Finger Talk

Within 10 minutes of embarking on our Big Trip, this happened.

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While I was on the phone, and still sad from leaving my parents, I made a miscalculation.  I thought that I could one-handedly catch a box of books toppling off the top of our duffels from the back of our mini-van while continuing the phone conversation.  Oops.  OUCH.

A day and three states later, an x ray revealed multiple fractures.  That’s when this happened:



But this helped!


Nine days and ten states later we were relieved to learn that I did not need surgery.  Ideally, we would have hand therapy, but could continue on our trip.  Off with the finger sling!  Follow up with a surgeon in Germany.  No problem.  :0)

OK, it was a little problem, but we did it.  The German surgeon, who spoke fantastic English, confirmed that I didn’t need surgery. My fingers were healing correctly without surgery.  Hurray! I was concerned since my finger was dislocating at the joint when I carried a sauce pan.  He said, “Don’t do that.”  So I’m trying not to.

Here’s how far I can close my hand now.

Trying to close my hand

They still hurt and I can’t really lift with my right hand, but they are improving every day.





A few facts about me:

Hello my name is William James Mesquit.  I am ten years old (and counting).  I love to dig, build and play with sticks.  (I like legos, too.)  Recently, I was lucky enough to get a dog.  He was a rescue  (a dog we rescued from a kill shelter) and we named him Samwise.  His full name (I only call him this, not the rest of the family) Samwise Gamgee James Graffer Scruffy (his original name was Scruffy) Mesquit.  Some name!  If I had a job I would be a CONTRACTOR because I like to build and design stuff.








I was born on March 27, 2004.  I am ten years old and currently on a trip around the world.  I am most excited to go to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Parthenon in Greece.  My favorite animals are horses and hamsters.  I have a sister named Camille and two brothers named Luke and Will.  I am a triplet and also an identical twin.  My favorite food is mashed potatoes.  I enjoy ballet, soccer and horseback riding.  I have taken ballet for seven years.  I have been in various Nutcrackers and other recitals.  I enjoy traveling and reading Harry Potter, Rick Riordan, John Flannagan, J.R.R Tolkien and CS Lewis.  My favorite movies are the Lord of the Rings series and the Hobbit.  My family and I have a dog named Samwise Gamgee Mesquit from the Lord of the Rings, Samwise for short.  I used to have a hamster named Artemis but it died recently. I am looking forward to our big adventure around the world.

Hike like the Bavarians!

It started when the kids, walking along the creek, looked up at the highest peak they could see above the trees.

“Dad, can we climb that one?”

We talked about how it would not be easy but that we would see if it was possible.  We asked our hotelier couple for advice and he told us the name of the peak was Brünnstein.  In halting English, he mentioned that it was “dirty” along the way and that we should drive closer to the peak before starting out, for the “kinder”.  He is a father of four as well and understands the limits of smaller lags.  He suggested we park in a lot closer to the peak.

So we loaded up in the car on a bright morning and wound through tiny towns on our slow climb in elevation.  It was an easy, weekend morning and people were out for drives, and bike rides.  As you enter a town, clinging to the hillside, a radar display would show your speed.  Cafe tables were within inches of the road.  We passed a wedding reception full of guests sitting outside and sunning under a large cafe canopy.  We continued to drive higher.

We finally found a parking lot and this detailed hiking map.  Good work by the Bavarians!  We would be tackling about a 2000 foot elevation gain over 5 kilometers each way.  An ambitious effort for our clan.  The sign references Brünnsteinhaus and we guessed that the summit of Brünnstein was just past this “haus”.

The path climbed above the parking lot and over well-engineered drainage culverts.  We watched our car disappear through the trees.  Emerging into a view of the valley and the towns we’d driven through, a few mountain bikers labored slowly past us.


Will found a “walking” stick right away. We trod up to a sign that directed two different paths to Brünnsteinhaus.  The trail numbers were clearly delineated and adequately marked along the way.  Decision time.  Should we go the faster way (likely steeper) or the slower way (likely less challenging)?  We made up our minds to go steeper on the way up.


