What Are YOU Waiting For?


” . . . What then? Shall we sit idly down and say,

The night has come; it is no longer day??

The night hath not yet come; we are not quite

cut off from labor by the failing light.

Something remains for us to do or dare

(Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear) –

Not Oedipus Coloneus, or Greek Ode,

or tales of pilgrims that one morning rode 

out of the gateway of the Tabard Inn –

But other something, would we but begin.

For age is opportunity, no less

than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

the sky is filled with stars,

invisible by day.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Morituri Salutamos”,  1874


This Time Last Year


My DH and I were a few months away from celebrating 38 wonderful years of marriage. The children were grown and our lives had taken us to many places around the world, places I had never dreamed I would see, much less live in. We had recently moved to another country and were enjoying the adventure of getting settled. We were working on where to store Christmas items in our new apartment.

But I had other plans also and I knew they wouldn’t include him. I was going to walk the Camino Frances soon.

I didn’t know exactly when or how. I didn’t know exactly where. I especially didn’t know why.

I hadn’t made any transportation arrangements because I had no clue how to get from where I was to where I thought I might need to be. I didn’t believe in hiking poles – too dorky. I was a good (what’s good about it?) twenty pounds overweight and I’m being kind. I didn’t have hiking boots.

The only thing I had going for me was that I liked walking although I sometimes found it boring.

I had decided to walk the Camino Frances and I had broken the news to my DH just after Thanksgiving. Would he be OK with it? It would cost us money and time. Lots of time but I had no clue  how much.

Not even my children really knew what I was up to.

“Mom’s thinking about going for a long walk.” What did that mean???

You don’t choose the Camino. It chooses you. And I had been chosen. But try to explain that to people who want to know why you want to walk across the top of Spain.

The ancestry of the Camino Frances sits squarely on a pilgrimage. But I’d never been religious enough to feel drawn to religious sites. I’d never felt compelled to visit places noted for miracles. And my life was relatively happy – no need to do penance or suffer to set things straight.

I was an older woman, inactive for many, many years, suddenly possessed by an idea that no one I knew had ever done before or even heard of.

It was time to give this some serious thought.

Camino minus 4 – A Wild 48 Hours in Paris

My feet are complaining big time.

In the past 48 hours, we have:

Walked to the Eiffel Tower and seen it at night

Been to Notre Dame

Been to the Louvre

Been to the Musee d’Orsay

Taken off our shoes and recovered at a fountain at theTuileries 

Gone back to the Louvre

Walked along the Seine River

Gone back to the Musee d’Orsay

Gone to the Pompidou Center 

Eaten quiche twice, hamburgers once, duck once, crepes once, wine lots of times

And we celebrated 38 wonderful years together.

The most common language heard is French, of course. The second most common, hands down, is American English. We are shocked at how much American English we are hearing. I would expect British English, since we are just across the channel, but I haven’t heard any yet. After that, it’s a toss up between Italian, Spanish, and Australian English.

Anyone who says that the French are unfriendly is talking about a France that I am not experiencing. To be sure, the people who I meet are mostly people who work in the tourist industry, either at tour sites, restaurants, etc. However, everyone I have met is funny, warm, speaks English better than I speak French, and seems sincerely happy to be asked for help and advice (and shares information graciously). 

Most of the local people I have met are young adults who have traveled outside of France. Last night, our waitress told us that she lived in the mid-west for a year (I can’t remember the city). Our waiter tonight lived in London for a year. 

Whether guards at the Louvre, cashiers at Carrefour, or ticket sellers at the Metro station, I am met with a smile, a polite greeting, and an answer (in charming, French-accented English. How cool is that?)

But my feet are begging me to stop the madness. They are trying to convince me that I have already walked 800 kilometers. What will I do on Tuesday?

Camino minus 8 – Paris bound or The Toilet Strikes Back!

Camino minus 8 – So Long, Stuttgart

Well, I’m off.

Packing last night was surprisingly easy. Everything fit well. My newly revised hip belt situation was repaired (the one that came with the backpack was way too small) and fits very comfortably.

