Sunday, July 9, 2017

Looking Back


We're still processing this past jaunt to Europe...the sights, the tastes, the people.  It came at a time when things were feeling so heavy here...heavy with normal life stuff.  Harder than normal work lives for us both, paychecks where we were struggling to remember that we are living 'called' lives rather than profitable ones, a little house that was feeling a bit more broken down than usual, bigger than normal decisions needing to be made by a few of our boys.

In other words, life was real and we needed to get out of dodge.

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There was a group of 150 this time...much bigger than the usual 50-60 that are normally along for the ride.  It's a historic year for us Lutherans, a 500th anniversary of when a change happened in the church and so the land of Luther is being flooded with pilgrims.

And pilgrims we were.  

We walked.  And walked.  And walked some more...exporing places we had been before but not in many years, so it was like exploring something completely new.

Germany and Austria in May are so incredibly green and in the middle of all the big cities there are huge parks full of trees and walking paths.  You wander, enjoy the quiet and then turn a corner and you're right back in the middle of the big city.

Berlin was one of my favorite places this trip.  Last time I was there was shortly after the wall had fallen and so to revisit with it full of color was incredible.  But then there are the reminders that are always there...the wall itself, the towers, the new and old, the momorials to those that died.

It was moving.


And at the beginning of the journey we were greeted by our favorite turkish travel agent who came to hang with us before she left back home for our little street in our little neighborhood.

How fun is that???

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The performances were incredible...beyond incredible, if there is such a thing.  Packed houses in historic places and each one topped the prior one.

What a gift his 'job' is.















I can't escape work either, no matter how many thousands of miles I travel.

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I was giddy the moment I stepped foot on the plane this time.  Ready to go...ready for the adventure.  My role on these trips is simple...keep that guy that I like so much's life as easy as possible.  Love on his students, make sure they are all good, make sure he is all good.  But most of all, to make this adventure a positive one for them...to show them not only how we travel but why we travel.  

As with all of these trips, because there are so many personalities involved, there were moments of 'wow, this is hard.'  We embraced those few hours every day where we were able to escape, sit and have a cocktail, enjoy the quiet and regroup because there were times along the way where Satans voice seemed to be so very, very loud.  The comments, probably meant to be harmless but tossed in with tired feet and (what I now know) a weary heart...from questioning why we haven't paid off our 'little' house yet (really???) to why are we veering from the schedule (flexiblity, my friends) to the food isn't what we'd like (group of 150 in small places) to I've already been here so I can't wait to move on to the next city.

But those were balanced by the fun of watching people who had never travelled fall in love.

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And then He came in the form of rest.  In an extension to our trip...just the two of us.  To putting the group on their plane home, knowing that 99% of them had a glorious time.  


We flew on to Rome and in a move of super smartness, had already arranged for a driver to pick us up and drive us to our hotel in the historic center.  Even the Rome airport felt like home ot us and once dropped at our hotel, we immediately headed to Piazza Navona for a spritz while the sun began to set.

And after a quiet 15 minutes, we worked through all the comments that were feeling so hurtful and so heavy...the comments that to me felt like failure.  Our little house is not paid off...but we'll conitnue to work hard, and how blessed are we that we live in such a beautiful place.  Did we not only talk about flexibility...did we show it enough?  That attitude is 100% everything when traveling to faraway places?  Did we talk about exploring and discovering and also about just being...sitting and watching and talking?

In the end...peace.  And the beginning of our next adventure.  Italy has always been our place and someday, we'd love to lead friends here and show them why we love it so very much.  If you need a tour guide, let me know.

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Truffle season was in full swing.  Ah, Rome...you showed your true colors again and again.

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We wandered my Grandmother's birthplace and I expected it to be emotional...and it was, but not in the way I thought.  It was such a joyful place and the tears that flowed were happy tears...tears of all the good memories rather than the sad.





After five glorious days just wandering Rome, we headed for the hills (literally) and settled for the next 5 days in Montelpulciano.  It was not about the quiet...it was all about the wine.

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This trip was different than all the rest.  For the first time ever, we had nothing to worry about back home.  We had a few nickels to rub together.  The language felt easier and the food tasted better and the people felt even more friendly than usual.

We relaxed and settled and in each of those churches we wandered in to, we sat on cold wooden pews and talked to God, lit candles and said prayers (we even saw the Pope!) and this feeling of thankfulness pushed away all those voices I had been focusing on.

And now we're home and, boy, does home feel good.  Cooking, sitting in the garden, sharing our stories, laughing with friends.  