The kids got out ahead of us and conspired together.



We entered into a darker path besieged by tree roots and denser foliage filtering out the available light.  I stowed my sunglasses.


We frequently encountered barbed wire at turn points.  Wooden steps were built to allow hikers access over the barbed wire.  We discussed the fun of tetanus shots and encouraged the kiddos to take care.  The barbed wire keeps the grazing cattle from wandering. Over a rise, we spotted a deer that bounded away.  The patterns of our shoe soles filled more and more with the adhesive mud.



Frequent breaks kept us all in the game.  Here’s Will really getting into one of those short breaks.

Of course, our small ones had brought their Harry Potter wands.  Sometimes you have to do quite a few spells when you are out in woods.  You have to constantly be prepared to fight off any lurking bandits.



With the muddy trail too narrow for two-abreast hiking, big brother stayed out in front.  I was the same way as a kid.  If a smaller sibling got out there, it was a race.

Ascending slowly on the narrow trail, we moved aside for another couple and heard a native English speaker!  It was the first one we’d heard.  A short conversation revealed he was a Colorado native now living in Munich.  His German wife looked at us and said, “Why are you here?”  I loved that.  I think she meant why were we Americans in a non-touristy area normally reserved for Germans.  Perhaps we were the bandits ruining the party!

A hiking couple, passing us on the way down, stopped to try and communicate something to us.  I picked out, that around the next “sale” was something at least a “meter” long that we should be careful for.  It could “poke” the kinder.  I was grateful but as he walked away, a bit unclear if it was a sharp root, barbed wire or a large snake.  We warned the kids, rather generically, and continued on the steepening trail with Dad in front.  Around the corner, we found what he was attempting to get across.  The narrow path was pinched between a rocky face on one side and a drop off down the slope on the other.  A 3-4 meter cable was anchored into the rock for hikers.  We started on the cable gingerly as a Middle Eastern couple waited behind us.  She was in a head shawl and modest dress of some type (an abaya?).  At a few points, you had to cling to the cable and try your footing in various spots to ensure a strong foothold.  A small plaque mentioned a name and a date.  Had someone passed away here?!  We kept the kids marshalled into the cable and away from the dropoff.   Luke had slid his hand along the cable and had cut himself.  The helpful hiker had benn trying to warn us about a sharp wire sticking out of the cable at one point.  After some trying moments, we all emerged safely into the light of an opening in the trail.  The boys stumbled off the trail through mud and manure, the girls carefully picked their way through.  Luke’s hand was bleeding so we bandaged him up.  The kids understandably felt torn between a confident self-reliance that they’d overcome that section and a wariness of coming down this same way.  We took a break and noticed the Middle Eastern couple must have turned back.  We tried to calm down the mama bear.  I didn’t blame her one bit.


The trail opened up further into more cattle grazing and we enjoyed cow bells. We rounded a corner and came upon a bench and a wooden carving of Jesus on the cross overlooking the valley.



Ana exclaimed, “Everytime I look at a cow they are pooping!”  Later, Ana stepped in a cow-provided trail biscuit, “EEeww, get it off, get it off!”  Will stepped in one a few minutes later, but didn’t seem to mind.



In a couple of areas, we traversed grates placed over steep sections of the trail.  Twice, metal grates ferried us over small waterfalls.  Then I caught a glimpse of the Brünnsteinhaus.  Or rather, I saw what looked to be 40-50 people at tables on a kind of ledge.  Had all these people hiked the way we’d come?  How come many didn’t look sweaty at all?  Hey, they’re cheating!  How can you come out to the woods and end up with a huge beer like that guy has?  Is this legal?  Are we disturbing the entire mantra of getting out into nature when you end up enjoying a big slice of cake like that couple has over there?  There were kids everywhere and we’d seen no kids on our trail up.

