Thursday, October 22, 2020
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
In the late 1970's, shortly after I graduated from high school, I headed to Kiel, Germany for a year of living, studying and a bit of volunteer work abroad.
|Homesteading in Nebraska.|
While in Kiel, I lived with a host family. My host family consisted of my host mother, father and their teen daughter, an only child. The family had regular contact with and consistent in person visits with aunts, uncles and the grandparents of my host sister on both sides of the family. These visits gave me the opportunity to get to know three generations of Germans in an extended family. However, until I had the ability to understand and converse in German, I didn't have many conversations of substance with the grandparents.
Despite several years of taking German language classes in high school, my German was very limited. My host family actually didn't mind. Learning English themselves, was a factor, in their motivation to host me. Hosting an American student was an opportunity to have an in house tutor and to improve their own and their daughter's command of the English language. Over time we all improved our communication skills in both languages, plus quite a bit in pantomiming.
|At the time I took these photos, the Berlin |
Wall was still very much a reality. People
attempting to escape East Berlin
were still shot.
As my fluency in German improved, my interaction with the extended family members of my host family increased. One of the grandfathers made attempts to speak English with me. He made it known that he was interested in having a conversation once my understanding of German improved. Living in a setting where learning a second language is a necessity, provides an optimal opportunity for becoming conversational in that language. Eventually, having conversations of substance in German became a possible and proud reality.
As a young adult, I was surprised when the grandfather in my host family broached the subject of Germany during WWII with me. I listened, respectfully, to my elder, who had clearly been anticipating the chance to address me, the young American about Germany's history. He was anxious to describe and explain the participation of the German people in the Nazi movement. He clearly wanted to explain his own membership as a teen in Hitler's youth.
|Another American exchange student and I|
had the opportunity to visit Berlin with a
family whose siblings were separated from one
another by the Berlin Wall. They had
been unable to see close family
members since the end of WWII.
He was led to believe, at the time, that participation in the organized youth movement of the dictatorial government was the only opportunity to work to improve ones life and the prosperity of their country. It was a chance for the people to be a part of something bigger and important. There were no other options. That is what he was told and what he believed.Basically, what he was saying to me, was that he and his fellow young countrymen bought the propaganda of the time and place. It promised safety, security and prosperity. The lies promised prosperity without risk. Little did they know (Did they have any idea? I still wonder.) the huge cost to themselves, their Jewish neighbors, to their country and ultimately to the world. They were headed into a life without choices, a life of complete tyranny. They did not anticipate the horrors that were the result of handing over personal belief, integrity and responsibility to those obsessed with power. Life without freedom. Life controlled by the state. A state without, accountability. Or morality.
|Visiting the Berlin Wall with a family whose |
lives were so profoundly affected by it's
presence was beyond eye opening.
That was another experience to write
about on another post.
I see similarities in our current political environment to what I learned about the time described to me by my host Grandfather.There are parallels in our current culture, with mandates to follow new guidelines without question. There are restrictions in our movement, interactions, businesses and worship. There are requirements to wear specific clothing items, and to conform. There is a silencing of dissenting ideas. Views different from the mainstream are shunned. Many are afraid to voice an opinion that differs in anyway. In real life interactions or on social media platforms one risks being verbally attacked for sharing independent thought. Symbolically, we wear covers over our mouths, quieting our voices and hindering even our breath. The forced conformity is being easily implemented by the extreme fear that has been fostered upon us though the natural human desire for safety. The conformity is enforced by critics, neighbors and even friends who have now risen to new levels of condescension, those around us have become the snitches, dubbed the "Karens", they are the enforcers in our lives, in our own times.
An attempt at life with every risk eliminated, of complete security and with all of our desires met without any effort of our own, is not likely to result in growth or deep understanding. If all of our basic human needs are to be supplied by someone seemingly more intelligent, with more resources and more personal power than ourselves, where is our own growth and self actualization? If only another can provide, what happens to our own power of choice? We will ultimately view those providers with envy. Will we only participate begrudgingly in a system from which we will always want more? Will we always look to others to provide easy solutions for ourselves without assessing our own responsibility?
The conversation I had with my host grandfather, so many years ago has come to mind frequently in the last months. As we have all acquiesced to following the ever increasing limiting rules for our own safety and security, I remember his need to explain. As we continue to obey every new level of restriction, we are relinquishing control over our own lives at each step. We are trading our own individual judgement and power for the false promise of complete safety and life without risk.
