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?



Most of you know that I’m a list-loving gal. Making lists helps me clear my brain; helps me think, and plan, and organize. Once they are made, I don’t necessarily have to follow the lists. It is the making of them that is significant.

For those who have followed this blog for the past year and a half (really? It’s been that long?!!), you have seen my lists of things to do. You read my plans for a “personal year of jubilee” leading up to my 50th birthday. You heard some of my resolutions and listened to my ramblings about “what’s next.”JILL EMMELHAINZ-0008

As this year ended, I tried to join some friends in looking back over 2012. The idea was to answer questions and capture the highs and the lows of the past year. Somehow, I just couldn’t get motivated to do that pondering.

And as the new year loomed, I tried to get excited about making new lists; lists to give direction and focus to 2013. Usually I find such list-making to be invigorating. But, again, I was totally unmotivated to do that type of pondering. (I know, I know…I must be ill…no lists?! How could that be??)

At first I thought it was because of the traveling I wrote about last week. After all, wandering in Europe with 2 of my daughters is compelling. And living with friends in Germany for a few months is exciting.

But eventually, I realized my hesitation at list-making was something more than not being a focus of time and attention. I realized that God has been trying to call me in a still, small voice.JILL EMMELHAINZ-0047

I haven’t wanted to hear what He is calling me toward. It was easier to ignore that quiet voice and strain to hear a roaring thunder of clear direction. As a friend likes to say “first-born have to be in control” and I’m definitely a first-born. And I like to be DOING, keeping busy, helping others, exploring my surroundings, trying new things, pursuing dreams, encouraging others to do the same.

My call for this year? My “one word” for 2013?


I am challenged to live a life full of “being” this year. Active living, not just sitting around; but focused on “being” rather than “doing.”

I will keep you posted on how I do with this great-big-challenging-task…

(Photos taken by my friend and professional photographer, Jo Blackwell. See her website HERE. Specific wording of “be-living” came from a blog post by Ann Voskamp which can be found HERE.)

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?!

Hated Goodbyes…

I greatly enjoyed a few days with both of my older daughters recently. It has been a year since we were all three together. Some days that makes me sad. Some days I HATE the goodbyes.

But the time we do get to spend together tends to be sweet. Oldest daughter Celia lives and works in Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Middle daughter Nettie is finishing up a seasonal job with the Peregrine Fund in southern New Mexico. Celia was home for just a few days so we arranged a get together for the three of us. (Thanks, Hubby, for letting us spend the money and the time to meet together!)

Crafty Time Together

We met at a scrapbook/craft retreat at a camp in Capitan NM. We had almost 24 hours together to laugh, talk, get crafty, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. I worked on a scrapbook all about Girls and Girlfriends—time spent with my daughters and other special women in my life. Celia finished an altered book she started many years ago, and painted a picture of her cousins. Nettie hand-crafted some beautiful cards. Yes, time to craft was good…but time together was even better.

Then at the end of the weekend, Celia and I drove 4+ hours to Deming to spend another 24 hours with Nettie and her work/room mate. (16+ hrs of driving in 4 days all within one state…distances out here in the West still confound this eastern girl…but that’s another story for another day!) More time together to laugh, talk, get silly, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. (Plus we got to see the hacksite where Nettie spends her mornings and evenings releasing endangered falcon chicks to the wild…another story for another day!)

Silly Time Together

Chili Mangos — Hot and Sweet

On Monday afternoon, we spent a few hours at the local fast food joint, using internet. At first I thought it might be a waste of valuable relationship time…but then we started sharing things we were reading, music we were listening to, and helping each other find resources. Turns out it was another chance to spend time together to laugh, talk, learn something, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. Plus, we got good drinks for cheaper than *bux prices!

Computer Time Together

But then that dreaded time came. The time to say Goodbyes. Did I tell you I HATE goodbyes? Yeah…

And just a few days later it was time for Celia to get in the car and head to the airport, leaving for another year in Kazakhstan. Yes, another dreaded goodbye…

I’ve been thinking about that. Perhaps we should not have encouraged our kids to follow interests and passions. Perhaps we should have kept them close to home. (Of course, we keep moving where “home” is located…but you get the idea.) If the kids never left, there wouldn’t be so many goodbyes…

But as I’ve thought about that, I realize without Goodbyes, there are no reunions. There are no happy Hellos. We would start taking each other for granted. We might not set aside time together to laugh, talk, have fun, eat, and enjoy each other’s company and that would be a bigger loss.

