There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs. ~Henry Ward Beecher
The best way to summer read is to start with a stack of great books, the kind that will keep you reading all hours of day and night. The hard part is finding the great books …
On Memorial Day, I finished a great book, Kate Atkinson’s new novel, Life After Life. As with all books I absolutely love, I couldn’t seem to put it down toward the end. My husband took this photo of me, trying to squeeze in a few minutes more reading. Apparently, Morris and Poppy like it when I read, too.
I started following one of my friends, Nina Badzin, in her annual reading challenge a couple of years ago, to read 50 books per year. It’s been one of the things that has stretched me as a writer, a human being, and an online citizen. It’s also driven me to search for ways of finding great books.Read More»
“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.”
- Merida, from the recent (excellent) animated movie, Brave
Sometimes life calls us to do big things. Most of the time, all we want to do, naturally, is curl up and be comfortable, to settle and do the norm.
I know recently I’ve felt that way, and many times in the past. I’d love to pull up a comfy chair, sink back into the cushions with a cup of great coffee and a book, and stay there, for a long time.
But that won’t work for me, especially right now. My family and I are in the midst of moving back to the US from a four-year assignment abroad in Czech Republic for my husband’s job. Physically, I wouldn’t be able to pull up a chair to sit in because our furniture is in transit in a container on a ship plowing across the Atlantic right now. We’re becoming experts at reading, sleeping, and eating on the floor. Ask any intercontinental expat and they’ll tell you a similar story. It’s how it works … the adjustment to a foreign country, and then back again, takes months. Things are going well, smoothly at times, even, but the whole experience is tough and terrifying.Read More»
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than any magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. -Charles Dickens
Countless acquaintances and many friends have asked how the past month has been, and how my family is handling the huge changes we’re facing moving from Europe back to Ohio in the United States. We lived in Prague, Czech Republic, for nearly four years for my husband’s job. During that time, we grew in so many ways as individuals and as a family. We traveled extensively by car (25 countries), we saw as much and absorbed as much and enjoyed as much as we possibly could. It was a unique phase of life, one of opportunity for which we all are grateful. But now that we are back in the States, I find myself thinking on matters of the heart. I thought I’d share about the transition here …Read More»
“Walk towards the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.” ― Mary Engelbreit
Winter is a bleak time, especially in former Soviet Bloc countries. I know this well, from these four winters of living in Prague, where the absence of color and light seems to be magnified.
All around Prague, Communist housing projects scathe the skyline. Square buildings about 20 stories tall stand like trees making up forests of dense housing blocks. Laundry hangs from balconies in every type of weather. It’s about February every year when I really start to feel it. For me, the colorlessness comes not only from the snow and mud that covers the landscape, but also the barrenness of the season.
No matter where we live, though, or what kind of housing we live in, finding beauty is not easy. One of the hardest things in life is finding the good and positive in circumstances that are beyond our control.
It is so hard to …Read More»
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
For the past three months, I’ve been working on an experiment. It’s been a simple experiment, involving only my iPhone and an app called Instagram. The challenge has been to see if I can find one beautiful thing about each day and take a photograph of it. The result? An improved daily perspective.
This summer, I’ve seen beauty in unexpected places: a shell tree on the beach, a tangerine sunset, a fleeting rainbow, a used palette, a skyline, and a family game night Monopoly board. And now, once I’ve started looking for something beautiful in each day, I find I notice it more and more … a child’s smile, a held hand, a delicate flower.Read More»
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. -Anne Lamott
Being human means that life won’t always go smoothly. Last week for me was a very bumpy road made rough by a medical emergency, my severly suffering child, a rusting post-Communist hospital, and a wide language gap. Yep, it was a tough spot in the grand scheme of life.
It’s hard to know how to handle an emergency when it happens, but as it’s often said, the only way is through it. But moving through problems to get past a tough time is not easy. This is what I’ve come up with: 8 must-dos for moving through life’s tough spots with grace:
3) Eat and drink well.
4) Exercise.Read More»
“We want the girls to meld together. This sport helps train you for life that way.” -Betty Hess, synchronized swimming coach, Pennsbury Falconettes
Many years ago, there was a girl who loved to swim. One day at her swim team practice, she saw legs rocketing up out of her school’s pool water. Loud music blared from a speaker nearby. As the girl watched, she was entranced. How could these swimmers with pinched noses and gravity-defying legs swim like that?
The girl asked the gray-haired coach nearby about the music: “Does it play underwater?” The coach answered with a twinkle in her eye. “Go ahead. Try it.”
