Monday, April 17, 2017

At home in the world...

I've sort of sometimes kind of skimmed the blogposts at "The Art of Simple," but there are a lot of posts, and many of them just aren't all that interesting to me, personally. There are several contributors to the blog, and some of them have ideas of "simple" that are way more complicated than my ideas of simple. For example, a recent blogpost about "packing light" included at least twice as much as I pack! But every once in awhile a post catches my eye and I read the whole one, and I WOULD like Tsh Oxenrider's book, which is being released tomorrow.

The newest post, in honor of the release of the book, "At Home in the World," posed several questions and challenged people to answer them. That appeals to me, partly because I'm not particularly creative but love talking (= writing), but also for the sake of the topic itself. So for those three people who sometimes read my blog, here goes. (For all I know, at least two of those people skim my occasional blogpost the way I skim most of those I "read", but that's why I like blogs...nobody is forced to listen, but I get to ramble all I want without feeling guilty for doing so, because if YOU decide to read the whole thing, it's YOUR problem.)

So finally getting to the point, here's the first question (in italics) and my response below.

1. Share about a place where you feel at home in the world.
This can be anything from a little coffee shop in an obscure back alley in a tiny village in Central Asia, all the way to your favorite armchair in the corner of your bedroom. Tell me why you love being there so much, and why it feels like home to you.

My spontaneous response to the title of the blogpost was "anywhere but in the U.S." Despite having lived in the United States for just over 19 years (not consecutive, but from birth until 20 1/2, so nearly), and that still being my only passport, I never "fit in." And the problem is that when one doesn't fit in where one is expected to fit in, the result is, at best, being ignored. Maybe that's mostly just childhood (and definitely teenagerhood) in general, but the three months I spent in the U.S. at the age of 35 weren't any different. I don't particularly "fit in" anywhere else, either, but nobody expects me to anywhere else. Outside of my passport country it's kind of that I'm given more freedom to be me, but I mostly take the freedom to be me whether it's given to me or not, so it's not even that. At the very least, outside of the U.S. people can shrug and blame my me-ness on my passport, but they don't reject me because of it. At least, that's the impression I get.

There ARE specific attitudes I enjoy in other places that I never knew I missed in the U.S. until I met them other places. In Latin America, for example, hugs and kisses are everyday life, every day, multiple times a day. I like that. When with my host family in Costa Rica (I was an exchange student there for seven weeks when I was 17, and have been back to visit ten times since), I enjoy greeting and being greeted every morning, by every member of the family. When anyone leaves or arrives, it's hugs and kisses all around, and the same when anyone goes to bed. Some people would hate that (and most U.S.ians seem to), but I love it.

In Germany, where I lived for over 17 years, it's "only" handshakes, but there's still always a connection. In some ways, Latino culture and Northern European culture are totally opposite (maybe "warm climate culture" vs. "cold climate culture" could be the topic of another post...), but I feel very at home in both.

Another aspect with both is that I KNOW where I stand. In Costa Rica and in Mexico (I lived in Mexico for one year when I was 18-19), people say, "Stop by anytime!" and they really mean it, and if you don't stop by, they'll ask you why you didn't and when you are coming. I've only been back to visit Mexico once, for one week, and at the end of that week I flew back to Germany from a city 20 hours away by bus from where I'd been staying with a friend. When my friend realized I'd be arriving at 9:00 at night and my flight was the next morning, she said I should stay with her cousin. Her cousin didn't have a phone and there was no other way for anyone to get a message through, but they gave me the cousin's address. When I arrived, I took a taxi to the address. These people who had never even HEARD of me before opened the door to a stranger, in the rain, late at night. When I said I was a friend of Carolina in Tuxtla, they welcomed me in, fed me, and put me not only in the room but in the bed with a teenage daughter, and were disappointed that I was leaving the next day.

In Germany, it's nearly the opposite in that people only invite you if they really want you, and they don't necessarily, so one doesn't get the "open invitation" of Latino culture. However, again, I'm comfortable with that because I know where I stand. If they invite me to stop by next week for coffee, they want me to do so and they expect me to do so, and if I don't do so, they'll wonder what's wrong and probably feel hurt. I don't have to wonder whether they're just being polite, because in my experience, Germans don't bother "just being polite." (And having been married to one particular German for 22 years, I do have a little bit of experience to go on.) Some U.S.ians mean it when they issue an open invitation, and some even expect to be taken up on it, but I am so utterly lacking in intuition that I can't figure out who does and who doesn't, so it's just a source of confusion for me.

