Thursday, June 30, 2011

An unexpected gift

I received a message from my relative in Germany that his father Gunter Lahr has passed away this morning. The news has left me stunned and sad. I had really only been around Gunter for a few days in 2005. Since then we spoke on the phone occasionally, (he would always be the one who called.) The last thing he said to me was around Christmas when he called and said "see you in the New Year." I had always hoped that would happen and the news today leaves me wondering why it can't.

Sometimes you are given a gift in your life that you didn't expect. Meeting Gunter and his wife Birgit and their son Phil has been one of those unexpected gifts.

In 2005 I was planning a trip to Germany and I thought it would be a grand adventure to connect with relatives there. I knew my Great Grandfather was born in Hirschfeld, and eventually found out where that was. (Outside Zwickau in the old East Germany). I really didn't have any stories about the family excepts a little bit about my Great Grandfather leaving with a couple of brothers for the US (Texas specifically). So I contacted some Texas relatives, and I used the phone book looking for Dietels anywhere near Hirschfeld.

The Texas relatives got me in contact with Gunter, who immediately took charge. He would come and meet me in Hirschfeld. He and his family lived quite far from there (on the map it appears to be about 500 miles away). I also found some Dietels (well at least the Oma was a Dietel) still living in Hirschfeld. We met Gunter in a Beer House in Zwickau. We drove in his car out to the country to an idyllic little town Hirschfeld where we met the East Germany contingent of the family. I saw the house where my Grandfather was born and walked the church grounds. My daughter Katie and I got to see first hand the different points of view about East versus West after the fall of the wall. One of the relatives actually was a guard in Berlin when the wall came down. This was the first time I recognized that Gunter had opinions. That afternoon on a deck in Hirschfeld will be one I will never forget.

They took us to the ore mountains where so many Christmas ornaments and pyramids are made. He told me about their escape from East Germany when his father (who basically was the head guy at the mines there) had gotten out of prison. They escaped across the border and didn't look back. They started brand new lives in the west. He didn't like the current East Germans complaining about the changes they were seeing, and felt them to be ungrateful. From his experience it was hard to understand, he saw his father start all over, why can't they.

We went to Berlin and Gunter and Birgit followed. We met his son and another cousin. We got a tour of the East end where artists had found a new home, in courtyarded buildings on stone streets. We drank Caprianas as we walked. I ate a curry wurst. We drank wine in a restaurant. We talked and talked.

He expressed his opinions much like my Grandftaher would, directly with gusto. No topic was off the table. He was horrified at how the Katrina disaster was being handled (as we saw coverage on the TV of the flooding back home). He said he didn't understand American modesty. He did however LOVE his relatives in Texas and fondly spoke of the time he spent there in his 20s.

He was bigger than life.

Gunter was blessed with a wife with whom it was obvious he shared a long and deep love affair. Birgit and Gunter together had three children. I have spent time with their son Philip, but I never had a chance to meet his daughters. But he and Brigit got to meet both of mine. Allison stayed with them in Heitersheim for awhile on her way back from Dubai. He had become an Opa in the last few years. He retired a few years ago from being an attorney. They sold their family home in Heitersheim near the Swiss border and moved to Berlin where Gunter took up modern art. He and Birgit loved Berlin and the excitement there. I had heard he had a few health issues.

My friends Barbara and Curtiss spent time with them just last year and watched the World Cup and had a BBQ. He left the same BIG impression on them as he did on me. They had planned on seeing him again on another trip. Barbara tells me he had written them an email a month ago.

I had planned on taking Glenn to Germany as my birthday present to him for our 60th birthdays. I knew Gunter and Glenn would hit it off... they are a bit like two peas in a pod in many ways. I am really so down about them not ever meeting. I could just see them together from the moment I met Gunter. Glenn and Gunter sitting and laughing and sharing stories, with a glass in their hands. Birgit and I sitting nearby rolling our eyes. How much of life have we had to put on hold, and then we find out it is too late.

An ocean lies between me and this wonderful family, but we are connected. I hope they can feel how much love I have for them and how I share their loss. The world will be a less interesting place without Gunter Lahr.


I will miss Gunter.

A letter to Gunter:

There are people who, when you meet them, fill up the room with their essence. Even when they have gone away, you feel their presence as if an echo lingers, playing over and over again in the air.

It seems somehow that there are people who have been blessed with more life than some. And I wonder as I think about your leaving, if somehow, in some sort of unkind balancing act, you had used up your allotment of life. Then I think again of you and know, you had so much more living to do, that the notion just doesn’t ring true. I look for a reason. There is none. I look for an answer and am only left with more questions.