I washed my rain jacket yesterday and sprayed it with waterproofing. It is now a lovely shade of red because it is clean, and I hope it will be waterproof. 

What have I forgotten??

I downloaded some last-minute apps on my iPad, which I plan to use on the trip in order to continue blogging. I spent much of yesterday moving photos off the iPad and onto my computer. Not easy but I may have succeeded. 

I also got an app that should allow me to write off-line for my blog. The blogging program I use, WordPress, is usually connected to the internet. However, since I expect to be out of the net quite a bit, I want to write off-line and transfer the text to WordPress when I do get to the internet. 

If the formatting on this post is a little off, it’s part of my learning curve and I will try to fix it.

We are on the high-speed train to Paris. It is very comfortable and clean. 

However, I had another toilet adventure.

The bathroom on the train stays clean because it has sensors for water and for air drying. Trying to save water for all, I first spritzed a little soap onto my hands, then held my hand under the faucet.

No water.

I waved my back and forth a few times. No water.

There I was in the W.C. with very slimy hands. I waved my hands under the air dryer and now had slightly dry slime on my hands.

Why not use toilet paper to wipe off my hands, you may be thinking?

Another problem. 

The roll dispenser is set up so that several rolls butt up against each other in the dispenser. The roll that was “out” was prevented, because of friction, from rolling freely.  Poking my finger into the tiny slot to create space between the rolls did not work – the hole was too small. 

The toilet paper dispensed one painfully complicated square at a time.

Fortunately I learned this when I was not having a W.C emergency. 

I found another toilet in the same car which had water. Crisis averted.

But what kind of adventures await me in Paris? I don’t want to speculate.

Oh, yes, my backpack weighed a whopping 25 pounds. I must get it down to 20, somehow, in the next four days. 

P. S. Why, oh why, can’t the U.S. build high-speed trains???

Camino minus 9 – A Serious Poll Question


Although my Camino walk doesn’t start until next week, I leave the house tomorrow. That means today is packing day. How do I fit all of this . . .


. . . into this?


I’m seriously considering changing the camera I take from my “new” Pentax point and shoot to my old, faithful, Canon.

Pros and cons for each:

Pentax –

  • small and flat
  • retractable lens
  • 280 gm. with charger
  • must take charger
  • 5x zoom lens
  • takes good photos
  • 12.1 megapixels

Canon –

  • 540 gms with batteries
  • lens doesn’t retract
  • more versatile photos
  • takes AA batteries, I won’t need to carry a charger
  • 72x zoom
  • 5 megapixels
  • takes good photos

I’m torn between these two. What do you think?

Time is of the essence. Please help. Thanks.

Camino minus 12 – How to Destroy 12 Weeks of Training in One Easy Day

Beer Hall Doris Day? Who knew?

The German people are known for many things. Focus, intensity, drive. When their focus, intensity and drive become overwhelming, they let off steam in a very focused, intense and driven way.

They have a Beer Fest. Also known as Oktoberfest. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Here in Stuttgart, they have Oktoberfest not once, but twice a year. The beerfest held in the Springtime is known as “Freuhlingsfest,” “freuhling” being the German word for “spring.” And they celebrate it with the fervor it deserves.

Last Friday, I found myself strolling among several thousand visitors during the last weekend of the three week long Freuhlingsfest in Stuttgart. And it was great.






The best, of course, was to be found inside the beer tents, of which there were several laid out among the rides, games, and food stands. We arrived inside at about 4:30 and the band in the front of the hall was already going strong. People were arriving from work, most wearing dirndls or liederhosen, traditional German folk wear worn only at these crazy traditional festivals.

Our tickets at a reserved area for 100 of our closest friends included half of a roasted chicken (very seasoned/salty and drink inducing) and three giant liters of beer. A liter in a big ol’ beer stein is very heavy and easy to accidentally slosh over the sides.

We sang, we danced. We banged mugs on the tables, we jumped on the benches. Men in blonde braided wigs were popular, as were ridiculous hats.

