On “Be-living” and Blogging

As I have explained before, my focus for 2013 is “be-living” – not just thinking, not just doing, but trying to live at the balance point. At first that seemed like a passive word, an invitation to “sit around and wait.” That idea drove me crazy! I prefer to be active, moving, pursuing something. Last year’s focus of “walk” was bad enough. But the idea of an absence of movement has been stressful.

I haven’t done much blogging so far this year. I refuse to be a navel-gazing, woo-woo type of writer. If I’m spinning in circles mentally, I figure I’m already torturing myself and don’t need to inflict that on others. The combination of wrestling with “be-living” and struggling through unemployment has left me with little to say. Travel? FUN! Bewilderment? NOT fun!

"Be-living" -- passive or active?

“Be-living” — passive or active?

The first months of this year were easy: help friends with their little guys, try to maintain relationships while living a continent away, keep my youngest daughter focused on all the wonderful things to learn while living overseas, and enjoy some travel to new places. The “be-living” balance seemed to fall into place pretty easily: specific responsibilities, regular time for exercise, and unscheduled time for thinking.

Now that I’m home, balance has been harder to find. Some days the walls seem to close in around me as I wander around with nothing on my agenda. I get tired of mentally going down the same “rabbit-trails” I’ve thought about over and over and over again. I lack energy and will-power to get outside and get physically active.

Other days, I fill my schedule with activity. I run errands, go to the library, take kids on outings, take the dog on long walks, sort through boxes and boxes of “stuff” in preparation for an (eventual) move. There is movement but little time to think and little direction to the activity.

I am realizing that “be-living” is less about being and more about actively engaging in the moment. It is NOT being passive and trying to accept whatever comes my way. It is NOT giving up dreams and dreaming. It is NOT sitting around with nothing to say. (Yeah, those that know me are well aware that I can’t possibly sit around and not communicate!!)

This “be-living” challenge includes actively engaging in this moment, and this one, and this one. It is letting go of excuses about past failures or experiences and not making excuses to avoid future possibilities. It is forcing myself to quit making compulsive lists about future plans. (Okay, okay, so I’m still making SOME lists, but only killing a few trees in the process rather than decimating an entire forest for piles of paper, okay?!!) “Be-living” is active? It seems impossible? Great! Now it feels like something I can get excited about!

I’m sure that a fuzzy definition of “be-living” is not what was keeping me mired down. And I really can’t blame unemployment for feeling stuck (although it doesn’t help). I think I’m getting a handle on how to BE in a more active way. I will keep you posted on how this plays out. Guess I’ve got things to blog about after all…

Top 10 Travel Tips

Daughter Anna and I are finishing up small scrapbooks about our 10 week adventure in Europe. One of the pages is a “Top 10.” At first I wondered how in the world I could summarize that length of trip in just 10 lines.

Day 1 of our Travel Adventure

Day 1 of our Travel Adventure

I thought of using one line for each week we were away from home. That didn’t feel right for two reasons: the scrapbook itself was already covering the basics of where we went, what we saw, and what we did during our travels. Plus, we spent seven of the weeks staying (mostly) in one place, living with and helping our friends. Most of the travel action occurred in just three weeks.

One of the things I love about travel is thinking about the trip, both before and after the adventure. I have been pondering on the highs, the lows, the lessons learned, and travel advice I might share with others. I finally decided to combine all of that with the Top 10 list for my little scrapbook (in no particular order).

1. Take time to SEE family heritage in person. This moves dates and facts from the realm of knowledge into personal memory and emotion. I was surprised by the how colorful life was in the Alsace region of France. We also enjoyed exploring the small town (Erbach) along the Rhine River where Emmelhainz used to be a significant name.

Colorful Historic Homes from the Alsace region of France (collected at the Ecomusee)

Colorful Historic Homes from the Alsace region of France (collected at the Ecomusee)

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach, Germany

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach, Germany

2. ENJOY in person things you have previously enjoyed in print. I confess to being an incurable royalty-watcher. Seeing castles throughout Germany and England felt like fairy-tales coming to life! And, yes, there was a thrill in knowing that the Queen was “in residence” when we were touring Windsor Castle in England…

The Queen's flag flies high over Windsor Castle when she is "in residence."

