27 April, 2009

The longest way

I was kind of surprised today to realize just how few posts I've written lately. But maybe the emphasis should be on the word "written", because I've definitely been composing posts in my head, it's just that they somehow never actually make it onto my blog.

Blame it on hay fever. Blame it on spring fever. In any case, I'm spending a lot of time outside and the Internet just doesn't have the same irresistable pull that it does in wintertime when I seem to go into full-on hibernation.

Hibernating we're not, in any case. The kids had a day off last week and they spent a blissful morning in a workshop at the Staatsgallerie (National Gallery) learning painting techniques using different utensils to produce interesting textures. I took advantage of the downtime to visit an exhibition from the Viennese Actionism period. I'd heard that the artists were radicals, but underestimated just how disturbing their art would be! They painted with blood and broke just about every taboo in modern society. I just tried to find a relatively non-offensive representation of their work to post here, but couldn't-- I guess that would go against the grain of their movement anyway. If you're curious you can find out more about them here, but be advised that their videos are NOT safe for work!

After that I wandered down to the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and spent the rest of the morning with Otto Dix. I get the feeling that he was pretty disturbed as well, but I really enjoy his portraits-- there's something so deliciously sinister about many of them!

This week I'm studying again-- I've got a big German lit exam a week from Tuesday.

Friday is a holiday here, so we'll be taking advantage of the long weekend to break in the caravan for the first camping trip of the season! We'll be meeting up with my parents-in-law out near Dijon in France.

We watched the film "Into the Wild" last week and it's been haunting me ever since. It was based on a real-life story of Christopher McCandless, who, upon graduation, gives up his money and possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska in search of happiness and the true meaning of life. The cinematography was beautiful and the acting and direction was superb.

Life as we know it might be becoming increasingly precarious with every new revelation about Chrysler. So it's rather ironic that at a time when I am craving stability that I can also be itching with wanderlust. I stumbled across the video below and have become hopelessly addicted to The Longest Way, the blog it represents.

I don't think I could ever handle a year out on the road, but I sure do enjoy daydreaming about it!

Christoph Rehage had a plan: to walk from Beijing, China to his home country Germany. In November, 2007, he started walking. A year later, he walked 4,646 km (2,887 mi) to Ürümqi - and though he didn’t complete his original route, the amazing journey had transformed him.

This is a time lapse of pictures taken through his trip. You can read more about Christoph’s journey at his website, The Longest Way.

24 April, 2009

Living in the moment

I'm still visiting the nursing home here in town a couple of times a week to help give lunch to the patients. Usually my visits there are rewarding, but unremarkable. Yesterday, for some reason, however, the atmosphere was tense. When one woman received her lunch she shouted: HALLELUJA! and an otherwise docile man sitting next to her screamed "SHUT UP!" Two other patients started howling.

If the moon wasn't full last night it should have been!

One woman sitting across from me became suddenly agitated and said she had to leave, that otherwise she would be late and that everyone would be angry with her! Realizing that her appointment was only in her head, I just smiled at her and said not to worry, that she had plenty of time. Her entire body relaxed and she smiled happily. "What should I do now?" she asked. When I suggested she tell me a story from her past she shook her head coquettishly and said "No, that's too dangerous."

There's one guy I really like-- he sits in his wheelchair at a table with about 10 other people who are all completely demented. He can hardly move at all, but there's just something about him and his penetrating gaze-- I have this steadily growing suspicion that he's mentally sharp and trapped in a dead-weight body.

Yesterday when I went over to him to say hello he saw me and started sobbing! Since he can't speak I had no idea what was wrong-- if something physical was bothering him or if he was just generally depressed.

It's funny, because in that kind of situation the first phrases that come to mind are completely useless: "It's going to be OK." or "Don't cry." So in lieu of that I just didn't say anything and sat with him and held his hand while he cried and pressed my hand to his cheek as his tears ran down my arm.

Every time I leave that place I see the world in technicolor. I revel in the fresh air and in the long strides that take me home. I hug my children a little tighter and savor my coffee after lunch. I am reminded to take time to recognize the blessings in my life today, because I will not always be this lucky, this able, this alive!

My experiences volunteering at the nursing home may not always be easy to digest, but my life is definitely all the richer for them.

21 April, 2009

power-hungry people

CC was in town this weekend-- it was such a treat to finally have a chance to sit down with him and catch up on his adventures.

We played Monopoly yesterday afternoon and certain people made some quick money and let it go to their heads...

14 April, 2009

Solid potato salad?

This video is hilarious! Are these women completely boneless? And how on earth do they keep from falling on their faces? And isn't all potato salad solid? (unless it's come back up, that is... *sorry*)

Keep watching-- it only gets weirder as it goes along!

13 April, 2009

Alive and well!

