Of enormous pills and learning grace

12 July, 2019
Rat Fink

The Fink waxes philosophic.

Thassa big pill.

Consider my daily dose of Carafate. Those nasty things are tall as a quarter, and if you break them in half, they become still-enormous pills, but they now have sharp edges (and I’ve tried the crushing them up in applesauce/juice/yogurt blah, blah, no). What to do?

Just woman up and choke it down whole. And what a lovely idiom/metaphor for what I’ve experienced over the past couple of weeks, heh. Great big old difficult pill to swallow. I’m sure you’ve been there.

Do you find it’s harder to forgive than to ask for forgiveness? I’ll bet you do, at least on some level. Why is that, I wonder. We humans do love our emotional control and deep-seated self-preservation mechanisms, and I suppose that’s part of it. Maybe another part of us — the down-deep part that rarely sees the light of day — derives some weird satisfaction from being the wounded party so we can plot our revenge.

That’s where the wheels fall off for many, I think. And they almost did for me. I got slapped by someone, and I wanted to slap back, twice as hard.

This morning, I was perusing Facebook and saw this meme. It stopped me in my tracks. Once again, I am dragged, kicking and screaming, into learning to be a better person.

Do you hate lessons like this? I do. More “fun” to be an angry victim, when what the other person needs is not your anger (they’re not ashamed of what they’ve done, so your indignation is misplaced), but instead, your grace and forgiveness — even if they neither want nor accept it. Does that mean I “lost?” Probably. But I need to be OK with that. And I will be. Tomorrow.

Have you experienced anything similar? Tell me about it. I will counsel you. That’s why you pay me.

;-)

Lessons

9 July, 2019
Rat Fink

Has this ever been a summer (heck, a year) of learning.

This summer, I learned the value of having lifelong friends, through good times and bad and everything in between. I loved hanging out with RD and his wife Bonnie before I left for Europe, and then enjoyed one of the best Odysseys ever with Suzanne and Kay. In addition to my family, they are treasures! Add to that my friends on social media, and old classmates and extended family that I’ve reconnected with there, and it really is an embarrassment of riches. I’m grateful for it.

I learned so much about the world this summer; about its beautiful spaces and our effects on them. I met wonderful people and established new friendships. What a blast!

But I’d be lying if I said all the learning was pleasant. It hasn’t been.

Without going into too much detail…I found myself regressing to a place I promised myself I’d never go again: the state of being in constant deference to someone else. Waiting to make decisions, waiting around for a return text or phone call, feeling like I was getting the runaround, repeatedly rearranging my life and schedule for the constantly changing plans…ya no bueno. What was I thinking?

Well, I slapped myself back into reality last night, and yanked back control. No one puts Finky in a corner. So, what did I do about it?

Et voilà — an “Odyssette!” I’ve wanted to see this show for over a decade, and last night, I pulled the trigger. Can’t wait. It’ll be a fun opportunity to not only get some Fabs, but also to visit a place the Thriller dearly loved to go. We visited three times, and each trip was a blast, with lots of memories.

As always, thanks to my sister Mavis for caring for Remy while I goof off by myself out West. I love you, sissy!

Hope you’re all doing well. Take care of you.

Hugs.

Day 12 – Slovenia

25 June, 2019
Rat Fink

As I sit here at 6:30 a.m. with my door open, smelling the morning air and enjoying the cool breeze, it’s hard to believe it’s all over. What an unforgettable 13 days of discovery, learning, laughter, friendship, and beauty.

Yesterday morning, Kay and I went out walking around the village of Nova vas. This area was completely destroyed during WWI, and many battles were fought here. We went in search of any sign of the war that still stands. In addition to several monuments erected by grateful citizens, there are remnants everywhere of when soldiers used rocks to build walls and trenches.

Hand grenades from WWI, recovered from the fields of Nova vas

The owner of the property where we’re staying (awesome guy named Robert) has collected many artifacts over the years, and even had several of the hand grenades incorporated into the fencework at the house. Fascinating.

We hung around and relaxed during the stiflingly hot day, and opted not to go “touristing,” but rather stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet, and each other’s company. At dinnertime, we drove to Italy and had a delicious meal. After a glass of prosecco and more conversation, it was time for bed.

Now I’m all packed and ready to head to the airport in a couple of hours. I’ll take the rest of my time to hang out with B&K and stop by a friend’s house for coffee on the way to Venice. Then it’s on to Chicago (11 hours later, oy) and Cleveland, where Mavis will be waiting for me at 1:00 in the morning. She’s the best!

