“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 the surroundings.
The time in the Italian Alps was such a gift. It was a beautiful, gorgeous, incredible place to spend time as a family around Christmas and the new year. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.
Next Wednesday, I’ll be posting photographs of the even-more-stunning beauty we found in the Saint Moritz lake region of Switzerland.
For You: Do you live near water? Do you enjoy seeing the reflections at sunrise and sunset?
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!
And somehow, in the celebration of his healing, I saw my own brokenness in a new light. The first 20 years of my life were tough; these second 19 years I’ve spent on healing from the first 20. Why?Read More»
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:Read More»
“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.
– 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 why, every year about this time, I take time to think back over the year behind me, and count up all the things for which I am thankful, proud to have done, and happy I invested the time in doing. Always, there are so many things to smile about in remembering the previous year. And looking ahead at personal goals, Mark Twain’s quote always comes to me as a thread running between the year behind and the year ahead. I always have to ask: What is it that I most want to do in this coming year? What are my goals? My hopes? My dreams?Read More»
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?
“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?
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:
December 1: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why:
Alive. I choose the word Alive. This year, life has been rich, and through all of the varying experiences, tough or enjoyable, I have tried to live out a conscious choice to be fully present, fully engaged, and fully embracing where God has brought my life. This year has been the best of my life. I am grateful for the journey.
December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
Honestly, my life involves little more than things that contribute to my writing. Besides the actual time I spend writing (2 -5 hours per day), I believe that all the experiences we have in our lives build into the stories we have to tell. Whether it is the conversation over coffee I have in the school cafeteria with another mom at drop-off or the grocery store clerk who in anger throws my bread to the floor, the experiences of daily life make up the richness of my life which I tap for all of my writing.
December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.
I felt most alive this year when standing on a peak in the Alps with my family. The sun shone brightly through the puffed clouds skipping across a blue sky seemingly just above our reach. And the greens in the Alps–they were so vibrant it seemed no grass and forest could be more lovely than the carpet spread over the mountains below us. Hiking with my family–this is when I feel most alive.
December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
Traveling naturally creates a sense of wonder for me. I continuously marvel at the differences and yet the similarities between cultures and countries so near yet so far. With our unique situation of living in Prague, Czech Republic, we were able to travel through and absorb places like Montenegro, Hungary, coastal and mountainous Tuscany–16 countries in all in the past year. A tremendous gift. I loved it all.
|Kotor, Montenegro across Kotor Bay|
December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
Letting go of pleasing people is, has been, and will probably always be my most difficult problem to overcome on a daily basis. But this year, I have learned deep lessons and made strides, I think, in letting go of destructive relationships–ones where others are concerned only with their gains from the people in their lives. Life is too short to be dominated upon by people who are never pleased with others, and make that known loudly. There are too many people to love, and be loved by, to spend precious hours and days on whether or not they are happy.
December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made?
A snowman! We have over two feet of snow on the ground in Prague right now, and last night, mostly by the incredible work of my boys, we put together a six-foot-tall snowman just outside the kitchen window. I love it!
December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?
This past Spring, friends urged me to join their tennis group, to play tennis once a week at the local clay courts. I hadn’t played in ten years or so, because of the kiddie years. But now that I’m playing with this fabulous group of ladies, I am not only loving the competitive doubles exercise, but also the lavish community we have together.
December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up.
Different. Gosh, I do know that I am different. We all are different. For me, it’s evident at first glance, in person, because of my height (pushing six feet) … but I would like to believe that the beauty in my person-hood comes from my love of embracing others for our differences, and enjoying the similarities we share. I feel most in my element when listening to the stories of others’ lives, how they became who they are, and how they plan to overcome obstacles moving toward their goals in the future.
Thank you to the great folks at Reverb10 for helping us revisit the past year, to learn from and look ahead to the days and years to come. I love intentional living. Thanks! Next week, I’ll continue with the next week’s prompts.
Starting the Conversation: What have you felt about your past year? What one word describes your past year? And what one word would you like to say next year at this time about your 2011?