I guess I just have to accept all those hated Goodbyes…and look forward to the next Hellos!

Waiting for the next Happy Hellos!

Progress Report…

It is only 20 more days til I reach 50 years old! Still hard to believe that I’ve been on this earth for so long…and hard to believe there is such a short time left in this Personal Year of Jubilee.


a favorite photo from last May

I decided to take a look back–at the past year, at the plans I made for the year, and at my blog site. Here is a summary of what I have and haven’t done toward reaching the goals I set…

12 Monthly Focuses:

June: Cello — I practiced hard and realized I can still play a pretty mean cello. I also discovered a “Jazz Cellist” during the year. I wanna learn how to play like him! (And it’s a good thing I did some practicing to give me confidence—I’ve been asked to play duets with my violinist sister for my son’s wedding in October–EEK!)

July: 1000 Origami Cranes, October: Poetry, February: Daily Art Journal, and March: nightly Sunset Viewing — These really didn’t happen. I still like the idea of these things, I just never really got around to doing them. Maybe they will happen regularly at some future time…or maybe not.

August: Daily Photo Assignments — I really enjoyed these projects. And, yes, some of them were a stretch for me. I definitely want to do this occasionally in the future!

September: Prepare for Husband’s 50th Birthday — check! did a good job of this, if I say so myself 😉

November: Gratitude List, and April: walk 50 1 mile walks in honor of friends — I’m working at this. I have the list of people who have influenced my life, I have the list of lessons learned from them, and I’m gradually working at the 1 mile walks. It won’t happen in the 50 days leading up to my birthday, but I figure I can keep working at it until I finish the list, right?!

December: journal prompts to finish out the year, and January: personal scrapbook — I didn’t follow the plan I originally listed, but I did participate in making a Christmas Art Journal. I did most of the scrapbooking in October at a retreat with a friend. Both projects are well started…but I still need to finish them.

And here’s the update on my goal of 50 Activities for 50 Years:

Artistic: I got a tatoo just before the 4th anniversary of my son’s death in April (I’ll blog about this including photos soon), Anna and I have started a doll’s quilt with her doing most of the sewing, I have almost finished the animal coloring book (and will post scans, I promise!), and I am QUITE excited about a scheduled photo shoot while I’m in England in June. I also added: making a really cool heart to color as a gift for a friend

I sent a black & white line copy to my friend for her to enjoy coloring

, and signing up for LifeBook 2012 (an e-course with bi-weekly art projects).

Fitness: I would love to announce I have slam-dunked this category…but no, nothing has really changed! I have started walking more regularly. I have also started training to complete a mini-Triathlon sometime late summer or early fall. I guess that is a start…

Literary: I made my list of 50 books. I forgot all about Beowulf (gotta check the library this Wednesday). I’ve left a number of books in places for others to discover and take home. Memorizing poems? Nope, didn’t happen. But I have written a number of poems I’m quite pleased with! (see HERE and HERE for two I posted)

Entertainment: haven’t yet learned to play by ear—I think I’m switching that goal to learning Jazz Cello! And I haven’t watched many movies—those who know me, know I tend to get distracted and wander off! I did discover a new band that both Anna and I love—Pink Martini—in addition to going to a CD release concert by a wonderful singer-songwriter friend of ours, Alison Kitchen. Oh, and I discovered a wonderfully creative duo of Cello & Piano. Check out their videos HERE and HERE.

Other things: Never learned to milk a goat, train my dog for dog agility, or pick our own fruit. Did have a fun camp-out with Anna last June.

camping trip

Camping trip with Anna…and with my dog!

And I got a massage at the Scrapbook Retreat in October. (It was fine…but nothing I would spend money for in the future…) No paper quilt is in the works (although I still love the idea). I’m working on the walking project. And I’m QUITE EXCITED to be going to London England in late June to spend 2 weeks with my sister. YAY!

Weekly Plans? Not so much—again, these were great ideas, but most never happened—except for writing regularly on this blog. Now THAT is something I have enjoyed and plan to continue!

So…just 20 more days in the first half (or so) of my life. Then I move into the next phase. I’m looking forward to it…

On Patrol…

Seven years ago at this time of year, I was getting ready to start classes to become a National Ski Patroller in northeast Ohio. The first night was simply a registration session, time to pay for the course and pick up the syllabus, the big thick textbook and the almost-as-thick workbook.

