Lessons Learned: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is quite the experience. I looked at the event as an observer and as a participant. We (me, my husband, and son) walked into Oktoberfest just as the cannons (or guns) fired to signal the tapping of the kegs. I was surprised that more people weren’t there, after hearing about how crowded it gets, but then I realized that it’s because everyone was inside these massive tents that hold 3,000 to 6,000 people.

Here’s what I learned about Oktoberfest:

Beer Tents

Getting into a tent is quite the production. You have to reserve a spot and order your food way before the event takes place. We’re talking possibly a year in advance. When I had looked in May/June to reserve a table, most tents were already full. Luckily, they also have outdoor seating as well. Most tents have tables available (outdoors) on a first-come-first-serve basis. Since we did not have a reservation to get in to any tent, we had to do the legwork (meaning power walk from tent to tent to see if we could get in). We scoured the streets, watching for side entrances to these tents where people were getting in. We wanted beer and the only place to get served beer was inside a tent. We scored. We were able to get into the outdoor section of the Augistiner-Festhalle. Yay! When we found a table with three open spots, we planted our butts until they kicked us out. When they figure that you’ve had enough to drink, they won’t serve you anymore.

One of the huge tents at Oktoberfest

Beer

Each tent serves one type of beer. You order by saying how many you want. The mugs that they come in are huge. Each one holds about 36 ounces (three American sized beers). My suggestion is to pace yourself and also to order food. We ordered a huge pretzel with each round and shared it to soak up all the beer we drank. We should’ve ate a meal. And don’t think about stealing a mug from the tent. My understanding is that they don’t take kindly to theft so if you’re caught, you’re charged. This is the same with being drunk. If they know you are smashed, they will cart you off to the First Aid tent or by ambulance to the hospital. We saw a lot of people on gurneys.

Me and my son

Me and my son

Money

Bring cash. At least 160 to 200 Euros. I brought 160 Euros and that covered three mugs of beer, one big pretzel, one chicken sandwich, two coffees, two ginger cookies, and one t-shirt. I had some money left over, maybe 30 Euros. We didn’t go on any rides…can you imagine if we did after drinking all that beer? That wouldn’t have been good. Period.

Germany 441

Transportation

Do not drive. Do not attempt to drive. The streets around Oktoberfest are filled with cars and people, parked and moving. We took a tour bus and our drop off/pick-up point was a 10-15 minute walk to/from the event. We didn’t have to worry, and we got to sleep on the long ride home.

Language

Beer overcomes language barriers. We didn’t talk to the people at our table until after the first mug was downed. And then the friendships opened up. Our table buddies were three couples from Norway. Two spoke English, not fluent but impressive. They translated for the rest of their group. Very nice, fun, and friendly people. And everyone knows the universal language of a toast. At our table and surrounding tables, we toasted many times in different languages.

Bavaria Statue

If you go to Oktoberfest with a group or even with just one other person, have a place to meet if lost or when you need to reconnect. The best place is near the Bavaria Park statue. You can’t miss it. She’s huge. The area is also known as a sleeping point for many. The hill is littered with people. I stayed amused watching how people sleep without a care in the world, even when it started raining. Not so good was watching someone on the hill puke. I guess people will spend the night on the hill, crash when the tents close and then get up again in the morning to do the same thing all over again. If you want to people watch, this would be the place to hit.

The hill with the Bavaria Statue

The hill with the Bavaria Park Statue

People

I loved seeing the authentic German costumes worn, Dirndls for the women and Lederhosen for the men. The streets became fuller as the evening wore on. Most people were friendly, others were too drunk to care, and some (as at any event) were simply odd ducks that you did your best to avoid. For example, we were standing near the Bavaria statue and a German male, in his mid-twenties, asked where we were from since we couldn’t understand his drunken mumblings. We told him that we were from the U.S. and he said, “You were the ones who dropped the bombs.” Now how can you reply to that? Of course later that night I thought of some snappy comebacks…

Summary

All in all, I had fun. The experience of being at Oktoberfest in Germany was awesome. I loved the beer tents (even the outside area), seeing people dress in costume, and meeting people from other countries (Cheers to our table buddies from Norway!). There were some low points—when I worried that we wouldn’t find No. 1 Son before our time came to leave or when one man kept coming up to us to see how we were doing (still not sure of his motive)—but all worked out. Will I reserve a table inside a tent next time I go? Maybe. Half the fun was doing the leg work. The reward was getting a beer.

