My 5 Favorite Things about the New Year

My 5 Favorite Things about the New Year

    Every year, I rediscover the week between Christmas and the New Year with mild surprise. All is quiet, or at least quieter than it has been in months. It’s as if the world, after careening through the parties and get-it-done workdays, through student final exams and family holiday preparations, has settled into a lull of stillness. Somehow, in these darkest, coldest days of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve pressed pause to catch our breath, to slow down and regain our balance before we shoot off again after the new year. It’s the collective stillness I love. My 5 Favorite Things about the New Year   1.  Time with friends and family. There are those in our lives who are with us through the daily mundane and the new and old challenges. Somehow being with them, together, helps us to become more of ourselves. They help to brush off the dust of everyday life and to find what lies beneath, our essence. And they love us despite it all. These human beings are my treasures. A favorite passage from Margery Williams’s 1922 book The Velveteen Rabbit: “[Becoming Real] doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you...
2013 Reflections: A Move Across the Ocean

2013 Reflections: A Move Across the Ocean

It’s the time of year to be still and reflect on the year behind, look ahead to the year ahead, and count the blessings, big and small. 2013 has been a huge year for me and my family. We did what seemed daunting, to say the least — we moved back to the US from living 4 years abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. The move across the Atlantic on the way over was challenging, and the move back (as the experts told us) would be tougher. It was, but we did it! And, as 2013 comes to a close, with so many things for which to be thankful, I’m taking this week’s post to briefly look back at the defining moments, by month. 2013 Reflections: A Move Across the Ocean January 2013: Over the four winters in Prague, I waited and waited for a chance to photograph the picturesque Charles Bridge powdered with snow. Last January, I at last had the moment on the Charles Bridge, completely alone. It was magic. I also had the dream moment, to spend time writing on my novel in a castle–the Prague Castle actually, in our friends’ palace inside the castle, the Lobkowicz Palace. The dream! February 2013: In Prague, our older 2 sons played on the middle school basketball team together, which was made up of boys from places like Afghanistan, China, Slovenia, South Korea. Their team competed against teams from Istanbul, Moscow, Budapest, Bucharest, Kiev, etc. and ended up winning in the final tournament game against Warsaw, Poland. It was the moment of a lifetime, especially with 2 sons on the...
Lake Como, Northern Italy, and the Beauty Found There

Lake Como, Northern Italy, and the Beauty Found There

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”  ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden During the holidays, in the changing of the calendars from 2012 to 2013, and in the pristine time of Christmas which is celebrated so lavishly in Italy, my family and I ventured from our home in Prague down into Northern Italy, to enjoy our final wintertime in Europe. We stayed in a cozy stone chalet nestled in the snow-covered peaks and a 13th century village high above Chiavenna, Italy.   On the way from Prague to Chiavenna, we stayed the night in Milan and had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of getting to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting. We also traveled past our favorite castles in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy. On our way north from Milan toward Italy’s notch of land carved into the south of Switzerland, we traveled along the famous Lake Como and lake district of Northern Italy.   So much of historyhas happened in this region, as with all of Europe. We imagined as we drove through tunnels and wove along the gorgeous coastline of Como. The best part was seeing the sky-high mountaintops at sunrise. The reflections, the morning pink rippling over inky nighttime black, the sawtooth Alps guarding over the beauty found there– all of it struck me and continues to strike me deeply. In our lives, we need quiet moments; time for reflection, conversation, and reverie; moments for steep hikes and snowballs; mornings of skiing and immersion in...
On Broken Hearts, Broken Bones, and Healing

On Broken Hearts, Broken Bones, and Healing

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. – Helen Keller As a rule, I don’t write about family stories, parenting, or my past here on my blog. I prefer to let my sons’ stories be their own, unless they say otherwise, to let my family’s stories be our own, and to let the stories of my past come out in fiction. I like to focus on the positive, seek out the beauty in everyday life, and share it here. But today, I’m breaking with that tradition. I need to write something personal. My Son’s Story: In August, my youngest son, almost 10 at the time, severely broke his arm playing basketball outside our house near Prague. Since the bone at his elbow broke off in a large fragment at ninety degrees, his fall tore ligaments, tendons, and nerves in the impact, and required emergency surgery. We had an excellent orthopedic surgeon, but the rest of our experiences at the Czech hospital were truly horrific. Someday I’ll be able to write it … The work toward healing has been a long process. Despite the hardships, my son has worked endlessly on bending and straightening his arm in rehabilitation, coaxing it to work and move again. His biggest hope has been to be able to play basketball and soccer with his friends once again.  This past week, his doctor approved him to play sports again. We are all thrilled! My Story: And somehow, in the celebration of his healing, I saw my own brokenness in a new light. The first 20 years...
Why I Love the USA

Why I Love the USA

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation. Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! -Francis Scott Key, 4th Stanza, Star-Spangled Banner Just days ago, I reentered the USA for a few weeks’ visit after 3 years of living abroad. I’ve lived in Prague, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe with my family as expats. We really have enjoyed our time and incredible experiences there. But, there is no place like home: the United States of America. After 3 years away, everything seems beautiful when reentering the USA, like: the wide roads and extra elbow room, just about everywhere the comfort found in being able to get what we need when we need it a warm smile, a helping hand from neighbors and friends and often strangers the simple things, like being able to buy and bring home clean grocery eggs, not covered in feathers or feces the softer things, like carpet and sound-absorbent walls But in the bigger picture, I am most grateful for three things: 1) Freedom 2) Diversity 3) the Spirit of Possibility I appreciate a country centered on the rights of each human, no matter the beliefs, background, skin color — that we all may become our best and contribute to the good of mankind....
Explore, Dream, Discover: Looking Ahead to 2012