We sidled by tables full of folks enjoying the day and sat by a small playground on the hillside.  Kids played, swung and giggled and we broke out our sandwiches.  I looked up at the 200-300 vertical feet left to go to the summit.  Were these people enjoying the veranda and the sunny tables and the beer going to continue on to the summit?  I wasn’t sure our little tribe was going to have the energy either since we still had a long hike back down.  We already had about 2.5 hours of strenuous hiking under our belt. This was quite challenging to my mindset as I realize I’ve always liked to go out into the woods and reach the summit, or the goal.   I was more used to a crumpled-up PB&J and a Nalgene bottle of warm water with a great view.  This was a mild earthquake to my assumptions.



Lisa and I discussed it, it was clear that wisdom must keep us from going higher on this sunny day where we’d spent a lot of energy on the way up.

Those beers over there and sitting at those tables was beginning to look pretty darn good.

After the kids played for a while, we decided to amble on over.  We finally got a seat at a table with a magnificent view and we had enough Euros for our own beer and cake!  Hmmm, these Europeans might be onto something with this concept.  Refreshing local “weiss” beer too, after that challenging hike.  Lisa said it was the best beer she’d ever tasted.





But, here in Europe, Visa is not everywhere you want to be!  We were not surprised that the mountain house didn’t take credit cards but neither do several locations throughout our travels.

We laughed and recounted all our adventures on the way up and everyone seemed to walk a bit taller.  But we also decided not to go back down the way we’d come!  The Middle Eastern couple were there, evidently coming up another way.

Leaving Brünsteinhaus after a great rest, the sweat had begun to cool on my back.  It was time to start moving again, into the late afternoon.


We stepped lightly across the grass of an alpine meadow and found the easier trails that others must have come up.  We went slowly because the mountains were so breathtaking that we kept forgetting to watch our step.  Others meandered across the meadow, taking other paths to their own destinations.



Happy cows!
We stepped over the wooden steps of a barbed wire fence into a tiny corral.  The trail took us within feet of a curious horse.  The girls were delighted.  Ana neighed to the horse who responded with his ears.  We diverted our eyes as a family ahead of us helped a toddler use the facilities under a tree.  We followed them and all discovered wild raspberries!

The longer path was indeed less steep.  We sang a few songs and talked as a family to keep all of our minds in the game.  Will began to sit down whenever we stopped.  Lisa’s sock kept disappearing into her shoe.  Someone’s foot was hurting, then it was someone else’s.  We trudged a little slower and took more breaks.  The girls were elated by the discovery of grazing horses on a hilltop.  “Daddy, take some pictures!”

Our view of the valleys grew slowly flatter.  Isn’t it interesting how the climb is always far more interesting than the easier descent?

That beautiful sight at the end of a hike finally emerged from the trees—our car!

Comedy of Errors

I probably don’t need to tell you that travel is not all rainbows and Lipizzaner ponies. :0). Not knowing the language and customs can sometimes cause problems.  And, since we are visiting numerous locations, they are not as thoroughly researched by us as we would like.

You might recall that we began our trip by showing up exhausted in small town Bavaria after all the stores were closed.  Eating the leftover Doritos and Oreos from our flight lunches was fun before tumbling into bed.  But the next morning, when we woke up late and jet lagged just after the bakery closed, we knew we would be eating on Plan B.  Enjoyably we survived on gelato and Octoberfest until the stores opened Monday.  However, I didn’t want to repeat that food strategy.  So, as we left Bavaria for Vienna, I shopped in advance for our Saturday night arrival and Sunday food needs.

That worked OK as long as the kids and I were happy with grocery bags underfoot and Brent didn’t mind the bags packed to the ceiling for the five hour drive that turned into a ten hour drive in the rain and traffic.  The next week when we left for Budapest we thought we would try a third strategy:  stop on the outskirts of town and only pack the car with groceries for the last thirty minutes of the drive.  (&arrive earlier!). Strategy C seemed like a winner with its great prices, big parking lot, more relaxed suburban folk, & only thirty minutes with a super loaded car until we arrived at the Budapest apartment only to find that there was no oven and we had bought frozen pizza for dinner and frozen breaded meat surprise for Luke’s birthday dinner the next day.  :-).


