After the Storm

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after the storm.3

After the storm.1

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We've been having almost daily late afternoon thunderstorms.  (It reminds me so much of our beloved Colorado!).  Friday afternoon, I decided to grab my camera to catch some of the post-storm loveliness.  I think, in both life and nature, some of the best moments come right after the storm.

I hope you all are enjoying a nice, long weekend to kick off summer.  As we enjoy the pool, BBQ and birthday celebrations (at least at our house) may we not forget what today is really all about. 

These Days





These days I'm…

Planning :: A girls’ trip to Paris with my mother/sister-in-law and a week in Tuscany over Easter break.

Listening :: To birds chirping in the mornings along with Haim, St. Paul & the Broken Bones and a variety of podcasts.

Moving :: Thanks to yoga, Barre 3 and a crazy loop from our town, up a hill ( small mountain) to the next town and back.

Dreaming :: Of a vacation somewhere tropical, just Jeff and I and knowing that I need to be dreaming of southern Italy, Croatia and the UK (with kids).

Thinking :: About summer plans and our last year in Italy. 

Watching :: Scandal and House of Cards.  I’m no longer shocked by any news I hear out of DC. 

Enjoying :: Each of the kids’ right as they are at 10, 8 and 7.  (Though I could do without some of the sass.)

Noticing :: How easy it is to get used to the sunshine and how much I miss it when it goes away.  I think Colorado spoiled me and moving back to the Pacific NW may be a tougher transition than I think.

Pondering :: Love, justice, why people focus on “the minors” and grace. 

Loving :: That all three of my babes are downstairs making birthday "surprises" for me. 

Feeling :: blessed, grateful, loved.


Clean Slates and Expectations


 I entered the New Year refreshed and energized, excited for all that was to come with the clean slate of a new year. 

I’m big on fresh starts, and clean slates. 

One reason I love Mondays is because they mark the beginning of 7 days of fresh starts.  My motiviation and enthusiasm is typically at its peak on Monday before reality (and the mundane) can kick in. 

The start of 2014 felt the same way. 

Our Christmas was lovely and the time off we enjoyed together was very needed.   I had some goals set for myself related to health, my volunteerism and getting back to my RHN program.  Jeff was eager to get back to work knowing that there were some big projects ahead. 

We knew that January and February would be a challenging 8 weeks as both boys would be playing basketball which meant two practices and a game for each every week.  On top of that, Jack would continue with soccer practice (and as it turns out a few games/tournaments we weren’t expecting).  

Sure, it would be crazy but we wanted to give the boys the opportunity to play.   Plus, we had all of these plans and new boundaries and goals.

We can do anything for 8 weeks.  It’ll be great.

While that’s true, now that we’ve lived those 8 weeks and seen how the hectic schedule affected us we’re reflecting on whether it’s something we’re willing to do again. 

Those goals and plans that seemed really realistic on January 1 take a lot of work.  Maintaining boundaries is hard when you’re already tired and overwhelmed.  Projects that you thought would go one way end up being something different.

It turns out, that 3 hours of drive time and 8 hours of practice each week while juggling Jeff’s schedule, ensuring homework was done and bedtimes were reasonable resulted in nothing less than craziness. 

We ended up in a state of constant rush and then, in an attempt to be respectful of the two kids that weren’t practicing, Jeff or I would hand them off to the other and hurry home for dinner and bed.

Jeff and I would finally meet on the couch at 8:30 or 9:00 exhausted (and often frustrated). 

March arrived with its sunny days, blossoming flowers and a little more margin in our days. 

We have had a few unexpected, challenges but I’m beginning to recover from the frustration and exhaustion and am now looking forward.

Yes, I now have with more realistic expectations but also the knowledge that I need to be firm in the boundaries we set as a family and those I set for myself. 

My goals and those of our family are important but they won’t happen on their own.  It takes time, dedication often going against the grain and sometimes saying no to good things. 

The Season of Letting Go


Also known as Advent and Christmas 2013.

This has been the best Christmas for our family in several years. Maybe ever.

Our Advent was full of most of our usual traditions and activities. Some were let go of due to the ever-changing shift in what is age appropriate. I just didn't think I could squeeze hand and foot reindeer out of the kids another year. Our schedule was a bit busier with Jack’s soccer schedule continuing right up to Christmas and that meant fewer nights at home as a family. We added a few new things and embraced old favorites.

