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Life Lessons

Saturday, March 16, 2013
Wrong Turns

We went to the monastery Gregorian chant at Basilica de San Miniato al Monte just above Michelangelo Square which offers majestic views over Florence below. Our map was unclear as to how to go from the square to the church, although we could see the church above us on the next hill from where we stood. We decided that going left was the right way to go when going right would have been the better choice.

In life, we sometimes come to a decision place and make a choice that probably was not the best one to make. And we pay consequences for it. Just like we did with our choice to go left instead of right. As we walked on our journey to the church on the harder route, we had to make several detours and eventually we had to walk up an ally on a steep incline between homes and then maneuver around walls to finally find the back entry to the church grounds. It took 30 minutes, much longer than we anticipated. When we finally got to the front entry on the basilica, we noticed a beautiful marble stairway that led to the street below just a few feet to the right of the place we made the decision to go left.

Here is what I remember: Our journey took us on an adventure we had not planned and even through we made a wrong decision, we still ended up in the right place. Along the way we saw some beautiful homes and the church walls. We also saw a park with old narrow Italian cypress trees standing stately in a row. We walked up old stone steps through an old archway to enter the church property, the ones the members of the church use when they come for services. Yes, it took us longer and stressed us just a bit, and we did miss walking up the fantastic stairway, but we did end up in the right place eventually and we saw some things we would never have seen had we gone the more direct route. So it is with life–if you make a wrong decision, you can still end up in the right place and instead of “would have/could have or what if”–patiently work your way back to the better route and appreciate the learning experience along the way. WEG

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Follow the Rules!

This morning we left our apartment on Calle San Eloy in Seville and arrived more than four hours early for our flight to Pisa on Ryanair. After all that stressing over compliance with the excessively strict flight regulations, we had finally arrived. As soon as we reached the airport, we got our passports checked and our boarding passes stamped, which we had printed out in advance, as required. We checked the weight and size of our luggage to be sure we would be in compliance. I came within the weight regulations for baggage. One more chocolate bar would have put me over the limit. Whew! We now had two hours to wait before we could be checked in at the ticket counter. While Wayne explored every inch of the airport that could be visited this side of security, I stayed with our luggage and played sudoku on my iPad mini. Two hours passed. It would soon be time to check in at the ticket counter. We gathered our belongings. Where were our stamped boarding passes? We could not find them! We opened our bags, frantically searching for them. Wayne was sure that he had given them to me; I was convinced that he had never given them to me! The truth did not matter. What mattered was that we had to have stamped boarding passes in order to present ourselves at the ticket counter–and the last opportunity to get one’s passport checked and boarding pass stamped was two hours before the flight. The minutes were ticking away rapidly. The stamped boarding passes were not to be found. What were we to do? Fortunately, I had made two copies of the online boarding passes. We swallowed our pride and hurried to the desk. The same friendly face greeted us for the second time. Oops…we had to admit our error. Thankfully, she re-checked everything and stamped our second copies with a smile and a wink. We passed this hurdle…thank You, Lord! On to the next hurdle…the ticket counter and bag check. Thankfully, we had weighed our bags in advance, and they met the criteria. Whew…we passed this hurdle, too: Now, on to security. Remove all jewelry, shoes, and sweater; place the Vodaphone in the bin; hoist the carry-on bag onto the roller; get X-rayed…whew! We made it through security. Now re-pack and re-arrange clothing. Find Gate 11. Of course, it is the last gate in the airport. Now wait…another hour before boarding. Better get in line early since there are no assigned seats. Oh, oh! They are calling our name to come to the front! Apparently, our originally stamped boarding passes were turned in. Because we had registered online and had paid in advance to check one bag, we were listed as priority guests. We got placed at the front of the line…really! Once the gate was opened for boarding, people scrambled madly to get the best seats. It was wild! The lady in the seat in front of us wanted to put her bag in the compartment above the seats and not under her seat. Oh, oh…that’s a no-no; her bag had to be placed under the seat. She argued; the stewardess reminded her sternly that she had agreed to the terms and conditions before she boarded the plane.

Lessons learned:
1) Make reservations early and online.
2) Follow the rules meticulously.
3) Pay the extra fee early and online to check one bag. Paying in advance is so much less expensive than being fined by the ticket agent as you intend to board.
4) Make an extra copy of the boarding passes.
5) Arrive plenty early.
6) Know where documents are kept, and do not misplace them. KG

Sangria Life

Life long learning is important, especially as we age. Older folks don’t just have more to share, they have more to learn as well. Learning how to make Sangria the Spanish way was a learning experience for me today. Learning something new will become part of my “sangria life” from now on.

