Let me tell you about an amazing friend that I have.
Michelle came into my life ten years ago through her relationship with a childhood friend of mine, and stayed in my life when that relationship ended. She has been a single mom since her two daughters, at that point about twelve and fourteen years old, were one and three. She served in the Navy on active duty for one enlistment, then upon her discharge joined the Navy Reserves.
She has served our country for twenty-six years. She was mobilized and has been on active duty for the past three years, serving in Germany, but she will be retiring as a Chief this coming spring.
Michelle is a strong, beautiful, and self-reliant woman. She loves power tools and owns and knows how to operate at least fifteen different types of power saws!
She has taught her daughters how to use them, too.
Michelle builds, sews, embroiders, crochets, gardens. She is a computer whiz and has worked quite a few years as a senior project manager, setting up computer networks for corporations all over the world from her home office.
She has raised two wonderful, strong, and capable daughters.
She is an inspiration.
Michelle is as formidable as she is loving, and she takes no hostages when she sees a need to be filled.
She called me a little less than a year ago.
"You need a break. I have already talked to your husband and gotten his permission. I have frequent flier miles and I am bringing you to Germany, and I will not take no for an answer."
Well. I wept.
I asked her to wait until this winter, as my work in a tourist town makes it difficult for me to be away for more than a few days.
In the next blog entries below this one, you'll see my magical trip to Germany. I returned home last evening, and I still can barely believe it really, truly happened.
I went to Germany on February 8, and stayed with Michelle through February 22.
I flew on four different airplanes, rode two different train lines, traveled by taxi and subway in Paris and in Michelle's car on the autobahn to Bavaria and other parts of Germany. I walked, and walked, and walked.
We visited Paris, drove through Austria, and spent time in Triers, Schwangau, and Munich, Germany. We visited Dachau and toured two castles, saw the Ponte Nigra, walked through the Louvre, viewed Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, cruised the River Seine at night, hiked an icy mountain gorge, visited a yarn factory, saw the 1936 Olympic Winter Games skiing venue, took part in Fasching and walked in very old towns and cities, marveling and enjoying old and beautiful buildings.
We spent time in the Bavarian Alps.
I tasted German beers and French and German wines, ate croissants and drank cappuchino in sidewalk cafes in Paris, had schnitzel and strudel and marvelous tomato soup, ate fresh rolls smeared with seasoned lard, visited Globus, drank Gluwein and Riesling and pear Schnapps (I still think that was really Sterno!).
Michelle was patient and kind and generous throughout my visit.
She put up with my bad knees and swollen ankles (it always happens when I travel), occasional grumpiness, and generally poor physical condition, strolled when she could have strode, waited for me to catch up, and didn't complain about my slowness.
She may tell you that she heard me use some rather spectactularly bad language when confronted with the intimidating flights of stairs at the Schwangau castles (she would be correct), and would not take any refusal from me about hiking Partnachklamm.
She told me that I could do it, and indeed I did.
This trip would have been impossible, unthinkable, without Michelle.
I have no words to convey what is in my heart.
I only hope she knows how grateful I am.
Thank you, Shelly.