For the past eight months, Jeff's schedule has been much more regular than it has been in nearly two years. This is a huge help in planning and just plain old life living. It also means that he has been able to attend the kids' events, parties and other activities with us. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were nearly perfect. One of the biggest reasons was that I let go. I worked really hard this year to not worry if I didn't get all of the cookies made (no candy cane cookies this year) or that Christmas cards didn't happen or that the kids didn't get to shop for gifts for each other until Christmas Eve.

For me it was bigger than that. I'm a huge tradition girl. It's important to me to maintain traditions for our family so that regardless of where we are any given year it still feels like our Christmas. I've always clung to the things we do; new PJs, opening one gift, lasagna dinner at home and reading Luke 2 before bed on Christmas Eve.

The thing I realized this year is that clinging so tightly to traditions that I love has left me sad and lonely the past few years.

Some dear friends hosted an Open House on Christmas Eve and we went. It was slated to run from 1-6 which was perfect in my mind as that would still give us time to come home for our dinner and evening events.

These people have become like family as we’ve lived life and explored Europe together. It was a loud, joyful evening topped off laughter, gifts and food. Just like Christmas Eve should be.

Listen, I left our house that afternoon determined to stick with doing it all (including feeding my family lasagna because that’s what we do every year. Yes, I’m a slow learner.) As the hours passed, we realized we needed to head home to wrap up our day. We were all full in the best possible ways.

We came home and enjoyed the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions, deciding to save lasagna for Christmas lunch. Christmas day was full of gifts, movies, FaceTiming loved ones and a quick stop next door for prossecco and panettone.

It has struck me over and over the past few days that sometimes I cling so tightly to the things that connect me to the past and our extended family that I miss all the goodness that is right in front of me. While all of those things of old are great and have huge value, there’s just as much value in embracing the ebb and flow of the new, especially with the life that we are living.

Well, then.


So, there went October. Here's the thing about living in Italy. We're actually living in Italy. That means that work demands (or in my case, volunteerism) get crazy.  Soccer practice and games take place.  Friends throw parties and we have a tire blow on our way to Austria for the day.  (That was today's dose of real life.)  

The fact is, we've been in survival mode for the past two weeks.  Life has been crazy busy and I've been working hard to stay off the computer when the kids are home.  

Here I am.  

October came and went along with my 31 days…and I'm ok with that.  Even though it didn't all get put in writing or caught through the lens.  We lived out each day.  

Sometimes barely squeeking by but that's life. In Italy or in Seattle.  

Now we start stepping toward the holidays.  For November and December don't just mean Thanksgiving and Christmas but several big birthdays (10, 60 and 70!) with a few others thrown in, a visit from dear friends, travel, a few additional projects all along with the usual merriment.  

It will be good but it will be full and I want to choose each step carefully.  


Taking a break

I didn’t grow up regularly riding bikes.  Yes, I knew how but it simply wasn’t
something that we did regularly.  Much of
this had to do with how hilly our neighborhood was but beyond that I’m not
really sure why biking wasn’t part of our days. 

Aside from one wobbly attempt in Guam in 1999, my bike-riding career ended when
I was 9.  I liked the idea of riding
around town but couldn’t get past the wobbly, somewhat out of control
part.  I even had a great, European
looking cruiser that Jeff bought me when we found out we was moving to Italy. 

And yet it sat.  It
got to the point that the kids thought I didn’t actually know how to ride
because when they would head out on bike rides with Jeff, I would stay home.

One day last year Jeff convinced me to go for a ride while
the kids were at school.  It wasn’t
pretty.  There was a lot of wobbling and
I was scared to death every time a car drove by but deep down, I liked it.  

Then winter came and my bike retreated to the attic.   You know where all bikes spend the cold

Yet, I still couldn’t escape the images of how riding a bike, as silly as it
sounds, is so much a part of European life. 

There are the local grandmas riding around town as they check errands off their

Our butcher’s wife as she loads up her cooler full of meat,
places it in her bike basket and hits the road to make deliveries.

The moms and grandpas who put a small pillow on the little luggage
rack on the back of their bike, have their (grand)child hop on and ride

My family and I on our bikes getting some exercise and enjoying the sun.

All summer my bike sat, save for the few times Jeff used

As the summer came to a close and the heat subsided a bit, I
was finally convinced (read: pressured) by my family to join them on a Sunday
afternoon ride.  I told Jeff that he had
to be responsible for watching the kids because I couldn’t focus on them and be
safe myself and we were off.  

We rode down to the bike path, passed the train station and onto some back
roads.  We stopped a long the way to pick
figs and wild berries. 