Despite my own struggles with the fear and anxiety due to the threat to the health of myself and my family, I have lived long enough to know that life without risk really just doesn't exist. It just doesn't work that way. We take precautions but none of us really live a single day without risk. If we do, it is not likely to be a very satisfying life. Living life while attempting to be completely safe and watching others around me attempt the same, the fear that has grown in me has been the fear of our entire citizenry living in complete compliance. The anxiety churning in me during this ongoing lengthy crisis is of being surrounded by others controlled by the power of false safety. I fear living in the midst of the willingness of others to march lock step without evaluating the situation. Seeing completely unquestioned compliance with power terrifies me beyond the fear I have of an illness.
It all has served as a reminder to think for myself, encourage my grown children to do the same and to value the freedom we have had the good fortune to be born into. I pray that I will have the courage to continue to trust my own thinking, speak it when helpful and to act on it when needed.
He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security. - Benjamin Franklin
|As a result of current events,|
I've been digging more into
history. Currently reading
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.
|Find good books!|
Another thought provoking resource for deeper insights, I found:
Friday, September 25, 2020
As our time sheltering in place with everyone at home has come to a close, it is with anticipation that I am looking to the future again. Our three young adult offspring have all headed back to their own individual residences, to their now, somewhat altered lives and activities, that were only just beginning and abruptly interrupted last spring. I am thankful for any and all of the opportunities for them to begin again, to take even small steps back into the world, beyond our home in lockdown.
However, the transition back into the world warrants some reflection as well, especially given that the unexpected extra time together provided many joyful moments and a significant amount of productive activities together.
Below are a few photo highlights documenting some of the goodness we redeemed while being forced to stay home together for an extended time. We attempted to maintain a tone of gratitude during the unusual circumstance that was so frequently and accurately described as unprecedented. Reflecting on all we gained, I hope to hold the many precious memories as reminders to approach the future with courage and even awe after seeing what can come from such uncertainty. I suspect that ongoing courage will be needed as we continue 2020.
So as for the many memories, first and foremost; food, delicious food. Our kitchen got busy again with more people to prepare and have meals with. The unscheduled extended time offered the chance for lots of baking to happen and breaking bread together.
Friday, July 31, 2020
Early in 2020, one word, as a likely candidate for my word of the year, didn't come readily to mind. Since it didn't come easily, I didn't force it and I didn't write a 'word of the year' blog post. Sometime during the weeks, (or was it months?) after the beginning of the new year, a word surfaced that resonated for me. That word that kept surfacing was 'trust'.
Appropriately, given the adjustments to our new family configuration of teens and young adults moving out of the house (mostly), I was in a new season. I needed to trust the process, as I re-imagined and restructured my life with more options for myself with time to pursue my own individual goals. Somehow during that process in the early months of a new year, I skipped writing about and sharing my 2020 word choice.
Fast forward into the second half of 2020... now.
Here we are - all of us, myself, my husband, my young adult children and undoubtedly, you, too, in the wildest overtly most uncertain year of most any - in our lifetimes.
My unacknowledged word of the year has come in handy and not in the ways I initially imagined it would. I have turned it over and over in my mind. I have turned to it regularly and clung to it. It might have begun as a word to focus on, as a hopeful hedge against the concerns of my children's forays into their new beginnings, or as simple motivation to keep taking the next step myself, as I restructured my own time and goals, but for obvious reasons, it became a word, a thought, a concept that has meant much more. Trust in those expected areas of transition, in the first few months of 2020, was it seems now, relatively easy. Looking back, those changes were just par for the course, hardly an overwhelming challenge. Trust - no problem - I've got this!
And then..... mid-march, it all hit the proverbial fan. Pandemic, bring and welcome all three kids back home, additionally my husband began to work from home, online work from home for everyone, online classes to complete the year's educational goals for two, including dance classes via zoom in the living room for my daughter. No in person church, gatherings or even meetings with friends, shopping for groceries equals a whole new adventure. Each of those experiences individually haven't been too hard, but piling them up, one on top of another has caused some trembling.
You know - you've been adjusting to the same things.
|“Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.”|
― Emma Donoghue,
I use my intentionally chosen word against the word that comes more naturally, viscerally invading so much of my experience these days. I use it against that word, that feeling, that comes oppressively heavy handed in 2020. Trust, repeated again and again. Breath in, breath out - trust - to fight the thief, and replace the the word that is, fear.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
If you happen to be a Dave Ramsey follower, you will know that he frequently recommends "rice and beans, beans and rice" as a low cost meal suggestion to reduce food costs and assist in attaining financial goals. I don't know how many people take his suggestion literally but we've been using those two ingredients in our family's diet long before we ever knew who Dave Ramsey was.