I hope you are laughing because cooking frozen pizza for six on a stove top is pretty funny.

The frozen meat surprise turned out to be Wiener schnitzel not fish sticks. We rarely know exactly what we are buying.  Was that tuna fish or cat food or both?  If that is really coffee milk, why is there a nursing bear on the label?  Was the baby formula section near the coffee?


Oh! I guess this will macaroni and mozzarella cheese.  Stringy goodness.  Did we buy a train ticket or a bus ticket?  Is that a road or a hiking trail? …. Oops a hiking trail. REVERSE!  (Thank you for back up cameras!)  Who said Brent’s military vehicular talent was going to waste?  “What does that sign with all the exclamation marks say?”  Two hours later into our hike … Ooooohhhhh!  The red signs are for advanced hikes!  Oops again.  I guess those exclamation marks meant this trail was for “advanced” hikers.  We don’t have a picture of the memorial to the fallen hiker as we needed two hands for holding onto the cable we were using to climb.

Some things, however, have been uber predictable.  The proliferation of Bath and Body Works in the States means that your scent of hand soap is always changing from Vanilla Bean, to Wild Basil, to Lavender Fields, to Pumpkin Spice.  Not so here.  Watch out Moses, this is the true land of Milk and Honey.  From our apartment, to the grocery store WC, to the toilette at the mountain lodge at the top of that 2 1/2 hour hike, in Salzburg, Garmische, and all the way to Vienna, the soap of choice is unanimously Milk and
Honey.  Seriously, every single place.  Only in Budapest did we finally get Aloe Vera.

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If that sounds like a lot of bathrooms to you, it is. I usually shower in the morning.  One night in Vienna I awoke overly alert and panicked about how many public bathrooms I’d been in that day.  I had to shower before going back to sleep. I still think that was smart.


We also have had our share of city activity.  You see, we are on a budget, so we aren’t making the typical splurges you might expect during travel.  No sleepy tourist zone hotels for us.  I was pleased that a Slovak family of five was checking into the same Budapest apartment building as us (They couldn’t speak Hungarian either).   After a couple of days in Vienna, we learned our neighborhood was the place to go for marijuana. We heard a sound during the night that was probably a car backfire, but startling nonetheless.  From our window here in District VII of Budapest we’ve seen and heard a loud protest.  Moms, I promise our neighborhoods are “safe”.  But, they are in the city.   And, as much as we try, we JUST DON’T BLEND IN.  Even if a would-be thief didn’t notice the largest family in Europe as they entered the subway station, he or she would soon hear the nearly perfect English of one of our children, “Dad!  Look!  The train’s almost here!” or “Mom, Mom, Mom, which is your favorite Marvel Comic character?”  Or, “Dad, what powers would you have if …”  Or, they might notice the wrestling.  The girls are usually pretty quiet.  They don’t often make odd exclamations, but the boys.  The boys wrestle lovingly with each other from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed especially when we walk down the street.

I think in an effort to blend in, to compensate for the size of our family and our English ways, Brent will be buying a pair of yellow floral capris.  What do you guys think?  It’s the least he could do, really.

One last thing: romance.  Walking along the Danube at night with your husband while looking at the lit up bridge is romantic.  Walking along the Danube at night with your husband and four kids, calculating the swift current of the river and the distance of the fall to the river and the OH my GOODNESS how would they ever get out of the river and would they be run over by one of the speeding river boats before the boat could see the flailing swimming kid and are those waves too high for the boats to see them anyway while watching your kids wrestle and jump and walk two feet from the edge of the drop off to the Danube at night when surrounded by imaginary bad guys (and you don’t blend in) is not romantic.
I suppose worry is NEVER romantic.  In fact, this morning I remember 1 John 4:18,

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

My love is not perfect, not even close.  This year may bring extra occasions for all of us to practice casting out fear.  Practice is good, it makes you stronger.  Practice makes even your muscles remember what to do.

