Category Archives: Life
Someone once said that Paris is a woman, London is a man, and New York City is a transvestite.
Granted, I haven’t been to New York outside the airport, but after my visits to Paris and London, I must say I find that statement to be shockingly true.
It always amazes – and delights – me how each major European city has a distinct and unique personality.
Paris is the haute cotoure model that intimidates everyone; strong and beautiful inside and out, but with a hidden daintiness that surprises even the model herself at times.
London is the slightly stuffy businessman. He’s all propriety and decorum with a hint of conceit. During business hours, anyway. There’s a wild/unkempt streak running through him that he tries hard to conceal, but it is there nonetheless.
Athens is the vibrant, eclectic woman that lives across the street. The one with the amazing energy, infectious laugh and zeal for life everyone else secretly wishes they possessed.
Dublin is the angst-ridden teenager trying desperately to find his place in the world, not sure if he loathes or loves himself. His convictions and culture run deep and strong, but at times he longs to be anyone but himself.
But Vienna…Vienna is somewhat of an enigma. Some might call her a melting pot of cultures, languages and ideas, but I see her with starker dividing lines than that.
Vienna is like the Johnny Depp of cities. Vienna is the city that is cool beyond reckoning – without even trying or meaning to be, and I’m not sure she cares. She can be both stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly disturbing.
She is full of art, music, and culture; vibrant and alive, brimming with life, love and creativity. Sometimes you feel as if your very breath might be stolen away by the sheer weight and magnitude of the beauty displayed in the most mundane of places and around unlikely corners.
Other times, she scares the crap out of you with her dark secrets and mysterious ideas that are more terrifying than intriguing.
Vienna is a city loved and revered by young and old alike. The elder folk loving the tradition, the stability, the classical nature of architecture and music that runs deep in her life’s history. The young come for her vibrant night life, new ideas in art, science, language and more.
But when I love Vienna the most – when I most relate to her and feel I most belong – is in the morning. Early. This city never stops, it is always teeming with people. Streetcars. Subways. Taxis. Buses. All the time. Day and night.
The morning commute is somewhat of an anomaly that resonates deep within my own heart. The trams are full, subway cars packed to the brim. Sidewalks and stations full of people, of shuffling feet. And yet, all is near silent. Words are only spoken when absolutely necessary, and eye after eye is bleary and groggy.
In one way, Vienna is quite the morning city. Schools and businesses open early, and people are on the move before the sun many days. And yet…she is also like the jazz-playing-actor who spent too many hours the night before wailing a tune or spinning a tale for friends over a drink. She functions in the morning because she must – but she’s not happy about it.
I love the morning in Vienna. It feels like a collective protest against rising early and getting things done. We’ll do it, but we don’t have to like it, the city declares in silent unity. This, too, is how I feel about mornings.
By midmorning, and certainly by the lunch hour, the delicious coffee has been had and the city is truly awake and interacting with one another. Conversations in a hundred different languages heard on every street all the live long day.
Yes, Vienna to me in many ways is a very strange city; one that I will likely not ever fully understand. We have had our ups and downs, not always having started off on the right foot. But Vienna and I? We’ll always have the mornings.
Having grown up a desert rat in central and southern Arizona, skiing was always somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It was something either rich people did, or college kids on winter break. Certainly not an option for a girl like me: not an athletic bone in her body who lived hours away from any possibility of snow.
Then we moved to Austria.
During the week long semester break in February, just about everyone in Austria who has kids does one thing: go skiing.
My husband, who grew up with a ski-instructor for a father, also naturally grew up skiing. He’s told me fondly many times how he remembers skiing between his dad’s feet when he was only three or four years old. Our nomadic lifestyle, coupled with the fact that most of our adult life had been spent in either Ireland or Texas – two places not well known for great ski conditions – made it so it had been years since Seth had been able to ski, even though it’s one of his favorite pass-times.
Guys, I was slightly terrified. Excited, but terrified.
I mean, what if I was awful at it? What if I hated it? What if I embarrassed myself, not even able to make it down the kiddie slope? What if I broke my whole body??
1. I’m physically stronger than I thought. My instructor (yes, I took lessons rather than my husband teaching me. We were told it would be best for our marriage…I believe “they” were right. Anyway.) started me out not with going up the mountain on any kind of lift, but side stepping our way up. “To help me get a feel for the skis and my body on them.” Ha. Also, once I did use a lift, it wasn’t the kind with a seat. It was just a rope that I had to grab onto for dear life as it tugged me up the hill, but also had to let go of soon enough that my hand didn’t get sucked into the vortex of death. You guys, I spent the day tugging, pulling, squatting, lifting, bending and all manner of other “-ings” and I’m not too humble to say I rocked it! I had much more stamina and physical ability than I would have imagined (Thank you Shuan T and Insanity!). At the end of the day, my muscles were totally shot and that’s when I learned the next lesson about myself.