We commented on the sunflowers and unending rows of

At one point I was so into the ride that I just took off…leaving
my family in the dust (those big wheels on the cruiser helps!).  The feel of the wind blowing through my hair the
sun beating down on my face was just what I needed.   

Six miles later, we were home and I was hooked. 

These days you can find me riding bikes to school with the kids and a few weeks
ago rather than walk or drive to the next town over for a quick stop at the
produce stand, I grabbed a backpack and jumped on my bike. 

Just like the locals.


Ring the Bells

February 2

There are many aspects of our life that are exactly the same
as they were when we lived in the states. 
We have the same furniture, I cook mainly the same things, our habits
are essentially as they were two years ago.

The one thing that is sure to remind me that we are in fact living
in Italy is the sound of the church bells. 

While the ringing of the church bells is traditionally done
as a call to prayer, we also view it as a very practical way to know what time
it is. 

I don’t notice them each time they ring, nor are we home all
the time.  But we almost  always hear the first bells of the morning ring
at 7:00 am.  Time to get up and start
your day.   (My personal rule for the
weekends is that I don’t get out of bed until I’ve heard the bells.)

Typically I hear them around noon.  Yes, this is a reminder to pray but I also
often think of it as a way to remind the community to wrap up what you are
doing and prepare for lunch.

The final bells we hear are around 7:00 (time for dinner!) and 9:00 which
signals the end of the day.

I love the tradition and the rhythm.  

There are some days when the bells ring at unusual times.  Today was one.  When I heard the bells ring at 2:45 I knew
that there must be a funeral taking place in town.  And just as I sat to write, the bells rang
again signaling the end of the mass and the beginning of the procession to the cemetery. 

While the gentle nudges to shift focus during the day are
nice, I think learning more about the specific types of prayer, Praying the
Hours or Liturgy of the Hours, would be really interesting.  It seems like it would be an amazing practice
to begin.


On Laundry

So, there goes the 31 days thing.  I came down with a nasty head cold late last
week and just couldn’t put together a decent thought.  Seeing as I have never been one to write posts
in advance, there just was no way I was going to get a post up.  Throw in a few technical glitches and well
here we are.  I’m giving myself grace and
moving on.

To get back on track today I’ll share about one of the less glamorous aspects
of living in Italy. 



One would think that the process of making sure your family
has clean clothes would be the same all over the world.  Or at least throughout the first world. 

You would be wrong. 

We were given a washer and dryer to borrow during our time
here. However, they aren’t the massive, efficient machines of America.   Both are much smaller than those that we are
used to and the dryer doesn’t really dry it just takes most of the water
away.  Plus, because of the way the electricity
is wired, we can only run one at a time. 
Which is a challenge when you have laundry for five. 

Thankfully, we had gotten used to almost always hang drying
our clothes while we were still in Colorado so the transition to that was

Making it all even better is that we not only have a huge laundry room which
makes it easy to have three drying racks up and in use at all times but we have
a balcony off the laundry room.  Which
means we have the view above whenever we move the racks outside (which is
almost always). 

There is nothing like catching a glimpse of the sunrise over Austria (yes, we
can see the mountains of Austria from there) as you hang laundry at 6:00 on a
Monday morning.

My sister said it best when she told me, “I’ve never enjoyed doing laundry as
much as I did on your balcony.”

Two Worlds Collide


Our experience living overseas is a bit different from most expats who pack up and move abroad.  For those families, once they board that plane and leave the US, their life shifts to that of the country they are moving to.  Because Jeff is Active Duty Air Force there are parts of our life that will always be tied to the "American Life" simply because he puts on his uniform every day and drives to base.  

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with having an American influence.  We are proud of Jeff's service and our home country but we also know there is no one "right" way to live.

No one best country.

Many people assigned to our base go the entire three years (or so) of their assignment without shopping on the economy or eating in a restaurant where only Italian is spoken.  I respect that choice but if I'm honest, I think it's sad because there is just so much out there to experience.     

So, for our family, our mindset has been that if we are going to live here for four years, we want to truly live here.  

Sure, we shop on base for some things (peanut butter and oatmeal are hard to come by in Italy) but we also go to our local corner store almost daily for fresh bread, cheese and milk. It's great that we're able to take advantage of our town's library (awesome for the kids to practice their Italian reading) but I'm so thankful for the library on base where I can borrow many of those books on my every growing to-read list.  Similarly, being able to gather with friends for burgers and fireworks on the 4th of July is great when you're far from "home" but you can bet we're just as likely to hit the festival in the town down the road.  

And so, we live in middle.  

The collision, really, of two worlds.  

The result is more than I could imagine.  

The best of both.