In My Own Little Corner…

A month ago, we bought a house. At first I struggled: why Ohio? why this very traditional neighborhood? why such a traditional house? why not rent (so we could wander away again)? Gradually I have added layers of color in accessories, rugs, furniture, and decorations. I still struggle with why the job came up here rather than somewhere out West, but the house is beginning to feel more like “me.” It is starting to feel comfortable and nest-like.

Our New Home

Our New Home

In the process of major life changes, I have gone through a number of purge cycles—getting rid of massive amounts of “stuff.” Unlike times in the past when I tried to sort through things because I “should” or because others wanted me to do so, this came from deep inside. I was finally ready to let go of so many things I was holding on to.

An extra benefit of the purging is that I now have empty shelves on my bookcases, empty corners on top of desks and cabinets, empty places on my walls. This has given me the freedom to add color and memory-keepers in the form of little vignettes. At first I wondered if this was inappropriately making “altars.” But since each little scene makes me smile and brings me joy, I’ve decided to keep these mini collections, changing them as the whim occurs.

My Own Little Corner

My Own Little Corner

Today I decided to share details of my desk corner. It sits at the end of the living room, next to a big bow window, looking out toward a lake. It is beside the doorway to the kitchen, in view of the timer on the oven, so it is convenient to keep track of baking or dinner-making. This is where my computer sits so it is both a private place and a place for me to connect to the bigger on-line world.

The desk itself used to belong to our son James. The collection gathered on the corner of the desk is things that remind me of James. I love the pop of color and the mix of textures. I smile every time I notice the stool, covered with cheetah spots and with big red accent buttons. There is a blank wall in front of the desk—soon to have my first-ever custom art by an artist whose colorful work I love!

Reminders of James...

Reminders of James…

The candle is one that we light each at 7pm each 2nd Sunday in December–a worldwide remembrance of children gone too soon. (You can read more about that HERE.) The rock is one we gathered from Honolulu Creek in Alaska. The photo was a trick photo I surprised James with for Christmas one year. He liked to joke that he had a twin brother, John, who was a surfer from Honolulu Alaska. John always seemed to eat James’ favorite desserts before James got to them. And John was the one who always got into mischief! The box holds James’ treasured hard-bound collection of Calvin & Hobbes comics.

Walking Sticks

Walking Sticks

Tucked into the corner behind the desk is a collection of walking sticks. The middle one was given to us in memory of James. This beautiful cedar stick was hand smoothed and etched by a cousin. The outer sticks are both diamond willow from Alaska–one finished and one still in progress. This distinctive pattern is from brushy willow found along stream beds. The “diamonds” are scars formed when the branches are injured or broken off. I love the reminder that our wounds can become a beautiful part of us as we move forward in the healing process!

Storytellers and more...

Storytellers and more…

The final detail of my little desk corner sits on top of the box of Calvin & Hobbes books. The rock is another one gathered from Honolulu Creek in Alaska. I love the mottled green color. The little white spots are remnants of cockatiel droppings–reminders of James’ precious birds who wandered his room at will. And the Storyteller figures remind me of the joy I find in being entrusted with the stories of others and the responsibility I take in sharing stories with the world. (I wrote blog posts about this HERE  and HERE.)

When you read something from me on the internet, you now know where I was writing from. Most likely I was enjoying a little time in My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair.

 

Seeing More

You know the phenomenon—once you notice something, you suddenly see it everywhere you look. Buy a new (to you) car and the parking lots and roads are filled with that model. See a fashion you would like to try and a zillion others are wearing similar things. Appreciate a certain breed of dog, and that type of dog is frisking along everywhere you go.

In the past few weeks, I have realized anew some fundamentals that affect what I notice in the world around me. Years ago, our middle daughter became interested in raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, etc.) She has volunteered in a variety of settings to gain experience working with these birds. Because of her interest and because of what we learned from her along the way, our family now notices raptors along the roadways everywhere we travel. We might not know the specific species names, but we enjoy the wonder of seeing the birds perched in trees or on fence posts, or soaring in the air. And the excitement of seeing a hawk swoop to the ground to catch dinner is amazing!

Daughter with a Hawk--at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

Daughter with a Hawk–at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

My husband has a private pilot’s license. So for the past 10 years, all of us suddenly notice small planes flying cross country. We see the little green signs with a white airplane on road posts, indicating a nearby airport. We notice runways, even long grassy strips with just a windsock at one end. With a new interest comes new eyes.