And now I live in Cyprus. The friendly attitude here to large families (which we also experienced in Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, and South Africa, but not, unfortunately, Germany) is a huge bonus, and I do very well with the laid-back attitudes about time that resemble my experiences in Latin America. And hugging and kisses (on both cheeks, as opposed to only one in Mexico and Costa Rica) are normal and people are hospitable and mean it. That's all cool. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to be really immersed in Cypriot culture, the way I was in Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and even some in our short time (two months) in Thailand. There are certainly practical reasons for that, one being that virtually everyone speaks such good English that it's not been necessary to learn Greek (I'm the only member of the family who can communicate in Greek beyond greetings and set phrases), and there are so many ex-pats that it's very easy to have a very full life without encountering many Cypriots. All the children take drama classes, four are currently taking music lessons (from British teachers), we're active in an English-language church which includes activities during the week for all ages, etc.

At the end of all this rambling, though, there's still the question of how I define "home." I'm good at feeling AT home nearly anyplace (except in the U.S., where I mostly feel stressed...), and I'm good at LIVING where I am. We were only in South Africa for four months, but we had library cards within days of arriving, I joined a homeschool mothers Bible study and a mother-toddler group, the children played with the neighbors, I taught Sunday school, we took the train regularly, we knew where to go grocery shopping: we lived there. Still, "home" was in Germany, where my books were, and that's a definition I've used before. By that definition, the only homes I've had were my childhood homes (five, although three were the same neighborhood, two of those three literally in the EXACT same place, seeing as the last house was built on the site of the house that burned down when I was ten) in the United States, Germany (seven different houses in five different cities), and this house in Cyprus, where we've been for over eight years now, the longest consecutive time my books have stayed on the same shelves in my entire life.

I like my bed, too (we brought it with us from Germany), and no matter how much I enjoy traveling and how comfortable other beds were, there's definitely a moment of sighing happily, "It's so good to be home," when I get back to my own bed. And as it's 10 minutes until tomorrow, that's where I'm headed now.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Books finished in February 2017

After carefully keeping track of the books I read in January, I thought I'd keep that up in February, but didn't write them straight down here and am even less sure that I got them all. I rather hope not, because I don't like to think that I truly only finished six books in the whole month! Again, unusually, all of those listed are ones I read for the first time.

Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth  A friend from church saw my post of the books I had read in January and offered to lend me this, a sequel to Call the Midwife, which I of course gratefully accepted. This was likewise very good, although sometimes difficult (emotionally) reading.

Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon  I have the first half dozen or so of Jan Karon's Mitford Series, but have been able to borrow all the others one by one as my friend Sue acquires them. I enjoyed this very much, especially following on the heels of a somewhat depressing book set in post-war London. There were a couple of incidents that were a bit difficult to believe, but I can't think of how to mention them without giving away something rather startling, so I won't!

A Vicarage Family, Noel Streatfeild After enjoying Tea by the Nursery Fire, a fictionalized (but categorized as non-fiction) account of Noel Streatfield's father's nanny, I very much looked forward to this book, the first of the three that are essentially autobiographical. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was that a few characters were completely changed. Yes, I realize that both books are fictionalized, and I know that it can be difficult to remember some details one has made up, but the essential characters of Noel's paternal grandparents are completely the opposite of who they are in the first book, so I wonder which is closer to the truth or if they're both completely fictional. In both cases, they play fairly major roles, so it seems odd! Also, a detail about the nanny's life is completely opposite in the two books, again, a fairly major point in my opinion.

Beyond the Vicarage, Noel Streatfeild This is the third of Noel Streatfeild's autobiographical books, and seemed rather disjointed. It was much more a set of rambling memoirs of an older lady than the first one. (I can't compare to the second one, as Sue, from whom I borrowed both, doesn't have the second one, and when I looked it up on amazon and couldn't find it for less than £28, I decided I wasn't buying it myself, either!) It felt very odd to have some things fictional (for example, the main character is called Victoria Strangeway), but then for the actual titles of the books that Noel Streatfeild wrote to be listed and talked about one by one. Sentences like "Victoria had not read that book since it was published until she re-read it 40 years later while writing this book" when referring to a book, by its correct title, written by Noel, of course, seemed totally out of place. I like memoirs and can ramble just fine on my own, but I suspect that this was published at all mainly on the strength of it being a sequel and being by a well-known author.