2. I’m mentally stronger than I thought. There were several times when I just wanted to give up. Like the time I ventured higher on the run and bit it big time and slid halfway down the slope on my back. I briefly asked my husband to just bury me there and go on; and tell the kids I love them. But I got up anyway, and my mind gave my body the strength to continue on – without breaking every bone!
3. My husband and I make a pretty darn good team. This one I knew – it was cemented home in the deepest corner of my heart just how great a team we make after the birth of our first child. However, I was reminded of it again this trip. After the massive face-plant described above, Seth was encouraging me to try again from the higher spot on the run. I was – ahem – less than willing. He offered to go with me, and I reluctantly agreed. As I started down the slope, speed caught up with me quickly and I started to panic. That’s when I heard his voice behind me, “You got it. Pizza slice the skis. There you go, good. Now turn, gently. Keep turning, keep turning. Great! Now straighten out. Yes! You got this!” and so on. Man, guys, just hearing his voice – so calm, so confident – gave me the mental boost to get myself under control and do what I had been taught to do. Cross over into real life? Uh, yeah. In short, my husband rocks and he’s my hero.
4. I’m more of an athlete than I thought. I have used many words to describe myself over the years. Athlete or athletic has never, ever been one of them. However, as I was skiing down that hill, it hit me: I am actually quite athletic – as long as it doesn’t involve a ball, puck, or any other such device. I’m great at sports that require self-awareness, balance, and good body control. A friend bestowed the word “sporty” upon me when she saw a photo of me on the slopes on Instagram. At first I balked, but now, I take that adjective and own it proudly!
5. I’m still not an adrenaline junkie or extreme sport enthusiast – and that’s ok! I have spent most of my life (and particularly my childhood) wishing I was something other than what I was. I wished I was more sporty, or better at math. I wished I longed for adventure and excitement; that I would love the “thrill” of the free-fall feeling on a roller coaster. The truth is, I just. Don’t. I’m finally, at the age of 36, starting to feel at home in my own skin, and appreciate who and how God made me to be. I don’t want to waste any more time mourning the things that I’m not – and that Susie Smith next door seems to be. No. While I never want to grow complacent in life, and I never want to be unwilling to push myself and try new things, I want to spend my energies and time developing and honing the skills and gifts God placed in me from the beginning. Skills, gifts and talents He gave me on purpose. For a reason. To wish those away for some other trait or talent I see in someone else is not only insulting to my Creator, it is denying and wasting who I am.
So, there you have it. Some deep personal/spiritual lessons I learned about myself last week while undertaking a new and scary endeavor that I ended up loving.
When was the last time you tried something new and/or scary? Did you learn anything about yourself? Share in the comments!
I stand at the sink, sleeves rolled, heart heavy.
I dunk the plate into the bowl of as-hot-as-I-can-stand-it soapy water because the pipes have been backed up since Wednesday and the plumber doesn’t come until Monday but I need to do something.
The suds swirl and cover the dish and I scrub and I pray.
The liar whispers, “What if He doesn’t?”
“And even if He doesn’t,” I say.
If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up. Daniel 3:17-18 (emphasis mine)
It has sure felt like a fiery-furnace kind of year. I think back to this same time last year, how we prayed for God to get us back to Ireland.
And everyone asked us, “But what if He doesn’t?”
“And even if he doesn’t, He is worthy,” we replied.
The pot of cool water for “rinsing” feels refreshing as it soothes the scalding heat of the cleansing water. Like the balm of the reassurance that His ways are not mine; His ways are oh so much higher.
Dunk. Sud. Scrub. Pray.
I think of my friends with the scary diagnosis. We pray, we believe, we expect miraculous tests.
In the quiet places the accuser whispers, “He won’t.”
And we all ask, “What if He doesn’t?”
And she whispers, with trembling voice, “Even if He doesn’t, I am His.”
Dunk. Sud. Scrub. Pray.
I think of my family. The ones I love. I pray for healing. Please, God.
My own heart whispers, “But what if He doesn’t?”
Yes, even if He doesn’t, He is good. He is holy. He is kind. He is Love.
The suds are fading and the water grows cool. The dishwasher serves as a drying rack and I wipe my hands. They are rough and chapped from the heat. Like my heart.
So I pray.
And I remind myself with Truth and I thank God for His goodness…
Even if He doesn’t.