Oktoberfest at night

Oktoberfest at night

Lesson Learned: Recovery Time

My apologies…I thought yesterday’s blog went out (pre-dated) since I knew we’d be traveling on Monday.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. My husband Mike and I traveled to Germany to visit my son. We planned the trip so we could attend both Winefest in Bad Durkheim and Oktoberfest in München (Munich). Let’s just say that some recovery time is needed. Germans do like their wine and beer. We were enjoying it right along with them!

With that said, my brain isn’t functioning as it should right now. My next blog will be about Oktoberfest – a different perspective.

Lessons Learned: The Toughest, Hardest Year

When growing up, my neighbor and “other mom” (she wanted a daughter and gave up after six boys so I became her honorary daughter) had said that the toughest year of marriage was the first year. She fought and fought with her husband as they adjusted to life together. Her words stuck with me, for over forty years. Today, I agree that the toughest year is the first year. The toughest, hardest year is when you have yours, mine, and or ours involved.

Mike and I had the yours and mine scenario. We had different opinions and ways of raising our kids. The first year was tough. The first year was hard. And it didn’t end there. If I were to give a little girl advise, like my neighbor, I would have to add that the first year is tough and the hardest year. However, it doesn’t end there. What’s also important is how you adjust from the first year to manage the following years. Too many people give up way too easily. Unless your safety is at risk, you should stay put and work at your marriage. It gets easier. You learn and blend your habits. Make sure to communicate, letting each other know what’s upsetting you. If you’re overwhelmed, let your spouse know. Work on your marriage together. Relationships take time.

After time, when the history starts to build, you’ll feel the stability and the accomplishment. The years will continue to have moments of tough or hard times, you can’t get around it. But knowing you have that rock who will help you in time of need, to comfort you, and laugh with you can be the ultimate reward. Some people fall out of love, and when that happens, remember what you’re beliefs are and how that can affect your future and others. Can you rebuild that joy? You won’t know until you try again.

For my other mother, she lost her husband to leukemia. His life ended way too early. But I do know that if he were alive, they would still be together today.

Lessons Learned: Routines are Temporary

Everyone has certain routines that turn into automatic pilots. For example, I get up at 5:54 a.m., exercise, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and then head out the door. I’ve been doing this routine for quite a while now so my body goes where it needs to while my mind wanders to other things. This routine has morphed from different routines throughout the years. When the kids were little, I’d have to get them ready for daycare or school. When I experimented with writing in the morning, I woke up 40 minutes earlier to handwrite my novel. Routines are great and keep you moving but they are not permanent. You can’t get so hooked on them that you can’t function without them. I’m guilty of it. My husband’s guilty of it. Just remember…routines are temporary. They need to or will change based on life events.

Getting up every morning and getting ready for work is pretty common and will change to a degree. Other routines are pretty drastic and can take their toll on you or the people around you. For example, my husband and I walked during our lunch hour for over ten years. Two years ago I started a new job. Our buildings are farther apart, and my schedule doesn’t allow for a set lunch hour so it’s rare when we have the opportunity to meet. In many ways you can say that we were blessed being able to walk for as many years as we had. But when you suddenly don’t have that time anymore, the routine is sorely missed. I had to adjust based on schedule. My husband was forced to accommodate. He still continues to walk like we used to which makes it harder on him to adjust. He misses sharing the time with me, and I feel guilty, having been the one to break that routine. It’s been two years since our routine has changed, and we still haven’t fully recovered. We continue to look for that new routine to help us gain more time together.

Being aware of routines and adapting when they have to change can help you transition to your next routine. Nothing stays the same. Even if your routine is changed temporarily due to an illness, you may not go back to the original way of doing things. Be accommodating. Try making it better. Work on compromises as new events or ideas come along. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. You have to adjust to new ways, try different things, until one can fit your needs for the time being.

Lessons Learned: Growing Pains at 50+

As we near retirement age, Mike and I are tossing around different ideas on how we want to retire. My husband has around five years before he can retire, and I’m closer to ten years—unless we can figure out how to retire early. This is why I call it having growing pains at 50+. We are looking forward to starting a new adventure in life, yet we’re not quite there yet. We still have to work.