Finally, today marks 5 years since the unexpected death of one of our sons. We have become members of a club that no one ever wants to join—parents who walk through the death of a child. Obviously, that has changed us in profound ways. That experience has also given us new eyes. At first, we felt totally alone. We only knew a handful of people who had walked this path before us. Gradually, we realized that there are similarly grieving parents everywhere we go. They are all around us. Unfortunately, we are NOT alone in this journey.

...missing Smiley James...

…missing Smiley James…

Some things that we see more of—new cars or fashions, for example—don’t really need a response. Other things seem to  invite involvement or ask for a response. As we continue to rebuild life without our son, we wonder if and when there might be a role for us to play in reaching out to the “more” that we see in the grieving world.

What things do you see “more” of in your life? Which of these things are just for your enjoyment and which might be inviting a response on your part?

Princess Anna’s Sparkly Birthday

My “baby” daughter, Princess Anna, had a birthday this past weekend.

Anna -- still a Princess, not really my "baby" any more!

Anna — still a Princess, not really my “baby” any more!

Many of you saw my plea on facebook or via email:

Daughter Anna turns 11 on Feb 2nd. We will have a small celebration with the family we are living with in Germany. There will be a big birthday party the following weekend for 2 of the children in this family. Anna understands in her head why we can’t have a big party with lots of guests and gifts for her…but she still gets teary thinking about it. And THAT makes this mama’s heart hurt for her.

So…I want to surprise her during her family “Sparkle Party.” Could you please send me (fb comment, fb message, or email) a short note for Anna, focused on “sparkles” or “glitter” and on how special SHE is? I will type them out, print them, cut them out, and tie each one with sparkly ribbon for her to open all the affirmations on her birthday!

THANK YOU in advance for helping her feel special! (Also, IF you are so inclined, please consider mailing a sparkly card to her for her to get an extra birthday surprise when we get back to Ohio in early March…I will message our address to anyone who wants to do this.)

Anna’s 11th birthday is over—celebrated with lots of SPARKLES! I thought you might like to see photos of four (count ’em, FOUR) days filled with special activities and fun.

Day One–early in the week Anna and I went clothes shopping. She needed new pants and wanted to add some sparkle to her wardrobe. (The shirt in the top photo was from this shopping expedition.)

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work…

Obviously, we "needed" sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Obviously, we “needed” sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Day Two — My friend took her daughter and Anna for all three of them to get “new ‘do”s. What fun!

Three "New 'Do"s for the "ladies"

“New ‘Do”s for the three “ladies”

Day Three — I took both “big girls” to Bamberg. A day with no responsibilities added to the pleasure of the outing!

We discovered an awesome "pocket playground" where Fairies could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

We discovered an awesome “pocket playground” where Fairy Anna and her friend could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

...and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree

…and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were Princesses.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were royalty.

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

Day Four — On Anna’s actual birthday, we continued the annual tradition of taking a photo of Groundhog Anna to record her prediction for Spring’s arrival. I took all 4 kids back to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a little shopping, some yummy food, and a climb up the medieval walls.

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg...

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg…

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way...

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way…

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the "Knights and Fairies" store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the “Knights and Fairies” store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We finished Anna’s SPARKLE celebrations with a little family party at home that evening:

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

We fixed favorite German McDonald's food--Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

We fixed favorite German McDonald’s food–Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

At 11, "little girl" Anna still delights in sparkly toys...

At 11, “little girl” Anna still delights in sparkly toys…

...and my "one-teen" likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more)

…and my “one-teen” likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more) (photo taken by Anna’s friend)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls...but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls…but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert---Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert—Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

(THANKS to all who helped make this a very special birthday celebration for Anna. Hopefully, these sparkly memories will help her joyfully celebrate her friends at their birthday party this weekend…)

My Oh-So-German Husband

I’m currently living in Germany for a few months with my youngest daughter. My oldest daughter met us for a few weeks over the holidays. We had the privilege of visiting the Emmelhainz family’s ancestral home town, Erbach, Germany. We wandered the town, took photos of everything we saw, and spent time with some far-removed cousins. What fun to connect with hundreds of years of heritage! (Okay, so I married in to that heritage—but still intriguing and enjoyable…)

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach Germany

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach Germany

The more time I spend here in Germany, the better I understand some of my husband’s “quirks.” I know, I know, these might sound like stereotypes. But they are attributes I see over and over here in Germany. And when I have asked a few German friends about my observations, they are not offended in the least. They just laugh and affirm what I’m saying.