I see you in your son. I feel your love in your wife. I know of your legacy with your grandchildren. Here in California, a million miles away, I cry tears of joy for having known you and tears of sadness at your passing. The wind comes rushing by my face and I imagine it is you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

About Jim...


Patti and I first met Jim Costa at Toad Hollow after a training walk last year. Jim is the tasting room manager. In the course of our conversation Jim said his wife Judy had passed away from Breast Cancer. You could see in his eyes how big a loss that was. And while he spoke about her, you saw how much he loved her.

Jim had actually walked the last day in the 2008 3 day with his daughters. We made a button for Judy, and Patti wore it during last years walk in her honor.

We became wine club member, as much for the opportunity to come and see Jim quarterly as the great wines at Toad Hollow. We found out he was a Marine, he has a pretty large family, loves to cook and of course loves his wine... and now, he loves his fiancee Wendy.

When I asked him is he would consider coming to Cheers to a Cure to pour, he not only didn't hesitate saying of course! But he said, if the winery didn't give the wine, he would himself.

Today Patti and John, Glenn and I made the drive up to Healdsburg to pick up our summer shipment. When I came in Jim greeted me and said there was something he wanted me to see on the computer. He took me back and pulled up his wall on Facebook where there was a picture of a luminary bag with Judy Costa written on it, and decorated with a Hawaiian motif. He said this next week will be the 5th year. I looked up and he pointed out a picture of him and a bright and beautiful woman, and said "I think I showed that to you before." (And he had) and next to this picture was another picture with another beautiful woman... "And that is Wendy."

I asked him when the date was and he said it was next year. "I know, Judy would be very happy to know you are happy."

"Yes, she would" he said.

I thought about how much we all want to end Cancer.
We all have reasons and people we miss that have been taken by Cancer.
Whether it was from Breast Cancer or from some other kind, what we know is it shouldn't have to be that way. Jim is being part of the solution. He is not only coming to Cheers for a Cure, but bringing some pink hats and lots of spirit. You would be foolish to even consider missing this.

Last night we had the chance to go to Walk in the Wild, a fundraiser at and for the Oakland Zoo. Dana our friend was our host and we had a fantastic time. But something unexpected was meeting a woman who when I suggested they come to Cheers to a Cure, said "Is this for Susan G Komen?" I said it was and she said, "I got a grant from them, they do great work." And here is an example of why money given to Susan G Komen can benefit all Cancers. Her research is in regards to hormones and how they relate to Cancer growth. Not only is she looking at Breast Cancer, but also Pancreatic and Uterine Cancer.

So when we are working our best to bring in as much money as humanly possible, we are doing so to honor not only Judy, but my Mother and Glenn's Mother. To honor my Grandfather and so many others who were taken too early.

And to think about how much fun we are going to have it is exciting to look forward to.

We couldn't help but keep ordering more wine while we were at Toad Hollow. I have a 40th reunion coming up that the Merlot and Chardonnay will be perfect for... A great price and so very drinkable from wonderful people...

We needed the BIG hand truck to get it to the car. And still we forgot an entire case! So maybe if I am lucky I can be the one to go and pick it up!

I feel so fortunate have found Jim and to have him come on July 29th for everyone else to meet.

Yup.... we are all set. Great wine, great all that is left it you. Have you RSVPed?

Until July 20, all cover charge is discounted for readers of the blog. Just visit to order yours. Normally $20 through July 20 only $10. If you order online there is a convenience fee, so if you would like to save that find my mailing address there and mail it in!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


So many times in life we are standing on the edge of a gigantic expanse of unknowns. At one moment you are pretty sure of where you are, you can look down at your feet and see solid ground. Then something happens. a rumbling deep within makes the ground on which you stand uncertain, shaky and it is time to move.

Safety lies on the other shore and in front of you the waters you face seem to be impossible to cross. You haven't an idea of how to get from here to there. There is no doubt that if you were to jump in the churning green sea, you would surely drown.

Your eyes turn to your right and then your left until you see someone has built a bridge. And this bridge is no rickety bridge, oh no. This bridge was engineered to withstand all kinds of weather and stress. This bridge can carry more than the weight you carry on your shoulders. This bridge is your way across to safety. Its up to you to take a step. Once you commit to the walk across, you will soon be there, on the other side.

Last night I read that my client's daughter and her family have no easy answers ahead of them. The Cancer they found "has no name". They all will be in a living purgatory as they seek their safety, and wellness. There is no road map telling them where to go. But for them, they have something so many others never do, they have each other. And I know they will find a bridge built from the power of love ( and perhaps the collective genius of researchers and doctors who will help guide their course.) And I am certain their daughter will grow to be as brilliant and warm as her parents and live a long and meaningful life of consequence. Because just like our Bridge, she is built of the right stuff.