May I, may we, practice not letting what might happen detract from the magic of what is happening.  May I, may we, always remember that we can run to the One who is Perfect Love – no matter what.  We have nothing to fear.





Hi my name is Luke, I am 12 years old. A few of my favorite things to do are building legos, playing Risk, hanging out with my friends and playing sports. Now going on this trip has limited quite a few of those things. Which is one of the reasons why I didn’t want to go on this trip at first. I have to admit it was hard to leave my friends in New Jersey, but once we started the trip I really loved it. As a member of Kid’s Corner me and my siblings will write often. A few of the subjects we are going to write about are Disney world, Mexico, and many more. Thank you for reading the Mesquit’s blog.


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A Birthday in Budapest, by Will

A Birthday in Budapest

A few days ago was August 31and my brother’s birthday!  I woke up and saw my bro’s rear stickin’ in the air.  You don’t get that opportunity every day.  Twelve “birthday spankings” flew home!  Today was his 12th birthday so he received 48 (because there are five of us but Mom broke her hand)! Then after we successfully handed out the spankings we ate breakfast. Then, we hit the road to go to ……………!  The church was the first church to have English (and Hungarian) songs!  After the last song, we (I) found a forint.  I wanted to know how much it was worth and the answer was half a penny!  So I was still in shock when we arrived at one of the most popular tourist attractions:  THE.BATHS.  If you don’t know what it is you are missing out BIG-TIME.  The baths are a variety of different types of bath for example:

1 The fun bath. The fun bath is a massive pool with a whirlpool and small jet of water.

2 The relaxing pool. A pool that is hot and soothing.

fun fact.  The baths are built upon 170 degree water (they cool it down though).

3 The lap pool. A pool that is made for laps and people with swimming hats.

fun fact.  The baths have two types of saunas.

4 Wet sauna.  A place so moist, I wanted a gas mask.

5 Dry sauna.  A rather hot room.

fun fact.  I find it hard to find fresh air in a sauna.

Once we explored most of the pools, we went home to watch the winter solider. Creepy PG 13 for a reason, but I like it.  After demolishing the cake, we went to bed.  What a day:)




By Me, myself

I was born March 27, 2004, in Bethesda, Maryland.  I have three siblings—Luke, Will and Ana.  Two of which, I am triplets with—Ana and Will.  I am also an identical twin with Ana.  We share toys, play together and are interested in much of the same things.  Being a kid, like most kids, I like to read interesting, adventurous, fast-moving stories that I can get through in no time and still remember them.  The stories I read are Percy Jackson, Ranger’s Apprentice, Harry Potter and many more series that interest kids like me.  Being a military child, I moved all over.  My favorite places I’ve lived are Colorado (because of our huge house and the friendly people) and New Jersey (where I met lots of friends).  My very first pet was my dog, Samwise.  Soon I bought Joey the hamster.  He was mean.  He would bite till he drew blood, he probably thought he was a large animal but he was a dwarf hamster.  And that was it with hamsters.  Normally, I am judged as obsessed with horses but that is true.  I just love horses, they are beautiful animals.  This year, 2014, I and my family will travel the world for a year and we will have a blast.  I am looking forward to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Salzburg in the rain!

I half-sprinted to the town bakery for early morning bread–it was Salzburg day!   Salzburg is, of course, the town of Mozart, the Sound of Music and now, the Salzburg Summer Music Festival.


It is Austria’s fourth-largest city with a population of 150,000.  We’d read about the huge Salzburg Summer Music Festival that takes place July and August.  It started to keep the Vienna musicians in summer employment.  We checked online for music festival information and thought we’d hit the Tourist Information (TI) in town to find out our chances for a musical event.