Hope you all had a nice Easter weekend! My brother-in-law and his family came into town and we spent most of our time here enjoying the sunshine. The weather's been gorgeous and we've been able to spend a lot of time outside, which is always a blessing if you've got 4 small monkeys careening around all over the place!

There was a slight glitch on Sunday when we realized that the Easter Bunny had been so wiped out on Saturday evening that he'd forgotten to hide the chocolate eggs! Luckily he was able to hide them all on the sly and no children were the wiser...

Here are a couple of pictures just as proof that we're still alive, even if I haven't been blogging. I took these shots during a hike to the waterfall at Bad Urach.

05 April, 2009

Time to buy a red sports car?

I think I've finally discovered the origins of the term "middle age": my middle is thickening and there doesn't seem to be a damned thing I can do about it!!!

04 April, 2009

Heaven help us!

M and I were out on our balcony this morning enjoying the sunshine when suddenly we heard a giggle from the balcony next door. And then another. I shuddered-- this one small sound and the person it emanated from represent a HUGE cultural barrier for me, one that I don't know how I'm ever going to bridge.

Our neighbors' daughter is 16, and has a boyfriend who spends the night often. They spend weekend mornings in bed and intermittently lounging around on her balcony, smoking cigarettes while she squeals and giggles. This has been going on since we moved here, when she had only just turned 14. (!!) The faces have changed over time, but my irritation hasn't: in the culture in which I grew up it was just not acceptable to have your boyfriends stay the night at that age!

She's got her whole life ahead of her to hang out on the porch and smoke cigarettes like an old married couple! Shouldn't she be out hanging out with friends, playing sports or doing something, ANYTHING other than spending the morning in bed with a boy who doesn't even look like he's old enough to know which end of the razor to use?

M maintains that I'm hopelessly naive. In his well-reasoned, logical way, he argues that if they're going to be "doing it" anyway, it might as well be under the supervision of the parents, so to speak. But I cannot accept that-- should we as parents just jump right in and enable this kind of behavior? Sex, while natural and, of course, fun, comes with enormous responsibilities. The consequences of teenage pregnancy and STD's are staggering, and not something to be taken lightly.

I am very open with my kids. We talked about anatomy when they were in nursery school, and over the past year I've had numerous discussions with them not only about their own bodies, but also about reproduction. I've even cleared up a couple of bizarre myths they'd heard from their peers. I don't picture myself as a puritan, so it bothers me that my neighbor's behavior bothers me so much.

I do hope, though, that by being open and talking about my views early and often, that I might be able to influence S and B's ideas a little bit. At least until their hormones kick in full force-- please tell me that that won't be when they're 13 or 14!?

M thinks I'm hopelessly naive. He says that the culture here and in Holland is different, and that S and B will be influenced by it. By the time they reach puberty they'll be more influenced by their peers' views than by ours. And that because everyone is more open about sexuality that the rates of teen pregnancy are a fraction of what they are in the US.

I can understand his point of view, but it still doesn't totally win me over. I'm thinking this is one precariously rickety bridge between the two cultures that I'm going to need to navigate, and I'm not looking forward to it.

I'd be interested to hear your opinions / experiences on this topic...

01 April, 2009

Lemonade anyone?

Carol over at Northwest Ladybug made my morning last weekend by presenting me with a Lemonade Award, which recognizes blogs that "show a positive attitude and/or gratitude in their posting."

Carol and I go way back (at least in virtual blogging terms! ;-) ) and I was not only flattered to receive an award from her, but just happy that she's even visiting me at all seeing as how sparse my posts have become lately!

I may not be writing as often, but I'm busy and happy and am still lurking in the background on many of your blogs. (Just when you thought it was safe...)

I'd like to pass this award on to some of the bloggers who bring a smile to my face on a regular basis:
  • Anno, whose poetry and kind comments are always a bright spot in my day
  • Jen, who inspires me with her open, friendly nature and makes my mouth water with her recipes and farmers' market postings
  • Brit, an all-around beautiful person. I'm so glad our friendship has branched out from the real world into the virtual one!
  • Mausi, who may not be feeling all that positive lately, but who still manages to make me laugh and is a treasure trove of information about life in Germany. (I'm sure she'll add a witty twist to these lemons-- Just you watch!)
  • Laurie, whose positive attitude and shared admiration for Flannery O'Connor have kept me revisiting her blog since the stone ages (or at least since 2005!)
Sometimes the chain-letter aspect of these Internet awards bothers me, so I'd like to make the following list of rules optional for those of you who would like to pass the award on...
1) Put the logo on your blog or post.
2) Nominate some blogs that show great attitude or gratitude, (i.e. turn lemons into lemonade)
3) Link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5) Share the love and link to the person from who you received your award.