Now I say a huge thanks to all of you for coming along on this little Odyssey with me. It’s been wonderful reading your comments; they always make me smile!

Talk to you stateside. Much love…

Day 11 – Slovenia

24 June, 2019
Rat Fink

Day 11 was full of conversation, beautiful scenery, and family!

We spent the day in and around the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana (roughly pronounced loo-blahna), one of the oldest cities in Europe. Driving through the countryside, it’s evident that the northern part of the former Yugoslavia identifies much more with Austrian/Alpen roots and culture than its southern neighbors, who favor Italian and Turkish ways and architecture. Still, it was all gorgeous.

The day began with showers, and it was sprinkling pretty good when we visited a 13th-century castle near Ljubljana, built directly into the mountainside rocks. Predjamski Grad was built by a landowner as a retreat, but was later used by robber baron Erasmus in the 1500s.

I was beginning to think that the day would be besieged by terrible weather, but then, as is so often the case around here, the clouds parted and the sun came out, and stayed with us for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We continued on into the city, had a lovely lunch, and did some sightseeing.

In the city center, we parked at the highest point and took the funicular car (oy) down to the oldest part of town. (At least this contraption sat on a track, instead of hung from a wire.)

It provided beautiful views of the city, however, as all photos reveal a delightful array of terra-cotta rooftops and old stucco construction.

After our lunch at an outdoor cafe, where our waiter and I had a heated discussion about LeBron and the Cavs and the NBA in general (go figure), we explored the old section of the city. Kay bought some items from her favorite store, Bob stopped to listen to a musician play old Slovene folk songs on the accordion, and I bought some Slovenian chocolate, tagged along, and enjoyed the views.

Listening to Uncle Vinko’s stories

Then it was on to the small village of Podlipa, where we had a marvelous dinner and great conversation with members of Bob’s extended family. Maruša and Janez were splendid hosts, and the food and the company were wonderful. It was fun to listen to the stories of when Bob visited in 1968 as a young man, and everyone laughed at Uncle Vinko’s hilarious observations.

It was another fantastic day of discovery, beauty, laughter, and friendship that I’ll remember forever.

Today, on my last full day of this adventure before jetting home, we will go to the seaside, visit a medieval village, and take a hike through the forest here in Nova vas to try to find some World War I artifacts.

Hugs — more tomorrow as I close out Odyssey 2019.

Day 10 – Slovenia

22 June, 2019
Rat Fink

Today, I learned lots about WWI history, and the role that Slovenia played in world affairs. Bob and Kay were my tour guides and history profs; it was absolutely captivating. And beautiful!

After a huge thunderstorm that lasted all morning, we took off after lunch and went exploring. But first, I have to show you this magical place where I’m staying.

Up in the mountains, directly across the border from Italy, is the tiny country of Slovenia — part of the former Yugoslavia, along with Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia. Due to political upheaval in the early 1990s, all six countries split apart, and Yugoslavia was no more. Each country maintains its unique culture and social constructs, and Slovenia is a wonderful conglomeration of both alpine and Italian roots.

The sunny kitchen

I’m staying with B & K in the tiny hamlet of Nova vas, in a beautiful apartment situated among the pine trees. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

The balcony

I’m seeing village life in real time, while enjoying the breathtaking mountain views, churches built in the 1500s, and winding roads that take you to dizzying heights.

First, we drove to Nova Gorica (the next town over), and walked through the town square, had a cappucino at a friend’s restaurant, and then took off up a mountain to the old village of Šmartno, with stunning views of the Dolomite and Alpen mountain ranges, and the Adriatic Sea in the distance.

From there, we drove down to the Italian border town of Gorizia, and visited churches and walked the town square. I saw the apartment building where Bob and Kay lived several years ago, and they relived memories of going to small cafes and restaurants during their time there. On the other side of the mountainous area, we drove up to Sveta Gora (Slovene for “sacred mountain”), where they attended church and sang in the choir every Sunday.

More spectacular views followed, and as a bonus, we eavesdropped on a wedding in progress inside the church.

We took a leisurely drive along the Soca River, and ended up back near Nova vas at the grocery store, where we bought supplies for dinner, went back “home,” and cooked a lovely meal for ourselves.

Tomorrow, we’ll go to the capital city of Ljubljana, have lunch in the city, and then travel to Podlipa, the home of Bob’s Slovenian relatives, for dinner. Looking forward to more beautiful scenery and great conversation.

Ciao! More pictures soon.