After one listen underwater, the girl was hooked. How did that coach know she loved music and swimming? The next question that came from her mouth was, “Can I do this kind of swimming, too?”
For the next four years, the girl practiced with that synchronized swimming team, for a few hours per day, four times a week. Soon, she held her legs out of the water like the more experienced girls, and she could compete in the synchro competitions against other teams on the weekends. And soon, the girl qualified with her team to compete in the 1988 Synchronized Swimming Olympic Trials, the first for the sport, that year in Indianapolis.
The hard work paid off.
At age 14, the girl was the youngest on the team, and was also the tallest. The coach had her work extra hard to get her legs back underwater at the same time as her teammates, because her legs were (too) long. And her team could count on her to help boost the bottom of the lifts, when the team hoisted the smallest girls all the way out of the water. The girl was thrilled to wear her team’s Road to Seoul t-shirt. She was trying out to become an Olympian!
The Olympic Trials proved to be tough. Her team swam its best, and earned 13th place in the nation. Of course, they didn’t get to go to the Olympics to represent the USA, but they competed against and swam in the same pool as the women who did. It was one of the greatest experiences in the girl’s life.
That girl was me.Read More»
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m not sure there is a way to become an expat besides just taking the leap. Actually, a leap from a cliff into a murky pool of water. There is no way to know if, on the other side of a Trans-Atlantic move, it will work out until you try it.
It’s like diving into a murky water, fast moving in parts and slow moving in others, and the views along the river are all unknown. Everything is unknown. Where will we go? What will we do? Where will we live? How will we make a life in the complete unknown?
Those were all questions in my mind when I leaped, with my husband and three young sons, into the darkened water that was a move across the Atlantic, from quiet and predictable suburban Ohio, USA, to an endlessly interesting village just outside Prague, Czech Republic, three years ago. It was an act of faith.
Before the move, during the swirl of days of selling our house and cars, and packing our furniture for its two month trip across the ocean, we had a two-day seminar with a Cultural Trainer to prepare us for our new country of residence, to help brace us for becoming citizens outside our home country, expats. Most of the things our trainer said were daunting, and all seemed impossible. But I made a practice of making mental notes to keep me for the coming months and years. Those notes — they have all paid off in full. And, after three years, I can honestly say ALL of the unbelievable things the trainer said have been or become true.Read More»
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” – Henry Ford
When we were young and in school, we had the wonderful opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves, to sharpen and stretch and grow, and find out new things about ourselves. But when we cross the threshold from college years to adult responsibilities, something happens. Our focus shifts from learning and growing as a person to making a living.
A few years ago, a dear friend began talking me into playing tennis with her one morning a week. Tennis happened to be one of the hobbies I learned to play in high school, but the skill had been sitting in my pile of have-beens since earning paychecks and raising boys had become my primary focus. But one day, in the month of April, I gave in. I pulled out my old (really o-l-d) racket and joined my friends on the tennis court. And you know what happened? I had fun.
I was hooked.
Since then, the same friend has helped me to step my tennis game up many more notches. We now take tennis lessons together from a pro. And yes, though it is fun, in a bigger way, the lessons are a challenge. I am being stretched to excel at something, to learn and grow and become my personal best.
Active learning has costs: money and time. And, learning as an adult requires an adventurous spirit. It’s so much easier to make a fool of ourselves (or so we think) when we learn as adults.Read More»
Some may say simple writers may not be able to build their own website, and have it look professional-grade. But I disagree. I think if you can structure a 80 – 100,000 word novel to lure a reader through a story to page 380, and you can bake a cake from a box, then you can build your own beautiful author website. It’s all about making informed choices, asking questions, watching tutorials, and knowing what sort of look you want to have to the Web World.
It’s 2011, e-book sales are climbing steadily, and the world increasingly looks to the Web for information, links, and ways to form virtual relationships. If you’re an author, you know you need a website, an inviting home on the web. It’s imperitive. But where do you start (that doesn’t involve selling your car, your dog, your yacht, and your kitchen sink to cover the initial website fees)? That’s where, since I’ve just gone through this process, I’d like to help.
Many web sites are free, like Blogger.com, Typepad, and WordPress.com, Facebook, Tumblr and more. But the drawback is that they also look and act free, and their sites have your content. On the other side of the spectrum, professionally-done websites can cost upwards of $10000 dollars per year to create, run, and maintain (see this testament by publishing house Chairman and author, Michael Hyatt). And while there are more options than ever, I do believe there is a middle ground — an option that doesn’t involve investing huge chunks of money into the process.Read More»