The Queen’s flag flies high over Windsor Castle when she is “in residence.”

3. Be BRAVE and try using the language. There was an old shopkeeper in the small town I walked to regularly in Germany. I speak no German and he spoke no English, so we did business while fumbling through greetings and using lots of smiles. One day I memorized a question (about mailing cards) from the phrasebook. I’m not sure whose smile was brighter when he exclaimed “Perfect!” (So far from true, I’m sure. But others truly appreciate the effort you make to speak their language.)

4. Don’t forget to PLAY! By having a younger child with me this time, I discovered there are wonderful playgrounds all over Europe. Traveling with a child gave me new eyes to see things I had missed on past visits.

A common toy on German playgrounds.

A common toy on German playgrounds.

5. Get used to WALKING everywhere you go. Trust me, you will miss this when you get back to the States where everything is designed to get around by automobile.

6. In a similar way, Teach your child to be COMFORTABLE with many different means of transportation. We used planes, trains, subways, taxi-cabs, rental cars, and even a bike-cab. We also figured out the variety of ways to pay for parking! Hopefully these things will be less intimidating for my daughter when she eventually travels on her own.

We made in impulsive decision to take a bike cab in Paris--what FUN!

We made an impulsive decision to take a bike cab in Paris–what FUN!

7. Discover the UNEXPECTED. Some of these will be disappointments (such as finding out the room we reserved in a castle was actually across the way in the servants quarters…sigh…). Some of these will be magical. Don’t forget to allow your child’s imagination run wild. Finding “fairy trees” is a favorite memory for my daughter!

The Light Festival in Amsterdam was unexpected MAGIC!

The Light Festival in Amsterdam was unexpected MAGIC!

The "Royal Fairy Academy" was found in Germany.

My daughter discovered the “Royal Fairy Academy” in a small town in Germany.

8. TASTE new things. Yes, there will be things you don’t particularly like (or even things you hate). But you just might find a new “favorite” or two! The only down-side is not being able to get that thing back home.

Some of our favorites from the bakery in Schweinfurt Germany.

Some of our favorites from the bakery in Schweinfurt Germany.

9. Enjoy ADVENTURES that aren’t possible in the USA. Most places in the world allow greater levels of risk to tourists, things that would never be allowed in the States. You can climb steep pyramids with no railings in Mexico, freely wander ancient ruins in England, and explore a maze of tunnels under a castle by candlelight (and thread reeled out by another family) in Germany. Don’t miss the fun—sometimes “scary” makes the best memories!

10. Building MEMORIES together is the absolutely best thing about travel. And there is something extra sweet about watching your youngest child and your oldest child get to know each other better and learn to appreciate the other…

Sharing tastes in music.

Sharing tastes in music.

What about YOU? What are some of your favorite bits of advice for enjoying travel adventures? I’d love to hear your comments…

“They” say it’s HOME

You already know that I haven’t done much writing here on the blog for the past few months. I could give you lots of reasons excuses, but you don’t need to waste your time reading that. So I’m just jumping in and writing about HOME for another 5 Minute Friday. (For more information about this blog-link-up or to read other posts on the same topic, please click HERE.)

Ready, set, GO!

When I read this topic, my mind wandered to the many sayings about “home.” These sayings kept coming back to me over and over and over. I realized that, at least for now, most of those sayings just do NOT apply to our current situation. Let me give you a few examples:

The world is a great book; he who never stirs from home reads only a page.(St. Augustine) I’ve loved this quote from the first time I heard it years ago. As I’ve mentioned before, I would happily have become a “gypsy,” wandering the world, meeting new people, learning about new cultures. And I am a voracious reader (and book acquirer) so comparing travel to reading a book resonates with me. Hmmm…come to think of it, having just returned from 10 weeks of wandering in Europe probably means that this quote IS true for me! (Quick, let’s move on to the next one…)

Training the next generation of wanderers...