The Girl from Venice, Martin Cruz Smith Jörn bought this book at the airport in London and read it in a relatively short time (especially for one who virtually never reads fiction) and talked me into reading it. It took me forever to get through it and I still don't know if I "liked" it. In general, historical fiction is my favorite genre, and specifically, I particularly appreciate World War II historical fiction. But the drama between brothers and not trusting the author to keep certain people alive (he did, after all, except one that he killed off turned out to be alive and then he killed him off anyway...) and the suspense were all things that were not on my list of enjoyable reading. Also, it's set at the beginning of 1945 and I always, very unreasonably, have a hard time not getting annoyed with the characters for not realizing that the war is nearly over anyway...

Past Mischief, Victoria Clayton I read this book in two days, the day I finished it including getting up at 5:00 a.m. and reading until 9:30 (with a short break for a shower, and eating breakfast while reading), having about 10 pages left. I took it with me to church and read another two or three pages before the service started, much to my husband's disapproval (LOL), but actually waited until I got home to finish it completely. It was a very satisfying book, for the most part, with some very surprising twists and finishing with the right number of ends tied up neatly, but not too perfectly to be believable.

I'm of course still reading to the children every day (as I have been doing for 19 1/2 years, and did plenty before that with borrowed children ;-) ), but will only mention that we did read two more Narnia books:

The Horse and His Boy and The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis Again, these were supposedly being read to Helen and Elisabeth, but my husband wouldn't let us read them without him. We managed to finish just before he left for Israel, then had to wait a week to start The Last Battle.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Books finished in January 2017

These are the books I read to myself and finished this month. It's kind of embarrassing how few there are. I'm in the middle of three or four other books at the moment, but as there are only 2 1/2 hours left of this month, I don't expect to finish any more. I was first writing these down as I finished them and had a hard time keeping my comments short (okay, I didn't keep my comments short), but eventually ran out of time to make any comments at all. I don't think I missed any books, but may have. Unusually, every single book I read for myself this month I was reading for the first time.

 At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson The first Bill Bryson book I read was Mother Tongue: the Story of English and How it Got that Way, at least 20 years ago (and re-read several times since). I'm pretty sure I've read most of his books by now, although I only own about half a dozen myself. I've borrowed them from several friends, and the librarian lent me this one (from her private collection), as she did the Shakespeare book by Bill Bryson. I started this after Christmas and finished it New Year's Day.

Arthur, King of Britain, by Michael Morpurgo I think what appeals to me in the King Arthur stories is the utterly casual mix of history, legend, and magic. I went through a King Arthur phase when I was a teenager and own several books from then, but I hadn't read much more in the 30ish years since. I enjoyed this very much. And I read all but the last five pages of it in practically one sitting, while waiting for different parts of a check-up for the application for health insurance. (I was there for three hours. People kept apologizing for how long I had to wait, and I kept saying, "Look: I'm sitting here reading peacefully. I don't know if my children and husband at home are as happy, but I'm fine!")

Twist of Gold, by Michael Morpurgo I read this in one sitting while holding a cat who was missing her humans. Okay, it's a children's book and only took two hours, but I really like Michael Morpurgo. His books cover so many different topics, a lot of them historical fiction (my favorite genre), but not all, and some of them totally surreal. This one was historical fiction about the Irish Potato Famine, or rather, about a sibling pair who manage to escape.

Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth

Better Than School: One family's declaration of independence, by Nancy Wallace

Tea by the Nursery Fire: A Children's Nanny at the Turn of the Century, by Noel Streatfeild

When the Siren Wailed, by Noel Streatfeild 

Angel, by Colleen McCullough

And....I figured I may as well include the non-picture books I read aloud to the children. I read a LOT of other books to them, as well as parts of many other books. (For example, I'm currently reading to Helen and Elisabeth The Usborne Children's Encyclopedia, When We Were Very Young, The Llama Who Had No Pajama, a children's Bible, Hero Tales, and probably more.) All of the books listed below are ones I've read aloud before, but not to the same children.

all the small poems and fourteen more, by Valerie Worth We'd been reading this book for about a year, as part of Sonlight's Core 5 (or F, rather, as I really should get used to calling it, as they changed the names, oh, at least four or five years ago...), "Eastern Hemisphere Explorer," which is what Lukas and Katie are doing right now. This particular book doesn't actually have anything to do with the history, but Sonlight includes a poetry book every year, and this was the one for this Core. We generally read the book several days in a row, three poems each time, each of the three of us reading one out loud, and then would go weeks without reading any.

Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis I haven't been getting very far in Sonlight with either Helen or Elisabeth, because we keep reading so many other books! I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to them in December and then started this. Jörn started listening in and then requested us not to read unless he was there! (I made Jörn read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before we went to see the movie in December 2005, but that was the only book he had read. :-) )

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis Again, Jörn insisted on listening in.

The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis Jörn wasn't so sure he was going to listen to this one, disappointed that none of the Pevensies were in it, and finding some of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader too weird. He doesn't actually like fiction much, and fantasy even less. So he didn't listen to the first chapter...but then got drawn in and yet again wouldn't let us read if he wasn't home. And won't let us start The Horse and His Boy until he gets home again! (He's been in England for the last five days, gets home tomorrow.)

The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes Another Sonlight book, this one from Core K, for Helen and Elisabeth. Since Jörn was gone, I had to read something non-Narnian.

Peter Pan (abridged), by J.M. Barrie, retold by Susan Shebar I know I read this to Jacob, Lukas, and Katie (that is, three separate times), and I think I may actually have read it to Lukas several times. It's just barely not quite a picture book, but it's very abridged, and not very well done in my biased opinion, and I'm not sure why we own it or how we got it. It's part of the Sonlight Core K (um...A), or at least, it was in 2002, but I know I didn't buy it because I had the original and didn't see any reason for the abridged one, and Marie read the original on her own when she was five anyway. But we have it, so I read it. It was something to keep the children at bay while waiting for Papa to be home tomorrow so we can continue with Narnia.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Running with bunions

Four and a half years ago, I started walking daily. It soon turned into jogging, which I found I was enjoying tremendously, and much to my surprise, in November 2012 I participated in the 6K 16th Annual Larnaka Run. In October 2013 I ran again, pleased it was only 5K that year, as I had quite a bad cold and it was a hot day. I barely finished, but I did it, running the whole way. In November 2014, I ran yet again, the officially 6K run being only 5 1/2 kilometers due to construction along Makenzy Beach.

"Running," by the way, is a term I use strictly by definition, in that while I propel myself forward, both feet are off of the ground in between steps. I'm very slow, slower than some people walk (hello, Tim!), and have no desire to push myself any faster. I'm not racing, just running. Sort of. :-)

So, by that definition of running, I continued running virtually every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and some Sundays, from summer 2012 all through 2013 and 2014. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I walked (and still do) with my friend Sue. Sundays I sometimes run, sometimes walk, sometimes ramble with awake children, sometimes go for a bike ride, and sometimes stay in bed. I call it my "wild card day."

However, various circumstances led to me running much less in 2015. Several unconnected, but traumatic-to-me, events occurred at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 and it rained a great deal in January and February 2015, and I was not in a good place emotionally, which got itself into a vicious circle with my physical well-being. In September 2015 I finally decided to metaphorically kick myself in the rear and get running again, to be able to participate in the 19th Annual Larnaka Run. A couple of days after I started doing so,  however, I found out that the run was later than usual that year, not until November 15th. On November 15th, we were in an airplane on our way to the United States. So I quit running.

February this year, I decided to start up again, following (as I had several times before) the C25K program. This three-day-a-week, nine-week program is meant to get someone from sitting on the couch ("C") to ("2") running five ("5") kilometers ("K"), and it's pretty awesome. The first time I did it, I was struggling at the beginning to complete the first week's plan of alternating jogging 60 seconds and walking 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes. When I started in February this year, I easily did that the first day for 30 minutes, and was pleased at the end of nine weeks to be easily jogging 6-8 kilometers three times a week.

Except that my right foot hurt.

It had started hurting the first day I jogged, and I tried to ignore it. After a week, I got new shoes, which seemed to help some, but it kept hurting. Sometimes little twinges, sometimes sharp, shooting pains that made me gasp and almost stumble. I thought I probably should quit running, but I didn't, and sometimes it didn't hurt much, so I tried to ignore it. But when I got to the end of nine weeks, in April, I quit running again. My foot didn't hurt as much when I walked (which I continued doing three times a week with Sue, until the weather got too hot for her), and sometimes didn't hurt at all, and sometimes hurt a great deal at random times when I wasn't even walking.