Our hoteliers had explained the vignette system for Austrian motorways.  You stop in a petrol station and buy a vignette paper to put on your windshield as you drive the motorway.  The cheapest vignette is about $11 for 10 days of coverage.  If you are caught without one, the fine can be over $300.  According to the hotelier couple, it is only five kilometers of motorway in Austria so better just to avoid the motorway and take the back highways.  We would need to be careful to diligently avoid the motorways.

The forecast called for rain and the clouds agreed.  We hoped the gloomy sky, rain, dark clouds  on the horizon and wet roads would keep the crowds down in busy Salzburg for our 100 km drive.

The autobahn in Germany moved along for only a few minutes before the brake lights began.  We came to a dead stop several times.  I escaped the motorway and we wound through small towns on our way east toward Salzburg.  I was sure it would be the way around all that traffic…

I know it will shock you, but I was not the only driver with that notion.  All told, it took us nearly four hours to inch those 100 km.  She didn’t say it, but I’m sure Lisa was impressed with my hours of small-town driving.  We ended up with some small upset stomachs.  Thank God for plastic bags.  We did stop a bit to take breaks and enjoy a snack or two from our stash.  We finally neared the city and couldn’t move.  A sign declared the city center was closed.  We already knew there were no cars allowed in the old city center so we had to stop at a roadside TI (tourist information) to ask about that one.  It meant the city center parking lots were closed and drivers would park in the park & ride spots north and south of city.  We headed for the airport park & ride.  Figured out the ticket system and bus lines, and jumped on the #10 line—  with a whole lot of other people.  Each stop the driver made, you were just sure that no one else would be able to squeeze in.  At several stops, waiting passengers just looked in, shook their heads and waited for the next one.  One older lady boarded then nearly fell back against the doors as Lisa reached out and helped steady her.  A whole lot of people would not be held back from this jewel of a city, no matter the weather.

We made it into the city center and headed for the Mozartplatz.  This square holds the Mozart statue erected 50 years after Mozart’s death.  This first civic celebration of his life cemented his emerging legacy and drew his two surviving sons as well.

We hiked up to the imposing Salzburg castle (Hohensalzburg Fortress) in the pouring rain.




This fortress was so formidable it was not attacked for over a thousand years and remains the largest medieval castle in Europe.  Modern weapons eroded the significance of this older style of fortress and the French Army occupied the castle without a struggle during the Napoleonic era.  The picture of the door handle shows the turnip as it was the royal family’s seal.  We nearly had to drag the boys out of the armor and torture room displays.




Mozart’s birthplace (Geburtshaus) was next on our list for our remaining time.  (we would simply have to see the nutty Sound of Music tour another time)  The Mozart family lived in the third-floor apartment for 26 years and the building had already been there for over 200 years.  The kitchen technology of the day included a drain in the window frame for waste water.  We stood in the room where the great composer was born in 1756.  The room includes his violin given to him at age 6.  Wolfgang’s father, Leopold, was a composer, conductor, teacher and violinist in Salzburg.  Seven children were born to Leopold and his wife but only two survived infancy.  He molded the young Wolfgang and encouraged, some say prodded, his natural talent.  Wolfie’s sister, Maria, also toured with Wolfgang and his father for several trips.

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I snapped a picture of this portrait before noticing the “no photos” sign and the lady in the corner reminding all the would-be photographers!  A moderately complex sheet of music contains Leopold’s note that his young son spent from 9 to 10:30 PM one evening learning and mastering the piece.  Wolfgang’s many trips took him on the road performing for over one-third of his life.  He finally fled Salzburg (and his father’s influence) for the larger Vienna after failing to be hired by any of the great courts of Europe.

As any good fan of the movie Amadeus can tell you, Mozart was a true prodigy and died young (age 35).  Hard to imagine, but the policy of the time was to appease a potentially revolutionary public by limiting the privileges of the nobles.  Coffins were reused and the number of candles at funerals was even limited.  These facts led to the idea that Mozart was given a pauper’s burial.