Training the next generation of wanderers…

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. (John Howard Payne) It is true that whenever we go on vacation, there is something special about finally pulling in the driveway and walking in the door. (Well, except for that time when a pipe had sprung a leak and our living room ceiling was on the floor with a waterfall cascading through the rubble…but I guess that’s another story for another day!) Somehow home always seems so much bigger than what we left. (And it is almost always cleaner than usual, since I’ve succumbed over the years to my husband’s mania to clean thoroughly before we leave!) However, this time I had no “home” to return to after my roaming. We are still living with my parents until we can figure out “what’s next,” find paying work, and set up our next home. This place is familiar, and things are going quite well…but it is still not HOME!

Or else we took our "home" with us while we roamed...

Or else we took our “home” with us while we roamed…

You can never go home again. On the one hand, this is certainly true for us right now. Job/ministry ended and we’ve had to leave friends and a place we learned to love. On the other hand, this quote is certainly NOT true…since we moved back “home” with my long-suffering parents. (And we have done this dance once or twice before!)

It is unlikely we will EVER live in this home again...

It is unlikely we will EVER live in this home again…

Home is where the heart is. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with this saying. After all, little pieces of my heart are scattered across the country…and the world! (As of a few weeks ago I have children in 2 different states, plus central Asia, plus China. I have a sister in London, and another sister whose husband is in Afghanistan and whose daughter was in Central America.) The combination of our own roaming and the wandering of my kids and siblings means I either have lots and lots of homes…or that this quote is not true for a family like ours.

It isn't very often anymore that all of us are in one place at one time...

It isn’t very often anymore that all of us are in one place at one time…

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need. (Sarah Ban Breathnach) Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. Some of these quotes about “home” are not true for me right now. But THIS one certainly is! I need to quit being impatient and relax into the process of trying to determine where and what God has next for our family. I need to remember that we indeed have all that we need right now.

I AM grateful for the “home” that we have right now… Thanks, Mom and Dad, for this oasis in a stressful stormy time of life!

Exactly Where I Need to Be

I usually post original thoughts here on my blog. However, I saw this on a friend’s blog. I have watched it over and over for the past few days. I love the beauty of the dance. And the words seem to fit quite well with where I am at right now. On the one hand, our family still has NO idea of “what’s next.” On the other hand, I’m doing better (for now, at least) at “BE-living” (my word for 2013), being comfortable with and taking pleasure in the moment, rather than worrying about and focusing on the future.

Hopefully some (if not most) of you will enjoy this video…and the lyrics written below. (I recognize that these lyrics are not “Christian” — but I think the song still holds wisdom for ALL of us.)

(or click here to see video in another window — HOOP Dancer Video)

Exactly by Amy Steinberg

i am exactly where i need to be
i need to be exactly where i am
i am a blessing manifest
i can undress the moment
naked time unwinds beneath my mind
and from within i find the kind of beauty
only i can find
i am exactly where i need to be
i need to be exactly where i am
i am surrendering so willingly
to be the perfect me inside this now
and truly how else could it be
destiny she blesses me
when i try to fight or run
i only wind up back at square one
when i think i know what’s best for me
fate she takes me back
to exactly where i need to be
i am exactly where i need to be
i need to be exactly where i am
i am divinely timed and shining brightly
yes i believe that there’s a purpose just for me
yes i believe that we are light
and we shine infinitely
i am exactly where i need to be
i need to be exactly where i am
i am not aimlessly existing see
i am in perfect harmony with universal energy
and i am truly free when i accept my own divinity
look at me look at me closely
what exactly do you see
if you are paying attention you will now begin ascension of the mind
why, because if you look at me just right you will see a kiss
for it took a kiss to make this breath exist
the intersection of my mother’s and father’s lips
to touch twist and perfect what came next to produce me
look at me and you will see the breeze
the breeze it took to shake the leaves to make
my mother’s hair move, my father dare touch it and say
please may i have a kiss
yes the breeze made me exist
and if you want to get even deeper into this
when you look at me you will see a cloud
the cloud it took to form the storm to shake the leaves to
inspire the liplock – yes a raindrop will pop up out these words
you heard me right
if you look at me close enough you will see a dark stormy night
and what is night without it’s polar opposite of sunlight
so if you watch the way my hands sway
you’ll see the light of day
and everyday is a testament to the sediment of the earth’s core
it’s ever spinning enormous force so if you look at me just right
you will see a spark of the source
but the most fascinating thing about this, and it’s true
is that if you look at me close enough, you see you
it’s only what you perceive how you believe the space between
you and me
that creates reality
so when i sing you can feel it
when i cry you can heal it
when i speak words you can be the words i speak by singing with me
peace love free
peace love free
peace love free
and when i am alone and full of fear
i just remember the rising sun always appears
everyday miracles that i see
well they take me back to exactly where i need to be