At the beginning of July I finally stopped by the office of a podiatrist who is just around the corner from us, and she listed to my description and said no, she wouldn't give me an appointment, but recommended an orthopedist, so that's where I went. He pretty quickly diagnosed bunions (both feet) and sent me to have an x-ray. He was actually surprised that my right foot hurt and my left one didn't, because apparently, the x-ray indicated that the left foot was worse. The right toe looks worse to me:

(The dark mark, by the way, is the shadow of the camera, not a tan!) Either way, I was surprised. I thought bunions were what old ladies who wear terrible shoes get. Nope: according to this orthopedist, I was born with them, and it was surprising to him that I'd never before had any kind of pain. When he heard that I go barefoot a lot, and that when I don't, I NEVER wear high heels or pointy shoes, and that my favorite shoes are Birkenstocks (not that I've had any for three or four years, but I do wear wide sandals), he said that that was likely the reason I'd never had problems. When I started running in February, in old, thin (but oh, so comfortable!) shoes, I'd probably hit a stone just right (or just wrong, rather) and "caused trauma," and it was inflamed and wouldn't get better without treatment.

Happily, he didn't recommend surgery, saying that he prefers conservative treatment, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and told me to try to avoid walking, and to cool the painful area with ice. Yeah, right. A week later we were going to Germany, and I knew that on that Saturday we'd be going to the zoo with friends, walking all day. So...I stuck it out for another week, and the day after the zoo visit, I started taking the anti-inflammatory, and it was easy enough to stay off my feet for a lot of the time of our conference (Family Camp) that next week. By the end of the next week, my foot was a LOT better, and I'd also bought a new pair of running shoes at Aldi around the corner. The new shoes are technically a bit too big for me, but they tie snugly while leaving my toes plenty of space.

The orthopedist also mentioned that there a lot of products on the market which claim to help against bunions. In his opinion, none of them "fix" anything, but some of them may relieve some of the discomfort for some people. The gel pad I bought that day did help considerably, although it wasn't all that comfortable to wear.

And then I started thinking about running again. The doctor wasn't too supportive of the idea, telling me that swimming would be the best sport for me. I don't WANT to "do a sport," nor "go exercise," I just love running. And I don't like to swim when it's cold, or in the sun, or in a pool, so even though I live five minutes from the beach (by car), I don't find swimming to be a very practical thing very much of the time, whereas I live 350 meters from a beautiful four-kilometer-long Nature Trail next to the Salt Lake, with convenient markers every 500 meters. I also don't find riding a bicycle that exciting. I like using it to get someplace, and an occasional bike-ride for fun is okay, but my knees hurt and my bottom hurts and besides, traffic here is SCARY. I was starting to feel pretty miserable again, discouraged and sorry for myself, because after more than 20 years of no sport whatsoever, I'd finally found something I liked, that was good for me, free (except for shoes), and convenient, and I was being told I'd "never be able to do it again." I walked twice in July (with one friend), twice in August (with another friend), and in September started walking three days a week with Sue again, but no running.

But this is 2016 and there IS the internet...

Googling "running with bunions" brings up 1, 790, 000 results. So I'm not the only one who has thought about this, by far. The main conclusion I drew from the few articles I read was that running would NOT make the actual deformation I have any worse, it was simply a matter of treating the symptoms and dealing with it. Encouraged, I stopped by the pharmacy again about six weeks ago and decided to get "toe separators," as they appeared to be highly recommended and not very expensive. (Why they come THREE in a box, I don't know. I only have two feet. But three of them for about 6 Euros doesn't seem too bad to me.)

I was skeptical. I never could stand flip-flops or any other sandals with a strap between the first two toes, finding them extremely uncomfortable. However, these things are made of silicon, and besides, I'd discovered that just HOLDING my big toe out to the side relieved the pain, so I figured it was worth a try.

NO PAIN!!! And no discomfort from these weird-looking things, either. And I've been running, occasionally, for six weeks, and have NO PAIN. I participated in the 20th Annual Larnaka Run. My time was the slowest ever (even slower than last Sunday, when I ran six consecutive kilometers for the first time since April), but I did run the entire way, and of the 600+ participants, there were at least a dozen or so who finished after I did. (And there might have been four more if I hadn't teased unmercifully those fit-looking teenage boys from a local private school, telling them that they should NOT let a fat old lady beat them, and to GET MOVING. I passed them about 20 times, and they passed me about 20 times, because either they were sprinting or creeping. I just kept going. They sprinted the last couple of hundred meters and did finish before I did.)