Explore, Dream, Discover: Looking Ahead to 2012

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain To me, there is nothing like the thrill of growth, being stretched just a little further, reaching out toward the wind lashing my face as I race toward the goal, toward becoming my very best self. The feeling is a lot like the feeling of being aboard a sailboat, seaspray fanning out in rainbows with each slap of the bow against the waves, the boat tilting with the heave of the sails as the wind empowers the boat faster, further, out across the water. I love that feeling. While we all have our everyday lives, the weighty routine of laundry and grocery shopping and waiting in lines, we also have potential to grow and learn and continue becoming, no matter what our daily routines, no matter what our age may be. And while I unquestionably aspire to goals and hopes and dreams with my family, as a wife and a mom and a friend, and to giving back to others as much as I can, I also aspire to becoming my best self. To become the best me that I can be, with the various gifts and passions and energy and time I’ve been given. It’s a step by step process … becoming. A process that happens one year, one week, one day, one moment, one breath at a time. That is...
Reflections: Stormy Beauty over the Teton’s Jackson Lake

Reflections: Stormy Beauty over the Teton’s Jackson Lake

Storms happen frequently in Spring, especially in the United States … they’re not as violent here in Prague. I’ve always been someone who loves to watch the storms. In our prior backyard, I’d lie back on the kids’ slide and watch as clouds billowed and puffed and sailed by, wrenching colors out of the changing atmosphere that I never thought possible. Those storms happen when the weather changes–hot to cold, cold to hot, etc. Big changes. Like in Spring. I think it’s the same in our lives–those times of change, the big sweeps of one phase of life to another, cause the most storms. The storms of life can be just as violent as the storms of Spring. When I took this photograph, I was sitting at the edge of Jackson Lake in the Grand Tetons National Park, USA, and watching the weather swing wild with color and wind. It was breathtaking watching it, especially for the reflections on the water. For from the side, the reflections on the storm have a story to tell– colors and shapes and energy and blows that can’t be seen from inside the storm. Perhaps it’s that way in our lives … the reflections of our lives are like ripples upon the water. We gain meaning from the storms of life when we look and observe, and reflect. Do you like to storm-watch? Why? Related posts: Inspiration: The Grand Tetons Lake Como, Northern Italy, and the Beauty Found There Paradise Found: My Fourth of July in the Austrian Alps Beauty and Color in a Mediterranean Sunset Sky Capturing the Beauty in Life: Photography,...
Prague’s Stunner: Prague Castle at Night

Prague’s Stunner: Prague Castle at Night

“The Thames was all gold. God it was beautiful, so fine that I began working a frenzy, following the sun and its reflections on the water.” -Claude Monet, French Impressionist painter fascinated by the effect of light and reflection In all honesty, I still have to pinch myself to make sure that it is real — this living in Prague, majestic city perched along the Vltava River. We’ve lived in Prague for nearly two years, and I have seen the Prague Castle countless times. But I will never tire of seeing it. It is so beautiful. On this evening, my family and I and a friend’s family ate dinner along the River. These two photos show part of our view. Doesn’t seem real, does it? I love being here, in this medieval city whose past tells so many tales. Every view is breathtaking. And I can’t help wondering what Monet would’ve thought if he would’ve seen Prague … Surely, I am inspired. Have you been to Prague? What is your favorite view? Related posts: Reflections of Prague Castle at Night 3 Hours inside Prague Castle: 10 Favorite Sites to See The Artistic Mystique in Prague’s Vltava Bridges Prague and the Longest Day of the Year Nelahozeves Castle: the Finest Bohemian Renaissance...
Life in Story: Story in Life

Life in Story: Story in Life

“I would like it very much if you thought of me as a mouse telling you a story, this story, with the whole of my heart, whispering it in your ear in order to save myself from the darkness, and to save you from the darkness, too. [For]’Stories are light.'” -Despereaux the mouse, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo I love to write. Writing is me. But the deeper part of my love of writing and reading is my passion for STORY. Like an emerging picture in a connect-the-dots sheet, through story we connect our daily realities to a bigger meaning. Story brings illumination to the daily grind. A well-told story lends staggering power and beauty to ordinary life. Story transforms. Here, in December, I like to connect the dots of the past year–to see what story emerges from the days piled up in 2010. My story. Do you do the same? In 2009, a brilliant woman named Gwen Bell created an online community of year reflections. This year, she has teamed up with other women to create Reverb10, or a look and consider the reverberations of the past year as we turn ahead to the next. It’s a powerful exercise in intentionality, and a time to reflect on the STORY of our lives. One look at the Reverb10 site will show that the concept is to write, journal, or blog each day on the day’s individual prompts. But since I am a once a week blogger, I will write the week’s previous prompts in one day per week … so here it goes: My Reverberations of 2010:...