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/

Where is the “Real Me”?

I am usually the one behind the camera; the one taking photos of everyone and everything; the one capturing the memories of this moment and of that event. Oh, I try to hand my camera to someone else occasionally so that I’m in a few of the photos in the family scrapbooks. And my older daughters sometimes catch me in unguarded moments and snap a picture or two.

Candid photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz

Candid photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz

I’ve become friends with a woman who started writing a blog as she approached her 50th birthday. Today she is putting the finishing touches on a photography project she started during that year. And she has become a professional photographer. I absolutely LOVE her work. Somehow she makes magic with her camera and shows the beauty of each person she “shoots.” (I’ve suggested before that you visit her photography website HERE.)

Jo captures beauty with her camera...

Jo captures beauty with her camera…

Last summer I celebrated my own 50th birthday by taking a trip to London to visit my sister. Among other things, I emailed my friend and asked about a photography session. As the date drew closer, I realized I was worrying…stressing…not sure I was ready for this. After all, my place is BEHIND the camera, right?

Worrying...about being the "model"

Worrying…about being the “model”

I spent time pondering why I was so uncomfortable having my photo taken. I realized that part of the issue was being disappointed when I look in a mirror…or look at a photo of myself. After all, I have wrinkles. I have thin hair. I have lots of extra padding (lots and lots of extra). That’s not the “real me,” the one I think of when I think of who I am. What happened to the beautiful, slender, young girl I used to be? Where did she go?

The "Real Me" was just waiting to be recognized!

The “Real Me” was just waiting to be recognized!

So, with a bit of fear and trembling, I met my friend. We enjoyed getting to know each other better in person. I met her husband. We had dinner together. I spent the night in her lovely extra bedroom. And in the morning, we headed out to the surrounding countryside.

Beautiful countryside...

Beautiful countryside…

...and a peaceful old church.

…and a peaceful old church.

It was actually far less painful than my dreadings. We laughed. We talked. We got a little silly together. And she took photos…LOTS of photos. I stopped thinking about how I might look and just enjoyed the time with my friend.

Having fun...

Having fun…

Getting serious...

Getting serious…

...with a smirk or two thrown in for good measure!

…with a smirk or two thrown in for good measure!

And somehow, when I got the photos back from her, she had done it again. She made magic with her camera. I look at the pictures and see a beautiful, mature woman. And in the process of being brave enough to trust this friend to capture the “real me” in photos, I received a marvelous gift. I now have reminders to smile at the woman I see in the mirror.

The Magic: Beauty Revealed!

The Magic: Beauty Revealed!

Thanks, Jo. You helped me reach for the magic and be able to truly celebrate who I am at this stage of life! You released my inner beauty and made it visible each time I look in the mirror.

PS—check out this blog post by my friend, Jo Blackwell. In it, she challenges each of us to see the beauty within us. And she includes a variety of photos she has taken of beautiful women (including ME!!)

Photo Credits: 1st photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz, all other photos taken by Jo Blackwell.

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