Incidentally, four of my children participated today as well: Helen and Elisabeth in the 500-meter run:

Waiting at the starting line, Elisabeth is under the "E", in the bright pink shirt and being held up by Lukas, and Helen is next to her under the "H."
There were way too many children crowded together for me to get a photo of them finishing, so I took this photo afterwards. They were very proud of their participation medals.

Katie in the 1000-meter run:
Waiting to start, Katie under the "K."

Katie walked most of the way, only sprinting the last 50 meters or so after I'd gone to meet her to encourage her to finish, and since I was holding the camera, that meant that I didn't get a photo of her finishing, either, so took one afterwards. Two or three children did finish after she did...

And Lukas with me in the 6000-meter (doesn't that sound more impressive than 6K??) run:

Jörn took this photo of us, together with two friends from church who were running in support of Oasis Project. They both finished well before I did!

Lukas running the last 100 meters or so, after walking over half of the way, finishing about 10 minutes after I did, but not last...
This is the first time Jörn has been there to cheer us on, as he was out of the country all of the other three times I participated. Which also means that there's a rare photo of me, as Katie ran to meet me just before I finished:

And to finish it off, the photo Jörn took before the race, before we were all hot and sweaty, and while Katie was still considering re-considering:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


We're in Hamminkeln, Germany, which is legally our home (at the moment it still is, that is, and has been for seven a half years, but we'll be unregistering next week, which is another story...), but have never lived here. Our other legal home is in Cyprus, and is definitely the place we call home. It's where I keep my books. :-)

We often stay in Hamminkeln while we're in Germany, as our sending agency has their headquarters here, and a guest house we're able to use. This time, we're actually here TO be here, for the Family Camp they're running for the third time. 25 children and 26 adults participating this year, plus plenty of staff, and as wonderful as always! There's a children's program during the morning and evening sessions, and lots of free time, to relax and to chat with other people.

And this evening's topic was TCKs: Third-Culture Kids, which, by definition, my children are. And three years ago I wrote a post about why I believe I have Aquired TCK-ism, identifying considerably more with TCKs than with my "passport culture," although maybe I'm just multi-cultural. Whatever. Anyway, it was interesting, although not new information for me, and I especially enjoy hearing people's anecdotes. (Had to laugh especially at one the speaker shared. She had overheard a child being asked where he's from, and he shot out with one rushed sentence: "My-mother-is-American-and-my-father-is-German-and-we-live-in-Cyprus." Guess who THAT was. Her point was that he answered quickly as if he were used to answering that way, that none of us can give simple, quick answers. Totally true.)

One thing that was said tonight was something I hadn't noticed before in definitions of just who is a TCK, though. It was that "you know you will be returning 'home' someday." That's a difficult concept for me, partly because I am always "home" where I happen to live. (I said that in the post I linked, too. I have never lived 'away from home', because where I live IS home.) And it makes me wonder if that then disqualifies my children from being TCKs, as it is highly unlikely that we, as a family, will ever return to Germany (and cannot, as a family, "return" to the United States), and if any of them did ever move to Germany, I don't think any of them would think of it as "returning home." Marie, who spent the last seven months in the United States and is going back there in September did not "return home" when she moved to her passport country; she moved to the United States. I wouldn't even call it "returning home" if I were to move back to the United States (which I have no intention of doing, but there are a lot of things I never had any intention of doing...), and I did live there 19 (non-consecutive) years, still the most years in any one country, although less that half of my life.

So I then asked a few of my children what they would answer if asked where home is.

Helen (nearly 8) said, "Well, I would ask if they know where Faneromeni is, and then tell them to go down the street the same direction as the church, and turn left at..." and gave complete directions to our house. In Cyprus, of course. (She's lived in Cyprus since she was four months old, in that house since she was six months old.)

Katie (11 next week) said, "In Larnaka, in Cyprus. Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, between Turkey and Israel." (And NOT part of Greece, as we have found we regularly have to explain...)

Elisabeth (6) started at me like that was a dumb question, and as she highly disapproves of dumb questions (that is, questions that she knows the questioner knows the answer to), she finally just said, "I need to go to the loo" and left. Proving again at least her international-ness, as "loo" is BRITISH and NOT a word I ever, ever use!!! (I have nothing against it, but it's not part of my vocabulary.)