We get a lot of comments from people about how lucky we are to live where we do, how exotic our lives must be, and one question we get asked all.the.time:
What’s it like living in a foreign country??
Let me tell you a story…
Today, I needed to run some errands. I needed a winter coat – like, a real winter coat, not the cute little cotton thing I had last winter – and I needed to get some things checked out on the car. In case you didn’t know, it snows in Austria. I mean, the Alps? Hullooo! So, it would stand to reason that on occasion, one needs to drive on said snow (and ice) during the winter months. (It’s also totally the law that every car be fitted with winter tires from October to April).
I’d like to share with you the conversation I had with the man at the tire shop about getting an estimate on winter tires. This entire conversation happened in German, so I have provided the translated version here for your enjoyment.
Me: Hello, I would like to get an estimate on winter tires and wheels, please.
Tire Man (TM): Of course! Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?
Me: … I’m sorry, what was that?
TM: No problem. Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?
Me: I’m very sorry, I don’t know what that is.
TM: *chuckle* Oh, right. It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.
Me: But…what is that?
TM: It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.
Me: I’m sorry, I am new to Austria and I don’t know what a zu… zus…what a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is.
TM: Oh, haha, of course. It is a Zulassungsbescheinigung.
Me: *blank stare*
TM: *blank stare*
Me: Could you maybe write it down for me?
TM: *reaches into a drawer and pulls out what looks like a European driver’s license*
Me: Oh!! *pulls out my European driver’s license* This??
TM: Exactly!! Oh…no. This is a driver’s license. You need a Zulassungsbescheinigung.
You may think I embellished this story for humor’s sake, I assure you I did not. (okay, I didn’t actually say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but whatever word protruded from my lips was just as nonsensical, I assure you.)
If fairness to Mr. Tireman, he probably felt that he was in fact giving me an accurate description of the item, because that’s how German works. All those big, long words German is so famous for? They are a bunch of smaller words jammed together so that it very accurately and in great detail describes the item, location or office/department to which it refers. Zulassungsbescheinigung probably means “little card containing all the pertinent information pertaining to your car ever in the history of man”, because that’s what it is. And, as I learned today, any time you need work or inspections done on your car, you must present this.
Later this afternoon, I went to a second tire shop for another estimate. When TM2 asked me for my Zulassungsbescheinigung, I grinned slyly to let him know I’m hip to the code and whipped out my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious before he could even finish saying the word. Booyah.
Yes, living in Vienna (or any European place) has its amazing highlights. Just the other day, I was buying paper towels and coffee in the shadow of the world-renowned Stefansdom Catherdral. I mean, wow. So many times we stop in the middle of our day and just look around and take it in because we – how do the kids say it these days? – just can’t even. Sometimes we literally can’t even.
However, most days…this my friends – this conversation right here – is what it’s like to live in a foreign country.
You’re four today.
You love Star Wars and big trucks, your sisters and the color green – followed closely by blue and orange.
You have a laugh that goes for miles, your joy even farther. You bring energy, life, love, mad-crazy-hugs and a new perspective to this family.
As I sit and remember this day unfolding four years ago…the waiting, the wondering, the worrying if we were both going to be okay. I remember you coming thundering, screaming into this world and exploding my heart into a million pieces.
It may be your birthday, lil man, but I am the one receiving the gift.
We’ve all heard before that God’s ways are not our ways. They are higher, holier, more mysterious and not to be understood fully. The Bible also says that God is the most amazing gift giver. If I, a mom who messes up, loses her temper, gets lazy, gets tired and frustrated knows how to give good gifts to my children – and revels in doing so! (I’m so giddy for you to open your gifts, dude, I can’t stand it!) – how much more wonderful is God, the awesome and perfect Creator of the universe at giving gifts?!
And boy did He knock it out of the park with you!
What’s more amazing is that you are an extra special gift. You’re the gift that God had hiding in the corner only to bring out at the last second when we thought the party was over. You were the gift we didn’t know to ask for, and then with a teary-secret-keeping smile He pulls His hands out from behind His back…
And hands us you.
Oh, the breath taking awe, my son. What a humbling, honoring, laughter-filled gift you are!
With every tackle hug, every belly laugh, every dragon fight, every Captain-America-Weilding-A-Light-Saber-Fighting-Off-Ninjas moment, I stand in utter awe of the little man you are – and are becoming.
I am so thankful that God knows how to give such good gifts – and that He delights so much in it.
So enjoy your day, Buddy. Fall asleep tonight clutching your blankie (don’t worry, it’s totally manly to sleep with one) and your newest favorite toy and rest deep and well knowing that you are loved, you are cherished, you are special.
Happy Birthday, son. I love you.