Dear Luxembourg,

It wasn’t you, it was me…

We were together six years and 17 days, though it started as a 2 year commitment–typical, you know, for a relationship that began the way ours did.

In the beginning I worried about our communication—as if language itself wasn’t hard, your rules for driving, your lack of giving me space for parking…You were unavailable to me, failing me with what I needed when I needed it most–like after eight o’clock in the evening and on Sundays. You forcibly stamped every paper in sight! Building our relationship was a procedure or policy to you. Every year from November to March you were gloomy and walked around in a fog. But I fell in love anyway…

The sight of you, Luxembourg, took my breath away–you were so different from everything I knew, and you opened new doors to me. Through you I learned to love travel, see places through different eyes, experience unfamiliar cultures. From you I learned to love not only the small towns along the way, but the big hitters–London and Paris, Berlin and Vienna, Strasbourg, Salzburg, Amsterdam and Rome, Bucharest, Provence and Puglia, La Côte d’Azur, and even Dubai. But I always came home to you.

You introduced me to delicious and reasonable wines, though I’m not sure how reasonable I was after enjoying them. Through you I met Bernard Massad and the Kox, Schmit-Fohl and St. Martin families, and my bubbly new best friend Alice Hartmann. With them, I enjoyed delicious cheeses like reblochon, epoisse, gruyère, comté, gouda, Neufchâtel, and the curly petals of tête de Moins, along with a slice of saucisse and a hunk of fresh baguette or a board of flammkuchen.

Oh, dear Luxembourg, you helped me soar! I was and am more confident than ever! I tried new things–leading book clubs and Bible studies, taking trips with my friends, practicing yoga, cooking new dishes, teaching English to those whose mother tongue was Italian or French or Azerbaijani or Romanian. My friendships with people you introduced were more than special–true and sweet, meaningful and lasting (except for those few that weren’t)…

And I do miss you, little Grand Duchy, even more than I dreamed. I rethink that decision to end our relationship, but you knew there was third party involved. You also knew I’d choose Mr. Wonderful over you, always. After all, he enjoyed you nearly 30 years before I met you, and I sat home resentful–of his time you stole from me, the tales he told of you, the food and wine he shared with you. He introduced you to me, and I was smitten–by your character and your culture and your culinary delights. You are a jewel.

Those 6 years and 17 days with you, Luxembourg, are threaded in the tapestry of my little life, and I see no warrant to give up my moniker. I earned the title European Trophy Wife, though it takes little effort to be unemployed and the wife of a successful technical leader on another continent. I pretend Mr. Wonderful is the recipient of a status symbol in his betrothed, but in reality, I was the winner. I am the winner–of a life of excitement and exploration and fulfillment, no matter where I live.

Brick by Brick [or how to build a life]

We’ve known him for about five years now, but the first things we noticed about our friend Simon Kennedy besides his rakish good looks (he will read this) and his Scottish burr and humor, are his love for his beautiful wife and sweet pups, and his passion for people and service. We now know he’s an expert in lighting and sound for large events, he’s creative, he’s a musician, he’s authentic.

Simon Kennedy

One thing we didn’t know about Simon until the ten minutes it took him to loosen up around us, is that he’s a self-proclaimed and family-sanctioned LEGO collector-builder-hoarder-expert (LEGO geek for short). When I asked Simon “how did your fascination with LEGOs begin?” I was gently chided for adding an “s,” as LEGO is an adjective–acceptable plurals are: LEGO bricks or LEGO sets. He told the story of the humble beginning of the carpenter who made the interlocking blocks and named them using the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning “play well,” which sounds very sweet and endearing until you step on one in your bare feet and call it something entirely different…

It’s wonderful to have all the facts of the LEGO company and its evolution, and hear Simon reciting his mother’s memory of the sound of her sons raking through the boxes of bricks, but the most fascinating thing about the Scotsman’s love of LEGO is how he connected it (ba-dum-chh!) to his love of Luxembourg. When the pandemic arrived on the scene and life slowed down for us all, Simon found relaxation in his love of building with LEGO. Though he had recreated other buildings around the Grand Duchy, like Ready?! Coffee in Limpertsberg, his “crowning” achievement is his replica of the Grand Ducal Palace in Luxembourg. He took pictures of the palace, studied it, and collected soooo many bricks. With its turrets, windows, and ornate balconies, it was a special challenge to recreate the grandeur and stately character of this standout landmark in the little city of Luxembourg.

Making a model of the beloved official residence of the Grand Duke and tourist hotspot (especially viewed from The Chocolate House across the walkway, avec an coupe de crémant ou de café et croissant au chocolat, of course) is a meticulous process that is not for the impatient and hurried souls. When asked how many bricks were necessary for the LEGO model, Simon answers, “I’ve no idea, but even one window took 70 bricks.” It’s not exactly built to scale, because, as our LEGO architect explained, it would be difficult, if not impossible–due to the sizing of bricks– but the replica is balanced and true to its in-person image. Understand, however, the building required hundreds and hundreds (and waaay more hundreds) of yellowish, buff-colored bricks, not to mention six months of time.

The LEGO rendition of the Grand Ducal Palace of Luxembourg, photo by Simon Kennedy

The turrets of the palace were borrowed from some Harry Potter LEGO collections, and the spires on the turrets are actually steering wheels from LEGO vehicles.

The true Palace, showcasing the turrets
Follow Simon on Instagram @luxlegogeek

In addition to the hours of collecting bricks, studying photos, constructing the palace, and loving his hobby, Simon connects with the traditions and history of his adopted land in real life, not just LEGO life. He has demonstrated that by serving at Croix Rouge–helping organize the donations of clothing, serving meals to residents, organizing volunteers in both of those ministries, and building relationships with those he serves and those he serves alongside. His involvement with All Nations Church of Luxembourg and the people he encounters there is a blessing and a joy. The Scotsman speaks French and continues to improve in using the language. He speaks well of the countryside and its beauty, the country and its leaders, the Luxembourgish people and their character.

Simon is one of those people who mold and conform to an environment, not just as a consumer of his space, but as a contributor to the community. He’s definitely one of those people who makes you think that you simply cannot imagine that place without him.

My friend Simon and me