October Joy Report

So, October was…going!

Honestly, with the job and residency drama behind us, we’ve just chugging along this month. Getting into our new routine, appreciating the mundane daily life, enjoying the fall weather and colors. And then the unexpected happened. My trivial October joys were greatly overshadowed by one event – the loss of my cousin, Tony, who took his own life on October 17th. And while that is in no way a joyous occasion, my cousin, despite his decision, was a joyful kind of guy – at least that’s how I knew him.

So, with that in mind, my first October joy.

Tony.

Photo credit to Cassandra (graciously taken from his Facebook page).

I’m not entirely sure where to begin. I suppose a short family history – Tony is one of four Milani children, who are cousins on my mom’s side of the family. My mom’s dad was in the US Air Force, and the family moved a lot. So, it was normal that our extended family ended up all over the US and sometimes the globe. My sister and I are the youngest of the 8-cousin bunch, so we looked up to our older cousins, especially since we only got to see them every now and then. As life goes, you grow up and you grow apart, but in 2009, at a long-overdue family reunion, we all reconnected. After that, with the help of Facebook (and Snapchat and any other cat-meme sharing social media platform), our cousin crew was back-in-action and this time for good.

Now to Tony. I swear, he’s the funniest of the crew, and this was no small task. Joey, his brother, smashed cake in his own face when we were kids, which made him the funniest in my book for a long time. I think that Tony’s ‘funny’ came from his complete authentic self. When we were together, he always seemed to be unapologetically who HE was – caring, empathetic, genuine, loving. SO SO loving. Which also might have been a detriment – he was the kind of person that would give so much of himself to others, he could forget to give back to himself.

One vivid example – when Shane and I went home to celebrate our wedding in North Carolina, I remember showing Tony the montage of our Croatia wedding photos and being surprised to look over and find him teary-eyed. Granted, the photographers picked Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and someone was “cutting onions” nearby – so it wasn’t totally his fault (😜), but it was totally Tony. He was so happy for us and so happy for our family to be together.

A family photo
Tony is far left, holding the small child above his head…

Tony is married to Cassandra, and they are both in the US Air Force and constantly on the move. One thing I never told him (them) – they were our family ‘goals’. They’re adventurous, open-minded, and made the best of their situations. Mostly, for us as two travel-loving, abroad-living people who might have kids one day, they showed us that you CAN still do it. With four boys in tow, they didn’t stop traveling and exploring, and we’re grateful for their example.

Oh, and Tony was fluent in at least 3 languages. So… cool cool cool, cousin. I’m only a lot bit jealous of his language skills.

You hear this a lot, but life’s too short to hold grudges. Life’s too short to not reach out to that person you’ve been missing. Life’s too short to not be who you truly are, do what makes you happy, and take way too many pictures! Obviously, there’s more to Tony’s story than what meets the eye. So, I’d like to end this piece by saying please – if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Honesty is hard, but life is worth living even if it may not feel like it at the moment. I wish that Tony’s story hadn’t ended, but all I can do now is learn from it and honor him by remembering all his wonderful qualities.

Tony was a vet. If you’re American and know someone who might benefit from the National Veterans Foundation ‘Stop Veteran Suicides’ crisis line then please, pass on this information, or you can make a donation.

2016

Fall colors!

Covid cases have been rising in Germany. So much so that we are heading into a month long lockdown starting today (2 Nov). We haven’t been DOING too much since the weather turned colder and rainier. Beer gardens and outdoor spaces at restaurants have been mainly closed for the winter and we’re not to keen on indoor activities at the moment. So, while Shane’s at work, I’ve been taking a lot of walks! We both agreed that the fall colors in Munich have been much more dramatic than in the Netherlands. Obviously, there are different types of trees here (lots of chestnuts), but they just POP!

Stoop views.

Honor system potatoes and squash

Do you remember how I said there were honor system pick-your-own flowers back in the summer? Well, this has transformed into grab-your-own-squash-and-potatoes! I’m excited to see if there is a winter pick-your-own variety.

This stand (called the “Potato Hut” offered regional potatoes, squash, and halloween pumpkins.

We got our real residence permits!

It took about 4 months to get an application appointment, and less than 4 weeks to receive our official cards in the mail. No more worries until 2022!

and finally…

This.

I have no words for it. I don’t know how to describe it. Why is a realistic looking mannequin holding a dragonfly displayed in a glass case on Shane’s campus? The world may never know. Literally. There’s no description plaque. If anyone out there knows why this man is on LMU’s Biocampus, please explain!

Honorable Mention

Budenzauber.

A dreamlike-unreal effect caused by lighting and appropriate decoration, which the stalls create at a Christmas fair.

That’s a mighty specific translation!

The Christmas markets in Munich are officially cancelled, so I guess I’ll have to make my own budenzauber this year. In the meantime, I hope everyone is able to find their own little slice of joy, and if you can – share it! You never know who might need a boost. ❤️ Tony.

Tschüss,

Whitney

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Shane + Whitney = The Shwits. Cheesy? Yes. Is our cat ashamed of us? Probably. We're an American couple that has lived abroad for 6+ years. The Shwits is our diary of expat life, travel, and occasionally science. Enjoy!

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