We walked down the shopping street, the Getreidegasse.  A street of commerce since the days of Rome, the Getreidegasse is well-known for its wrought iron shop signs.  Even the McDonald’s golden arches have been classed up into iron.   At the end of the Getreidegasse we found a tall, peaceful cathedral squeezed up against the cliff face.  We went in and lit a candle.  A dear friend had lit a candle for me when I was in the midst of stem cell transplant recovery and we wondered if it was the same church.

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We grabbed a quick, simple seafood dinner in the bargain place by the river.  Then walked across the bridge to get ready for the show.


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In keeping with the classical music exposure that Austria prides itself on, we’d purchased tickets for a Mozart marionette theater.  We popped into the Viennese-style coffee house Cafe Bazar for a pre-show coffee and hot cocoa.  Then ambled along as the rain was dying down to the marionette version of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”.

There were no pictures allowed during the show but I managed a few of the theater.  The theater boasts a proud history and many puppets displayed from past shows.  During the first act, the girls were alternately trying to sit in my lap to see the performance.  They were quietly discussing whose turn was next.  An older lady three rows in front of us, snapped around, gave us a loud and pointed “Sh” and whipped her head back front again.  The girls slumped into our laps.  Quite upset, they whispered “We weren’t doing anything wrong.”  Lisa and I consoled them and at intermission it provided perfect fodder on talking through how we are to treat others.

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The puppets were surprisingly lifelike and brought life to Mozart’s opera.  The show was nothing like the Sound of Music scene.  Periodic synopses on the wall, in five languages, punctuated key events in the storyline.  The marionetters (?) had the figures move past each other (pretty amazing for puppets) and the soundtrack sounded like it could have been singers off stage.  The sets and lighting looked right in line with any opera.  We hoped the kids were picking up some classical music appreciation in spite of–or even because of–the puppets!

Leaving the theater late, we rushed back to the park & ride and started the drive back to Oberaudorf.  The rain persisted, we tried to follow our route back but one wrong turn and we ended up headed down the onramp for the Austria motorway—still without a vignette.  I crouched down behind the wheel and tried to imagine how the Austrian police caught vignette violators on their highways.  I stopped at the first petrol station I spotted where a clerk gruffly pointed out that Germany was 100 meters down the motorway.  I felt silly buying one at that point so we got back on the motorway and sure enough, we had succesfully run the vignette gauntlet.

Salzburg—you hit us with punishing traffic and bad weather and we still loved you.

A morning run along the creek

There is an old saying about wherever you go, you cannot escape yourself.

I run one morning, buoyed by just being on the trail and able to run.  God is so kind.  I didn’t realize that I once subconsciously wondered if my running days were over.  Dangerous bloodwork numbers once slapped me into an ambulance and two blood transfusions.  Several doctors huddled to narrow the possible scenarios.  I spent my first-ever night in a hospital bed.  One of the doctors flipped on my hospital room lights early the next morning with two huge needles and not nearly enough anesthesia for a bone marrow biopsy wakeup. There was no snooze feature option.  I ended up covered in sweat and learned a bit more about pain.  The pain experienced is different for everyone, but I felt radiating, electric pain down my legs and in my lower back as the needles went deep into the back of my hip.  When they extract the marrow, the vacuum the syringe creates makes me want to scream.  That afternoon, he came back for the appointment he’d set for Lisa and I.  He had a kind face.  He dropped himself into a spartan chair and drew the curtain around us with eyes carrying weight and sadness.

When you are with your spouse and the earnest doctor looks into your eyes and explains how you have cancer.  When you don’t even know what Multiple Myeloma is.  When that punch collapses your windpipe and there’s nothing to punch back at.  When the walls close in. When you have to remember to breathe and your chest tightens around your heart.  When you are partially relieved they finally know what it is, however terrible it may be.  When you sit in that bed, hooked up to those monitors and hold onto your wife.  When the tears begin to burn at the corner of your eyes.  When you have to ask your spouse to leave the room because you realize right then nothing on Earth can hold you.  When you begin to glimpse the horizon of losing your grasp on hope.