So, here are a few random ways that my husband is, indeed, so very German:

He is a meat eater…preferring big juicy chunks of meat over veggies any time. You should SEE the size of the meat portions when eating at restaurants here! One German friend actually said, “Real men don’t waste their time with vegetables. They eat MEAT!”

He is stubbornly independent. When you are right, you are right! Why change your mind when your opinion is already set? Obviously, if there is a difference in viewpoints, the other person is wrong! And, if this is the best way to do something why try another way? Don’t interrupt to tell me a more efficient or a more effective way to do something… (Okay, okay, so he isn’t really this stubborn…but sometimes, he is close to this!) And independent? Oh yeah, that describes our family quite well. We can handle it just fine, thanks. Why bother others to help us do something we can fight through and win??

He is “neatnik” about his property. He wants things properly painted, with no nicks, dings, or smudges. He wants things kept in proper repair. Now, to be clear, I’m not complaining about this. It is great that he has these high standards. And as we have travelled around Germany, it is a pleasure to see well-kept houses in even the tiniest of towns. It is just a struggle sometimes at home to balance these desires with raising a large family…

A Typical "Yard Farm" in a German Small Town

A Typical “Yard Farm” in a German Small Town

He spends time maintaining a well-manicured lawn and tending a garden. In my husband’s case, his preferred “garden” is planting trees. But the principle is still the same. I have been amazed at seeing every home in towns large and small with well-tended gardens. In larger city areas, there are window boxes and planters in apartment windows and community gardens complete with little garden cottages in surrounding areas. I love the way this looks…just don’t ask ME (aka the Plant Killer) to tend a garden!

Well-kept Lawn and Garden

Well-kept Lawn and Garden

Even Garden Houses are Well-Maintained!

Even Garden Houses are Well-Maintained!

So what is the point of this rambling blog post? Just that I’ve finally realized some of the “quirks” my husband has are a result of his heritage. He’s not in the minority—he’s like thousands of other Germans in his family line! Guess I’d better quit grumbling about some of these traits…

Oh-So-German Father & Son

Oh-So-German Father & Son

Note: wedding photo taken by Forever Photography Studio in Austin Texas http://www.foreverphotographystudio.com/blog/duchman-family-winery-wedding-elise-and-rob/

Pushing Past the Fears…

I have recently been pondering the difference between Risk-taking and “risky behavior.” Sometimes when I’m facing something challenging, fear steps in and tries to convince me that participating in that activity would be “risky behavior” (in other words, something “bad”) rather than merely “risk-taking” (or something “good”). In the past few weeks, I have stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some new (scary) things. Most of you know that when it comes to living outside the box or trying new adventures, I’m all in. There are indeed some areas, however, that scare me; some opportunities that fill me with fear rather than exhilaration.

(portrait by the wonderful Jo Blackwell—see more of her work HERE )

In the past month, a number of opportunities for stretching and trying something new came up. I wrote last week about attending a conference for Community Health Evangelism. I had no idea (and still have no idea!) how I would use this. But the cost was manageable and the topic was interesting. I’m glad I gave it a try…

Earlier this year, I downloaded information about training to participate in a (mini)Triathlon. I enjoy being challenged by the posts on the Impossible blog. I decided to follow the writer’s advice, and reach for a physically challenging goal, rather than just doing adventurous, outside-the-box things that I enjoy. I dabbled with training, signed up for a mini-tri at the beginning of September…and chickened out at the last minute….sigh… I hope to do more consistent training and sign up for another mini-tri at a lower elevation sometime next spring. (Looking back, I’m sad that I let fear overwhelm me…)

I wrote on my art blog last week about taking a risk and signing up to submit illustrations for possible inclusion in an upcoming book by a favorite inspirational author. When I read about the opportunity to participate, I was excited. Then I was convinced it wasn’t really for me. After all, I have no experience with painting, or with collage, or with illustrating anything in particular. I’m definitely not a professional artist. Who was I to think that I could do this? and…and…and…

I tried to forget about it. But it kept coming back, over and over. Finally, I decided to sign up. I could at least look at the passages and see if I even had any ideas of what to try. Besides, anyone who sent in a submission would receive a free copy of the book. That, at least, sounded good. Okay…deep breath…

I finally managed to shut up those fear-filled, despairing voices inside my head. I asked for two passages. I read them over. Ideas immediately came; pictures in my mind that could illustrate the words. I was still fearful, but moved forward. I don’t know what will happen with the submissions…but I already know pushing past the fears, taking a RISK, has given me more confidence in playing with art!