Lukas (14) said, "Cyprus."

So, I thought I'd add a photo or two of our time here, but I just checked the camera, and so far, the only photos from the Family Camp are of cake and of Duplo. We're too busy enjoying ourselves to take photos, I guess.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

More Laura Ingalls Wilder

Facebook reminded me that five years ago today, I blogged about my interest in (read: obsession with) Laura Ingalls Wilder. What I don't understand is why I didn't mention The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, which, as far as I remember, was the reason I wrote the blogpost in the first place. Unless maybe I didn't have the book yet, just wanted it? In any case, I have it now, and I've bought myself one more book since then and received another two, so I definitely need to update.

The Wilder Life was written by someone who actually makes me look only mildly interested in Laura, yet, in another in, if I lived in the United States and had the time and money, well...I would have loved to research and write this book myself! It was a fun, light-hearted read, with no new information for me about Laura, but enjoyable going on the journeys of exploration with the author.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, was my birthday gift to myself a year ago. It was exactly what I'd been wanting for at least 35 years, and even better. What really amused me was how many of the negative reviews on amazon convinced me that I would probably love it, and I was right. "Too many footnotes" was my favorite comment--that was what I WANTED! And there were people who complained because it destroyed their picture of the original Little House books as absolute fact, people who complained that it gave Rose too much credit, people who complained that it didn't give Rose ENOUGH credit, people who complained that it was "just a rough draft," people who pointed out that a facsimile of the original rough draft is available for the cost of photocopying, etc. I don't understand why those people bought the book in the first place, because none of those were hidden issues in the book description! As for the people who complained that it wasn't like the TV show...there's just no answer. In any case, I absolutely loved it. AND, for the first time in many, many years, I actually learned new things about Laura and her family!! Okay, not very many, to be honest, but a few. ;-) The absolute only drawback that I found with this book is that it is huge, and therefore, can't be read in bed, as it's far too dangerous if I drop it on my face. (Or on my sleeping husband's face...)

Laura Ingalls Wilder: a Family Collection and Little House in the Ozarks are both collections of Laura's writings for newspapers and farm magazines and there is a lot of overlap, but they're both worth having (for a die-hard fan, anyway!), and are organized quite differently. I'd read a very few of these articles previously, so it was quite exciting to have so much new-to-me information.

The Family Collection consists of about 80 articles Laura wrote for the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1918, but is arranged by theme, and none of the articles are dated, which is a little frustrating to me. It does say that they are arranged chronologically within each section, though. And at the end of each thematic section there are a few footnotes.

Little House in the Ozarks, is likewise organized by topic, but does not keep the articles in chronological order, although each article is dated! I'm pretty sure that most or all of the Ruralist articles in the other book are also in this one, but this book continues through 1925 and has nearly 150 articles altogether. There are a few footnotes throughout, on the relevant pages rather than collected at the end.

I see no need for yet another collection of the same articles, but if I were to be the editor of one, I would keep it strictly chronological, with the date and location of publication on each article. I prefer the footnotes on the relevant pages, as in Ozarks, but don't like the quotation boxes (there's probably a more technical term than that!) throughout and would have the layout more like in Family. And I would include photos, which neither of them do!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Weekly activities

So, there was a comment that one might have a biggish family if there are multiple outside activities every day of the week, although nobody does more than one or two things. Yep, I think that's pretty accurate. There was also the question of what being so-called "homeschooled" means in the teenage years, which will be mentioned here some.

Elisabeth, age 5 years and 10 months: church/Sunday school, Midi-Club (activity group at the Greek Evangelical church for children ages three to six), and drama class.

Helen, age 7 1/2: same as Elisabeth, except that her drama class is preparing a play, so has two rehearsals a week. Oh, and piano lessons.

Katie, age 10 3/4: church/Sunday school and drama. (Her class is also preparing a play and has two rehearsals a week.)

Lukas, age 13 5/6: church,  two drama classes (meaning two plays, and four rehearsals a week), youth group, and saxophone lessons. The weekly youth group, Friday evenings, is an inter-church group run jointly by members of several churches and attended by 12-18-year-olds from even more churches and not in churches. There's also a youth ministry run by our church, called MTB ("More Than Bacon"), which has a brunch once a month, Bible studies sometimes, a movie night once a month, and occasional other activities. Oh, and the youth used to play basketball every Sunday afternoon, but that hasn't been happening much lately.