Here is one Spanish recipe that is quite good. I know, I hands on learned to make it today and drank it as well:

Serves six:
+dice (not slice) two tablespoons each–fresh apple, lemon, orange and peach or nectarine with skin on.
+marinate fruit two hours in refrigerator with one shot Triple Sec; one shot Liquor 43; three shots brandy and two shots peach or apple schnapps along with one stick of cinnamon. If you do not want to measure out the liquor you may pour and count slowly one Mississippi for one shot or one Mississippi-two Mississippi for two shots etc.
+Fill bottom of serving container–a two quart pitcher is good–with a layer of ice cubes, do not fill with ice, a thick layer is appropriate and definitely do not use crushed ice.
+Add marinated fruits, liquor and cinnamon stick.
+Measure the depth of the ingredients with your fingers on the side on the container and add as much wine to the mixture as the other ingredients combined. If you have a container that narrows towards the top this can be tricky, just remember to add enough wine to double the contents. THE WINE–Red wine from the Rioja region of Spain is preferred (Tempranillo or Grenache varieties are best)
+Add 15 shots of Fanta Orange carbonated soft drink for sweeter sangria or 15 shots of Fanta Lemon carbonated soft drink for dryer sangria. Be careful with the “Mississippi” counting method here, this pours much more quickly, however, the more added, the less alcoholic content the drink.
+If you prefer a sweet kick with your Sangria, you may add up to two teaspoons of honey as an optional add in.
+stir with a wooden spoon and serve with a wooden ladle in a bar glass. WEG


Yesterday, while driving, one road was closed due to repair. GPS did not know it, unfortunately, or so I thought. I just started to drive and knew GPS would reposition eventually to bring us to Marbella. I did not know that there is only one way directly through the mountains and the rest are smaller, less traveled, more adventurous and definitely not direct roads. Instead of GPS direct, I eventually got adventurous and out of the way. It was a detour.

Detours are funny things, although not always laughable. They can cause us anxiety, even outright fear and/or disgust. When we take them or are forced into them, the future and destination are unclear and unplanned. While the road detour is minor to the serious detours in life some face, I think there are a few universal lessons to be learned: 1. Detours are not necessarily bad; 2. Detours can be better than what we planned; 3. How we handle the initial fear or surprise or disgust has a lot to do with how we experience the detour taken and 4. When we see God’s hand in our day to day, we can have trust in the outcome of the detour.

In our case, the road detour took us to beautiful places we would not have seen and, although a much longer route, in the end was more than worth the time lost. WEG

Simple Life

Our kind friend, Nancy McCollum, wrote that we were showing others how wonderful a simple life can be. This was my response:

That is a great way to put it, Nancy–simple life and simple pleasures. We sat in an open church last night. Yes, it was historic–tied to Seville and American discovery and it was beautiful, absolutely, with painted walls and columns and golden altar, but what impressed us and what absorbed our attention were the burning candles and the priest sitting quietly in the confessional. This was deeply spiritual and a reverent moment. We let it all soak in. No matter where we live, these things are around us everyday and we tend to miss them. It does not have to be so.

Chestnuts on an Open Fire

I associate roasted chestnuts with foggy/wintery London. Nothing wrong with that. To my surprise, right off Plaza Del Duque, a hop, skip and jump from our Seville apartment, a man was roasting chestnuts on an open fire. I couldn’t resist the one Euro treat. The sweet, smokey and burnt taste was delectable. Who would have guessed–roasted chestnuts in Seville, Spain? Reminded me once again that I need to be open to paradigm changes. I think, as we age, we can get set in our ways of thinking and that can cause us to lose out on unexpected delights that go beyond our assumptions. I’ll try to keep an open mind; how about you? WEG

Losses 1/24/2013

I am learning to be a more astute and observant traveler. Somewhere between the War Room and the Peace Room in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, my warm leather gloves were deftly removed from my coat pocket. The next day, after using several euro coins from a small satchel kept in my coat pocket, I noticed that my little satchel did not accompany me to our room. While these two experiences so early in our trip have taught me to be more careful and aware of my surroundings, in the scheme of life these are minor losses such as we all experience. Rather than get bent all out of shape, I will learn my lesson and continue to rejoice in the journey that is before us. KG


I don’t know where I am. I forgot to look at the map and the train route before boarding the TGV (fast train) for Madrid out of Paris’s Gare de Lyon. We had left early, the sun was rising beautifully in the east, the Paris snow was disappearing and light showers began to fall–raindrops were beading up on the windows. I felt a sense of unease–where were we? Nothing was familiar. As the train barreled south, sometimes at speeds exceeding 200 mph, my dread increased–where were we going–yes, Madrid, but a train transfer was required in a city of which I had never heard, the spelling seemed French, but the announcer on the train was speaking Spanish. Is that an ocean out there? It is too big a body of water to be a lake, isn’t it?