As I drove to that first session, I had a panic attack. I started shaking and had an overwhelming urge to turn around and slink back home. This was a strange reaction for something I was looking forward to! I stopped in a parking lot and called a friend, explaining what was happening and asking her to pray for me.

nsp jacketAs she prayed, things suddenly became clear. I was hearing echoes from middle school—not athletic enough, not good-looking enough, not special enough, to join the “popular crowd.” In my mind, ski patrollers were the golden people, the good looking ones at the ski resort, the hot-shot skiers, the “in-crowd.” After all, EVERYONE wanted to wear one of those nifty jackets with the big cross on the back and be the hero to save people’s lives!

Once I recognized what was causing me to panic, I thanked my friend, hung up the phone, gulped a few times, and finished driving to that sign-up session. Yes, the training stretched my brain at times. Yes, I wasn’t sure I could master everything required to become a ski patroller. Yes, I was nervous about passing the skills test later that fall. But…I stuck with it.

I became one of the “golden-people.” I got to wear that special jacket. Even being overweight, older, and not-so-coordinated couldn’t stop me. I, yes I, was part of the National Ski Patrol.

Over the past seven years, I have enjoyed patrolling in a number of settings. I gained an instructor certification for the emergency care part of the certification process. With the encouragement of patroller friends, I persevered and gain my “senior” certification.

on patrolIt was often said that fellow ski patrollers become “family.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I enjoyed spending time with new friends, with mentors, and with fellow instructors. I delighted in helping students find the “aha moments” as they put together knowledge and skills in the classes. It was fun to see my kids get involved in the Jr. Patrol. But “family”? I already had plenty of that.

Then one of our sons died unexpectedly. Beyond close friends, church friends, and family, we were also joined by ski patrol “family” while we waited and mourned on that long, long day at the hospital. In the days and weeks following our son’s death, my ski patrol “family” surrounded us, bringing food and stories and cards and love. Yes, I realized, they truly were more than friends. They proved themselves to be “family.”

Our family moved to a remote area of New Mexico almost two years ago. We are working with at-risk Navajo young people. I love what we are doing. In addition, I am jumping through the hoops to transfer my EMT-B certification (earned before we moved out here) from Ohio to New Mexico, am taking an on-line instructor certification class, and am considering doing the work to get EMT-Intermediate certification.

I only wish there were ski resorts within a reasonable drive. Too bad the sheer-sided mesas out here don’t hold enough snow for skiing! I’m confident I made the right decision to not renew my ski patrol certifications…

…but I sure miss being one of the “golden-people.” I miss wearing the special jacket with the big white cross on the back. I miss being a hero to save people’s lives. Most of all, I miss my ski patrol “family.”

I was reminded of all I miss about being a ski patroller when I saw THIS VIDEO posted on facebook. It gives an excellent picture of what it is like to be a member of National Ski Patrol. I only wish it showed an older, overweight, not-so-coordinated patroller on the smaller hills of Ohio. Then it would truly be a picture of my experience as one of the elite—of me “on patrol.”


shrug atlasWhat do you do when the world is heavy on your shoulders? When it feels like you are carrying more than you can handle? When others expect you to carry the burdens because they can’t…or won’t…or don’t…?

Years ago I read a book which I keep coming back to. Over the years the picture it paints of American culture becomes scarily more and more true. The book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Yes, it has some preachy sections that go on and on about the author’s economic views. Some of those views I agree with, and many I just skip over. But it also has good advice for life: When the world is too heavy on your shoulders…SHRUG!

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do recently. We love being here in Navajoland. But living and working here takes all of my emotional energy. There is great joy in working with children and young adults. There is excitement in witnessing an “a-ha” moment. And there is great pain in walking with our friends through tragedy. I have realized that I have enough energy for what I am called to do, including nurturing relationships with family and friends. But no more than that.

So…I’ve decideworld in handsd to put up some boundaries in daily living. I choose to pursue things that I’m passionate about. While that often involves serving others, I do NOT choose to continue carrying burdensome weight that could or should be carried by others. I do not choose to have my energy drained by negative comments, or backbiting, or second-guessing by others. I plan to SHRUG!

I am no longer willing to carry the world on my shoulders. When I carry my piece of the world in my hands (with God’s help) it is not overwhelming. With passion, the work becomes enjoyable and the world feels manageable.

What are YOU carrying? When is your time to SHRUG?


(images from Microsoft Office clipart)

Previous Older Entries