Jacob, age 16 5/6: at church he's sometimes in the band (plays djembe and cajon), always plays when the youth band plays, and is sometimes on sound. He's also in drama (his play is in less than two weeks, so two loooong rehearsals a week at the moment), youth group (and the youth band), and MTB, and has been working a lot, both for a construction company (installing locks in hotels) and privately in home renovation, as well as with his own business buying and selling used pallets and building custom-made furniture and other things. He hasn't, somehow, had much time lately for blogging or other writing. (He published a pamphlet about slavery in the chocolate industry a few years ago, published a youth magazine for a couple of years, and has had several articles published in local magazines and on-line. The fact that he didn't learn to read until he was eight years old and I never required any reading or writing of him does not appear to have slowed him down any.) Oh, and he has a girlfriend.

Marie, age 18 1/2: she's living in California, USA, at the moment, with my sister. She's volunteering in a literacy program in a public school, taking a psychology course at the local community college, and recently got a job in a pretzel shop at the mall. She'd also recently joined the music team at the church she's attending, but I don't know if her new job has interfered with that. (She plays the violin.) She'll be home in June. Incidentally, she self-published her first book three years ago, and has been talking about completely re-writing it and submitting it somewhere for "real" publication.

Me, age 45 (much to the shock of a young mother yesterday, who couldn't figure out just WHAT to say--I could totally see her face going, "But, you don't look that old! Wait a moment, I can't say that, because then I'd be implying that you're old! But you don't look that old!"--I was highly amused): I've been attending a particular church more-or-less regularly for about two years, after four wonderful years of not regularly attending ANY church. The last year has been pretty much every Sunday, and since last September, I've been teaching Sunday school (the youngest group, 3-5-year-olds) two Sundays a month, and helping in the creche/nursery one Sunday a month. I get to go to drama, too, helping in the 3-5-year-old class (in which I no longer have any children--I just love that age group!), and as of two weeks ago, helping backstage for two of the classes that are preparing plays, Helen's (7-10-year-olds) and Katie's and Lukas's (10-13-year-olds), so that means three or four rehearsals a week for me, too. For the last year and a half I've been attending our church's twice-monthly "Ladies' Fellowship," but we had a meal together last week which I think was the "end of the year meal," meaning that we won't meet up again until autumn. I go to Midi-Club with Helen and Elisabeth (well, at the moment, I only get to go for the last half hour, because it overlaps with Katie's and Lukas's rehearsal). And I have writers' group once a month. Oh, and Greek lessons once a week.

I can't even start on Joern. He has work at the House of Prayer, art sometimes there and sometimes at the studio (oh yeah, that's work...), meetings with all sorts of people (oh yeah, that's work...), pastors' and prayer leaders' meeting every other week (oh yeah, that's work...), worship evening at the House of Prayer every other week (oh yeah, that's work...), lots of time on the computer (oh yeah, that's work...), and...there's a bit of a trend here. It's pretty cool when one loves one's work!! (I just asked him what I should write for him, and he said "shopping." That's grocery shopping, which he does 95% of, as well as most of the cooking! I am in a GOOD PLACE. ;-D )

I think those are all of our formal activities. We go to the library every other week; sometimes go to Little Muse's Saturday morning shows; spend every other Sunday afternoon with our friends Sue and Richard (the children watch a movie while the adults play board games, then we have dinner together); have what we call "house group" every Friday (a shared dinner here and then sitting and chatting for anywhere from the next 30 minutes to the next three hours, which sometimes includes the Bible and often includes the dictionary and/or looking things up on the internet); have people over for meals; go to Sue's and Richard's to play games (just Joern and I, that is); very occasionally get invited to other people's homes (there are a lot of us...); I walk and/or jog most mornings at the Salt Lake Park (three days a week I walk with Sue); Joern takes each of the children out once every two weeks; Joern and I occasionally go for walks in the evening; Lukas goes with Joern to art and each of the girls occasionally go; I go to Sue's one morning a week with anywhere from one to four children (usually two), where they/we play with Lego and read books and talk; and...I think that covers it. More or less.

Oh yeah, and we homeschool. Which is another way of saying, we live life. And read a lot of books. Which we would have done anyway, but have more time for both because we homeschool.