The beer flowed, there was lots of laughter and silliness. Although there was some “under-the-wrong-circumstances-could-have-been-bad” behavior . . .


. . . here it was just very funny and inoffensive.

Half of the songs were popular German songs, many usually heard at beerfests. The other half were American pop songs. The idea, of course, is to sing every song – loudly – even if you didn’t really know the words.

Heck, even if you didn’t know the language!

Remarkably, I saw no signs of people having had too much to drink, everyone had a buddy or even a stranger looking out for them. No animosity, a boisterous church sharing the sign of peace.

And Doris Day? Who knew that she would be one of the more popular songs at both spring and October fests? There’s nothing like seeing and hearing a thousand people standing on tables coming together in a rousing chorus of “Que Sera Sera” to remind you that the world can be a strange and wonderful place.

Camino minus 13 – My Short List of Saints . . . Plus, a Catholic Joke

It’s getting down to the wire and I have to pick my saints.

I asked for suggestions for saints to bring along with me for the walk on the Camino. In my post titled “Camino minus 20 – Calling All Saints,” I listed my requirements for the  saints who would accompany me. To recap:

  1. Male or Female
  2. Sense of humor
  3. Cheerfully face reality
  4. Be a writer or be written about
  5. Like to travel
  6. Able to pull own weight
  7. Superpowers (please see Camino minus 20 for explanation on this one)
  8. Ability to stay focused
  9. Keeps cool
  10. Available for life

Please go to Camino minus 20 for a better explanation on these requirements.

Unfortunately, it seems others are no more familiar with the saints than I am. We think of them as  far away spirits who perhaps really existed, perhaps not, and are  not  relevant to our day-to-day lives.

But, that was my point. I wanted to try to make the saints, or at least one of them, relevant to me.  Saints aren’t angels or spirits. They were real, ordinary people who did extraordinary things. We have photographs of them. We have books by them. We have interviews of them on television. They were real people.

At least, we know many of them were. Just as there are debates about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, there are debates about who the saints of long ago really were. I’m OK with legendary, actually. I’m OK with a person having lived a heroic life, if only in my gullible imagination.

Babe Ruth’s real life was not exemplary. We admire him for what he accomplished. If he wasn’t really as great a person as my imagination tells me he was, so what? He can still be a legendary hero to me.

So why wouldn’t I do the same for the saints?

In the midst of the worst of the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandals, the New York Times writer, Nicholas Kristof, whom I admire greatly for his humanity and his writing, wrote a short editorial on the Church for that paper. In it, he reminded his readers of the grace and humanity of those who are walking the walk and talking the talk, day in and day out, unaffected by the turmoil around them. Their focus is clear. And their devotion and humility reminded me, as a Catholic, to not lose heart.


I have been researching for my companion saints and a few have made it to the short list.

  1. St. Christopher (although not for the reason you might think)
  2. St. Philip Neri
  3. St. Teresa of Avila
  4. St. Roch

I shall explain why I have short listed these four at another time. Maybe I’ll pick up a few more (doubtful, I don’t have much time left).

In closing, I’m serious when I put “sense of humor”  up towards the top of the list of requirements:

An engineer died and reported to the Pearly Gates. An intern angel, filling in for St. Peter, checked his dossier and grimly said, “Ah, an engineer; you’re in the wrong place.”

So the engineer was cast down to hell. Pretty soon, dissatisfied with the level of comfort hell offered, he began designing improvements. Soon, the underworld had air-conditioning, flush toilets and escalators. The engineer was becoming a pretty popular guy among the demons.

One day, God called Satan and asked, ‘So, how’s it going down there in hell?”

Satan laughed and replied, “Hey, things are going great. We’ve got air-conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there’s no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next.”

God’s face clouded over and he exploded, “What? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake; he should never have been there; send him up.”

Satan shook his head, “No way. I like having an engineer down here. I’ve never had one before.”

God was angry. “This isn’t the way things are supposed to work and you know it. Send him back up here or I’ll sue.”

Satan laughed uproariously, ‘And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?” *




*The Book of Catholic Jokes, Deacon Tom Sheridan, Acta  Publications