We have always included beans and rice as regular meal items in our family menus. Dried beans are inexpensive and healthy. Thy are an excellent source of protein that store well for long periods of time. The only downside of dried beans, in my opinion, is in the planning and preparing side. Dried beans need to be soaked in advance to allow for a shortened cooking time, so failing to plan ahead can lead to a change in plans for a meal. One fail to plan back up is to keep canned beans on hand as well as dried.
A few of the basic meal ideas that we start from are below. Most include the extraordinary high value per $ power of dried bean nutrition. All are easily adapted to personal taste or what is on hand in the pantry.
Kidney and/or black beans. Canned stewed tomatoes.
Diced peppers and onion sauteed lightly.
Frozen corn kernels.
Ground turkey or ground beef.
Season with chili powder, garlic.
Navy Bean Soup
Navy or white beans.
Sliced carrots. Cubed potatoes.
Saute onions and garlic.
Soft Tacos served with rice.
Pinto beans in tortillas (flour or corn).
Serve with rice and other yummy additions, like sliced avocado, sliced sauteed peppers, cheese for individual garnishing.
Yellow or green split peas. Add chicken broth if you have any.
Garbanzo beans, sometimes referred to as chick peas blended with the following;
Optional additions: Pumpkin. I try to keep canned pumpkin on hand.
Serve with bread.
Other low cost, easy to store ingredients to create from:
Pasta. Any kind of noodles.
So many possible variations:
All the options can include serving with veggies on the side or over the top.
Saute veggies to add. Frozen veggies are easy to store.
Make a pasta salad or a casserole that includes tuna.
Serve noodles with a peanut sauce; so simple, heat peanut butter with added water. Add soy sauce to taste.
Serve noodles with spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes.
Add peanut butter & sliced banana. Both affordable and easy to store.
I'm sure by now, most visitors here have adapted to the current normal. Even within the stay safe restrictions, most of us can eat healthy and remain within a budget that helps our finances stay healthy, too. If you situation makes that extremely difficult, please reach out for assistance in your community. We are all in this together!
Friday, March 27, 2020
I always have a backlog of creative projects waiting for me. I enjoy creating designs for embroidery and stitching them. There is usually a hat, scarf or baby blanket on my knitting needles. I frequently have an idea for a drawing or painting floating around in my mind.
Our new lifestyle of an empty nest has opened up the prospect of bigger blocks of time for me to follow through on more of those ideas. Over the last several months, I have been developing the routines I need to really dig into my own creative pursuits again.
Now with the social distancing and shelter in place directives our home has suddenly returned to full and overflowing. Even with a full house, I have been able to utilize the forced time at home productively and creatively.
While it is currently a scary time in the world with social distancing and shelter in place orders in effect in Illinois, I can't say that I mind the slowing down aspect of it all. Even with the return again to a full house, I am have been able to utilize the forced at home time productively and creatively.
So far I have completed one, left from last year (lol) Christmas project, made progress on a pieced baby blanket and worked on more than one painting. I have also enjoyed getting out the watercolor paints for shared time creative experimentation time with my 18 year old daughter. Sharing the creative process with her is such a delight. We have been working on sewing some clothing items for her, as well.
I am missing my forays out into the world with my camera but I have plenty stored and ready for some editing. Many have been taken as a way for me to record an image idea for future inspiration and use as a catalyst for new ways to explore an image. Below are a few visuals from one of those adventures.
One thing leads to another...
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
And then the return began, with the awareness of COVID-19. The threats it presents have been shaping a new reality. Due to the demands for health and safety for, ourselves, our neighbors and communities, they have all three dove back into the nest of our home. It is in many ways, lovely to have them here. Due to the surprise of it, it is in many ways a more impact-ful change than their leaving was. It is lifestyle altering again for each of us individually and for all us as a family. From a family perspective it is a return to a former stage of family life but not of parenting. From an entire life, work and world perspective, it is a new reality, beyond what any of us have confronted before.
For how long? Who knows? Make plans? Live in the moment?
As a former homeschooling family with three young adult graduates, I have been used to having everyone home. Some seasons included more inside all together time than others. Some seasons were filled with activities, schedules and commitments.