Finally, I participated in a recent “Prophetic Art” seminar down in Albuquerque. Again, this felt quite risky. I enjoy artsy things like crafts and scrapbooking. But “real art”? That doesn’t seem to describe what I do. I dabble. I play. I don’t see myself as an “artist.” Plus I struggled with the idea of “prophetic” art, as I explained in an art-blog post this week. Again, all those fears about not being professional, not being an experienced painter, not being good enough, shouted in my head. Again, it felt too RISKY to participate. But, again, confidence came as I pushed through the fears and attended the seminar.

These are little things in the big picture of life. But, perhaps, for me they will turn out to be “big things.” At least pushing past the fears and quieting the voices has given me a new level of confidence! And I guess that’s a good start…

Changing Time

I have been reading a fascinating book: Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life by Marney Makridakis. I read it from cover to cover when I first got the book. It is filled with little sticky notes, marking passages that have challenged me, projects to try, and statements that I either strongly agree with or question. Because I’m planning to send this book on to a friend when I finish with it, I have restrained myself and not mangled and marred the book by bending over page corners and scribbling in the margins!

I bought the book initially because I assumed it was about making/taking time to do creative things. I thought it would help me “prioritize” me-time, and artsy-time. What I discovered, however, is that those ideas are background in the book. The primary focus is on changing our perception of time from “not enough” to being something of “abundance.” The author lays out her ideas in readable format. She includes tidbits from others who have played with these ideas. And she finishes each chapter with hands-on activities to remind the reader of the principles in the book.

Eventually, I plan to do some of those creative projects. (When I do, I will post photos on my art blog…) For now, I continue to dip back into the book, reading a quote here and a passage there. I’m still finding new ideas that challenge my beliefs about the world, about time, and about my own life.

I am trying to put some of these ideas into practical form. Last Monday looked like it was going to be a hectic, horrible day. I had a zillion things on my to-do list, most of which were NOT optional. It seemed impossible to finish everything on the list all in one day. On Sunday night, I was stressing about the coming day, dreading the morning alarm which would start the rat-race.

Then, as I was driving to town that morning, I remembered one of the ideas from this book. It sounded corny to me, like one of those shmarmy positive-thinking-will-change-your-life ideas. It felt too simple to make any difference. But…facing that overwhelming to-do list, I decided it was worth a try.

I told myself that I had all the time in the world, certainly enough time to complete everything that needed to be done. Each time I felt my heart start racing and my muscles tense up throughout the day, I repeated those same thoughts.

Amazingly enough, by the end of the day, I had indeed completed everything on that dreaded list. And, in general, I enjoyed the day. I wasn’t overwhelmed, after all.

Hmmm…maybe it’s time to get out that book and read it some more. Time to find a few more tidbits to put to the practical test. Time to stop stressing and “create more time.” I’m going to give it a try—how about you?!

Breakfast Routine

I know I’ve talked about how I like change, how quickly I get bored with routines, how I thrive on reaching for dreams. But there is one routine I need. It’s a way to start my day off right.

Time to Eat…

I enjoy breakfast foods of all kinds. I like to try new breakfast ideas. But I have a confession to make. I enjoy experimenting with breakfast novelties for DINNER! When it comes to breakfast, I eat the same thing every morning.

What keeps my interest, you ask? What routine has stuck around for more than 10 years? Well, here it is…

Every morning, I sit somewhere comfy and cozy and eat…6 graham cracker squares spread thickly with smooth “Simply Jif” peanut butter. I take a drink of hot tea with cream (well, that part has changed…it used to be coffee with soy milk), take a bite of cracker, take a drink of tea, take a bit of cracker, and continue until it is all gone.

And while I eat, it is time to think. I ponder what is on my to-do list for the day. I contemplate new ideas, creative projects, and people to meet with. I savor the tastes and I savor the pause before the day really starts.

Time to Think…

Okay…I admit it, sometimes routines are comforting. Sometimes routines are good. Sometimes I like the same-old, same-old; the old stand-by; the reliable things…

Shhh! Don’t give away my fuddy-duddy secret…okay?!

 
(Photos taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz — thanks for documenting daily life, sweetie!)

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