That’s when you run.  Run for help.  Oh please, help.

I ran right to my Father, like a child.  Just like when you were small and scared and you didn’t know what to do so you just dropped everything and ran for safety.

A few years back, we were enjoying a park with baby Luke at the end of a Reagan Airport’s runway in DC.  Luke was playing in the grass on that bright day and a plane took off seemingly right over us.  Ear-deafening noise directly over his head.  I just watched him because I’d seen the plane coming.  His face melted into pure terror and he forgot all about his toy and started tearing across the grass towards me as fast his little legs could carry him.  He wrapped himself around my legs, then looked up.  I will never forget it.

Many have a similar cancer story.  And everyone is dealing with something.  I know I am not unique in being challenged.

I now have scars to remind me.  Scars on my arms from the peripheral catheters they surgically installed.  They lay you down on a metal table and a surgeon spears your arm.  I later learned the catheter was over a 18 inches long and ran from the inside of my arm to just above my heart.  The peripheral catheter delivers the killing drugs of life.  Thank God for those researchers in their labs and the physicians that care for us all.

My lower back is marked by a few round biopsy scars.  I’m only at five bone marrow biopsies though, I’ve read of a man with over thirty.  The doctor or PA must find a large bone close to the the skin so they lay you on your stomach and go in through the back of your pelvis/hip at your lower back.  I am grateful for these scars.  Amazingly, they help me to remember.  How can I wander at all from those painful days?  The truth is that I forget sometimes.

When I was weak from recovery, I would see the runners on the road and would be so envious.  Running is freedom. Freedom from walls.  A temporary respite from the immediate in front of me and a chance to slow down time.  I wondered if I could get that freedom back.  Our home’s one flight of stairs would send the blood pounding through my ears.  During the nightly story, the kids would ask if I could read louder—I couldn’t.  I couldn’t draw enough breath to sing.  In church when the worship songs finished, I would immediately deflate down into my seat.  I would unsuccessfully fight off afternoon naps and I hated my fatigue.  I’d cram a pillow over my head to block out the days’ noise, struggle with my thoughts and try to relax for a few quick restorative winks.  I’d pray for energy and try not to extrapolate my current situation, baldness, and weakness into an infinite future.



So I run this morning along the trail, I just run and it feels like freedom.  And I try not to let my willing heart carry me past the strength of my legs.  Because it wants to.  What a wonderful time to be outside.

It is exquisite here, and quiet.  There is peace and the sound of water over rocks.  And despite the shape of these Alps, it could be a trail in New Jersey or Oregon or Nebraska or Texas.


Somehow, I can get concerned about saying the right thing, or doing the right thing or even what people might think, but then I remember I have a Father who loves me.  My thoughts can become my reality.  I build sandcastles in my head and forget they are not necessarily even true.  And then, I remember—but for the grace of God.  He was there and He knows.  He will be there.  I can’t ever be good enough and I don’t need to be.  Somehow He loves me though I don’t deserve it.  I will never fully grasp that mystery but it sustains me.

Near the end of the Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien has Sam ask the wise Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

What a beautiful way to try and paint the idea of a redeemer who exists outside of our understanding of time.

Ellie Holcomb’s “As Sure As the Sun” shines through my earbuds and I smile and run a little faster.  My shoes crunch the gravel but I look up.

There is good news
There is good truth
That you could never change
No matter what you do
You are loved
More than you know
More than you could hope for
After everything you’ve done

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

There is good news
There’s a promise
That no matter where you go
You will never be alone
In the dark
In the doubting
When you can’t feel anything
Oh, his love remains the same

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

Even through the night
Silver stars will shine
Hope of glory’s light
That will wake us once again

As sure as the sun will rise
And takes away the night
As sure as the sun will rise
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end