There were weeks of jam packed schedules with activities of travel, work, sports participation, volunteering and other obligations. Other seasons, there were quieter times of stay at home art projects, outdoor nature wanderings, backyard picnics, lots of read aloud time. They were in our homeschooling years frequent days of unstructured time without a schedule.
There were many days when the three kids began some self-
initiated or group project among themselves. I rarely interrupted those self initiated endeavors with my own agenda. A day of them recording their own "radio show" on an old tape recorder, home developed animated lego videos, as just a couple of examples, seemed to have, potentially, more value than would have been gleaned from a lesson from an academic program I could impose.
Even in those free for all, unstructured times it was valuable to approach the day with a routine. To begin together with a breakfast or brunch gathering, a read aloud or a check-in to see what was on everyone's list of to do lists. and pursuits.
Winter was generally a more low key for us but it also frequently, meant responding to what the weather prompted. There were ongoing commitments to neighbors to shovel snow, deliver the local weekly paper despite the cold or assess the temps that produced the right conditions to skate in the backyard rink.
All the many activities and experiences contributed to real life learning and skills; math, reading, writing, communication, project management, along with some joys and disappointments along the way.
So for now, sweet families, try to enjoy each other and your time together. Choose happiness. Choose to be positive. Choose to see the blessings. Relax, meditate, breathe, pray, read, think. Let your mind empty, wander, enjoy the quiet moment and the chaos. Be willing to see what brilliance you yourself posses and can discover in each of those you are sheltered in place with.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
|I set reading goals for myself for the year of 2020.|
Reaping the Benefits of Reading
My 2020 list so far.
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
One Simple Act by Debbie Macomber
All the Places to Go How Will You Know by John Ortberg
The Enchanted Hour The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
This is my new favorite regarding the joy of reading aloud.
A bit more about these two titles on an earlier post.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
And one audio.
The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
Social distancing has presented the opportunity for more reading. In recent weeks, when I have been able to get started with a good read, I have found the time reading to be a welcomed escape from the anxiety that currently shapes the world and has managed to intrude into our homes and lives. Taking the time to dive into a good story, individually, gives us a break from our current day to day concerns. We might discover a better point of view from which to approach our intended plans. If we are sharing the experience of reading a title with others for a book group discussion or as a read aloud we share the experience of thinking about higher ideas or another's story and have another basis for deeper connections and creating community. My hope is for my family, friends and everyone, really, to enjoy the benefits from picking up a former favorite title or a recommended new one during this unprecedented beginning to a new year.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
The first month of 2020 is gone. February is flying fast right behind. I didn't and I haven't in the past made many resolutions or used the year's beginning as the only time to set goals but this year I did set some reading goals for myself. I have planned to read one fiction, one non-fiction and listen to one audio book each month of 2020. One and a half months into 2020 and I have exceeded my goal. I have been thoroughly enjoying my reading for myself based on my own interests.
For the first time, I set a New Year's reading goal for myself for the new year. Entering 2020 with an empty nest, I have felt the need to establish more than a few new routines. Reading has brought me hours of joy through out the years so it's time for me to intentionally return to that experience intentionally and regularly.
It's been awhile since I've read a novel just for the sheer joy of reading. The first novel for my reading year was Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.
Half Broke Horses led me straight to another title of Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle A Memoir. This recounting of her life story was fascinating and in some spots a little to close to home. In particular her description of her father's process of detoxing from alcohol, an experience I witnessed with my own father when I was a teen. Despite the fact that this is based on the authors life story I found myself frustrated with the ongoing dysfunction of her parents. Had this been a fictional novel I would have put it aside for the lack of resolution. Given that it was someones real life, I kept reading. Thankfully the story does have some redeeming resolution. You'll have to read it to discover the outcomes for yourself.
To add to the fun and my own sense of accomplishment, I'm keeping track of the titles by recording what I've read in a reading journal. While browsing at a local bookstore, I discovered the Literary Journeys A Readers' Journal. The small splurge of purchasing the journal has me listing the books with the sole purpose of recording my own reading progress. In the past, I've keep a running list in a word doc but have often skipped adding what I've read to the list and though I've added notes occasionally about some titles, the list method just wasn't inspiring me to keep track anymore. With space provided in the journal to include notes, other titles by the same author, writing down thoughts inspired and quotes by authors in one place, it is helping me to see my reading journey as a process of growth and the motivation to keep it up.