It dawned on me, I always knew where I was in life and now I did not–it is an issue of control, I suppose. Retirement, change of family situation or job or whatever the case may be, we sometimes do not know where we are.

I decided to let it go for awhile. I’d eventually figure it out, maybe not right away, but eventually. Now I could enjoy the ride, my mind freed from the constraints of knowing what to anticipate. Every new scene that came into view was savored for what it was–massive bare branched trees that looked like natures gargoyles, groves of poplar or cedar or pine trees, some planted in straight rows and some planted just the way God wanted them to be. Rivers crisscrossed the plain and then rock outcroppings appeared as the train headed for higher terrain. Vineyards appeared, leafless but in crisp rows and workers in the vines. My mind imagined what they must be doing to prepare for the next harvest. Then in the barren hills, fresh green fields, mile upon mile, some winter grain signaling spring. Old buildings, villages with narrow streets, church steeples or towers everywhere. I actually saw ripples on a running stream and barges on man-made canals and bicyclists on narrow gravel paths and graffiti–awe come on!

And did I tell you, I remembered that when I do not know where I am, God does.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

I do not like to take my evening pills with water. I reached in the villa refrigerator and pulled out the Jus de Tomate I had purchased in the market. I reached for the clean glass sitting on the countertop, poured in the tomato juice, threw the pills in my mouth and gulped down the pills in two quick swallows. Something was not right, so I poured in more juice and took another swig–the aftertaste was awful. I tried another swig and then took it to Kathy–“Can you tell what kind of juice this is?” Taking a small sip she exclaimed, “It’s soap!” I poured the red contents into the sink, and sure enough, when I turned on the faucet the juice lathered up. Upon investigation, I found that the nice stainless steel soap dispenser in the kitchen leaked on the glass.

We all make mistakes and suffer consequences. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes and don’t repeat them. But like me, taking more swigs of soap laden juice when I should have stopped, we sometimes keep doing the same disastrous things over and over again, expecting different results each time, only to find out that we are getting ourselves into deeper trouble. What bad habit or pattern of behavior do you keep repeating? Get started on a new journey. The place to begin is honest confession and prayer to God.

What’s in a Name

Our good friend, Dr. Mario Garza, gave us the idea for the title of this blog, gofarther.me. He mentioned that the reason the Spanish nation was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean was because they had changed the motto of their country to “go farther beyond.” The early settlers of Spain thought that Hercules had planted a pillar of the earth at the rock of Gibraltar and posted a sign which read, “Go no farther,” and so sailors were afraid to venture any farther thinking that the world would come to an end. The Spanish royalty decided to encourage the people by making a new motto which said, “Go farther beyond.” Thus, Spain became a world power.

Sometimes, we need to change the motto of our thinking as well. We get these silly notions of our inabilities stuck in our brains where they inhibit our living out what God intends for us. Changing our bad mottos into ones that will empower us can make all the difference in the world. You might just go farther beyond and find something new and exciting.


  1. breanna lauder says:

    this is awesome have fun!!!!!

  2. alevagerhardt says:

    Our first big life lesson is to learn how to use the blog to follow you guys.

    • Al & Eva Gerhardt says:

      can you let me know if you are seeing my comments. i am not sure this blog thing is working. we have been following the beauty but via facebook.. not sure what i am doing wrong. i plan on checking with joel.

  3. Stan Nelson says:

    Stay warm! Miss you already!!!

    Doug wants to start a fire and Tim wants us in matching blue uniforms! Seriously, I look forward to reading about your exploits, er, I mean travels. We love you both!

  4. Stan Nelson says:

    I see your comments fine!

  5. Mary Stockton says:

    I love you both! I love your hearts! Such wonderful joy and sweet peace for each other and Jesus! Enjoy every moment together! The whole Stockton tribe is looking forward to following your journey and learning along with you!

    • wgraumann says:

      You are more than kind–we love you and your family–I remember fondly when a young couple came to the marriage intimacy group Kathy and I led. You were wonderful then and fantastic now!

  6. Al & Eva Gerhardt says:

    I just read your life lesson on losses on Jan. 24, 2013. We forgot to tell you guys that everywhere we went we always had to be careful of the pick pockets in the area. I always carried my money and important paper in my front pocket. They also sell a pouch that attaches to your belt and in goes inside your pants in the front which is about the only safe spot. When we were in Venice, Italy, we did not go to St. Paul;s square because so many people said you cannot go over the bridge to the square without having someone attempt to pick your pocket. Good luck and stay safe.

  7. Charlotte Post says:

    Thanks so much for a laugh today Pastor Graumann!! I loved the Bitter Pill to Swallow blog!! I bet you won’t make that mistake again!!!!

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