On Thursday Katie and Dominic joined me on a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. As you know, I walk it often in fact I walked it the day before. Usually when I walk, it is one way. But for this walk we met at Vista Point and did a round trip.

Its such a beautiful and iconic sight in San Francisco. Often it is shrouded with fog and pounded by wind. On this walk there were warm clear skies and some breeze. All in all the perfect day to show her off.

Crossing the bridge

Katie and Dominic

Who is that guy?

Whats down there?




Mid span - City

And back to Marin... the end.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dragging myself out on a walk

I've been tired. A combination of being busy and being worried. The busy I can usually handle, but this kind of worry is hard to shake.

It's been over 2 weeks since my client's daughter had her cancer surgery. They have been keeping a journal to keep friends updated on the latest news. There is no news and that gives me a horrible sinking feeling. I continue to pray and I thought, perhaps if I walked I could walk away the worry and be more focused on other things.

My daughter Katie is here visiting with her boyfriend Dom. I look at her and I think about when she was 2 years old. That exuberant little girl who could clear a room with her shrieks of laughter or tears. The little girl who would give away her favorite toy to someone she didn't know, because they might need it more. That little girl is now 26 and I cannot imagine if she had been dealt the card this little girl has been dealt.

We were blessed with two healthy girls. I am praying that this little girl and her family will learn good news soon. Little girls should grow up to be beautiful young ladies. They should grow to be sassy middle aged ladies and long into the evening of their lives

I focus on Breast Cancer because it is what I know. I also know funds that we raise to fight Breast Cancer will find their way to helping find cures to other cancers. So... I am going to continue to do what I can to keep other families from having to live through the hell of Cancer.

Meanwhile...take a look at the pictures I took today...

The Mill Valley border to Sausalito Ferry. Ferry to SF. Walk from the Ferry Building to the Mill Valley border. 16 miles.... and what do you get??? Hopefully closer to a world without cancer.

Japanese Ship

Puppy being dragged on the Beach


Bomb Squad at Gaslight Cove

Bomb Squad investigating with TV camera on...

Hundreds of birds on the water below the Golden Gate Bridge

Cutting through the water

A piper on the bridge

Canadian geese

P.S. A welcome update from my client. There STILL is no news. So in this case no news is good news as far as I am concerned!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The things that matter

This weekend, I went to Alamo Ranch. It is 10 miles off a county road near Santa Maria.

As those of you who have read this blog for the past 2 years know, each year a group of my college sorority sisters and I meet, for the last several years here at Alamo Ranch. Before that it was Tahoe or Carmel Valley, one time at the Russian River. It is an annual ritual that we look forward to, and back on, with gusto and reverence. It is not something you should miss, if you can possibly avoid it.

Of course life being what it is, there are times, out of necessity you HAVE to miss it. I couldn't drive one year because I had recently broken my wrist. Another for a family scheduling conflict. Most of us have made most of the reunions. This year we were missing several of our "regulars." There was a wedding conflict, a Farm league baseball conflict (husband is a coach), another's husband is recently out of the hospital. I am not totally sure what kept the other couple away... but it would have to be important and unavoidable. What I do know is they were missed.

As the day approached for me to leave on this trip, my business and personal life couldn't have been more complicated or demanding. But as hard as it was to imagine getting away, it was harder to imagine not getting away.

There is sanity in no cell coverage. There is a peace of mind in being with people with whom you share so much. Thank goodness for this little time away. When I got back into cell coverage I had over 200 emails and around 10 phone messages. Let's not even mention text messages.
The world didn't come to an end even though an escrow DOD fall through. It kept on spinning just as it always had and lucky for me, the weekend gave me more balance to handle it.

Now that I am back, I can look at the pictures and remember the cool morning air, the warm afternoon sun and the sound of my friends loving and living life with a glass of wine in their hands.

Our new technique for crossing streams. The valley had an abundance of water this year leaving several crossing the road.

We came across tow dead rattlers on our training walk.

Part of this years team! Barbara and Cathy

Are we there yet?

Kill deer eggs

Bonnie and Barbara


This years group


Hopper's 70s dress

Cool pool side

Inside the ranch house

Guest book

The "other" kitchen


Ped's shirt


Tie dye

Gretchen and Bonnie

Making a shirt for Patti

Patti's shirt

70's appetizers

Fondue in the beginning


Fondue after

Costume dinner...

Pam the hostess

I love my sisters.

PS - Best wishes to Bonnie, I do believe she has big things happening soon.....