I still want to go back...and I know we will, but in the meantime I've been reminded of the simple that Europe brings to our lives.  The reminder to slow down, eat good food, drink good wine, turn off all the outside distractions.  To be thankful.  To live with joy.  

I still forget...but I'm easily brought back.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Summertime In The Garden


Summer has arrived and with it...parties.  So. many. parties.

I've actually lost count of how many parties we've hosted but I'm pretty sure we are in double digits.

It's been fun.  Super fun.  The kind of fun where I'm dreaming about summer never ever ending...but I know it has to.

Oh well.

We've got a houseful of boys home for the summer...the first summer since 2005 that everyone has lived here.  There's not much space in our little house on our little street...in fact, there's not a whole lot of space at all.  But it's been fun having them all around.  Everyone has crazy work schedules and some of us (mainly that guy that I like so much and me) have a few weeks off, so there's always someone coming and going.  

But I like them.  A lot.  In fact, I like them more and more each day.  It's fun watching them become grown-ups...though I'm still not sleeping well because if it.

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Work.  Sigh.  I have a new position and it's just not an easy place right now.  But as I've been there for awhile now,  I have a different attitude...one of riding a wave.  Ups and downs and moments of feeling like I'm being dragged on the bottom of the ocean while slowly drowning.

So I keep kicking and trying to keep my head above water, one stroke at a time.

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This has also been a summer of friends.  Friends from close by and friends from out of town.  I'm feeling so blessed in that department and I've come to realize how important my friends are to me.  How they love us, how they listen to us, how they hold us accountable.

But mainly, how they laugh with...and at us.

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That guy that I like so much and I celebrated a big anniversary a few weeks ago...our 31st year of being husband and wife.  Thirty one years!  It was a work day for both of us but we both shut things down early and celebrated with a wonderful dinner out...the kind of dinner where we sat at the chefs table and they cooked just for us, based on all the things we liked most of all.

Italy was our big celebration but this was pretty gosh darn special.  We tried to walk through all the years...we remembered a few of them but not as many as we thought, but that's ok because we lived them all and each one was a step along the way to where we are now.

What a gift it is to walk life together.

We made friends along the way in Italy and because of those friendships, we continue to get deliveries.  Fun deliveries.  We've discovered some new to us wines and sadly, we've taken a step up in our price point for what we like most of all.

It's rough...but not really.

And FYI...it pays to know people.

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Mornings have been quiet...coffee and avocado toast seem to be the regular routine...though the avocado's are not (yet) from out tree.  That silly tree is up 50% from last year and by that I mean, we have THREE avocados on that million dollar tree.  

But that's what grocery stores are for...though if you have an abundance of those green jewels growing at your house, keep me in mind.  Please.

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Every evening as the day begins to wind down, it becomes cocktail hour in this house.  The current favorite of mine is an aperol spritz, though a glass of bubbly is always a good choice too.  That whole hour seems to be a good divider between real life and relaxed life and I find myself looking forward to it all day long.  

We play the music just a tad too loud, yell out our windows at our neighbors who are walking by, send a mad amount of texts to those that aren't super close and suddenly, a party is born.  

Summer...I wait all year long for these few weeks of the year.

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My boys are freaks of nature who don't eat junk food, so plate after plate of veggies are what make them happier than anything.  Throw a bit of green goddess dip in the middle and all is well in their world...and mine too.  

Though truth be told, I think anyone who doesn't eat ice cream has to be some sort of alien, so obviously all three of these boys have got to be from outer space.

And then there are the nights where you just think, "I wish I had a hot meal prepared by someone else" and suddenly, it happens.  Not just a hot meal but a meal of epic greatness that you almost weep with joy as you are eating it.  

And not only do you get a hot meal for yourself, but they send you home with enough for one of your boys to eat for lunch the next day and you (gulp) hide it in the fridge so he can't find it.

Oh yes, I did...because I wanted it.

And it was worth every single bite.

The cork bucket that hangs in our kitchen was over flowing and so it had to be emptied and all I could think was how many memories each of those corks hold.  Garden parties and quiet parties and everything in between. 

Ah well...the bucket will fill again.

I'm trying to just settle in to each day.  Coffee in the mornings and a little Jesus time.  Afternoons doing regular life stuff like the never ending laundry and errands.  Evenings bring long dinners in the garden, which is especially beautiful this year.  It's hard to not focus on the things that aren't going as well...a boy who is making us worry, bills that seem to always be there, work that isn't as smooth as we'd like.  But for these few short weeks we are trying super hard to just take lots of deep breaths and relax...and so far, so good.

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