this morning (with sticks), reflecting on the majesty and splendour surrounding me, and the contrast with that little stable thousands of years ago. And yet that little humble, and probably dirty, stable was good enough for the Son of God to be born there.
As I watched the sun rise above the mountains, and catch the wings of a bird in flight, I thought of the angels, and how all Heaven is rejoicing. And I felt peace descend on me up there in the forest.
So from the Alps, to all of you...... may your Christmas be filled with peace and joy!

Monday, December 22, 2008

And then the sun shone....

That little dot, if you click on the picture, is a paraglider. Paragliding is on the list of things to do!

And the sky was so blue, and the snow so white, and THIS is my Switzerland. It does not get any better.
I have been busy again. Up at 6 to take Marge to work again. At the restaurant this morning, then baking biscuits, and carrot cakes. This necessitated a bit of ingenuity. No custard powder to make the biscuits, so I experimented and substituted cornflour and vanilla essence. Well...that is what I think I put in. It did not seem to make much difference. However, all is not lost! I am dipping the biscuits (cookies) in chocolate, and that will add to the taste. Chocolate. In Switzerland. Heaven.
I walked to the supermarket twice today because I left my shopping list at home, but when I saw the sky and the mountains, it was a pleasure to look upwards, and marvel at the unbelievably awesome hand of God. I tried to use the camera to capture what I see. But believe me when I say it is so much better in real life. You can stand in the snow and turn 360 degrees and you will lose your breath at the beauty which towers over you, reaching to the heavens. You will.
So, it was a bit of an effort to go back to grating carrots. But I managed. So we will have some cakes for Christmas, if I can keep my family from devouring them tonight. And YES, Diana, David, Andrew and Ann, I will be making a cinnamon cake too. Tomorrow. Enough is enough for now, and I need to go and melt the chocolate for the biscuits.
I may even wrap some presents....


Hello! If you are looking for the photo of the quilt you can find it in this post which I think is at the bottom if you scroll down. Maybe. Perhaps. Or maybe not. Sigh. I am a techy whizz as you can see!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On my walk today...

These are some pictures of what I saw. The sun tried to peak out from behind the clouds, and the world brightened up at once.

And after getting up at 6 to take my sister to work, helping at the restaurant, and going for a walk, watching the ski jumping and almost falling asleep amidst the excitement, I do believe an early night will be in order.
I forgot to go and buy food yesterday. Tomorrow. It is on the list. The supermarkets do not open on Sundays here. And I have no energy to attempt baking today. That will be tomorrow too. In fact tomorrow is shaping up to be a Very Busy Day. I also need to wrap my presents for my family here, because I didn't do them at home in case customs were unamused by my elegant wrappings. And there is the small matter of buying something to cook on Christmas Day too. In Switzerland, the main Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve. We are eating at the restaurant with all the family and friends here, and there has been mention of a Bavarian Christmas meal of Bratwurst and sauerkraut. Or was it meatloaf?? Either will be just fine.
I do believe we will have chicken with stuffing and all the trimmings for Christmas Day. I am cooking so I get to decide.
Lists.... I need to make lists..... I will be back after I have a little snooze.....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ski jumping World Cup....

Horses and carriages going round the village.....

The run-in slope is kept covered till they start.....

There is a little ant on this photo. It is a ski jumper flying down in the air.....

And it is only when you see them actually jump that you realise how far they go or how steep it is.......

See the little men flying??

That line at the bottom is a sort of target length for them to go before landing. Some did. Some landed half way up the hill. And they get to do it all again tomorrow. I will be there this time. What must their mothers be thinking?? My child flies down mountains with 2 long skis on his feet...... Poor women. I am sure they are all grey.

You can see closer up here......

I love this mountain. I keep taking photos of it. It reminds me of Devil's Peak in Cape Town. Ironically, it used to be called Engel Berg - Angel Mountain, after which the village is named. Now it is called Der Hahnen. I have no idea why, but I think they need to change it back again.

Back to that jump. The officials are inching down the slope sideways here, smoothing the landing area with their skis before the next round of jumps.

Oh...Simon Amann from Switzerland won today!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Meeting Susan in the snow......


I have been busy socialising here in Engelberg. What fun it has been! Here I am in Central Switzerland, and a blogging friend of mine, who is an American living in Zurich, and I, decided that a visit was in order. Definitely in order. I have a slight advantage here, because I have actually met blogging friends IRL and lived to tell the tale, and I loved meeting every single one. They did not appear to be axe murderers at all! But this was a first for Susan, from Swiss Family Olsen and she was brave enough to leap in her car and drive over an hour to get here from Zurich yesterday morning to meet a total stanger. Me. I am harmless really. Not to mention my sister, brother-in-law and mother.

I was looking out for her car, and made a valiant effort to clear the snow from the driveway as she arrived, so her first sight of me was actually of a slightly mad woman rushing back inside to get on her boots, hopping about on the doorstep putting them on, and knocking over the snow shovel in the process. She must have wondered what she had done, coming up the mountain!

And Susan is so TINY!! Marge and I took one look at her and declared that we felt like Amazons. Giants. However, it took all of oh.......2.6seconds for us to be totally at ease with each other, and we talked so much I nearly forgot to feed the poor girl. In fact we completely forgot lunch, which was something Marge and I remembered as we waved goodbye. We were mortified. I am SO sorry, Susan! I will do better next time. Or we can go to Duke's , my brother-in-law's restaurant.
We had such a lovely time chatting about everthing under the sun from global politics and economics to family and blogging friends. And shops. Sigh. We just needed more time. Susan is a total delight, and such fun too. And you know, I loved having my sister see the blogging world in action too. She reads a lot of the blogs I read, and now she has seen how wonderful our friendships can be in real life as well. As Susan says, it is all Boomama's fault, because her comment section is where we first discovered each other. Three cheers for Boomama!
Marge decorating her Christmas tree.

So.... here is what remains of the mince pies. I also forgot to offer Susan any. Grovel.

I have been entertaining. I loved it.
And then Marge and I popped over to the restaurant to decorate it for Christmas, and I stopped to watch the ski jumpers practicing on the slope. They are also very tiny. And certifiable. That is a loooooooong way to fly through the air. I considered that my weight may give me supersonic speed, but then gravity would come into action and I would either plummet like a stone, or land somewhere on the other side of the village. But, never fear, my knee and I will watch from a distance.

We had dinner at the restaurant, which was wonderful, of course, and then came home to crash in front of the tv. And snooze a little. The leg seems to be growing. It also hurts. But I am not going to think about it at all. That can wait till after Christmas. I refuse to let it stop me from doing anything right now.

Today has been a shopping day. Down the mountain. Believe me, the Swiss shopping experience is a delight. Bargains! Real sales! So many different things to look at and dream about. And the baby things....oh my word. The 4 of us were jammed into the car coming home, covered with shopping bags. Fun. Exhausting. Fun. Did I mention fun?? There were coffee breaks too, of course.

So there you have my latest news. I am having a wonderful time. I am here in the snow with great family and friends. I am grinning.