I remember in high school when I couldn’t wait to graduate and be done with school. My dream then was to move out to Colorado and start my independence as an adult. I was excited for my big adventure. Back then, my only focus was moving out-of-state. I’d take it day by day. I had no plan, except for counting the days and figuring out how to get a job out there. (I did move out to Colorado approximately ten months after graduating.)

This time the growing pain is a little different. It’s “we” now versus “me.” We have to plan for it. We know we want to simplify our lives and be able to travel (a.k.a. get away from the subzero winters). Yet, we also have set tastes and responsibilities. We need to think about our financials and that looming gray cloud of how to afford health insurance.

Now we’re slowly narrowing down our scope from all the possibilities that are out there. My goal is to write full-time to supplement our income. My husband wants a part-time job that involves some type of craft. Today we found the “house” that we want to live in. I used quotes for the word house because it’s a moveable cabin. Now we’ll have to find land where we can keep it (and figure out how to pay for it).

The good news is that we are starting to plan for retirement. We’d really like to be there now, to start our new adventure tomorrow, but with a heavy sigh, we can’t. I just have to remember…like in high school…I had to have patience. I have to remind myself that we’ll get there.

Lessons Learned: Summertime Blues

It’s hard to believe that summer is near the end. I used to say that summer was the only time that flew by, but now I think pretty much all months disappear within a blink of an eye—no matter the season. I think the reason why summer ending has more of an effect on me today is because I know that the sunny days, warm air, sandals, light clothes, and camping will soon be saying goodbye.

I’m not a big fan of having to bundle up in a coat, gloves, scarf, and heavy boots in the winter months. I don’t like having to leave 15-20 minutes early to go to work because of ice and snow on the roads. I always think twice about leaving the house because it’s too dark or too cold to go out. Not to mention how much fun it is to shiver in your car when you’re waiting for it to warm up. And the freedom of interacting with the outdoors is limited. I’ll open the door every once in a while in the winter time to let the fresh air in, but it’s not too often.

So with summer leaving, I have to embrace winter and expect what’s coming. I know once the colder weather is here, I’ll embrace it. Still, I get to have my heavy sighs now. I get dibs on one day for the summertime blues.

Lessons Learned: Never Expect

One thing I learned later in life is that you can’t let expectations rule your life. I have found that every time I had expected an event to happen exactly as I’d pictured it in my head, it never turns out that way. The same is said when I’ve expected a person to behave a certain way or to follow through on their promises. I’ve usually been disappointed. I’ve learned that I can control the outcome by not expecting. And now, my daughter has had to learn the same.

A good example occurred this weekend when my daughter had her bachelorette party. The person who hosted the party had set the theme for the party, had many fun ideas on what they were going to do, and how she was going to invite all these people to attend. My daughter was super excited. As it turned out, the invites weren’t sent out until three days before the event (so many couldn’t go), there was no time listed on the invitation as to when it started (which caused confusion), and not everyone received the invite. As my daughter started questioning what was going on, she found out that the theme had fizzled and the fun events had never been set up. Instead, the host had no plan. They would meet at her house and then go out to the bars. My daughter was pretty upset, and I don’t blame her. This was her night to get out and shine.

I gave her my talk about expectations. I told her that she would have to start the evening with a different mindset. If she stayed upset, she wouldn’t have a good time. Instead, she had to go with the flow and enjoy herself. The night could be fun in a different way. I think my daughter learned a few lessons that night. She did have some fun with the four that did show up. One of them was her stepsister who she doesn’t get to hang out with very often. For that, the evening was worth it. I think my daughter handled the evening well. She also learned that she had to let go of being upset with the host. My daughter knew that changing her mindset was better than letting it boil inside her.

There’s nothing wrong with being excited for an event. You should expect to have fun. Go with the flow, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to, or dance your heart away. Some of my best memories are ones that I didn’t have any expectations on how the night would play out or expect how people would behave. One included dancing on a coffee table with music blaring on the stereo at a small get-together. Another, more recent, was watching my grandson on Friday afternoon. I had expected to get many of my chores done that afternoon until I found out my daughter was arriving early and needed me to watch him. Instead of being upset or worked up about getting my chores done, I changed my mindset. And, I enjoyed every minute of being with my grandson.